NFL Free Agency Preview: Predictions for over 80 Free Agents

Quarterbacks

Jason Campbell (Arizona): 1 year, 2 million

Of all the quarterback needy teams, the Cardinals might be the neediest. Campbell is the best available quarterback on a weak quarterback market and he’d be a potential stopgap option for the Cardinals ahead of a rookie quarterback. Matt Cassel and Carson Palmer are also options for them should they be released. The Cardinals are exploring all options and I don’t think Campbell was as bad as he looked in 6 quarters last year against two tough teams, Houston and San Francisco, with no offensive supporting cast.

Running Backs

Steven Jackson (Atlanta): 2 years, 10 million with 4 million guaranteed

Steven Jackson is looking to hitch his wagon to a contender and Atlanta needs a replacement for Michael Turner. Denver and Green Bay also make sense, but I have to think if it gets to a bidding war between the trio, the Falcons would be the top bidder. The Packers rarely spend money in free agency and the Broncos could always go with Willis McGahee again in 2013.

Reggie Bush (Detroit): 3 years, 13 million with 5 million guaranteed

This is not a well-kept secret. The Lions are proceeding into this off-season as if Jahvid Best is not on the roster and Bush can play that role for them. They’ve shown a lot of interest in him and while they don’t have a ton of cap room, they could easily sign him as early as tomorrow as one of their few free agent targets.

Shonn Greene (San Diego): 3 years, 12 million with 4 million guaranteed

The AJ Smith/Norv Turner duo that drafted Ryan Mathews’ 12th overall and saw him as a future feature back is gone and this new regime can’t be too confident in Matthews’ ability to carry the load long term off of his 2012 tape. Greene is unspectacular, but durable, consistent, has good ball security and can block. Basically, he’s the polar opposite of Ryan Matthews and he’ll come cheap for a team with plenty of other needs in the draft.

Ahmad Bradshaw (Green Bay): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

I don’t see the Packers getting into a bidding war for Steven Jackson because that’s just not their M.O. However, Ahmad Bradshaw seems like they type of back they’d sign to a one year prove it deal. When healthy, he’s a great running back and he can contribute on passing downs, a must for any Green Bay running back.

Rashard Mendenhall (Arizona): 1 year, 2 million with 1 million guaranteed

Rashard Mendenhall will be greeted with a soft market, but he’ll have some suitors. In Arizona he’d rejoin former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who is now the Head Coach in Arizona. Arians doesn’t throw to backs a lot, so Mendenhall’s lack of pass catching skills won’t be as big of a deal and if he can turn it around anywhere, it’s with his former offensive coordinator so this seems like a great fit. He’d fit in as a backup to Ryan Williams, a need after cutting Chris Wells, and they have shown interest.

Fullbacks

Jerome Felton (Minnesota): 3 years, 13 million with 4 million guaranteed

The Vikings won’t let the man who paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s near record breaking season get away. Felton is arguably the best fullback in the NFL and should become the highest paid. This deal would surpass Vonta Leach’s 3 year, 11 million dollar deal from 2 off-seasons ago.

Wide Receivers

Mike Wallace (Miami): 5 years, 63 million with 35 million guaranteed

This is not a very well-kept secret either. Many in the know feel this is as close to a done deal as possible and this one will probably be made official within an hour of free agency opening. The Dolphins have a ton of cap room and a desperate need for a #1 receiver. No one else is going to give Wallace this kind of coin and that’s his biggest goal this off-season.

Wes Welker (New England): 3 years, 22 million with 9 million guaranteed

Welker will test the free agency market, but he’ll find out what he’s probably known for a while: that he’s more valuable to the Patriots than anyone else. A 3-year deal with minimal if any guaranteed money after the first year makes a lot of sense for the aging Welker.

Greg Jennings (Minnesota): 4 years, 28 million with 11 million guaranteed

The Vikings’ need for a wide receiver became even bigger when they traded Percy Harvin, but I have a feeling they made that deal knowing they’d likely be signing one of free agency’s big time receivers once it opens. With Wallace and Welker likely going to Miami and New England respectively, Jennings instantly becomes the best fit and I think they’d offer Jennings more money than he’d get anywhere else, as he’s aging and coming off some injury problems. This deal is comparable to the one Anquan Boldin got at a similar age 3 off-seasons ago as Jennings follows in Darren Sharper’s and Brett Favre’s footsteps and puts on the purple.

Danny Amendola (Philadelphia): 4 years, 25 million with 10 million guaranteed

The Rams are reportedly not expected to re-sign Amendola as they view him as just a slot receiver and not worth the kind of money he could get elsewhere. The Eagles are known to be one of the most interested teams and have money to burn. His signing would coincide with incumbent slot receiver Jason Avant’s release.

Brandon Gibson (Detroit): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Lions will probably be without Ryan Broyles’ services for the first half of the season at least so expect them to sign a cheaper receiver in the 2nd wave of free agency with their minimal cap space. They are one of the most pass heavy teams in the NFL and can’t afford to trot out guys like Nate Burleson and Kris Durham opposite Calvin Johnson.

Tight Ends

Jared Cook (Cleveland): 4 years, 26 million with 12 million guaranteed

Cook was not franchised by the Titans because they feared he might win his challenge and get the wide receiver tag rather than the tight end tag, but he’s expected to be met with a very strong market for his services. The Browns would probably be willing to give him the most money. Norv Turner loves vertical field stretching tight ends like Cook and they really don’t have one right now and they have plenty of money to play with.

Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta): 1 year, 7 million

If Tony Gonzalez returns, which I’ve maintained all along he will, he won’t wear another uniform than Atlanta’s. 7 million seems reasonable for him since he’ll essentially be able to name his price to return.

Dustin Keller (St. Louis): 4 years, 25 million with 11 million guaranteed

Keller is unlikely to be brought back by the Jets because they simply don’t have the cap space, but a reunion with former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer would make a lot of sense for both sides. Keller had his best season in 2011 with Schottenheimer, who puts a lot of emphasis on the tight end position in his offense. Lance Kendricks is a product of the old regime and just isn’t cutting it.

Martellus Bennett (Tampa Bay): 4 years, 24 million with 10 million guaranteed

The Giants won’t get into a bidding war for Bennett because Eli Manning has always gotten good production out of his tight ends, no matter who they are. Bennett has been linked to Tampa Bay because his twin brother plays there, but even if Michael doesn’t re-sign as a free agent, Martellus makes a lot of sense to Tampa Bay. They have plenty of cap space and need an intermediate target for Josh Freeman.

Brandon Myers (Miami): 4 years, 19 million with 7 million guaranteed

The Dolphins are expected to pursue an upgrade on Anthony Fasano at tight end this off-season and certainly have the cap room to get a deal done with Cook, Keller, or Bennett, but they may have to settle for someone like Brandon Myers, a productive pass catcher, but not nearly the athlete any of the above are.

Delanie Walker (San Francisco): 3 years, 12 million with 4 million guaranteed

This is another situation where the player is more valuable to his original team than any other because of Walker’s unique role in the 49ers’ offense. I can’t see another team signing him and he may come cheap to the 49ers.

Fred Davis (Washington): 1 year, 3 million

Davis can’t seem to make it through a 16 game season, but he has plenty of upside and the Redskins are expected to give him another chance on a one year prove it deal.

Offensive Tackles

Jake Long (St. Louis): 5 years, 42 million with 18 million guaranteed

I think Long ends up becoming free agency’s highest paid offensive lineman. The Dolphins don’t value him a ton, but barring anything terrible on his medical, someone will remember what he used to be and pay him like an elite left tackle. The Rams are among the most desperate in the NFL at that position and have money to work with. Along with Chicago, they are currently the front runner to land the former #1 overall pick.

