More teams are cutting ties with good veteran players than in any previous year in 2013. Sure, the very first free agency ever probably had the biggest free agent ever as well until last year when Reggie White – AKA The Minister of Defense – was let walk. Last year of course it was Peyton Manning along with Super Mario but just take a gander at some of the free agents out there this year:
Charles Woodson, CB/S, Green Bay Packers; Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers; Ed Reed, FS, Baltimore Ravens; Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins; Dwight Freeney, DE/OLB, Indianapolis Colts; even the Philadelphia Eagles, who have Nick Foles under contract, have said they’d consider a first or second round pick for him in a trade, and the New York Jets apparently want to be rid of Darrelle Revis and his salary.
Just imagine the team you could have with all these guys. Yeah, you couldn’t afford them all, but every last one, save Nick Foles, is either headed for Canton or should be there if they maintain their level of play (Revis, Long). Foles is too young and inexperienced to pass judgement yet there, but the others are locks for the Hall. Woodson, Reed, and Freeney are for sure. Long probably is if he can stay healthy. Same for Revis.
These guys weren’t all let go due to sinking performance. Jake Long, for instance, has battled a torn chest muscle but played through a fair amount of it and was even in the top-12 left tackles WITH the injury. Not-so-new Head Coach, Joe Philbin in Miami, prefers his linemen a bit lighter and much more athletic – like their 2nd-round pick last year, RT Jonathan Martin. Martin struggled some, so the team doesn’t have quite as much leverage in contract talks with Long as they thought they might. His price tag may put him in the free agent pool.
The so-called “smart money” would be that most of these players will go to contenders or teams on the rise who have salary cap room. That would leave out the Carolina Panthers with their cap woes, but boy, wouldn’t it be nice to have an Ed Reed at FS for a year or two? Or Charles Woodson replacing Chris Gamble, who may be a cap casualty himself? Or Dwight Freeney opposite Charles Johnson?
Panthers’ fans can keep dreaming, however, as they’ll be too pricey. But it may be a blessing in disguise since the Panthers have an overall young team and are developing talent the right way – through the draft – and with the rookie wage scale, they get the added bonus of paying a “fair price” for raw college kids that may or may not make it in the NFL.
Follow these names through free agency and make note of where they land. Free agency doesn’t officially begin until March, so we’ve got a couple of weeks to listen and consider the arguments. Remember though that signing a high-priced and talented free agent is no guarantee.
Ask the Buffalo Bills how much Super Mario helped them last year…with a $100 million long-term contract.
Stay tuned as I try to determine where some of these stars may wind up. As I see it, it’s a function of need, cap space, age of the player and familiarity with the system or the people at the new organization – NOT “just” money.