24 Free Agency Scenarios That Could Dramatically Alter the NFL Landscape
There are several NFL teams that need to make bold moves in free agency to solidify their positions. There are a few game-changers available that could drastically change a new team's fortunes.
Now that we can talk in earnest about the NFL season, it is time to take a look at which teams need to make changes to make a run at the playoffs in 2011, along with the teams that simply don't have the cap space to make any positive moves.
This article will avoid the temptation to send the same free agent to numerous franchises, but there is one player that is slated to two different teams.
24. Dallas Cowboys Being Able To Sign Anyone
According to Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com, Jerry Jones is $15 million above the 2011 salary cap (including a $3 million credit from the new CBA). They have to find around $5 million or so to sign their draft picks, and their starting LT, Doug Free, is a free agent.
There aren't many options for the Cowboys relative to cutting cap room. They can certainly cut Marion Barber, and it will save Jones a little more than $4 million in salary. However, once his signing bonus is prorated over the remaining seasons, he will only free up $0.3 million in cap space.
What is worse, Roy Williams is often speculated as a potential move to free up cap dollars. However, when his signing bonus is applied to 2011, he would actually become a $3.7 million cap hit.
I've not done an exhaustive review on what the Cowboys' options are, but their prospects appear to be bleak. I'm sure Cowboys Nation will provide some valuable comments on their options.
23. New York Jets Impact from "Dead Money," Sign Santonio Holmes, WR
The Jets made several roster moves in March that they hope will be seen as moves during the 2010 season.
Kris Jenkins, Vernon Gholston and Damien Woody were cut in March, and Jenkins has since retired. Provided their 2011 cap impact isn't applied, they will move from a cap figure of $120 million to around $111 million.
This will be significant, as the Jets have 17 free agents to sign and need to address the WR position if they are going to be able to continue to compete in 2011.
22. Brett Favre, QB to Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are a team on the edge of prominence in the NFC, but have a few holes to fill. While not exciting, backup QB is certainly a concern with the playing style of Michael Vick.
Most fans are plum tired of hearing about Brett Favre. The ones that aren't are the fans of the team he is expected to be playing for. He most certainly wouldn't be able to endure the rigors of a full NFL season, but I would challenge anyone to come up with a better option to come off the bench to fill in should Vick suffer an injury.
21. Johnathan Joseph, CB and Dashon Goldson, S to Houston Texans
Fans of the Houston Texans have felt as though their team has been on the edge just waiting to explode onto the playoff scene for a few seasons.
Their primary stumbling block in 2011 looks to be their secondary. Adding a solid CB and safety will go a long way in securing a run at their division.
Vonta Leach is another need, as he was a big part of their ground game in 2010.
20. Matt Roth, OLB to Baltimore Ravens
This is hardly a flashy signing, but there is a distinct lack of available pass-rushers in this year's free-agent pool.
The Steelers will continue their domination of the division if the Ravens can't mount a better pass rush in 2011.
19. DeAngelo Williams, RB to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers may be the third-best team in the NFC South, but they have the cap room to make some noise.
They will need to keep Davin Joseph and figure out the middle of their defense, but adding a powerful rusher to the offense will make life that much better for Josh Freeman.
18. Sidney Rice, WR to the San Francisco 49ers
This is a move that isn't garnering much attention around the league, but the 49ers need to bolster their receiving options. While it is a positive to have such a quality pass-catching TE, it is to the detriment of the team if he is better target than every WR on the team.
Michael Crabtree hasn't prospered as hoped, but he would be a solid option with Rice as the No. 1 target.
17. Matt Hasselbeck, QB to Tennessee Titans
The Titans may need more than just a legitimate starting QB to compete, but it certainly is a solid start. They also need to replace the player they were hoping to get in Randy Moss, as their passing game hasn't taken off despite the potent ground game.
They will also need to work on the defensive side of the ball, and their offensive line may need some re-tooling to continue to thrive.
However, the Titans have money to spend in free agency and could rebound in 2011.
16. Green Bay Packers Cap Room and Re-Signing Key Free Agents
The Packers aren't in a position where they need to improve any real measures of their team. However, they do need to sign a few key players.
Mason Crosby and Daryn Colledge are at risk, as is FB John Kuhn. All three play vital roles and the Packers are best served by keeping them.
If they are able to free up some cap room, the Pack will also be looking at defensive end, though a big free-agent splash is hardly their manner.
15. Barry Cofield, DT to St. Louis Rams
While I am attempting to keep from mentioning players for more than one team, it is hard to predict which NFC West team Cofield will end up playing for.
He is excellent against the run and would provide the Rams with help in the pass rush. This would provide a needed piece to their defense.
The team made great strides last season under the defensive-minded Steve Spagnuolo despite making few personnel changes. He coached Cofield in New York, which could give him a slight edge over Seattle.
Give the coaching staff some more talent to work with, and the Rams could develop some consistency on defense and return to being a challenger in the NFC.
14. Antonio Cromartie, CB to the Detroit Lions
The Lions are slowly building a team that is capable of winning. Their biggest need is at CB, and they will likely look at top talent at the position.
Cromartie is an option that might not be too expensive and would provide an upgrade in their secondary.
