Thursday, January 12, 2012
Free-agency watch: One question
By James Walker
Plenty of focus this week has been on the New England Patriots, who are the only division team remaining in the playoffs. However, let's briefly put the spotlight on the other three teams already planning for the offseason ahead.
Here is one free-agency question we have for each team.
1. Will the Miami Dolphins go after Matt Flynn?
Analysis: Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was clear in saying the team needs a long-term franchise quarterback to make it to the next level. Matt Moore is a great backup and part-time starter. But he is not capable of leading Miami to a Super Bowl. Unfortunately for Miami, the team is in a tough spot trying to find a starting quarterback. The Dolphins will pick No. 8 or No. 9 in the NFL draft, depending on a coin flip with the Carolina Panthers. Miami’s pick will be too low to land Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in April’s draft. It’s possible the Dolphins could look to move up into the top three picks. But there are no guarantees. Moving up would be costly and other quarterback-needy teams could be interested in doing the same. Something the Dolphins could control is pursuing pending Green Bay Packers free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn. He has been Aaron Rodgers' backup for four years and is looking to get his own opportunity next season. Flynn looked great in limited playing time. He threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns in Green Bay’s Week 17 victory over the Detroit Lions. That performance will make Flynn a lot of money if he hits the open market. The Dolphins should be one of the first suitors in line.
2. Do the New York Jets need two safeties?
Analysis: It’s easy to focus on the quarterback position. But any chance of the Jets trading for or signing Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is mere speculation unless he becomes available. But what is clear is New York needs a lot of help at the safety position. Starter Jim Leonhard and top backup Brodney Pool are both free agents, and Eric Smith struggled last season. The Jets may need to sign and/or draft two starting-caliber safeties next season. Opponents eventually figured out you can attack New York’s defense by avoiding the corners and throwing over the middle. Tight ends, in particular, had huge days against the Jets’ defense. Teams will continue to attack the Jets over the middle next season unless they drastically upgrade at safety.
3. Will the Buffalo Bills really chase big names?
Analysis: I like what I’m hearing from Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix. According to Nix, Buffalo can -- and will -- spend to the salary cap this offseason. That should be music to Bills fans’ ears. Buffalo has been notorious for not doing much in free agency. Nix and head coach Chan Gailey both know 2012 is a big year for the current regime. The Bills are showing slight improvement (4-12 in 2010, 6-10 in 2011) but need to make a bigger jump next season. Spending to the cap would help. The Bills have big holes at several key positions and there are a lot of players available. A pass-rusher is perhaps the Bills’ biggest need. One player I’d like to see on Buffalo’s radar would be Houston Texans defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams. The former No. 1 overall pick will be an unrestricted free agent coming off a season-ending pectoral injury. Houston’s defense finished second in total defense and looked fine without Williams. If the Texans aren’t willing to pay a huge extension or give Williams the franchise tag, he could provide the pass rush the Bills need.