There is a definite frenzy expected when 2014 NFL free agency finally opens. With a number of salary cap casualties expected to join in, where could some of them land?
Few have been as dependable during the dark years of the Cleveland Browns quite like inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. He is a leader, tough and a tackling machine as evidenced by the 141 he posted in 2013. However, another switch is on the way for the defense, this one to a scheme that most agree won’t fit Jackson’s skills, which are best suited in a 4-3 as a middle linebacker. The Chicago Bears are unsettled at that position. Jackson is 30-years old but he would be a stabilizing force for them as they reload the roster on defense.
Before Houston Texans fans launch a riot, they must understand this move is based on insurance, not the intent of finding a starter. Bill O’Brien has prior experience with Mark Sanchez, having seen the 27-year old at his best back when he was offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. He knows what Sanchez can bring as a locker room guy and playoff experience. It would be invaluable to have for whomever they end up bringing in via the draft.
His ongoing hamstring problems may have finally worn out the patience of the Dallas Cowboys, which is apparently hard to do. The fact is Mile Austin has become too expensive for them to keep. He’s still young though and has shown the ability to make some plays when he can stay on the field. At the right price he should find work. The Baltimore Ravens are always great about finding veteran bargains. Austin presents a nice 6’3″ target, something Joe Flacco could really use.
Does anybody even remember that Mikel Leshoure was a highly touted second round pick out of Illinois in 2011? Unfortunately the running back got off to a bad start and by the time he finally got going on the field the Detroit Lions were already looking in a new direction. Leshoure isn’t an Eddie Lacy but he is a power runner who is terrific in short yardage, as evidenced by his nine touchdowns in 2012. The Arizona Cardinals have need of a hard runner after the Rashard Mendenhall failure. Leshoure is younger, healthier and based on interviews, hungrier.
It’s really hard to pinpoint what happened to LaMarr Woodley. After three-straight seasons from 2008 to 2010 with at least 10 sacks in a season, the Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker has lost his mojo. At age 29 he is has become too ineffective and too inexpensive for the Steelers to keep, especially if they wish to retain Jason Worilds who is younger and played better last season. Still, Woodley can have some value in the right environment. The Philadelphia Eagles run an attacking 3-4 system under Chip Kelly, have a need for help at outside linebacker and most importantly would keep his family based in Pennsylvania. If only 2014 NFL free agency could go so easily for everybody.