2014 Off season plan: Part 2, UFA targets.
Carrying forward the working premise from part one of this series: I’ve got us with $30M in cap space that can be safely budgeted for 2014 free agent acquisitions. Revising our roster graphic to reflect the transition tag for Alex Mack, I see needs at:
- Tier 1, no starter at position (last year’s starter gone): OG, ILB1, SS, RB.
- Tier 2, in need of upgrade: WR2, ILB2, CB2, FS, QB2, WR3.
Day-umm, that’s a lot. The plan is not to plug all these in FA and draft. However “four” seems a reasonable number of FA starters to get and plug-in; “three” holes ought be filled with the first three picks in the draft. Ten holes. Let’s shoot for seven good players to plug in.
Speaking of a lot, there are a lot of UFAs at our positions of need and they need to be cataloged for our discussion. Just to get the ball rolling, I’m going to start with PFF’s Top 75 UFA list and then cross-check against Walter Football’s UFAs-by-position pages.1 Can’t say their opinions won’t be factors. From there I’ll cull the herd by age or size or price or anything really, but I want to get each position down to a manageable number to look at. Last I’ll see what I see on who’s left (stopping short of film review). I’ll weigh other data and intangibles too and will try to use every last penny of the $30M cap.
2. Jairus Byrd, Free Safety – PFF #8, 27, 5101, 4.68, 35 vert. Having a safety with the kind of range to play center field and challenge quarterbacks is very much en vogue now, especially with the success of Earl Thomas. Byrd is in that category and his unique talents will likely see many teams inquire about him and his price.
8. T.J. Ward, SS – PFF #3, 27, 5104, 4.48, 34 vert. The prototypical strong safety. Plays mainly in the box where he is quick to make plays on the ball and has the kind of short range coverage ability where he can match up with tight ends. Doesn’t have the range of Earl Thomas or Jairus Byrd which will always limit his value.
14. Donte Whitner, SS – PFF #6, 29, 5101, 4.40, 40 vert. In 2012 the coverage of Whitner was arguably the weak link in the 49ers defense. Fast forward a year and the former first round pick has no such worries, really upping his game. It’s taken longer than you might think but he has become the player he was drafted to be.
30. Chris Clemons, FS – PFF #19, 28, 4.33, 6001, 37.5 vert. Everyone wants Earl Thomas but there are few of those type of safeties in the league. Clemons is an infinitely cheaper option but a solid hand nonetheless.
53. Louis Delmas, FS – PFF #26, 27, 4.52, 5113, 37 vert. Coming off his best year but there is a reason why Detroit released him. Constant battles with injury and some sub-standard play make him a risk vs reward type pick up.
61. Antoine Bethea, Safety – PFF #53, 30, 5110, 4.39, 36.5 vert. Synonymous with the Colts, it would be odd to see him land elsewhere. Bethea can play deep or in the box and while he’s far from elite, he is solid.
72. Malcolm Jenkins, Safety – PFF #65, 26, 6001, 4.51, 33 vert. Clearly we’re not as high on the versatile Jenkins as some. Capable of playing a number of roles but has rarely excelled but for a few patches in his career.
73. Ryan Clark, Safety – PFF #45, 35, Clark is the kind of veteran safety who won’t let your team down. But at his age solid just isn’t as valuable and limits his appeal and market. Old.
Unranked, Jim Leonhard, FS – PFF #66 (#24 in coverage), 5083, 4.63.
Unranked, Nate Allen, FS – PFF #51, 26, 6004, 4.50, 34.5 vert.
Unranked, Major Wright, FS – PFF #84(#23 in 2012), 26, 5114, 4.44, 37.5 vert.
Unranked, Stevie Brown, SS – PFF #26 (in 2012), 27, 5112, 4.51, 34.5. Missed 2013 with ACL.
Based on size, speed, and decent pass cover rating (#9), I’m leaning Chris Clemons for FS. I suspect he’ll be pricey; but he’s gotta be a lot less than Byrd. $30M doesn’t go quite as far as you think.
