Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 Free Agent Dumpster Diving

Unless someone unexpected gets released by their team, I'm not finding this year's group of free agents terribly exciting.  At least when we discussed free agency last year, we had Jared Veldheer to salivate over.  Sadly, the Ravens offered a somewhat more costly contract than Veldheer ended up receiving, to the typically mediocre Eugene Monroe, though that is water under the bridge at this point.

Regardless, Reilly and I decided to once again throw together a short and possibly idiotic list of the free agents that interest us for this year.  For the most part, we exclude players who will be seeking highly expensive contracts, because we don't see much upside in paying a player what he is probably worth.  We also tend to ignore players that are over 27 years old, since you are more likely to be paying for someone's gradual decline at that point.  That leaves us giving most of our attention to cheap bums, and individuals with possible untapped potential.  If the NFL Draft is like locking eyes with your one true love, from across a crowded room, then free agency must be picking up a prostitute on the side of the road.  I suppose that large signing bonuses, that you quickly regret, are sort of the equivalent of getting the clap, if we were to continue with this metaphor.  So, we would encourage teams to pursue the cheapest strumpets that they possibly can.

As always, we'll frequently make reference to a player's Kangaroo Score and Agility Score, which come from the combine results.  These scores are given in the form of how many standard deviations that a player is away from the average results for a players at their position.

While his modest statistical production probably doesn't draw much attention, we still like Jaguars' wide receiver Cecil Shorts.  We even had him listed as one of the computer's top 5 wide receiver prospects from the 2011 NFL Draft.  With that being said, we still wouldn't claim that Shorts is a Julio Jones type of monster.  His 40-yard dash time of just 4.50 seconds is nothing exceptional.  At a whisker under six feet tall, and with a Kangaroo Score of just -0.447, he also isn't likely to be physically overpowering.  He is, however, extremely nimble, with an Agility Score of 1.560.  In his time at Mount Union, he performed at a very high level, even if it was against a fairly low level of competition.  Considering that he wasn't selected until the 4th round, has dealt with a number of injuries, and been receiving passes from the likes of Blake Bortles and Blaine Gabbert, we still think he has done reasonably well.  When catching passes from the more acceptably mediocre Chad Henne in 2012, he actually did a pretty good job.  If there's one thing that troubles us about him, it is probably the rate at which he has been dropping passes, which has consistently been slightly below average over the past few seasons.  Still, we remain hopeful that some of that might have to do with the poor circumstances he was forced to play in.  While I wouldn't want him to be a team's primary receiver, which he has often been forced to be with the Jaguars, I do like him as a 2nd or 3rd option for the QB to throw to.  Of course, this all depends on how cheaply he can be acquired.  I'd probably draw the line at $3-4 million/year, with the sort of signing bonus that allows a team to part ways if things don't work out.

I'm not going to say too much about this, but I still think someone should sign Mike "Not the fat one" Williams.  Yes, he is probably a bit of a moron.  Yes, I have periodically gotten in trouble for my affection for asshole wide receivers.  Still, I'm not really sure what this guy could have possibly done that would make him less deserving of a roster spot than Tavon Austin or Dexter McCluster.  Does anyone really believe that Williams (still only 27 years old) wouldn't be an improvement over most teams' 3rd or 4th wideout?   Considering that the Bills released him in December, and he went unclaimed, it's hard to see how he could possibly demand much more than the veteran minimum salary.  At that price, a free pass on whatever upcoming DWIs or domestic violence charges he might have planned for his future, would just be an expected part of his compensation.

We had Rams' wide receiver Kenny Britt on our free agent shopping list last year, and it seems that we can consider him once again.  Like the situation we find with Mike Williams, Britt's reputation for being an idiot has greatly affected his ability to get on the field in the past few years.  Despite that, when the Rams were eventually forced to give him more opportunities this past season, he seemed to perform quite well.  He was a prospect that the computer liked when he was drafted in 2009, and we still think he's a guy that's worth giving a shot to...especially now that the price he can demand is greatly diminished.

