1 Risky Move Every NFL Team Should Consider in Free Agency
Every NFL team needs to take risks during free agency. Sometimes those risks pan out, sometimes they don't.
That's the reality of it all when looking to improve by adding players other teams didn't value highly enough to pony up the cash for.
Injuries and inconsistencies are big contributors to talented players finding themselves on the market too.
Will your favorite team weigh the risks and still dive head first into some questionable situations this offseason?
We'll take a look at one risky move each team should make in the following slideshow.
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Is there anything riskier for the Miami Dolphins than giving a massive contract to wide receiver Mike Wallace? The only thing I can think of is not retaining standout offensive tackle Jake Long.
Long has been riddled by injuries and may find greener pastures (and a lot more money) through free agency. But the Dolphins should do everything that they can in order to try to persuade him to come back to South Beach.
Dr. James Andrews gave Long a clean bill of health and said he looks "great."
If the Dolphins hope to develop Ryan Tannehill in his sophomore season and utilize Wallace in the vertical passing game, they'll need a player like Long on their offensive line.
New England Patriots
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With Welker likely out of the picture, Tom Brady is going to need a new underneath target that he can rely on to find holes in opposing secondaries.
That's where Danny Amendola comes in.
In 11 games last season, the four-year NFL veteran receiver snagged 63 of his 101 targets for 666 yards and three touchdowns. He missed five games due to injury. In 2011, he missed 15 games.
New England would be betting a lot on him making it through a 16-game season, especially with the rash of injuries the team has experienced at the tight end position.
New York Jets
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What exactly is the plan for the New York Jets? Mark Sanchez has been near the bottom of the barrel when it comes to quarterbacks over the past two seasons. That makes this offseason a crucial crossroads for the Jets at the most important position on the field.
Bringing in David Garrard (h/t Rich Cimini of ESPN) surely wasn't the solution new Jets GM John Idzik envisioned to fix the Jets' problems.
That brings us to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitz was cut on Tuesday by the Buffalo Bills just as the free-agency frenzy kicked off.
While his inconsistency and oft-poor decision making makes him a risk, the team doesn't currently have anyone better on its roster. Adding Fitzpatrick would give the team a viable option to aid in the grooming of a young QB from this year's draft.
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The Buffalo Bills, a team with multiple issues and holes to fill, dug themselves a little deeper by releasing QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on Tuesday (h/t Buffalo Bills via Twitter).
Buffalo will likely look for a quarterback in the draft due to the lack of viable options in free agency. The team might bring someone in, but not a potential long-term starter.
That leaves pass-rusher as a position that the Bills could explore again this offseason.
A name that immediately springs to mind that is a high-risk, high-reward type of acquisition is former Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.
It might not pan out, but Mario Williams didn't really either, and he cost a lot more than Freeney will command.
Chances are he will try to play for a contender, but the Bills would be wise to snatch him up if no one else is interested.
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Joe Flacco's massive contract has opened the floodgates in Baltimore, sparking a procession of talent to leave the Super Bowl champions.
With Ray Lewis retired, Dannell Ellerbe in Miami and Paul Kruger in Cleveland (h/t ESPN's Jamison Hensley), the Ravens will need to find some sort of short-term fix at the linebacker position through free agency.
Sure, Terrell Suggs and Courtney Upshaw are there, but there is a gaping void in the middle of their four-man linebacker corps.
Brian Urlacher is approaching his 14th season with the Chicago Bears. However, he reportedly hasn't heard back from the team about a two-year proposal his agent proposed to them, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
While it's unlikely Urlacher would choose Baltimore over Chicago, especially at a reduced rate, the Bears may not be too interested in bringing him back. If that's the case, the Ravens should take a shot at adding a tough defender during another transitional period on defense.
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If healthy, running back Beanie Wells could provide the Cincinnati Bengals with an interesting option. Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports reported on Tuesday that the running back was already in town visiting the team on the first official day of free agency.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis hasn't disappointed, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in his first season with the Bengals in 2012.
Jay Gruden, the team's offensive coordinator, said he wanted to explore finding a change-of-pace back to The Law Firm this season. While Wells may not be an explosive complimentary back, he is a more explosive and potentially dangerous runner.
As a former collegiate performer at Ohio State, Wells has some local appeal as well.
The only downside here is that Wells hasn't played an entire season since his rookie campaign in 2009. A turf toe injury kept him sidelined for seven games last season (and he was benched in the season finale).
Lingering knee problems will also come with him. That should lower his asking price, though, making him a legitimate option for a team looking to take a chance to find another viable runner in their backfield.
