Agent's Take: Where -- and for what -- top free agents will sign
While the free-agent pool has drained a bit, some big names are still out there. What sort of deals can Andre Smith, Elvis Dumervil, Brian Urlacher and others expect? Former agent Joel Corry breaks it all down.
With the first wave of free agency over, here’s a look at some of the situations for the top and high-profile players still left on the market.
Elvis Dumervil (DE)
Background: Dumervil was released by the Denver Broncos on March 15 because of a paperwork snafu with the renegotiated three-year, $30 million contract that cut his 2013 salary from $12 million to $8 million. Industry heavyweights Tom Condon and Ben Dogra were hired by Dumervil after the contract fiasco. It is both sides' preference to reach an agreement on a new deal, but the Broncos’ most recent offer hasn’t matched their previous one.
Suggestion: Dumervil’s new agents should propose as a compromise that his contract void after the 2013 season if Dumervil is selected to the Pro Bowl or gets 10 or more sacks in 2013. He should also schedule a visit with the Baltimore Ravens , who have expressed the most interest in him, to try to leverage a better deal from Denver, since the Broncos have been exploring their options by bringing in Dwight Freeney and John Abraham for visits.
Prediction: Dumervil re-signs with the Broncos because it is his best offer even though Denver’s new deal isn’t quite as good as the contract agreed upon last week. Dumervil could be asked to take another pay cut next year unless his 2013 season is better than his 2012 season.
[See why our NFL Insider Pat Kirwan thinks Dumervil could end up in Cleveland (and more free agent news) in the video above.]
Andre Smith (OT)
Background: Smith, who plays right tackle, hasn’t attracted much interest in free agency because he’s overvalued himself with a $9 million per year price tag. The weight issues from his early NFL days may also have teams concerned about giving him such a lucrative contract. The type of money he wants is usually reserved for left tackles, who typically protect a quarterback’s blind side.
Suggestion: Smith’s asking price should drop since the tackle market has been established. The Indianapolis Colts made Gosder Cherilus the NFL’s highest paid pure right tackle (by average yearly salary) with his five-year, $35 million contract (including $16.5 million guaranteed). Most of the quality left tackles who were available have gotten deals in the $7 million to $7.5 million per year range with approximately $18 million in guarantees.
Prediction: The Cincinnati Bengals re-sign Smith for more than Cherilus’ deal but don’t exceed Doug Free ’s four-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys averaging $8 million per year ($17 million guaranteed), which he signed in 2011 before moving to right tackle. The Bengals insist on weight clauses as protection in case Smith’s weight issues aren’t behind him.
Brian Urlacher (MLB)
Background: Urlacher is insulted that the Chicago Bears gave him a take or leave it one-year, $2 million offer. He had been seeking a two-year deal worth $11.5 million from the Bears but reportedly was willing to accept a one-year deal at $3.5 million.
Suggestion: The Minnesota Vikings are a logical fit because of their defensive scheme. Jasper Brinkley signing with the Arizona Cardinals helps create a need at middle linebacker. The Vikings have indicated they would be interested if Urlacher’s price tag comes down. He should propose a two-year, $5 million deal with an additional $500,000 to $1 million in escalators and incentives.
Prediction: Urlacher could be in for a rude awakening once he starts exploring his options. Soon-to-be-35-year-old linebackers with declining skills don’t attract much interest or command big contracts. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Urlacher retires because he is unable to find another team willing to pay him the same as the Bears were offering.
Nnamdi Asomugha (CB)
Background: The Philadelphia Eagles released Asomugha after he wouldn’t take a substantial pay cut from the $15 million he was scheduled to make this year. He received a nice parting gift from the Eagles because $4 million of his 2013 base salary is fully guaranteed without an offset.
Suggestion: Asomugha should find a team that plays to his strength as a press coverage cornerback. Dunta Robinson was able to land a three-year, $13.8 million contract (with $3.95 million guaranteed and up to an additional $1.5 million in base salary escalators) from the Kansas City Chiefs after he was released by the Atlanta Falcons . Asomugha should target the same type of deal.
Prediction: Asomugha is unable to get a deal similar to Robinson’s in such a depressed cornerback market. He chooses the New Orleans Saints over the San Francisco 49ers because of his familiarity with Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was his defensive coordinator with the Oakland Raiders for five seasons.
Charles Woodson (S)
Background: Woodson has expressed surprise that he hasn’t generated more interest from teams after getting released by the Green Bay Packers . The San Francisco 49ers have been the 36-year-old’s only visit. The San Francisco opportunity may no longer exist after the 49ers signed Craig Dahl .
Suggestion: Since Woodson’s phone isn’t ringing, he should make overtures to the Baltimore Ravens and Dallas Cowboys. The Ravens could be in the market for two starting safeties after releasing Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed signing with the Houston Texans . The Cowboys released Gerald Sensabaugh but are only $126,000 under the cap. Adrian Wilson may have set Woodson’s salary ceiling with the three-year, $5 million deal (includes an additional $500,000 of playtime incentives in 2014 and 2015) he signed with the New England Patriots .
