Although there are four teams with more than $30 million in cap room with the dawn of free agency two weeks away, I expect this to be a stingy season for one of the best free agent classes ever.
Why? Three reasons:
In the last few days, I've asked several general managers for their opinions about who might be most disappointed in a class of free agents that is heavy at tackle, wide receiver and pass rusher. There is no question that young talents at those three positions are going to get paid. Detroit pass rusher Cliff Avril, 26, has never had the breakout season a player with his talent probably should have had, but should get a big payday. But very talented players like tackle Jake Long of Miami and wide receiver Greg Jennings of Green Bay will likely be disappointed because of their recent injury histories.
It's going to be interesting to see which teams jump out for relatively young tackles, such as Brandon Albert of Kansas City, and wide receivers, such as Mike Wallace of Pittsburgh. Wallace, in particular, is facing an intriguing free-agency period because he took a risk in not re-signing with Pittsburgh for $7 million a season last year.
Though only 26, Wallace seems to be scaring off some teams with receiver needs because they perceive he is going to be asking for the moon. "I like Mike Wallace," said one general manager with a receiver need. "But I'm not paying him Vincent Jackson money. Not even close." Jackson, the former Charger, signed early in free agency with Tampa Bay last March for a contract averaging $11 million a year.
So I think you can look for a few players to get rich, particularly if they're willing to play in cash-rich places with losing histories like Cleveland. But most teams sound to me like they'll be playing it conservative in free agency this season.
And now for your email:
NOT SURE WHY, BUT I LIKE THIS IDEA.
Someone in the NFL office is reading your email, Tim, and saying, "That's not an impossible idea.'' I think the only time I would want this used is in an egregious situation, similar to the one -- you may remember this -- when Brandon Meriweather was on the Patriots in 2010 and hit then-Baltimore tight end Todd Heap with a helmet-to-helmet hit that was sickening, launching at Heap's head and making a vicious hit. Coaches will scream about this, but I think it's a reasonable sanction, playing 10 versus 11, for some period of time to reinforce the emphasis on clean play.
THE TEBOW APPEARANCE ON TEXAS.
I agree. I read about this the other day and should have mentioned it in my column Monday that Tebow speaking at the church is at least a tacit endorsement of Jeffress' sermonizing about homosexuality being perverse, and his rants against gay people in general. It's wrong, and there are plenty of churches Tebow could have chosen to spread his message about love and belief in God that would have been better choices than this one.
ABOUT TEBOW AND CANADA ...
Good email, Chris. I've heard from a lot of people that Tebow's inaccuracy would doom him in Canada. I have been a proponent of Tebow going north to play for two reasons: He needs a chance to play a full season of football at the professional level, even if the CFL's different rules and different game wouldn't necessarily mean a good season up there translating into a good career down here in the future. He needs to play. And I agree -- his inaccuracy will hurt his chances. But the way he'd play in Canada would be the option style, and he'd make defenders have to guess whether he's going to throw or run with it once he leaves the pocket.
I have my doubts about whether he would succeed too -- I just think the only way he has a chance would be to go somewhere with a very good coach of the position (New Orleans with Sean Payton, San Francisco with Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman, Green Bay with Mike McCarthy) and spend at least two years learning the trade while being active at least occasionally in changeup roles that could help that team. But playing would help him the most, and the only place he has a chance to play, I think, would be in Canada.
The NFL is limited on player discipline because of the collective bargaining agreement, but I think if the players in the league and about to enter the league continue on this dangerous path, the league will try to strengthen the penalty for crimes like DUI in the next CBA. Unfortunately, that's eight years away.