Free Agency, the Salary Cap, and the Draft

For the next 50-something days, all I will be thinking about is the NFL Draft and everything leading up to it. Free Agency, the NFL Combine, trades (!?!?), and other signings, teams jockeying for players in a very different offseason than we have ever seen before. This year is going to be an uncapped season, which means that teams basically have free reign over their payrolls. In the upcoming months you will see teams doing anything that they see fit to modify their rosters, financially speaking. This could include humongous signings or extreme fat-trimming of overpaid players, and we will probably see more of the latter.

I’m predicting a lot of teams to cut players that are, or were until this offseason, big salary cap fat cats (see Westbrook, Brian). I think that there will be more of this to come. Free Agents this offseason should not be expecting much of an increase in salaries from previous years- there just isn’t the willingness to shell out huge paychecks in an uncapped year.

Who knows what will happen after the CBA talks continue, but something’s gotta give between the players ass’n and the owners. Owners are scared of their franchises folding and players want more benefits and better money guarantees. I can see both sides of this argument, and I actually tend to side with the owners a little bit. Granted, I am completely for giving players better benefits, especially post-football. Something needs to be done about providing medical care for banged up, retirees from the NFL.

But one thing I would LOVE to see is a ROOKIE CAP!!!! For the love of God, some of these players are coming in, getting drafted high in the 1st round, and getting paid MORE than a proven veteran. I think that there should be a 3-year performance contract for rookies, and THEN you can get paid the big bucks. Too many 1st rounders have come in, gotten paid millions and millions of dollars, and what have they to show for it? In 2007, Jamarcus Russell was signed to a bigger contract than Peyton Manning had at the time. Even if he doesn’t play another snap, ever, he’s due to make $40 mil by the end of his 6-year contract. And this is just one, albeit one of the biggest, of the reasons why the NFL needs a rookie cap. Please, please take a memo from the NBA and do this.

Anyway, those are my rantings about that. I promised some answers, I know you guys have a lot of questions. I feel like John Locke right now (or whoever that guy is now).

The LT/WBrook dillemma.

I’ll start with LT because I think he has the best chance of being signed first out of these two. Sure, there are concerns now that LT has lost a step or two, but I think that he can still be an impact player in the NFL, even if his role on a team isn’t what he has been used to throughout his HOF career. Let’s assume he’s good for around 10 TDs and, say, 600 yards. Mostly a short-yardage guy. Pretty much a complimentary, change-of-pace guy.  So, where would the best fit for LT be? Let’s try and dissect this and come away with a few landing spots. Tomlinson says he wants to play for a contender with an elite QB. Narrowing down the prospective suitors to more than half of the league on that one.. So, now we take a look at teams who are 10 extra TDs away from either the playoffs or the Super Bowl, who may need help at RB. I can come up with only a few, so I’ll give you my top 3, in no particular order:

  • Chicago

The reason I like the Bears as a landing spot for LT is because they fit the bill for LTs requirements. I really do believe in Cutler as a good, if not great, QB. What hurt the team the most last year was the sophomore stinker  Matt Forte. His lack of production allowed defenses to focus more on pass protection against the Bears last year, and Cutler was merely a victim. As a complimentary back, Tomlinson would give the Bears a really good 1-2 punch along with Forte. In a competitive NFC North, the Bears plan to pull out the wallet in Free Agency this spring. This signing just makes sense.

  • New England

Elite QB. Super Bowl contenders. Dismal running attack. With the Jets knocking at the Pats’ back door to take over the division for good, look to see ol’ half-sleeves make a move or two this offseason. Ass-chin Brady can’t do everything himself anymore.

  • New Orleans

For the feel good, sexy landing spot and to reunite LT with Brees once more. This is the least likely of the three that I have chosen. The backfield may be a little too crowded, but as Drew Brees said, there have been crazier things happen. And for surprise mystery team pick number 4:

  • Houston

Same idea here as Chi Town: Great QB in Shaub, would be a good 1-2 punch with Steve Slaton, but are the Texans willing to shell out the bills? I think that LT will land somewhere near the beginning of free agency, so this will be an interesting one to watch unfold.

Side Note: The Chargers are not going to re-sign Darren Sproles, whom they put the franchise tag on after the 2008 season. I think this is a BIG mistake and I’ll explain later.

As for Westbrook, I think that he may have a steeper hill to climb than LT. Durability concerns are a huge red flag.  So is the amount of money he’s going to want. This will most certainly drive away some teams. But I do believe that if a team does give him a chance, AND he stays healthy, he could be the steal of free agency this offseason. Does no one remember that just a year ago, Westbrook was a top ten running back? I think that he would settle for the first team that takes him, however. I also think that that would be a smart decision. Unfortunately, I see Westbrook becoming a mid-season injury replacement, which is ironic. He’s one more concussion away from retirement, and I think that teams know this.

