26 Guys Who Could Get Screwed

| April 27, 2011

While the NFL and the artists formerly known as the NFLPA continue their dance, one scenario becomes more and more likely: if we do have a season, it will be played under the 2010 rules.

Kevin Mawae is the latest to come out and support the practicalities of a deal that he describes as the “simplest thing” and something “everyone understands”. Besides the obvious disappointment at preparing to deal with this all over again, it would at least mean we’d have football in 2011. Which is great for all.

Well, not quite all. The 2010 offseason saw one of the weakest classes of free agents in recent memory, with players with four and five years of accrued service unable to test free agency. Instead, they found themselves burdened by Restricted Free Agent tenders.

With an implementation of the 2010 rules, we’d see the same scenario, and for some players that will mean two years they’ve missed out on life changing contracts. They would find themselves playing out a notoriously short career on a fraction of what they could expect to earn. It’s not to blame the teams who have to do everything they can to get the best deal possible for themselves in the short and long term, but something isn’t right.

So we’re going to look at some players who – when it’s all said and done – could be the real big losers in delaying a new CBA. The potential Restricted Free Agents with four or five years accrued.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers
It looked like his time was up in Carolina, but the football Gods could be about to rain on the money parade that the top ranked back in free agency may have been expecting. A first and third round tender should deter teams from making any moves for a battle worn back, despite how impressive Williams has been at times. 2010 may not have gone as planned, and he was spotty in 2009, but he’s not that far (or that many carries) removed from his excellent 2008 where he was our highest rated runner.

Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers want to keep hold of Johnson, and for good reason. He was a beast last year. Not only did he pressure the quarterback more than any other defensive end, he made more defensive stops than any other. Good in every phase of the game and just 24 years old, Johnson deserved a big money deal. Maybe a deal still gets done (the Panthers were torn between franchising Johnson or Ryan Kalil,) but as of now he could get the highest RFA tender.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants
Giants fans hate his fumbles, but they love his ability to make things happen. Throw in some of the best blitz pick up you’re likely to see, and a lot of teams would kill to have a back like Bradshaw in their lineup. The second round tender the Giants put on him combined with his relatively young, 25-year-old body mean it’s not impossible a team gives up a 2012 selection for the man from Marshall. With his history of ankle injuries though, picks and a new contract may be asking too much.

Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
Here’s a situation to watch out for. Holmes won’t play on a one year deal, and the Jets have put a 1st and 3rd round tender on him. The Jets seemed committed to getting a deal done to keep him on the field in white and green, but they missed one deadline so who’s to say they won’t miss another? This one could land itself on the ‘Holdout Potential’ chart. A Super Bowl MVP is going to want to get paid.

Malcolm Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers
Was asking a bit much of Floyd to expect him to fill the shoes of Vincent Jackson, but what he lacked in consistency he made up for as a deep threat. A lot of teams would have seen Floyd as the perfect number two type receiver with those 19.4 yards per catch average … and his height (6’6”) makes GM’s mouths water. If they have to give up a first and third? Not so much.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints
A bigger part of the Saints offense than most realize, Moore did a lot of his good work running slot routes without playing in the slot. Instead, the Saints were able to use his ability to gain separation and turn it into yardage, with Moore being a go to guy for Drew Brees (catching 71.7% of his balls). Teams with young quarterbacks need guys like Moore who may never be number one, but is a guy who can pick up 60 receptions and 700+ yards. At 27, teams may shy away from giving up a second round pick, and Moore could miss out on his chance to cash in.

Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings
The top receiver in free agency, Rice had to battle some hip problems but surely NFL scouting personnel won’t have forgotten his 2009? Arguably the best receiver in the league, it was his leaping ability that made Brett Favre look so good. Plenty of teams could use a vertical threat like Rice, and it doesn’t hurt that the man who ranked number one for his receiving in 2009 is only 24. With a first round tender, there could be some interest regardless of a potential compromise between the players and owners.

