Breaking down the biggest moves heading into summer camps
1.) Jared Allen DE TRADE 6-6 270 4 Chiefs Vikings
Contract: 6 yrs, $78 million with incentives ($31 million guaranteed)
Traded with a 6th round pick in ’08 for a 1st round pick, two 3rd round picks and a 6th round pick
The Hope: The high-motor Allen builds on his league-leading 15.5-sack performance from a year ago.
The Caveat: The Chiefs labeled Allen an “at risk” player, thanks to is two DUI’s while in Kansas City.
The Reality: Without approving drinking and driving, the fact of the matter is Allen already served a two-game suspension and has been a model citizen over the past year and a half. His legal woes are behind him. On the field, he may very well be the best defensive end in football.
2.) Alan Faneca G UFA 6-5 307 10 Steelers NY Jets
Contract: 4 yrs, $32 million ($23 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Faneca can continue his reign as the most dominant guard in the AFC for at least another four years.
The Caveat: His advanced age (31) suggests that his prime is somewhere in his rearview mirror.
The Reality: When Faneca actually starts to slow down is when we can start talking about his age. Until then, the Jets forked over record money, but they’re ensuring themselves of having one of the game’s preeminent guards lining up between third-years gems D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.
3.) DeAngelo Hall CB TRADE 5-10 201 4 Falcons Raiders
Contract: 7 yrs, $70 million ($9.5 million in ’08)
Traded for ’08 2nd round pick, ’09 5th round pick
The Hope: Hall left his bad attitude in Atlanta and will bring to the Bay Area only the uncanny cover skills that make him arguably the most dangerous cornerback in the NFL.
The Caveat: Last time the Raiders traded for a lethal, super-talented playmaker with attitude problems, they wound up getting ripped off with two years of Randy Moss’s loafing.
The Reality: A great on-field performance goes a long ways toward blending an outspoken personality in the locker room. And a $70 million contract does wonders for appeasing a once-despondent star. Hall is a Class-A cornerback, which makes him as rare as a red diamond.
4.) Asante Samuel CB UFA 5-10 185 5 Patriots Eagles
Contract: 6 yrs, $57 million ($20 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Samuel can take over the shutdown duties from the talented by fragile Lito Sheppard and help continue the excellence that has defined the Eagles secondary since the days of Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor.
The Caveat: The sixth-year veteran enjoyed lounging in a lot of zone coverage with the Patriots. In Jim Johnson’s defense, Samuel will be asked to operate more in man-to-man.
The Reality: The Eagles plucked the highest prized free agent on the market, thus giving them a reliable new elite cornerback to replace their unreliable old elite cornerback (Sheppard). The persistently improving Samuel may struggle in this scheme early on, but throw his way ten times and be prepared to see at least two interceptions.
5.) Jonathan Vilma LB TRADE 6-1 230 5 Jets Saints
Contract: 1 yr, $1.1 million remaining on original contract
Traded for a 4th round draft pick in 2009*
The Hope: Vilma, an’ 06 Pro Bowl alternate, can fully recovery from the surgery last year that removed the piece of dead bone dislodged in his knee.
The Caveat: Knee injuries can be a real bugaboo for a linebacker, especially one who is as reliant on his speed and agility.
The Reality: The reward is undoubtedly greater than the risk for New Orleans here. For starters, the Saints have been hurting for an acceptable middle linebacker basically since the day they marched in. If Vilma does regain his form (and being just 26 years old, he probably will), then New Orleans will have given up two mid-round draft picks for a player of early-first-round value.
*An additional mid-round draft pick in ’09 could be added depending on Vilma’s production
6.) Alge Crumpler TE Released 6-2 262 7 Falcons Titans
Contract: 2 yrs, $5 million ($2.7 million guaranteed)
The Hope: The four-time Pro Bowler can do for Vince Young what he once did for Michael Vick: be a go-to weapon.
The Caveat: Various injuries, including a knee that required surgery, have robbed Crumpler of much of his explosiveness. Now he’s just a guy with questionable hands.
The Reality: Crumpler is an upgrade over all of Tennessee’s previous tight ends, both as a blocker and especially as a receiving threat. Playing with a dazzling young quarterback again will reinvigorate the once-crestfallen veteran.
7.) Kris Jenkins DT TRADE 6-4 335 7 Panthers Jets
Contract: 5 yrs, $35 million ($20 million guaranteed)
Traded for a 3rd and 5th round draft pick
The Hope: Jenkins can utilize his behemoth size and domineering power to become the rock that has been missing from the middle of New York’s three-man defensive line.
