Free Agency 101: The 2009 Free Agency Period is here and NFL teams are ready to shop

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Remember “Alan Faneca”, all you fans out there with dreams of signing a free agent and moving instantly into Super Bowl contention.  Faneca was one of the 2008 free agency period’s biggest fishes out there.  The former 7-time Pro Bowl guard signed a deal of a lifetime (5 years, $40 Million with $21 Million guaranteed) that made him the highest paid offensive lineman at the time to leave the frugal Pittsburg Steelers to sign with New York Jets owner Woody Johnson’s “deep pocketed” team.  The moves of bringing in Faneca and fellow free agency pickups outside linebacker Calvin Pace and right tackle Damien Woody plus trades for quarterback Brett Favre and defensive tackle Kris Jenkins were supposed to instantly hand the J-E-T-S the AFC East crown.  Well, now we know that the Jets, despite a massive off-season spending spree, did not reach the postseason for the second straight year finishing with a disappointing 9-7 record including going 1-4 in their final five games — lost to Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami (lost division title at home) and barely beat Buffalo. I am sure Johnson was “giddy” seeing the return on his investment when the Jets were on the sidelines come playoff time watching the upstart AFC East champion Miami Dolphins.

I am sure during the 2008 season NFL team general managers and owners paid particular attention to the Jets’ fortunes to see the affect of extravagant free agency spending on a team.  The Jets and the equally luxurious Dallas Cowboys expected to win after shopping at Neiman Marcus in the offseason for players.  But not so fast…. as both teams didn’t even make the playoffs and it was the Pittsburgh Steelers fueled by home grown talent cultivated through the draft (James Harrison, Santonio Holmes, Ben Roethlisberger, Casey Hampton and others) who were hoisting the Super Bowl XLIII Lombardi trophy.  The Steelers proved that building a solid nucleus through the draft and playing as a “team” are the greatest keys to winning in the NFL rather than trying to buy a championship.  The Steelers confirmed the same successful formula that the Colts, Patriots, and Giants have subscribed to for years by looking to the draft first to build their teams — Did you notice all of these teams have recently won a Super Bowl.  Over the years I have always told disgruntled spend-happy fans, “Good teams fill weaknesses on their roster with solid veteran players and draft picks and bad ones try to make a splash by over spending for ‘Big Name’ free agents and usually fall apart due to non-cohesiveness”.

Timeframe: Begins at 12:01 a.m. EST on Friday, February 27th and runs to April 17th at 4 PM EST for restricted free agents

Salary Cap Information: The 2009 salary cap has been set for $124 million per team, which is $7.3 million higher than last year’s figure of $116.7 Million.  Remember TV and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) have dictated the large pot of money that is out there.  Most of the teams are in good shape going into the free agency signing period due to good cap management.   Solid teams usually make good cap decisions (Cutting of high priced veterans, extending young ascending players, and signing value veterans at the league minimum: $750,000).  Teams with plenty of cap room (signing dollars) include: Arizona Cardinals ($40 Million under the Salary Cap as of February 27th), Detroit Lions ($39 Million under) Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($38 Million under), Kansas City Chiefs ($38 Million under), Tennessee Titans ($31 Million under), Philadelphia Eagles ($31 Million under), and Buffalo Bills ($26 Million under). While others like the Washington Redskins ($7 Million over the cap), New Orleans Saints ($6 Million over), Indianapolis Colts ($4 Million over), New York Jets ($1 Million over), Oakland Raiders ($8 Million under), New England Patriots ($5 Million under) and Dallas Cowboys ($3 Million under) will need to do some slashing and contract restructuring before trying to sign their upcoming draft picks and desired free agents.

Number of Free Agents: The National Football League announced that over 400 players are free agents of some kind and they can now negotiate with all 32 teams. That number includes the 14 free agents that were designated as “franchise” players, which is an NFL-high surpassing the former high of 11 from 2005 and 2008.

Possible CBA Issues Lurking – At the 2008 Annual NFL Spring Meeting, NFL owners while crying broke over salaries that now encompass 60% of yearly revenues, exercised a clause (had until November 8, 2008 to do so) by a unanimous vote (32-0) to shorten the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). The vote meant that the CBA that was originally signed in 1993 (Extended several times including the last time in 2006) would expire in 2011 instead of 2013. There have been murmurs of a possible lockout in 2012 if the owners and players cannot come together on a new CBA.  A few key items that will need to be discussed in the new CBA are the scheduled “uncapped” year in 2010, new free agency rules (years of services, team player rights, the franchise tag) and a potential rookie salary cap.  But who could blame the owners for talking about a rookie salary cap with deals like 2008 NFL Draft first overall selection Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long’s rookie contract (5 years, $57.5 Million dollars including a signing bonus of $30 Million dollars) and that was before he even stepped on the playing field.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when making the announcement at the ’08 meeting of opting out of the current CBA, “We don’t need further time to analyze whether this is working or not working. It’s not working”.   The Commish added, “It was the ownership’s view that it’s not a failure of the negotiations, it’s a failure of the deal”. It will be real interesting to see how the whole potential CBA mess is handled since the NFLPA still has not settled on a successor for former NFLPA head the late Gene Upshaw.

Key Terms:

Restricted Free Agent – A player that has accrued three seasons of playing time and their contract has expired.  The player’s team must submit a “qualifying” offer (a salary level predetermined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and its players). The player can negotiate with any team through April 17th. If the restricted free agent accepts an offer sheet from a new team, his old team can match the offer and retain him because it has the “right of first refusal.” If the old team does not match the offer, it can possibly receive draft-choice compensation depending on the amount of its qualifying offer. If an offer sheet is not executed, the player’s rights revert to his old team after April 17th.  These are guys that usually have trade value and their team will only let them go at their price (ex. The Eagles trading restricted free agent quarterback AJ Feeley to the Miami Dolphins for a 2nd Round pick in 2005)

 Some of the bigger name restricted free agents:

DL Victor Adeyanju, RFA St. Louis Rams 

WR Miles Austin, RFA Dallas Cowboys 

WR Hank Baskett, RFA Philadelphia Eagles

SS Atari Bigby, RFA Green Bay Packers 

TE Dominique Byrd, RFA St. Louis Rams

C/G Nick Cole, RFA Philadelphia Eagles

OT Willie Colon, RFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

TE Tony Curtis, RFA Dallas Cowboys

OG Jahri Evans, RFA New Orleans Saints 

CB Cortland Finnegan, RFA Tennessee Titans 

CB Charles Gordon, RFA Minnesota Vikings 

OG Richie Incognito, RFA St. Louis Rams 

TE Jeff King, RFA Carolina Panthers

P Sam Koch, RFA Baltimore Ravens 

SS Dawan Landry, RFA Baltimore Ravens 

FS Anthony Madison, RFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

DL Stanley McClover, RFA Carolina Panthers

WR Lance Moore, RFA New Orleans Saints 

LB Quentin Moses, RFA Miami Dolphins 

TE Ben Patrick, RFA Arizona Cardinals 

TE Leonard Pope, RFA Arizona Cardinals 

FS Anthony Smith, RFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

DL Gabe Watson, RFA Arizona Cardinals 

Unrestricted Free Agent – A player with four or more accrued seasons whose contract has expired. He is free to sign with any team, with no compensation owed to their former team.  These are the guys that should be thanking Reggie White, a key marquee player who fought hard for free agency and eventually was able to sign a huge deal with the Green Bay Packers back in 1993. Over 300 players have this designation. 