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The Cleveland Browns need to find a cornerback, or two, this offseason. Sheldon Brown is likely to leave through free agency, as the team has shown no apparent interest in retaining the veteran defensive back.
Dimitri Patterson, the team's nickel cornerback coming into 2012, was released after battling injuries throughout the season.
With Josh Cribbs heading out the door as well, Jones could fill multiple needs, as the Browns will need a reliable special teams return man.
He might not be a long-term fix, or even a starter opposite of Joe Haden, but his value in nickel packages and in the return game will be worth the asking price.
The biggest risk here is Jones' past behavior problems, which shouldn't be understated.
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Like the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the market for a running back this offseason. Like the Bengals, the Steelers should take a chance on former Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells.
When healthy, Wells has the potential to be they bruising and explosive running back that the Steelers thought they had when they drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft.
He will likely come cheap, too, which is good for a Steelers team that was forced to restructure contracts and dump salaries in order to get back under the salary cap this offseason.
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ESPN reported on Tuesday that the Houston Texans released wide receiver Kevin Walter in order to save cap space. Walter never developed into the competent threat the team hoped that they could pair with dynamic receiver Andre Johnson.
With wide receiver an immediate need, the Texans should at least look into the available options on the free-agent market.
That's where restricted free agent Danario Alexander comes in to play. The San Diego Chargers used their "original-round" low RFA tender on the wide receiver, but they'll have to match any offers that come his way, as he went undrafted out of college.
Alexander exploded last season, catching 37 of his 62 targets for 658 yards and seven touchdowns in just 10 games of action. His history of knee surgeries (five) is concerning, but he didn't seem to show any negative effects during his impressive 2012 campaign.
If the Texans want to start competing, they'll need to get more balanced offensively. Taking a risk on Alexander could yield high returns and help the team finally get over the hump.
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The Philadelphia Eagles released cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on March 12 in order to save $11 million in cap space. If the Indianapolis Colts aren't on the phone already, they should get on that pretty soon.
Asomugha was brought into Philly on a massive contract after being pegged as one of the elite cornerbacks in the game. While he performed adequately, Asomugha never lived up to the hype and slowly fell out of favor with the Eagles.
The Colts wouldn't necessarily be taking a huge risk by signing him, as we know that they will get a good player from the deal. But how much would they pay?
I say they should be responsible but not be afraid to give up some cash in order to bring a solid presence to their suspect secondary.
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Osi Umenyiora set lofty goals for himself in 2013 as he approached the start of NFL free agency. He said he would win the Defensive Player of the Year award, according to Jenny Vrentas of the Star-Ledger.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, who ranked dead-last in sacks last season, could definitely use the help.
Umenyiora isn't just looking for a title contender, either, according to Vrentas.
"It wouldn’t have to be a playoff team," Umenyiora said. "It could be anybody pretty much anybody who would need me to help them win."
The Jags could definitely use some help.
But is the aging Umenyiora worth even a moderate contract at this point? He was a malcontent in New York, as he squabbled over his contract with the New York Giants, and his play visibly declined on the field in the process in 2012.
Jacksonville needs to do something, though, and this might be its best bet until it can draft and develop someone to stand in and get the job done in the pass rush.
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The Tennessee Titans let Jared Cook walk in free agency and signed tight end Delanie Walker (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter) away from San Francisco in order to be his replacement.
They shouldn't stop there at the tight end position.
Free agent Fred Davis has had injury and legal problems, but he is a top target at the position when healthy and in the game.
A combination of Davis and Walker is also a very promising one and would present young QB Jake Locker with a favorable situation to grow in.
Kansas City Chiefs
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Veteran linebacker Daryl Smith might be a good option for the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency. The 30-year-old (turns 31 on March 14) missed 14 games in 2012 due to a groin injury, making him a significant risk for any team looking to acquire his services this season.
Still, he would be an excellent addition to a linebacker group in Kansas City that is already bustling with talent. Andy Reid likes linebackers in Smith's tough mold.
The risk is there, though, as he is coming off of a big injury.
San Diego Chargers
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Philip Rivers needs some help along his offensive line if he is going to lead the San Diego Chargers back to the postseason anytime soon.
Drafting a rookie tackle might be helpful, but the Chargers should look to Andre Smith for a proven option to keep Rivers upright.
Smith struggled with consistency and weight issues during the early years of his career, but he put it all together last season and emerged as one of the best run blockers in the league. Adding Smith would help improve a stagnant Chargers rushing game.
