If last year is any indication, then don’t expect much of anything at all to happen between now and March 12.
As a point of reference, last year the Pats did the following prior to the start of the new NFL year, and free agency:
- Signed seven players to future/reserve contracts (Markell Carter, Matt Kopa, Aaron Lavarias, Mike Rivera, Tiquan Underwood, Ross Ventrone).
- DL Armond Armstead and Jason Vega are technically future/reserve contract signings as well, making this year’s total nine (Armstead, Vega, James Develin, WR Jeremy Ebert, LB Jeff Tarpinian, WR Andre Holmes, DE Tracy Robertson, QB Mike Kafka, DE Marcus Bennard).
- Last year the Pats also signed RB Eric Kettani in February, prior to free agency.
- This year the Pats also have one other early signing: LB Dane Fletcher.
- Last year the Pats made two other roster moves prior to the start of the new NFL year, releasing OL Rich Ohrnberger and DL Mike Wright.
Compare that to what happened in the days following the start of the new NFL year:
- Between the start of free agency and the draft the Pats re-signed six of their own free agents: Niko Koutouvides, Matthew Slater, Tracy White, Dan Connolly, Deion Branch, and Dan Koppen.
- Between the start of free agency and the draft two players signed their tenders: RFA Brian Hoyer and ERFA Kyle Love.
- Between the start of free agency and the draft the Pats signed 15 players who were not on the club the previous year: DL Jonathan Fanene, DL Marcus Harrison, S Steve Gregory, WR Anthony Gonzalez, DL Trevor Scott, WR Brandon Lloyd, TE Daniel Fells, WR Donte’ Stallworth, OL Robert Gallery, CB Marquice Cole, CB Will Allen, FB Spencer Larsen, FB Tony Fiammetta, LB Bobby Carpenter, and K Chris Koepplin.
- Between the start of free agncy and the draft the Pats released two players: LB Christian Cox and FB Lousaka Polite.
- Between the start of free agency and the draft two players restructure their contracts with the Pats: Tom Brady and Chad Johnson.
- Between the start of free agency and the draft four players that had been with the Pats the previous season sign elsewhere: Mark Anderson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Antwaun Molden, and Gary Guyton.
- Between the start of free agency and the draft one player is placed on the reserve/retired list: Matt Light.
Right now there is very little incentive for players to sign with a team, or for teams to sign any of the very few players that are available. Once the new league year begins there will be more players cut, increasing the pool of talent available. For right now all we can do is speculate, and count down the days until free agency commences.
Offense LT – can’t see the team moving on from Nate Solder
LG – ditto for Logan Mankins
C — I thought Ryan Wendell had a good season; don’t think there is a realistic upgrade available.
RG – replace Dan Connolly with who? Donald Thomas? A free agent?
RT – satisfied with Sebastian Vollmer? If not, then who is a realistic improvement? I don’t see one.
RB – should the Pats add a big bruising back? Don’t forget those guys are typically slower; if that’s the case, then who departs? Perhaps adding a genuine fullback would be the way to go. Don’t forget the Pats had three on their off-season roster a year ago; this is something that has obviously already crossed Bill Belichick’s mind.
WR – while the rallying cry is for a ‘big, physical receiver’, isn’t it more important to be able to get better run blocking and pass protection?
Defense DT – Vince Wilfork is obviously fine; what about the other DTs? Do the Pats need to use an early pick on another DT? Henry Melton would be a more than welcome addition but is likely far too pricey; are there any other free agents worth considering?
DE – Chandler Jones obviously stays; what about Rob Ninkovich? He comes up with a lot of big plays on sacks and turnovers; are we willing to sacrifice that for a player we hope may win more individual battles over the course of a game? Should the Pats go after a free agent like Michael Bennett, who should be less expensive than a guy like Michael Johnson.
LB – wasn’t the issue that this group needed to improve in pass coverage, as opposed to being ‘more physical’?
S – how do you balance the need to cover with being ‘more physical’?
CB – while it would be nice to get bigger and taller, those CBs are hard to find when you draft as late as the Pats do. Any faith Ras-I Dowling can contribute?
It seems to me that if the Patriots truly do want to become ‘more physical’, then the most likely areas would be at safety, defensive tackle, defensive end, and right guard – not necessarily in that order. But how much improvement can realistically be made at those positions in one off-season?
The New England Patriots and Wes Welker failed to reach an agreement to a contract extension prior to the league deadline of Monday at 4:00 p.m. Per NFL rules the two sides cannot sign a multi-year contract now until after the team’s final game of the 2012 season.
For the time being Welker will remain a Patriot and will be the recipient of a $9,500,000 guaranteed contract. But considering that the two sides have been unable to reach a long term agreement over the last five months, it would seem to be unlikely that they will work out a deal in the relatively small window of time between the end of the season and the start of free agency in March.
Wes Welker led the league in receptions for the third time in 2011, with 122 receptions
The Patriots will have the option of placing the franchise tag on Welker again next spring, at a price of about $11,400,000. However, if the team isn’t open to paying Welker what he was looking for during these negotiations, I cannot imagine that they would be willing to spend that much on him for the 2013 season – especially when you look at how much cap space Tom Brady ($21,800,000), Vince Wilfork ($10,600,000) and Logan Mankins ($10,000,000) will be taking up next year.
So why did a deal not get done? As I mentioned earlier, the CBA negotiations, the lockout, and Welker’s desire to not negotiate during the season played a part in this. The biggest reason that people bring up is Welker’s age, but I don’t think that the fact that he is over 30 should have been such a big issue.
