You know how hippos are made out to be sweet and silly, like big cows, but are actually extremely dangerous and can kill you with stunning brutality? The Pacers are the NBA's hippos....Matt Moore CBS Sports....
The Colts probably can sign 3 impact players. An all pro at one position with 2 mediocre starters or 3 really good starters. If they sign Byrd then I doubt they make an offer to Mack. If they sign Spikes then I doubt they will spend a ton of money on Soliai at NT. It's a give and take at each position so when I say Kendrick Lewis don't think I am really impressed with his game. It's a stop gap and one that normally gets filled by the draft.
Davis will command a big chunk of that money 8 mill. A kicker and a punter combine for another 4-5 mill. Then you have one spot for a decent upgrade at the offensive and defensive line position probably combining for 10 million. Then you have the LBers to fill out so that could vary but let's say you spend 6 million. That's close to 30 mill right there and you have signed 6 to 7 guys out of the 20 free agents to replace.
Now not every one is important enough to replace out of those 20 spots leaving through free agency but a good portion are for depth and special teams. Guys like Sergio Brown made a significant impact and he needs to be retained or replaced and that will cost. The rest of depth will soak up that 10 million really quick. So I go back to my original statement. I don't suggest guys like some homer with unrealistic expectations but I try to keep everything in perspective including the cap.
I guess I can stick it here, a federal judge denied that $765 mil settlement between the league and the players union. Said there's no proof that it'll be enough.
ESPN article on top 25 FAs to sign. I think we should go after Talib if he's available
The stakes in NFL free agency would be so much higher this offseason if NaVorro Bowman, Kam Chancellor, Geno Atkins, Sean Lee, Clay Matthews, Percy Harvin and other headliners hadn't signed contract extensions keeping them off the market. Teams have gotten pretty good at identifying their best players and securing their services preemptively. The short list of potential high-priority unrestricted free agents will get even shorter as teams re-sign top players or use the franchise tag to buy additional time.
That explains why it was tough to come up with many potential UFAs falling into the "must-keep" category with less than two months remaining until the signing period opens. Two agents and two general managers lent assistance, with all four placing the same player atop their lists. I wasn't going to argue, but there were some differing perspectives once we moved past the top four or five players.
While the agents focused on how much money UFAs might command, the GMs also considered players whose value to their current organizations went beyond what the market might bear. That was where I chose to focus -- not exclusively on which players might get paid the most, but also on which ones teams need to re-sign if they hope to avoid a significant drop in performance next season. I set out to list 10 "must-sign" free agents and wound up listing 25 overall, including a few with lesser qualifications.
Here are the top 25 "must-sign" free agents of 2014.
1. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints: We can debate whether Graham should be valued as a tight end or wide receiver based on where he lines up most of the time. We can debate whether the Saints used him properly in the postseason or whether Graham shrank under pressure. But there is no debating what Graham has meant to the Saints' passing game while leading the league in touchdown receptions over the past three seasons (36). The Saints' championship window should remain open for the next couple of seasons as quarterback Drew Brees remains in his prime at age 34. Graham has to stay in New Orleans and it's highly unlikely that the Saints will let him leave. The agents and GMs expect Graham to get the franchise tag. "He will want $10 million a year or more, but why pay him that if they can franchise him at, say, $7 million and get him for $15 million over the next two?" one of the agents said.
2. Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers: Sometimes you'll hear people say sacks tell only part of the story. That's true, but guys who collect a lot of them have traditionally gotten paid handsomely. Hardy ranks fifth in sacks over the past two seasons with 26, and he will be just 26 years old next season. The Panthers have sought to build a deep and powerful rotation along their defensive line and Hardy is a big part of that. However, the market for pass-rushers went soft last offseason. That was how Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett wound up with Seattle on short-term deals. The feeling here is that Carolina will use the franchise tag on Hardy or sign him to an extension. There was no consensus that Hardy should be second on this list. One of the agents thought he should be lower, but it was tough finding other players to fill the void.
3. Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns: Mack is 28 and has started all 80 games in five seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors twice. "He has a good pedigree, is a good leader and will get a big deal, no question," one of the agents said. One of the GMs agreed, noting that Mack is good enough to create mismatches in the running game. The Browns enter the 2014 draft with two first-round choices and plenty of holes on their roster. Losing Mack would create a giant need unnecessarily. He's the type of player smart teams reward.
4. Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins: The Redskins were a mess on defense last season even though Orakpo had 10 sacks while placing fourth in the Pro Football Focus rankings for 3-4 outside linebackers. Teams need at least two top pass-rushers to excel; Orakpo gives the Redskins one. Ryan Kerrigan isn't bad, either, but Orakpo is the one Washington can least afford to lose. "Kerrigan can win against mediocre tackles," one of the GMs said. "Orakpo can win against anybody."
5. Branden Albert, LT, Kansas City Chiefs: Teams value quarterbacks, pass-rushers, offensive tackles and cover corners highly. The question here is whether the Chiefs would value Albert enough to re-sign him one year after using the first pick in the draft on another tackle, Eric Fisher. The decision would be easier if Fisher obviously projected as a safe bet to blossom at left tackle, but that has not happened yet. "They could play Donald Stephenson at left tackle and Fisher at right if they wanted to let Branden go," one of the GMs said.
6. Henry Melton, DT, Chicago Bears: This one is complicated by the ACL injury Melton suffered during the season. A recent arrest presents another issue to navigate. The Bears defense was not the same after Melton left the lineup, as GM Phil Emery noted recently: "The under-tackle position in the scheme that we're in is the engine that drives the defense. And when he was in the game, even though from a statistical standpoint he wasn't off to a fast start, it was very evident on tape that he was a very important part of the defense."
[+] EnlargeAnquan Boldin
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezAnquan Boldin has had a great season in San Francisco.
7. Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals franchised Johnson a year ago and appear unlikely to do so again after Johnson collected only 3.5 sacks in 2013, down from 11.5 the season before. Stronger play against the run allowed Johnson to place fourth in Pro Football Focus' rankings for 4-3 defensive ends, one spot behind Hardy. Still, it could be unlikely Johnson will stick around, as the Bengals have invested in Atkins and Carlos Dunlap already. Johnson turns 27 next month and should be entering his prime years. "The jury is still out on him, but he is a young rusher and those guys can get paid," one of the agents said. "Last year, the market for pass-rushers changing teams was not great."
8. Lamarr Houston, DE, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders do not possess enough talent to let productive young players get away. Houston, 25, tied Cameron Wake with 41 quarterback hurries this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Not bad for a 300-pounder.
9. Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers: Boldin isn't going to command a fat long-term deal at age 33. The 49ers would ideally move on with younger players, but Boldin means too much to them. I'm not sure the 49ers would have made the playoffs, let alone advanced, without the toughness, consistency, leadership and production Boldin provided -- especially while Michael Crabtree was recovering from surgery. It's not just that Boldin caught 85 passes for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season. It's not just that he has 11 receptions for 174 yards in two playoff games. The value has been compounded by the fact that San Francisco has had such a glaring need at the position. Having Crabtree back could diminish Boldin's value next season, at least to some degree.
10. Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta returned from a major injury late in the season and might not command more than $4-$5 million a year. "Some think he'll get a lot more," one of the agents said. The bottom line is that Baltimore can't really afford to lose any more of its established weapons after trading away Boldin last offseason. Pitta is one of the few weapons quarterback Joe Flacco can trust. Keeping him in a Ravens uniform should be a priority.
11. B.J. Raji, DT, Green Bay Packers: Raji appears somewhat miscast in the Packers' 3-4 defense. It's not that Raji has performed poorly. It's more that the Packers have turned him into a two-down player to fit their scheme, one reason Raji has zero sacks in his past 37 regular-season games. Raji had 9.5 sacks over a 27-game span preceding his current drought. He has reportedly turned down an offer worth $8 million per year, an indication he might see himself as a better fit elsewhere. Do the Packers have enough talent on defense to let one of their better players get away?
12. Michael Bennett, DL, Seattle Seahawks: Bennett had 8.5 sacks for the Seahawks in 2013 after collecting nine for Tampa Bay in the previous season. He was fifth behind Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Hardy and Johnson in the PFF rankings for 4-3 defensive ends. Chris Clemons, 32, might not be in the picture next season. The versatile Bennett proved to be an excellent fit in Seattle. Re-signing him and keeping Avril (signed through 2014) seems like the way to go. Injuries are one consideration, though, as Bennett had a preexisting shoulder condition when Seattle signed him.