There might be some concerns about Smith's motivation once he signs a big contract, especially because he's been rumored to be seeking around $9 million per season.
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The Oakland Raiders cut some salary in the opening moments of the new NFL calendar season. They cut WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S Michael Huff and DE David Tollefson outright, according to the team (via NFL.com).
It's the move that the Raiders didn't make, though, that leaves us puzzled.
Oakland should take a risk and cut Carson Palmer. From there, it could draft any QB of this year's draft class (not a huge prize) with the No. 3 overall pick.
This is the perfect chance for second-year GM Reggie McKenzie to leave his personal mark on the team. There is a great deal of risk, yes, but the team isn't going to be contenders this season under Palmer.
Building for the future is the direction the Raiders should turn.
The Denver Broncos should jump at the chance to sign Wes Welker. Welker and the New England Patriots are reportedly ending talks (h/t NFL.com's Ian Rapoport via Twitter), for now, leaving the veteran receiver's future very much uncertain.
Concerns about Welker's age, durability and productivity in an offense not led by Tom Brady may steer some teams away from paying his asking price.
If anyone could find a way to utilize Welker like Tom Brady, it's Peyton Manning. With Eric Decker on the outside along with Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos' receiver group would easily be among the best in the NFL.
New Orleans Saints
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Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that the Green Bay Packers are the leaders for running back Steven Jackson. While that may be true, the Packers will be hard-pressed to justify shelling out the cash for a workhorse tailback in the twilight of his career.
That's especially true because the team doesn't utilize a running back like Jackson as another team would, thus not getting enough bang for its buck.
The New Orleans Saints, though, have tried finding a running back to better complement the team's Drew Brees-led aerial attack.
That search isn't returning any dividends, though.
Jackson is aging, usually plays hurt and may not be a reliable long-term option. But the Saints should steal him out from under the Packers in order to become a more potent team offensively (if that is even possible).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has off-the-charts physical ability. Keeping him motivated seems to be the biggest problem, though.
If Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano can light a fire under DRC, he could be one of the best signings of the offseason (for any team).
The last-ranked Bucs pass defense desperately needs help, especially at cornerback, and signing a player like Rodgers-Cromartie could immediately help fix the team's problems.
Who knows, maybe a new situation in sunny Florida and a new paycheck will be enough to motivate and get the best out of the inconsistent cornerback.
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As we mentioned earlier, Osi Umenyiora is a veteran pass-rusher on the decline who is looking for a new home in 2013. The Atlanta Falcons fell just short of the Super Bowl last season, no thanks to a lacking pass rush that underwhelmed us for much of the season.
If Umenyiora can return to his 2011 form and stay healthy, both big "ifs," the Falcons would score a huge coup in the NFC with this signing.
The Falcons are a stacked team that can afford to take calculated risks like this in order to try to put themselves over the top.
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The Carolina Panthers need some better targets for Cam Newton to toss the pigskin to. Steve Smith won't be lacing up his cleats much longer, and there aren't too many viable options on the team's roster.
That's where injury-prone Danny Amendola comes in for the new-look Panthers. With a new offensive play-caller, the team will need a reliable pass-catcher to help in the transition.
Catching the ball is about all Amendola is reliable for.
If he pans out, though, Newton will get one of the better receivers in the NFL to throw to over the next few seasons.
San Francisco 49ers
Dustin Keller was supposed to have a big season in 2012, a contract year for the tight end. That didn't work out, as he was hampered by injuries for much of the season.
While there is some concern, Keller should be able to bounce back and have a productive career.
The San Francisco 49ers recently lost tight end Delanie Walker to the Tennessee Titans in free agency (h/t ESPN's Adam Schefter).
That makes Keller an intriguing option. He is a hybrid player than perform in a traditional tight end role or be moved around in the slot as a wide receiver.
The risk of bringing him aboard might not be huge for the 49ers, but it is there.
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The Seattle Seahawks made a splash by acquiring wide receiver Percy Harvin from Minnesota prior to the kickoff of NFL free agency, according to ESPN.
That move in itself was risky, but an even riskier opportunity lies in the potential signing of free-agent tight end Fred Davis.
Davis has battled injuries over the last two seasons, but he has a tremendous upside that would help catapult the Seahawks to new heights offensively.
A tandem of Davis and Zach Miller would give sophomore QB Russell Wilson an incredible arsenal of targets to add to his receiver corps of Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.
St. Louis Rams
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The St. Louis Rams are already in on Jake Long. Pending the results of a physical, he will be the newest acquisition of the Rams' offseason plan, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer.
Long has battled injuries, but he's been given a clean bill of health by Dr. James Andrews.