13. Steve Breaston, WR to San Diego Chargers
The Chargers had the top offense and top defense last season, but inconsistency and poor special teams play undermined their season.
San Diego needs to re-sign Eric Weddle and come to an agreement with Vincent Jackson.
They will also need to sign another receiver, as Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee are free agents. Steve Breaston would go a long way in rounding out the offensive options for Phillip Rivers.
12. Barry Cofield, DT and Ray Edwards, DE to the Seattle Seahawks
Seattle has a fair amount of work to be done if it is going to repeat its playoff upset of 2010. The Seahawks need a QB, but the lack of exciting free-agent options lead to their issues on the other side of the ball.
When healthy, Seattle had a very good defensive front last season. However, it wasn't healthy very much. Seattle has the money to spend in free agency and will look to fix its issues by improving its front four.
11. Stephen Tulloch, ILB to Philadelphia Eagles
I am hitting the Eagles a bit hard, but their cap room and overall roster quality make them an easy team to add game-changing talent to.
They could use an upgrade in the middle of their defense, and Stephen Tulloch would certainly provide it. It will be tough to wrestle him away from Tennessee, but well worth the effort.
10. Aubrayo Franklin, NT to the Kansas City Chiefs
One of the most difficult issues the Chiefs could be facing in free agency is how to spend almost $50 million. They could still use a little attention on the offensive line, and need to re-sign Casey Wiegman.
The one glaring need for the Chiefs is a powerful force in the middle of the defensive line. Franklin will give them that, and could make them very difficult to beat in the AFC West.
9. Doug Free, LT to the Chicago Bears
The Bears need to make a move on their offensive line—make that several moves...
Olin Kreutz is a free agent and is their best lineman. He needs to be re-signed, and the Bears need to add talent at several other positions.
Doug Free is certainly a player the Cowboys will want to keep to man their LT position, but salary cap issues will make that difficult. The Bears would certainly benefit from adding him, and with the signing of an OG they could make a strong offensive surge.
8. Rocky McIntosh, OLB to the New Orleans Saints
The Saints are looking to rebound from last season's early exit from the playoffs. They have the needed power on offense, thanks in part to the signing of Mark Ingram.
The defensive side of the ball is looking solid, too, except for some concerns at safety and OLB.
McIntosh didn't live up to expectations in Washington last season, but then again few players moving from a 4-3 to the Redskins' 3-4 did.
Look for him to return to the comfort of a 4-3 set and find the confidence that made him a very good starting option.
7. Peyton Manning Signs New Contract with Indianapolis Colts
The Colts' window with Manning is getting smaller. He doesn't have many productive seasons left, and if they are going to win another Super Bowl the time is now.
The team needs to be able to focus on improving Manning's protection and getting their offensive line to jell when camp opens, and not be distracted by Manning's contract status when he returns from injury.
6. Manny Lawson, OLB to New England Patriots
I was openly critical of the Patriots draft approach, as they seemed to ignore a few glaring holes. I understand their forward-thinking approach to the draft, but a team that is primed to win now must heed needs while the window is open. Using two high picks on running backs seemed a bit indulgent.
One notable concern was the lack of a pass-rusher. They need help at OLB and DE, and 3-4 pass-rush specialists are in short supply in free agency.
Lawson isn't known for being an elite pass-rusher, but he is a very good all-around LB. He will add some quality to the Patriots front seven and could help get them over the hump in the AFC.
5. Eric Weddle, S to Indianapolis Colts
The biggest issue on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts is finding an upgrade for their secondary. Melvin Bullitt is a free agent and will be an option to return, but the Colts need to improve their pass defense.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers Free Up Cap Space to Re-Sign Ike Taylor
The Steelers defense showed it needed just a little more pressure in the Super Bowl. If they are going to challenge in the AFC again in 2011, they will need to respond to salary cap issues. They have little room to cover the 15 free-agency roster spots, including the cornerback position.
They made a few astute draft moves for long-term health at cornerback, but they would like to be able to keep the position stable in the short run, too.
3. Charles Johnson, DE to the Atlanta Falcons
These selections are ripe with teams moving within their division, often creating a large swing between two teams. However, the gap between the Panthers and Falcons is so large that this move won't have an impact on the division.
What this will do is give the Falcons a huge boost in their efforts to reach the Super Bowl at the end of the 2011 season.
They responded to needs at wide receiver in the first round of the draft, but ignored a pass-rusher. This was a shrewd move, as they have cap space available and the talent pool for DE was deeper than that for an affordable quality WR.
If Johnson can bring his double-digit sack production to the Falcons, they become an immediate front-runner to host the NFC championship game.
2. Shaun Ellis, DE to the New England Patriots
This move within a division could help seal the balance of power in the AFC East.
Ellis' time is growing short, but there is little doubt that Tom Brady would rather have him on his sidelines than in his backfield.
1. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB to Philadelphia Eagles
This pick is hardly a surprise. Adding a top CB to their defense would go a long way in shoring up their opportunity to make a run in the playoffs.
They will still need to address their need at MLB, but they have the money to do both.
Despite all the teams that will make a run for Nnamdi Asomugha, few will have the cap space to stay in the running like the Eagles...and few teams will benefit as much from his addition.