Free Agency Period Begins

Steve O Speak

Typically when the NFL Free Agency period begins (aka one of the top 5 days of the year), there is a mad dash for the top talent available, and at least one big name will have already inked their name on a new contract. This year was a bit different, in the opening hours of free agency we’ve seen only one noteable player change teams, WR Nate Burleson who is now heading to the Lions. Even still there have been some interesting developments that deserve a mention from the last 24 hours.

Lions Sign Burleson:  Burleson was one of the top unrestricted free agent wide receivers available, but that doesn’t exactly mean he is worth $25 million over 5 years. Burleson has had just one productive season in the last 5 (and one semi-productive season as well), and has dealt with some serious injuries. What’s even more interesting is Burleson was widely considered a free agent ‘bust’ in Seattle, yet somehow can still get $25 million out of the Lions. Sure Burleson is an ‘upgrade’ to the Lions receiving corps, but who isn’t? Burleson isn’t a true number 2 and now the Lions owe quite a bit of money to Dennis Northcutt, Bryant Johnson and Burleson to not take any pressure off number one wideout Calvin Johnson. The Lions probably could have spent half of that to sign someone like Chris Chambers or Antwan Randle El, either one would have offered just as much chance of being a ‘solid’ number 2 without the high price tag or the injury history.

Jets Trade for Cromartie:  Antonio Cromartie was considered one of the league’s top corners just two seasons ago. Since then there have been some issues about work ethic and teams have found some holes in his game. I would expect Cromartie to get back to elite status this season for a number of reasons. First off, AC couldn’t be in a better situation. Now he will play opposite from the best corner back in the league in Darrelle Revis, Cromartie will no longer be forced to shadow other teams’ top wide receivers. The Jets aggressive defense should also allow Cromartie to take advantage of a couple of mistakes this season, and if anyone can get Cromartie to play to his full potential it is Rex Ryan. In addition to being in a great situation, Cromartie will be a free agent after next season, giving him plenty of incentive to get back to All-Pro form. For the young and talented Cromartie, the Jets only had to give up a conditional 2011 3rd round pick. Now the pick can move up to a 2nd round pick based on benchmarks hit by Cromartie and the Jets, but if so that will mean its a late 2nd rounder. To get a player of Cromartie’s caliber for just a late future 2nd round pick is a huge steal for New York. If Mark Sanchez can begin to start playing up to his ‘franchise quarterback’ label, the Jets should be one of the AFC favorites next season.

Redskins Revamp Roster, Potentially Not Big Players In The Market:  The Washington Redskins cut ties with 10 players yesterday and resigned two as free agency began. Notable among the cuts we back-up quarterback Todd Collins, WR Antwan Randle El, OG Randy Thomas, RBs Rock Cartwright and Ladell Betts, CB Fred Smoot, and DT Cornelius Griffin. Outside of Griffin, none of those cuts could be considered much of a surprise. Thomas and Betts have been injured far to often, Smoot and Randle El were way too pricey for their production, and Cartwright and Collins were luxury items who weren’t gonna cut it in the new Redskins system under Shannahan. Griffin though has been a good player for the Skins, but given his age and the likely switch to the 3-4, he was expendable.

The Redskins did resign their top unrestricted free agent Center Casey Rabach to a three-year deal. Rabach is starting to show is age, but its not a blockbuster deal by any means. Also there wasn’t much of an upgrade in way of free agency this season, and not a particularly strong draft class for centers, leaving the Skins with few options. Washington also resigned “Mr. Do Everything” Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander, who has seen time on special teams, jumbo formations, at defensive end, and defensive tackle will now also work as a rush linebacker in the 3-4. His athleticism, work ethic and versatility make him a valuable player for the Redskins and a solid investment for 3 years.

Despite the flurry of moves yesterday the biggest news coming out of Redskins Park might be the rumor that the Redskins won’t be going after any of the top name free agents. This rumor flies in the face of not only what everyone expects in Washington, but what we have heard so far this offseason, with the Redskins attached to every big name free agent. Now I applaud some fiscal responsibility, the list of cuts and the 4-12 record show what happens when you don’t use your money wisely, but it also worries me. If it is true that would take them out of the running for the top two free agents, Julius Peppers (who I like but don’t love for the Skins) and Karlos Dansby (who I absolutely love and think is a tremendous player) and puts them in the market for 2nd tier free agents. Now you can find some excellent values in the 2nd tier of the market, but I’m worried about the first name the Skins are linked to.

Offensive tackle Chad Clifton will be visiting Redskins Park today, and likely could end up leaving wearing Burgundy and Gold. Clifton might be the top unrestricted tackle on the market, and the Redskins do have a serious need there. But there should be a number of red flags for Redskin fans (and of course the team themselves). The first being Clifton’s age, he will be 34 next season and the last couple early 30’s offensive linemen the Redskins have relied on have not turned out too well. John Jansen, Randy Thomas, and Chris Samuels all saw their career’s collapse quickly do to injury and age, going back into that well is not the solution to the Redskins offensive lineman woes. Clifton already has had some injury issues and it is hard to believe that he could be effective for any contract longer than 2 years. Also, should we really be outbidding the Packers for Chad Clifton? The Packers were one of the few teams that had an offensive line worse than the Redskins last season, and while Clifton might have been the only good player on that offensive line, doesn’t he mean more to them then he would to us? Can we really say that paying Clifton more than the Packers is fiscal responsibility? The Packers are a playoff caliber team, that has a greater need for a quality tackle to help them get back to the postseason. Also, unlike the Redskins, they pick in the mid 20’s in the draft and won’t be able to get one of the top offensive tackles to replace him. The biggest red flag for Redskins fans, is what this will mean for the rest of their offseason, particularly the draft.

The Redskins will now almost assuredly draft their ‘franchise’ quarterback with the 4th overall pick, ignoring the needs at offensive tackle or trading back for additional draft picks to fill multiple positions. Rookie quarterback (if they play at all) aren’t successful their first season with very few exceptions, and only a handful more become successes in year two. It really isn’t until the third or fourth year until you will know whether a quarterback will make it or not in this league, especially when we are talking about a rebuilding team like the Redskins. So basically the Redskins will ignore the chance to fill multiple holes with the value of their 4th overall pick, and draft a player who won’t help them succeed these next two seasons, which will be the only two years that you can feel confident in your blindside protection.

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