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Get ready for NFL free-agent frenzy
Ah, football. How we’ve missed you so.
As Will Ferrell’s Frank “The Tank” character famously said in the movie “Old School”, “Once it hits your lips . . . it’s so good!”
Well, football has hit our lips. And everything just seems to be better now that it has. The players and the owners are linked arm and arm and at peace, the heat wave blanketing the country appears to be at least temporarily over and it’s finally okay to plan your fantasy football drafts without asterisks and contingency plans attached to every proposed draft date. Perhaps most uplifting of all is the realization that we won’t have to spend our Sundays in the fall watching professional bowling at the local sports bar. As tempting as the thought of rooting for Dave Beres was, I’d rather cheer on Drew Brees.
The lone good part of the painstakingly boring and altogether depressing 132-day NFL lockout we just endured? The most incredible, frenzied rookie and free-agent signing period ever. Starting Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. EST, the offseason team-building process — usually stretched over five months — will essentially be crammed into one wild week of roster moves and acquisitions. Toss in the potential for several marquee names being traded or released, and it’s essentially 32 NFL GMs playing a real-life version of fantasy football. Oh, and it’ll be done while training camps are being held, playbooks are being learned and players are getting back into shape. There are over 450 free agents hitting the market this week, with an added 200 or so undrafted rookie free agents joining camps, looking to make opening day rosters. Overwhelmed with all the names you’ll have keep track of?
Don’t worry. We’ve built an easy to follow “2011 Free Agency” Cheat Sheet to use this week. Here’s all you need to know about who’s out there:
“The Hottest Chick at the Dance” — The Player who’ll be in the Highest Demand: Nnamdi Asomugha, CB:
Asomugha, a four–time NFL All-Pro and former NFL Man of the Year award winner, is widely considered the best all-around cornerback in the game.
Due to a clause in his last contract with the Raiders, the former Cal star hits the open market as an unrestricted free agent this week. He’s been linked to the Cowboys and Jets since March, but it’s anybody’s guess where he actually ends up.
Having never played in a postseason game and been on 11+ loss teams in seven of his eight seasons in the league, look for him to sign with a contender.
“Travolta in Pulp Fiction” — The Former Star Looking for Another Shot to Prove he’s on the A-List: Randy Moss, WR:
Moss had an interesting 2010 season, huh?
How many future Hall of Famers can you name that played for three different teams, were traded to their former squad, and were unceremoniously waived in one year? Not many. Moss enters the 2011 free agent frenzy with his fair share of doubters and a chip on his shoulder.
He’s also got 954 career receptions, 14,858 career receiving yards, 153 career touchdown receptions and a surefire trip to Canton in his future.
Does Randy Moss have one more big season in him?
Some team will pay to find out.
Remember, the last time we wrote off Randy Moss — he went on to break the single season receiving touchdown record the very next fall.
“The Ricky Vaughn” — The Player Coming Off a Few Years “Away” from the Game: Plaxico Burress, WR: After two years serving time as Inmate # 09-R-3260 in the Oneida Correctional Facility in upstate New York, Super Bowl XLII hero Plaxico Burress is out of jail and looking for work.
“Plax” has made the media rounds this month and has said all the right things.
He’s learned from his time away and just wants to show he can play the game. Are there teams in the market for a 6-foot-5 red-zone threat with great hands who’s thrived in cold weather environments his entire career?
You better believe there are.
Why is the converted-cornerback-turned safety such a hot commodity? Because he fits the latest league trend — the rangy free safety that can play everywhere.
At 5-11 and 200 pounds with good closing speed and pass coverage skills, Weddle can play all four positions in the defensive backfield. He racked up 127 tackles last year and is in the prime of his career.
He’s going to be a very rich man by the end of the weekend.
“The West Side Story” — The Four New York Jets Hitting the Open Market: Antonio Cromartie, CB; Braylon Edwards, WR; Santonio Holmes, WR; Brad Smith, WR: The Jets have four big name unrestricted free agents and a fifth veteran, defensive end Shaun Ellis, they need to decide on.
Holmes, a former Super Bowl MVP, had a big year in 2010 after a four-game suspension to start the year, while Braylon Edwards made several clutch catches down the stretch after a disappointing 2009 battle with the “dropsies”.
Smith is the versatile do-everything special teams/Wildcat option and Cromartie was a pleasant surprise filling in for an injured Darrelle Revis.
Mike Tannenbaum can’t bring all of them back. It’ll be fascinating to see New York’s savvy GM’s next maneuverings.
They’re a combined 62 years old, but both have good football left in their legs. Want a crazy stat? Despite a combined 17 years in the league and countless fantasy football accomplishments, neither Brown nor Williams has ever won an NFL playoff game.
Then again, nor has Tony Gonzalez. It’s highly unlikely the Dolphins will bring both Williams and Brown back. In fact, they likely won’t bring back either.
“The Red Crosses” — The Receivers Coming off Major Injuries: Sidney Rice, Terrell Owens, and Steve Smith: Three of the top available free-agent receivers, Rice, Owens and Smith all bring different skills to the table. The one thing they all have in common? They’re coming off serious leg injuries.
Rice, a breakout star in 2009, missed the first 10 games in 2010, T.O. had offseason knee surgery and Steve Smith — an elite underneath threat for the Giants — had microfracture surgery on his knee in December.
