Setting the Market for Unsigned NFL Free Agents
We have reached the point in NFL free agency when squads can pick up quite a few bargains.
With teams concentrating on the draft, the big-money contracts are long gone, so now it’s a matter of some veterans inking short-term contracts for less-than-scintillating money.
Here, we'll highlight eight of the numerous players who are still on the market and what they may possibly cost (or what teams may be willing to give them) in 2014. The selections here are based on players currently most often mentioned when it comes to the market these days.
Others such as defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, cornerback Asante Samuel, wide receiver Miles Austin and quarterback Matt Flynn are among the many who have not garnered a lot of attention...yet.
Players are listed alphabetically by last name.
Projected contract values are a result of looking at the 2014 free-agent market at each position and evaluating what a player would command, given his career body of work as well as his recent performance. We may have thrown in a little extra in some cases, so each veteran has a little pocket money.
Now, let's see how long any of these performers remain out of work.
OLB James Anderson (UFA-Chicago Bears)
Projected contract: One year, $1.4 million
2013 was not a great season for defense in the Windy City.
The Chicago Bears, once dubbed the “Monsters of the Midway,” suffered through a nightmarish season when it came to slowing down the opposition.
The club gave up 478 points—201 more than the previous season (277)—allowing the third-most total yards and giving up the most yards rushing in the NFL.
Outside linebacker James Anderson, in his first year with the club, was the team leader with 102 stops. It marked the third time in four seasons that the eight-year veteran totaled at least 100 tackles, as he turned the trick with the Carolina Panthers in 2010 and 2011. He also added four sacks and three passes defensed for Marc Trestman’s team this past season.
But is this a case of buyer beware? Of the 94 outside linebackers in a 4-3 defense that Pro Football Focus ranked in 2013, Anderson came in dead last when it came to run defense.
ILB Pat Angerer (UFA-Indianapolis Colts)
Projected contract: One year, $1.1 million
Will the real Pat Angerer please stand up...if he can?
After playing in all 16 games each of his first two seasons in the league, the former second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts has been on the field a combined 22 contests the last two seasons.
After a rookie campaign where he finished second on the team with 88 tackles, Angerer led the Colts with 148 stops in 2011. But injuries have taken their toll the last two seasons, and he finished 2013 on injured reserve. In March, he acknowledged that he wouldn’t be back with the Colts and understood the reasoning.
“They gave me a heads-up I would not be re-signed by them,” Angerer told Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star. “I understand. I’ve been hurt the past two years. It’s part of the business. It’s part of the game. There comes a time when you’ve got to move on. I wish I could have played better here. I wish I hadn’t gotten hurt.”
We may not see him signed anytime soon as he continues to recover from December knee surgery. But he figures to be on someone’s roster this summer.
WR Earl Bennett (Released by Chicago Bears)
Projected contract: Three years, $2.4 million
Teams have been snapping up free-agent wide receivers left and right this week.
Well, not every wide receiver.
Three teams announced signings at the position on Sunday, April 6 or Monday, April 7. Veteran Nate Burleson joined the Cleveland Browns, according to Kevin Jones of ClevelandBrowns.com. Bryan Strickland of Panthers.com reported that one-time Philadelphia Eagles’ receiver Jason Avant was now a member of the Carolina Panthers. And per Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, Lavelle Hawkins was the latest free agent to join Lovie Smith’s newest team.
Meanwhile, Earl Bennett remains on the market after being cut loose by the Chicago Bears (Smith’s former club) last month. The six-year veteran amassed 185 catches for 2,277 yards and 12 scores for the club and would be a nice pickup at this stage. However, he may have to wait until after the draft to secure a job...unless Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to continue adding to their eye-popping free-agency haul sooner than later.
G Daryn Colledge (Released by Arizona Cardinals)
Projected contract: Two years, $5.4 million
In this age of the quarterback-driven league, you have to make sure that your quarterback doesn’t get driven into the ground.
When it comes to offensive linemen, it seems the more experience, the better. Consistency and continuity up front are two keys to a championship season.