Some Bigger Name Unrestricted Free Agents:

QB Kerry Collins, UFA Tennessee Titans 

QB Jeff Garcia, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

QB Rex Grossman, UFA Chicago Bears 

QB Byron Leftwich, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

QB Chris Simms, UFA Tennessee Titans 

QB Kurt Warner, UFA Arizona Cardinals 

RB J.J. Arrington, UFA Arizona Cardinals 

RB Cedric Benson, UFA Cincinnati Bengals 

RB Correll Buckhalter, UFA Philadelphia Eagles

RB Kevin Jones, UFA Chicago Bears 

RB Derrick Ward, UFA New York Giants 

FB Lorenzo Neal, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

WR Devery Henderson, UFA New Orleans Saints 

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, UFA Cincinnati Bengals 

WR Michael Jenkins, UFA Atlanta Falcons

WR Brandon Jones, UFA Tennessee Titans 

WR Brandon Lloyd, UFA Chicago Bears 

WR Amani Toomer, UFA New York Giants

TE Chris Baker, UFA New York Jets

TE Owen Daniels, UFA Houston Texans

TE L.J. Smith, UFA Philadelphia Eagles

TE Jerramy Stevens, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

OT Stacy Andrews, UFA Cincinnati Bengals

C Matt Birk, UFA Minnesota Vikings 

C Jason Brown, UFA Baltimore Ravens

OT Marc Colombo, UFA Dallas Cowboys 

OT Jon Runyan, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

C Jeff Saturday, UFA Indianapolis Colts 

OT Marvel Smith, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

OT Mark Tauscher, UFA Green Bay Packers

OT Tra Thomas, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

DL Chris Canty, UFA Dallas Cowboys

DL Tommie Harris, UFA Chicago Bears 

DL Albert Haynesworth, UFA Tennessee Titans 

DL Tank Johnson, UFA Dallas Cowboys 

DL Igor Olshansky, UFA San Diego Chargers

LB Michael Boley, UFA Atlanta Falcons

LB James Farrior, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

LB Ray Lewis, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

LB Willie McGinest, UFA Cleveland Browns 

LB Mike Peterson, UFA Jacksonville Jaguars

LB Bart Scott, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

LB Zach Thomas, UFA Dallas Cowboys 

LB Jonathan Vilma, UFA New Orleans Saints 

CB Chris Gamble, UFA Carolina Panthers 

CB Jabari Greer, UFA Buffalo Bills

CB Corey Ivy, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

CB Ty Law, UFA New York Jets

CB Bryant McFadden, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers  

FS Brian Dawkins, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

SS Rodney Harrison, UFA New England Patriots 

SS Sean Jones, UFA Cleveland Browns 

SS Darren Sharper, UFA Minnesota Vikings 

PK John Carney, UFA New York Giants 

PK Robbie Gould, UFA Chicago Bears 

PK John Kasay, UFA Carolina Panthers 

PK Matt Stover, UFA Baltimore Ravens

Transition Player – A team can designate one transition player (or one franchise player) in any given year. The player’s team must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of last season at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater (ex. Transition Salary for a RB in 2009 is $5.925 Million). A transition player designation gives the team a first-refusal right to match within seven days any offer sheet given to the player by another team after his contract expires. If the team matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.

  • No players were designated as a “Transition Player” this year.

Non-Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as a “Non-Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. A “Non-Exclusive” franchise player is free to sign with other teams, but his team has the right to match the offer after 7 days. These types of free agents are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  A Non-Exclusive Franchised Player can solicit deals from other teams, but his current team has first-refusal rights to match within seven days any offer sheet. If the player does sign and his team matches, the old team retains the player. If old team does not match, the old team receives compensation in the form of draft picks (usually first rounders) from the new team depending on the level they were tendered at originally.  The deadline for making these designations for 2009 was Feb. 19th.

LB Karlos Dansby, UFA Arizona Cardinals

LB Leroy Hill, UFA Seattle Seahawks 

P Michael Koenen, UFA Atlanta Falcons

TE Bo Scaife, UFA Tennessee Titans

OT Max Starks, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers

Exclusive Franchise Player – A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as an “Exclusive Franchise” player. The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. An “exclusive” franchise player is not free to sign with another team.  These type of players are offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position as of April.  Some teams use the tag as a way to initiate talks for a long-term contract, but usually players and their agents that are designated as exclusive franchise players are extremely unhappy and can cause distractions.  Their angst is due to the loss of an “upfront” signing bonus (guaranteed $$$).  Though they will be paid at the highest level of their position, players typically want the big payday that comes with being a free agent.  In the past we have seen franchised players miss all non-mandatory off season training activities and report late or holdout of training camp (ex. Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle Walter Jones in 2004 & 2005). The deadline for making these designations for 2009 was Feb. 19th. Here are the anticipated salaries for franchised players Quarterbacks: $14.65 Million, Cornerbacks: $9.96 Million, Defensive Ends: $8.99 Million, Linebackers: $8.30 Million, Wide Receivers: $9.88 Million, Offensive Lineman: $8.45 Million, Defensive Tackles: $6.06 Million, Running Backs: $6.62 Million, Tight Ends: $4.46 Million, Safeties: $6.34 Million, and Kickers/Punters: $2.48 Million

2009 “Exclusive” Franchise Designated Players

S Oshiomogho “O.J” Atogwe, UFA St Louis Rams

WR Antonio Bryant, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Matt Cassel, UFA New England Patriots

K Shayne Graham, UFA, Cinncinati Bengals

RB Brandon Jacobs, UFA New York Giants

DL Julius Peppers, UFA Carolina Panthers 

CB Dunta Robinson, UFA Houston Texans 

RB Darren Sproles, UFA San Diego Chargers

OLB/DE Terrell Suggs, UFA Baltimore Ravens

Cap Casualty – A veteran player that has been released from his contract usually as “cap relief” for his former team.  These players are usually let go before Free Agency or before their contract bonuses incentives kick-in usually around March or June prior to OTA’s and training camp.  Veteran “street” free agents are eligible to sign with any team as soon as they are released, thus bypassing free agency period dates.

Some Bigger Name 2009 Cap Casualty Players

St. Louis Rams WR Drew Bennett

Detroit Lions CB Leigh Bodden

Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks

Detroit Lions TE Dan Campbell

Oakland Raiders WR Ronald Curry

NY Giants RB Reuben Droughns

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Warrick Dunn

Kansas City Chiefs LB Donnie Edwards

Oakland Raiders LB Kalimba Edwards

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Drayton Florence

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Larry Foote (expected to be released or traded by NFL Draft)

Detroit Lions WR Mike Furrey

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Joey Galloway

Houston Texans RB Ahmad Green

Houston Texans LB Morlon Greenwood

Oakland Raiders OL Kwame Harris

Indianapolis Colts WR Marvin Harrison

St. Louis Rams WR Torry Holt (expected to be released or traded by NFL Draft)

Kansas City Chiefs QB Damon Huard

Arizona Cardinals RB Edge James (expected to be released or traded by NFL Draft)

Dallas Cowboys CB Adam “Pacman” Jones

Detroit Lions QB Jon Kitna (expected to be released by NFL Draft)

NY Giants DB Sammy Knight

NY Giants DB Sam Madison

Baltimore Ravens DB Chris McAllister

New Orleans Saints RB Deuce McAllister

Atlanta Falcons S Lawyer Milloy

Detroit Lions guard Edwin Mulitalo

Dallas Cowboys WR Terrell Owens (expected to be released or traded by NFL Draft)

St. Louis Rams OT Orlando Pace (expected to be released or traded by NFL Draft)

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Jerry Porter

Denver Broncos DT DeWayne Robertson

Detroit Lions DB Dwight Smith

San Francisco 49ers DB Shawntae Spencer (expected to be released by NFL Draft)

Kansas City Chiefs CB Patrick Surtain

Jacksonville Jaguars RB Fred Taylor

Oakland Raiders WR Javon Walker (expected to be released by NFL Draft)

Oakland Raiders S Gibril Wilson

Players signing new deals with their old team, thus avoiding free agency

Oakland Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha

Tennessee Titans K Rob Bironas

Miami Dolphins OT Vernon Carey

Miami Dolphins LB Channing Crowder

Carolina Panthers OT Jordan Gross

Detroit Lions K Jason Hanson

Indianapolis Colts CB Kelvin Hayden

Oakland Raiders P Shane Lechler

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Ryan Simms

 

  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 Top NFL Free Agents

With the 2009 NFL Free Agency period approaching fast (February 27th), I thought that I would put together my top free agent by position.

** Indicates a player that has been “franchised” by their team

Quarterbacks

QB Kyle Boller, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

 **QB Matt Cassel, UFA New England Patriots 

QB Kerry Collins, UFA Tennessee Titans 

QB Jeff Garcia, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

QB Rex Grossman, UFA Chicago Bears 

QB Byron Leftwich, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

QB J.P. Losman, UFA Buffalo Bills 

QB Dan Orlovsky, UFA Detroit Lions

QB JT O’Sullivan, UFA San Francisco 49ers

QB Chris Simms, UFA Tennessee Titans 

QB Kurt Warner, UFA Arizona Cardinals 

 Running Backs

RB J.J. Arrington, UFA Arizona Cardinals 

RB Tatum Bell, UFA Denver Broncos

RB Cedric Benson, UFA Cincinnati Bengals 

RB Correll Buckhalter, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

RB Warrick Dunn, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

RB DeShaun Foster, UFA San Francisco 49ers

RB Ahmad Green, UFA Houston Texans

**RB Brandon Jacobs, UFA New York Giants

RB Edgerrin James, UFA Arizona Cardinals  (expected to be released)

RB Rudi Johnson, UFA Detroit Lions

RB Kevin Jones, UFA Chicago Bears 

RB LaMont Jordan, UFA New England Patriots 

RB Deuce McAllister, UFA New Orleans Saints

RB Chris Perry, UFA Cinncinati Bengals

RB Dominic Rhodes, UFA Indianapolis Colts

**RB Darren Sproles, UFA San Diego Chargers 

RB Fred Taylor, UFA Jacksonville Jaguars

RB Derrick Ward, UFA New York Giants 

Fullbacks

FB Heath Evans, UFA New England Patriots 

FB Lorenzo Neal, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

FB Tony Richardson, UFA New York Jets 

FB Leonard Weaver, UFA Seattle Seahawks 

Wide Receivers

WR Miles Austin, RFA Dallas Cowboys 

WR Hank Baskett, RFA Philadelphia Eagles

WR Drew Bennett, UFA St. Louis Rams

**WR Antonio Bryant, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

WR Michael Clayton, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

WR Ronald Curry, UFA Oakland Raiders

WR Jabar Gaffney, UFA New England Patriots 

WR Joey Galloway, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WR Devery Henderson, UFA New Orleans Saints 

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, UFA Cincinnati Bengals 

WR Michael Jenkins, UFA Atlanta Falcons

WR Bryant Johnson, UFA San Francisco 49ers 

WR Brandon Jones, UFA Tennessee Titans 

WR Brandon Lloyd, UFA Chicago Bears 

WR Dane Looker, UFA St. Louis Rams

WR Justin McCareins, UFA Tennessee Titans 

WR Shaun McDonald, UFA Detroit Lions 

WR Lance Moore, RFA New Orleans Saints 

WR Jerry Porter, UFA Jacksonville Jaguars

WR Amani Toomer, UFA New York Giants

WR Javon Walker, UFA Oakland Raiders

WR Nate Washington, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

WR Reggie Williams, UFA Jacksonville Jaguars

Tight Ends

TE Mark Bruener, UFA Houston Texans

TE Dominique Byrd, RFA St. Louis Rams

TE Desmond Clark, UFA Chicago Bears 

TE Tony Curtis, RFA Dallas Cowboys

TE Owen Daniels, UFA Houston Texans

TE Darnell Dinkins, UFA Cleveland Browns 

TE Bubba Franks, UFA New York Jets

TE Jeff King, RFA Carolina Panthers 

TE Jim Kleinsasser, UFA Minnesota Vikings 

TE Ben Patrick, RFA Arizona Cardinals 

TE Leonard Pope, RFA Arizona Cardinals 

**TE Bo Scaife, UFA Tennessee Titans

TE L.J. Smith, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

TE Jerramy Stevens, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TE Daniel Wilcox, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