Among all the possible free agent offensive linemen that will be available, we're probably most interested in Byron Stingily, the Titans' right tackle.   Our minor infatuation with him is probably a bit unreasonable.  We liked him in 2011, when he was drafted in the 6th round, and we're still interested.  He's probably not going to get much attention, or cost very much, since his major accomplishment thus far was simply being less incompetent than Michael Oher.  Regardless, we think he has a reasonable amount of potential, based on his 0.347 Kangaroo Score, and 0.966 Agility Score.  While he could keep playing right tackle, we think the best move would be to turn him into a guard, a position which might better suits his physical abilities, and one where he might thrive.  If he ends up costing little more than $2 million/year, with a minimal signing bonus, I wouldn't really see any risk or downside to giving him a shot, though I think there could be some significant upside potential.

It seems highly likely that 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver is another person to add to our list of discount morons.  The more he is allowed to speak, the cheaper he may be to acquire.  His Agility Score of 0.373 isn't really ideal for a cornerback (though it's not bad), but when you factor in his 0.589 Kangaroo Score he does become a very interesting player to switch to the free safety position, which is what he played prior to his senior season at South Carolina.  While he seems to have generally done a fine job as a corner, we still think the safety position is where he would fit best.  If teams are scared away by his personal issues, I'd happily sign him to a cheap contract.  I wouldn't be surprised if he is given a reasonably significant contract, but as long as the signing bonus is kept rather low, the risks of being stuck with him shouldn't be too bad.

Cardinals' tight end Rob Housler is someone that probably should be much better than he has so far appeared to be, at least based the computer's data.  He's fast, he's agile, he's explosive...at least on paper.  He also displayed excellent statistical production in his time at Florida Atlantic.  So far, it just hasn't really amounted to much at the NFL level.  While he seems to regularly haul in around 69% of the passes thrown his way, with very few drops, he simply has never become as big a part of the Cardinals' offense as we would expect him to be.  Is it because of injuries?  Does the Cardinals poor pass blocking require him to help out there, rather than running more pass routes?  I really have no idea.  Still, quality tight ends are fairly rare commodities, and we think there is a reasonable chance he could still have his best years ahead of him.  Maybe it would seem more sensible to pursue someone like Dolphins' tight end Charles Clay, who might also be allowed to enter free agency.  Unfortunately, in Clay's case, his production has already probably inflated his value to the point where he won't be a bargain anymore.  So, we might be willing to slightly overspend here, and take a gamble on the less established Housler.  We'd probably offer something in the $3 million/year range, purely based on his upside.

In general, we're sort of opposed to selecting nose tackles with high draft picks.  They rarely contribute much to the pass rush, and merely exist to tie up offensive linemen to slow down the running game.  Instead of drafting a fat man for the middle of the line, why not just pick one up on the cheap?  Our top target would probably be Kenrick Ellis.  His 1.776 Kangaroo Score is precisely the sort of lower body power we want to see in a nose tackle.  He was a productive player in college, and in his somewhat limited snaps in the NFL seems to be a perfectly adequate fat guy.  Our other, even cheaper alternative might be Ishmaa'ily Kitchen.  With a 1.177 Kangaroo Score, he's probably a bit less physically gifted than Ellis, and generally been less productive, though I still suspect he could be perfectly adequate.  I'd just offer a fairly small contract of maybe $2 million/year to each of them, along with all the donuts they can eat, and take whomever signs first, and for the least amount of money.

Prior to the 2014 season, Ravens' safety Jeromy Miles really didn't do much outside of playing on special teams.  In 6 seasons in the NFL, he has only been listed as a starter for 3 games.  Still, his 0.363 Agility Score and 1.245 Kangaroo Score do suggest significant physical potential that is ideal for a safety, and he was a rather productive player in his time at Massachusetts.   His 4.45 second 40-yard dash, with a 10-yard split of 1.53 seconds, is also highly encouraging for a player who is 6'2" and 211 pounds.  Despite his potential, it seems very possible that teams underestimate him because of the stigma of being an undrafted player from a lower level of competition.  I suspect he'll cost next to nothing to sign, so there's no real risk in seeing if he might have some upside.  I'm guessing that he will be signed for barely more than the veteran minimum, and almost no signing bonus at all.  At the very worst, he would provide depth, though he could prove to be more valuable than many might suspect.  I view him as a high priority, extremely low risk target.

