Let The Madness Begin…

Mar 5, 2010 by

It’s March 5th, 2010 and that means it’s time for Free-Agent Bingo in the NFL. Across the nation, teams are already making room for new blood by kicking the old-school to the curb in what looks to be the most interesting off-season in years.

Unless you’re a hopeless freak like me, you may be unaware that this is the Final League Year of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. (Unless an extension is agreed on before March 5th, 2011.) This means that there is no salary cap this year and many player benefits will decrease including 401K, severance pay, performance-based bonuses and minimum salary levels. Keeping in mind that any future CBA will return the league to salary capped status, some teams will stay cautious (read: Detroit Lions) but others may just spend now and worry later (can you say Raiders?). It’s gonna be wild!

There are already a few surprises out there with high-visibility players being handed their papers. CB Antrel Rolle (ARI), WR Lavernues Coles (CIN) and RB LaDanian Tomlinson (SD), are all now looking for work. Add to that list Saints OL Jamar Nesbitt and LB Mark Simoneau (released Thursday) and DE Charles Grant (release expected today).

New Orleans, Indy, Minnesota and the NY Jets all face tougher Free Agency restrictions this year being the final four championship teams. They are only allowed to sign free agents equal to the amount of free agents they lose. This, combined with Grant’s shaky health over the last two seasons, is probably why the unrestricted free agent is being cut loose.

For all the jabber about reuniting Tomlinson with his former partner in turf, Drew Brees, I doubt that will happen as the Saints RB corps has more legs than it ever has. Brees’ recent twitters about LT, I think, may be more of a PR job to help raise LT’s value in the market. My verdict: LT lands elsewhere, but on the other hand, stranger things have happened…

Like the Panthers cutting QB Jake Delhomme. With Mark Brunell getting long in the tooth (39 years old, 17 years in the NFL) the slightly younger Delhomme (35 yo/11 years pro) might provide both reliable back-up skills and feel-good buzz if he were brought home. Of course this is just wishful thinking on my part. Delhomme can still start in the NFL and there are a number of teams that would be lucky to get him, but if New Orleans shows an intereset, would he be willing to ride the bench to a possible Super Bowl? Nah, Delhomme will likely go to a team with a younger QB in order to push that kid into performing. Arizona or Detroit perhaps?

And what of Darren Sharper? The Saints are holding onto that Franchise tag and letting Sharper take a dip in the free agency pool. This could save them millions if no interest is shown in the 34 year old safety but could backfire if Sharper is tendered a major offer. Last year the Sharper Derby was run by New Orleans and Chicago. This year Chi-town is knocking hard on Panthers DE Julius Peppers so they’re probably no threat but the other 30 teams watched Sharper with some mighty green eyes last year.

Conventional wisdom says Sharper stays put, (and so do I,) but Sean Payton is anything but conventional. Could he allow Sharper to slip away? Most people thought Payton was nuts to sign Sharper and look what happened. If the Saints do lose him, and the media starts pointing at Payton screaming “Fool!”, I would bet on another trip to the Big Dance for the Saints. But seriously, Sharper ain’t going nowhere! (I hope!)

Stay tuned!

-M Styborski

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