After a painful 4 plus months waiting for the damn lockout to be over and done with, it would appear that the owners and players have collectively removed their heads from their rectums and reached the point where the league year will be starting in a week. With that in mind, it’s time to look at the best free agents available at each position at this point in time. This list is being done under the assumption that the reports of four years to free-agency and that the named plaintiffs in the Brady case will be exempt from the franchise tag are applied.
Quarterback: Vince Young – 2010 Team: Tennessee Titans
I was tempted to go with Marc Bulger here but in what I think is a fairly weak quarterback crop, Young has at least a winning pedigree even if his stats aren’t great. As a rookie he came off the bench when the Titans were 0-3 and took them to the brink of a playoff berth in the final week of the regular season finishing 8-5 as a starter. A series of off-field incidents have derailed Youngs progression and clashing with head coach Jeff Fisher caused a him or me rift in the Titans locker room last season that ended with Fisher and Young both no longer with the team.
Vince Young’s career has had two major issues in his career so far that has held him back. The first has been staying healthy long enough to hold down a starting spot as it seems like the times he has been named the starter he has helped his team. As well as the health issues, Young’s other major issue has been his attitude off the field, Young appears to believe that his miraculous performance in the Rose Bowl has earned him lifetime celebrity status. What Young needs to realise is that making the NFL should only be the start of his work, once he makes it there’s a lot more work that needs to be put in to make him a successful player. Someone will give Young a chance for sure, but I hope for his sake he realises that he has the talent to be a very good quarterback, but he can’t get by on his skill set anymore.
Running Back: Darren Sproles – 2010 Team: San Diego Chargers
While he is not an every down back, Sproles has carved out a niche as a speedy backup and kick returner. At age 28 Sproles would be seen by most as approaching the downside of his NFL shelf-life but as was the case with another former Charger back Michael Turner, Sproles has not exactly taken a regular beating during his six seasons in the league only starting five games but appearing in every game for the last three years. In fact his career total of 249 carries is less than what a feature back would take in a single season. When he is called on by his team though, Sproles does perform, like in the 2008 playoffs when subbing for LT2 against the Colts almost single-handedly winning the game (and fast-tracking LT2′s exit). While Sproles would not be able to come onto a team and take over like Turner did, he would at the very least provide a solid number two option and give the team a pass catching threat out of the backfield. There are plenty of other running backs available who will be able to come in and shoulder the workload such as DeAngelo Williams, Sproles’s potential impact in his role presents the greatest reward potential to any team that picks him up.
Wide Receiver: Sidney Rice – 2010 Team: Minnesota Vikings
Rice’s biggest mark against him is that his only truly productive season came when he had a keyed in Brett Favre throwing him the ball. Those concerns are not without merit as in the prior seasons Rice only caught 46 balls for 550 odd yards in his two prior seasons. In his defence however those numbers did come with Travaris Jackson throwing him the ball so they werenn’t all bad. His 2010 campaign was greatly limited by a hip injury that he held off getting fixed until right before the season started forcing the Vikings to rely on Benard Berrian among others as their leading receivers. What Rice does offer teams however is a quick, 6-4 option who is willing to go up and get the ball ahead of defenders and uses his size like a big guy should. Rice will not come cheap to whoever signs him and his injury history raises several red flags but if he stays on the field he will be a top-line receiver, unless of course he is teamed with Jackson again.
Tight End: Kevin Boss – 2010 Team: New York Giants
Boss took over for the injured Jeremy Shockey as a rookie during the 2007 season and has been one of Eli Manning’s top pass catching options since then. While he has not started 16 games in a season yet, Boss still is an athletic receiving Tight End who can make plays when needed. The Giants would ideally love the chance to resign Boss and given that he won a Super Bowl with the team he most likely would prefer to stay in New York but a needy team could come in and pry him away from the G-Men.
Offensive Lineman: Logan Mankins (G) – 2010 Team: New England Patriots
Judging interior linemen is always a challenge for an untrained eye but having watched a fair few Patriots games with Logan Mankins holding down the left guard spot on the line, Mankins has been an integral part of the Patriots protection of Brady. His holdout over his Restricted Free Agent tender may raise a red flag but Mankins’ nasty streak and utter disdain for his opponents leads to him making several key blocks when asked to springing several runs to his side and keeping defenders off Tom Brady. Personally as a Patriots fan I would love it if they resigned him but his salary demands are going to be off the charts and Belichick’s glowing testimony on the NFL Network’s top 100 players suggests that he may move elsewhere. It’s not as though he hasn’t earned his status, anyone who can make Lawrence Maroney look good surely deserves a big paycheck.