Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals tackle Anthony Collins (73) against the Baltimore Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium. Bengals defeated the Ravens 34-17. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Latest NFL Takeaways Prior to 2014 Free Agency

Free agency is around the corner and NFL teams continue to make preparations.  Here are some takeaways from the latest activity.

Chicago Bears may be favoring Charles Tillman over Henry Melton

There are still a number of free agents the Chicago Bears must sift through before the market becomes active but one thing became a little clearer recently.  The team may be prioritizing the retention of cornerback Charles Tillman over defensive tackle Henry Melton.  It seems somewhat counterintuitive since Melton is 27-years old and Tillman is 32.  However, the re-signing of veteran Jeremiah Ratliff to a two-year deal means the Bears have at least a short-term option at the three-technique.  After all, Melton is coming off a torn ACL last season, and even before that he wasn’t playing at the Pro Bowl level he reached in 2012.  Meanwhile Tillman looked like his ball punching, playmaking self before a couple of unfortunate ailments knocked him out for the season.  Keeping him in town would give the Bears a little more time before having to address the corner position with high draft picks.

Anthony Collins might become the offensive steal of 2014

Eugene Monroe, Branden Albert and Jared Veldheer are getting most of the attention as the best offensive tackles in the 2014 free agency class.  That’s not a surprise given their relative success the past couple seasons.  However, it’s also made it easy to overlook Anthony Collins.  A six-year veteran and primary backup in Cincinnati, the 28-year old has awaited his opportunity to get a starting job.  He played very well when inserted at left tackle last season.  He’s big and athletic and didn’t allow a single sack.  Best of all his price should be modest compared to the others mentioned above.  That give him excellent steal potential.

Aqib Talib is not in the best position to leverage the New England Patriots

For the first half of the 2013 NFL season, there wasn’t a cornerback in the NFL playing better than Aqib Talib.  The New England Patriots were simply a different defense when he was on the field, and when he was off it.  It’s easy to understand why he feels he should get paid like one of the best in the league.  There are two problems with that line of reasoning.  He’s attempting these demands with the New England Patriots, one of the most notoriously hard bargaining franchises in the sport.  Secondly, his multiple injury problems last year remain a cause for concern.  That doesn’t exactly translate well for him given the lack of preferred leverage.  Talib may get paid the money he wants, but he’s expecting to come from New England, he might be sorely mistaken.

Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen could come out swinging

Everybody knows that Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said he wants to build his team just like the Green Bay Packers, through the draft.  The problem is there is a sense of urgency growing around the team that 2014 better be a sign of progress or McKenzie, along with head coach Dennis Allen will be dismissed in favor of men who can do the job better.  The issue with building through the draft is that is often takes time, and in the “Win Now” era of the NFL time is no longer on their side.  That is why, with $66 million in salary cap space, McKenzie must take the hardest cuts he can muster at this free agent class in an effort to improve his roster.  The road ahead in which he will battle three 2013 playoff teams for the AFC West won’t get any easier.

Tags: Anthony Collins Aqib Talib Charles Tillman Henry Melton New England Patriots NFL

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