Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Pricing the market: Jim Leonhard
By Mike Rodak
With the free-agent signing period approaching, we'll take a closer look at each of the Buffalo Bills' free agents, finding the closest matches in last offseason's free-agent class:
Pending Bills free agent: Jim Leonhard
Experience: 9 seasons
2013 stats: 16 games played (7 starts), 41 tackles, four interceptions, six passes defensed
2013 snaps: 53.5 percent (defense), 48.2 percent (special teams)
Last offseason's closest match: Will Allen
Experience: 9 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 16 games (7 starts), 34 tackles, three passes defensed, one forced fumble (for Pittsburgh)
2012 snaps: 42.8 percent (defense), 57.6 percent (special teams)
Signed with: Dallas Cowboys
Contract: 1 year, $65,000 signing bonus, $840,000 base salary ($555,000 guaranteed)
Overview: Allen's best season came in 2006 when he started 16 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He's been a role player ever since, but had a resurgent 2012 season that earned him his free-agent deal with the Cowboys. At 31, however, Allen was part of a struggling Dallas secondary and was released after five games. He landed back in Pittsburgh, playing 12 games and snagging an interception.
Last offseason's second-closest match: Chris Crocker
Experience: 10 seasons (entering 2013)
2012 stats: 13 games (9 starts), 41 tackles, three interceptions, five passes defensed (for Cincinnati)
2012 snaps: 56.0 percent (defense), 7.6 percent (special teams)
Signed with: Cincinnati Bengals
Contract: 1 year, $940,000 base salary
Overview: Once a significant contributor for the Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns, Crocker is now in the twilight of his career. After injuries hit the Bengals' secondary early in the 2012 season, he was signed off the street and started nine games. The Bengals didn't tender him a contract last offseason, but he again returned in September, playing in the final 12 games. He continues to be an effective role player, notching 37 tackles and two interceptions last season for a strong Bengals defense. His pact with the Bengals qualified for the veteran minimum salary benefit, reducing his cap charge.
Verdict: Leonhard is in a similar spot as Allen and Crocker were last offseason. He's looking at the final contract of his career and isn't likely to receive much, if any, guaranteed money. He proved last season that he can still be a capable role player and spot starter, but no team will sign him to be a full-time starter. Like Crocker, his next deal will likely come at the veteran minimum so that there is a reduced cap charge. At this point, it's a toss-up whether Leonhard returns to Buffalo. The departure of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to Cleveland could change how Leonhard is valued within the Bills' defense. Pettine could lure Leonhard to the Browns, adding a heady veteran with a deep knowledge of his system to Cleveland's locker room.