I think it’s safe to say we are now out of Phase II and about to enter Phase III or free agency. At this stage most teams are comfortable with their rosters and most names remaining available have some sort of negative attached to them. Signings should slow down considerably as teams are pretty comfortable with their rosters and would like to get a look at players in the early stages of the offseason programs and also see how the draft plays out. Today we’ll look at a few of the names on offense who remain and tomorrow we’ll look at some of the defensive talent available.
Josh Freeman- Signing with the Vikings last season proved to be the worst thing possible, something I talked about last season in the podcasts. Highly drafted players who bust are almost always given a second chance but rarely a third chance. Freeman, when released, needed to go somewhere and just sit and learn. Instead he was forced into a lineup whose coach did not seem enamored with the idea of him starting and he looked incapable of playing in the NFL in a national game. I have to think his lack of signing at this point is either about money (he’s looking for $1-$2 million while teams are offering the minimum) or teams just want to wait until after the draft to bring him in purely as a backup. I would think if the Raiders released Terrelle Pryor and did not draft a QB he might be a reasonable addition.
John Kuhn- A bit of a folk hero in Green Bay, Kuhn is basically going to be limited in possibilities due to lack of interest in the position. According to Pro Football Focus, Kuhn was the 3rd rated Fullback in the NFL and played the 12th most snaps so there should be interest but almost every team that uses the position is likely set. Maybe he will eventually return to Green Bay or wind up with a team that drafts a rookie to play QB and they plan on running a bit more to protect the QB’s deficiencies.
Santonio Holmes- Just three years ago Holmes was one of the prized players of 2011 free agency and now he can’t find a job. Holmes’ tenure in NY has probably scared teams off from even considering him. He was one of the most disruptive players ever in a locker room, with his teammates threatening to fight him in a huddle. Holmes suffered a bad foot injury in 2012 and was in and out of the lineup in 2013 at times seeming like he could have been protecting his body from free agency. He still has talent and talented players usually get a chance but it has to be a strong locker room and QB for it to work. Carolina could take a look and hope to catch lighting in a bottle, but he would be better suited to a veteran team where he has to fight to make the squad.
Sidney Rice- Rice was a classic one season wonder where he played incredibly well in Brett Favre’s first season and parlayed that into a big contract with the Seahawks in 2011, when, like Holmes, he was a prized free agent. Rice was a bust with the Seahawks and is a tremendous injury risk with injuries in 2010, 2011, and 2013 limiting his playing time significantly. I don’t think any team in the NFL would give him a look because of that unless he signs an injury waiver for almost every part of his body. Rice qualifies for the CBA injury protection benefits so he will likely earn more money if he cant pass a physical and play than if he passes one and gets released.
Miles Austin- Another often injured player, Austin made his name when Dallas signed him to an absurd contract in 2010 in an effort to circumvent the salary cap which resulted in Dallas being penalized cap room. Austin never lived up to the deal and has also battled injuries in two of the last three seasons. If a team thinks he can be healthy I would think they would consider him as a third option on an offense. He won’t earn much and the expectations would be low, but there could be a small bit of upside on a team just in need of bodies. Teams may not make a move on him until after the draft.
Owen Daniels- Daniels is a quality second tier Tight End when he’s healthy. Last year he landed on IR and most seasons he is always going to miss one or two games. He is just one year removed from the Pro Bowl and he can provide a steady presence in the passing game. He is probably looking at a 2-3 year contract while teams may only want to consider a one year deal. If he will sign for a year there is no reason why teams like the Giants or Raiders should not sign him.
Dustin Keller- Keller gambled last year on a one year contract and lost when his knee was ripped to shreds in a meaningless game. Unlike Rice discussed above, Keller has no injury benefit that he can claim if he remains on the shelf. Depending on how he has recovered a team should look at him on a one year deal for the minimum. If healthy he would be a bargain at the minimum.
Jermichael Finley- Finley is better than both of the players listed above but his injury was of the type that I think completely scares teams off. Ive said all along I thought Finley would be out of the league and the fact that he has not signed makes me think teams are not going to take a chance.
Richie Incognito- Incognito can still play but the negativity that would surround his signing from a PR perspective could be too much to handle. I don’t know if any price right now would allow a team to bring him in. If a team is going to do this the best time might be in June when the attention paid to the league is at a minimum.
Brian De La Puente- A head scratcher that he has yet to find work. I wonder if this is a situation where he overvalued his market and saw a stream of teams pass on him for lower cost options. He should be a starter in the NFL. I don’t have a match for him unless the Saints come back but their salary cap is hard to navigate.
Harvey Dahl- I envision Dahl as a terrific backup to have on a roster that can be adequate as a starter if the situation arises. My guess is more teams will inquire about his services when the draft is completed and teams know if they need more lineman for the season.
David Stewart- Stewart has battled injuries the last two years and at 31 may be showing signs of breaking down. Still he has started 12 games in each of the last two seasons and at the least is a veteran that won’t embarrass a team. He might be a player who is grabbed in the summer to cover for an injury.
Uche Nwaneri- A starter on a bad Jaguars team Nwaneri is probably an insurance policy type player, but one who should be able to find a home at the least as a minimum salary player.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.