NFL Free Agents 2014: Buying or Selling Latest Rumors
On Friday, the NFL offseason swung into high gear.
From teams giving out the franchise tag and clubs cutting players in order to help their salary cap situation to general managers re-upping with players before they hit the open market, it was a busy day around the league.
What of the moves that have been rumored to happen? We will take a look at seven instances in which speculation has yet to become reality, but there is still plenty of time.
Keep in mind that we are talking about the possibility of potential unrestricted free agents in this piece and not any other type of player movement.
So for those wondering why there’s no mention of talk this past week about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers possibly parting ways with cornerback Darrelle Revis, we present CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora’s piece on the matter.
Now let’s see if any of these seven players are getting ready to change their address.
Buy: QB Michael Vick to Jets
This past season, the New York Jets won their final two games to finish 8-8.
During their up-and-down year, the team committed a total of 29 turnovers. And 25 of those were by rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
This was far from unusual during the Rex Ryan era with the Green and White. It marked the fourth time in five seasons that the team’s starting signal-caller had committed at least 23 turnovers. Veteran Mark Sanchez coughed up the football 23 times as a rookie in 2009, then totaled 26 turnovers in both 2011 and 2012.
So why bring in Michael Vick, who, in recent years, has had his own problems with ball security? It’s a good question, but earlier this week, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport suggested via Twitter (and documented by Matt Mullin of Philly.com) that the league’s first overall pick in 2001 could be trading in one shade of green for another.
Over the past three seasons, Vick has thrown 35 touchdown passes but committed 38 turnovers (27 interceptions, 11 lost fumbles). He has also played in just 30 games since 2011. Still, he is very familiar with Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and should be able to be a positive influence for Smith, who would benefit greatly from Vick’s experience.
Sell: T Branden Albert to Cardinals
Last season, the Arizona Cardinals were a major surprise.
One year earlier, the team had dropped 11 of its last 12 games following a 4-0 start. In 2013, under head coach Bruce Arians, the Cards finished 10-6 and just missed out on a playoff appearance.
Along with fielding the league’s sixth-ranked defense in 2013, the club made strides on the offensive side of the football. Arizona scored 379 points this past season, 129 more than in 2012 (250).
Still, while the team made improvements in the areas of running the football and pass protection, there’s still work to be done up front. In 2013, the Cardinals ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing offense and allowed 41 sacks. It marked the fourth consecutive season in which the team had given up 40-plus sacks. Since 2010, the team’s quarterbacks have been sacked a combined 203 times.
According to DraftInsider.net, the team could take a run at potential free agent left tackle Branden Albert of the Kansas City Chiefs. However, it seems much more likely that the Cards would rather deal with taking a young offensive tackle in the draft.
A year ago, the team used the seventh overall pick in April to land guard Jonathan Cooper, but he missed his rookie campaign with a broken leg.
Make no mistake, left tackle is an area where the team could be a little better, as discussed by Darren Urban of Azcardinals.com. But Albert or any other free-agent blocker may not be the way to go here.
Buy: WR Golden Tate Returns to Seattle
It is hard to do much better than the Seattle Seahawks did in 2013.
The Super Bowl XLVIII champions finished 13-3 (tied for the best record in the NFL), sported the league’s best defense in terms of yards allowed and points surrendered and led the NFL in takeaways and turnover differential.
But are they hoping to upgrade a passing attack that finished 26th in the league this past season? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean they have to go searching for help in the draft or free agency.
Potential free-agent wideout Golden Tate has put together a respectable four-year run with the Seahawks, totaling 165 receptions for 2,195 yards and 15 scores. As shown by Pro-Football-Reference, his reception total has gone up every year he has been in the league.
Make no mistake, Tate would like to stay in the Pacific Northwest. He was quoted as saying by Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times:
I did the tough part, and that’s performing on the field. And hopefully, I can call Seattle home for a few more years. But we’ll see. I know that coach (Pete) Carroll has expressed that he would like to have me on the team, and I have expressed that I would like to stay on this team because I see this team winning for a long time. But we will see. Only time will tell.