St. Louis definitely needs Long, and if he checks out physically, he would provide it with a potential long-term solution at left tackle. It would also free up the Rams to use at least one of their two first-round picks on a playmaker during April's draft rather than on two offensive linemen.
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Well, the Arizona Cardinals are a mess. Running back Beanie Wells never panned out, and now they are looking at bringing in free-agent running back Rashard Mendenhall.
The running back will meet with the Cardinals on March 13, according to NFL.com's Albert Breer.
As a former first-round pick, the Cardinals should be all too familiar with Mendenhall's story, as it very closely mirrors that of Wells' own history with the team.
Mendenhall, though, has a much higher ceiling than Wells. If he returns to his 2010 form, when he rushed for 13 touchdowns and 1,273 yards, the Cardinals will get a player that may help salvage a stagnant offense.
New York Giants
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The New York Giants are making some under-the-radar moves as the NFL's 2013 free agency period begins.
Like other teams, the Giants are in a position of need at the tight end position. While Fred Davis may provide a nice option, New York should look elsewhere.
A good fit, albeit a risk, is former Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson.
Watson has suffered a plethora of concussions over the course of his career (including three in 2011 alone), but he's still a reliable, dual-purpose tight end that would fit nicely in the Giants offense.
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The Dallas Cowboys will be implementing the Tamp 2 defense that Brian Urlacher has run for most of his career. Former Chicago Bears coordinator Rod Marinelli is now in Dallas, and Urlacher's future with the Bears is uncertain.
The longtime Bears veteran linebacker might find himself finishing his career in Dallas, if the team is interested in bringing him aboard.
Urlacher has certainly been a dominant figure over the course of his 14-year NFL career. But, how much of his explosiveness is still there?
The Cowboys have some other options already on their roster, but none with the potential of a fully-powered Urlacher. Signing him would be a big risk, but one that might return huge dividends.
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The Oakland Raiders released former top-10 pick Darrius Heyward-Bey on the first day of NFL free agency, according to the team (via Twitter).
With Santana Moss aging and Pierre Garcon a liability to stay healthy, the Washington Redskins would be wise to give him a look.
Sophomore QB Robert Griffin III might be able to find a way to utilize him better than he was utilized in Oakland. The read-option will certainly provide Heyward-Bey with opportunities to beat man-coverage and make an impact for the team.
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It is unclear just exactly what the New York Jets are expecting to get in return if they decide to trade cornerback Darrelle Revis. They reportedly have a "good" offer on the table, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
There isn't a team right now that is more in need of acquiring a No. 1 cornerback than the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly recently cleaned house, allowing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to hit free agency and releasing Nnamdi Asomugha.
While paying Revis might be risky, as he is coming off of a torn ACL in 2012, the Eagles could benefit from a lacking market to obtain him for less than his true value.
That chance is nothing a team in the Eagles' position should pass up.
Green Bay Packers
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Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported that the Green Bay Packers are in the lead for acquiring the services of free-agent running back Steven Jackson.
Jackson would provide the Packers with the feature back that they have been lacking of the past few seasons and allow them to become more balanced offensively.
He's getting old, though, and has played and battled through injuries for much of his career. Can he sustain that track record while acting as the workhorse back on a cold-weather team like Green Bay?
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The Chicago Bears defense has few weaknesses, but the safety position could be pointed to as one of them.
LaRon Landry is the type of player that the Bears defense would embrace. His toughness and speed makes him an impact player in the box and in the secondary.
He comes with concerns, though, as he missed significant portions of the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to injuries.
Landry isn't going to impress with his coverage skills, but he's a bona fide force to be reckoned with when met by opposing ball-carriers.
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The Minnesota Vikings cut cap space and shipped wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks in the opening moments of 2013 NFL free agency, according to ESPN.
That move in itself was risky, but the most questionable call the team could make would have to be overpaying to bring in wide receiver Greg Jennings as Harvin's replacement.
I think he might fare better than some might think.
Signing him is risky, as you can't be sure how his production would translate to the Vikings offense. But, the team needs a proven and reliable option other than Kyle Rudolph in the passing game.
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The Detroit Lions must find a cornerback in NFL free agency, especially if free-agent cornerback Chris Houston departs.
That's where 11-year veteran Sheldon Brown enters the picture. The former Cleveland Browns defensive back was tremendous at times in 2012 but pretty ordinary at others.
He won't be able to play at a high level for much longer, but he can be a solid placeholder for the Lions until they can draft and groom cornerbacks to fill out their thin secondary.