I can't really make up my mind about Bills' safety Da'Norris Searcy.  His college resume was rather mediocre, but his 0.364 Agility Score and 1.339 Kangaroo Score suggests extremely good physical potential for his position.  In many ways, he is athletically similar to the previously mentioned Jeromy Miles (though Searcy is probably a tad less quick), with the benefit of having received more actual playing time.  This difference in playing time could entirely be a product Searcy being drafted in the 4th round, though it is difficult to say for sure.  During the past two seasons, he seems to have performed reasonably well, though it's possible he benefited a lot from the Bills' pass rush.  If he was available cheaply, for maybe about $2-3 million/year, with a very modest signing bonus, I could see picking him up, though I suspect he'll end up costing more than I would like to pay.

Titans' linebacker Colin McCarthy is a bit of an odd duck, who might get overlooked due to missing the 2014 season with a shoulder injury.  When he was drafted in the 4th round in 2011, Reilly and I had very mixed feelings about him.  The computer liked his athletic potential, with his -0.309 Kangaroo Score (which is better than it might sound), and 1.015 Agility Score.  He also had an impressive 4.59 second 40-yard time, with a 1.60 10-yard split.  Overall, his athletic ability was very similar to many of the players at his position who have gone on to become Pro Bowlers.  His statistical production at Miami was also quite solid, though it suggested his strengths probably leaned towards being more of a run defender, than someone who excelled in coverage.  Despite all of these positive signs, we just never felt too excited about him during the 2011 draft.  He just didn't blow our minds when we watched him play.  As a free agent who can probably be acquired cheaply, we might feel a bit differently.  He's still only 26 years old.  In his limited playing time, he has had his ups and downs, and probably been at least a passably average player.  I suspect he can be signed for under $1.5 million/year, with an insignificant signing bonus, and at the very least provide some depth to a team.

Chiefs' safety Kurt Coleman sort of falls into the "what do you have to lose?" category.  I can't imagine that he'll cost significantly more than the veteran minimum, so there shouldn't be much risk, but he still has some potential upside.  With a 0.309 Agility Score, and a 0.478 Kangaroo Score, he has reasonably good physical potential for a safety, though nothing amazing.  So far, he seems to have gotten minimal playing time, and produced extremely erratic results from year to year.  I'd probably offer him a ham sandwich and a bus ticket to Baltimore.

I get the feeling that there aren't many James Carpenter fans out there.  That's fair.  To some extent I think the biggest issue here might be the ridiculous expectations that people have of 1st round draft picks, which he clearly fell short of meeting.  Carpenter's 0.515 Kangaroo Score, and 0.375 Agility Score, while relatively good, are not the sorts of results that should have merited being selected as highly as he was taken.  While he performed rather poorly in his first 3 seasons in the NFL, I do think he improved significantly in 2014.  While he doesn't appear to be much of a run blocker, I do have to wonder about the extent to which his pass blocking struggles might relate to other issues in the Seahawks offense.  The team's receivers have largely been garbage, which probably requires him to hold a block for a longer period of time.  Russell Wilson is also obviously a bit of a scrambler, which also tends to result in many more sacks being credited to a team's offensive linemen.  Now, I'm not saying that Carpenter is actually good.  I'm just saying that he might be closer to average than some might suspect, and that his current deflated value might be more in line with that level of expected performance.  While I wouldn't strongly pursue Carpenter, I could see giving him a shot at redemption, if the price is right.  Let's say that a largely non-guaranteed contract that paid no more than $1.5 million/year might interest me.


  1. Replies
    1. Yup, the lunacy should be picking up rather quickly. It's certainly my favorite time of the year.