I know that you guys want me to predict who’s gonna go where, and I will offer my two cents now, and I’ll probably keep updating my thoughts as we get closer to the draft. But I’ll answer the questions I got right now (with my initial thoughts)

Q: Where do you think Eric Berry will end up?

A: Berry WILL be a top-ten pick. Right now, I think WAS or TB could really use him. Redskins are keeping Campbell, there’s no way they draft a QB in the first round. When Campbell’s on, he’s on. I think Shanahan is gonna do a great job with the reins out of Snyder’s hands now. The skins have a good, young rising safety in Horton, and tandem that with Eric Berry, and watch out.

Q: Will Tebow 2.0 find draft-day success?

A: In a word, Yes. The back 1/2 of the draft isn’t gonna be looking for a QB, so I think someone in the top 16 can afford to wait until the 2nd round to draft him. The level of sportsmanship, competitiveness, and work ethic is enough to be worthy of a pick. Think about Tebow in a big market like LA in 5 years when Jacksonville finally moves.  Fortunately for Tebow, the NFL is becoming a shotgun-formation league. His delivery will be tested at his pro day. But no one questions his intangibles, his ‘immeasurables’. I really am rooting for this guy- I think that he’s such a positive role model and likable figure and nothing bad can come out of a team selecting him in the 2nd round.

Q: There are rumors going around of Sam Bradford possibly going #1 to the Rams. Thoughts??

A: I like it. Every once in a blue moon, a draft comes along where the number one need of a last place team really IS the QB position. Now, for those of you who don’t know me, I am a firm believer in building a team from the trenches and then out. A good offense starts with a good O-Line. A good defense starts with a good D-line. But in this draft, a funny thing happened. This draft is going to be historical for producing the most amount of quality players in recent history. This draft is so incredibly deep at almost every position. I think that Bradford has the size (6-4, 232) and strength to be a great QB for a long time- much more so than the other QBs. Don’t get me wrong- I think that the other top tiered QBs in the Draft will have successful careers as well, but I do think that you go get Bradford number 1. If not Bradford, then it’s obviously one of the two DTs. And you cross your fingers for Tony Pike in round 2. But, since all other positions are so deep, I dont think that you pass up on your franchise guy now. He won’t be there in round 2. Go get Bradford.

I think that’s enough for now. Keep the questions coming in. I’ll address some of the loose ends I left above next time.


2 Responses to “Free Agency, the Salary Cap, and the Draft”

  1. February 27, 2010 at 3:01 am

    I wholeheartedly believe that the introduction of Cutler was what hurt Forte, and NOT the other way around. Cutler was an awful fit for a team that has no elite WR, which is why he enjoyed fantasy success in Denver. He never had a dependable RB situation in the Mile High because of Shanahan, so he continues to try too hard to make the offense flow through himself and the passing game, which is backwards for a team like Chicago that’s thrived on run-and-play-D for so long. I don’t think Chicago is anywhere close to contending, let alone in their own division.

    Call me biased, but I think LT really does fit in Philadelphia. Philly loves hard-nosed, pass-catching (injury-prone?) RBs, and McCoy is still too raw to take the reigns. Probably the most championship-run-ready team for him to join, which is what he wants in the end.

    Also, you apparently can’t count to three. <|:{

  2. 2 Kohn
    March 6, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    I tend to disagree with you Mr. Neary (on Denver’s issues, but agree in the end its a lack of maturity). . .Cutler in Denver has one of the best lines in the history of the game (well scheme and chop blocks are what makes it so great, I guess), a line that made 1,000 yard rushers of Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson and Reuben Droughnes (not to mention TDavis and Portis). The RB situation and LINE were solid in Denver. Cutler joining a run first team like Denver (with Forte and a lesser line) should have given him another decent season. Its him showing his immaturity; not being able to succeed once more in a system similar to his previous one (albeit without Brandon Marshall catching anything throw in his general direction) he is showing us that he is not what was good in Denver, it was his system and teammates. Great players make the people around them better, Cutler seems like a world of talent who is not mature enough to adapt and make people better. . .he would rather have tons of three interception games and kill anyone dumb enough to draft him in their fantasy league as a starter. . .

    LT would be a good fit in a location where he would not HAVE to be a feature back but would still be an important part of the offense. A team which really utilizes a two back system nearly split will be the best place. The few places that come to mind are Philly, which never really runs as much as the average and they use the screen as an extention to the run. NE which has such a potent offense, LT would be a better clone of K Faulk. . .Miami is an interesting situation to be watched as well; I don’t know if LT is a Wildcat back, but he can be a change of pace from Ronnie Brown (who needs more breaks than he often gets). Tampa and Houston are interesting as well as they both are looking at younger backs who could use mentoring from LT and it gives Tomlinson a good chance to continue to play as well as teach.

    Where will be the best fit? New England (damn Brady and his horrible excuse for facial hair)

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