The Caveat: Major shoulder injuries have wrecked two of the past four seasons for the older brother of Cullen. His attitude never helped things in Carolina, either.
The Reality: When at full strength, Jenkins is arguably the best defensive tackle in the NFL outside of Tommie Harris. However, despite his size, most of his success has come from playing a one-gap brand of football. There must be at least some concern over how inspired Jenkins will be to take on constant double teams as a nose tackle.
8.) Jacob Bell OL UFA 6-4 295 4 Titans Rams
Contract: 6 yrs, $36 million ($13 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Bell can do what few Ram offensive linemen have done in recent years: stay healthy and be consistent.
The Caveat: After grooming him for four years, the Titans had absolutely no problem letting the former fifth-round pick walk.
The Reality: Bell is one of the better all-around guards in football:.and few people know it. He is a force in the ground game and, with a decent center beside him, can hold up just find in pass protection. Bell is a huge upgrade over any of last year’s starters in St. Louis.
9.) Shaun Rogers DT TRADE 6-4 340 8 Lions Browns
Contract: 6 yrs, $42 million ($20 million guaranteed)
Traded for 3rd round draft pick and CB Leigh Bodden
The Hope: The 340-pound monster can be a voracious force in his new nose tackle role.
The Caveat: Rogers comes with enough issues to fill a month’s worth of Montell Williams Shows. There have been legal troubles, weight fluctuations, questionable practice habits, attitude concerns and health problems, to name a few.
The Reality: Rogers is a top-notch talent, but to guarantee him as much money as Cleveland did was borderline foolish. He has yet to prove himself over the course of a 16-game season (excluding his contract year in ’05) and he has never operated on a three-man front.
10.) Corey Williams DT Franchised 6-4 313 4 Packers Browns
Contract: 6 yrs, $38 million ($16.3 million guaranteed)
Franchised by Green Bay, traded for 2nd round draft pick
The Hope: Williams can apply his freakishly rare combination of power and quickness to the defensive end position in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 scheme.
The Caveat: True, we’re talking about one of the more unheralded powerhouse players in the game, but the Browns essentially paid sticker price for Williams by surrendering a second-round pick on top of a big contract.
The Reality: Although unknown to many casual fans outside the Badger State, Williams is one of the 10 best defensive tackles in football. However, he’ll be operating a four-technique assignment as a defensive end, plus he’ll be competing as a financially secure player for the first time in his career. Factor in the second-round draft pick trade and the Browns may have rolled more dice than they realized here. Still, if Williams maximizes his potential, Cleveland’s defense will soar.
11.) Marcus Stroud DT TRADE 6-6 310 7 Jaguars Bills
Contract: $16.5 million over final 3 yrs of previous deal with Jacksonville
Traded for a 3rd and 5th round draft pick
The Hope: The powerful veteran can stay healthy and regain the form that has sent him to three Pro Bowls from ’03-’05.
The Caveat: For being such a talented player, the Jaguars sure shipped Stroud out of town in a hurry. He finished last season on IR after his ’06 surgically repaired ankle bothered him down the stretch. He was also suspended four game for violating the league’s steroids policy.
The Reality: The Bills defense ranked 31st in yards last season and has been aching for a rapacious tackle since Pat Williams left in 2004. Taking a chance on Stroud is not a bad move considering they did not have to sign him to a new deal. Sill, whether he’s the same player that he was before the injury, and whether he can operate without Big John Henderson next to him, remains to be seen.
12.) Michael Turner RB UFA 5-10 237 4 Chargers Falcons
Contract: 6 yrs, $34.5 million ($15 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Turner and his staggering 5.5 yard per carry career average can become the backbone of the renovated Falcons offense.
The Caveat: Enticing backup to a star tailback finally getting his own spotlight and big pay day? Hmmm:sounds an awful lot like LaMont Jordan.
The Reality: Turner is a better player than Jordan was when he left the Jets and signed a rich deal with the Raiders. L.T.’s former backup not only has a sturdy 237-pound frame to endure a 16-game featured role, he also has impressive speed and quickness to make defenders miss.
13.) Jerry Porter WR UFA 6-2 220 8 Raiders Jaguars
Contract: 6 yrs, $30 million ($10 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Porter can be the first Jaguars receiver to, for lack of a better phrase, “not stink” since Jimmy Smith.
The Caveat: Just ask Art Shell what kind of player this guy is.
The Reality: Jacksonville has a very talented wideout in Porter, but they also have a very talented wideout in Matt Jones. And Troy Williamson. And Reggie Williams. And Dennis Northcutt. It seems like underachievement is a prerequisite for being a Jaguars receiver. One thing to keep in mind about the soon-to-be 30-year-old: as good as he’s looked over the years, he’s never had a 1,000-yard season.
