Earlier this week Chargers general manager A.J. Smith announced that the team was not planning on placing any designation on QB Drew Brees and his impending free agency, allowing him to negotiate with any team when the free agency period starts on March 3.
The Chargers did negotiate with Brees but according to Smith, a contract agreement could not be reached.
"We cannot get it done at this point in time," Smith said, "so right now we have two out of the three (QBs from 2005). Where it goes from there, we shall see."
Smith said he's interested in re-signing Brees despite letting him explore free agency, but it remains to be seen if that is just lip service.
This may not have been the case had Brees not torn the labrum in his shoulder in Week 17 while diving to recover a fumble against the Broncos. Doctors familiar with Brees' shoulder feel that he will recover fully, but any time a franchise passer has surgery involving his cannon, there's reason for concern.
What this means is that Brees will likely end up elsewhere in 2006, especially considering that San Diego has sunk millions of dollars already into Philip Rivers and has him waiting in the wings. The reasons why Fantasy owners need to be careful with projecting Brees' status for next season are two-fold: first, Brees has the shoulder surgery and needs to rehab properly and prove that his arm is structurally sound; second, if Brees goes to the wrong team, his statistics will surely take a dip.
Look at what Brees had in San Diego. He handed off to a stud running back in LaDainian Tomlinson who took the pressure off the passing game and even enhanced it because he caught the ball out of the backfield. He threw to the best tight end in the NFL in Antonio Gates, who proved he is still tough to cover because of his size, speed and ability. And when they were covered or out of the game, he could still connect with receiver Keenan McCardell.
Say Brees goes to Detroit, one of the teams supposedly in the hunt for a fresh quarterback. Brees would not have the luxury of playing with a star running back nor a star tight end. His best option would be Roy Williams, who I'd say is on par with McCardell, but Brees would become the engine of the Detroit offense, and he proved in 2002 and 2003 that that role wasn't a good one for him. On the other hand, if Brees were to land in Miami, he'd be weaved into a pretty good puzzle that would give him Chris Chambers, Randy McMichael and Ronnie Brown. Brees would carry some of the load, but certainly not all of it. Fantasy owners should be happy if that is the final result.
Other teams are out there that could suit Brees in varying ways, but Rivers' situation is about as good as it gets. What Brees leaves behind gets inherited by the fourth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, and Rivers is plenty talented, well educated in the San Diego offense and is as healthy as can be. If he winds up being the Chargers' starting quarterback in '06, expect him to be drafted in all leagues and be a potential No. 1 Fantasy QB. You can't help but feel that way considering Rivers' pedigree and teammates.
You'll hear a lot of talk over "franchised" players and "restricted" free agents. In case you're keeping score this offseason (and you should be if you're worth your weight in Fantasy gold), here's some help with the lingo.
Franchise designation: When a player gets the franchise tag
placed upon him, it means another NFL team will have to pony up two
first-round picks to sign that player, and that's only if the initial
team doesn't want to match the offer made by the first team. It also
means the player is automatically offered a one-year deal worth the
average amount of the top-five players at his position. Hardly ever does
a player leave his old team once he's been franchised. Furthermore, a
team may un-franchise a player at any time, giving the team leverage in
trading a player.
Players with franchise tag: John Abraham, DE, NYJ; Jeff Backus, OT, DET; Nate Clements, CB, BUF
Transition designation: The transition tag is a toned-down
version of the franchise tag. Teams only have to offer the average
amount of the top-10 players at a position, but when other teams come
calling, they don't have to give up anything as compensation. Again, the
initial team can match the offer made by the new team and keep the
player. Finally, a team can only use a franchise tag or a
transition tag, not both.
Players with transition tag: DeShaun Foster, RB, CAR; Steve Hutchinson, G, SEA; Brian Williams, CB, MIN
Restricted free agents: There are three variations of restricted free agents, who are players that signed deals to four years or fewer, finished the deals, but haven't been in the league for more than four years. Players who sign four-year contracts (or longer) coming out of the draft, for example, never become restricted free agents. Each free agent is offered a tender:
• General tender. This is the basic version; a team will be allowed to match any offer made on this type of restricted free agent, but if they choose not to, they only get draft compensation based on where the player was originally drafted (sounds like Fantasy!). Subsequently, they can offer the least amount (less than $1 million per year) this way.
• First-round tender. When a team doesn't want to lose someone, they'll give him this tender. While it means they will receive a first-round pick if he signs with another team, it also means they have to pay him more (between $1 and $1.5 million per year).
• First- and third-round tender. Just like the first-round tender, but it includes a third-round pick (and a higher salary).
Notable players who will be restricted free agents: Nate Burleson, WR, MIN; Josh Brown, PK, SEA; Kevin Curtis, WR, STL; Ken Dorsey, QB, SF; Cato June, LB, IND; Brandon Lloyd, WR, SF; Robert Mathis, DE, IND; Shaun McDonald, WR, STL; Artose Pinner, RB, DET; Chris Simms, QB, TB; Musa Smith, RB, BAL; Ike Taylor, CB, PIT; David Tyree, WR, NYG
I think the news here is that so many key Fantasy players didn't receive any free-agent restrictions, and it's going to make this offseason a turbulent one. Michael Fabiano previously touched on the impending free agent frenzy, but when you see the open market flooded with running backs including Shaun Alexander, Ahman Green, Edgerrin James and Jamal Lewis, you know you're in for one crazy offseason.
What's your offseason hot topic? Think it's significant enough to share with the rest of the Fantasy world? Go ahead and drop Dave an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to put Attn: Offseason Confidential in the subject field. Please include your full name, city and state. You'll have the chance to be heard by thousands of Fantasy players just like yourself!