While the big names will rule the day in free agency, don’t ignore those underrated players who provide specific attributes at bargain prices. Every successful team will have a few such players, and those players can turn around and cash in big if their impact is felt enough. Here are 10 players who could be among the best bargains in 2014. Continue Reading
NFL free agency officially opens March 11, and it will no doubt be a mad scramble as teams attempt to fill holes across their rosters. Teams should be cautious, though, as risks lurk across the market.
Here are 10 players (five on offense, five on defense) who may struggle to live up to lofty contracts this offseason.
Inside and outside, the face of the modern linebacker has changed. Inside guys were once able to get by on a primary skill — either an ability to move up against the run, or cover tight ends and slot receivers in a rudimentary fashion. But now, the best interior linebackers are 360-degree players, required to take on more responsibility with modern passing games expanding.
And outside linebackers, usually the specialists depending on scheme, also have had to think outside the box. Weakside and strongside linebackers in a traditional 4-3 defense are dinosaurs unless they can move out in space in nickel and dime defenses. And those edge rushers in 3-4 fronts must also be able to man up against guards and tackles when playing end roles in hybrid fronts.
And with that in mind, the list of top linebackers ready for 2014 free agency on March 11 presents a mixed bag. With precious few exceptions, those left on the market will be old-school specialists, which means that they won’t ideally be starters. However, the top inside linebacker should be a major priority for just about any team that can get him. Continue Reading
Stopping the league’s onslaught of offense has become a real headache for just about every team outside of Seattle. Accomplishing the task, with teams spreading the field in three-, four- and even five-wide sets, requires a deep secondary.
Both the cornerback and safety markets are chock-full of talent headed into free agency. Who stands out?
Running back Tre Mason had been up on Podium C inside Lucas Oil Stadium’s media workroom for several minutes — five, maybe 10; time blends together at the combine — before anyone managed to ask him about his former Auburn teammate, offensive tackle Greg Robinson. As Mason turned to answer, the set of televisions hanging from the ceiling caught his eye. There, in a bit of timing so serendipitous it bordered on looking staged, the NFL Network had started rolling highlights from Robinson’s combine workout.
Mason paused to watch for a second. One more time, Robinson was out in front of him.
The 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year was quite familiar with the sight. Not every one of Mason’s 317 carries, nor all of his 1,816 yards came running behind the hulking Robinson. It only felt that way.
“He demolished people,” Mason said. “He just straight manhandled [defenders]. As soon as the ball was hiked, he was five yards down the field with a guy in his hands.”
Some writers and broadcasters may demean the scouting combine as the “underwear Olympics,” insisting that you can’t tell much from watching a bunch of guys run around against no competition on a quiet field in Indianapolis. It’s a cute conceit, but it’s not true at all — to a greater or lesser degree, every NFL franchise takes the combine very seriously. It’s a place to get a good bead on how that prospect you love will show up in a one-on-one interview, or how he’s recovered from that injury, or how he’ll try to explain away that mysterious escapade with the law.
Most importantly, it’s a place and time where players can show that there are aspects to their games that aren’t quite so evident on tape, for a multitude of reasons. And because of the combine’s true importance, mock drafts generally take on a different look once it’s done. And with the 2014 combine in the books, here’s how things have changed for the 32 prospects I think the NFL will take in the first round of the upcoming draft. Continue Reading
The New Orleans Saints suddenly find themselves in the market for a pass-catching running back.
The Saints have decided to cut Darren Sproles, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported, just one day after rumors circulated that Sproles might be on the trade block along with Lance Moore and Pierre Thomas. Moore tweeted a farewell to Saints fans earlier Friday, with his own release imminent.
Sproles averaged 77.3 receptions over his three seasons with the Saints. The one-time Charger also rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored a total of 21 touchdowns in that span. Along the way, he became a terrific safety valve in the passing game for Drew Brees and remained a handful for opposing defenses.
Prior to re-signing quarterback Chade Henne on Friday, the Jaguars were considered one of the teams who might target a signal-caller at the top of the 2014 NFL Draft. Now sources within the NFL reportedly say that will not be the case.
Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union passed along the news.
League source on #Jaguars: “With Henne back, I don’t expect them to take QB until 2nd round and maybe not until 3rd or 4th round.”
— Ryan O’Halloran (@ryanohalloran) March 7, 2014
Two words to sum up the scouting report on 2014 draft prospect Aaron Donald: “Yea, but …”
As in, “Yea, he dominated in college, but is he big enough for the NFL?” Or “Yea, the guy is incredibly athletic for a defensive lineman, but where are we going to play him?”
The need for such hesitation stems entirely from Donald’s size. At 285 pounds and just shy of 6-foot-1, he’s something of a physical misfit when it comes to playing up front in the NFL. There will be scouts who argue the Donald is nothing more than an undersized three-technique tackle, others who want to scrap him from the plans if their teams runs a 3-4 because of how off the map his measurements would be in that system.
Donald’s former positional coach at Pittsburgh, Inoke Breckterfield, has a message for those naysayers: Stop worrying.
NFL teams can begin discussing contracts with pending free agents Saturday during the legal tampering period ahead of the official start of free agency on Tuesday. However, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett doesn’t want to wait.
Dockett took to Twitter to welcome and congratulate his “new teammate” Branden Albert to the Cardinals. Dockett quickly deleted the tweet, but thanks to the wonderful powers of technology the tweet did not completely disappear.
— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) March 7, 2014
Former Missouri Tigers standout Michael Sam has been thrust into the media spotlight after coming out as gay last month. That revelation has opened the door to several opportunities, many of which allow him to share his story to people across the nation.
While Sam has embraced that role, his full attention right now is on NFL workouts as he prepares for the 2014 NFL draft.
One of the invitations that Sam received was for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but he politely passed on the offer.
“We respectfully declined,” Sam’s advisor, Howard Bragman, told USA Today. “As much fun as I would have had and he would have had going, it sends the wrong message. If he gets on a team and plays well, he’ll probably be invited next year. I don’t want people to think that he’s interested in anything other than getting ready for the draft.”