Welker is a rare player that defies conventional wisdom. For example, look at what happened after he blew out his knee in Houston. Not only was he able to return for the start of the next season, he was able to do so at an exceptional level, as if the injury never happened. Last year at the age of 30 he caught 122 passes for 1,569 yards, and he has averaged 111 receptions per year since he arrived in Foxboro. The guy is tough as nails and has shown zero signs of any decline. I don’t see any reason to think that he could not maintain his current level of production for three years.
So if when Welker departs, who takes his place? Julian Edelman is one name that has been brought up because he admirably filled in for Welker for two games a couple years ago, but he has done nothing to distinguish himself as a wide receiver since then. The Pats drafted Jeremy Ebert late, but he is a complete unknown at this point. Neither has the chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady that Welker has, nor the instincts, and determination to defy the odds and just make things happen.
I can’t help but think that some sort of creative deal couldn’t have been worked out that would have been acceptable to both sides, that would have kept Welker happy and allowed the team to still have enough flexibility to extend Aaron Hernandez in the near future.
Maybe I’m wrong and a new deal will get worked out next spring. However, I fear that is not the case and we will see Welker lining up in an opposing team’s uniform, carving up our defense with alarming ease.
We are fast approaching the deadline for when players who had the franchise tag applied to them to be able to sign a contract extension with their current team. After Monday July 16, players who were franchised can only sign a one-year contract with their club, and their contract cannot be extended until after their final game of the regular season.
July 16 is the deadline for the Pats to work out a long term deal with Wes Welker
From what I have read it is my understanding that Wes Welker said that he absolutely did not want any contract negotiations to be going on once the 2011 season began. Because of the lockout that left two very small windows of time to get a deal done: (a) from the time between the playoff loss to the Jets in January of 2011 to the start of the lockout, and (b) from the end of the lockout to the first game of the 2011 season.
In the first window there was the uncertainty of not knowing what the upcoming cap would be, and for that matter not even knowing whether or not there would even be a 2011 football season. In the second window teams had to sign free agents, sign drafted rookies, sign undrafted free agents, and for guys that were both general managers and head coaches like Bill Belichick, also conduct training camp. Before you know it it is time to make roster cuts, and now there are just a few days to the start of the regular season. Boom, the window for contract negotiations with Welker has suddenly closed.
Perhaps the Pats should have pushed harder to have those negotiations re-opened during the season. Perhaps Welker should have been less adamant about not having negotiations take place during the season, given the circumstances.
Normally I would completely agree with Welker in his desire to avoid the possibility of contract negotiations becoming a possible distraction during the season. Ā In retrospect however, I think he and his agent should have reconsidered this decision given the very unique circumstances that the lockout had on working out a contract extension that would have been acceptable to both parties. Their hard stance on the topic may have resulted in their painting themselves into a corner in regards to getting a long term deal done, and the peace of mind from the added financial security that it would have provided.
As far as avoiding distractions once the season kicks off goes, how many times do you think Welker will be asked about his future this season if a new deal is not worked out during this week?
Adam Schefter of the NFL Network has reported that the New England Patriots have brought in two veteran free agent running backs to Foxboro for visits: Ryan Grant and Tim Hightower.
A while back I looked at the free agent options at RB to replace BJGE and my viewpoint is still the same. Since that time Michael Bush and Kevin Smith have signed elsewhere, leaving Hightower as one of the best options, if not the best option available for the position.
To me one of the biggest things to look at when considering a veteran running back is how much use they have had in their career. We have seen many running backs take a sudden and dramatic fall in production many times, seemingly without warning. Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Priest Holmes, Ricky Watters, and many others have gone from being a stud running back one day to being out of a job practically overnight in recent years. The common thread is overuse: each of these players were subjected to far too many hits due to getting well over 300, and often more than 400 touches in a single season. A player tackled and hit from multiple directions that often just isn’t going to last very long.
That is precisely what I like about the idea of adding Tim Hightower. Not only is he still young (turns 26 next month), but he has never been overused: his career high for rushing attempts is only 153. He has good size (6-0, 226 lbs) for short yardage and goal line situations to fill the void left by the departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. In addition he is better than BJGE as a pass receiver; in 2009 he had 63 receptions. With Kevin Faulk most likely not returning the Patriots could really use a running back that is capable of gaining some yards on a screen pass.
Hightower is coming off a torn ACL, so obviously there is a medical concern there. However, his injury was relatively early in the season (in October), and he immediately had surgery and began rehab. There’s no reason to believe that he should not be ready to go when the season kicks off in September. The one knock on him was a fumbling problem when he was in Arizona, but that seemed to be resolved last year in Washington prior to his injury.
Ryan Grant is probably a better known name with his back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons but to me he is another example of a running back that may be all used up at an early age. In 2008 Grant ran or caught the ball 340 times, and then followed that up with 320 touches the following year. The following year was lost due to injury (surprise, surprise), and last year Grant was limited to 559 rushing yards. Another warning sign: Grant will turn 30 before the season is over. Even though his career totals (less than 1000 career rushing attempts) indicate he still has a lot of tread left on the tires, I would be very hesitant to count on Grant for much at this point. As long as Hightower can pass the medical staff’s scrutiny then he would be my preference as a roster addition.