Based on we-know-what-we’ve-got and in support of continuity by keeping a top 5 and the #1 run defense SS, I want to keep TJ Ward and know he’ll be expensive. Maybe the most expensive FA we sign. That’s ok. The less new players we have to shuffle in; the less good home-grown players we lose — the better. Final note, in the ILB category you basically get a run guy or a cover guy and not both. I’d like to improve pass cover in the LB corps; so Ward’s run play comes in handy to mitigate the trade-off.
6. Aqib Talib, CB – PFF #58, 28, 6006, 4.44, 38 vert. – Talib is capable of the sublime and has tracked and shut down some of the biggest receivers in the game. However, he’s missed more time than you’d like and there are games where he doesn’t play up to his potential, which makes him a riskier signing than his talent level would suggest. Like, but too expensive. 10. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB – PFF #5, 28, 6014, 4.29, 38.5 vert. Had one of his good years that did a lot to restore his value around the league, despite some odd comments about possibly retiring. An incredibly high ceiling and a worryingly low floor, motivation is the key with DRC. Was great this year and rookie year. What happened other years.
15. Alterraun Verner, CB – PFF #12, 25, 5101, 4.52, 32 vert. Got off to a fast start, making a mockery of suggestions he would be benched. Lacks the versatility of some of the guys above him, but a known commodity who rarely lets you down.
22. Vontae Davis, CB – PFF #3, 26, 5111, 4.40, 36 vert. There are multiple sides to Davis the player. He’s capable of delivering flawless displays, but just as likely to get worked over. Davis has the ability but needs to deliver on it.
23. Sam Shields, CB – PFF #52, 26, 5106, 4.30, 39 vert. After a fantastic 2012 fell back on himself a little in 2013 when the Packers asked a little more out of him. Nobody is doubting that he has the tools to be a No. 1 corner.
25. Charles Tillman, CB – PFF #89, 33, 6011, 4.49, 40 vert. Was 2013 the start of a decline or just a blip? Tillman has been so good for so long we’ve given him the benefit of the doubt but there’s no denying that he looked poor even before his season was ended by injury. Old.
40. Captain Munnerlyn, CB – PFF #11, 26, 5084, 4.51, 37.5 vert. – Can play the slot, isn’t afraid to get stuck in against the run, and good enough to be a No. 2 corner. He’s not flashy but he’s the kind of player you build rosters with. Short.
44. Tarell Brown, CB – PFF #32, 29, 5105, 4.45, 33.5 vert. May have lost his starting job at the backend of 2013 but his play on the field was still of a high enough quality. Not a guy you’d have shadowing receivers around the field, but a capable number two.
71. Walter Thurmond, CB – PFF #31, 27, 5106, 4.42, 32.8 arms. An intriguing cornerback who would be higher but for some issues that have seen him fall foul of the league’s substance abuse policy. Didn’t have the best of Super Bowls but has kind of skill set that will see a team take a flier on him.
Unranked. Brandon Browner, CB – PFF #41, 30, 6034, 4.63, 36.5 vert.
Unranked. Mike Jenkins, CB – PFF #66, 29, 5102, 4.38, 34 vert.
I want Vontae Davis most out of this crew but I expect he’ll be too rich for us. I’m zeroing in on Walter Thurmond. Price might be lower since not a starter but hey, no shame being a backup in the best d-backfield in league (maybe ever). Any influx of Seattle defense welcome. TJ Ward gets to play with a college teammate, just not the one we expected.
Wide receivers 2 and 3
9. Hakeem Nicks, WR – PFF #69, 26, 6006, 4.51, 36 vert. The question is if Nicks can get back to the player he was when he was so very, very good in 2011. If he does then you’ve got the best player available in free agency, but if he shows up like he did the past two years you’ll be disappointed.
17. Eric Decker, WR – PFF #11, 27, 6031, 4.50. He made some plays with Peyton Manning but how will he fare when defenses pay more attention to him? Arguably the fourth option in Denver he’s one of the most intriguing question marks in this entire class.