Andre Smith (Cincinnati): 4 years, 30 million with 11 million guaranteed

I think teams will be wary of committing too much long term to someone with Smith’s history of inconsistent play and work ethic concerns. He was terrible until the Bengals exercised a clause in his rookie contract cutting two years off of it and he didn’t really come on until his contract year. He could easily become complacent once he gets paid. I think he ends up taking less money than he expects back home in Cincinnati and doesn’t get a lot guaranteed.

Sebastian Vollmer (New England): 5 years, 32 million with 14 million guaranteed

Vollmer is another right tackle I think returns to his current team as the Patriots have plenty of cap space to play with and seem committed to re-signing their own guys before anything else.

Phil Loadholt (Minnesota): 4 years, 25 million with 10 million guaranteed

Loadholt also returns to his current team. I think all 3 of the top level right tackles will do so. Right tackles rarely get much money on the open market and all 3 should be valued most by their current teams. Loadholt is a solid player, but should be the lowest paid of the trio. He’ll still command a hefty salary.

Jermon Bushrod (Chicago): 5 years, 30 million with 12 million guaranteed

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Aaron Kromer of the Bears was previously on the Saints’ staff, where Bushrod played most recently. The Saints don’t value the left tackle position much because of Drew Brees’ quick release and won’t get into a bidding war for his blindside protector, but the Bears badly need help there. It’s very possible Bushrod gets overpaid because Brees made him look better than he was, but the Bears are a team that could take a chance.

Eric Winston (Philadelphia): 4 years, 20 million with 9 million guaranteed

Winston was cut by the Chiefs, but can still play and the Eagles, who are flush with cap, are known to be among the most interested. He’d be a perfect fit. He’d slide Todd Herremans back into his natural spot at guard coming off a major injury and he has the movement skills that Chip Kelly is going to value in an offensive line. He’s only ever really played on the right side, but he’s a very good right tackle, something the Eagles will value because the right side is Michael Vick’s blindside. He should get a deal similar to the one the Chiefs gave him last off-season.

Sam Baker (Atlanta): 3 years, 17 million with 7 million guaranteed

Baker’s checkered injury past won’t help him get paid on the open market and he won’t get a lot of guaranteed money. Because of his shorter arms, it actually sounds like the open market values him more as a guard than a tackle and the Falcons might be the only team interested in him as a left tackle and thus could easily offer him the most money. They retain their blindside protector with a high upside, low risk deal.

Gosder Cherilus (Miami): 2 years, 8 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Dolphins seem fine moving on from Jake Long and are more likely to pursue a replacement through the draft, but if someone like Cherilus comes cheap enough, they could bring him in to compete for a starting spot or keep the seat warm for a rookie. Cherilus had a solid season last year in Detroit, but his injury history does not bode well for his chances of getting a big money long term deal.

Interior Offensive Linemen

Andy Levitre (Tennessee): 5 years, 40 million with 18 million guaranteed

From what it sounds like, the Titans will sign either Andy Levitre or Louis Vasquez, the top two guards available and two of the top guards in the NFL. Levitre makes the most sense since they’d be the most desperate to get him. He’d immediately turn the left guard position into a position of major strength following the retirement of Steve Hutchinson, but his signing would not preclude the Titans drafting a guard at 10. Chance Warmack would still fit in really well at right guard and the Titans have made it known that adding help on the interior of their offensive line is a priority of their off-season.

Louis Vasquez (Indianapolis): 5 years, 34 million with 15 million guaranteed

The Colts are expected to sign whichever of the two top guards the Titans don’t sign and have been linked to Vasquez by many sources. The Colts have a lot of money to play with and are expected to add a big time free agent both on the offensive line and on defense as well as a few other signings. They figure to be one of the most active teams in free agency as they try to build up a team that won 11 games despite replacement level talent all over the place last year. They won’t be able to do it with smoke and mirrors like that forever.

Matt Slauson (NY Jets): 3 years, 11 million with 4 million guaranteed

The Bills aren’t expected to be able to re-sign Andy Levitre, but they’ll need to find a replacement. Slauson isn’t awe inspiring, but he’s an average starter and he’ll come cheap.

Donald Thomas (Detroit): 3 years, 12 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Lions continue to bargain hunt pressed up against the cap. They have a need at right guard and Donald Thomas is a good high upside low risk signing for them. He was very good in 7 starts for the Patriots last year and could end up being a high end starter at a low end starter’s cost.

Brandon Moore (Chicago): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

The Bears are expected to focus heavily on the offensive line, as they should, but after signing Jermon Bushrod, they probably won’t have enough cap space to fill out their roster if they sign a big money guard. Moore should suffice as a cheap, veteran stopgap. He’s not flashy, but as long as Jay Cutler doesn’t run into his ass Moore should help this ball club.

Interior Defensive Linemen

Desmond Bryant (New England): 3 years, 14 million with 6 million guaranteed

Bryant cost himself with his stupid arrest last month and whichever team signs him will have to be comfortable with an off the field incident as well as the slight chance of a suspension. The Patriots are one of five teams rumored to be in the mix for Bryant, who really impressed, especially as a pass rusher, in place of an injured Richard Seymour for the Raiders last year. New England, however, is probably the most likely to look past his off the field incident and the fact that he went to school in Boston at Harvard doesn’t hurt his chances of ending up in New England.

Jason Jones (St. Louis): 3 years, 12 million with 5 million guaranteed

Jones has been tied to the Rams ever since Jeff Fisher took over there last off-season. He signed a one year deal with Seattle instead, but he’s a free agent again and the Rams are in the market for a versatile pass rusher again so it’s a natural fit.

Richard Seymour (Seattle): 2 years, 9 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Seahawks have made it known they want to add more pass rush. Seymour can play the Jason Jones role in Seattle at worst and may also be able to start for the Seahawks at a position where they have some key free agents. Seymour should be able to get a short term deal from one of several contenders, including Seattle, Green Bay, and New England. He can still play, but he missed most of last year with injury.

Terrance Knighton (Denver): 2 years, 8 million with 3 million guaranteed

Knighton rejoins Jack Del Rio in Denver. Del Rio was his Head Coach in Jacksonville and now leads Denver’s defense. He also fits what John Fox looks for in a defensive tackle as he prefers his defensive tackles tie up blockers rather than get up field and rush the passer.

Chris Canty (Carolina): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Panthers have a desperate need at defensive tackle with minimal cap room to play with so they could end signing a cheap defensive tackle like Canty. Canty has natural been tied to Carolina by people in the know because much of their new front office comes from the Giants’ organization, where Canty last played before becoming a cap casualty in February.

Glenn Dorsey (Oakland): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

The Raiders figure to be bargain shopping once again this off-season with minimal cap room and a bunch of needs. Glenn Dorsey might just need a change of scenery and a change of scheme and he’d fit best as a 4-3 under tackle in Oakland. He’s a low risk, high reward signing for a Raider team in desperate need of talent, especially in the front 7.

Ricky Jean-Francois (Philadelphia): 3 years, 8 million with 2 million guaranteed

Jean-Francois has seen very little action as a reserve in his career in San Francisco, but he’s being talked about as a hot commodity on the open market. The Eagles’ new VP of player personnel Tom Gamble came over from San Francisco and I think that makes them the favorite to land the unproven commodity.

Mike DeVito (NY Jets): 2 years, 6 million with 2 million guaranteed

DeVito is very good at what he does and very good at his role in the Jets’ defense, so even with the Jets’ poor cap situation, they should be able to bring him back. I can’t see anyone breaking the bank for a pure base 3-4 end.

