Friday, February 21, 2014
Experts' take: Free agency
By John Keim
The Redskins haven't done a lot of shopping the past two years, but with at least $30 million in cap space there's a good chance they'll do some next month. A really good chance. This isn't an in-depth look at free agency but rather a general question on free agency from our two experts -- former NFL executive, player and scout Louis Riddick (now an ESPN NFL Insider) and former NFL and college scout Matt Williamson (now ESPN's NFL scout). Yes, this is the final installment, but there will be some leftover items from my conversations with the experts.
Are there any free agents you like -- or would stay away from?
Matt Williamson: I like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward. I think Washington's going to spend. It feels like Dan Snyder has had his purse strings clamped down and I bet he overspends. I would not overspend on Eric Decker. While [Jay Gruden] was in Cincinnati, he had A.J. Green, but they were continually trying to find that No. 2 receiver, like [Mohamed] Sanu and [Marvin] Jones and Jones grabbed it. That's the position they want to feature more. I think Decker is an OK No. 2, but I would not give a ton of money to him no matter what. I don't trust Hakeem Nicks. I kind of like Jeremy Maclin. He could be a bargain. Golden Tate would be a nice addition, but like most guys coming off a Super Bowl win, someone will spend too much on him. But he'd be a good player to add. Kenny Britt? No.
Greg Hardy could be the one true difference-maker in this year's free-agency class.
People don't talk enough about Alterraun Verner. He's come into his own; he's really feisty, really quick. There are a ton of big name corners out there and he might be the best of the group. T.J. Ward is much better than people realize; he's more of an in-the-box safety. One guy who would be a decent pickup is [safety] Antoine Bethea. He would be an upgrade and I don't think you'll have to give him a ton of money. He's solid. [Carolina's] Mike Mitchell had a decent year. Byrd is what you want. He's an Earl Thomas type and he reads the quarterback quickly. He doesn't waste any steps. He'd be a home run for them but I bet he stays.
Louis Riddick: There's only one free agent that in the first 24 hours I'd be trying to get on my team provided everything else checked out and that's Greg Hardy. His skill set and makeup and his competitiveness could potentially transcend scheme. He's a wrecker inside and out; he can play tackle and end. He's the only guy in this class I'd be trying to sign right out of the gate. He's a 4-3 end, but you can run a 3-4 configuration with 4-3 personnel. Ideally you'd like to copy what they have him do in Carolina.
All the rest of the guys I'd be leery of and very careful of. There's a perception that free agency is an immediate fix despite so many free-agent transactions that have blown up on people over the past 10 years. I've been a part of a bunch of them. Players at this point in their career have formed their thoughts and habits and priorities, both as players and people and I don't know if a personnel department takes the time to really think about how to incorporate free agents into their program and how much time needs to be spent on it, just as how they discuss it for college players. They get them into their program and get them to buy into their program and adopt your program as your own. Free agents are more stubborn. They feel they've done it all and have all the answers and, especially if they're high priced you'll meet resistance. They'll tell you how to do it instead of them listening how you want it done. The best is if you have a prior relationship with a player, either as an administrator or a coach or the scheme is similar to one he's run before or has ties to the area where your team is and really wants to be there and would have a great off-field situation so he'd be happy and can be more productive. All those things need to be considered. I don't know if it's considered enough. That's why there's only one guy who I think would cause me to worry a lot less than the others and that's Hardy.