20. Golden Tate, WR – PFF #22, 26, 5102, 4.42, 35 vert., 3.23% drop. As good a receiver after the catch as there is, Tate has never had the stage to show just how good he can be. A move to a more pass orientated offense is exactly what the doctor is ordering here. Led WRs in missed/broken tackles.
29. James Jones, Wide Receiver – PFF #55, 30, 6006, 4.54, 34 vert., 2.27% drop pct. – The once drop prone receiver has corrected his biggest flaw, while he remains one of the best receivers when it comes to breaking tackles. Still, his play dropped off last year and his big year (2012) is more the exception than the rule.
45. Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver – PFF #28, 28, 5103, 4.52, 36.5 vert., 8.90% drop. A player with more value to one team than he has to the rest of the league. The breakout year for Edelman still opened some eyes in the league, but his limited threat as an outside receiver hurts him. 13 dropped passes (3rd in league) albeit with 10th most targets (most among FAs).
62. Emmanuel Sanders, WR – PFF #60, 27, 5107, 4.40, 39.5 vert., 4.63% drop. Sanders is good but you never get the impression he’ll ever be more than that. The kind of receiver who will fight for a No. 2 or 3 role on a pass oriented team. 4th in missed/broken tackles.
67. Jerome Simpson, Wide Receiver – PFF #34, 28, 6016, 4.42, 41.5 vert., 4.17% drop. The human highlight reel and little else. If Simpson could flesh out his big plays with some more consistent production he’d be a real get for a franchise. Five drops in 96 targets. Simpson’s 4.17% drops is #28 out of 111. Reportedly 35+” arms.2
Kenny Britt #110 (only one WR rated lower, Greg Little #111).
Ted Ginn #50, 29, 5112, 4.38.
Andre Roberts #82, 26
Sidney Rice, #62, 28.
Brandon LaFell, #93, 27, 6024, 4.58, 36 vert.
Louis Murphy, PFF #, 27, 6023, 4.32.
I did a spreadsheet on these WRs. Just took the PFF stats and added a drops/target pct. Now THIS is a useful stat. After you filter out the guys with less than 80 targets you get an idea of the reliable receivers (Larry Fitz is #1.)
WR2: Jerome Simpson (BUBBLE BOY).3 It came down to Golden Tate and Simpson and, not gonna lie, I like the taller, faster guy. Both are reliable, Tate led WRs in broken tackles and was high in YAC. He’s coming off a 2M/1yr contract in Minny should be able to be got for relatively short money, certainly less than Golden Tate will command.
WR3: Was all set to ride the Julian Edelman train but his drop rate is high. The same sort of receiver except faster and more reliable was allowed to go into free agency by recurring cap-hell resident, Pittsburgh: Emmanuel Sanders. I doubt Steelers let him walk if they didn’t have to.
Alt pickup: I love Louis Murphy, have since his Raider days. Don’t know why he didn’t see more playing time with the Giants. If he can be got with one some kind of $750K/1 yr w club option contract, get him.4 Worth the risk; still has high ceiling. I want Murphy on my team.
16. Geoff Schwartz, Guard – #8, 28, 6062, 5.36. Finally got his chance with Kansas City and took it with both hands. It was only eight games, but we saw from Schwartz what we saw in 2010 when he was so very good for Carolina. He is the top guard in free agency.
26. Jon Asamoah, Guard -#20, 26, 6040, 5.07, 22 reps. Not the ideal contract year as Asamoah lost his starting spot, but that owed more to the brilliance of Geoff Schwartz than anything he did wrong. A good athlete in a league short on quality guard talent.
32. Rodger Saffold, Offensive Linemen – #18, 26, 6045, 5.21, 27 reps. Is he a guard, is he a tackle? Whatever he is to whatever team signs him, there’s undeniable talent there in the former second round pick. Looked better at guard, but his versatility will just add to his value.