14.) Donte’ Stallworth WR UFA 6-0 200 6 Patriots Browns
Contract: 7 yrs, $35 million ($10 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Stallworth can bring the big play flair that he displayed while averaging 15.2 yards per catch with New England last season.
The Caveat: You have to ask yourself, why is a player this good on his fourth different team in four years?
The Reality: Stallworth is a tremendous talent and would be an ideal boost to Cleveland’s offense. The questions about his peripateticism are relevant, however. He was said to be a character concern in New Orleans, and he was let go by two very good organizations (Philly and New England). Why?
15.) Javon Walker WR Released 6-3 215 6 Broncos Raiders
Contract: 6 yrs, $55 million ($14 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Walker can reenact his 2006 season, in which he caught 69 passes for 1,084 yards and eight scores after coming back from his first serious knee injury.
The Caveat: On top of having two of his past three seasons wiped out with knee problems, Walker has effectively become a cancer for two different organizations in three years.
The Reality: Walker bitched in Green Bay and then moaned in Denver. With memories of Randy Moss and Jerry Porter, one shudders to think what might happen if he grows unhappy in Oakland. Of course, AFC opponents shudder to think what might happen if he somehow regains his ’04 and ’06 form and becomes a lethal all-around weapon for JaMarcus Russell.
16.) Justin Smith DE UFA 6-4 275 7 Bengals 49ers
Contract: 6 yrs, $45 million ($20 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Smith can solidify San Francisco’s feeble front line in both a pass-rushing and run-stopping role.
The Caveat: Smith has very diversified skills in his portfolio, which makes him solid in the long haul but unlikely to breakout with a dazzling season (which, in guaranteeing $20 million, is what the Niners are hoping for).
The Reality: Smith was an admirable B+ player until he made this much money. Now, he’s a respectable B- player. He’s a better fit in a 4-3 scheme:.if he were an ideal for a 3-4 defensive end, he wouldn’t have cost so much.
17.) Zach Thomas LB Released 5-11 228 12 Dolphins Cowboys
Contract: 4 yrs, $19 million ($2.25 million guaranteed)
The Hope: The future Hall of Famer can pull a Junior Seau and find new life playing on the inside in a true 3-4 scheme.
The Caveat: Thomas is 35 and missed most of last season with migraines after an October concussion.
The Reality: This is essentially a one-year trial deal put forth by the Cowboys. The only negative is that they ticked off former starter Akin Ayodele (who was eventually traded to Miami). Thomas has been doubted his entire career, and this is about the sixth season where injuries and age are expected to derail him. His day of mortality will come, but he’s too darn good a football player to not pick up, especially for minimal risk.
18.) Bernard Berrian WR UFA 6-1 185 4 Bears Vikings
Contract: 6 yrs, $42 million ($16 million guaranteed)
The Hope: The ex-Bear can give Minnesota’s insipid offense a sense of big play potential as a No. 1 receiver.
The Caveat: Berrian has never had 1,000 yards or more than six touchdowns in a season:who told Minnesota he was a No. 1 receiver?
The Reality: It is wishful thinking on the Vikings’ part to assume that they have anything more than a tremendous role player in the 27-year-old veteran. Berrian can stretch the field, though this is almost a moot point considering callow quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is a heaver, not a passer, on anything over 20 yards.
19.) Justin Smiley G UFA 6-3 311 4 49ers Dolphins
Contract: 5 yrs, $25 million ($9 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Smiley’s mobility can boost the stagnant Dolphins front five.
The Caveat: The ex-Niner lacks ideal power, which limits what he can do in pass protection and, obviously, short-yardage situations. He also has fought shoulder problems in the past.
The Reality: Smiley is a good pickup for $5 million a year. He is in the prime of his career and can give Miami consistency inside (something the team has seemingly lacked since Ed Newman).
20.) Jeff Faine C UFA 6-3 291 5 Saints Buccaneers
Contract: 6 yrs, $34.5 million ($15 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Faine’s raw power and tenacious play can elevate Tampa Bay’s interior front line.
The Caveat: Have you ever seen the man try to land a block in space?
The Reality: Tampa Bay overpaid to get Faine, but with the inflated salary cap, it’s an expenditure they can afford. He gives them a jolt of strength up the middle, though his lack of adeptness as a run-blocker in the open field is an issue. Faine’s greatest feature is his feistiness.
