Top Ten Tracker

Thursday, April 2, 2015

So for today, we’re going to take a look back at the players in my top ten that have found a landing spot, as well as the latest buzz on the rest.

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the original.

https://sportsslants.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/my-ten-best-remaining-free-agents/

So here we go.

CowboysRolando McClain, LB: Signed 1 year, $3 million deal, $750,000 base salary to remain with Dallas Cowboys

NFL: Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys

Well, first off, score one for me on this one, I had McClain returning to Big D and I love the move. How is it that the top-rated inside linebacker against the run last year was had for this cheap of a deal? Well, he had another run-in with the law and he had some hamstring issues and this, that and the other thing?

Guess what though? This guy’s a genuine talent with instincts that cannot be taught and for now he’ll remain the Cowboys dirty little secret. Him, Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens on the field at the same time is among the most fearsome linebacking trios in football. Of course it’s a lot to ask Lee to stay off a stretcher for more than a couple of plays. But man, those plays are going to be something.

As mentioned, McClain is stellar against the run, showing the instincts and toughness to consistently shoot the right gaps and bring down even the toughest ball carriers. Check out his work against Marshawn Lynch last year and you’ll see what I mean. Speaking of that game, that game-sealing interception to become the second team in Russel Wilson’s career to beat the Seahawks in Seattle? That was McClain too.

The guy is a special athlete out there. And he might finally have his head on straight. If he proves it this year, I think the Cowboys will be more than obliged to invest in him long term.

McClain was number four on my list.

bears helmetMason Foster, LB signed 1 year, $825,000 deal with the Chicago Bears

Foster

I thought the Bears were out of the running because they were low-balling Foster with a vet-minimum offer, I was half right. I have no idea why this signing isn’t getting more love but this is a big steal and a great addition for new head coach John Fox, a defense-first guy.

The Bears have some young talent at the position in Jon Bostic and Christian Jones, but I expect them to grab another in the draft to form a healthy competition. Foster is slotted to start right now and though that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he shouldn’t be handed the job. So why am I so big on this signing? He brings a stable veteran presence with some upside to a very young, albeit talented defense.

Foster will never be Lance Briggs, but he could be more effective than D.J. Williams was last year for the floundering Chicago defense. That’s really all you can hope for from a free agent addition. Plus, they signed a guy for nothing and he might start, and he’s only 27, that doesn’t happen often. The Bears could strike gold with this one.

Foster has shown excellent ability covering short flat and hook routes, he has the athleticism to cover tight ends as well but may not have the confidence or technique to match up one-on-one. He’s a solid tackler who packs a big punch in his hits and will add a hammer and authority to the middle of the Bears defense. They desperately need an intimidator.

Foster was my number six available free agent.

So let’s check in on the rest of the top ten.

10. Stevie Brown, S: Still has only drawn reported interest from the Giants, reportedly being low-balled by the Giants, who are high on their current starters.

9. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB: Nothing new on this front, other than that police said the only thing found in Bradshaw was pot. So that’s all teams have to worry about. Must be comforting. His name will heat up after the draft or as an injury fill-in in training camp.

8. Anthony Spencer, LB: Has had visits with Seahawks and Saints, Cowboys reportedly now interested in bringing him back at their price. A reunion with Rob Ryan could be mutually beneficial for Spencer and the Saints, especially in light of the Gallete situation. The price has to be right though.

7. Stevan Ridley, RB: Had a visit with the Jets yesterday, pretty sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. By the way, was anyone else disappointed with the lack of traction the fake stories got this year? I was expecting some reports Rivers or Brees being traded. Guess that would’ve been too real for some. I like the fit with the Jets, Bowles will welcome a back that can help control the time of possession.

5. Michael Crabtree, WR: The market has cooled once again on Crabtree after a visit with the Dolphins yielded a whole lot of nothing. Crabtree is a plug-and-play number two receiver. Word is he wants to play for a pass-happy team even though the 49ers have expressed interest in resigning him. How about a Brady-Crabtree hookup? I’m just saying. Sleeper pick: Denver Broncos, that would just be an embarrassment of riches. Sanders could be great in the slot, too.

