A look at NFC 'limbo' free agents
After our look Monday at the AFC “limbo” free agents – players who would be free to sign with any team in the league under a normal capped system in the NFL but are now are not – let’s examine some of the NFC players in this category.
On Monday, word came that the NFL Players Association is willing to forego restricted free agency completely in order to have true free agency for all players after three-year rookie contracts. To the union, good luck with that. For the league to agree to unrestricted free agency after three years would require some major concessions from the union, certainly more than some giveback on top rookie compensation, something that will happen no matter what deal is made.
Assuming that restricted free agency will continue at least through this year, here is a team-by-team look at some of the better NFC players from the limbo group:
Chicago: Mark Anderson, Daniel Manning
Detroit: Jason Hunter, Daniel Loper
Green Bay: Atari Bigby, Will Blackmon, Daryn Colledge, Nick Collins, Jason Spitz
Minnesota: Ray Edwards, Tarvaris Jackson, Naufahu Tahi
The Bears hedged their bets on Anderson with the trade for Gaines Adams in October.
The Lions are completely turning over their roster, and Hunter is an intriguing prospect who was claimed from the Packers last offseason.
The Packers have many decisions to make with this group as well as true RFA Tramon Williams. They have also been conspicuously passive toward Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins. Their tactics with team leader Aaron Kampman (UFA) and Collins will have a strong impact on the locker room and its feeling toward management.
The Vikings will have to place the high tender ($2.396 million) or even the super tender ($3.043 million) on Edwards, a budding star.
Atlanta: Tyson Clabo, Harvey Dahl, Jerious Norwood
Carolina: Thomas Davis, Richard Marshall
New Orleans: Jammal Brown, Jahri Evans, Lance Moore, Roman Harper
Tampa Bay: Donald Penn, Barrett Ruud, Jeremy Trueblood
The Falcons will have to decide on tender levels for starting linemen Clabo and Dahl and what commitment to make to Norwood.
The Panthers will have a lot of issues to resolve, along with dealing with former first-round pick Davis, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the midst of a productive season. Among them, the quarterback situation – Matt Moore is a true RFA, and we’ve discussed Delhomme -- and whether to apply the franchise tag to Julius Peppers once again.
The Saints will be busy trying to keep their successful team together. They were cap-strapped much of this season and may be cash-strapped in 2010, depending on a likely extension for Drew Brees.
The Bucs will have to decide the level of tender for front-line players such as Ruud, a player who could receive a dramatic offer sheet from a needy team.
Arizona: Deuce Lutui, Gabe Watson
St. Louis: O.J. Atogwe
San Francisco: David Baas, Ahmad Brooks
Seattle: Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Daryl Tapp
The Cardinals will have a wealth of issues to deal with beyond RFAs, primarily what to do with Karlos Dansby, Anquan Boldin, Darnell Dockett and Antrel Rolle. They’re a team to watch in the 2009 offseason.
The Rams’ only issue is whether to again apply the franchise tag to Atogwe -- who played for the one-year tender of $6.34M. With a cap, the required tender would be 120 percent of that number, or $7.61M. Without a cap, the Rams can tender him as an RFA at 110 percent of that figure, or $6.974M.
The 49ers have issues beyond RFAs, including UFA Aubrayo Franklin and extending Patrick Willis.
The Seahawks will be a team in transition; all bets are off in predicting their offseason.
Dallas: Miles Austin, Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen
New York: C.C. Brown, Kevin Dockery, Sinorice Moss
Philadelphia: Jason Avant, Nick Cole, Leonard Weaver, Chris Gocong
Washington: Jason Campbell, Reed Doughty, Rocky McIntosh
The Cowboys have shown they will pay wide receivers as well as anyone in the league -- good news for Austin, even as a limbo player. If only they hadn’t invested so much into Roy Williams.
The Giants were active in free agency in 2009 and may go the other way next season, with interesting decisions on Antonio Pierce – under contract – and true RFA Domenik Hixon ahead.
The Eagles got a jump on the offseason with new deals for Winston Justice – a potential limbo RFA – and Brent Celek, a player who was under contract for 2010. The team likes Avant, Cole and Weaver but will have to prioritize these players in looking ahead to the last year of contracts for Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, Brian Westbrook and more (not to mention addressing the most dynamic player in the league, DeSean Jackson, with two years left on his deal). It will be an interesting offseason.
The big decision for new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen will be what to do with Campbell, who was shopped intensely to the Broncos last offseason. They will likely not commit past this season but need to have a plan in place for the future of their most important position.
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