Offensive Line

OT Stacy Andrews, UFA Cincinnati Bengals

OT Khalif Barnes, UFA Jacksonville Jaguars 

C Matt Birk, UFA Minnesota Vikings 

C Jason Brown, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

C/G Nick Cole, RFA Philadelphia Eagles

OT Marc Colombo, UFA Dallas Cowboys 

OT Willie Colon, RFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

OG Jahri Evans, RFA New Orleans Saints 

OT George Foster, UFA Detroit Lions 

C Melvin Fowler, UFA Buffalo Bills 

OG Pete Kendall, UFA Washington Redskins

OG Richie Incognito, RFA St. Louis Rams 

OG Seth McKinney, UFA Cleveland Browns 

OT Jon Runyan, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

C Jeff Saturday, UFA Indianapolis Colts 

OT Marvel Smith, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

**OT Max Starks, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers

OT Jon Stinchcomb, UFA New Orleans Saints 

OT Mark Tauscher, UFA Green Bay Packers 

OT Tra Thomas, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

C Ben Wilkerson, UFA Atlanta Falcons 

Defensive Line

DL Victor Adeyanju, RFA St. Louis Rams 

DL Rocky Bernard, UFA Seattle Seahawks

DL Bertrand Berry, UFA Arizona Cardinals 

DL Chris Canty, UFA Dallas Cowboys

DL Tommie Harris, UFA Chicago Bears 

DL Albert Haynesworth, UFA Tennessee Titans 

DL Tank Johnson, UFA Dallas Cowboys 

DL Stanley McClover, RFA Carolina Panthers

DL Jerome McDougle, UFA New York Giants

DL Igor Olshansky, UFA San Diego Chargers

**DL Julius Peppers, UFA Carolina Panthers 

DL Kenny Peterson, UFA Denver Broncos 

DL Antonio Smith, UFA Arizona Cardinals

**OLB/DL Terrell Suggs, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

DL John Thornton, UFA Cincinnati Bengals 

DL Gabe Watson, RFA Arizona Cardinals 

Linebackers

LB Eric Barton, UFA New York Jets 

LB Monty Beisel, UFA Arizona Cardinals 

LB Michael Boley, UFA Atlanta Falcons

LB Keith Brooking, UFA Atlanta Falcons

LB Derrick Brooks, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

**LB Karlos Dansby, UFA Arizona Cardinals

LB Andra Davis, UFA Cleveland Browns

LB Kalimba Edwards, UFA Oakland Raiders

LB James Farrior, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

LB Tyjuan Hagler, UFA Indianapolis Colts 

**LB Leroy Hill, UFA Seattle Seahawks

LB Napoleon Harrison, UFA Minnesota Vikings

LB Larry Izzo, UFA New England Patriots 

LB D.D. Lewis, UFA Seattle Seahawks 

LB Ray Lewis, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

LB Willie McGinest, UFA Cleveland Browns 

LB Quentin Moses, ERFA Miami Dolphins 

LB Mike Peterson, UFA Jacksonville Jaguars

LB Junior Seau, UFA New England Patriots

LB Bart Scott, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

LB Zach Thomas, UFA Dallas Cowboys 

LB Jonathan Vilma, UFA New Orleans Saints 

LB Nate Webster, UFA Denver Broncos 

Cornerbacks

CB Phillip Buchanon, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

CB/KR Chris Carr, UFA Tennessee Titans

CB Cortland Finnegan, RFA Tennessee Titans 

CB Domonique Foxworth, UFA Atlanta Falcons

CB Chris Gamble, UFA Carolina Panthers 

CB Andre’ Goodman, UFA Miami Dolphins 

CB Charles Gordon, RFA Minnesota Vikings 

CB Jabari Greer, UFA Buffalo Bills 

CB DeAngelo Hall, UFA Washington Redskins

CB Corey Ivy, UFA Baltimore Ravens 

CB Adam “Pacman” Jones, UFA Dallas Cowboys 

CB Eric King, UFA Tennessee Titans 

CB Ty Law, UFA New York Jets

CB Bryant McFadden, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

CB R.W. McQuarters, UFA New York Giants 

CB Justin Miller, UFA Oakland Raiders 

CB Deltha O’Neil, UFA New England Patriots

**CB Dunta Robinson, UFA Houston Texans 

CB/KR Allen Rossum, UFA San Francisco 49ers 

CB Duane Starks, UFA Oakland Raiders 

Safeties

FS Mike Adams, UFA Cleveland Browns 

FS Will Allen, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

**FS Oshiomogho “O.J” Atogwe, UFA St Louis Rams

SS Atari Bigby, RFA Green Bay Packers 

SS Mike Brown, UFA Chicago Bears 

FS Brian Dawkins, UFA Philadelphia Eagles 

SS Rodney Harrison, UFA New England Patriots 

FS Renaldo Hill, UFA Miami Dolphins 

SS Sean Jones, UFA Cleveland Browns 

SS Dawan Landry, RFA Baltimore Ravens 

SS/KR Jim Leonhard, UFA Baltimore Ravens

FS Anthony Madison, RFA Pittsburgh Steelers 

SS Jon McGraw, UFA Kansas City Chiefs 

SS Lawyer Milloy, UFA Atlanta Falcons 

SS Jermaine Phillips, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

SS James Sanders, UFA New England Patriots 

SS Darren Sharper, UFA Minnesota Vikings 

FS Anthony Smith, RFA Pittsburgh Steelers

FS Eugene Wilson, UFA Houston Texans

FS Gibril Wilson, UFA Oakland Raiders 

Kickers and Punters

PK John Carney, UFA New York Giants 

PK Robbie Gould, UFA Chicago Bears 

**PK Shayne Graham, UFA Cincinnati Bengals

P Craig Hentrich, UFA Tennessee Titans 

PK John Kasay, UFA Carolina Panthers 

**P Michael Koenen, UFA Atlanta Falcons 

P Sam Koch, RFA Baltimore Ravens

PK Mike Nugent, UFA New York Jets 

PK Matt Stover, UFA Baltimore Ravens  

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

McNabb has “Big” Talk Over Benching, But He Still is not Happy

According to ESPN’s Michael Smith, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and his agent Fletcher Smith did indeed have their long-awaited meeting with Eagles head coach Andy Reid and team president Joe Banner the week of February 16th. The quarterback had his opportunity to air his unhappiness over his in-game benching in a Week 12 loss at Baltimore.  Granted in that game McNabb was not at his best (8-for-18 for 59 yards with two interceptions and a fumble in the first half), but the Eagles clearly still had a chance after trailing at the half by only three points and McNabb was man to lead them back and not “green” 2nd-year quarterback Kevin Kolb — enough already with this almost four month old story.  I am sure that the Eagles listened and promptly told their star quarterback, “Get Over It” and what is in the past shall remain in the past and he is their man, especially after their great end of season run to the NFC Championship game behind his leadership and steady play.

An Eagles insider confirmed to ESPN that the two sides settled their differences over his benching.  However McNabb after crying the blues over his benching to a reticent audience turned his intentions toward the future.  The former 5-time Pro Bowl player said that he would refrain from seeking a contract extension until after he sees if the Eagles address their holes this off-season (i.e. Get me some offensive weapons at RB, WR, and TE or else).  McNabb, 32, better be real careful how he proceeds with demands of the Eagles front office — just ask Jeremiah Trotter, Jon Welbourne, Corey Simon, and others how that worked out.  Big 5 has two years remaining on his contract (due $9.2 Million in ’09 and $10 Million in 2010 from his 2002 of 12 year, $115 million dollars w/ $20.5 million guaranteed) and the Eagles are under no obligation to acquiesce to his demands for a new contract.  Though McNabb is correct in the opinion of many Birds fans that the team does indeed need more impact players on offense besides himself and mercurial RB Brian Westbrook, the Eagles have notoriously preached that their philosophy, “the sum is greater than one superstar part”.  The team time and time again has stuck by their philosophy pointing to their five NFC Championship Games in eight years without marquee weapons as proof that they are right and I don’t believe it will change anytime soon. You have to wonder if the Eagles will tell McNabb to “Pound Sand” and to let them run their team as they see fit.

