Some clubs can't wait to spend their money on this year's free agents, but they better be careful. There are sinkholes out there waiting to devour the unsuspecting.
|Quick linebacker Cato June: Will he fit in your system? (US Presswire)|
I know that's no revelation, but someone forgot to tell Arizona. The Cards paid megabucks last year for Edgerrin James and still wound up with the league's 30th-ranked rushing game.
That's not a knock on James. It's a knock on the fit. Critics predicted he couldn't make an impact until the Cardinals improved their offensive line, and they were right.
James is only one example. Others failed to live up to the hype, the paychecks or both, and more are bound to follow. The key is knowing how to avoid potential potholes.
That is why we're here. What follows are five prospective free agents I wouldn't necessarily avoid but who could present problems if they're not in the right place at the right time.
Take it away, fellas:
Jeff Garcia, QB, Philadelphia
I love what this guy does too. He's tough. He's courageous. He's resilient. And he's productive. But he's productive in the right offense, which is why I'd tell him to stay in Philadelphia. It's a perfect place for the guy, even if he has to back up Donovan McNabb. One thing you know about McNabb is that he probably won't make it through the season without missing time, so the door always swings free for the backup.
But it's not just the right fit that should make buyers wary of Garcia: He turned 37 on Tuesday, and that's not an age where you want to gamble on a starter. I know Garcia entered the NFL at 29, but he has absorbed a raft of punishment in the time he has been there. No question, Jeff Garcia is someone you want on your roster. He's a leader, and he loves competition. But he's not necessarily someone you want as your starter. Ask Cleveland. Ask Detroit. He started at both places but failed because he couldn't carry bad clubs that were victimized by dreadful offensive lines.
He's in the right place at the right time in Philadelphia, and there's something to be said for a comfort zone. Memo to Jeff: Money doesn't buy happiness. You learned that at your previous two stops. Pay attention now that you're on top of the free-agent pile at quarterback.
Ahman Green, RB, Green Bay
|How you feeling, Ahman Green? That is the question. (US Presswire)|
So he produced five 100-yard games last season; he's not the threat he was five years ago, when the Packers were winning and Green left a string of tacklers in his wake. That doesn't happen anymore, and one of the reasons is Green's age: He's 30, and that's when you start to re-assess backs -- especially backs who have absorbed as much punishment as Ahman Green.
All I know is that his numbers have declined steadily since his 1,883-yard season in 2003 -- with his yards-per-carry average dropping to 3.8 the past two years, the lowest of his career, and Green producing five TDs in 2005-06.
Now look at what happened down the stretch last season: He wore out. In his final four starts he averaged 3.2 yards a carry, scored once and never ran for more than 79 yards in any game. And I haven't even touched on his history of fumbling. All I know is this is not a guy I'd count on to carry my rushing attack. Four years ago? Sure. But not now.
Patrick Kerney, DE, Atlanta
Kerney is expected to void the final two years of his contract, making him a free agent if he doesn't re-sign with Atlanta. So far, he hasn't, and if Kerney hits the market he will be in demand. One reason is that he's a good player at a critical position. The question potential suitors must ask themselves is: Can he be a great player? He's coming off a pectoral injury that shortened his 2006 season. And he will be 31 in December. That's not a good combination.
When he's right, Kerney is one of the top pass rushers in the business, but do you really want to invest mega-millions in a 30-year-old coming off a serious injury? The Falcons don't, and they're interested in re-signing Kerney -- but only at the right price.
Kerney scares off some suitors who worry about him breaking down despite a string of 105 straight games that was broken last season. Kerney is a high-effort, play-hard kind of guy, but as one scout said, "Do you really want to pay for a motor? I always worry about the guys I think are a little underweight."
With Dwight Freeney and Justin Smith off the market, Kerney is at or near the top of the class of defensive ends. But buyers beware. "When I look at Patrick Kerney," said one scout, "I see a terrific athlete who wears down as the season goes on and who defenders start to handle. He's had some productivity, but I'd think twice before paying him a lot of money." Apparently, so would Atlanta.
Cato June, LB, Indianapolis
This is another guy I love to watch -- but only in the Indianapolis Colts' system. The Colts have undersized guys who fly to the ball, and that's June. But he must be in the right system to flourish. He is there in Indianapolis, where he led the team in tackles last season as the club's weak-side linebacker.
The Colts have a history of not protecting free-agent linebackers, which means June probably walks next month. But you better be careful: He's a big name in this year's market, but he's not a universal fit like, say, an Adalius Thomas would be. He's not physical, and he can have trouble getting off blocks. Plus, some scouts don't regard him as a strong tackler. In short, he must be with a defense that can take advantage of his speed and coverage skills, as Tampa Bay does with its linebackers.
June will get a lot of attention if he's exposed to free-agency, but it might not be for the right reasons. Just because he had success with the Colts doesn't guarantee he will have success elsewhere. Suitors might find out the hard way that Cato June was a product of the Colts' system.
Leonard Davis, T, Arizona
When the Cards made Davis the second choice of the 2001 draft, he was projected as a franchise tackle who would dominate for the next decade. But then Arizona learned a lesson others should heed: Leonard Davis is a better guard, or right tackle, than he is a left tackle. In fact, one coach I spoke with believes Davis can't play the left side, that he doesn't have the quick feet to handle speed rushers. As evidence he pointed to Davis' rash of false-start penalties. He had nine this season and allowed a career-high eight sacks.
"He's petrified of the speed rusher," he said. "He's more of a masher."
When the Cards moved him inside, however, Davis seemed at home. In fact, he excelled. Hey, when they played him at right tackle in 2002 he didn't look all that bad, either, once walling off Michael Strahan. But ex-coach Denny Green never figured that out, moving Davis back to left tackle where the guy teammates call "Big" was overmatched.
One coach compared him to Pro Bowl lineman Larry Allen, who is a better guard than he is a tackle, and he might be on to something: Davis could be ticketed for the 49ers, where he would join Allen. All I know is that left tackles get big bucks, and there was a reason Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm let this guy walk. Hint: It wasn't all about the money.