36. Travelle Wharton, Guard – #5, 33, He’s not getting any younger but if 2013 is anything to go by, not getting any less productive a football player. Days of being able to play tackle may be behind him, but his mauling ways in the run game will grab him a one year deal at the very least. Old.
66. Zane Beadles, Guard – #51, 27, 6043, 27 reps. Constantly one of the more overrated guards in the league for his draft status and offensive production. Was massively outplayed by Louis Vasquez and has never demonstrated the kind of top level talent some would have you believe.
69. Willie Colon, Offensive Linemen – #36, 31, 6028. A nasty player who leaves an impression on defenders. Brings with him the ability to play numerous positions.
Geoff Schwartz made sense when he was the under-the-radar guy. Now he’s the top-rated UFA guard. It’s hard to picture Schwartz paid in the Mankins, Evans, Yanda, Levitre range… and yet… top guards aren’t cheap. Without bonus shenanigans I think Schwartz is just a hair south of 7M. Welp. I think we can get Rodger Saffold for less and I like him better. Tuft Show Times guesses “between $23-26 million over five years with $7-10 million guaranteed” could land Saffold. This maps approximately to Louis Vasquez.
Would I invite Richie Incognito for an interview? You bet I would.
18. Karlos Dansby, Linebacker – #5, 32, 6032, 4.58. Dansby put up big numbers and made a boat load of plays when he returned to Arizona, yet criminally got next to no attention. An every down linebacker who can be counted on to drop into coverage, meet blockers head on and blitz when called upon. WDE.
27. Daryl Smith, Linebacker – #16, 32, Isn’t the player he was, but there aren’t many linebackers who have the feel for pass coverage that Smith has. Always around the ball.
39. Brandon Spikes, Linebacker – #6, 6027, 5.05. If we was even remotely more useful/ useable in coverage he’d be much higher. A tremendously instinctive defender of the run who can shoot a gap better than any player in the league. However, he’s a base player in a league using more and more three receiver sets.
As you can see, it’s kinda slim pickings in the ILB category both here and in the draft. That guy we just let go because overpaid, not that great, and so on? Dqwell? Just got 11M guaranteed. So filling these two holes
If you’re curious how these ILBs rate in pass cover: Dansby #3, DSmith #5, Jordan #20, Moats #22, DQwell #26. … Angerer #37, Spikes #38, Henderson #50, Beason #52, Sharpton #53, Robertson #55 (last). In run defense: #1 Spikes, #2 Sharpton, #5 Jordan, #7 Henderson, #11 Moats, #14 Dansby. … #39 Angerer, #44 Riley, #49 Dqwell, #50 DSmith. (London Fletcher was last by a bunch.)
The first no-brainer pick as I’m going through these guys is Arthur Moats. First, Pettine will know him best so if Pettine wants him, that’s all the scouting you need. Add in that he doesn’t figure to be too too expensive. Add in that we have two holes at ILB. Moats is a signing to get done on the first day of free agency.
After Moats, none of these guys are getting me jazzed. We can go with our own guys and bump this up into a priority position to be filled in the top 3 picks of the draft.
46. Knowshon Moreno, Running Back – The best back available, Moreno is a player that will produce when put in a favorable position. That makes him a relatively safe hand as long as you’re not expecting miracles.
52. Maurice Jones-Drew, Running Back – Has Jones-Drew been worn out by years of heavy usage by the Jaguars? It’s hard to say no given his dip in production but if nothing else he’s a guy capable of playing every down.
55. Ben Tate, Running Back – Arguably having the most upside of all free agent running backs, spending so much time behind Arian Foster and then playing hurt leaves him more of a gamble than you’d like.
57. LeGarrette Blount, Running Back – If you want a bruising back look no further. Just don’t expect much of any contribution if you’re dropping back to pass the ball.
63. Donald Brown, Running Back – Ran well for Indy but when he’s been a starting back asked to carry the full load the former first rounder has flopped. A change of pace back or someone who is part of a committee at this point.
68. James Starks, Running Back – High on talent, low on playing time. Starks has just struggled to stay healthy which is such a shame because he’s as shifty a back as there is in the league.