We will have to wait and see what free agency (starts on February 27th) brings, but history has shown that the Eagles will not be going after the big offensive names (TJ Houshmandzadeh, Derrick Ward, etc) of this rather shallow free agency pool.  Fans can still holdout hope of the Birds packaging picks including one or both of their two first round picks (21st and 28th overall picks) for unhappy campers like (Anquan Boldin, Tony Gonzalez, or Chad Johnson). But I think the NFL Draft in April (deep at OT, RB, and WR) will be where the team goes to fill their needs first.  Of course to the chagrin of Eagles fans, you can expect an offensive tackle to most likely be one of their first round picks.  So as we move toward OTA’s and training camp, you can expect an even brighter spotlight on McNabb’s cries for “Help” and wonder about his future with the team. 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Falcons Find Vick Trade Talks Moot

A week and half after Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff opened the bidding for suspended and imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick by saying, “We feel a trade is the best move for the Falcons, and it’s also in the best interest of Michael”, the Falcons learned that there is no trade market for the deposed passer.  Of course some will paint Vick’s non-trade as a victory for animal lovers as the former quarterback, who is serving time for his role in a federal dogfighting ring, is Persona Non Grata to some after his actions

But the real reason that Vick, scheduled to be released by July 2009, was not traded is plain and simple, “MONEY”.  With NFL free agency scheduled to start on February 27th, no team wanted to overburden their salary cap with Vick’s current huge contract — set to make a base salary of $9 million and $6.43 million more in bonuses in 2009 on his current January 2005 contract extension of 10-years, $130 million with a then NFL-record $37 million in bonuses.  In fact any team trading for Vick would be on the hook for $45.11 million through 2013, with another possible $3 million in Pro Bowl bonuses.  So even if there is a market for the 28-year old Vick, it doesn’t make good business sense for teams to not wait for his inevitable release from the Falcons later this summer and then signing him for the veteran minimum ($760,000 dollars).  The Falcons may even give Vick his chance to find a new home earlier than expected, as they also don’t want Vick’s monstrous contract on their books for the upcoming season (currently at $101 million of the 2009 season’s $124 Million cap).

To those that believe the NFL is a closed door to Vick once he is released from prison, you better wake-up to the reality that in the National Football League winning trumps everything.  Each Sunday NFL fans cheer for players that have committed crimes from domestic violence to weapons charges, so why not give Vick a player who actually served legitimate time in prison another chance.  Mark my words, if Vick is re-instated by commissioner Roger Goodell for the 2009 NFL Season — I expect him to get anywhere from no suspension to a light suspension of 4 games — “Someone will take a shot on him”.  Already in the face of some quarterback starved teams saying, “No Way” to Vick (Vikings, Seahawks, Jets, Buccaneers, and Lions), some good news came from a respected voice around the NFL.  While hedging whether his team had any interest in Vick, San Francisco 49ers’ head coach and hall of fame player Mike Singletary said Vick deserves the chance to play in the league, and believes he will be successful if he returns. 

It will be interesting to see if Vick will continue to draw the hardline on playing quarterback in looking for a rebirth in the NFL — Vick’s agent, Joel Segal, has said the former superstar won’t consider a move to a new position — or humble himself to teams, coaches, and fans by considering any opportunity to return to the NFL (backup QB/Wildcat QB/KR/Slot WR).  I thought an interesting note for all of those “Make Him a Receiver Folks”, Vick has two career catches for negative 13 yards in his NFL career and he has been a quarterback since playing Pop Warner back in his early days in Virginia.  I think his best option would be to latch on to the NFL’s newest a craze, the “Wildcat” offense — need a quarterback that is adept at running and throwing.  The offense is tailored made for Vick as he was the first quarterback in the modern era to rush for 1,000 yards (ran for 1,039 yards and 2 touchdowns in ’06) plus there is also his incredible career 7.3 yards per rush average.  The Wildcat would allow him the opportunity to get on the field in key situations (ex. Goal-line) while he knocks off over 2 years of rust.

So, “Where will Vick go?” is the obvious next question.   Former Ravens head coach Brian Billick told Yahoo, “…the baggage Vick brings will severely limit the available pool of teams”.  The former Super Bowl winning coach turned NFL analyst added, “For one thing, if Vick fails or gets in trouble with his new team, he could bring down the career of the coach and general manager who take a chance on him”.  So it was up to Yahoo to suggest a few teams as landing spots (Raiders, Cowboys or Bengals) and I will add the Rams, Panthers, and Texans.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Franchise Deadline Passes in the NFL

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Thursday February 19th was the last day that NFL teams could “franchise” their potential free agents for the 2009 NFL season.  The franchise tag allows for a team to limit a potential free agent’s movements under the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). A team can designate one franchise player in any given year as a “Franchise” player before the start of the Free Agency signing period (February 27th). The salary level offered by the designating team determines whether the player is an Exclusive or Non-Exclusive franchise player. This year there was an NFL-high 14 free agents that were designated as “franchise” players, which eclipsed the former high of eleven from 2005 and 2008.

Some teams use the tag as a way to initiate talks for a long-term contract, but usually “franchise” players and their agents are extremely unhappy and can cause distractions due to the loss of “upfront” signing bonus money (guaranteed $$$).  Though franchised players will be paid at the highest level of their position (average of the top-five salaries at their position), players typically want the big payday that comes with being a marquee free agent.  In the past, we have seen franchised players miss off season training activities (OTA’s) and report late or holdout of training camp (ex. Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle Walter Jones in 2004 & 2005). 

The player most likely to follow in the disgruntled “I am not reporting” pattern is Carolina Panther defensive end Julius Peppers.  The 2008 Pro Bowl player, who is coming off a career high of 14.5 sacks, wanted the opportunity to play elsewhere for Dwight Freeney type numbers (signed in 2007 for six years, $72 Million with a $30 Million dollar signing bonus).  But when the Panthers signed potential free agent tackle Jordan Gross to a long-term deal, Peppers lost his opportunity at leaving the only place he has played in collegiately and professionally.  Peppers went as far as saying he would only play for 4 teams (the Dallas Cowboys and three unnamed team), but he really has little leverage as Panthers will control his player rights for the next year.  The next date for franchised players to watch is July 22nd as that is the last day that their franchising team can sign them to a long term deal, if not the player can only sign their one-year franchise contract.

Here are the anticipated salaries for franchised players Quarterbacks: $14.65 Million, Cornerbacks: $9.96 Million, Defensive Ends: $8.99 Million, Linebackers: $8.30 Million, Wide Receivers: $9.88 Million, Offensive Lineman: $8.45 Million, Defensive Tackles: $6.06 Million, Running Backs: $6.62 Million, Tight Ends: $4.46 Million, Safeties: $6.34 Million, and Kickers/Punters: $2.48 Million. An “exclusive” franchise player is not free to sign with another team, while a “non-exclusive” franchise player can negotiate with the other teams, but the franchising club has a right to match or receive compensation.

