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02-17-2010, 03:46 PM
2010 Free Agency Preview: Offense

By Gray Caldwell

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As we enter the second week of a football-less America, we can take solace in the fact that free agency is just around the corner -- March 5, to be exact. So until then, we can take a look at some of the top players available on both sides of the ball.

But this year's free agency period will be a little more complicated. Why? Because 2010 is defined as the "Final League Year," the term used in the collective bargaining agreement to refer to the last year of the agreement. The biggest differences between the Final League Year and any other is that there is no salary cap and there are additional restrictions on free agency.

One of those restrictions is that many players with four or more accrued seasons expecting to be unrestricted free agents on March 5 will be restricted free agents, unless as new CBA is in place before that date. In the Final League Year, a player whose contract has expired becomes an unrestricted free agenty only if he has six or more accrued seasons.

If a new CBA isn't in place by March 5, players with three, four or five accrued seasons will be restricted free agents. That includes Broncos the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Chris Kuper, Kyle Orton, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler.

In the Final League Year, teams may designate an additional transition player in addition to the one franchise or transition player designation allowed in typical seasons. A transition player must be offered a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season at the player's position or 120 percent of the player's prior year's salary, whichever is greater. A transition player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match any offer from another club within seven days. If the club matches, it keeps the player. If it doesn't, it receives no draft pick compensation from the other club -- the main difference from a franchise tag.

In addition, another free agency restriction comes in the form of the Final Eight Plan. The plan puts limitations on the eight teams who participated in the Divisional Round of last season's playoffs -- the Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings.

The four clubs who won that week -- Indianapolis, New York, New Orleans and Minnesota -- can only sign an unrestricted free agent if one of theirs is signed by another team. The four who lost -- Arizona, San Diego, Dallas and Baltimore -- have the same limitations, but can also sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in the first year of the contract. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in the first year of the contract with limitations on how much the contract can increase in ensuing years.

With the specifics of this year's free agency period out of the way, here's a look at some of the best available players on offense:

Note: an (R) beside the player's name means a restricted free agent. A (U) means unrestricted, and (CBA) means the player will be a restricted free agent unless a new collective bargaining agreement is in place by the start of free agency -- March 5.

LenDale White (CBA) - One half of the vaunted "Smash & Dash" combo from the past two seasons, White undoubtedly brings the "Smash" to the equation. Though he has lost touches to the newest member of the 2,000-yard club, Chris Johnson, he has still proven effective near the goal line -- he had 15 touchdowns in 2008.

Leon Washington (CBA) - Washington has shown himself to be a receiving threat out of the backfield, a shifty running back and a downright scary returner. Even though he is recovering from a leg injury, Washington is still one of the top threats in this year's free agent market.

Jerome Harrison (CBA) - A virtual no-name even midway through the 2009 season, Harrison closed the campaign by setting the NFL record with 106 carries over a three-game stretch in Weeks 15-17. He showed the potential to be a feature back, especially after his Cleveland-record 286 yards and three touchdowns in Week 15.

Le'Ron McClain (R) - He had 902 yards rushing and 11 total touchdowns as a feature back in 2008, then turned around and blocked for one of the top runners in 2009 -- Ray Rice -- earning himself a trip to the Pro Bowl as a fullback.

Kyle Orton (CBA) - His 29-19 record as a starter speaks for itself, and he is coming off the best statistical season of his career, throwing for 3,802 yards and 21 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. He completed 62.1 percent of his passes, good for a passer rating of 86.8.

Miles Austin (CBA) - Austin burst onto the scene in 2009, becoming the Cowboys' top option in the passing game. After catching just 13 passes in 2008, he hauled in 81 last season for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Terrell Owens (U) - After three 1,000-yard seasons in Dallas, Owens caught just 55 passes for 829 yards in Buffalo, and hauled in five touchdowns -- his fewest since the 1999 season. But Owens is still a big-name receiver, and could draw interest from a number of teams come March 5.

Vincent Jackson (CBA) - Jackson's connection with Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers helped him rack up 2,265 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in the past two seasons, and the 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver could draw big interest even if he is a restricted free agent.

Brandon Marshall (CBA) - Marshall joined an elite list of receivers in 2009, as he completed his third straight season with 100 catches and 1,000 yards receiving. He caught a career-high 10 touchdowns last season and earned his second trip to the Pro Bowl.

Owen Daniels (CBA) - Daniels was a Pro Bowler in 2008, and was on pace to have perhaps his best statistical season if not for a season-ending injury in Week 8. One of Matt Schaub's top options in Houston, Daniels' pass-catching ability is what makes him one of the top tight ends in the league.

Tony Scheffler (CBA) - Scheffler has amassed nearly 2,000 yards receving and 14 touchdowns in his four seasons in Denver, and has shown the ability to be a game-changer -- as evidenced by his 101-yard, one-touchdown performance in a Week 6 win against the Chargers last season.

Jahri Evans (CBA) - New Orleans' right guard was a big reason why the team excelled in both the passing and running games. The 2009 Pro Bowler is only 26, and is fresh off a Super Bowl championship. It would most likely take plenty to get him out of New Orleans, but he has shown elite ability.

Chris Kuper (CBA) - Kuper started all 16 games for the Broncos in 2008 on an offensive line that allowed a franchise-low 12 sacks. He started all 15 games he played in 2009 at right guard, showing durability and an ability to stand up to interior pass rushers.

Stephen Gostkowski (CBA) - New England's kicker converted 83.9 percent of his field goals in 2009 after making 90 percent in 2008. He has made 100 percent of his extra points in each of the past three seasons. The 26-year-old kicker could draw plenty of interest.


QB Jason Campbell (CBA)
QB Matt Moore (R)
RB Willie Parker (U)
RB Pierre Thomas (R)
RB Darren Sproles (CBA)
RB Chester Taylor (U)
RB Cadillac Williams (CBA)
FB Leonard Weaver (CBA)
WR Steve Breaston (R)
WR Braylon Edwards (CBA)
WR Chris Chambers (U)
WR Muhsin Muhammad (U)
WR Antonio Bryant (U)
WR Malcom Floyd (CBA)
TE Anthony Fasano (CBA)
TE Bo Scaife (CBA)
TE David Thomas (CBA)
T Jared Gaither (R)
T Charlie Johnson (CBA)
G Logan Mankins (CBA)
C Kevin Mawae (U)

Next week we will look at some of the top free agents on defense.

02-17-2010, 03:48 PM
Kyle Orton (CBA) - His 29-19 record as a starter speaks for itself, and he is coming off the best statistical season of his career, throwing for 3,802 yards and 21 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. He completed 62.1 percent of his passes, good for a passer rating of 86.8.

This guy sounds good! I hope we get a shot at him.