Free agency ir­rel­e­vant as teams keep best play­ers

The Covington News - - Sports - By Dave Gold­berg

Ev­ery year when free agency starts, it seems Daniel Sny­der has the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ plane fu­eled and ready to swoop into a ri­val’s city and re­turn with a prized free agent.

Ex­cept most of those prizes turned out to be duds. That’s one rea­son the Red­skins ended last sea­son $20 mil­lion over the salary cap and have spent the last few weeks cut­ting duds and re­struc­tur­ing the con­tracts of play­ers they want to keep.

When free agency 2008 starts at mid­night tonight, few teams are in­clined to splurge, hav­ing learned there rarely are play­ers avail­able that can turn a fran­chise into an in­stant win­ner.

In fact, the op­po­site is true. As Sny­der learned the hard way, it’s self de­struc­tive to pay $35 mil­lion to a lim­ited player with a “name,” as the Red­skins did with Adam Archuleta two years ago. Archuleta went from start­ing strong safety to third string in less than a sea­son and now is in Chicago.

More savvy teams have known for a decade the best way to suc­ceed is to draft well and re-sign your own play­ers.

In­di­anapo­lis, for ex­am­ple, let a bunch of de­fen­sive starters go last year, yet got much bet­ter there. One was cor­ner­back Ja­son David, who fit Indy’s “Tampa Two” but was beaten reg­u­larly af­ter get­ting a four-year, $15.6 mil­lion con­tract from New Or­leans.

The Saints are again look­ing for a cor­ner­back.

This year, the Colts have spent the post­sea­son re-sign­ing safety Bob San­ders, the 2007 de­fen­sive player of the year, tight end Dal­las Clark

and guard Ryan Lilja.

An­other ex­am­ple are the New York Gi­ants, who a year ago signed one free agent of note, mi­dlevel line­backer Kawika Mitchell and only for a year.

How­ever, all eight Gi­ants draft picks made the team and six con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the team’s sur­pris­ing run to a Su­per Bowl vic­tory.

Mitchell is a free agent again and may not be re­signed be­cause New York has an­other line­backer in the wings, Ger­ris Wilkin­son, a third-rounder in 2006 who has been im­pres­sive when healthy. And the Gi­ants have tied up two of their most im­por­tant young play­ers, pass rush­ers Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck long term.

The Gi­ants also could lose safety Gib­ril Wil­son and line­backer Reg­gie Tor­bor, who filled in ad­mirably when Matthias Ki­wanuka was in­jured. Like most smart teams, the Gi­ants of­fer what they think play­ers are worth and let them walk if they ask too much.

New Eng­land, whose 18-0 run was ended by the Gi­ants in the Su­per Bowl, does the same.

The Pa­tri­ots let wide re­ceivers David Givens and Deion Branch go — Branch in a trade that brought back an ex­tra first-round pick — and nei­ther has per­formed as well in Ten­nessee (Givens) or Seat­tle (Branch).

This year, they have two of the most at­trac­tive free agents: WR Randy Moss and CB Asante Samuel.

Pro­tected last year by the fran­chise player tag, Samuel is al­most sure to go on the mar­ket, hop­ing to match or top the $80 mil­lion con­tract that fel­low cor­ner­back Nate Cle­ments got from San Fran­cisco last sea­son.

Buyer beware: the 49ers, who went on a spend­ing spree last sea­son in hopes of re­turn­ing to con­tention, fin­ished 5-11.

Moss, who re­ju­ve­nated a de­clin­ing ca­reer with the Pa­tri­ots, set­ting a sin­gle-sea­son record for touch­down catches with 23, is likely to stay, as­sum­ing New Eng­land pays mar­ket value, which could be $8-10 mil­lion per sea­son with $20 mil­lion or more in guar­an­teed money.

Why leave? Moss tends to lose at­ten­tion on medi­ocre or bad teams and if he goes else­where, he won’t have Tom Brady throw­ing to him and a team al­most guar­an­teed to at least win the AFC East.

Dal­las, a win­ning team with a good QB, re­port­edly is in­ter­ested in teaming Moss with Ter­rell Owens, a pair­ing of two huge egos that would be fun to watch, but prob­a­bly not for Cow­boys fans.

There are other “name” free agents avail­able, no­tably Chicago line­backer Lance Briggs, Pitts­burgh guard Alan Faneca and a pair of po­ten­tially good pass rush­ers in Justin Smith of Cincin­nati and Ant­wan Odom of Ten­nessee.

Like the 34-year-old Thomas, many of those are ag­ing, in­jury prone or both, like Jevon Kearse, re­leased by the Ea­gles on Thurs­day and 34year-old Kevin Carter, cut by Tampa Bay on Wed­nes­day.

Ul­ti­mately, the best way to approach free agency is to find a player who fits both your scheme and your bud­get and go af­ter him. In some cases, it might be a vet­eran quar­ter­back to use as a backup. Todd Collins, who re­placed an in­jured Ja­son Camp­bell and led the Red­skins to the play­offs, is avail­able.

Yet, even teams that need help are cau­tious.

Teams with fewer holes might do well to im­i­tate the Su­per Bowl win­ner.

The Gi­ants had a very quiet off­sea­son in 2007.

Look how they fin­ished.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.