NFL Free Agents 2011: The Top 8 Unsigned Players
The news may have changed by the time you finish this sentence. This past week has see an unprecedented flurry of contract and free agency action. No doubt, the first few weeks of the NFL season is going to be filled with, "Oh yeah. He plays for them now. Totally forgot that."
But, for one reason or another, there are big name players still on the market. Let's review. By the time you finish, they may be signed though.
Moss is the biggest name still available. There has been talk of the Cardinals showing interest as a second weapon for new quarterback Kevin Kolb; and rumors have bubbled up that the Eagles are interested which would make for a pretty impressive on-paper offense. The thought of him and DeSean Jackson stretching the field—giving Vick more room to scramble—should worry Cowboys, Redskins and Giants fans.
The question now is: do you want him? His 3-team journey around the league in 2010 season might make some a little uneasy. In eight games for the Titans he only caught six passes for 80 yards. Yikes. Yes, the quarterbacking was terrible, but there is little excuse for catching less than a pass per game.
Though Moss has always had spectacular hands and hops, his biggest asset has been his speed. He flies. If that’s starting to fade, which is pretty typical at the age of 34, Moss may be more of a name, than a threat at this point. That he’s been on the market this long is probably a fair warning.
Like Randy Moss, it can be startling to think about how quickly Owens’s start has faded. Two years ago it would have been unthinkable that either would be treading water on the free agent market. When speed goes, it really goes.
Unless Cincinnati resigns him, which would be weird at this point, T.O. will be moving onto his sixth NFL team next season. That’s a lot of movement for one of the greatest wide receivers to play the game. We don’t need to review the baggage T.O. will bring wherever he ends up.
Look for teams that just missed on guys like Plaxico Burress, like the Steelers, to make offers. Ownes, with his physicality and slowing downfield speed, would fit well in the Steel City.
[Update: ESPN reports Bradshaw will sign a 4 year $18M deal, $9M gaurenteed with the Giants]
How is Bradshaw still on the market? Of all the free agents still available, this is the most puzzling. Sure he has trouble keeping a handle on the ball, but he’s only 25 and coming off a 1,235-yard season in one of the leagues best rushing offenses. There were early rumors that Cincinnati or Washington may have interest but those have both been quieted with the signings of Cedric Benson and Tim Hightower.
Perhaps the Giants believe they can rely on their system, rather than paying for talent. (Or they’re really taking this free agency slow; Kevin Boss, Steve Smith and Osi Umenyiora are still unsigned) Atlanta’s Jason Snelling was apparently in New York for a visit. Snelling would fit in the Giants smashmouth offense, but he’s really more of a fullback. Bradshaw is the better running back; whether the interest in Snelling is legitimate or hand waving to back down Bradshaw and agent Drew Rosenhaus is unclear. (My gut is the latter.)
After a long seemingly-gracious back and forth, the Seahawks officially released Tatupa on Sunday. Pete Carroll seems pretty determined, as he has control over the roster, to making the Seahawks younger and not pay for it. Tatupa was probably harder for him to see go considering he’d played under Carroll at USC.
It is still early and unclear exactly where Tatupa will or could end up. Good linebackers have no lasted that long on the free agent market so far. The crux of his departure was a refusal to take a pay cut after six solid seasons in Seattle. You get the sense Tatupa would want to stay on the west coast as he grew up in San Diego and has since played in Los Angeles and Seattle.
San Francisco had a hole open up at outside linebacker when Takeo Spikes went to the Chargers; if the 49ers are thinking of switching to a 4-3 defense, (this is still unclear) Tatupa could be a good fit—and would bring good knowledge of a division opponent. He’s probably too slow to fit into a 3-4.
With Plaxico Burress signing with the Jets, Edwards is not expected to be wearing the green and white next year. The blush on Edwards’ rose has probably (hopefully) finally worn off. He was amazing in college but just has not been that good in the pros. Not many receivers in today’s game come to mind faster when hearing “infuriating dropped passes.”
That said, he is still a very serviceable receiver. The Cardinals seem to be his best suitor. Playing second banana to Larry Fitzgerald seems just about right for Edwards as he’s proven he’s not an alpha dog. Kevin Kolb would likely welcome the second option though, especially with Steve Breaston now gone to the Chiefs.
With all the talk of Kevin Kolb going here, there and everywhere, it was a little strange that Bulger never came up as a possible quarterbacking alternative. He made due with the post-Warner Rams with an 84.4 QB rating and broke 3,800 yards three times (and threw 2,297 in an injury shortened 8-game season). He’s not a sexy name and he’s not young (34), but he isn’t a terrible quarterback.
Teams rolling with young quarterbacks this year, like the Redskins or Dolphins would be well served to bring on the veteran presence—and the stopgap should their quarterbacking experiments blow up in their face and they need a serviceable second option. They might get a steal as Bulger's value takes a major hit for not seeing a snap in 2010.
Considering increasing focus on the pass, it’s interesting how many decent-to-good receivers are still on the market. Smith’s case is a little more explainable: he’s established himself as an injury concern and will likely miss about the first month of the season, no matter where he goes, after surgery on torn knee cartilage.
If the Giants really do let him go, even after a franchise-record 107 catch season in 2009, Smith could be a decent bargain for teams looking for a better downfield threat, like the Bears.
Like Smith, Brown is likely still on the market because of his injury history. He’s only played sixteen games twice in his six-year career and will turn thirty in December. That said, he didn’t have a brutal workload last season (200 carries) as he split time with Ricky Williams. Provided his knee and everything else holds up, he could prove to be a nice steal for a team needing help in the backfield. The Rams have reportedly been in discussions recently.
Others to Remember
Zach Miller - likely resigned to Raiders. Both sides seem to want to get a deal done.
Malcom Floyd - asking a little too much to stay in San Diego.
Mannie Lawson - very good pass rushing linebacker without a home.
Carl Nicks - the Saints should not give up talent on the offensive line.
Brandon Carr - likely resigned to the Chiefs.
Brent Grimes - an underrated cornerback that could be a steal if the Falcons pass.
Dashon Goldson - the 49ers appear as serious suitors.
Matt Roth - good pass rushing outside linebacker.
Aubrayo Franklin - back in San Francisco visiting with the team. Good sign for resign.