This year’s off-season is going to be much different than the past off-seasons. With the Collective Bargaining Agreement potentially running out will have an effect on the free agency period. This situation will basically have two direct effects on off-season signings:
1. Teams will be free to spend as much money as they want on free agents.
2. There will be fewer unrestricted free agents.
So what does this mean? It’s going to be a lot tougher for players to change teams this year. Players with less than six years of service will be restricted free agents, in previous years the number was four years of service. This means players like Vincent Jackson, Miles Austin, and Elvis Dumervill will be restricted free agents. In the simplest of terms, a restricted free agent cannot sign freely with any team. Any offer to a restricted free agent can be matched by his previous team and if it goes unmatched compensation must be paid to that team.
We may also see a lot of high priced players cut because there will be no cap penalties to their respective teams. However, these players are not going to be the most desirable players on the market. Also keep in mind that there is the ugly Franchise Tag (and maybe another Transition Tag) that could deplete the free agency market.
Below are our top 5 free agents at each position. Included are restricted and unrestricted free agents. As the mess with the collective bargaining agreement is settled, the rankings will be updated.
**- Restricted unless new agreement is reached.
1. Jason Campbell- Washington Redskins- **Restricted free agent
Analysis: Jason Campbell has had an up and down career, to say the least. However, he is still young with good physical skills and has shown he can win football games. Campbell could help a lot of teams in the NFL.
Movement: 40% – This number highly depends on what Coach Shanahan’s final evaluation of Campbell is.
Possible Teams: St. Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins
2. Kyle Orton- Denver Broncos- **Restricted free agent
Analysis: The term is over used but he is what he is, a game manager. Orton won’t wow anyone with his physical tools but he makes good decisions and will not cost your team the game. He is best suited for a team with a strong defense and running game.
Movement: 20% – The fact of the matter is that the Broncos do not have any other options. They could look to draft a quarterback but starting rookie quarterbacks isn’t always a good option.
Possible Teams: Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams
3. Tavaris Jackson- Minnesota Vikings-**Restricted free agent
Analysis: Tavaris is 26 years old and has game experience. He also has a lot of physical skills, but needs to put it together with the mental aspect of the game. He might be in-line to regain his starting job in Minnesota if Brett Favre retires. However, there might be several teams interested in a young, talented quarterback with potential.
Movement: 40% – Coach Brad Childress really believes in Jackson, but others in the organization are questioning his ability to carry the team to a Super Bowl. All the other pieces are in place, but can they trust Jackson to lead them?
Possible Teams: St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills
4. Chad Pennington- Miami Dolphins- Unrestricted free agent
Analysis: Coming off yet another injury, Pennington needs to prove his career is not over. Pennington has proven he can win, but at this point he may be nothing more than a babysitter of a team, before a younger quarterback is ready to take the reins.
Movement: 60% – Miami is ready to hand the team over to Chad Henne, so unless Pennington is willing to be a backup he will be moving on. However, there might not be much of a market for Pennington as a starter.
Possible Teams: St. Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, coaching
5. Matt Moore- Carolina Panthers- Restricted free agent
Analysis: Moore had one of the best passer ratings in the last few weeks of the season. However, nobody is sure if Carolina is ready to go forward with him as the starter. Coach Jim Fox remains on the hot seat and will go with whichever quarterback can win now, even if that jeopardizes the future.
Movement: 30%– Moore is a restricted free agent and probably the best option on the Panthers roster. Unless a team offers him a huge contract, expect him to be back in Carolina.
Possible Teams: St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals