Nnamdi Asomugha was the best available free agent this offseason. Who else could your team have missed on?
If you are the General Manager of an NFL team, the three most dreaded words in the English language are "Woulda," "coulda" and "shoulda." Every team makes mistakes in the offseason and everybody has regrets. Many teams will look back on free agency in the coming months and think "if only we had signed so-and-so, we wouldn't be in this mess..." Here is a look at some key free agents who could have been the solution for teams around the league.
Right now, we're about to play, "Who should have signed that free agent?"
Not seen in this picture: thousands of crying Jets fans.
Nnamdi Asomugha was an extremely sought-after free agent this past offseason. Asomugha has earned his reputation as a top three corner in the league. He's so good, teams don't even try throwing to his side of the field. After his contract with the Raiders ended, however, Asomugha wanted to play for a winner.
Everybody wanted him, but the main players were the Houston Texans, the New York Jets and the San Fransisco 49ers. When the Philadelphia Eagles swooped in and signed Asomugha, everyone was taken by surprise.
The Texans acted like they had expected not to get Asomugha all along, and added Johnathan Joseph only a few days after Nnamdi signed in Philly, but they'll wish they had Asomugha before long. Their defense will be improved in the secondary, but switching to a 3-4 defense doesn't just happen magically. There will be growing pains and they'll miss having Nnamdi to shut down one side of the field.
The Jets went out and re-signed Antonio Cromartie and the 49ers signed Carlos Rogers, who is considered to be an upgrade over Nate Clements. Still, do either of those players come close to Asomugha? I would say no.
This is the kind of play Sidney Rice can make. Who will make these kinds of catches for the Jaguars, Raiders or Browns?
Sidney Rice had 83 catches for 1,312 yards in 2009. Those are the kind of numbers that a defensive coach would have to double team. After a 2010 season hampered by a lingering hip injury, the Vikings decided to part ways with Rice, who went on to be the best available signee at the wide receiver position.
The Seahawks signed the 24-year-old receiver, but every team with a questionable receiving corps will wish their team had ponied up for Rice at some point in the season. He is tall and moves very fluidly with good hands. He can be a legitimate number one receiver. Teams that will regret not snagging Sidney include the Jaguars, Browns, Raiders and Panthers, among others.
Seattle is often a place where receivers go to die (see TJ Houshmanzadeh and Deion Branch) so we'll see how Rice's time on the west coast plays out, but the "what if"s won't go away, especially if a team like the Jaguars or Rams can't compete for their division specifically because they are lacking a real receiving threat.
Zach Miller is a good, all-around tight end.
Tight end is a position that is becoming more and more valuable in the NFL. The arrival of Antonio Gates changed the position such that now tight ends are expected to catch the ball almost as well as receivers. Some teams now have one tight end who is basically a receiver and one tight end who is basically a lineman. It's rare to see players who can do both effectively.
In fact, I'd say there are only four or five quality all-around tight ends in the league and Zach Miller is one of them. Miller had 60 catches for 685 yards last year with five touchdowns and blocked for a top three running game in Oakland as well.
The Raiders replaced Miller with Kevin Boss, but Boss, while talented, is not at the same level that Miller is. Letting a potential top-5-at-his-position player walk is something that the team will likely regret.
The Giants let their quality tight end leave and didn't replace him, and the Bills just never had anyone at the position. Both teams could have made a play for Miller and would have greatly benefited from signing him.
Paul Posluszny lays the wood on offensive players. Seriously, look at those guns.
In most defenses, the middle linebacker is the brains. He calls the defense and gets his players lined up. The MLB is also the primary run stuffer, often matched one on one with the running back. Paul Posluszny is not the fastest linebacker, but he is one of the smartest and one of the best tacklers in the league.
How good of a tackler is he? Posluszny had over 150 tackles in only 14 games in 2010. He had nine games where he was in double digit tackles.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were smart to add a player like Posluszny to their defense and they needed a linebacker badly after how their defense performed last year (28th in the league overall). The Bills tried hard to keep Posluszny in Buffalo, but Posluszny preferred to play in a 4-3 defense rather than the Bills 3-4.
The Eagles looked like the best team in the league on paper, until the teams lined up this preseason and Philly realized they struggled to stop the power running game. They could have used a middle linebacker. So could many other teams and Posluszny was the best one out there.
Posluszny, who is only 26 years old, will be a staple in the Jaguars' defense for years to come, and teams with trouble at MLB will wish they had added Poz to their team.
Eric Weddle is a different case from most of the other players I've talked about so far. While teams will regret not acting on the chance to get most of the other players on this list, teams will regret not being able to sign Weddle.
Several teams were connected very strongly to Weddle during free agency, including Jacksonville, Houston and San Fransisco. Unfortunately for them, Weddle cut a huge $40 million deal with the Chargers to return to his old team.
There were reports that several teams made offers to Weddle, but none were nearly as big as the one Chargers offered. Weddle is an all-around safety who hits as well as he covers. He had 96 tackles in 2010 with a career high 10 pass deflections and two interceptions.
Johnathan Joseph walks around the Texans facility in his new uniform. Pretty snazzy.
Seriously, there was only going to be one team that managed to sign Nnamdi Asomugha, but about five teams interested. Teams that needed a corner, but weren't making top shelf offers to Nnamdi really should have been trying to swipe Johnathan Joseph from under other teams' noses.
Joseph is talented enough to be a solid starting corner and will be a great addition to a Houston Texans team that was exceedingly terrible against the pass last year. The Bengals knew this and tried hard to re-sign him, but couldn't. The Raiders knew they would be losing Nnamdi but instead of signing someone like Joseph, they are starting Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt. Typical Raiders move.
There was no way the Giants could have known what was coming, but having lost their top two corners, the team would like to have another shot to make Joseph an offer.
Donte Whitner is an aggressive Safety with great tackling skills and adequate coverage skills. Plenty of teams will wish they made a play for the best available safety this offseason.
The Bills lost some major pieces this offseason. Paul Posluszny cut and ran for Jacksonville and safety Donte Whitner left for San Fransisco. Between Posluszny's 150 tackles and Whitner's 140, they lost possibly the two biggest pieces on their defense in one offseason.
Several teams were looking to boost their secondaries this offseason: the Jaguars, the Lions, the Texans and the Vikings just to name a few. The safety class in the 2011 draft was short on talent and the free agent class only had a few worthwhile names as well.
Whitner was a solid starter and a key member of the free agent safety crop. He tackles well and has solid coverage skills. The Bills are going to miss him dearly and there will be plenty of teams wishing they could have added Whitner's talents to their secondary.
Plaxico made a very nice touchdown catch at the end of the first half this week.
I drew up a little list of players to write about in this slide show and when I sat down to start writing, I had to ask myself: "Do I really have to write about Plaxico Burress as someone teams will regret not taking?" The honest answer is that I do.
Most well-run teams know that there is a massive amount of risk involved in adding players who haven't played in two years. The risk is even greater if that player missed two years because he was arrested on serious gun charges. However, in last week's action, Burress looked like the Burress of old. If he is, a lot of teams missed out.
The Jets WR situation was pretty desperate in this offseason. Santonio Holmes, Brad Smith and Braylon Edwards were all free agents. The Jets signed Holmes to a huge deal, coaxed 37 year old Derrick Mason out of his rocking chair and let the younger guys, Smith and Edwards, walk. Adding the 34-year-old Burress was only a slight risk for them. It will help the Jets in the short run, but makes them pretty old at the WR position.
Matt Hasselbeck is a starting quality QB for likely another year or two. Every team without one will wish they had signed him.
The quarterback position is so important that I just had to put a free agent QB in this slideshow somewhere. Hasselbeck is not a top-shelf starter. He's had injury troubles and honestly is only relevant because he could be a solid one or two year patch for a good team. That said, he landed in a spot that might make some other young teams jealous.
The Titans have a great offensive line. How do you think Vince Young was successful in Tennessee? His own merit? Those guys do a great job of blocking and with a weapon like Chris Johnson on the offense with him, Hasselbeck is in a position where he could thrive while Jake Locker works his way into the starter role.
Certainly, teams like San Fransisco and the Cincinnati Bengals have to wish they had a legitimate starter. San Fran even got desperate enough to call Daunte Culpepper out of retirement for a try-out. Those are not the only places either. Teams like Kansas City and the Jets are one injury away from incompetence at the QB position.
Hasselbeck is the kind of player that can take a team with talent to the playoffs. There are plenty of teams who do not have that player on their roster this year.
Clint Session is a hitter and a strong player at outside linebacker.
Outside linebacker in a 4-3 is often a position that gets overlooked on defense. I think that's backwards, though. Having linebackers who are tough enough to make plays in the running game and quick enough to cover are a huge asset to an NFL team.
Clint Session earned a reputation as a big hitter for the Indianapolis Colts. Aside from a few players that never really made it out into the free agent waters, Clint Session was probably a top-3 free agent at his position. Generally, I don't have much faith in the Colts, since their roster consists of Peyton Manning, Freeney, Mathis and 50 other other shmoes, but Session has the strength to make plays and force fumbles.
The Colts replaced him with Kavell "never heard of him" Connor, thinking outside linebackers are replaceable, but in reality, they're not. The Colts will wish they hadn't let Session walk, sooner rather than later.
Teams like the Bears, Vikings and Broncos will regret not offering Session a contract also when their defenses start showing weakness in the run game.
Most running backs worth their salt re-signed with their original teams this offseason. DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw and Cedric Benson, among others, all found their way back to their original teams. One running back who didn't end up going to his old team was Tim Hightower.
Hightower never got a fair chance in Arizona. He was a rookie when the team had Edgerrin James, and the Cardinals added Beanie Wells soon after. Hightower flashed talent, but was allowed to make it past restricted free agency by the team and was claimed by the Redskins this offseason.
The Redskins historically find good running backs and run through them every few years. Clinton Portis was great in the mid-to-late 2000s, now no one is interested in signing him. Ryan Torain got a lot of carries last year, but he's a power back and it's nice to have a speed guy to pair with a guy like that.
Hightower will get his chances in the Redskins backfield and already has a 58 yard touchdown against the Colts this preseason. If you're a fan of a team with no running game (Colts, Bengals, Cardinals), you'll wish your team had signed Hightower.
On the lesser known side, James Jones is a player many teams will regret not grabbing. Jones is not an all-star, but he is a receiver who is very capable of getting open and he spent a week just sitting there in free agency, unclaimed.
Any team with wide receiver struggles can just point to Jones and know that a qualified offer would have brought him to their team. As it turned out, no one made an offer except for the Packers who will almost certainly find a use for him.