On Tuesday we provided an *overview of the defensive players that may become available during the NFL's unrestricted free agency signing period that begins Feb. 29. Today we profile the potential offensive UFAs. *
Is Randy Moss actually going to hit the open market? While it seems rather implausible, there is a chance Moss will be without a team once free agency commences on Feb. 29.
If the Patriots don't designate Moss as their franchise player before Feb. 21, then things promise to get really interesting. According to a published report, the Pats (because of a detail in the collective bargaining agreement) cannot adjust Moss' contract until after the start of free agency. If Moss is tagged, he'll receive $7.848 million in 2008.
"I would love to finish my career [in New England], just for the fact that they have everything you want in a football organization," Moss said. "They handle things from the top all the way to the bottom, and they do a good job of that."
Moss produced one of the finest receiver regular seasons in NFL history — 98 receptions, 1,493 yards and a record-breaking 23 touchdowns. But he turned 31 Wednesday. Signing him to a long-term contract might be a risky proposition and the short-term option of the tag seems a likely scenario. Pats owner Robert Kraft, the man who writes the checks, definitely enjoyed having Moss on his team.
"When I sat with him at the beginning of the year, he said he wasn't coming here for the money, he was coming here to win," Kraft said. "Everything he's done has shown that he wants to win, and he's a real competitor and someone I've developed an affection for."
Despite all the individual and team accomplishments last season, the Patriots didn't capture the Lombardi Trophy. Moss' numbers dropped in the season's final quarter and he wasn't dominant in the playoffs. While the tag seems like a safe play here, what if Moss decides to follow CB Asante Samuel's pattern? After getting the designation last year, Samuel skipped all of the team's off-season activities and training camp.
If Moss enters free agency, all bets are off. His departure will reshape the AFC's landscape. The Patriots aren't devoid of other receiving issues. Most people think they'll decline to pay Donté Stallworth $8 million in option bonuses and he'll become a free agent.
Troy Brown could be a free agent again as could be Jabar Gaffney. And Kelley Washington, basically a special teams player, is also in the option bonus category and could become a free agent. At least Tom Brady knows Wes Welker ain't leaving.
The most interesting running back available in unrestricted free agency is Michael "Burner" Turner. After years in LaDainian Tomlinson's shadow in San Diego, Turner's going to be "The Guy" for some team next season.
"I've been ready. It's just a matter of being patient, disciplined," Turner said. "If you had asked me a few years ago, I'd have said I was ready, too."
In four NFL seasons, Turner has rushed for just 1,257 yards but has averaged a healthy 5.5 yards per carry. The 5"10", 237-pounder has little tread off his tires and he can scoot, possessing 4.4 speed.
The Cowboys don't figure to be looking for a back with Marion Barber III a restricted FA, but Julius Jones (TJ's little brother) might be changing area codes. JJ didn't play much at all in the Cowboys' divisional playoff loss to the Giants and is set to be unrestricted.
"He's an ideal player to have on your team," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "What we can do, what we can do at the position, where it is we'll just have to see."
You see the name of Alan Faneca pop up frequently when people review the free agent offensive linemen. The veteran guard, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, discussed his impending free agency last week at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
"The waters are deep," he said. "It's a different experience for me 10 years in, so I'm just kind of feeling my way through it right now."
Faneca has taken note of the massive guard contracts of late — last year the Bills reportedly gave Derrick Dockery $49 million over seven years, including $18 million up front. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has already made his Faneca pitch to management, but the 31-year-old is probably headed elsewhere.
For those teams looking for a cheaper alternative, Mike Wahle just received his walking papers from the Carolina Panthers. The 6'6", 304-pound Wahle lined up at left guard for the Panthers and started 45 games the last three years.
"We've kind of decided we're going to change some things on the offensive line and rework that unit a little bit," said Carolina GM Marty Hurney. "Mike's been here three years and has been very good for us. He made one Pro Bowl and was an alternate in another."
The Minnesota Vikings, who set a franchise record with 2,634 rushing yards, have a quality blocking fullback who sees a good backfield situation.
"I'm up this year and obviously I want to stay in Minnesota,'' said Tony Richardson, a 13-year vet and three-time Pro Bowl selection. "I have two guys, Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, to work with. I couldn't ask for a better situation. All signs are pointing to me staying, but it's a business."