Steve Smith, WR, New York Giants
The Giants seem keen to have him back, and a serious surgery on his knee could dampen interest from others. But, at just 25 and a year removed from a 1,220 yard season, he’s the kind of solid player teams like. Able to effectively move inside to the slot, Smith isn’t a prototypical big play receiver, but he gets the chains moving. With a team having to give up a second round pick to get him, the Giants (under the guise of seeing how Smith recuperates) have every opportunity to keep him on the cheap for another year.

Kevin Boss, TE, New York Giants
You get the feeling Kevin Boss may need to make money as quickly as he can. At 6’06” and over 250 lbs he is a massive target for defenders looking to make a highlight reel hit, and has already taken some ferocious shots in his career. He’s tough as nails and not missed much time, but that kind of abuse takes it’s toll, and it seemed to really impact him in 2010. Our 3rd ranked TE in 2009 got a second round tender that would scare teams off and lose him any leverage in negotiating a better deal.

Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders
One of the better all round tight ends in the game, many expected Miller to get the franchise tag that eventually went to Kamerion Wimbley. That the Raiders came out and said Stanford Routt was next in line, and handed out big contracts to several other players is interesting in how they view Miller. Either that or they just knew something we didn’t with the likelihood of four and five year players becoming restricted free agents. No way anyone would give up a first and third for Miller, as good as he is.

Willie Colon, T, Pittsburgh Steelers
One of the secret superstars of the 2009 campaign, Colon missed all of 2010 and watched his Steelers make the Super Bowl. Which made him somewhat expendable to a Steelers team that had previously tendered him. Now, with a possible repeat of the 2010 RFA rules, Colon has a first round tender on him. One of the few talented and proven free agent tackles, Colon had a chance to pick up a big deal. In Pittsburgh, he could find himself moving to guard – not ideal for a player who is better in pass pro than he is with his run blocking.

Jared Gaither, T, Baltimore Ravens
This is another to keep an eye on. Though Gaither has injury and character concerns (though what these character concerns are nobody can put a finger on) he’s probably the only guy who has played left tackle to a high level out on the market. Many teams would have interest in the Raven, but they slapped a tender on him. Where it gets interesting is if the Ravens want Gaither to play right tackle, an idea he is most definitely not fond of. Tension seems to be in the air, and the end result could be Gaither getting less money to play a position that makes him less marketable in the future.

Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl, G’s, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons would love for these rules to be implemented, thus getting them back their starting guards for next to nothing, comparatively speaking. Both Blalock and Dahl are coming off extremely good years at guard, with both finishing in our top 12 offensive guards for 2010. As parts of a unit that has kept Matt Ryan clean and paved the way for Michael Turner, both would have been primed for a free market overvaluing, making them and their accountants happy people. As it may end up, they’d have to make do with tenders while they watch Tyson Clabo hit it big.

Marshal Yanda, G/T, Baltimore Ravens
Fresh off a year where he added right tackle to his repertoire, teams are beginning to take notice of Yanda. It’s not just that he’s a good run blocker and sound in pass protection, it’s his versatility that makes him such an asset. Teams are desperate for that, especially on the offensive line where injuries can cripple a team quicker than hiccup. As is, Yanda would remain Ravens property at a reduced rate while a new CBA is sorted out.

Brandon Mebane, DT, Seattle Seahawks
It was surprising the Seahawks didn’t franchise Brandon Mebane. It was remarkable that they tendered him at his original value of a third round pick. I personally don’t see a third round pick getting in the way of teams picking up the talented 26 year old, but it does hurt his bargaining power. Mebane was in position for a massive deal given how he’s played these past three years, and the extra compensation of a draft pick is going to take some dollars off what he could have expected. Presuming a team is smart enough to give up a third.