Of course all of this may be a moot point and nothing more than the Patriots doing their due diligence, and getting some prep work out of the way should they need to add a running back at some point due to an injury. I think the time to sign one of these players would be now, before the draft. There will likely be some team out there that was unable to draft a player they were targeting and their Plan B will be to sign one of these veteran free agents.
With BenJarvus Green-Ellis departing Foxboro after signing a three-year contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Pats will likely add a veteran running back to the roster. Danny Woodhead, who has carried the ball fewer than one hundred times in each of his three NFL seasons is now the most seasoned running back on the team; I cannot envision that being the case when the 2012 season starts. Perusing the list of veteran running backs Bill Belichick has acquired over the years – Antowain Smith, Larry Centers, Mike Cloud, Rabih Abdullah, Corey Dillon, Amos Zereoue, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, Fred Taylor – 2011 seemed to be an exception to the rule with Kevin Faulk making only a cameo appearance and second-year starter BenJarvus Green-Ellis being the remaining elder statesman of the corps.
Here is a look at the possible free agent additions at the running back position.
Michael Bush, Raiders Bush has signed a 4-year, $14 million deal with the Bears
Age 28; 632 career rushes (4.2 ypc); 91 career receptions (9.7 ypr)
Bush is the best free agent running back available, so his price tag is going to be an issue. He is a big back (6-2, 243) which makes him a nice compliment to the Pats running back unit, he’s productive, durable and rarely fumbles.
Kevin Smith, Lions
Age 26; 6-0, 210; 561 rushes (3.9 ypc); 113 receptions (8.9 ypr)
Detroit brought Smith back last November after Mikel LeShoure went on IR early with an Achilles heel injury and then Jahvid Best had recurring concussion issues. Smith performed well (averaging 4.9 yards per carry), but he has unfortunately earned a reputation of being injury prone after a solid rookie season in 2008, appearing in just 26 games since then. If his knee is fully recovered he could be a valuable addition both this year and beyond, but that’s a big if.
Joseph Addai, Colts
Age 29; 5-11, 210; 1253 (4.1 ypc); 237 receptions (7.4 ypr)
Although there is not a lot of tread left on Addai’s tires, his pass receiving skills make him a natural to fill the role Kevin Faulk had for the last few years.
Tim Hightower, Redskins
Age 26; 6-0, 226; 571 carries (4.0 ypc); 138 receptions (6.9 ypr)
Hightower is coming back from a torn ACL, so he is another player with an injury concern. His injury happened in October and he began rehab the following month, so he should be good to go when the season begins. He’s still young, has never been overused (career high is 153 carries), and he does well in the passing game (63 catches in 2009).
Cedric Benson, Bengals
Age 30; 5-11, 222; 1529 rushes (3.8 ypc); 106 receptions (6.9 ypr)
Benson has many red flags: he’ll turn 30 in December; he fumbled twelve times in the last two years; he bristled when Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden tried to rotate him with Bernard Scott last season; and he has had multiple off-field issues.
Ryan Grant, Packers
Age 30; 6-1, 218; 983 carries (4.4 ypc); 100 receptions (7.6 ypr)
At first glance the 29-year old Grant appears to be a productive player with something left in the tank, but I don’t believe that is the case. Green Bay overused him in 2008-09 (693 touches in those two years), and he’s never been the same since.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants
Age 30; 6-4, 256; 1198 carries (4.4 ypc); 88 receptions (8.8 ypr)
Jacobs played well down the stretch last year, but he has limited value at this point. His upright running style makes him susceptible to injury, and he is clearly not as fast as he once was.
Justin Forsett, Seahawks
Age 27; 5-8, 190; 286 carries (4.6 ypc); 102 receptions (7.5 ypr)
Forsett could be a nice change of pace back for some team, but with Danny Woodhead alread on the roster do the Pats want another running back this size?
Jackie Battle, Chiefs
Age 29; 6-2, 238; 190 carries (3.8 ypc); 14 receptions (5.4 ypr)
The career special teamer finally got an opportunity last year when Jamaal Charles tore an ACL in week two. Battle has good speed for a big back but he doesn’t have any moves to make an opponent miss him.
Jerious Norwood, Rams
Age 29; 5-11, 205; 401 carries (5.2 ypc); 97 receptions (9.9 ypr)
Norwood began his career with a bang, averaging 6.4, 6.0 and 5.1 yards per carry in his first three seasons while also returning 116 kickoffs for a total of 5400 all purpose yards. In 2009 Norwood missed six games with concussions and a hip flexor, and then tore his ACL in the second game of the 2010 season; last year Norwood had only 24 rushes in nine games for the Rams.
Ronnie Brown, Eagles
Age 31; 6-0, 233; 1182 carries (4.2 ypc); 190 receptions (8.1 ypr)
Philadelphia didn’t show much faith in Brown last year. They attempted to trade him for Jerome Harrison in mid-season, and Brown finished with just 42 carries and not a single reception. The Dolphins relied on him quite heavily during his six seasons in Miami; he is probably slowed to the point where he is no longer of any use to an NFL team.
Maurice Morris, Lions
Age 33; 5-11, 202; 909 carries (4.1 ypc); 153 receptions (7.7 ypr)
Although Morris will turn 33 in December, he hasn’t taken the pounding players like Brown has because he has always been the number two back. The Lions reportedly have no interest in bringing him back; he would be a low-risk, limited upside short term addition.