74. Rashad Jennings, Running Back – Gave the Raiders a spark and it’s pushed him ahead of Darren McFadden in our rankings. He proved that while he might not be a long term option, he’s a guy you wouldn’t be afraid to hand the ball to.
Drew. He looked freaking great against us in December. He’s going to be cheap. He’s indestructable, catches the ball, is fast, can’t be tackled, and is indestructable. I see no reason to entertain other options. Also: we are getting Bishop Sankey in the draft.
Josh McCown, 35, #5
Josh Freeman, 26,
Chad Henne, 29, 6027, 4.92 #42 (last), #24 in PFF QBR (ahead of Eli, Flacco, Geno Smith), #12 in accuracy, #7 in passing under pressure, #6 play action passes, 3rd fastest time-to-throw. 8.25″ hand size..
Matt Flynn, 29, #28,
Rex Grossman, 34,
Dan Orlovsky, 31,
Colt McCoy and Derek Anderson also available. I don’t care strongly about any these guys (other than not wanting anything to do with Michael Vick). But this is the bargain bin section and I think Chad Henne would be a very competent and inexpensive backup.
Tally up and assign numbers.
Rather than futz with eyeballing transition tag percentages, let’s use recent comparison contracts to ballpark the data. What we’ve got below are the Target UFAs followed by a comp contract that includes (years/total/bonus/2014_cap_hit — guaranteed).
- Arthur Moats – ILB /Stephen Tulloch (5/25.5/6.3/2.6 — 11.3)
- Karlos Dansby: 4 yrs, 24M, 6M bonus, 12M gtd. // 2014 cap hit: 5.5M.
- TJ Ward – SS /Tyvon Branch (4/26/5.6/3.8 — 10.1) Actual (from Broncos): 4yr, 23M, 14M guaranteed.
- Donte Whitner: 4 yrs, 28M, 9M bonus, 13M gtd. // 2014 cap hit: 4.3M.
- Maurice Jones-Drew – RB /Steven Jackson (3/12/3.5/2.9 — 4.0)
- Ben Tate: 2 yrs, 7M, ?? bonus, ?? gtd., ?? cap hit.
- Emmanuel Sanders – WR3 /Riley Cooper (5/22.5/4/1.8 — 8.0).
- Walter Thurmond – CB2 /Keenan Lewis (5/25.5/6/2.3 — 10.5)
- Rodger Saffold – OG-OT /Louis Vasquez (4/23.5/5/3.25 — 10.0) Actual (from Raiders): 5yr, 42.5, 21M guaranteed. (Waaay off.) (FWIW, Walterfootball gave the Saffold signing its MILLEN SOCHI TOILET rating.) (Ok, Zane Beadles got 5yr, 30M, 13M guaranteed. Obviously it pays to be a tackle, not a guard.)
Jerome Simpson – WR2
- Chris Clemons – FS /William Moore (5/30/8.3/3.9 — 14.0)
- Chad Henne – QB2 /Drew Stanton (3/8.2/2.0/1.7 — 3.0). Actual (from Jags): 2/8.0/??/4.5/ — 4.5. (not a bad projection.)
Add up these cap hits and you get $20,683,333.
I know we’re saying that $30M is the number we want to use for our calculations. But remember that cap calculation tool at OverTheCap? I took what I could from that site and put it in a spreadsheet and added these contracts to the five extensions5 … and …
with these signings at these numbers I’m arriving at $131,063,920. Cap is $133M. This is do-able.
Alrighty, so this turned out to be more than I intended. Jumping off points here men, let’s have your thoughts below.
- ESPN is out with their Free Agent Tracker too but I’m too far down the road with my current plan. [back]
- Simpson’s combine page did not list an arm measurement. [back]
- I don’t think Simpson will fit under our cap. Good thing we’re taking Mike Evans at #4! [back]
- Murphy had a 1 yr., 780K contract last year. [back]
- Sheard, Haden, Taylor, Cameron, Hoyer [back]