13. Karlos Dansby, ILB, Arizona Cardinals: Inside linebackers generally aren't a priority to re-sign at age 32, but Dansby could be an exception. He played more snaps than anyone on the Cardinals defense. Dansby picked off four passes and returned two of them for touchdowns. He broke up 13 passes by either batting the ball, tipping it or getting credit for a pass defensed. The Cardinals have front-line talent at every level of their defense whether or not Dansby returns, but they would have a hard time replacing what he has provided. He and Bennett ranked among the top one-year rentals in 2013. They have earned new deals.
14. Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills: Byrd played the final 11 games this season after skipping the first five as an unhappy franchise player. "I think they like him a lot," one GM said, "but I would be surprised if he [was] hugely paid." One of the agents thought Byrd would get between $6.2 million and $7.5 million a year. The Bills were 15th in Total QBR allowed without Byrd and third after he reported.
[+] EnlargeNew England's Aqib Talib
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsAqib Talib is a versatile player in New England's defense.
15. Sam Shields, CB, Packers: Shields provides needed stability in the Green Bay secondary. He could even outrank Raji on this list, depending on what role the Packers have in mind for Raji.
16. Aqib Talib, CB, New England Patriots: Injuries wiped out much of the Patriots defense, making Talib even more valuable. The way Talib shadowed and shut down Graham in Week 6 stands out. There are other corners worth a mention, including Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner. One agent thought Grimes might get $21 million over three years, but there are concerns about his age and durability. Verner normally would have commanded his own entry here, but one of the GMs questioned how he would project to other schemes. That is something to consider if Tennessee's new coaching staff installs a 3-4 defense favoring bigger corners with strong tackling skills.
17. Arthur Jones, DL, Ravens: Jones is 27 years old, coming off his rookie contract and a major part of the Ravens' run defense. One agent thought Jones might get around $6 million a year.
18. Donte Whitner, SS, 49ers: The 49ers' front seven is among the best in the NFL. Their secondary isn't as strong, which is why the team should keep Whitner. One of the GMs put it this way: "San Francisco is in the [championship] window and I think Whitner brings an element of ultra toughness that I do not know if they can afford to lose just to get younger. They are a very tough, physical bunch and he might be the most physical of all of them."
19. Jason Hatcher, DT, Dallas Cowboys: Hatcher had 11 sacks in 2013 and he possesses the versatility to play multiple schemes. He turns 32 in July, but given the state of the Cowboys defense, Hatcher should have value to the team.
20. Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks: The Seahawks' need at receiver won't be as great if Harvin returns to health and factors from the beginning next season, but that is not something the Seahawks can take for granted. "Russell [Wilson] can be good at putting a ball up down the field and he does it to Golden in center field," one of the GMs said. "It's a component of their offense that they did not have. Tate may not be pound-for-pound one of the best players in free agency, but in importance to team, he is up there." This GM also thought the Philadelphia Eagles needed to re-sign Riley Cooper. The other GM made it clear other teams wouldn't necessarily value those players the same way. "Tate will be seen with the slot-type guys and people in my position feel they can come up with those guys," this GM said. "People will not say, 'I have to have Golden Tate.' People will say the system made Cooper, not the other way around." There are other wide receivers to consider. Denver's Eric Decker and New England's Julian Edelman are among them, but the feeling here is that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will be fine with or without them.
21. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots: Blount was the only running back mentioned as a possibility for inclusion when I called around before the playoffs got underway. Watching Blount carry 24 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns against Indianapolis in the divisional playoffs did not hurt his cause.
22. Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Worilds led the Steelers in sacks with eight. Fellow outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley has missed 14 games over the past three seasons and doesn't carry the same value he did earlier in his career.
23. T.J. Ward, S, Browns: The big question is whether Ward can stay healthy after his breakthrough 2013 season. Durability was a concern in the past.
24. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants: It's tough to place Nicks higher on the list when the Giants appear noncommittal about his future with the team. Nicks has enough talent to command top dollar and the Giants can use all the front-line receivers they can get. But after Eli Manning imploded and Nicks went without a touchdown reception in 2013, Nicks' value became tougher to handicap.
25. Eugene Monroe, T, Ravens: Monroe makes the list based largely on positional value. PFF ranked him 10th among left tackles in 2013. The Ravens need to upgrade their offensive line on the interior. They don't need to create additional holes at tackle.