Edge Rushers

Cliff Avril (Indianapolis): 5 years, 60 million with 30 million guaranteed

The Colts make a splash on offense and now they make one on defense. They are fully expected to sign either Cliff Avril or Paul Kruger almost as soon as free agency opens as they have plenty of cap room to play with and need a replacement for Dwight Freeney. Avril is arguably the best defensive player available in free agency this year and at the very least should get paid the most. He doesn’t get the Mario Williams money he was hoping for, but even he admits that was pretty much a pipedream.

Paul Kruger (Cleveland): 4 years, 42 million with 20 million guaranteed

The Browns are expected to sign whichever rush linebacker the Colts don’t sign and I think because of the Colts’ supporting cast they’re more likely to bring in Avril than Cleveland. Cleveland will “settle” for Paul Kruger, who fills a massive need for a pass rusher opposite Jabaal Sheard for a team flush with cap room.

Michael Bennett (Detroit): 5 years, 25 million with 10 million guaranteed

Bennett is one of the truly underrated players in this free agency class. He’s performed as well as Avril and better than Kruger over the past 2 years, but he’ll be lucky to get half as much guaranteed money. Once we get into day 3 or 4 of free agency, he’d make a lot of sense as a cost effective replacement for Cliff Avril for the Lions, who don’t have a ton of cap room. He’d be a great fit in their wide nine scheme.

Osi Umenyiora (Tennessee): 3 years, 14 million with 6 million guaranteed

The Titans are known to be interested in Michael Bennett to provide depth behind Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley, but he’ll probably be too expensive as a pure rotational end and will probably be able to get a starting job. Umenyiora would like a starting job as well, but at his age, he’ll probably have to settle for being a fairly well paid rotational end and serve in a similar role in Tennessee to his one in New York. The Giants don’t have a ton of cap room and won’t get into a bidding war for him.

Connor Barwin (Houston): 3 years, 14 million with 5 million guaranteed

What a difference a year makes. Barwin was an up and coming pass rusher after last season and was a candidate for a long term extension last off-season and potentially a future franchise tag candidate. Instead, Barwin had an awful 2012 campaign and now teams won’t know what they’re getting with him. He barely played in his first two years, was great in his 3rd year, and awful in his 4th. The Texans will know better than anyone and will likely retain him on a team friendly deal.

John Abraham (Seattle): 2 years, 9 million with 3 million guaranteed

John Abraham has already made his free agency tour and had no shortage of suitors. He’s not a full time player anymore and he struggles against the run, but there’s something to be said for being one of the most efficient pass rushers in the NFL and that’s what Abraham was last season. The Seahawks add him to go with Richard Seymour as they seek to get more pass rush upfront. Abraham will likely sign with a contender and the Seahawks would appear to have the biggest need for him.

Dwight Freeney (Denver): 1 year, 5 million with 2 million guaranteed

I like this fit regardless of whether or not they cut Elvis Dumervil, though it sounds like they will. Freeney would be a rotational pass rusher if Dumervil is kept and a starter opposite Derek Wolfe if Dumervil is let go. He’d rejoin fellow Colt legend Peyton Manning and would have a good chance at winning another ring.

Victor Butler (New Orleans): 3 years, 10 million with 4 million guaranteed

Butler is unlikely to remain in Dallas given their cap situation and their new 4-3 defense, but he’s an intriguing 3-4 rush linebacker option. He’s got plenty of talent and has flashed, but was always stuck behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. It makes sense that he’d follow Rob Ryan to New Orleans, where they are in desperate need of pass rush.

Shaun Phillips (Baltimore): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

Not really connecting the dots here or anything, but the Ravens need a rotational rush linebacker with Kruger likely gone and Phillips would be a cheap, but still productive veteran.

James Harrison (New England): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

The Patriots are one of the teams Harrison has expressed interest in and I think they make the most sense for him. The Saints are not interested. The Browns have bigger fish to fry and I just can’t see him in a Ravens uniform. In New England, he’d be a nickel rusher and linebacker depth and Bill Belichick loves versatile edge rushers like him, though they already have a pair in Dont’a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich. Still, they’d find a role for him and he’d come cheap for a team that likes picking up proven guys cheap in the tail end of their careers.

Non-Rush Linebackers

Dannell Ellerbe (Baltimore): 5 years, 24 million with 10 million guaranteed

The Ravens really seem infatuated with Ellerbe and believe his best football is yet to come as a successor to Ray Lewis. I can’t see anyone valuing him more than them and while they have minimal cap room, they can fit him under after getting rid of Anquan Boldin, likely the reason they did so.

Phillip Wheeler (St. Louis): 3 years, 15 million with 6 million guaranteed

Wheeler is an underrated free agent, but he had a great season last year on a one year deal in Oakland, though I need to see him repeat it. The Rams give him a chance to as he fills their need for an every down linebacker. They’ve shown interest in him and some in the know do connect the dots here.

Brad Jones (Kansas City): 3 years, 14 million with 5 million guaranteed

Jones broke out in about half a season as the Packers’ starting middle linebacker last year when injuries struck. He’s a well-kept secret that the Packers will try to retain, but they could get some competition from Kansas City and GM John Dorsey, who comes from the Green Bay organization. The Chiefs have the bigger need and the Packers have never been big spenders in free agency so I like the Chiefs to win that bidding war.

Brian Urlacher (Chicago): 1 year, 5 million with 2 million guaranteed

At the end of the day, I think the Bears bring back Urlacher on a cheap one year deal, which might be his last as a pro.

Daryl Smith (Oakland): 2 years, 7 million with 3 million guaranteed

Another bargain buy for the Raiders, Smith was one of the better linebackers in the league in 2011, but he’s aging and missed most of last year with injury. He’ll be cheaper than retaining Phillip Wheeler and if healthy could be the better player.

Justin Durant (NY Giants): 2 years, 7 million with 2 million guaranteed

The Giants don’t have a lot of money to work with, but I expect them to bring in a veteran linebacker or two because that’s the weak point of their team.

Michael Boley (Tampa Bay): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

Tampa Bay has been a rumored destination for Boley since the Giants cut him last month and it makes sense. Quincy Black may have played his last snap in the NFL and most likely with the Buccaneers, so they need a veteran stopgap who can give them two down run stopping ability.

Rey Maualuga (NY Giants): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

Another bargain buy for the Giants at linebacker, Maualuga was dreadful last year and picked a bad time to do that, but he’s been better in the past and he’s worth the risk on a one year prove it deal for a team like the Giants.

Cornerbacks

Sean Smith (Philadelphia): 5 years, 37 million with 17 million guaranteed

I expect the Eagles to be very active in free agency. They have plenty of cap room, especially after they cut Nnamdi Asomugha, plenty of needs, and have made plenty of big splashes in the past. As long as Michael Vick doesn’t proclaim them a dynasty and Vince Young doesn’t call them the Dream Team, they should be fine. Smith helps fill a massive need at cornerback and has unsurprisingly been linked to them. Smith should get a deal that rivals Eric Wright’s from last off-season.

Aqib Talib (New England): 4 years, 26 million with 9 million guaranteed

Like with Wes Welker and Sebastian Vollmer, the Patriots take care of their own here with the money saved after Tom Brady’s extension, though Talib’s return seems like the least likely of the three right now. They’ve poked around with other cornerbacks in recent days, but at the end of the day, I think they’d rather sign a proven commodity like Talib than throw a bunch of money at someone like Sean Smith or take their chances with someone out of the bargain bin.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Jacksonville): 5 years, 31 million with 14 million guaranteed

I’m not really passing along any information here. As far as I know, the Jaguars have shown no interest in DRC, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t and I like the scheme fit. Gus Bradley comes from Seattle where they like their cornerbacks tall and long and the 6-2 former Eagle fits the bill. The Jaguars have money to spend and can win a bidding war for his services if need be.

