Five Impact Free AgentsBy Alex H.
With free agency opening in 26 days, GMs, coaches, and front office personnel are busy shuffling papers, amending game plans, working over the draft, and looking for the next edge that will take their team to the Super Bowl.
For some, the task is that much tougher. Just ask the Baltimore Ravens who have some significant free agents to lockdown. Or ask Kansas City, a team about to embark on the Andy Reid trail. Or how about Reid’s old team, Philadelphia, looking to Chip Kelly to get the motor running once again.
For all teams though, a successful free agency is a must. Without it, even more importance is placed on the draft (coming in April) and on trading, and everybody knows it’s very difficult to get like-for-like value from a trade.
Here then are five free agents that will be on every GM’s list, at least for a cursory glance.
Joe Flacco (Quarterback)
The going consensus is that Flacco will re-sign with Baltimore, earning some big bucks in the process. At least that was the going consensus. Whispers are starting to emerge that maybe the Ravens don’t want to fork out the cash that Flacco – a Super Bowl MVP – believes he’s due. Questions still arise as to the fifth year quarterback’s abilities and his ‘elite’ status, and some believe the Ravens should not invest the money. Scrap that idea. With the quarterback pool (free agents and incoming draftees) so shallow, Baltimore will take the financial hit and resign Flacco.
Ed Reed (Safety)
On the other side of the football, Baltimore faces the possibility of losing safety Ed Reed. With Ray Lewis retiring, Reed would become the symbolic leader of the side (if Flacco doesn’t) and with three interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and 49 tackles in the regular season this year, the 11-year veteran proved he still has it. However, at 34-years-old, the Ravens will not want to commit big money to him. That opens the door for the likes of New England to steal the former Miami Hurricane.
Dashon Goldson (Safety)
Reed’s Super Bowl counterpart will also be open to negotiations next month. Dashon Goldson had three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 53 tackles this past season, helping the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. As a safety, Goldson may not be offered the money he wants, but the Niners would do well to sign the sixth-year man, as would a whole host of NFL teams.
Wes Welker (Wide Receiver)
Undrafted out of college, Welker has proven his worth to the New England Patriots (80 yards per game over six years is proving yourself) but questions remain as to whether Belichick and Co. will keep the diminutive receiver. His role was uncertain coming into this season, but with injuries stifling the team, he once again came through. If New England drops the ball on this one, expect plenty of offers to come Welker’s way, and not just from the cellar dwellers.
Anthony Spencer (Linebacker)
Spencer had a career best 11 sacks this past season, just one-half behind the much more high-profile DeMarcus Ware. Add to that 55 tackles and 40 assisted tackles and you have a player that put in a productive season and one that can help out a lot of teams. The Cowboys have a habit of letting defensemen go though, so Spencer may well be plying his trade elsewhere come September, especially as Dallas will have salary cap issues if they do re-sign him.
Mike Wallace (Wide Receiver): Wallace didn’t have the greatest of seasons and he remains a bit of a risky pick, but there’s no doubting four-year man can be valuable to somebody, and that includes Pittsburgh.
Paul Kruger (Linebacker): Another Baltimore free agent that could be lost if Flacco is paid big, Kruger will be closely watched by a lot of teams out there.
Felix Jones (Running Back): Jones was the featured back in Dallas before DeMarco Murray took over that role. He made for a more than adequate injury replacement when Murray went down. Jones could be an asset to a side willing to use him properly.
Brian Urlacher (Linebacker): After 13 seasons and a poor outing last year, some might consider it time for Urlacher to call it a day. That’s unlikely. It’s also unlikely Urlacher will sign anywhere but Chicago this offseason.
Jason Campbell (Quarterback): With quarterbacks scarce this year, Campbell may get one last chance to prove he belongs in the NFL. Most likely it will come in a back-up role, but the door’s not shut on the 2005 Sugar Bowl MVP just yet.