A week and a half into the NFL's Annual Free Agent Follies and the talent cupboard has clearly been raided and stripped to nearly its bare means. There remain but a few gourmet items remaining to dine on, although the buying and selling has cooled dramatically.
|Warren Sapp's outspoken nature may be scaring away some teams.(AP)|
Many times, one team's albatross is another team's golden goose.
The following is a compilation of the best of what's left of the Class of 2004, Unrestricted Boys Gone Wild:
The crème de la crème of free agents still on the market is Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp. He has also been one of the biggest mysteries of this year's open shopping spree.
Why would a man with his credentials not get a single offer to date?
"I think people just viewed me as a Buccaneer for life," Sapp said. "They've cut another Buc for life in (John) Lynch and they aren't negotiating with me at all. I'm an unrestricted free agent and I'm open to offers and visits from whoever wants to bring me in. At this point, I want to finish my career with the right team and the right situation for me and win another championship. That last part is what I'm after.
"I have to put myself in a position to have a job in the fall. I want to make it clear that I am completely free."
Sapp's ominous exclusion from the free-agency frenzy could be chalked up to a few different variables. Aside from the false assumption that he was a near lock to re-sign with the Bucs, there may also be the view that Sapp would ask for the moon.
"I haven't asked for a red cent and nobody has offered me anything so how could anyone know what I would ask for?" he asked rhetorically. "If I were 25 years old I can come in with a demand. But I'm not in Peyton Manning's shoes and I'm not 25 so I'm not crazy. I do think I'm the best addition on the open market."
While he doesn't see himself playing for a pittance, he says his next signing will be about the chance to win.
"Winning is always No. 1, it's not about the money at this point," he said. "I've collected almost $40 million in the last few years. I want to play four more years and try to do a little more to get a solid ticket to Canton."
Despite these factors and the love-him-or-hate-him factor that comes into play in some teams' minds, Sapp is still a disruptive force at a position that has become a premium in the NFL as more and more teams utilize the cover-two scheme.
"The thing about it is I realize that I'm 31 but my play still talks for itself," he said. "If I was a second-tiered player I'd understand the concerns. I'm a guy who has been in wars. I've been through everything it took to be the best. When Reggie White went to Green Bay he wasn't a spring chicken but look what he did for the Packers. Look at my resume -- it speaks for itself."
The list of those still available spells out one obvious trend -- youth is the most compelling attribute a free agent can have.
Of the top free agents still there for the picking only two are considered young players by football standards -- linebackers Brandon Short and Ian Gold. Short played SAM-backer for the Giants the past couple of years but has the desire to play inside at MIKE for a new team.
The Giants players loved him as a tough, gritty and soulful player not afraid to punch someone in the mouth when warranted.
Short visited the Redskins on Wednesday and the Cardinals earlier in the week but no offers have yet been made.
Gold is young, blazing fast but, and it's a big but, coming off a torn ACL sustained in Week 6. Had he not suffered the injury, Gold would have been swallowed up with loads of cabbage in the first wave of free-agent insanity. He has had several visits already, most recently in Atlanta, and wants to have a decision made by the end of this week.
The Bears released Warrick Holdman so they could avoid paying him a roster bonus. He was hurt for much of the past two years, playing through pain at times and missing other games. Holdman is not a pure free agent whose contract expired but rather a street free agent -- a player released for cap purposes.
Linebacker Micheal Barrow was released Wednesday, and now the NFC's leading tackler is available for the taking. Barrow's best accomplishment, however, came off the field when two years ago he and his wife, Shelly, orchestrated and paid for, by themselves, a carnival for children who lost a parent or guardian in the World Trade Center attacks.
Though linebacker is the deepest position still available for prime plucking, the deep corner market still boasts a few veterans for hire.
Former Eagles Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor have made the rounds this past week. Vincent was in Kansas City and is slated to hit Cincy. In February he told SportsLine.com that he was hoping to land in Carolina, Baltimore or Atlanta. But a team like the Bengals seems to have the allure right now (playing for Marvin Lewis on a transforming team is now becoming attractive inside the NFL).
Taylor supposedly called Dallas and visited this week with Seattle. Taylor is very big for the position and despite suffering from a foot injury that limited him last season is a solid starter at a prime position.
Former Atlanta Falcon Ray Buchanan also remains on the open market. He has had an inconsistent last couple of years but could certainly help out some of the more porous pass defenses in the NFL.
One player who should have been gulped up by now is Chiefs No. 2 tight end Jason Dunn. He's a terrific blocker who helped out the Kansas City offense more than the credit he was given. He's a solid complement for any offensive line and quarterback.
Aside from Rogers Beckett, who has solid interest from several teams already, the only two proven safeties in the open market are both street free agents. Tampa Bay's John Lynch will have to show a team that he can be this year's Rodney Harrison, although he is recovering from a neck surgery. Former Jets and Giants safety Sam Garnes is a solid locker-room guy and run supporter.
The Panthers on Thursday released starting left tackle Todd Steussie, who now becomes the top available tackle on the market. Steussie has some years on him but is an upgrade for a whole bunch of teams looking for help on the outside. Other vets on the market include the Dolphins center Tim Ruddy and former Bill Ruben Brown.
Get 'em while you can boys because, as one can see, the pickings are getting slimmer by the minute.