Keenan Lewis (Cleveland): 5 years, 30 million with 13 million guaranteed

The Browns are known to be interested in a bunch of different free agents. They have plenty of cap space and are willing to spend so I expect them to bring in some big money guys. One of the guys rumored to them is Keenan Lewis and I like the fit since they need another cornerback opposite Joe Haden. The Steelers would like to retain him, but couldn’t get into a bidding war with the Browns because of the Steelers’ limited cap space.

Antoine Cason (Indianapolis): 4 years, 22 million with 9 million guaranteed

The Colts spend some more money here. They are known to be very interested in Cason and would probably be able to win a bidding war for his services.

Cary Williams (Tampa Bay): 4 years, 22 million with 8 million guaranteed

Williams is another option to the Colts and he makes sense because Head Coach Chuck Pagano was once Williams’ defensive coordinator in Baltimore, but I don’t have him going there. I don’t have anything to link Williams in Tampa Bay, other than they really need a cornerback and pretty much have to sign one of these guys.

Derek Cox (Washington): 4 years, 20 million with 7 million guaranteed

The Redskins cut DeAngelo Hall and are expected to go hard after Derek Cox with that cap space, though they’ll face competition from Tampa Bay and his last team, the Jaguars. I would bet on Dan Snyder in any bidding war however and the Redskins do have enough cap room opened up to win one.

Chris Houston (Atlanta): 3 years, 14 million with 6 million guaranteed

Houston could return to Detroit for the right price, but there is a big demand for cornerbacks out there and while he’s just a #2, he might be priced out of Detroit’s range. He makes sense on a short term deal returning to Atlanta, where they desperately need veteran cornerback help after losing Dunta Robinson and with the team likely to lose Brent Grimes.

DeAngelo Hall (Miami): 3 years, 15 million with 6 million guaranteed

Again, not passing anything along here, but the Dolphins need to sign one of these cornerbacks.

Jerraud Powers (San Diego): 2 years, 11 million with 4 million guaranteed

The Chargers and Colts essentially flip cornerbacks here, as is rumored to likely happen. Powers leaves one Pagano, Chuck, for his brother John, the defensive coordinator in San Diego and helps fill a big need at cornerback with Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer not expected back as free agents.

Greg Toler (Arizona): 2 years, 9 million with 3 million guaranteed

The Cardinals will show interest in most of these cornerbacks listed above, but I have them settling for re-signing Greg Toler. For what it’s worth, it was briefly reported Monday Night they had agreed to a 3-year deal ahead of free agency, before that report was retracted.

Brent Grimes (New England): 1 year, 3 million

The Patriots did re-sign Talib, but they also hit the bargain bin here as they desperately need defensive back help. Grimes is the type of guy they take a chance on and he’s been mentioned as an option for them. He’d upgrade the nickel back spot over Kyle Arrington if healthy.

Safeties

Dashon Goldson (Philadelphia): 5 years, 40 million with 19 million guaranteed

Goldson is another 49er going to Philadelphia, where Tom Gamble is new VP of player personnel. The Eagles have money to spend and won’t be afraid to spend it, especially on massive need positions like safety. Goldson wants Eric Weddle money and while I’d argue he doesn’t deserve it, the Eagles might be willing to give it to him. Either way, he’s unlikely to end up re-signing with the 49ers.

Glover Quin (Houston): 5 years, 27 million with 12 million guaranteed

Quin was reportedly a franchise tag candidate before the Texans opted against it. The Falcons did a similar thing with William Moore and Quin should get a comparable, but cheaper deal than Moore, who got 30 million over 5 years. Right now, the most likely option appears to be that he’ll return to Houston. Wade Phillips loves him and the Texans love taking care of their own.

Chris Clemons (Arizona): 5 years, 22 million with 9 million guaranteed

The Cardinals have an obvious need at safety after cutting Adrian Wilson, but don’t appear to be in the bidding for Dashon Goldson. With Quin likely going back to Houston, the Cardinals could overpay one of the middle tier safeties in this draft class. Clemons was a solid starter in Miami last year and could get a fairly nice payday on the open market.

La’Ron Landry (Buffalo): 4 years, 19 million with 8 million guaranteed

Landry is another player following a former coordinator as he follows former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to Buffalo. They have a big need at safety after cutting George Wilson and Wilson, a solid player who was scooped up quickly, was likely cut because he’s not the type of in the box safety Pettine really likes. Pettine really got the most out of Landry last season and while he could stay with the Jets for the right price, it makes more sense that the Bills would be the ones who offer him the most money.

Louis Delmas (St. Louis): 3 years, 15 million with 5 million guaranteed

Delmas also follows a former coach, former Lions defensive backs coach Tim Walton is now the defensive coordinator in St. Louis and they have a desperate need for safeties. They’ll probably draft one and sign another. They won’t be in the market for a big money safety, however, after signing Jake Long, but Delmas is worth the risk despite his injury history on a contract with little guaranteed money after the first season.

Ed Reed (Indianapolis): 2 years, 10 million with 4 million guaranteed

Everyone likes to put Reed on the Patriots, but I think he makes more sense for the Colts. The Colts can pay more and probably need him more because of what his veteran leadership would mean for that team. Then, of course, there’s Chuck Pagano, his former defensive coordinator in Baltimore and a former coach with him at the University of Miami. The two are very close, as are he and Reggie Wayne, another former University of Miami player.

Gerald Sensabaugh (New Orleans): 3 years, 11 million with 3 million guaranteed

Sticking with the follow your old defensive coordinator theme, the Saints badly need defensive back help and Sensabaugh was clearly more valued by former Cowboys and new Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan than new Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin as the Cowboys cut him 1 year into a 5 year extension. The Saints figure to offer him the most money for that reason.

Charles Woodson (New England): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

Here’s the veteran defensive back I think the Patriots get and I like this fit better. Woodson not only fits what Belichick loves from a skill set standpoint, with his versatility and ball hawking abilities, but the Patriots desperately need defensive back depth and they love bringing in veterans at the end of their careers who want to win on cheap deals.

Kenny Phillips (Carolina): 1 year, 4 million with 1 million guaranteed

Phillips is another former Giant who goes to Carolina. The Panthers have many needs on defense, but are cap strapped and will need to hit the bargain bin. That’s where Phillips will likely find himself given his injury history. He’s talented though and makes a lot of sense for the Panthers on a one year prove it deal.

Patrick Chung (Baltimore): 1 year, 3 million with 1 million guaranteed

Chung also follows a former defensive coordinator as Dean Pees was once the defensive coordinator in New England and now holds that title in Baltimore. The Ravens don’t have a ton of cap room, but can afford to take a chance on Chung, who might just need a chance of scenery. If he can stay healthy and out of his coaches’ doghouse, he could be a cheap short term replacement for Ed Reed.

Adrian Wilson (NY Jets): 1 year, 2 million

The Jets also will have to hit the bargain bin for players this off-season. If there’s anywhere Wilson can still start, it’s in New York, where they have nothing at safety and love box types like Wilson. If they can turn Yeremiah Bell into an adequate starter, they can do the same with Adrian Wilson.

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NFL Potential Breakout Players of 2012: The Review

The goal: Pick one player on each team to have a breakout year and see where they end up at the end of the season. No rookies. No established veterans. No former Pro-Bowlers (minus special teams). Here was the logic for all 32 players. And below are the results.

The good

New York Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson

In his 2nd year in the league, Wilkerson was a huge bright spot in the Jets’ season. He didn’t have huge sack numbers, but he did apply more than adequate pressure for his position and was the best run stuffing defensive lineman in the game after JJ Watt. Only Watt graded out better overall among 3-4 defensive ends on ProFootballFocus.

