Archive for the ‘Free agency’ Category

byrd2

Below the scorching sun and gray clouds, Jairus Byrd stood at his own five and studied the Dolphins’ players at their respective positions. The quarterback was in shotgun five yards from the left hash where the ball was placed. To his right was a running back offset, and on the outsides, two receivers inhabited the short side of the field while another stood staggered at the 20-yard line on the long side of the field. Early indications suggested a passing play.

Standing as the single-high safety in between the white painted hashes of the dark green striped field, Byrd would soon be in the middle of the play. He was the free safety, making it his job to read the passer and find the ball. It seems simple enough, but many safeties can’t do it like Byrd can. He’s different.

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mack2

The franchise tag is a fickle beast from year to year. Two years ago 19 players were tagged, and then in 2013 that number fell to eight.

This year the total fell even further to six tag uses. Prior to the tags just before today’s deadline (more forthcoming), Brian Orakpo was also tagged, and last week Nick Folk, Greg Hardy, and Jimmy Graham were too, with the latter penciled in for months.

But because the NFL isn’t a place where predictability exists, two “transition tags” were used. The value of a transition tag is slightly less than that of a franchise tag, but there’s a key difference: if a player signs elsewhere his now former team gets two first-round picks under the franchise tag, but under the transition tag they only get the right to match, but no compensation.

About that oddness then…

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Boldin2

We’re all slowly dying inside with each passing second, because that’s how time works. My deepest apologies for going all Rust Cohle here, but please be aware that time is indeed a flat circle, and the iceberg always has the right of way.

When a wide receiver is in his early 30′s and starts to creep closer to the position death age of 35, we can usually see a decline, and often an abrupt one. I wrote about that recently while discussing Steve Smith, noting examples like Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Ochocinco/Johnson who took that sudden cliff plunge.

Anquan Boldin is the exception.

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grimes2

In a passing league where passing is king and everyone passes because passing is the best, three positions have generally taken on an inflated market value: quarterbacks, defensive ends, and cornerbacks. So the thrower of the passes, the interceptor of the passes, and those who collapse the passer.

For cornerbacks, the truly massive cash only lands in the hands of the few who occupy the very top tier. Think Darrelle Revis, who’s getting paid $16 million annually, or Richard Sherman in the very near future. But the others a level below still get paid nicely. Consider the not so distant spring of 2012 when the Cowboys paid $10 million annually to acquire the services of Brandon Carr, and the Rams paid Cortland Finnegan the same. The latter is likely to be cut soon, but over half of Finnegan’s contract ($27 million) is fully guaranteed.

Avoiding that sort of cost and commitment with Brent Grimes, widely viewed as the top cornerback available had he hit the market, was an aim for the Dolphins and new general manager Thomas Hickey. Achievement unlocked.

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pitta2

Dennis Pitta has been re-signed by the Baltimore Ravens to a five-year contract reportedly worth $32 million. It’s a crucial signing for a Ravens offense that’s also set to deal with impending free agent Jacoby Jones, and now at $6.4 million annually Pitta enters the always coveted top 10 financial bracket at his position.

But it’s a really, really, vitally important deal for someone who isn’t Dennis Pitta: Joe Flacco.

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jeremy macline2

When goods or services come at a steeply discounted price, we assume we’re considering the purchase of something that’s broken, expired, or an evil scam. Maybe the moving company you just hired isn’t really a moving company at all, and maybe that yogurt is about to turn a different color tomorrow. Nothing in life is free, son.

In the NFL when the first wave of free agency is over by mid-March, we often do the same with football humans. And we’re usually right, but the second and third and fifth waves of free agency should still be embraced and hugged warmly. That’s where an injured player with a high upside can be found, or an aging player who can still contribute if optimized properly.

Operating under the assumption that the names below become free agents officially on March 11th (one of them, Will Smith, already is a free agent), I dug through the impending open market rubble to find three players who could be employed at a bargain rate.

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vonta-leach2

Legend has it that Vonta Leach actually created the hole. We now often refer to it by its somewhat more sophisticated name, the “running lane”. But the concept of opening massive spaces for running backs to prance through without the presence of another human body was invented by Leach.

He’s the fullest fullback, and now he could be the newest Miami Dolphin. This means glorious things for Lamar Miller, who’s been pegged as a breakout candidate by every grandmother with a fantasy team. Have you ever sat in on a grandmothers league live draft? Teeth fly, and full DVD sets of Matlock are wagered. It gets ugly.

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