Prediction: Woodson has a long wait in free agency before signing a minimum salary benefit contract where he receives $1.055 million on a one-year deal. A player receives his league minimum base salary ($990,000 in Woodson’s case) and a maximum of $65,000 as a signing bonus with a minimum salary benefit deal. The player’s base salary counts on the cap at the $555,000 minimum salary for players with two years of service. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown were minimum salary benefit players in the twilight of their illustrious careers.
Background: Freeney didn’t flourish in his transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker in the Indianapolis Colts’ new defensive scheme, partially because of injuries. His five sacks in 2012 were the second lowest total of his 11-year career. The 33-year-old is facing competition in the older pass rusher market from Osi Umenyiora and John Abraham. Freeney visited the Denver Broncos on Thursday. He is an alternative if they are unable to re-sign Elvis Dumervil. Freeney has also drawn interest from the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers .
Suggestion: He should focus on teams that play a 4-3 defense. The 3-4 teams can be used as leverage or secondary signing options. A two-year deal with sack incentives or escalators where Freeney’s 2013 compensation matches the $5.25 million Abraham made in 2012 from the Atlanta Falcons on the three-year deal he signed last year should be the goal.
Prediction: Freeney signs a one-year deal for less than $4 million with a team running a 4-3 defense because the market for pass rushers has been surprisingly soft. Michael Bennett , 27, had nine sacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and signed a one-year, $4.8 million deal (which contains an additional $200,000 in incentives for sacks) with the Seattle Seahawks . Much of the analysis for Freeney can also apply to Umenyiora and Abraham.
Fred Davis (TE)
Background: Davis has a limited market because he tore his left Achilles tendon in the Washington Redskins ’ seventh game last season. The Cleveland Browns have expressed some interest and the Redskins would like to re-sign him.
Suggestion: Davis should seek a one-year deal in the same neighborhood as Dustin Keller ’s one-year, $4.25 million contract with the Miami Dolphins . Any long-term deal Davis could sign won’t reflect his value when he is healthy. After Davis demonstrates he has recovered from his injury, he could command a contract comparable to Jared Cook ’s five-year, $35.1 million deal (including $19 million guaranteed) with the St. Louis Rams .
Prediction: Davis returns to the Redskins on a one-year deal in the $2.5 million range, which is slightly more than the $2.25 million Brandon Myers is getting from the New York Giants on his one-year deal. He also gets incentives from the Redskins that can boost his salary to over $3 million. Cornerback Brent Grimes is in a similar situation as Davis because he tore his Achilles in the Atlanta Falcons’ 2012 season opener. He may be more willing to take a multiyear deal because he turns 30 years old before the 2013 season starts.
Michael Huff (S)
Background: Huff was an Oakland Raiders cap casualty after spending most of the 2012 season at cornerback. He is better suited at safety but teams could find his versatility attractive. Huff is expected to visit the Baltimore Ravens next week.
Suggestion: Huff should insist that the three-year, $12 million deal Ed Reed rejected is a starting point for negotiations with the Ravens since he is almost five years younger than Reed. A one-year deal could also make sense so Huff can re-establish himself as a safety after his stint at cornerback. Chris Clemons signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal to remain with the Miami Dolphins.
Prediction: Huff signs with the Ravens over the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys.
Eric Winston (OT)
Background: Winston got a head start on free agency when the Kansas City Chiefs released him five days before the start of the 2013 league year. Several teams (New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles) have expressed interest. Winston’s most recent visit was with the Miami Dolphins on Monday after Jake Long signed with the St. Louis Rams.
Suggestion: Winston had three years worth $16.5 million remaining on his Chiefs contract when he was released. Matching that deal should be Winston’s objective.
Prediction: The former Miami Hurricane has a homecoming by signing with the Dolphins. Winston gets the $5.5 million average he desires on a four-year deal. His 2013 cap number is under $2.5 million, which is consistent with Miami’s other offseason signings.
Karlos Dansby (LB)
Background: Dansby was released by the Miami Dolphins when Dannell Ellerbe was signed. He was entering the fourth year of a five-year, $42.5 million (with $22 million guaranteed). Dansby has experience playing in a 3-4 and 4-3 defense.
Suggestion: The renegotiated three-year, $10.6 million contract A.J. Hawk accepted from the Green Bay Packers to avoid getting released could be a salary benchmark for Dansby.
Prediction: The Falcons, Ravens and Vikings express interest in Dansby. The Ravens have a glaring need at inside linebacker with Ray Lewis retiring and Ellerbe leaving. He signs a one-year deal because it is more attractive than the multiyear offers he was receiving.
Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott.
You can follow him on Twitter: @corryjoel
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