Philadelphia Eagles DE Brandon Graham

Graham struggled with injuries in his first two years in the league and when he finally got healthy he was out of shape from not playing for so long and had gained 20 pounds. He got himself into shape this year and did so well as a reserve that he got veteran Jason Babin, who had 18 sacks the year before, benched and cut. When Jim Washburn was fired and Graham took over as a starter, that’s when he really flourished, with 5 sacks, 3 hits, and 17 hurries in 6 starts, while providing solid run support as well. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 2nd ranked 4-3 defensive end despite only 6 starts and was by far the most efficient pass rusher in the league among players who played as many snaps as he did.

San Francisco 49ers G Mike Iupati

Freakishly talented, but raw as the 17th overall pick in 2010, Iupati was solid in his first two years in the league, but this year he really showed why he was drawing Larry Allen comparisons in the pre-draft process. He still hasn’t lived up to those lofty expectations, but he made his first of probably many Pro-Bowls this season and was ProFootballFocus’ 5th ranked guard.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Gerald McCoy

McCoy was very impressive in limited action in his first two years in the league as the 3rd overall pick in 2010, but was often hurt. This year, he played all 16 games and showed exactly why he was such a high draft pick, having a better year than Ndamukong Suh arguably ever has had, impressing as a pass rusher and a run stuffer and grading out as the best defensive tackle other than Geno Atkins on ProFootballFocus. He also led the way for Tampa Bay’s #1 ranked run defense, a unit that had ranked 31st in 2010 and 2011.

Tennessee Titans DE Derrick Morgan

I think the theme is always bet on former 1st rounders who had hard luck in their first 2 years in the league. Like Graham and McCoy, Morgan finally was healthy this season, after tearing his ACL as a rookie and being out of shape in his 2nd year in the league. Morgan played all 16 games and had 9 sacks, 21 hits, and 42 hurries and was decent against the run as well. All in all, he was ProFootballFocus’ 4th ranked 4-3 end.

Chicago Bears DT Henry Melton

Melton was always a solid player in limited action in his first 3 years in the league, but this year he was given more responsibilities than ever and produced his best year as a pro. He wasn’t great against the run, but you’ll take 8 sacks, 5 hits, and 24 hurries every year from a 4-3 tackle, especially one who plays in a one gap, penetrating scheme like the Bears’. ProFootballFocus’ 7th rated defensive tackle, the Bears franchised Melton this off-season and are currently working on making him a big part of their future.

Denver Broncos WR Eric Decker

Decker was actually Denver’s leading receiver in 2011, but struggled with injuries down the stretch and really didn’t have good chemistry with Tim Tebow once he took over. Fully healthy and with the switch from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning at quarterback, Decker seemed poised for big numbers. Not only was Manning the traditional quarterback Decker worked better with, he’s one of the best traditional quarterbacks of all time and Decker is the exact type of receiver he likes, so much so that he recommended the Colts draft him in the 3rd round in 2010, before the Broncos snatched him up a few spots earlier. Decker didn’t disappoint me, catching 85 passes for 1064 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Kansas City Chiefs OLB Justin Houston

Houston was a first round talent in 2011 before a failed drug test dropped him into the 3rd. The Chiefs drafted him and he was very impressive in 6 starts down the stretch in 2011. Houston carried that over to 2012, starting all 16 games and excelling in all 3 areas of the game, rushing the passer, stopping the run, and dropping in coverage. Only Anthony Spencer, Clay Matthews, and Aldon Smith graded out better among 3-4 outside linebackers this season.

Baltimore Ravens WR Torrey Smith

Smith carried over a strong 2nd half of his rookie season into 2012, catching 60 passes for 1088 yards and 10 touchdowns in 20 games en route to a Super Bowl victory and of course he had an amazing 12 catches for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2 games in a 5 day span following the sudden death of his younger brother.

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones

Like Torrey Smith, Jones carried over a strong 2nd half of his rookie season in 2012 and put up monster numbers, catching 79 passes for 1198 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season and then another 17 catches for 241 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2 post-season games. Jones’ presence in the Falcons’ deadly downfield passing game was a big part of the reason why the Falcons won 13 games and made the NFC Championship game.

New England Patriots RB Stevan Ridley

The Patriots aren’t known as a running team, but they were 7th in the NFL in rushing yards this year and this guy is a big part of the reason why. Ridley rushed for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns on 290 carries, finishing the season 7th in the NFL in rushing. Unlike former Patriot running backs, Ridley wasn’t just a product of the talent around him, gaining 2.5 of his 4.4 YPC after contact.

Carolina Panthers DE Greg Hardy

Hardy still isn’t a big name, but he played just as well as big money bookend Charles Johnson in Carolina this season. Hardy was ProFootballFocus’ 6th rated 4-3 defensive end, while Johnson was 8th and the duo combined for 27 sacks. Johnson had better overall pass rush numbers as Hardy wasn’t as good as his 13 sacks suggest, but Hardy was also the significantly better run player.

New York Giants DT Linval Joseph

Again not a big name and only ProFootballFocus’ 21st rated defensive tackle, but Joseph was still well above average this season and I’m still counting this one as a win.

Arizona Cardinals TE Rob Housler

This one was tough to count as a win. Housler caught just 45 passes for 417 yards, but I’m blaming that one more on the quarterbacks. His 1.07 yards per route run were just a touch under Larry Fitzgerald’s 1.18.

Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap

Dunlap still hasn’t emerged as an every down player, but he reached a career high in snaps played, playing 601. Though he had just 5 sacks, he played very well overall when given a chance and graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 9th rated 4-3 defensive end, despite still limited playing time.

Oakland Raiders WR Denarius Moore

Moore didn’t quite have the season I was expecting, but you can blame that some on Oakland’s generally terrible season. Moore still led the way among Raider wide receivers catching 51 passes for 741 yards and 7 touchdowns.

The bad

Washington Redskins MLB Perry Riley

Riley was a very good player in the 2nd half of the 2011 season, but that didn’t carry over in his first full season as a starter. While he played all 16 games and was an every down player, Riley still graded out below average overall this season.

St. Louis Rams DE Robert Quinn

His 11 sacks might suggest this was a win, but only five 4-3 ends graded out worse than him on ProFootballFocus as what he did on the rest of his snaps, not just the 11 he had sacks on, was not impressive. He got washed against the run, had very low hits and hurries totals from someone with his sack total, and did all this despite getting very little attention from the defense with Chris Long tying up blockers opposite him.

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Derek Cox

Cox has always flashed when healthy and was very good before getting hurt in 2011, but he didn’t stay healthy in 2012, missing 4 games and playing through injury in countless others, grading out as a below average player overall.

San Diego Chargers DL Cam Thomas

A talented defensive lineman who played limited snaps in 2011, Thomas was due for an increase in playing time in 2012, but ended up playing just 9 more snaps than 2011 and his level of play dipped.

Miami Dolphins DL Jared Odrick

Odrick was another former 1st round pick who had a rough first 2 years that I was expecting to breakout in his 3rd year, but he did not do that. At the end of the day, as talented as he is, he just couldn’t adjust to a position change to 4-3 end and only three 4-3 ends graded out worse than him on ProFootballFocus.

New Orleans Saints CB Patrick Robinson

Robinson is another former 1st round pick, but was an embarrassingly bad choice as a breakout player. A league average player in his first 2 years in the league, Robinson was among the most torched corners in the league in 2012, allowing 9 touchdowns and over 1000 yards and finishing the year as ProFootballFocus’ 89th ranked cornerback out of 113 eligible.

