Unless there’s some immediate and powerful progress on CBA negotiations, free agency won’t start until well after March 4. In other words: there won’t be any trades and signings for quite a while.
That’s why we’re paying particularly close attention to the few players that have become free agents after being released by their respective teams this month. The entire NFL world is watching Bob Sanders, O.J. Atogwe, Shaun Rogers and Eugene Wilson. Since those guys were cut, they’re up for grabs right now. Everyone else is on lockdown until a new deal is struck.
Those players have just over a week to sign with someone. If they don’t, they’ll have to wait with all of their peers for the beginning of the new league year.
What makes things particularly interesting is that three of the players on the above list play the same position. Here’s a quick look at the three safeties free to move about the country:
Sanders: The 29-year-old has undeniable talent. The only problem is that he’s missed more games than he’s played in during his seven-year career. In fact, Sanders has missed 39 out of a possible 48 games dating back to 2008. He’s one of the league’s most injury-prone players. But the last time he did make it through an entire season, in 2007, he was the league’s defensive player of the year. He’s the ultimate gamble, but his demanding price has obviously shrunk considerably.
Atogwe: For quite some time, the Windsor, Ontario native was one of the league’s most underrated players. The 29-year-old’s play has fallen off a little bit lately, but he’s still a quality starter. He doesn’t have the natural ability that Sanders has, but at least he’s more reliable — the turnover-forcing machine has missed just four games in the last five years.
Wilson: Wilson is a poor man’s Sanders/Atogwe, which doesn’t bode well for him. The 30-year-old was cut by the Texans, who had one of the worst secondaries in NFL history. How is it possible that even Wilson couldn’t help that defence? The two-time Super Bowl champion has the experience, but injuries have also slowed him down.
Teams — or at least fans of teams — are weighing Sanders and Atogwe against one another. I’d personally prefer my team invest in Atogwe, who is still quite the ball hawk and is almost sure to give you 13 or 14 quality starts. Sanders has visited Buffalo and Jacksonville, but there’s also a belief he might return to the Colts. Atogwe has paid a visit to the Redskins, and there are reports that the Bills are also interested in him (sorry, Donte Whitner).
As for Rogers — the talented but sometimes cranky defensive tackle who was cut earlier this week by the Browns — he’s visited three teams thus far: Kansas City, Washington and New Orleans. Questions don’t surround Rogers’ ability to dominate when healthy. Questions do surround his work ethic and overall ability to stay healthy. The 31-year-old barely practiced and had his playing time chopped greatly in 2010. His best days are behind him, but that’s why he’s available.
And like Sanders, Atogwe, Wilson and a few others, he’s actually available right now.