Re: Best LB's in FA and Draft?
Linebackers, cornerbacks flooding the market
By Pat Kirwan
NFL.com Senior Analyst
(March 7, 2006) -- Every NFL player dreams of the day he hits free agency as a healthy productive athlete ready to test the market. Things really have to be just right for even the good players to cash in on their big opportunity.
Former Saints center LeCharles Bentley, for instance, is hitting free agency at the perfect time. He's young, talented and no matter who comes on to the free-agency scene late because of a salary-cap purge, he will be the lead player to get signed to a big deal from the centers this year.
The same cannot be said at other positions. I like to keep a close eye on which positions are sitting pretty and which ones are at some risk.
The flood of players at linebacker and cornerback should make it a buyer's market at those positions. Compounding the recent release of many players at these two positions is the fact that both positions seem to be fairly strong in the draft. The laws of economics have not been as kind to the linebackers and corners as they have been to Bentley and quarterback Drew Brees. Teams will be lined up at their door throwing money at those two, but the corners and linebackers may have to go door to door themselves.
Alabama's DeMeco Ryans is part of a deep draft class at linebacker.
Two weeks ago, linebackers like Will Witherspoon, Akin Ayodele and Ben Leber, among others, were just getting ready for teams to bid for their services. Then the NFL headed off to Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine, and as 49ers head coach Mike Nolan and Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert told me, the linebackers in the draft class of 2006 has quality depth in the group. That's not a great sign for the 'backers getting ready for free agency. A.J. Hawk (Ohio State), DeMeco Ryans (Alabama), Chad Greenway (Iowa), Kamerion Wimbley (Florida State), Ernie Sims (Florida State) and Bobby Carpenter (Ohio State) all caught the eye of NFL decision-makers in Indy. If that weren't bad enough timing for the prospective free agents, things got worse this week for the men who play right behind the defensive line.
With teams all around the NFL trying to figure out how to get under the salary cap, several linebackers were released and joined the free-agent pool. In fact, LaVar Arrington paid the Redskins $4 million to leave Washington and join the free-agent market. He joined Junior Seau, Kenard Lang, Barrett Green, Brandon Short, Shawn Barber, Jamie Sharper, Na'il Diggs, Chris Claiborne and Gary Stills, all of whom didn't have to pay a dime to join the ranks of the unemployed. Witherspoon is still going to make more money than he ever did in his life, but teams around the league have a lot more choices when free agency starts up later this week than some might have expected.
As for the cornerbacks, they have to be feeling the same pinch. A few short weeks ago, Charles Woodson and Will Allen watched Nate Clements get a franchise tag and the path looked wide open to big contracts. Then the Combine produced a number of interesting prospects with size or speed or both. Jimmy Williams (Virginia Tech), Tye Hill (Clemson), Ashton Youboty (Ohio State), Kelly Jennings (Miami) and Johnathan Joseph (South Carolina) are all receiving first-round grades in some draft rooms.
Pro Bowler Ty Law has plenty of company in the free-agent pool.
Adding more big-time pressure to the top corners hoping to cash in when free agency starts is the number of colleagues released in recent days. It may be an understatement to say the corner market is flooded right now, but teams have choices and that lowers the price. Now joining Woodson and Allen are Ty Law, Sam Madison, Duane Starks, Ahmed Plummer, Reggie Howard, Dexter McCleon, Eric Warfield and Andre Dyson and there are sure to be more to follow.
Timing is everything in free agency. Teams will overpay for certain positions if the market is barren, but if it is plentiful, not even the aggressive owners and general managers will spend like there is no tomorrow.
Why must you defend everything this FO does....to the point of making your self look like a yes man.