Cleveland Browns WR Greg Little

Little got better as the season went on, but couldn’t kick his drops habit, dropping 6 passes to 11 catches in his first 5 games, including a game winner that would have likely led to a massive upset in Baltimore. He finally regained his quarterback’s trust, dropping just 3 passes the rest of the way and finishing with 53 catches for 647 yards and 4 touchdowns, but I’d hardly call that a breakout year.

Minnesota Vikings LB Erin Henderson

Henderson was arguably the best run stopping linebacker in the league in 2011 and that earned him an every down role in 2012, after coming out in obvious passing situations for a 5th defensive back in 2011. That didn’t last long. After playing every snap week 1, Henderson was done in by injuries and issues in coverage and did not regain the every down role until week 16, when Jasper Brinkley’s issues in coverage became way too glaring. To make matters worse, he wasn’t quite the run player he was in 2011 and overall graded out as just an average player on 767 total regular and post-season snaps. A free agent this off-season, he’s not expected to be retained and will have to settle for two-down work on a one year deal elsewhere.

Buffalo Bills MLB Kelvin Sheppard

Sheppard was solid as a rookie in a limited role and lost weight in an effort to stay on the field on passing downs in 2012. That didn’t help. He played just half of the Bills’ snaps and while he was decent in coverage, he made a below average impact against the run and overall graded out negatively. The Bills are expected to pursue competition for him through the draft.

The ugly

Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Flynn

In my defense, Seattle didn’t have an obvious choice for a breakout player. Rookies don’t count and neither do established players like Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, or Max Unger. Russell Okung was probably the closest thing to one, finally staying healthy for the first time in his 3 year career. I picked Flynn before the season because I didn’t see an obvious candidate and I figured I might as well go with the first time starting quarterback. Flynn lost the job in the pre-season to Russell Wilson and the rest is history.

Indianapolis Colts WR Austin Collie

I thought Collie and Andrew Luck could put up big numbers if Collie could only avoid concussions. Turns out concussions weren’t his biggest issue. Once he finally got on the field this year after sustaining a concussion in the pre-season, Collie tore his patellar tendon and was done for the season. He’s not expected to be brought back by the Colts as a free agent this off-season.

Green Bay Packers MLB DJ Smith

DJ Smith was a talented reserve for the Packers in 2011 and when Desmond Bishop went down for the season in the pre-season with a torn hamstring, Smith took over as the starter and looked like a solid bet to do good things. The problem: Smith tore his ACL mid-season and was replaced by Brad Jones, who played well and had the type of season I was expecting from Smith.

Detroit Lions WR Titus Young

Well, he’s plenty talented, but he’s apparently also a little crazy. Young felt he wasn’t getting the ball enough so he started purposely sabotaging the Lions by lining up in the wrong spot. He also had numerous verbal and at times even physical altercations with teammates and coaches in practice. The Lions made up an excuse to put him on IR late in the year and then cut him after the season after he went on a tirade on Twitter. The self-proclaimed receiver more talented than Calvin Johnson, Young lasted just 9 days in St. Louis in February and is now an unrestricted free agent generating minimal to no interest.

Houston Texans CB Brice McCain

McCain was one of the better slot cornerbacks in the NFL in 2011 and looked like he had a chance to leapfrog struggling former 1st round pick Kareem Jackson on the depth chart at some point this season. Instead, McCain was the weak point in Houston’s secondary this year and Jackson was the one with the breakout year, proving once again, always bet on former 1st round picks in their 3rd year in the league.

Dallas Cowboys DL Sean Lissemore

Lissemore played very well in limited action in 2011 for the Cowboys and seemed poised for a bigger role. He got one, but not by much as injuries and inconsistencies limited him to being a well below average player on just 329 snaps.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Isaac Redman

I thought Redman was talented enough to take the lead back job and run with it after Rashard Mendenhall got hurt. Mendenhall came back quicker than expected, though he was not very good, but Redman’s own injuries limited him to 3.7 YPC on 110 carries on an overall disappointing Steeler offense.

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New York Giants sign DT Cullen Jenkins

The Giants have a pair of recent 2nd round picks at defensive tackle (Linval Joseph 2010, Marvin Austin 2011), but the latter has had a ton of trouble staying healthy in his career, not playing a snap in 2011 and playing just 109 last season. After cutting veteran Chris Canty, they were left with very little depth behind him and Jenkins will provide that depth and insurance.

This move doesn’t preclude the Giants from spending another early pick on a defensive tackle, because they love defensive linemen, they stay strict to their board, they love rotation, and Jenkins just turned 32, but this is a more than reasonable deal for him. 3 years, 8 million with just 3 million guaranteed (2 million dollars signing bonus and 1 million dollars first year base salary) is very reasonable for a player who graded out above average on 642 snaps last season in Philadelphia. He is still a great interior pass rusher, though he gets washed against the run far too often. He’s cheaper and is less of an injury risk than Canty would have been, though Canty is younger and better, when healthy. Still, however, it’s a very solid move.

Grade: A

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Tips for betting on the new NFL season

By Benjamin Collins

The new NFL season doesn’t begin until September of this year, but already the odds and futures betting for the new season have started, which reflects the popularity of betting on the NFL amongst fans of both the sport and gambling. However, although it can be hard to resist getting in on the action early, by putting down bets on the winners of the AFC, NFC and Super Bowl well in advance, it is worth at least considering whether that is the smartest way of betting on the NFL.

After all, should you hold off until the season has started you will get the opportunity to see whether pre-season favourites like the New England Patriots (3/1 for the AFC and 8/1 for the Super Bowl), and the San Francisco 49ers (9/2 for the NFC and 8/1 for the Super Bowl) actually produce the form to justify these odds. If they do their odds will remain at the same level, while if they don’t, you can avoid losing out like all those who bet on last season’s pre-season favourites the Denver Broncos. If you are unwilling to wait until the actual season starts, it can at least be advisable to wait until after the draft at the end of April – as this will give you a better idea of how strong the teams will be going into the new season.

The evidence suggests that the Patriots will still be looking strong after the draft, as they have money to spend on strengthening, but the Broncos were clear pre-season favourites last time round. Waiting before betting can pay dividends, and there are plenty of other options – such as the $5 Million Touchdown NFL slots game available at an online casino site – to keep you amused while you are waiting. From the reel icons shaped like football players, whistles and cheerleaders, to the bonus game involving passing a ball to score a touchdown – this game has everything for NFL fans. It should also appeal to betting fans in general, thanks to the huge maximum cash jackpot that can potentially be won by playing it.

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Kansas City Chiefs sign CB Dunta Robinson

The Chiefs’ grade for signing Robinson depends on how they plan to use him. At this point in his career, 31 next month, Robinson has a very specific set of strengths. He’s never been a great on man coverage cornerback. Even in Houston, he allowed way too many receptions in one in one coverage on the outside to be comfortable and he didn’t get any better in Atlanta after they threw all that money at him. However, he’s one of the better run stopping cornerbacks in the NFL and has always been much better on the slot in the seam than covering outside the numbers. He didn’t get to play much in that role last season due to injuries, but whenever he has in the past, he’s been very solid and even requested personally that he be moved there last season, after the team acquired Asante Samuel, before the season ending injury to Brent Grimes.

The Chiefs are rumored to have signed him to play free safety in sub packages and then move to slot cornerback on passing downs, which is his best role at this point in his career. Charles Woodson and Ronde Barber had great seasons in this role last season and Antoine Winfield of the Vikings is expected to make a similar transition this season. Devin McCourty of the Patriots and Casey Hayward of the Packers are two younger cornerbacks we could see in that role next season. The financials for this deal, 3 year, 15 million, with just 4 million guaranteed, suggest that he’ll play in that role, rather than outside as a starting cornerback, and the Chiefs do have a need at both cornerback and free safety.