Earnest Graham, Buccaneers
Age 32; 5-9, 220; 495 carries (4.3 ypc); 133 receptions (7.0 ypr)
Graham tore his Achilles in October but says he expects to be fully recovered by May. The Florida Gator was exclusively a special teamer for his first three years in the NFL before finally getting a chance in 2007, gaining over 1222 yards from scrimmage and scoring three touchdowns; the past three years he has primarily been used as a fullback. Assuming he is healthy he is another consistent, versatile, low risk option that could still contribute as he has never been over used.
Mewelde Moore, Steelers
Age 30; 5-11, 210; 506 carries (4.5 ypc); 221 receptions (8.7 ypr)
Moore is a player with nearly as many yards receiving (1929) as rushing (2294) in his career. He’s an option as a third-down back.
Jerome Harrison, Lions
Age 29; 5-9, 200; 357 carries (4.7 ypc); 70 receptions (7.0 ypr)
Harrison is the player that was diagnosed with a brain tumor after failing a physical needed to complete a trade for Ronnie Brown last year. If he is medically cleared to play he could represent a very good value at running back. Harrison had 1,082 total yards from scrimmage in 2009 with the Browns.
Cadillac Williams, Rams
Age 30; 5-11, 217; 1073 carries (3.8 ypc); 151 receptions (6.8 ypr)
Williams was clearly overused early in his career and has never been the same since his rookie season. The good news is that his yards per carry in 2011 was the best of his career. The bad news is that it was the first time since 2005 that it was not below four yards per carry.
Derrick Ward, Texans
Age 32; 5-11, 230; 563 carries (4.8 ypc); 101 receptions (8.2 ypr)
Ward parlayed his only good season with the Giants into a big payday with Tampa Bay three years ago, where he lasted just one season. He’s been a third-stringer with Houston the last two years, getting a total of 102 touches during that time. I suppose he could be a short-yardage, goal-line type of guy, but it would make more sense to just use a fullback like Lousaka Polite for that than to use a roster spot on Ward.
Kevin Faulk, Patriots
Age 36; 5-8, 202; 952 carries (4.2 ypc); 482 receptions (8.5 ypr)
Kevin Faulk may indeed be back with the Patriots – but if that happens it will be as a coach, not as a player. If not, we’ll see him in four years when he gets enshrined into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Sammy Morris, Cowboys
Age 35; 6-0, 220; 737 carries (4.1 ypc); 169 receptions (7.6 ypr)
Morris had 98 yards on 28 carries in three games for the Cowboys last year, after gaining 56 yards on 20 carries for the Pats the previous season. If his age doesn’t scare any potential suitors off then that 3.2 yard per carry average over his last two seasons will.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets
Can you picture the 33-year old Mr. Classy ever playing for the Patriots? I can’t.
Thomas Jones, Chiefs
Age 34; 5-10, 216; 2803 carries (4.0 ypc); 320 receptions (6.6 ypr)
Jones is not only ancient for a running back, he was over used from 2004 to 2010; it’s remarkable that he was productive for that long. All that wear and tear showed last year, when he averaged a mere 3.1 yards per carry.
Ryan Torain, Redskins
Age 26; 6-0, 215; 238 carries (4.2 ypc); 24 receptions (6.2 ypr)
Mike Shanahan brought Torain with him from Denver to Washington two years ago, but gave up on him after he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last year.
Tashard Choice, Bills
Age 28; 5-9, 211; 294 carries (4.4 ypc); 73 receptions (7.6 ypr)
Choice was waived by two teams last year, and the third team he was on does not want him back.
Kregg Lumpkin, Buccaneers
Age 28; 5-11, 222; 33 carries (3.8 ypc); 45 receptions (7.2 ypr)
How badly did the Bucs mis-manage their roster last year? They actually had to depend on Lumpkin, who had two NFL carries in two years, to be their primary back when both LaGarrette Blount and Earnest Graham were injured. If anything he would be an alternative at fullback, not running back.
Chester Taylor, Cardinals
Age 33; 5-11, 213; 1196 carries (4.1 ypc); 312 receptions (7.8 ypr)
Taylor has averaged just 3.02 yards per carry over the last three years, and managed only 168 total yards from scrimmage in 2011.
Lorenzo Booker, Vikings
Age 28; 5-11, 191; 61 carries (3.8 ypc); 47 receptions (7.7 ypr)
What are the chances that the Pats replace LawFirm with a guy who has been cut three times, the last of which was for fumbling three times on just 21 touches? Probably less than the chances that I marry Scarlett Johansson.
LenDale White, McDonalds
Age 28; 6-2, 240; 662 carries (3.7 ypc); 47 receptions (5.0 ypr)
White did not play last year; I can’t imagine he is anywhere close to being in football shape at this point.
Note: age listed for each player above is for how old they will be at the end of 2012.
Happy birthdays to
Reese Witherspoon turns 36; born March 22, 1976
Matthew Modine turns 53; born March 22, 1959
Stephanie Mills turns 55; born March 22, 1957
Bob Costas turns 60; born March 22, 1952
George Benson turns 69; born March 22, 1943
William Shatner turns 81; Captain James T. Kirk was born March 22, 1931
After a flurry of moves in the first two days of free agency, here’s a team-by-team look at all the roster additions, losses and re-signings since the end of the 2011 season. Apologies in advance for those moves I may have overlooked; if you see anything I missed please let me know so I can add it on to this list.
