Not Quite “FREE” Agency, Part I – The Offense
By Michael H. Osinski
So I spent my Sunday with my wife in Ocean Beach (San Diego, California).
Talk about distractions. The clacking of skateboards on the sidewalks. The faint smell of people smoking pot on the beach. Shirts were evidently optional attire. The view from the restaurant was phenomenal. (See photo). A couple mimosas later I found it difficult to concentrate on NFL free agency. I was distracted. It helped, however, that the waitress was a football fan. She was telling me what her Chargers need to do in free agency. The little talk drew my attention back where it belonged.
This time of year most GMs have many (albeit different from mine) distractions. All the information/mis-information. Hakeem Nicks wants a 1-year deal with a passing team. Michael Bennett wants to play with his brother. Jared Allen thinks he can command big bucks to not sack anybody. The Titans actually think saying they are putting CJzeroK on the trading block means something. (Last time a trade like that got made a bunch of Indians got $24 for Manhattan.) Anyone sifting through players that might help his team is knee deep in his own team’s Cap Casualties.
So…I know my wife had her own opinions about who should go where(prior column)…but we need to re-think the free agent market. Which guys might really help, and who is really worth the money, and on which guys should you pass.
Let’s start with Quarterbacks…
There are only 3-4 guys worth figuring out. Seriously…who is figuring out where Brady Quinn lands?
Best available is Mike Vick. Oakland seems like the best place for him, but Josh Freeman may be a better fit because of his relationship with the QB coach. Freeman is also still young. If I am Reggie McKenzie, I take that route.
OK…So where does Vick land?
Jets? Rumors have him there. Buffalo too. But both those teams drafted franchise (with a lower case “f”) QBs last year. Browns? Jags? Adrian Peterson wanted him in Minnesota, but that is unlikely with the Matt Cassell signing. Your guess is as good as mine, but given the evolving landscape, smart money may be on the running team (Buffalo).
Next best is Josh McCown. Let’s just remember that not so long ago he was a High School football coach. Tampa may get him thinking he can mentor Glennon. That’s why they are the Bucs.
Mark Sanchez is not available yet, but will be. Given his experience (Two Conference Championship games), he seems a better option than a lot of the current starting QBs. I know if I am a GM, I take him over Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel.
As for the rest of the guys…Shaun Hill goes to SF, Matt Flynn goes back to GB and the rest of thee guys Ro-Sham-Bo for the remaining spots.
None of these guys gets better than a 2-year deal.
It’s a thin class. Like if you are picking sides on the playground, a lot of these guys are the ones who wait a long time before they hear their name called. Ben Tate is the best…but he has not played a full season yet.
Anybody gonna take a chance on Darren McFadden? He is the next best guy, but has a history of playing 12 of the 16 games. I like Miami…where they install a timeshare with Lamar Miller. Just sayin. He’ll get one of those “prove you can perform” contracts.
Darren Sproles evidently is gonna be available. Atlanta and NE should be watching… He is still a matchup headache in the right system.
Knowshon Moreno is system driven. The Raiders would do better with the younger Moreno (27) than the older alternative (Rashad Jennings, 29.) Moreno is also a decent pass blocker which the Raiders will need while they sort out who will play on their O-line. Oakland has so much cap space the team could conceivably sign both.
As for the rest of the group, Andre Brown fumbles when he isn’t hurt. Maurice Jones-Drew can’t have much left in the tank. Ahmad Bradshaw? Willis McGahee? Buyer beware. They will find homes, but will not command the dollars the top guys will.
Eric Decker is not a #1 WR. But, the Jets will probably pay him like one. They may have to in order to keep him away from NE or Indy. $8M per year seems like a lot for a guy who completely disappeared in the Super Bowl.
Hakeem Nicks looked awful on tape last year. But, someone will overpay him. He did come out and say he is amenable to a 1-year deal. (It figures to be similar to the deal Jeremy Maclin got in Philly. 1 year, $5.5M) Best suited suitors include Carolina, Indy and San Diego.
Julian Edelman? Only a sucker will pay him… What is Tom Brady’s security blanket worth? He probably gets a deal similar to the one Danny Amendola got last year. 5 years, $25M (And then Amendola may get cut.)
Detroit has wanted a #2 WR for years. They have had the revolving door of Titus Young tantrums, Nate Burleson pizza deliveries and other guys no longer in the league. Golden Tate is the perfect fit. He will bring a toughness and leadership quality the Lions lack. He figures to get a contract similar to Riley Cooper’s. (5 years, $25M)
The rest of the guys are #3 WRs (Sidney Rice, i.e.) or situational players (Dexter McCluster, i.e.) Most will find homes, but all figure to settle for incentive-laden deals.
One guy remains intriguing. Kenny Britt. A couple years ago, he was drawing comparisons to Calvin Johnson. Since then, he has been hurt, in the doghouse or on the wrong side of the law. Some team will gamble on his immense talent and perhaps hit the jackpot with him. This seems like the kind of wager the Patriots have made with success.
If I am NE or SEA I cut a deal with Jimmy Graham. Otherwise, I look at the draft. My #1s are at the end of the round. I still can work him under the cap. And best of all may be that there is a window until the league sorts out whether his Franchise tag is as a TE or a WR.
The rest of the TEs are placeholders. Brandon Pettigrew’s name has been linked to the Giants. There is no guarantee Jermichael Finley will be healthy. Andrew Quarless is drawing interest. The guys at this level should net $1-2M per year.
5 are worthy of having: Monroe, Valdheer, Saffold, Albert, Collins…probably in that order….anybody else, including Oher is an afterthought. All of these guys will command multi-year-multi-million dollar deals.
Monroe figures to get the richest contract. Valdheer may be kept by the Raiders. Either Albert or Collins should end up in Miami.
A lot of the talk here figures to center around whether or not Richie Incognito gets a look. He ranks just in the top 10 of available OGs and a lot of teams are looking for O-line improvements.
Willie Colon, Trevelle Wharton and Geoff Schwatrz all figure to see deals comparable to the 2 year, $6M deal Chad Rinehart got from San Diego.
With the depth needs on the O-line, 15-18 OGs should see deals.
The early signings of Dom Raiola and Roberto Garza (1 year, $1.5M) set the standard the second tier. This probably includes Ryan Wendell and probably Jonathan Goodwin.
The best available C, Alex Mack, Transition Tagged, so expect some spirited bidding here as teams try to force the Browns to use +-$5M of their cap space to keep him.
Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brian De La Puente both figure to draw contracts in between those of Mack and the second tier.
That’s the offensive side of the ball. Teams can start signing players today, March 11.
Part II coming soon.
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