With NFL’s Free Agency period beginning on March 13th, this is probably a good time to quickly review some of the aspects of Free Agency and what players might be headed to “greener pastures” in 2012.
As per the new CBA the following definition remains in effect for UFA’s.
Section 1. Unrestricted Free Agents:
(a) Subject to the provisions of Section 5 below and of Article 10, any player with four or more Accrued Seasons shall, at the expiration of his Player Contract, become an Unrestricted Free Agent. Such player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with such player, without penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, Draft Choice Compensation between Clubs or First Refusal Rights of any kind, subject to the signing period set forth below.
And for further definitive explanation, here is Accrued Season.
Section 1. Accrued Seasons Calculation:
(a) For the purposes of calculating Accrued Seasons under this Agreement, a player shall receive one Accrued Season for each season during which he was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games, but which, irrespective of the player’s pay status, shall not include games for which the player was on: (i) the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, (ii) the Reserve PUP List as a result of a nonfootball injury, or (iii) a Club’s Practice Squad.
Very little changed as a result of last season’s lockout and subsequent negotiations regarding Unrestricted Free Agency. One thing that could have had a major effect on how teams are built and stay in line with the philosophy of drafting and developing young players would have been to move the start of Free Agency behind the College Draft.
Clubs could then fill areas of need through the annual selection process and then target one or two significant Free Agent acquisitions afterward. Long time “capologists” have felt this to be the number one way to help curb out of control or overspending in this market. The money would still be available for the veteran players, but Personnel Departments might make wiser decisions already knowing where the draft has filled in their roster.
But that rather logical aspect didn’t happen and we have the same procedural Free Agent process for the next 10 years.
So where should most clubs point their attention?
QB – The two big names will be resigned by their own clubs; the Saints’ Drew Brees and the 49er’s Alex Smith. The talk is where Packer backup Matt Flynn will land after his one game “wunder performance” against Detroit in Week 16. As is with everything in the NFL, hype has put Flynn at the top of the affordable lists. Recall the last similar situation with Kansas City QB Matt Cassel, the “can’t miss” backup to Tom Brady in New England.
WR- In today’s NFL Offensive Passing Efficiency is “key” to consistently winning. Those players that bring you a “bang for the buck” with each reception are paramount to a successful attack. New Orleans’ Marques Colston is at the top of the list. At 6’4” 225 lbs, Colston is a matchup monster. There are those with bigger statistical numbers, but I love his consistency and physical presence. San Diego’s Vincent Jackson is right there with him for me as well.
OT – Rounding a sound passing attack is the importance of protection and limiting pressure/sacks on your quarterback. A savvy and sound veteran Offensive Tackle can do just that. The list is heavy with numbers, thin with impact talent. Two stick out with flash production tempered by injury questions. Yet you have to like their youth and physical makeup – Buffalo’s Demetrius Bell and San Diego’s Jared Gaither. I tend to lean towards the athletic Bell over the massive Gaither.
CB – Defensive Pass Efficiency correlates 4th in overall predictivity of victory. I saw what the addition of a “shut down” corner can give your defense firsthand in Champ Bailey. Kansas City’s Brandon Carr is not a “pick machine” (8 over 4 years) but his size and physicalness tend to make opponent’s WR threats disappear. Hard to imagine the defensive minded Romeo Crennel letting this one leave.
DE – Finally, it’s the heat and pressure that gets the QB “out of the kitchen” and no one has brought it better than Houston’s DE/LB Mario Williams. Once thought of as “Charley’s mistake”, Williams has tallied 53 sacks in his career, but no double digits since 12 in 2008. At 6’6” 290 lbs, he can push/press a pocket and just make it hard to throw over him.
If you’re gonna spend the money, you better focus on the PASS (both sides).