Every June, a few players are released who appear to be as good as any free agents from earlier in the offseason. The Patriots' grabbing jettisoned Chargers safety Rodney Harrison comes to mind. He led an all-rookie secondary to a Super Bowl victory over the Eagles.
Last week, the Chiefs cut cornerback Brandon Flowers. In a league starved for cover corners, it seemed he would be gobbled up in a few minutes, but he's still free. Ten teams were rumored to be interested, but only a few were identified.
Interest and commitment to signing him are two different things. There is a progression to resolving his situation, and it isn't as smooth a road as one would assume.
Step 1 -- Does he make a team better? While there are indications he may not be a top-flight corner, teams looking for a starter that have the cap space have Flowers on their radar. I found seven teams fitting those qualifications (in alphabetical order): 49ers, Jaguars, Jets, Panthers, Raiders, Steelers and Titans. Note the Falcons -- where former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli is now an assistant GM -- are not on the list.
Step 2 -- Review his 2013 season: Why did the Chiefs release him? One teammate said Flowers was the club's best tackler, but his current salary (his cap hit was a reported $10.5M for 2014) is out of line for any team to match this upcoming season, so Flowers must come to grips with possibly getting half of what he was making in Kansas City amid concerns about where he fits.
One opposing coach who schemed against him twice said, "[Flowers] appeared out of gas. DeSean Jackson exposed his lack of ability to run with speed receivers, and he probably belongs as a slot nickel and not an outside player."
Other evaluators expressed concerns about Flowers' maturity level. A sampling:
One coach: "He wants to be the leader of the secondary, but he belongs in the nickel position and he's more of a zone cover two guy than a man-to-man guy, and that will be a problem with his ego."
Another position coach: "He tends to blame the coaches when things go bad."
A scout: "Flowers wasn't particularly good to Romeo Crennel or Emmitt Thomas."
Those comments raise doubts about coachability which need to be resolved in a day-long interview.
A former teammate said, "There was a time when Flowers was the man. Now he's kind of out a gas." But another coach said, "I wish we signed him, because he is an upgrade."
There is some debate about how many big plays he gave up last season, but the range is between 9 and 13.
Step 3 -- Determine what he is: Rather than a starter, signs point to Flowers as a nickel corner who probably belongs in underneath zone coverage and not isolated on speed receivers who prefer vertical routes.
Step 4 -- Does he fit in the locker room? One former teammate described Flowers as a bit of a loner. It doesn't appear he would come to a new team and try and dominate the locker room. He was one of only two players who didn't show up for the spring offseason program in Kansas City and he has lost a lot of money by being released. He appears to be more of a one-year rental who is young enough (28) to reinvent his career with a solid season.
Step 5 -- Bring him in for a workout and interview: If he declines, walk away or make a low-ball offer and hold your ground. Despite his perception among some observers, some teams will see him as an upgrade and the pool of free agents isn't very strong at this point.