2009 Franchise Designated Players

S Oshiomogho “O.J” Atogwe, UFA St Louis Rams

WR Antonio Bryant, UFA Tampa Bay Buccaneers

QB Matt Cassel, UFA New England Patriots

**LB Karlos Dansby, UFA Arizona Cardinals

K Shayne Graham, UFA, Cincinnati Bengals

**LB Leroy Hill, UFA Seattle Seahawks 

RB Brandon Jacobs, UFA New York Giants

**P Michael Koenen, UFA Atlanta Falcons

DL Julius Peppers, UFA Carolina Panthers 

CB Dunta Robinson, UFA Houston Texans 

**TE Bo Scaife, UFA Tennessee Titans

RB Darren Sproles, UFA San Diego Chargers

**OT Max Starks, UFA Pittsburgh Steelers

OLB/DE Terrell Suggs, UFA Baltimore Ravens

 ** Non-Exclusive

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2009 NFL Combine

(Philadelphia, Pa) – The NFL’s biggest “workout session” called the NFL Combine takes center stage at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis from Wednesday February 18th to Tuesday February 24th as potential draftees dreams can be made in 4.29 seconds (a very good forty-time in case you didn’t know).  It is hard to believe that the zany idea of past Dallas Cowboys draft braintrusts Gil Brandt and Tex Schramm from over 25 years ago to gather all of the draft’s prospects in one place so every team could get a look together has come so far that it is now a major part of the yearly sports calendar.  You can thank former University of Kansas option quarterback Nolan Cromwell for the madness as he was traveling from team to team in 1977 with the same information giving the forward thinking Brandt the idea for the combine. How “huge” is this one-time anomaly event, well the NFL Network will broadcast 26 live hours of coverage – more than even the Senior Bowl’s 19 hours — the NFL Combine even has it’s own website this year. There will also be a Super Bowl like “Radio Row” atmosphere at the Indianapolis Convention Center so fans can get instant results – no more “urban legend” results like Deion “Prime Time” Sanders running a “slow”, as he pontificated about it, 4.19 forty-yard dash in secrecy at the 1989 event.

The NFL Combine is part of the annual arduous four-month long “NFL job interview” process for college players to get to their dream destination of being drafted.  The job interview process has four distinctive parts – College Bowl Games, All-Star Games especially the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine, and Pro Days (private workouts) — that are all extremely important for building a powerful resume for potential players and a successful draft board for NFL personnel departments.  The NFL Combine is such a big deal that approximately 600 NFL Draft evaluators including head coaches, general managers and scouts plus their “favorite” tag-alongs the media – almost 400 credentialed members of the media including BIGPLAY Football – will pack into the Lucas Oil Stadium to watch 331 college players do whatever is asked of them in shorts and tee shirts.   These poor kids will be stamped with their cattle number like “QB03″ and then they will be poked and prodded every which way to Sunday as they will be interviewed, examined, x-rayed, measured, run all over, made to jump, twisted, bent, interrogated on their past… you name it, all to enhance their spot in the upcoming 2009 NFL Draft in April.

With this year’s success of rookie difference-makers like Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, New Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte and others, the importance of building a competitive team through the draft is omnipotent throughout the NFL. The hoopla over the NFL Combine to me is borderline insanity as most scouts I talk to put more credence in regular season game tape, All-Star game performances, talking with college staffs, bowl games, and almost anything else over seeing guys tested at the combine in t-shirts and shorts.  But statistics show players need to at least go to the NFL Combine, especially early entrants in the draft since they don’t have the advantage of going to College All-Star games — in the 2006 Draft of the 330 players invited to the NFL Combine, 222 were drafted.  The NFL Combine is also a setting where the entire NFL’s traveling show (NFL Coaches, Scouts, GM’s, media, etc) comes to Indy allowing teams to talk shop with each other around impending Free Agency (February 27th), franchised players (deadline of February 19th), possible trades of disgruntled players or draft picks, and the scene is a continuation of the NFL’s convention like atmosphere that was started at the Senior Bowl and Super Bowl.

However teams have to guard against the “love” factor at the NFL Combine as every year some teams gets an “I gotta have him” attitude usually leading to draft day moves based solely on a player’s work at the NFL Combine (see Eagles 1995 first round draft pick and 7th overall pick DE Mike Mamula – moved up the board from a 2nd or 3rd round pick to a top ten pick mostly based on his high marks at the combine).    Agents representing these prized NFL recruits definitely know what is at stake at the NFL Combine as in recent years they are pulling their player clients off of college campuses to pre-combine workout facilities.  The reason for the intense preparation for the NFL Combine is plain and simple…MONEY in the form of rookie contracts — 2008 NFL Draft first overall selection Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long signed a rookie contract for the terms 5 years, $57.5 Million dollars including a signing bonus of $30 Million dollars.  At pre-combine training camps in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Southern California, players learn everything from interviewing skills, how to take the Wonderlic Test, explosive running techniques and pumping iron.

The Events

On the Field Drills

 “The Forty” – This is the glamour event of the combine, as guys want to show the world how fast they are.  The player starts from a three-point stance and runs 40 yards as fast as possible. The player is timed in 10, 20 and 40-yard increments, to gauge the player’s explosion and speed.  Now track speed is good, but “football speed” – ability to run fast while cutting or changing direction and catching the ball – is most important.  Too often guys go to speed camps and “manufacture speed” (see 2007 Draftee Washington State WR Jason Hill) causing scouts to take a harder look at their game film.

225-Pound Bench Press – This is the second most talked about event of the combine as everyone the same as when I was in high school wants to know “What can you bench??”  At the combine everyone except quarterbacks and wide receivers are required to show how many reps they can do at two twenty-five.  Of course this event is led by famous loud mouth Arizona Cardinals Strength and Conditioning Coach John Lott – “Come on Meat, HUP, HUP!!”  Remember that players with longer arms have a tougher time pumping out reps and shorter squat guys usually can do some good damage in this event.  To show you the importance/non-importance of this event, the record holder former Ohio State DE/LB Mike Kudla (45 reps in 2006) wasn’t even drafted.

Standing Vertical Jump – This event shows the explosiveness of players from a still position.  With the NFL passing game based a lot of times on jump balls this event is of ought most importance to receivers and defensive backs.  From a flat-footed position the player jumps up and smacks at plastic flags on a pole.  When you watch this event think of explosive Niners TE Vernon Davis, who had a tight end record of 42 inches at the 2006 combine.

Broad Jump – Another explosion drill.  From a standing position a player’s lower body strength is tested as squat and jump forward as far as they can.  This event is usually led by the running backs. Jumps are measured from the starting point to the player’s back heel.

Three Cone Drill – This event is a test of a player’s speed, agility and cutting ability. Three cones are set up in an “L “shape (triangular format) with 5 yards between each of them. From a three-point stance at the first cone, on a coaches whistle the player has to sprint five yards ahead to the first cone then touch a white line – then sprint back to the starting cone touching a white line there – then running to the outside of the second cone – then cutting right to circle around the third cone – then finishing by running around the second cone and returning to the first cone.  This sounds exhausting just thinking about running this drill.