New England Patriots
Feb 7: Signed LB Markell Carter, WR Britt Davis, OL Matt Kopa, DE Aaron Lavarias, LB Mike Rivera, WR Tiquan Underwood and DB Ross Ventrone to future contracts
Feb 12: Signed RB Eric Kettani
Feb 22: Released OL Rich Ohrnberger and DL Mike Wright
March 5: Placed franchise tag on WR Wes Welker
March 13: Placed second-round tender on restricted free agent QB Brian Hoyer
March 13: Placed exclusive rights free-agent tender on DL Kyle Love
March 13: Re-signed ST/LB Niko Koutouvides
March 13: Re-signed ST/WR/DB Matthew Slater
March 14: Re-signed ST/LB Tracy White
March 14: Signed Bengals FA DL Jonathan Fanene to a three-year $12 million deal, with a $3.85 million signing bonus
Rest of the AFC East
- Re-signed K Rian Lindell, WR Stevie Johnson, WR Ruvell Martin, TE Scott Chandler, LB Kirk Morrison
- Cut S Jon Corto
- Re-signed RB Jerome Messam, CB Quinten Lawrence, LB Austin Spitler, TE Jeron Mastrud, DT Paul Soliai
- Traded away WR Brandon Marshall for 3rd round picks in 2012 and 2013
New Jersey Jets
- Extended QB Mark Sanchez; re-signed WR Patrick Turner, DT Sione Pouha, LB Brian Thomas, K Nick Folk
- Cut S Gerald Alexander, WR Michael Campbell
- Franchised RB Ray Rice
- RB Ricky Williams retired
- Cut T D.J. Jones, CB Chris Carr, WR Lee Evans, CB Domonique Foxworth
- Lost LB Jarret Johnson, DE Cory Redding
- Franchised K Mike Nugent
- Re-signed RB Aaron Brown, RB Chris Pressley, RB Cedric Peerman, LB Vincent Rey, DT Nick Hayden, S Jeromy Miles
- Lost DL Jonathan Fanene, DE Frostee Rucker
- Franchised Re-signed K Phil Dawson
- Re-signed LB D’Qwell Jackson, S Jeromy Miles, TE Alex Smith, G John Greco, DT Brian Schaefering, WR Jordan Norwood
- Signed DE Frostee Rucker (Bengals)
- Cut T Tony Pashos, P Richmond McGee, G Eric Steinbach
- Lost RB Peyton Hillis
- Re-signed S Myron Rolle, WR Juamorris Stewart, LB Brandon Hicks, RB Isaac Redman, P Jeremy Kapinos, NT Steve McLendon
- Cut CB Bryant McFadden, WR Arnaz Battle, WR Hines Ward, DE Aaron Smith, G Chris Kemoeatu, LB James Farrior
- Franchised Re-signed RB Arian Foster
- Re-signed C Jon Weeks
- Cut T Darius Morris, T Eric Winston, QB Matt Leinart, RB Lawrence Vickers
- Franchised Re-signed DE Robert Mathis
- Re-signed CB Mike Newton, LB Justin Hickman, LB Brandon Peguese, C Jake Kirkpatrick, QB Trevor Vittatoe, WR Reggie Wayne
- DE Cory Redding (Ravens)
- Traded for T Winston Justice (Eagles)
- Cut LB Zac Diles, G Jaimie Thomas, QB Peyton Manning, RB Joseph Addai, TE Dallas Clark, S Melvin Bullitt, LB Gary Brackett, QB Curtis Painter
- Lost WR Pierre Garcon
- Franchised K Josh Scobee
- Re-signed CB Rashean Mathis, T Guy Whimper, T William Robinson, P Nick Harris, LB Russell Allen, S Dwight Lowery, DE Jeremy Mincey, DT C.J. Mosley
- Signed WR Laurent Robinson (Cowboys)
- Cut WR Kassim Osgood, T Kevin Haslam
- Franchised S Michael Griffin
- Re-signed T Mike Otto, WR Lavelle Hawkins, DT Lamar Divens, LB Patrick Bailey, C Fernando Velasco, DT Malcolm Sheppard, S Jordan Babineaux
- Lost CB Cortland Finnegan
- Franchised K Matt Prater
- Re-signed RB Austin Sylvester, G C.J. Davis, WR Jason Hill, RB Lance Ball, P Britton Colquitt, T Chris Clark
Kansas City Chiefs
- Franchised WR Dwayne Bowe
- Re-signed TE Jake O’Connell, S Kyle McCarthy, CB Jacques Reeves, WR Zeke Markshausen, DT Amon Gordon
- Signed CB Stanford Routt (Raiders), RB Peyton Hillis (Browns)
- Cut LB Demorrio Williams
- Lost CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, RB Le’Ron McClain
- Franchised S Tyvon Branch
- Re-signed CB Brandon Underwood, DE Mason Brodine, CB Bryan McCann, RB Marcel Reece
- Cut CB Stanford Routt, S Hiram Eugene, CB Chris Johnson, DT John Henderson, G Cooper Carlisle
- Lost QB Jason Campbell
San Diego Chargers
- Re-signed C Mike Windt, WR Richard Goodman, T Jared Gaither, TE Kory Sperry
- Signed LB Demorrio Williams (Chiefs), WR Robert Meachem (Saints), LB Jarret Johnson (Ravens), Le’Ron McClain (Chiefs)
- G Kris Dielman retired
- Cut DL Luis Castillo
- Lost WR Vincent Jackson
- Franchised LB Anthony Spencer
- Signed RB Lawrence Vickers (Texans), G Mackenzy Bernadeau (Panthers), CB Brandon Carr (Chiefs), QB Kyle Orton (Chiefs)