Eight-year NFL veteran Daryn Colledge has been a reliable player during his tenure in the league. The one-time Green Bay Packers performer has started 124 out of 128 regular-season games for two clubs, including every game for the Arizona Cardinals each of the past three seasons.
He was a salary-cap casualty this offseason but appears to have plenty of football left in the tank. And there are always teams in this league who looking for a few good men (at least five) up front.
FS Thomas DeCoud (Released by Atlanta Falcons)
Projected contract: Two years, $3.1 million
Is it just a matter of time before the Carolina Panthers scoop up another former NFC South adversary?
Not only have the defending NFC South champions been trying to rebuild their receiving corps, but the team’s secondary will have a number of new faces in 2014. Free agency claimed cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota Vikings) and free safety Mike Mitchell (Pittsburgh Steelers), while veteran strong safety Quintin Mikell has not been re-signed. The team did add strong safety Roman Harper, who was cut loose by the New Orleans Saints this offseason.
So could another veteran from this division be joining the Panthers soon? Via David Newton of ESPN.com, Carolina hosted former Atlanta Hawks free safety Thomas DeCoud on Monday, and it will be interesting to see if Ron Rivera and company add him to the defense. Of course, the former Pro Bowler comes from a club that finished tied for 27th in the NFL in yards allowed this past season and next-to-last in the league in rushing defense.
Meanwhile, only the Seattle Seahawks gave up fewer total yards, and only the Arizona Cardinals surrendered fewer yards rushing than the Panthers in 2013.
WR Santonio Holmes (Released by New York Jets)
Projected contract: Two years, $6.0 million
One-time first-round pick Santonio Holmes has shown in the past that he can get the job done on the football field.
Unfortunately, that was the problem during his final two seasons with the New York Jets. Injuries over the last two years caused him to miss 17 out of 32 games.
His first four seasons in the league with the Pittsburgh Steelers were obviously much better than his four campaigns with the New York Jets, per his career numbers. He was the last first-round pick of the Bill Cowher regime, and in his third NFL season with the Steelers, Holmes caught the game-winning touchdown pass and won Super Bowl XLIII Most Valuable Player honors in the club’s 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
In four seasons under Rex Ryan with the Jets, Holmes played in 43 games, catching just 146 passes for 2,128 yards and 16 scores. It’s also worth noting that in seven career postseason games with Pittsburgh and New York, he has scored six touchdowns (five receiving, one punt return).
Now let’s see what team in the league is willing to take a flier on a wide receiver who at one time could really fly.
RB Chris Johnson (Released by Tennessee Titans)
Projected contract: Three years, $8.4 million
Is it inevitable that three-time Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson goes from the Tennessee Titans to the franchise that originally owned that moniker, the New York Jets?
Last week, the Titans released the productive performer, who has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his six NFL seasons. His resume includes 7,965 yards rushing and 50 touchdowns on the ground in 95 regular-season games. He also totaled 42 receptions and caught a career-high four touchdown passes in 2013.
Now he’s a free agent, and Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean did an excellent job of laying out the total picture regarding Tennessee’s decision to part ways with Johnson. Meanwhile, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com took a look at the teams that are interested in Johnson, who was set to make $8 million in base salary in 2014, highlighting the Jets in particular.
WR Sidney Rice (Released by Seattle Seahawks)
Projected contract: Two years, $2.2 million
Is wide receiver Sidney Rice healthy?
There's no way to know. We do know, however, that the talented performer is on his way back from his latest injury, a torn ACL.
Back on March 25, Rice tweeted that he was “up and running” after missing most of the 2013 season with the eventual Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks.
Injuries were the story when it came to his three-year stay with Pete Carroll’s team and his final season with the Minnesota Vikings. He has played in just 39 regular-season contests since 2010, totaling 114 receptions for 1,743 yards and 14 touchdowns.
It’s a shame that he has been unable to stay healthy. Go back to 2009 and his third season in Minnesota, and you'll see a receiver who totaled 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns and played in all 16 regular-season games. The former University of South Carolina standout came up big in the playoffs that year, totaling 10 grabs for 184 yards and four scores in two contests.
Now let’s see who grabs him this offseason.