The defending champs have been busy in recent days, releasing defensive end Red Bryant and wide receiver Sidney Rice. And when it comes to Rice, it would be a surprise to see Pete Carroll opting to go in a different direction as quarterback Russell Wilson and company continue to grow as a unit.
Sell: T Eugene Monroe to Dolphins
Last season, after being dealt from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Baltimore Ravens, offensive tackle Eugene Monroe switched jersey numbers from 75 to 60.
In 2014, the Miami Dolphins hope to change the No. 58. That figure reflects the team’s total in terms of sacks allowed this past season, the most in the league.
It would take more pages and time than we have to go over the issues surrounding the team's offensive line in 2013. Let’s just say the less said the better.
How to fix it? Well, there’s the draft and free agency. The Dolphins would be fortunate to get Monroe, who, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, is now on the team’s radar.
But re-signing Monroe is certainly a priority when it comes to the Ravens this offseason. A year ago, it appeared on numerous occasions that Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Branden Albert would become a member of the team, but it never transpired.
With Albert getting ready to hit the unrestricted free-agent market on Mar. 11, perhaps he is the more logical fit with the Dolphins.
After acquiring Monroe via trade last season, it is hard to believe that he is one year and out with the Ravens.
Buy: DE Michael Johnson Returns to Cincinnati
It’s been easy to play connect the dots when it comes to Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson and the Minnesota Vikings.
The connection is obviously new Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer, formerly the Bengals defensive coordinator.
But heed the words of Pete Prisco of CBS Sports because he makes absolutely perfect sense.
Most expect the Bengals to let defensive end Michael Johnson walk after giving Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins big deals last year. But I hear the Bengals will actually try to re-sign Johnson. They felt he played at a high level last season, even if his sack numbers were down. Johnson is good against the run. If he hits the market, he will see a lot of activity. He is 26, which means he has a lot of good football in front of him.
A year ago, the Bengals had a dozen unrestricted free agents on the defensive side of the football, a mix of starters and top reserves—four players each on the defensive line, linebacker and secondary. The majority of those players returned, and that depth was a big reason only the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers gave up fewer total yards than Cincinnati in 2013.
These days, the Bengals aren’t in the habit of letting good football players get away. Such will be the case with Johnson as well.
Sell: FS Jairus Byrd to Browns
Over the last decade or so, the Buffalo Bills have made a bad habit of drafting good players and letting them get away.
Perhaps that is one reason that one of the last times we saw this franchise in the playoffs, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson was returning a kickoff for a touchdown via the “Music City Miracle.”
That would be the 1999 season.
So for the love of Antoine Winfield, Donte Whitner and Marshawn Lynch, are the Bills about to let free safety Jairus Byrd hit the open market?
Maybe new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would like to chip in so that the team can keep Byrd from flying the coop.
Depending on if you read Dan Hanzus or Gregg Rosenthal on NFL.com, the Cleveland Browns and new head coach Mike Pettine (Buffalo’s defensive coordinator in 2013) would love to have the three-time Pro Bowl safety.
Would the Bills actually franchise Byrd for a second straight year? It wouldn’t be cheap, but that’s a far more likely and smarter scenario than letting him get away, as Rosenthal suggests.
Buy: LB D’Qwell Jackson to Patriots
Talk about a move perfectly suited for the league’s current premier franchise.
The New England Patriots now have 13 straight winning seasons and counting. Bill Belichick’s team has won 10 or more games 11 consecutive years and has reached the AFC title game each of the last three seasons.
A year ago, New England came up one game short of the Super Bowl due to a defense that was hit hard by key injuries, most notably to defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and middle linebacker Jerod Mayo.
With Mayo trying to bounce back and Brandon Spikes about to hit the open market, the Pats will be looking for some help at linebacker.
D’Qwell Jackson, recently released by the Cleveland Browns, has rolled up his share of tackles during his career. Last season, the team was ninth in total defense, including 18th vs. the run. In 2013, only two teams in the NFL gave up more rushing yards than the Patriots.
Tom E. Curran of CSSNE.com speculates that Jackson may be an ideal fit for the Patriots. Given the franchise’s recent history, it is hard to argue the point.