20-Yard Shuttle – This is the old fashioned test most of us did in the Presidential Physical Fitness challenge, remember how much fun that was in fifth grade.  This drill tests speed, agility, and coordination. From a three point stance on a whistle a player runs 5 yards to one side touches the yard line – then runs ten yards in the other direction touches the line there and runs back to the original line.

60-Yard Shuttle – Same as the twenty-yard shuttle, but longer.   This time the player has to go 10 yards to a line then 5 yards back then 10 yards the other way then 20 yards back and finishes this time 10 yards to the starting point. This is an endurance monster, sorry Big Boys on the O-Line.

Position Drills – This is my favorite event at the combine, because position coaches know what specific practice drills that their position players need to know to succeed.  They design ball motion drills usually around blocking dummies.  I love watching the D-Lineman practicing their rip moves and running full force at a blocking dummy.  Also watch for receivers running routes, quarterbacks being asked to throw the infamous out-pattern to the far sideline, and college defensive ends trying to make the transition to linebacker in the NFL trying to catch the ball – at the 2007 event a former NFL coach working for the NFL Network called several non-catchers “volleyball” players as passes bounced off their hands.

Off the Field Events

Measurements – Hey players do you want to feel like a piece of cattle.  As soon as players arrive in Indy they are give a cattle number (ex. QB03) and every player in attendance is measured head to foot with their height, weight, arm length, and hand size recorded.  And you thought that All-American offensive lineman was really 6′7 and 325 from his college game day program thought wrong, as he was only 6′4 ½ and weighed in at a sloppy 344.  Also the combine has a new piece of equip called the “Bod Pod” where players get in a space ship type machine and it measure s their body fat percentage.

NFL Team Interviews – Like any young person going from college to a job, players need to ace their interviews.  Teams know what this want to ask to get at player’s past and their future.  This used to be a mad scramble where teams would hoard players they liked.  But now teams get about fifteen minutes to get to know a player with a limit of 60 players for each team. This usually occurs at the convention center or player hotel with every team looking to see what makes a player tick.  Remember “character” is the number one item on most teams list along with toughness, interests on and off the field, and intelligence (the Giants and Patriots are notorious for measuring a player’s understanding of the “game of football”).  In 2007, young defensive tackle Amobi Okoye of Louisville showed coaching staffs that he was wise way beyond his 19 years of age and parlayed it into being a top fifteen pick by the Houston Texans.

NFLPA Meeting – This is a pre-cursor meeting to the NFL Rookie Symposium later in the summer.  The meeting serves as a welcome to the business of football for the crop of potential rookies.  The future of the NFL will learn all about their union including team reps, dues, health coverage, the collective bargaining agreement, and much more.  I am sure with a new CBA coming in the near future with the chance of a rumored rookie salary cap included, that this year’s Combine invitees will be listening extra specially in these meetings.

The Wonderlic Test – The NFL is now calling this portion of the NFL Combine, psychological testing.  But I am not sure if there are any other brain tests other than the dreaded Wonderlic test.  The test is designed to measure a player’s I.Q. through a 50-question test administered in 23 minutes.  Most players are tired/uninterested when taking the test, which leads to a majority of guys not completing the test.  Some agents have started to have their clients cram for the test like the SAT coming out of high school, but at least you can take that test multiple times.  This is a one shot deal that many people put way too much emphasis on.  I can still hear all of the preposterous Vince Young test score reporting from 2006 — did you know that Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw both scored a 15 while forgettable former Rams quarterback Hugh Millen scored a 41 (learn more about quarterbacks taking the Wonderlic).  Here is a sample question: “Paper clips sell for 23 cents per box. What will 4 boxes cost” — take all the time you need, because the only intelligence score that scouts should worried about is a player’s Football Intelligence (FBI). 

Injury Evaluations – Every player at the NFL Combine has to walk around with their x-rays and injury history.  Teams and their doctors will poke and check any little thing that doesn’t sound or look right.  This part of the combine has to be difficult, because players may even be scrutinized about a small injury from high school.  Back at the 2007 NFL Combine, former Louisville and current Raiders running back Michael Bush – severely broken leg his Senior season — had to put on a happy face even though he was subjected to answering question after question about the condition of his surgically repaired leg.

The Cybex Machine Test – This machine will work the heck out of a player’s knee, as they are strapped to basically a spring-loaded madman creation. The Cybex machine tests a player’s knee movement and flexibility. While this test seems like any other medical test, it can be the difference in being a Day 1 or 2 pick.

Drug Test – Everybody wants to make sure players are clean coming into the NFL.  So like any other new job a drug test is administered looking for illegal drugs including marijuana (allegedly Warren Sapp tested positive for weed at the 1995 combine), cocaine, and performance-enhancing drugs (Luis Castillo of the Chargers test positive for ‘roids at the 2005 combine, but still went in the first round).

Schedule of Groups

Wednesday February 18th to Sunday February 21st

Group 1 (Kickers, Punters, Long Snappers and O-line), Group 2 (O-line), and Group 3 (Tight Ends)

Thursday Feb 19th to Sunday February 22nd

Group 4 (Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers), Group 5 (Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers), and Group 6 (Running Backs)

Friday February 20th to Monday February 23rd

Group 7 (Defensive Linemen), Group 8 (Defensive Linemen), and Group 9 (Linebackers)

Saturday February 21st to Tuesday February 24th

Group 10 and Group 11 (Defensive Backs)

 The Players

There will be over 300 players throughout the four-day event with every position represented from QB to DE to Long Snapper.  Not all invitees will participate in all events and some may pick and choose or wait for their Pro Day to show their stuff — Thanks Agents!!  Some players who I will be interested in seeing their efforts are Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell – QB11 (Had a bad Senior Bowl, has a suspect arm and is he all hype), Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno – RB22 (Will he work out, is he the top player in the 2009 running back class, and how is he physically), Hampton defensive end Chris Baker – DL03 (How is his character (off the field past), is he ready for the NFL, and does he deserve to be labeled a sleeper) and West Virginia quarterback Pat White – QB19 (Had a good Senior Bowl, but is he viewed as a future NFL quarterback or receiver).  Find the complete list of the players invited to the 2009 NFL Combine.

Top NFL Combine Event Records

Fastest NFL Combine 40-Yard Times  

4.19 – Deion Sanders (DB), Florida State – 1989 (Hand Timed)

4.24 – Chris Johnson (RB), East Carolina – 2008

4.24 – Rondel Melendez (WR), Eastern Kentucky  – 1999

4.28 – Jerome Mathis, (WR), Hampton – 2005 (electronic)

4.29 – Fabian Washington, (CB), Nebraska – 2005

4.30 – Darrent Williams, (CB), Oklahoma State – 2005

4.30 – Yamon Figurs, (WR), Kansas State – 2007

Most 225-Pound Bench Press Reps 

45 – Leif Larsen, (DT), Texas-El Paso – 2000

45 – Mike Kudla, (DE), Ohio State – 2006

44 – Brodrick Bunkley, (DT), Florida State – 2006

43 – Scott Young, (OG), BYU – 2005

42 – Isaac Sopoaga, (DT), Hawaii – 2004

Best Vertical (Who are these guys???)