21.) Calvin Pace LB UFA 6-4 272 5 Cardinals NY Jets
Contract: 6 yrs, $42 million ($22 million guaranteed)
The Hope: The athletic dynamo can capitalize on his breakthrough 2007 season and excel as an outside linebacker in New York’s pure 3-4 scheme.
The Caveat: Pace, a former first-round defensive end, was a bust until he moved to linebacker:.and entered the final year of his contract.
The Reality: The Jets blew it with this one. Even if Pace continues his ascension and explodes for a 12-sack season, it won’t change the fact that New York grossly overpaid to get him. And let’s be honest: Pace made a quantum leap last season, but his takeoff point was from the nadir of the NFL. Really, he finally became average in ’07.
22.) Gibril Wilson S UFA 6-0 209 4 NY Giants Raiders
Contract: 7 yrs, $39 million ($16 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Wilson’s high-energy demeanor can elevate a pathetic Raiders run defense that ranked 31st last season.
The Caveat: Oakland has a bad habit of signing Super Bowl role players (see Larry Brown, Desmond Howard, Bobby Hamilton, Ted Washington, Duane Starks, etc.)
The Reality: Gibril Wilson is a slither above solid and a chunk below good in comparison to other safeties around the league. He’s essentially a more physical though less skilled version of Michael Huff. The problem here is, Wilson’s new paycheck says he’s better than every safety other than Troy Polamalu, Bob Sanders and Kerry Rhodes. That’s simply not true.
23.) Bobby McCray DE UFA 6-6 261 4 Jaguars Saints
Contract: 5 yrs, $20 million ($5 million first year)
The Hope: McCray can restore the magic he conjured up in 2006 when he became the first Jaguar since Tony Brackens to record double-digit sacks.
The Caveat: At 261 pounds, McCray, when forced to take on blocks against the run, looks like the former seventh-round pick that he is.
The Reality: Heading into the offseason, the Saints needed pass-rushers like Sean and Jayden Spears need better parents. Their leading sack artist in ’07 was Will Smith, with seven. As a team, they recorded a pedestrian 32. Adding a speed-rusher like McCray will do wonders for fixing their 30th-ranked pass defense.
24.) Landon Johnson LB UFA 6-2 232 4 Bengals Panthers
Contract: 3 yrs, $10 million ($3 million signing bonus)
The Hope: The versatile veteran can stabilize Carolina’s shaky weakside linebacker situation.
The Caveat: Johnson has never been considered an elite player because he does not play with a reckless abandon.
The Reality: Johnson is a unique talent who was often asked to play outside his comfort zone in Cincy. He struggles ever so slightly in the middle because his instincts and recovery speed are closer to average than great, but he thrives on the outside where he doesn’t have to carry the front seven but rather, just fit in. If the facile linebacker can pick up the Panther system, he’ll prove to be a bargain addition.
25.) Dwight Smith S Released 5-10 201 7 Vikings Lions
Contract: 7 yrs, $35 million ($10 million guaranteed)
The Hope: Smith’s veteran experience can shore up a young, unreliable Detroit secondary.
The Caveat: His off-field behavior has been consistently embarrassing in recent years, and he hasn’t done enough on the field to make up for it.
The Reality: Smith is not a veteran leader – at least if you’re the Lions, you hope not (imagine if more players acted like him). He’s liable to be a distraction at some point, but if Detroit can live with it, they’ll find a solid all-around defender who possesses somewhat surprising speed and range.
26.) Antwan Odom DE UFA 6-5 274 4 Titans Bengals
Contract: 5 yrs, $29.5 million ($11 million guaranteed)
The Hope: The swift, deer-like pass-rusher can build on his breakout eight-sack season from last year.
The Caveat: Funny, over his career, Odom averages eight sacks a season in contract years and just 1.5 sacks per season in non-contract years.
The Reality: Unless the Bengals install a 3-4 scheme, Odom isn’t going to improve things for them. He is an athletic outside linebacker stuck on the defensive front. Cincy already has a bantam pass-rushing ace in Robert Geathers:what they really needed was a big body run defender to replace Justin Smith.
27.) Pacman Jones CB TRADE 5-10 187 3 Titans Cowboys
Contract: 3 yrs, terms unknown ($0 guaranteed)
Traded for a 4th round pick
The Hope: You already know.
The Caveat: You already know this, too.
The Reality: Dallas has very little riding on Pacman, and the fact that they haven’t tried to play the “we believe he can turn his life around” card has mitigated the P.R. hit they deserve for bringing him in. If – IF – Pacman can stay on the field, Dallas will have close to the best cornerbacking tandem in football, as well as the game’s most dangerous punt returner not named Devin Hester.