Below is a breakdown of some of the biggest offensive names that will be free agents at the end of the 2007 season. Bearsgab.com Site Editor Russell Loede breaks down the top 15. Here are numbers one though seven, with eight through 15 coming tomorrow.
1. Larry Johnson Chiefs RB: New Deal – Johnson still has three more seasons left on his rookie contract, but Johnson is able to void the final two years of that rookie contract signed in 2003, so for all talk and debate, 2007 is the final year of his deal. Johnson will receive a new deal after this season and show K.C. why he is worth the cash he demands because he is what makes the offense go. Johnson will make a run at 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, as he will also look to become a more balanced RB, being used more to catch the ball. Expect him to carry the ball for around 420 times and rush for 4.7 yards per rush. I think he can have a “Jamal Lewis” type career year of ’03 if he can explode for a couple of big games early against some good run defenses (Bears, Vikings, Chargers, and Jaguars.)
Worth after ’07 – Johnson is staying in K.C. and is the most important RB to his team in the NFL. The Chiefs asking price for Johnson is way too much (1st, 2nd, and 3rd round picks) and they have no other young weapons on offense to build around for the future besides LSU WR Dwayne Bowe. Johnson should not make $10 million per year like Tomlinson but should make more then what Portis signed for in ’05. He should be the second highest paid RB in the NFL (8-9 million) but will end up being the best paid RB and player other than a QB.
2. Marc Bulger Rams QB: New Deal – The St. Louis Rams need to extend his contract soon before pre-season begins. Bulger will sign after the first week of training camp and the Rams will soon understand they need to lock him up before he goes to another team next year (certain). If they do not sign this sure-throwing, 4,000 yards a year bomber, then he will play out ’07 and leave. Bulger’s success started with former coach Mike Martz and his numbers are consistent because of a strong WR group that features Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
Worth after ’07 – At least ten teams would go after this former Mountaineer from Pittsburgh, Pa. Bulger’s QB rating is always around 95.0 and his completion % is around the 65 % range. His TD to INT ratio would be very attractive if he were to test the free-agent waters. Bulger will not hit the market next year because the Rams are wise enough to give him a new deal sooner rather than later.
3. Tony Romo Cowboys QB: New Deal – The juror is still out on this attention-grabbing signal caller. If you read many Dallas sports sections they will say Romo should be signed right away and the headline states he made the Pro-Bowl last season (made it by default). Romo had a great first part of the year but struggled mightily after teams got a better look at him. I say he will not get a new deal until he proves himself worthy enough for an extension.
Worth after ’07 – Dallas will ink him to a long-term deal if he makes the Pro-Bowl again and leads the team to a playoff appearance also. If he doesn’t match or improve his performance from last year, Romo will play somewhere else because Dallas wants to win now and owner Jerry Jones will have a short leash for this overrated QB. High expectations will not be reached this year, as the spotlight will be too bright for him to deliver under pressure.
4. Randy Moss Patriots WR: New Deal – Moss should know the Patriots don’t hand out big deals like some teams do so flippantly. He will have to a Pro-Bowl year catching passes from Tom Brady and there is no reason he shouldn’t. Expect Moss to earn a trip to Hawaii and catch 12-14 TD passes (leading the NFL).
Worth after ’07 – Moss is getting older and this former member of the Thundering Herd is still very fast. (ran a 4.3 in workouts before signing) As long as he stays in game shape and keeps a constant work ethic like he did back in Minnesota, Moss will find Foxboro a place to call home. A healthy year, big plays in the red zone, and a deep threat for #12 will be the checklist he will have to complete. He can turn around his career and become a Top 5 WR, compliments of Tom Brady and the spread offense attack of the Patriots.
5. Michael Turner Chargers RB: New Deal – This is the first intriguing contract year player because he is a back-up looking for a starting role assuming he wants to strike it rich and make a name for himself. He would love nothing better than to come out from the shadow of L.T. and leave San Diego next year. With an interesting dilemma, the Chargers will not spend too much to keep this high-priced backup. The “Burner” out of Northern Illinois will attract many teams looking for a young starting RB for the future.
Worth after ’07 – Turner will excel whenever he enters the game once again this season. He is ready for the limelight and will prove to GM’s across the league is ready for the main workhorse role. He is a strong 237-pound back with speed that is desired and looked for in an every down back. In his career he has average six years per rush and will receive a mega-deal from a team in need of a RB – like Green Bay, Tennessee, or Tampa Bay. He is waiting for ’08 when he can cash in and make a splash, running for the 1,500 yards he is capable of; for a team that counts on him more, where he’s appreciated, as a lead star not just a cast member.
6. Jamal Lewis Browns RB: New Deal – I don’t see Jamal Lewis running for 1,000 yards for Cleveland and ending the season as the #1 back. Expect him to be no more than a good short yardage RB (Wright and Harrison stealing carries.) He’s too slow and not quick enough to the make cutbacks and moves that helped him rush for 2,053 yards in ’03 with Baltimore. He is too big at 240 pounds, feeling the ill effects from injuries of old and the prison stay that still plagues him. He will not recover to be the back he once was and is one and done for Cleveland.
Worth after ’07 – Too easy for Lewis – he will not play in Cleveland and will retire or find himself being in a full-time goal-line role. I do not see him turning the corner in ’07 and is not even at the four yards a carry mark. (below-average) His strength is there but will fade into mediocrity as just another RB.
7. Chris Cooley Redskins TE: New Deal – Cooley is a player I love to watch and Washington should give him a big deal he deserves. Cooley can catch 80 passes a year, go for 850 + yards, or catch 10 touchdowns a year. Whatever the â€˜Skins ask of him he will do. Play FB, H-Back, or his usual TE position, Cooley excels as one of the best TE’s in the NFL and is great at gaining yards after the catch. Out of a small school of Utah State, more will know his name by the end of the season.
Worth after ’07 – Cooley will be a Redskin for his entire career if Washington plays it smart. They should sign him during the pre-season and invest in this TE for years to come. Cooley can block like an offensive lineman, lead block like a FB, catch the ball in traffic with ease like a TE, and go deep with speed, making a tough catch, keeping his feet in bounds like a WR. He is very versatile and is the #1 weapon for Al Saunders’ offense and Joe Gibbs’ team down in Washington. He is their most consistent player and is a leader in the making.