46 – Gerald Sensabaugh, (FS), North Carolina – 2005

45 1/2 – Derek Wake, (OLB), Penn State – 2005

45 – Chris McKenzie, (CB), Arizona State – 2005

45 – Chris Chambers, (WR), Wisconsin – 2001

43 1/2 – Dustin Fox, (FS), Ohio State – 2005

43 1/2 – Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa – 2001

Fastest 10-Yard Times

1.43 – Aundrae Allison, (WR), East Carolina – 2007

1.43 – Eric Weddle, (SS), Utah – 2007

1.43 – Marcus McCauley, (CB), Fresno State – 2007

1.45 – Leon Hall, (CB), Michigan – 2007

1.46 – Colin Branch, (FS), Stanford – 2003

Fastest 20-Yard Shuttle Times  

3.73 – Kevin Kasper, (WR), Iowa – 2001

3.76 – Deion Branch, (WR), Louisville – 2002

3.78 – Dunta Robinson, (CB), South Carolina – 2004

3.82 – Dante’ Hall, (RB), Texas A&M – 2000

3.83 – Kevin Bentley, (OLB), Northwestern – 2002

Fastest Three Cone Drill Times

6.45 – Sedrick Curry, (CB), Texas A&M – 2000

6.48 – Rogers Beckett, (FS), Marshall – 2000

6.49 – Carlos Rogers, (CB), Auburn – 2005

6.50 – Leon Hall, (CB), Michigan – 2007

6.51 – Jon McGraw, (SS), Kansas State – 2002

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member

Brett Favre Announces his Retirement for the Second Time as the NFL Says Goodbye to an Icon

favre_brett

NFL Legend Brett Favre announced his retirement for the 2nd time as he left after one season with the New York Jets.  Don’t worry I can assure you that this retirement will stick…well maybe

(Philadelphia, Pa) – After backtracking from retirement last year to play one more season with the New York Jets, “American icon” Brett Favre decided that the 2008 NFL Season would be his last.  After 18 years of thrilling millions of football fans with miraculous passes into the tightest of spaces during his Hall of Fame level career, Favre quietly announced his retirement through a written statement.  Favre said in an e-mail to ESPN, which was the first to report Favre’s intent to retire, “My time with the Jets was short, but I’m honored to be given that chance.”  Unlike his retirement in March 2008, Favre this time did not shed any tears in a knightly press conference.  But you could sense after enduring a horrible 1-win and four losses end of season stretch while battling injuries (shoulder and elbow) that caused him to throw an NFL-high 22 interceptions that the former Green Bay Packers legend was finally at peace in walking away from the game that he played with childhood joy.  Favre, elected to his 10th Pro Bowl this season, gracefully bowed out leaving the J-E-T-S in the hands of up and coming quarterback Kellen Clemens.  For all of the naysayers who believe that Favre will acquiesce and return again this July at the beginning of training camp, you should know that No. 4 and his agent Bus Cook have filed the necessary retirement paperwork with the NFL league office, which is something they failed to do throughout Favre’s on again-off again retirement after the 2007 season. 

Though he started out as a free bird kid quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons in 1992 — I can still remember loose cannon Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville calling his 3rd string quarterback “Mississippi”, because he couldn’t say ‘Farv’ correctly during his rookie season — and finished in the unlikely uniform of the New York Jets, the ‘crazy kid’ from Mississippi will forever be a Packer.  Favre became a man and then a legend in his 16 years in Green Bay, Wisconsin producing an NFL Films vault worth of treasures that will surely place him in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in five years.  Though the 2008 season with the Jets did not end the way Favre wanted — limped home to a 9-7 record after a 8-3 start of the season — no can take away the enthusiasm, mentoring, and courage that No. 4 brought to the youthful Jets.  The former 4-12 squad, which had been searching for a leader since former head coach Bill Parcells had left years ago, found one in the future hall of fame quarterback.  There were times in 2008 that indeed Favre did look 39 years old, but my lasting memory of his one season in Gotham will be his incredible Week 4 performance in a home win over the eventual NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals.  The graybeard quarterback could do no wrong as he put an exclamation point on his storied 18-year career by tying fellow legend Joe Namath’s franchise record by throwing an amazing six touchdowns in the Jets 56- 35 win over the Cardinals.  Favre (24-34, 289, 6 TDs, 1 INT) left the game in the 4th quarter leaving us to see his usual playful manner on the sidelines, but you knew that you had just seen a master at work.

Though some will try to paint Favre as an egotistical bully after forcing the Packers and their general manager Ted Thompson to part ways with him in 2008, his legacy can never be faded.  The three-time NFL MVP endeared himself to NFL fans by giddily waltzing through the storm of eighteen NFL seasons producing win after win including an indelible victory in Super Bowl XXXII, where of course he won the MVP of the game.  Then there are the numerous records that are securely in his treasure chest including most career NFL touchdown passes (464), most career NFL passing yards (65,127), most career pass completions (5,720), most career passing attempts (9,280), most career NFL interceptions thrown (310), his “iron man” most consecutive starts quarterback streak (269 and you can make it 291 if you include the playoffs), and most career victories as a starting quarterback (169).  Favre had a quality that made everyone love him to the point that you had to root for him even if he was on the opposing team’s sideline.  Fans sometimes ask me is it all an act by No. 4 with all of the smiling, laughing, and his just plain having fun approach to football.  To answer them in a word “No” as his passion for the game stems from a pure love of “street” football that we all remember from our youth. So close your eyes and remember the moments that Favre produced — the Super Bowl win over the Patriots where he and Reggie White brought the title back to “Title Town”, the magical December 2003 night in Oakland where playing through tears he won one for his Dad throwing four touchdowns in a 41-7 rout as every pass seemed to find a receiver, snowball fighting on the field in his 2007 playoff win over the Seahawks, leading the youthful Jets to an improbable 34-13 victory of the previously undefeated Titans at Tennessee in Week 12 of 2008 season while completing an NFL weekly high of 70.6% of his passes, taking on Warren Sapp after sacks, blocking on end-around plays downfield, and numerous other stories — because one day your grandchildren are going to ask you, “Was Brett Favre really that good?”

Though the yo-yo back and forth soap opera story from last summer between the Packers and Favre was extremely trying at times, the 2008 NFL season now takes on a significant note.  It was the last time that we saw one of the NFL’s All-time greats at his very best.  The rickety 39-year old graybeard’s play was inspiring as he made everyone have visions of a New York vs. New York Super Bowl in Tampa while pumping life back into the Jets.  Though the New York-New York Super Bowl never materialized, I am glad that Favre went out on his own terms with his guns blazing.  Football may have lost their John Wayne, but the legend of Brett Favre will continue to grow by the day and happily we should all plan to be in Canton for his induction in a few years.

Jets head coach Rex Ryan said of Favre, “It was an honor to coach against Brett over the years, if he’s not the best quarterback ever, then he’s certainly in the conversation. I have great admiration for him as a player and a person”.  Well said Rex and Good Luck Brett, we will miss you!!

  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)