“The Bonzi Wells” — The Veteran Player who had a Surprising Big Season in the Final Year of his Contract: Jason Babin, DE: On more than one occasion, former NBA player Bonzi Wells put up his biggest statistical campaigns in the final years of his contracts, thus earning him top dollars based on GMs with short-term memories.
Babin was long considered an NFL journeyman until last season, when he came out of nowhere to rack up 12.5 sacks and 58 tackles for the Titans at the age of 31.
“Me Against The World” — The Comeback Story that No One’s Particularly Rooting For: Tiki Barber, RB: When Tiki Barber left the game after the 2006 season as the New York Giants all-time leading rusher, he was considered the next great TV personality and an all-around tremendous guy.
Then he ripped Eli Manning during his first game working as an analyst on the NBC halftime show, alienating both the New York fan base that cheered him for years and his former teammates who he deserted.
Naturally, the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl without him. Then he was just plain awful at the whole television thing. And oh, then he left his wife while she was pregnant for a younger woman.
The New York Post ran Tiki stories for weeks, none of which were exactly positive.
So, yeah — it hasn’t been a great few years for ol’ Tiki. But he’s back. And at 36, he’s ready to prove everyone wrong and show he has got a few good carries left in him. Whether anyone out there will actually care to see those carries is an entirely other issue.
“The Champs Are Here” — The 2010 Packers That Could Be Playing Elsewhere in 2011: Daryn Colledge, OL; Mason Crosby. K; Cullen Jenkins, DE; James Jones, WR; John Kuhn, RB: What would a Sunday at Lambeau be like without Packers fans shouting, “Kuuuuuuuuhn” after a John Kuhn carry?
We may find out shortly. Whether it’s the Raiders rewarding Larry Brown after two Super Bowl XXX interceptions or Alvin Harper getting big bucks from the Bucs in ’95, teams are always willing to spend a little coin on a recent Super Bowl champion.
Though they’d love to, the Pack can’t bring ‘em all back.
“You, Again?” — The Player Who’s Always Been One Step out of Town, who’ll Undoubtedly be Re-Signing with his Current Team: Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco: This one’s all but 100 percent happening, whether San Francisco fans like it or not.
Though the 49ers faithful have alternated from deeming Smith “The QB of the future” and pretty much the worst quarterback in the league over the past six years, he’s going to eventually end up with more years under center for the squad than Jeff Garcia, Elvis Grbac and Steve Bono.
Jim Harbaugh likes him, Colin Kaepernick’s not ready yet and the NFC West is winnable with Smith as the guy. Somehow, some way, he’ll be a 49er . . . again.
“The Raquel Welches” — The Old QB Talent That’ll Still Get Plenty of Looks: Matt Hasselbeck, Marc Bulger: Sure, Bulger and Hasselbeck’s best days are long behind them, but with teams scrambling to build teams from scratch, a competent leader with any gas in the tank will no doubt be more attractive than an unknown young gun under center. Another guy we almost added to this list? That dude who likes to wear Wrangler jeans. Through fear of endless days of hate mail, his name won’t go mentioned.
“The Second (and Third) Chance Club” — The Quarterback Busts Still Looking for The Right Fit: Matt Leinart, Brodie Croyle, and Tarvaris Jackson: This trio is one more underwhelming campaign away from being out of the league. Leinart never seized his opportunity in Arizona and was buried on the bench in Houston, Croyle’s days as “the guy” in Kansas City were done once Scott Pioli brought in Matt Cassel, and T-Jack had more shots than a college pledge at the frat house in Minnesota. This is it for each of them.
“The Scrap Heap” — The Undrafted Rookie Free Agents to Keep an Eye on: Terrence Toliver, WR, LSU; Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State; Weslye Saunders, TE, South Carolina; Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College; Orie Lemon, LB, Oklahoma State; DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson; Deunta Williams, S, UNC; Will Hill, S, Florida; Jerrod Johnson, QB, Texas A&M
“The Head Scratchers” — The five players currently under contract who could be traded or released this week”:
1. Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia: Stuck behind Vick; Philly can get a bounty of draft picks in exchange for their 2007 second round pick.
2. Donovan McNabb, QB, Washington: From everything we’re hearing, it looks like the John Beck Era is ready to begin in D.C. In other words, goodbye Donovan. And, hello another top 10 draft selection in April.
3. Vince Young, QB, Tennessee: The two-time Pro Bowler is on his way out of Nashville. If that wasn’t apparent toward the end of last season, it was made official with the selection of Jake Locker in April.
4. Osi Umenyiora, DE, New York: Umenyiora had some choice words for Giants management this offseason and believes he’s due a new contract. Already several million dollars over the cap, Big Blue’s front office isn’t likely to fork that dough over anytime soon.
5. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati: Palmer’s last days in Cincy appear to be behind him. Does he have anything left? That cannon arm looked like a broken water pistol last season.
The Best of the Rest:
1. Charles Johnson, DE
2. Johnathan Joseph, CB
3. DeAngelo Williams, RB
4. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
5. Malcolm Floyd, WR
6. Jermon Bushrod, OT
7. Barrett Ruud, LB
8. Stewart Bradley, LB
9. Mathias Kiwanuka, LB/DE
10. Aubrayo Franklin, DT
11. Ike Taylor, CB
12. Eric Wright, CB
13. Ray Edwards, DE
14. Quintin Mickell, S
15. Mike Sims-Walker, WR
16. Cedric Benson, RB
17. Michael Bush, RB
18. Joseph Addai, RB
19. Zach Miller, TE
20. Davin Joseph, G