- Cut CB Terence Newman, K David Buehler
- Lost WR Laurent Robinson, TE Martellus Bennett
New York Giants
- Franchised P Steve Weatherford
- Re-signed CB Brandon Bing, RB Andre Brown, T Selvish Capers, WR Dan DePalma, DT Dwayne Hendricks, TE Christian Hopkins, QB Ryan Perrilloux, LB Adrian Tracy, WR Isaiah Stanback; DE Craig Marshall, TE Ryan Purvis, C Chris White; WR Domenik Hixon; CB Bruce Johnson, TE Jake Ballard; CB Terrell Thomas, CB Michael Coe, CB Justin Tryon
- Signed T Joel Reinders, TE Larry Donnell, TE Martellus Bennett (Cowboys)
- Cut RB Brandon Jacobs
- Franchised Re-signed WR DeSean Jackson
- Re-signed LB Monte Simmons, G Todd Herremans, DE Trent Cole, DT Antonio Dixon
- Signed T D.J. Jones (waivers), QB Trent Edwards, G Mike Gibson (Seahawks)
- Traded away T Winston Justice to Colts for 6th round pick
- Cut C Jamaal Jackson
- Franchised TE Fred Davis
- Re-signed C Will Montgomery, DE Darrion Scott, DE Adam Carriker
- Signed WR Pierre Garcon (Colts), WR Josh Morgan (49ers)
- Cut FB Mike Sellers, S Oshiomogho Atogwe
- Franchised RB Matt Forte
- Traded for WR Brandon Marshall (Dolphins)
- Re-signed CB Tim Jennings, QB Josh McCown, TE Kellen Davis
- Signed QB Jason Campbell (Raiders), ST/LB Blake Costanzo (49ers), WR Eric Weems (Falcons)
- Cut DT Anthony Adams, T Frank Omiyale
- Franchised DE Cliff Avril
- Re-signed WR Calvin Johnson
- Cut LB Cody Brown, TE Will Heller
- Lost CB Eric Wright
Green Bay Packers
- Re-signed TE Jermichael Finley
- Re-signed T Patrick Brown, QB Sage Rosenfels, DT Letroy Guion
Signed TE John Carlson (Seahawks)
- Cut CB Cedric Griffin, G Anthony Herrera, G Steve Hutchinson
- Franchised CB Brent Grimes
- Re-signed G Andrew Jackson, TE Michael Palmer, RB Antone Smith, S Thomas DeCoud, DE Kroy Biermann, RB Jason Snelling, G Vince Manuwai, QB Chris Redman, WR Harry Douglas
- Signed LB Lofa Tatupu
Lost WR Eric Weems
- Re-signed C J.J. Jansen, LB Jason Phillips, DE Jyles Tucker, K Justin Medlock, TE Richie Brockel, CB R.J. Stanford, C Geoff Hangartner
- Cut K Adi Kunalic, G Travelle Wharton, P Jason Baker
New Orleans Saints
- Franchised QB Drew Brees
- Re-signed S Jonathon Amaya, C Justin Drescher, WR Adrian Arrington, G Brian De La Puente, DE Turk McBride, QB Chase Daniel, WR Marques Colston, C Nick Hardwick
- Cut T Marcus McNeil, CB Dante Hughes, LB Everette Brown, WR Bryan Walters, LB Nate Triplett
- Lost WR Robert Meachem, G Carl Nicks
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Franchised K Connor Barth
- Re-signed Chase Coffman, OL Jeremy Zuttah
- Signed WR Vincent Jackson (Chargers), G Carl Nicks (Saints), CB Eric Wright
- Cut DT Albert Haynesworth, C Jeff Faine
- Franchised DL Calais Campbell
- Re-signed CB A.J. Jefferson, WR Stephen Williams
- Signed OL Adam Snyder (49ers)
- Cut T Levi Brown
St. Louis Rams
- Re-sign QB Tom Brandstater, WR Dominique Curry, DT Jermelle Cudjo, G Bryan Mattison, RB Brit Miller, S Darian Stewart
- Cut WR John Chiles, T Jovan Olafioye, C Jason Brown, DT Fred Robbins, DT Justin Bannan, CB Ron Bartell, DE James Hall, WR Nick Miller, LB David Nixon
- Signed CB Cortland Finnegan (Titans)
San Francisco 49ers
- Franchised S Dashon Goldson
- Re-signed C Ryan Pontbriand, LB Ahmad Brooks, S C.J. Spillman, DT Will Tukuafu, CB Tramaine Brock, CB Carlos Rogers, LB Tavares Gooden
- Signed WR Randy Moss, CB Perrish Cox
Lost ST/LB Blake Costanzo, WR Josh Morgan, OL Adam Snyder
- Re-signed T Breno Giacomini, RB Marshawn Lynch, DE Red Bryant, LB Heath Farwell
- Cut CB Marcus Trufant
- Lost TE John Carlson, T Mike Gibson
Happy 37th birthdays to Eva Longoria and will.i.am
Happy birthday also to the king of romance paperback novel covers and current Old Spice guy, 51-year oldĀ Fabio, and a 57-year old Twisted SisterDee Snider, who appeared regularly when a then-brand new network called MTV embarked thirty years ago. Others born on this day include the man on a twenty-dollar bill and 7th president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, and the guy who played Alex Rieger on Taxi, Judd Hirsch.
Despite his battles with cocaine addiction, Sly Stone turns 68 today.