3. Joe Barksdale, OT: Barksdale is a solid tackle in a market devoid of solid tackles. I have no idea what’s up here. Maybe his asking price is too high. Titans have said they’ll focus on signing Barksdale post draft. That would definitely be a solid move.

2. Brandon Spikes, LB: He’s the best linebacker left on the market and there are still teams out there that need linebackers bad. Hope you’re reading this, Baalke. Bills want Spikes back and I’d be surprised if they didn’t get their way. Spikes has virtually no market, for whatever reason.

1. Stefen Wisniewski, C: This guy just can’t catch on. He’s had visits all across the country (Tampa, Seattle, New England are among possible suitors) and he most recently visited with the Jaguars. Teams could be hesitant about his shoulder, Wisniewski had offseason surgery. He’s the surest starter left on the market though. He’ll find a home soon.

And now, introducing the revised top ten.

1. Stefen Wisniewski, C

2. Brandon Spikes, LB

3. Joe Barksdale, OT

4. Michael Crabtree, WR

5. Stevan Ridley, RB

6. Anthony Spencer, LB

7. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB

8. Stevie Brown, S

9. Jermaine Gresham, TE

Cincinnati Bengals v Philadelphia Eagles

The former first rounder didn’t live up to expectations in Cincinatti, but for a team looking for a stable veteran at the position with a complete skill set he could be an excellent find. There are some teams like that out there. Gresham was under-used as a pass-catcher and might benefit from a more talented quarterback. His best season stats-wise: 2012 where he had 64 catches for 737 yards and 5 touchdowns.

He hasn’t seen a significant drop off in production and entering just his seventh professional season, he should be a solid contributor for two to three more seasons before a real drop off is expected. Signing him to a cheap three-year deal might be the way to go as well. His value doesn’t figure to change much and his best years could still be ahead of him in the right situation.

Interested Teams: Oakland Raiders, Cincinatti Bengals, Cleveland Browns

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons: The fit is just too good for these two. Matt Ryan would be a huge upgrade over Dalton and the Falcons need to get serious about replacing Tony Gonzalez. It was a big problem in their offense last year. Gresham is an immediate fix that can be had for cheap. He also strikes me as a Dan Quinn guy.

10. Hakeem Nicks, WR

Logan Ryan, Hakeem Nicks

I know, I know. I said this last year about Nicks and I loved him going to the Colts. I can’t figure out why he didn’t thrive with Luck throwing him the ball. He played well in short spurts and the talent is still there that made him one of the most exciting young receivers in football a few years ago.

He’s only 27 years old, if he latches on with a solid quarterback he could get back to top WR2 form, I really believe that. I think the Colts would do well to bring him back on board. He provides very solid depth in a relatively empty free agent field at receiver. Andre Johnson does not preclude this from happening.

Interested teams: San Francisco 49ers

Prediction: San Francisco 49ers- I can’t argue that this is a bad move for the franchise but I can say I’d be very disappointed in Nicks’ decision making. Kaepernick is not consistently accurate and he’s a major downgrade from Luck and even Eli Manning in terms of accuracy. Signing Nicks would be a smart move for Baalke and the crew, so I have to assume it’ll be a 5 year, 35 million dollar deal.

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2 thoughts on “Top Ten Tracker

  1. I didn’t know that Gresham was a free agent because he wasn’t on your first list.

    What the heck? He should be near the top of this list as a very dependable tight end #1 in the right offense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree and Gresham was one of those guys I considered on my first one but I kept him off mostly due to the fact that I don’t value tight ends as highly as some. I agree that he can be a TE1 in the right situation. And he’s obviously far and away the best left on the market and one of the more complete tight ends in the NFL, an undervalued and dying breed.

      Like

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