NFC North: Otis Grigsby
We'll spend part of Wednesday sifting through the various forms of free agency as the market sets to open late Thursday night (at least in the central time zone).
My NFC West colleague, Mike Sando, offers a nice primer on restricted free agency (RFA), a system for players with three years of accrued experience. By offering one of four tenders, a team can ensure a player's return for 2009 by matching any offer he might receive on the market. There is also an opportunity for compensation if the original team decides against matching.
First, let's look at the four tenders for 2009:
The deadline for offering tenders is Thursday. In the NFC North, Green Bay has the most decisions to make -- not surprising, considering the Packers were the NFL's youngest team in 2008. Here is the full list of NFC North restricted free agents by team, based on information distributed by the NFL Players Association:
- Chicago: None
- Detroit: None
- Green Bay: Safety Atari Bigby, receiver Shaun Bodiford, safety Jarrett Bush, tight end Tory Humphrey, defensive end Jason Hunter, fullback John Kuhn, receiver Ruvell Martin.
- Minnesota: Defensive tackle Fred Evans, defensive end Otis Grigsby, defensive end Jayme Mitchell, fullback Naufahu Tahi.
If a player signs his tender, that relinquishes his rights to negotiate with another team.
To me, the Black and Blue's most interesting RFA is Bigby, who seemed on his way to big things after the 2007 season. Injuries limited him to seven largely ineffective games in 2008, and his value isn't totally clear. The Packers would like to rely on him as a starter in 2009, but the reality is that Bigby has missed 12 of a possible 40 games because of injury during his career.
At the same time, it's possible another team would make him an offer if the Packers apply the low $1.01 million tender. UPDATED/CORRECTION: Bigby was undrafted, so he would require no compensation at the low tender. I agree with Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. If their goal is to discourage another team's interest, the Packers probably will have to offer the second-round tender of $1.545 million.
Mike of Sacramento asked, and I've listened (Finally).
We're still six weeks away from free agency and the start of what we like to call the "new league year," but already it's time to start looking at the NFL's hot stove season.
So over the next four days, we'll roll out an analysis of each Black and Blue team's situation as it begins making plans for the offseason. Let's be fair and move in order of the 2008 finish, starting with Minnesota.
Minnesota Vikings offseason analysis
- 2008 record: 10-6
- Coaching changes: Special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro took linebackers job in St. Louis. Replacement unannounced.
- Salary-cap space: $20.4 million before end-of-year credits and adjustments.
- Restricted free agents: Defensive tackle Fred Evans, cornerback Charles Gordon, defensive end Otis Grigsby, defensive end Jayme Mitchell, fullback Naufahu Tahi.
- Unrestricted free agents: Center Matt Birk, linebacker Heath Farwell, linebacker Napoleon Harris, offensive lineman Marcus Johnson, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, defensive tackle Ellis Wyms.
- Draft highlight: They own the No. 22 overall pick
- Free-agency comment: The Vikings seemingly have made the decision to let Birk and Sharper seek employment elsewhere, although that could always change in the days leading up to free agency. They have an in-house replacement for Sharper in Tyrell Johnson, but they'll have to further evaluate the situation at center. Among the other free agents, Farwell is a likely target as he recovers from a torn ACL.
- Three biggest needs: (1) A quarterback to compete with Tarvaris Jackson; (2) A right tackle to compete with or replace Ryan Cook; (3) A kick/punt returner to count on weekly, rather than relying on a mix-and-match approach.