After watching a classic Ozzie offseason- wait out the market and resign 4 of your top 6 free agents, including your 3 most important to deals that are below market value, we have to look at our roster and see where we need to fill in. Our front office has proven adept at making the small, bargain signing, and I think this offseason is not different.
We started with Steve Smith, filling out our group of wide receivers with a versatile player who as recently as 2012 was an elite receiver. He still has plenty left in the tank, and signed for an AAV of $3.66M a year compared to 5M for Emmanuel Sanders and 6M for Golden Tate. While those players are in their prime, you are also paying for their projected potential. Neither of them have had a season thus-far which would be worth that much money. Sanders career high's, from last year or 740 yards and 6 touchdowns as the #2 option in Pittsburgh with a top 10 QB, and before that he averaged 430 yards and 1.6 td's a year in 3 seasons. Tate's numbers are not much more impressive: last year he had 898 yards and 5 tds, and his career averages before that were 432 yards and 3 tds a year over 3 seasons.
Despite the bargain-buy misses last year with Marcus Spears and Michael Huff, Ozzie has shown a prowess at making the supplementary free agency bargain buy for the defense, in addition to working the phones for rentals. Names in the past that have worked out spectacularly are Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Corey Graham, Bernard Pollard, Cory Redding, and Daryl Smith, Other solid buys have included Chris Canty. Justin Bannan, Josh Wilson, Fabian Washington, Bryant McKinnie, Chris Carr.
So who should be Ozzie's target this year to fill in the gaps on our roster?
A Center- While the popular names out there are David Baas and Kyle Cook, we have to ask ourselves why they were cut by their last teams, especially since their salaries were not so high. One other name I think that might be a good fit at center is Jeremy Zuttah of the Tampa Bay Bucs. In an effort to overhaul their line, they signed Evan Deitrich-Smith from the Packers. Zuttah is 6"4, 308 lbs and has experience at guard too. He is still in his prime at 27, but the biggest question mark would be whether we would be able to take on his contract. He is making 4.5M in 2014, and 4.25M in 2015. Not to mention, there is a possibility that he would be released if they cannot find a trade partner. He might be our best option to solidify our line, as then we can decide whether to play him at center, or move him to guard and have KO play RT.
A Cornerback- While I think it is a definite possibility we take a CB in the higher rounds, I think that we don't need more youth at the position. We have upside still to be discovered in Asa Jackson, and maybe even Chykie Brown. But with Jimmy Smith still coming into his own, and the need for 4 good CB's anyways, I think it makes sense to bring in a veteran on a 1 or 2 year small deal. Some possible targets could include: Carlos Rogers, former Raven Josh Wilson, Jabari Greer, and Terrell Thomas. None of these guys are going to break the bank, nor are they #2 CB's, but all we need from them is to compete with Asa for the #3 CB spot. Terrell Thomas is an interesting option, as he is still in his prime but coming off an injury. Josh Wilson is only 30, but I am not sure how well he played last year. A more expensive option that would likely require a multi-year deal is Antonio Cromartie, but based on our offseason so far I don't think we spend that money.
A Right Tackle- There have been discussions on this position throughout the off-season. The name Eric Winston has been mentioned, based on his connection to Kubiak but in truth none of us have no idea what he has left in the tank. However, in response to those who questioned his first half last year, he did only give up 2 sacks in the last 11 games last year after starting slow. Another possibility is the guy who took Winston's RT job in Houston, Ryan Harris. The bottom line is, there are many former starting OT out there on the market, so I assume Ozzie will bring in some competition for Rick Wagner if we decide not to move KO. However, we might wait until after the draft, since there is a possibility we might take a RT in the draft like Zach Martin or one of the 2nd round guys, in which case they would compete for the starting spot.
A Safety- This is a position that has thinned out considerably. While I am sure the front office has a target out there and a price it is willing to go to, I do not know the target unless they are waiting out Miami's Chris Clemons. Other options out there are Bronco's Mike Adams (ugh), Kendrick Lewis, Thomas Decoud, and Nate Allen. Allen didn't grade out badly, despite being run out of Philly. However, I don't love the draft for an immediate starter, and we already have a youngster starting at SS. So I feel we need a veteran with some starting experience to compete for the starting free safety spot.
A Defensive End/Tackle- Here is a position we likely can fill in the later rounds, as we have had much success with players like Arthur Jones, Pernell McPhee, and DeAngelo Tyson. We also have unproven youngsters who we hope will contibute: 3rd rounder Brandon Williams, 6th rounder Kapron Lewis-Moore, UDFA Cody Larsen. We might supplement with a late rounder, or a veteran, but I don't think we will spend money here. Some names include: Corey Wooten, Robert Ayers, Henry Melton, Pat Sims, and Kevin Williams, if he doesn't retire.