I like that he got just 4 million guaranteed because he is a well below average cover cornerback, but I can’t give them an A for this signing because we don’t know how they’ll use him and also Robinson playing in that role likely means Javier Arenas is locked into a starting cornerback slot outside. Arenas took over as a starter when the team cut Stanford Routt last season, but played better football when he was a 3rd cornerback than a starter and probably would have also been more comfortable on the slot.

Grade: B

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Atlanta Falcons re-sign S William Moore

I was worried that Falcons would pay William Moore in that Michael Huff, Tyvon Branch, Eric Weddle, Michael Griffin range of young safeties who have gotten multi-year deals in the past 2 years, when that’s not the type of player he is. He’s not an elite safety and wouldn’t have been deserving of the franchise tag that the Falcons were rumored to be considering using on him, before ultimately opting against it.

This 5-year, 30 million dollar deal, with 14 million guaranteed is noticeably less total and guaranteed money than the aforementioned safeties and I think it’s a very reasonable deal for him. ProFootballFocus’ 21st rated safety last season, Moore has graded out as an above average player in each of the last two years, but has never played at an elite level and has his share of injury issues in the past. 14 million is a little bit too much guaranteed for someone with Moore’s injury history, but all in all, I think this is a solid deal for a solid player.

Grade: B

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Buffalo Bills re-sign CB Leodis McKelvin

The 4-year, 20 million dollar deal the Bills gave McKelvin contains 7.5 million guaranteed and is an overpay just because I don’t know who else would have shelled out that kind of dough for him. However, it’s very possible he ends up being worth that for them. He’s a dynamic returner who led the NFL in punt return average last year, bringing back 23 for 431 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as 18 kickoffs for 510 yards.

However, not only is he an All-Pro return man, as voted on by the Pro Football Writers of America, but he played well in limited action at cornerback. An injury prone bust as the 11th overall pick in 2008, McKelvin has only once played more than 514 snaps in a seaon in his 5-year contract, but he’s graded out as a slightly above average cornerback when healthy in each of the past 2 years and he provides solid depth and a valuable insurance option should 2011 2nd round pick Aaron Williams struggle for the 3rd straight year in 2013.

If McKelvin can stay healthy and take over for a predictably struggling Williams again in 2013, this time for good, I don’t think this type of money is ridiculous for a solid starting cornerback who provides incredible value on special teams as well. That’s a pretty big if and it is a lot of money to spend to find out, probably a good deal more than anyone else would have given him, and elite pure special teamers have a very short shelf life, which is why it’s very hard to like this move, but it makes sense. I’m giving it a C, even though I feel like last year or a couple years ago I would have destroyed this move, but I don’t find it awful now. Maybe I’ve gone soft.

Grade: C

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Miami Dolphins re-sign WR Brian Hartline

Brian Hartline had a 1000 yard breakout season last year, catching 74 passes for 1083 yards, after combining for 109 catches for 1670 yards in his first 3 years in the league after going in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. However, those numbers are deceiving. First, he only scored just once all season. Second, he was incredibly inconsistent. Close to a quarter of his production game in one game against Arizona, where he caught 12 passes for 253 yards and his only score on the season. Two weeks later, against St. Louis, he wasn’t even targeted. He had 5 games with 2 or fewer catches.

He was really only a 1000 yard receiver by default given how thin the Dolphins were at receiver. He was far and away better than the rest of their receivers, but that’s not saying much. He was heavily targeted, 118 times, and only 6 receivers were targeted more often and had fewer yards. He also provides very little after the catch, 3.4 yards per catch, and broke just 2 tackles all season. He is sure handed and had one of the league’s better catch to drop ratios, but all in all, he was just ProFootballFocus’ 37th rated receiver last year, not even taking into account his inconsistency.

The Dolphins are rightfully looking to spend big money on a #1 receiver to play opposite Hartline, allowing Hartline to serve as a solid, sure handed #2 opposite him. Given that and his one year of good production, 5 years, 30.775 million with 12.5 million guaranteed is a bit of an overpay (that’s low end #1 receiver money, considering Steve Johnson got 5 years, 36.25 million with 18.05 million guaranteed last off-season), but the Dolphins needed to bring back young Ryan Tannehill’s favorite receiver and they have some cap room to play with, so I don’t hate the move.

Grade: B

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Kansas City Chiefs cut OT Eric Winston

I don’t normally talk about teams cutting players, but this one is a big deal. Just two day after franchising left tackle Branden Albert, the Chiefs have cut right tackle Eric Winston. The first thing this means is that the Chiefs are almost definitely locked into one of two offensive tackles, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher, #1 overall.

Cutting Eric Winston doesn’t save them much on the cap (700K) and it’s not like they were pressed for cap room anyway. Winston is more than a fine player and you don’t cut a player like that unless you desperately need the cap room or you have access to someone who can easily replace him. The Chiefs don’t seem to have anyone like that inside the organization, after 2012 3rd round pick Donald Stephenson was awful in limited action last season, so the obvious assumption is that they are planning on taking one through the draft. Of course, that’s assuming the Chiefs are being logical.

I don’t see this move as being logical at all. I agree that Luke Joeckel is the top player in this draft class and, though some in the know do feel Eric Fisher is the better player, it’s much more likely that Joeckel is the Chiefs’ guy. However, Joeckel is not far and away better than every other prospect in this draft class. He’s not someone you have to have so much that you create a need for him by cutting a very good player. Sharrif Floyd, DeMarcus Milliner, and Star Lotulelei are all “inferior” prospects by most people’s belief, but they would all have helped the Chiefs much more than Joeckel and they’re all very good prospects.

Dion Jordan is a very talented player. If the Chiefs graded him out as the top player in this draft class, should they have cut either Tamba Hali or Justin Houston to make room for him? Of course not. Those are two of the better bookend pass rushers in the NFL. The same could be said about Albert and Winston: two of the better bookend tackles in the NFL last year, allowing 5 sacks between them last year and grading out as ProFootballFocus’ 17th and 9th rated left and right tackles respectively. Albert would have been higher if he hadn’t missed 4 ½ games with injury. In 2011, when he played all 16 games, he was 12th among left tackles.

Conversely, they had a major need on the defensive line for someone like Shariff Floyd or Star Lotulelei, even after restructuring the contract of Tyson Jackson. Among Chief defensive linemen, only free agent Glenn Dorsey graded out positively last season and Jackson, while not awful, was the worst of the bunch. He can anchor against the run, but should really be taken out in sub packages. They don’t have an obvious starter opposite him either.

If they had felt DeMarcus Milliner was this draft’s top player after Joeckel, he would have made a lot of sense for them from a needs stand point as well. You need three corners in today’s NFL and with Brandon Flowers and Javier Arenas, the Chiefs really only have two. Getting rid of Winston, moving Albert to right tackle, and drafting Luke Joeckel doesn’t provide nearly as much value. Trading down, if possible, would have been ideal, as perhaps a team like Philadelphia would have surrendered a 2nd round pick to move up to grab Joeckel, allowing them to recoup the pick they lost in the Alex Smith trade.

And if you were going to let one of Albert or Winston go, why not Albert? Winston was the cheaper of the two players and you save a lot more cap space by not franchising Albert than by cutting Eric Winston, around 9 million assuming the Chiefs don’t sign Albert long term. Winston is also a more natural right tackle than Albert, who made 77 starts as a pro on the blindside and none on the right side. As far as I can tell, Albert also never made a start at right tackle at Virginia either, where he was primarily a left guard.