One of the founding members of the Grateful Dead, bass player Phil Lesh turns 68 today. Even if you’re not a deadhead, Skeltons From The Closet belongs in any rock music collection; it is one of the better ‘greatest hits’ albums out there.
It seems as though the NFL as a whole has had very few re-signings of soon-to-be free agents, with the exception of those who were given some type of tag (franchise tag, RFA tender) this year. So what are the causes for this? Perhaps it is due to a relatively low salary cap this year; players may think their worth is higher than teams do, basing it off previous year’s salary – while team’s are adjusting contracts downward. Of course there is also the fact that the NFL has yet to finalize the actual 2012 salary cap numbers, which is quite strange considering it will commence in less than 72 hours. Teams may be looking ahead to upgrade with players from other teams – the grass is always greener on the other side phenomenon. That’s due to the fact that last year there were heavy restrictions to free agency based on the rules of the uncapped year; players like Logan Mankins and Vincent Jackson that would have normally been unrestricted free agents were instead restricted free agents, essentially taking them out of the market.
To get an idea of how low the number is of soon-to-be free agents that teams have re-signed, consider the following. The number of free agents that have been re-signed is miniscule in comparison to the number of Ā players that appear to be headed to free agency.
QB (36 free agents) – Drew Brees franchised; no other free agents re-signed
RB (36 free agents) – Ray Rice franchised, Matt Forte franchised, RFA Arian Foster extended, Marshawn Lynch extended, LaRod Stephens-Howling tendered (2nd), Jason Snelling extended
FB (15 free agents) – Chris Pressley extended
WR (62 free agents) – Mike Wallace tendered (1st), Dwayne Bowe franchised, Wes Welker franchised, DeSean Jackson franchised, Steve Johnson extended, Danny Amendola tendered (2nd), Lavelle Hawkins extended, Domenik Hixon extended, Ruvell Martin extended
TE (29 free agents) – Fred Davis franchised, Jermichael Finley extended, Scott Chandler extended, RFA Jake O’Connell re-signed
T (28 free agents) – Breno Giacomini extended, Guy Whimper extended, Mike Otto extended
G (35 free agents) – Jeremy Zuttah extended, Kory Lichtensteiger tendered
C (16 free agents) – Will Montgomery extended
DE (37 free agents) – Cliff Avril franchised, Anthony Spencer franchised, Michael Bennett tendered (1st), Robert Mathis extended, Kroy Biermann extended, Turk McBride extended
DT (53 free agents) – Calais Campbell franchised, Chris Hoke retired
OLB (36 free agents) – Ahmad Brooks extended, RFA Jason Phillips re-signed
ILB (40 free agents) – D’Qwell Jackson extended, Larry Grant tendered, Demorrio Williams extended, Kirk Morrison extended
CB (59 free agents) – Brent Grimes franchised, Stanford Routt signed by Chiefs, Rashean Mathis extended, Greg Toler tendered
S (52 free agents) – Tyvon Branch franchised, Michael Griffin franchised, Dashon Goldson franchised, Thomas DeCoud extended, Rashad Johnson tendered, C.J. Spillman extended
K (14 free agents) – Josh Scobee franchised, Matt Prater franchised, Connor Barth franchised, Phil Dawson franchised, Mike Nugent franchised, Rian Lindell extended, Graham Gano tendered
P (4 free agents) – Steve Weatherford franchised
Top Free Agents By Position, as of March 10
QB: Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, Alex Smith, RFA Brian Hoyer, Kyle Orton
RB: Michael Bush, Mike Tolbert, Peyton Hillis, Cedric Benson, Kevin Smith, Brandon Jacobs, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tim Hightower, Kahlil Bell, Ryan Grant
FB: RFA Marcel Reece, RFA Tony Fiammetta, RFA David Johnson, Earnest Graham, Le’Ron McClain
WR: Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Marques Colston, Laurent Robinson, Robert Meachem, Braylon Edwards, Reggie Wayne, Mario Manningham, Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Deion Branch, Eddie Royal, Plaxico Burress, Harry Douglas, Early Doucet
TE: John Carlson, Dallas Clark, Visanthe Shiancoe, Martellus Bennett, Joel Dreessen
T: Jared Gaither, Demetrius Bell, RFA Geoff Schwartz, Anthony Collins, Max Starks, Kareem McKenzie, Jeff Backus, Barry Richardson, Brandon Keith, Khalif Barnes
G: Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs, Evan Mathis, RFA Kraig Urbik, Mike Brisiel, Vernon Carey, Jake Scott, RFA Chad Rinehart, Geoff Hangartner, Bobbie Williams
C: Scott Wells, Nick Hardwick, Chris Myers, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Samson Satele, Mike Pollak, Matt Birk, Jeff Saturday, Todd McClure
DE: Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, Jeremy Mincey, Matt Roth, Israel Idonije, John Abraham, Jonathan Fanene, Jarvis Moss, William Hayes
DT: Paul Soliai, Red Bryant, Cory Redding, Sione Pouha, Kendall Langford, RFA Sammie Lee Hill, Jason Jones, Brodrick Bunkley, Antonio Garay, Luis Castillo
OLB: Jarret Johnson, Erin Henderson, Leroy Hill, Manny Lawson, Phillip Wheeler, Wesley Woodyard, RFA Russell Allen, Chris Chamberlain
ILB: Stephen Tulloch, Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, Dan Connor, RFA Jovan Belcher, Chase Blackburn, London Fletcher, RFA DeAndre Levy, Jameel McClain, Lofa Tatupu
CB: RFA Lardarius Webb, Brandon Carr, Carlos Rogers, Cortland Finnegan, Richard Marshall, Terrell Thomas, Tracy Porter, Jason Allen, William Middleton, Tim Jennings
S: LaRon Landry, Mike Adams, Reggie Nelson, Dwight Lowery, Jim Leonhard, Deon Grant, Melvin Bullitt, Tom Zbikowski, Craig Steltz, Melvin Bullitt
From the moment the clock read 00:00 at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5th, the attention of most New England Patriot fans turned to upgrading the team, and contemplating what would be the best method of improving the team’s chances for a championship in 2012. Even though the offense carried the squad throughout the year while fans and media alike disparaged the team’s defense, once the playoffs were finished the focus of that wrath turned to the other side of the ball; specifically to the production of the x-receiver (split end) who typically works outside the numbers more than any other receiver. The phrase “we need a deep threat” has been uttered thousands of times by Pats fans over the last several weeks, and as a result much, if not most of the attention of the fan base has been focused on soon to be free agents such as Mike Wallace, Brandon Lloyd, Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Robert Meachem, and others. People want more production then what they feel Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Tiquan Underwood, Matthew Slater, and Julian Edelman can provide next year, and many are convinced upgrading that position is the difference between hoisting a Lombardi next February and coming up just short once again.
