Whole Nine Yards: Free Agent Preview

Blue-chip free agent and Super Bowl champ Joe Flacco is in line for a big contract. Courtesy of USA Today.

Blue-chip free agent and Super Bowl champ Joe Flacco is in line for a big contract. Courtesy of USA Today.

By Zac Bellman

Over the next couple weeks I will be doing a position by position breakdown of the key free agents to follow this offseason. This week I will start with quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. Each position will be broken down into blue chippers, guys who could start immediately for their new team, and red chippers, guys who will fill roles and roster spots as serviceable backups.

Quarterbacks:

Blue Chips:  Joe Flacco – Flacco is the only quarterback in this free agent class that would be the unquestioned starter for his team. However he is the Ravens’ number one priority this offseason, especially since they lost their defensive leader in Ray Lewis. If the two sides can’t get a deal done, look for the Ravens to slap the franchise tag on Flacco.

Red Chips:  Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn, Tarvaris Jackson, JaMarcus Russell – The market for quarterbacks drops off severely after Flacco, with some of the notable players being Campbell, Quinn, and Jackson. All three have starting experience, but have not impressed enough to hold on to a starting gig. Russell is an interesting story as well. The former draft bust for the Oakland Raiders is attempting a comeback at the hefty weight of 310 pounds. His exploits are being documented on Bleacher Report, so we’ll see if his commitment impresses any quarterback needy teams.

Running Backs:

Blue Chips:  Reggie Bush, Rashard Mendenhall, Shonn Greene – In the modern NFL, feature backs like Adrian Peterson are hard to come by. For the teams that don’t, the popular strategy is to use a committee system of two to three running backs throughout the game. None of these backs can carry the load for a whole game, but given 15-20 touches they can make some plays. Bush is a good receiver out of the backfield, and Greene and Mendenhall are above average blockers that also have a bit of power.

Red Chips: Mike Goodson, Rashad Jennings, Felix Jones – Some backups that may change teams this offseason are Goodson, Jennings, and Jones. Jones may not like the market for a former first round pick that has never rushed for more than 3 touchdowns in any of his five seasons. Jennings and Goodson filled in when Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden went down respectively, and can serve as a change of pace back in the right situation.

Wide Recievers:

Blue Chips:  Greg Jennings, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace – Two of the elite slot receivers in the game will be hitting the open market in Jennings and Welker. Both are from teams that do not have the cap room to bid competitively for these players, who are looking for the last big contracts they will be getting as veterans. Welker has caught 240 passes in the last two seasons, and Jennings has proven to be a touchdown machine when he stays healthy. Wallace is sure to be a hot commodity being only 26 with quick feet and deep play speed.

Red Chip:  Danny Amendola, Josh Cribbs, Dwayne Bowe – The second tier of receivers available features some good returners in Cribbs and Amendola. Teams look for receivers that can do more than just run and catch, and these two are good examples. Bowe’s production in Kansas City with less than stellar quarterbacks is encouraging to teams looking to add a potential number one receiver. His rib injury is a cause of concern especially because it came late in the season.

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