Stephen Bowen, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Bowen had a real break out season for the Cowboys when Marcus Spears went down, but a Rob Ryan defense is different to what he’s played in before. With his skill set seeing him get up field, and Ryan liking his linemen to eat up blockers, Bowen could be lost in the shuffle and relegated to a situational role. Though speculative (since we don’t know what defense Ryan will run,) testing the open market could have been the best way for Bowen to land the ideal gig. It may well be that he’ll be a Cowboy for another year with the second round tender slapped on him.

Ray Edwards, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Talk about a massive loser. Edwards could be out millions and millions of dollars, especially after already missing the 2010 free agency because of the lack of a CBA. There’s probably no player that has lost more money than the Viking. You could understand his frustration with football when he can watch guys getting drafted raking in more cash, even after three stellar years on the trot. When a player like Ray Edwards isn’t getting paid, free agency is broke.

Josh Wilson, CB, Baltimore Ravens
What happened to Wilson in Seattle we won’t know, but after a good year he was shipped off to the Ravens for very little. Baltimore could be about to pull a double deal of the century type move if they land Wilson for a year as a RFA. 2010 saw his emergence as one of the best corners in the game, and encouragingly, he just keeps getting better. Cornerbacks tend to get paid well and it seemed Wilson was about to get a deal in line with his talents, but that could be out the window.

Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers
The Charger keeps getting better and better, to the point you can now call him one of the league’s best safeties. The problem for him is that the tender placed on him isn’t going to get him paid like one of the league’s best safeties as much as he deserves it.

Johnathan Joseph, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Joseph is coming off a tough 2010 where injury really hurt his performance. But let’s not forget how good he was in 2009, and let’s not forget that all important pedigree people like to look at as a former first round pick. With Joseph likely to want big money, and the Bengals having a plethora of offseason issues to work out, the big deal could be a long way from happening. Even if it does, it’s likely to be a lot less than the bidding war free agency brings about.

Barry Cofield, DT, New York Giants
Here’s another potential holdout. Cofield has paid his dues and won’t want to spend another year as a RFA, especially coming off such a strong year that had him 12th in our defensive tackle rankings. A guy who can play on any down, take a lot of snaps and is just 27 should be about to get that contract that sets him up for life. Instead, the Giant is looking at possibly spending a second year risking his health while getting paid considerably less than he is worth to do so.

Stephen Tulloch, MLB, Tennessee Titans
It’s a vicious position being a linebacker. Always involved in high speed collisions with big men, and the injury risk is great. Players who have looked like stars have disappeared, so you really need to earn your money while you can. So spare a thought for Stephen Tulloch who could be about to spend a second year as a RFA. People may moan about his lack of plays, but Tulloch was a tackling machine and was superb at tracking the ball carrier down throughout 2010.

James Anderson, OLB, Carolina Panthers
There aren’t all that many playmaking 4-3 outside linebackers, so Anderson really stood out in 2010. He had the kind of do-it-all year that really showed him as a guy capable of making plays in every area. His value is at an all time high even if his profile isn’t out there as much as others. That’s why its important for a player like him to capitalize now, taking advantage of his career year and getting paid for it. The Panthers have tendered him and they’ve got options at linebacker. By the time Anderson hits free agency he could be relegated to backup and special teamer.

Danieal Manning, S, Chicago Bears
Finally delivering on his potential, Manning has the kind of range in coverage and willingness in run support that make him a good fit for practically any team looking for a safety. In a year where the safeties in the draft aren’t setting the world alight, his value may never be higher and he knows it. He wanted to test free agency and it looks like that chance could be taken away from him.

Dawan Landry, S, Baltimore Ravens
Our second ranked safety in run support for the past year got himself going after a couple of injury-affected years. As a player who can sniff out running plays and is a sure tackler, there’s a role for him for a number of NFL teams looking to add a physical presence to their secondary. Only the lack of a CBA has derailed Dawan’s plans of assessing his value. Given his injury history, you wouldn’t want to lose a year to cash in on a league that isn’t filled with top tier safeties.

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