I for one do feel that the position is in need of an upgrade, but I prefer to also consider, and perhaps weigh more heavily the much larger sample size of the entire season. To me the number one position in need of betterment is not wide receiver, it is the defensive secondary; specifically the safety position, but cornerback as well. The problem with improving this area of need is twofold: first, there isn’t much available in free agency at either position, and as a result the price is probably going to be high – making it a poor value. A corner like Cortland Finnegan is vastly overpriced, while a safety such as LaRon Landry is injury prone. Second, the same goes for what may be available in the draft, which is compounded by possessing picks that come very late in the round. Does the team really want to enter the draft feeling like they absolutely have to take a safety at a certain point, or even worse, a specific player (e.g., Mark Barron) with their first pick? That kind of game plan results in reaches and poor value.
There is however one player available that has flown way under the radar for quite some time, while most of the discussion has been focused on the previously mentioned wide receivers, or the prize of free agency, Mario Williams. He is in my opinion the best cornerback in the NFL not named Darrelle Revis (at least for the 2011 season), and a player that fans of the Patriots should be familiar with from the AFC Championship Game: Lardarius Webb.
Webb is probably not discussed much for a couple of reasons. First, he’s a restricted free agent as opposed to an unrestricted free agent – though that distinction has not slowed down any of the speculation regarding Mike Wallace. He’s also part of a team that has much more well know players, such as Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata on their defense. But make no mistake, Webb is an exceptional player. He had five interceptions, 21 passes defensed, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, 59 tackles and 15 assists this past regular season. When the stakes got higher in the playoffs he certainly rose to the occasion, with the interceptions in January. On top of that he also handles the team’s punt return duties quite well: 30 returns for an average of just a shade over ten yards per return. Webb also had two touchdowns this year: a 68-yard punt return and a 73-yard interception return.
Consider this: not only did opponents complete just 54% of their passes thrown his way despite nearly always covering the opposition’s best receiver, but zero – ZERO! – touchdowns were thrown on Webb this year.
āWebb is a real good athlete,ā Belichick said. āHeās fast, heās quick, heās a tough kid. Not the biggest guy, but heās strong and he tackles well. He definitely will throw his body around in there and be physical, which you donāt see from every corner.ā
āHeās got good ball skillsā¦obviously has good hands and has real good ball skills,ā Belichick said. āHeās made some real good plays on the ball down the field. Heās got real good quickness and can run.ā
Under the new CBA the highest tender a team can place on a restricted free agent is at the first round level; formerly it had been a first and a third. This is perhaps part of why there hasn’t been much buzz about Webb; in the past it simply wasn’t worth it to go after another team’s best RFAs. But who would you rather have on the team next year: Webb or the 31st player in the draft? I cannot possibly imagine a raw rookie would deliver more than Webb can; it’s almost a no-brainer to try and sign him.
Adding Webb would obviously improve the cornerback position immensely, but what about the safety position that I mentioned earlier? Here’s my thought: Devin McCourty appeared to play much better in his rookie year as well as last year at safety when he was facing the quarterback, with the the whole field in front of him. Last season he was asked to play up close to the line of scrimmage and use a trail technique on the opposing receiver. His back was to the quarterback and at times he had trouble turning around and locating the ball. Why not use him instead in a position where he is more productive, with the play in front of him?
As for the wide receiver position, the Pats could still upgrade with a player such as Laurent Robinson or Josh Morgan, and add another player with a pick from the second or third round of the draft. The positions would look something like this heading into training camp:
CB: Lardarius Webb, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore, [edit: Ras-I Dowling*], Antwuan Molden, late pick, UDFA or FA
S: Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, James Ihedigbo, Sergio Brown, Ross Ventrone, Brett Lockett, Josh Barrett
WR: Wes Welker, Laurent Robinson/FA, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, draft pick, Chad Ochocinco, Matthew Slater
* do we want to count on him playing a full season, or just consider any contribution an unexpected bonus?
As you can see from this highlight video, Webb also adds the extra dimension of being an exceptional return man along with being a ball-hawking defender.