Another week, no new signings.
Chiefs fans would be right to expect that given what we’ve seen from Arrowhead Drive so far this offseason, a flurry of free agent activity is not just around the corner. However, we are getting to the point of the offseason where teams can get bargain basement prices for players that have fallen through the cracks.
Obviously, players get signed or not for a myriad of reasons including scheme fits, personal relationships, attitude, and injuries. Many times, good players find themselves unemployed at this point of the offseason for no particular fault of their own but rather because teams have already filled their glaring needs and have spent their free agency budgets already.
Even teams that still have cash to spend often times want to wait until they can see how the Draft will shake out before they add to their roster. There are always veterans picked up during training camp as well, as starters get injured and youngsters disappoint. Still, if you’re an unsigned free agent at this point, you’ve got to be pretty nervous that unless you give your John Hancock to a franchise soon, you’re going to watching Sunday afternoons play out on your couch.
For all of the reasons above, now is a good time for a team that wants to play free agency smart to bring in a few more role players that may be willing to drop their contract expectations for job security now that the signing period has cooled.
Two recently released players that haven’t gotten a lot of press I think fit that mold for the Chiefs — WR Miles Austin and G Mike Briesel.
Both of these players have starting talent and the red flags for them are the same — injuries. But, for a team like the Chiefs that is almost certainly going to draft at least one receiver and one O-lineman, I think they can afford to take a calculated risk on these two.
First off, Austin.
Even more than injuries, Austin was released because the Cowboys were this year’s Oakland Raiders when it came to being in cap hell. They saved $5.5 million by cutting him loose despite the fact that he is, as NFL.com noted, “only one year removed from catching 66 passes for 943 yards.”
Last season, he started the season off well with 10 receptions for 72 yards in the opener, but was continually hampered by a hamstring injury for the rest of the season. Hamstring strains are notoriously fickle injuries. They may appear to be healed but if you push your return they can tense up again and set your recovery back to square one. That said, these types of strains are also not degenerative like ligament tears or micro fractures, so with a full offseason to rest and rehab, Austin should be back to his old self by September.
While it’s clear that his prime is behind him, he would be a solid pickup as a veteran to compete with WR Donnie Avery and can probably be signed to a short-term incentive-laden contract. Even without the dynamic speed that made him a star in Dallas, Austin is a consistent producer with good hands that can move the chains in a way that WR Dwayne Bowe and Avery weren’t always able to in 2013.
Meanwhile, to provide some dependable depth in the interior of the O-line, you could do a lot worse than Briesel. To me, his release from the Raiders this week was one of the more head-scratching moves out of Oakland this offseason, and that says a lot.
Although nominally an “injury-prone” player, he only missed two games over the past two years. I personally think that a player that fights through injuries should not be bashed for it and Paul Gutierrez, who covers the Raiders for ESPN.com, seems to agree with me.
“He was an absolute warrior for Oakland in his two years, fighting through countless injuries,” he wrote. “Through the week, he could barely move in the Raiders’ locker room, yet there he was on Sunday.”
He’s described as a dependable run blocker who can play center in a pinch as well. Given that the Chiefs aren’t sure what they have this year at guard and they are unlikely to be able to bring in anything resembling a “sure thing” at the position through the draft or free agency, I think Briesel can provide good insurance.
It seems the front office’s goal this year will be to develop a good, young guard for the future — either Rishaw Johnson or a mid-round pick. That’s fine, but I want a veteran in there to push both the young kid and Jeff Allen on the other side. The fact that he is injury insurance for C Rodney Hudson as well is just a cherry on top.
Most importantly, Briesel will be cheap. How cheap? Well, his salary this year for the Raiders would have been $1.38 million. Given that the league hasn’t exactly been jumping to bring him on board, I bet the Chiefs could get him now for the league minimum. If the proposition is to get an experienced, versatile, tough, and high-character veteran off of a rival for $900k, I’m ready to sign.
What say you, Addicts?