Right tackle may be the “easier” of the two tackle positions, but you can’t just move someone there and expect him to play at the same high level he was playing at on the left side. You also can’t expect him to be happy about the move and he’s made it known, for good reason, that he does not want to change positions. That’s not a good thing. There is also a little bit more of an injury concern with Albert than Winston, who hasn’t missed a game since his 2006 rookie season.

There’s always the possibility that the Chiefs leave Albert at left tackle, start Joeckel at right, and then part ways with Albert at the end of next season, moving Joeckel to the blindside, but why pick Albert over Winston if you’re going to part ways with him after one more season? This whole situation doesn’t make sense. The Chiefs have a lot of talent and I like the move to acquire Alex Smith, who, though unspectacular, is a massive upgrade over Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel and will let their talent shine through. However, they really seem to be bungling this offensive line situation. Winston will make his next team very happy. A return to Houston would make a lot of sense for both parties.

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Kansas City Chiefs re-sign WR Dwayne Bowe

I don’t have a strong opinion on this move. It was a buyer’s market at wide receiver this off-season, but your own guy is always more valuable to you than anyone else. Bowe will be learning a new offensive system and playing with a new quarterback this year in Kansas City with Andy Reid and Alex Smith coming in, but Smith is arguably the best quarterback he’s ever had (not a huge compliment to Smith) and he’s by far the Chiefs’ best receiver.

The Chiefs got Bowe for 5 years, 50 million with 24 million guaranteed, all less than Vincent Jackson got last off-season at a similar age. Bowe has more catches, yards, and touchdowns than Jackson did when he hit free agency last off-season and he did so despite never having a consistent quarterback. There are concerns about his attitude and drops, but I like the Chiefs re-signing Bowe more than I liked the Buccaneers signing Vincent Jackson. Of course, Jackson went on to have the best season of his career in Tampa Bay this last season, but still this is a solid move by the Chiefs. They aren’t getting a huge bargain on him or anything, but he’s their only receiver of note and they would have had trouble replacing him if they needed to.

Bowe’s deal also allowed the Chiefs to franchise Branden Albert, which I think was the right move. As talented as Luke Joeckel is, you’re, at best, making a lateral move drafting him #1 overall and letting Albert go because Albert is already a solid left tackle. While Joeckel would have been cheaper and younger, he would have been less of a sure thing and now they have the 1st overall pick freed up to use on whoever they want. They may end up taking a “lesser” prospect than Joeckel, but even if they take someone like Sharrif Floyd who actually fills a massive need, they’ll still be getting a very good player.

This also allows them to trade down with someone like Philadelphia if possible, which could allow them to get back the 2nd round pick they lost in the Alex Smith deal, which will make that move a little bit better. I haven’t loved every single one of the Chiefs’ moves this off-season, but at least it seems like they have a plan. They weren’t a typical 2-14 team last year. They have a lot of talent. Andy Reid and Alex Smith might be “retreads” but they’ll stabilize the Head Coach and quarterback spots and allow the rest of their talent to shine. Now that they’ve brought back Bowe and Albert, two key parts of that talent, for next season, they could definitely make the playoffs in a very weak AFC with a last place schedule in an easy division.

Grade: B

How this will affect the draft: Just when it seemed like we could start to all agree on the #1 pick and that Luke Joeckel would be the guy, Branden Albert is returning to Kansas City. It doesn’t rule Joeckel out as the #1 pick (more on that in a bit) as he is close to the consensus top talent in this draft class, but he’s hardly the consensus #1 pick he once looked like. As far as I see it, there are 4 candidates for the top pick. Some people will argue Chance Warmack and Eric Fisher in there as well, but I highly doubt a guard would go #1 and Fisher, while he has some supporters who believe he is this draft class’ top left tackle, is much less likely to go there than Joeckel. Let’s look at the options.

OT Luke Joeckel: I’ll start with him, since I already mentioned him. Andy Reid believes in building in the trenches, taking an offensive and defensive lineman with his 1st pick in 8 of his last 10 drafts. Albert has yet to even sign the one-year tender and probably won’t until the summer and he’s certainly not signed long term. The Chiefs can rescind the tender after draft day if they choose to and Albert hasn’t signed by then (it’s unlikely he does).

It’s possible they just tagged him to give themselves more time to evaluate the top level talent in this draft class and that if Joeckel turns out to be that guy, they’ll let him go either by rescinding the tender or trading him. They could have also tagged him with the intention of trading him fairly immediately. They could also have tagged him because they wanted him back for another year, but didn’t want to commit to him long term because of his back. They could have also tagged him with the intention of signing him long term to play either right tackle or another position (unlikely, but still). They could have tagged him just because they thought he was worth the tag and if they think Joeckel is worth the 1st overall pick they’ll make it work. He’s not ruled out.

At the end of the day, however, offensive line is not an issue for them. Albert and right tackle Eric Winston were both above average starters at their respective positions last season and are too expensive to be moved inside to guard. Joeckel, meanwhile, will be too high of a draft pick to move to guard. Right guard is already stabilized with Jon Asamoah, as is center with Rodney Hudson. Jeff Allen struggled at left guard last year as a rookie, but he was a 2nd round pick and deserves another shot. They have a very solid starting 5 on the line right now. I don’t see how Joeckel fits if Albert isn’t traded by draft day unless they plan on rescinding the tender. That’s not unheard of. The Seahawks did so in 2009 with LeRoy Hill after taking Aaron Curry, but they still re-signed Hill a few days later to a long term deal. For now, however, I don’t think Luke Joeckel is the most likely option at #1 for the Chiefs.

CB DeMarcus Milliner: Right now, I think he’s a long shot, but he is in the conversation. A cornerback has never gone #1 overall and one hasn’t even gone in the top-4 since 1997. Milliner is talented, but he’s hardly the once in a generational prospect you’d expect to break that trend. However, because of the nature of this draft, it could happen just because he does happen to fill a need at #1 for the Chiefs and could arguably grade out as the best available or one of the best available.

DL Star Lotulelei: This is, of course, pending his heart checking out at his Pro Day. Lotulelei wasn’t diagnosed with a heart issue at The Combine. He just failed his physical and was told to get further testing. It’s very possible his heart issue was caused by dehydration and not a chronic condition or anything that will hinder him in the pros. However, it’s possible that, heart issue or no heart issue, he’s been passed by…

DL Sharrif Floyd: Floyd was a surprise declare and teams weren’t very familiar with him when he first came out, but after they’ve had 2 months to watch tape on him, it seems they’ve all come to the same conclusion: that he’ll be a top-5 pick. Because of that and because he’d fill a massive need for the Chiefs, he’s an obvious candidate for the #1 pick. Andy Reid loves his linemen.

The only concern with Floyd is some feel he’s a better fit in a 3-4 than a 4-3, though he did play both at Florida. I think he’s more Marcell Dareus. Some think he’s more Glenn Dorsey. However, while Lotulelei could be the pick if his medical is clean, I think there’s a much greater chance that, on draft day, Floyd is their highest rated defensive lineman and the #1 overall pick for the Chiefs, which is why that’s where he’ll be in my next mock draft, barring any more surprises.

The other option and probably the Chiefs’ preference is to trade down with someone like Philadelphia, as I mentioned. If I were them, I’d throw the trade value chart out the window to do so because the difference between the 1st pick and the 4th pick is barely anything for the Chiefs, unless they happen to love one prospect. I’d move down for a 2nd round pick, whereas the chart says to take nothing less than the 12th pick. The key is to try to make Philadelphia think Joeckel won’t still be there at 4, which actually could happen since Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Oakland all have solid or better left tackles. This is also contingent on Philadelphia not seeing Eric Fisher as a comparable or better left tackle. We’ll see what happens.

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