Free agency: Bargains and busts

  • Updated: March 9, 2013 - 5:23 PM

Unlike the NBA, the NFL and its teams frown on their best players skipping from town to town while in the prime of their careers. So it’s worth understanding that the best players slated for this year’s free agency already have been taken off the market through franchise tags and multi-year deals in advance of Tuesday’s kickoff.

What’s left are a few gems and a whole lot of question marks, red flags and older name players well past their prime. Judging any deal obviously depends on the compensation involved. But as a rule of thumb, here is one person’s potential pitfalls to avoid and seven players to keep an eye on:

The rules in 2013

Over 28 in 2013? Move along, pal

The typical NFL player declines too rapidly and sometimes without warning. Signing older players can saddle a salary cap with too much “dead money” that’s still on the books while the player is out of the league. Sorry Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Sebastian Vollmer, Osi Umenyiora, Dwight Freeney, Charles Woodson, Ronde Barber and Brian Urlacher, to name a few.

Running backs? No thanks

Unless Adrian Peterson hits the market, skip running backs with high mileage. There are too many good, young, cheap models available to go spending money on a used one. Sorry Ahmad Bradshaw, Reggie Bush, Felix Jones, Steven Jackson and slippery little LaRod Stephens-Howling.

Injuries? No way, no how

A doctor can clear a guy, but if the guy’s body is breaking down, it’s breaking down. Jake Long is 28 and might be the best left tackle of his generation. But are you willing to pay more than $10 million a year to a man who might be heading down the same path that Tony Boselli traveled? Sorry Jake, Brent Grimes, Danny Amendola, Fred Davis and Kenny Phillips.

Former first-rounders? Beware

Watch out for household names. If a former first-round draft pick is on this list in his 20s, he’s either a major injury risk, unreliable or he’s been a flop for the past four years. Take on a resurrection project only when it’s financially easy to bail when it fails. Sorry Sedrick Ellis, Glenn Dorsey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Seven to select

Keenan Lewis, CB, Steelers

Pittsburgh not only stands to lose the best receiver and overall player available (Mike Wallace), it’s also in danger of losing the best cornerback. He’s a big, confident corner on the rise. And he’s only 26.

Connor Barwin, OLB, Texans

His sack total dipped from 11.5 in 2011 to three last year. But he played 94 percent of Houston’s defensive snaps. He also switched positions during the season. A target for 3-4 teams. He’s also only 26.

Jared Cook, TE, Titans

A 6-4, 235-pounder with the athleticism of a big receiver. He had a career-high four TDs last year and doesn’t turn 26 until April. Could become a star in a better offense with a better quarterback.

Rey Maualuga, MLB, Bengals

In a market virtually devoid of quality inside linebackers stands a special 6-1, 254-pounder with 59 starts at age 26.

Cliff Avril, DE, Lions

He’s not the most complete player, but he’s the kind of good, young pass rusher that rarely hits the open market. At 26, he also has plenty of time to become a great pass rusher..

Louis Vasquez, RG, Chargers

He turns only 26 in April. A 6-4, 330-pounder with 54 starts in 54 games.

Sean Smith, CB, Dolphins

He’s not the most consistent player, but he’s 25 years old and plays cornerback at 6-3, 218 pounds.

MARK CRAIG

  • related content

  • NFL free agency: Spending big often fails

    Sunday March 10, 2013

    Gambling on big-money free agents has been anything but a sure thing over the years, particularly when it comes to wide receivers .

  • Reggie Bush

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston 3 Bottom 5th Inning
Baltimore 1
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 6th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Toronto 3 Bottom 6th Inning
NY Yankees 5
Washington 3 Top 6th Inning
Miami 2
Chicago WSox 2 Top 5th Inning
Tampa Bay 3
NY Mets 0 Top 5th Inning
Atlanta 0
Cleveland 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Minnesota 0
Detroit 4 Bottom 2nd Inning
Kansas City 0
Seattle 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Houston 1
Arizona 1 Top 3rd Inning
Colorado 0
Cincinnati 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
St. Louis 2
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 8:35 PM
Oakland - J. Lester
Texas - L. Bonilla 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
San Francisco - T. Hudson 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 0 2nd Qtr 11:34
So Florida 14
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 9:00 PM
Real Salt Lake
Toronto 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close