Roughly two weeks ago the opening of the NFL’s “third wave” of free agency was the talk of the town. John Henderson had just been released from Jacksonville, Adalius Thomas was handed his walking papers in New England and Chris Hovan got the heave-ho from Tampa; three familiar names, each with their own line of potential suitors.
Or so we thought.
A full two weeks have passed since each of the three was sent packing and absolutely nothing has changed. All three still remain free agents. Some haven’t even been reported as taking a single free agent visit yet.
Two weeks ago, those who would have predicted that all three players remained unsigned on May 10th would have gotten plenty of pushback. But the reality is that the phones aren’t exactly ringing off the hook, at least not with the urgency of a mad rush. Each of these players was likely part of draft day trade talk as well with bargain exchange rates being offered.
"The tape from last season says more about Thomas' play than the Patriots decision to cut him,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said last week. “Teams around the league that studied Thomas were not overly impressed."
Thomas is going to find work and Schefter’s insight certainly doesn’t speak for each of the 32 NFL general managers, but his take is something to keep in mind when it comes to veteran pick-ups in May (and beyond).
Who knows if the same things are being said of both Henderson and Hovan? The two do remain in the same boat as Thomas.
Really, none of this should come as a surprise. The same situations seem to repeat themselves each and every year, and veteran players switching teams in May have been hit or miss in their production rates.
In May of 2009, over the long list of transactions which occurred across the league, only seven veteran free agent signees contributed more than 10 games played for the teams that signed them. Even of those in that list, many weren’t even in starting roles.
Contributing FAs Switching Teams in May of 2009
*Must appear in at least 10 games with signing club to quality
May 5th – S Brandon McGowan (New England)
Signing a two-year deal as an unrestricted free agent out of Chicago, McGowan played in all 16 games for New England last season, starting 11 of them. He finished with 69 tackles, two INTs, eight passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
May 5th – WR Mike Furrey (Cleveland)
Furrey signed with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent out of Detroit. He played in all 16 games in 2009 (four starts), on both sides of the football, logging 23 catches for 170 yards and 14 tackles as well as two passes defense. He currently remains on the market as a free agent as his one-year contract with Houston expired on March 5th.
May 6th – LB Larry Foote (Detroit)
Foote was an unrestricted free agent for less than 48 hours before the Lions scooped him up with a one-year deal following his release from Pittsburgh. Last season Foote started all 14 games in which he played and finished with 99 tackles, 2.0 sacks, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He signed a free agent contract to return to Pittsburgh this off-season.
May 13th – OLB Jason Taylor (Miami)
Taylor returned from a one-year sabbatical in Washington to start 15 of 16 games played and finish the season with 42 tackles, 7.0 sacks, an INT, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He recently signed as an unrestricted free agent with the N.Y. Jets this past April.
May 18th – S John Busing (Houston)
Busing played in 16 games (four starts) as a reserve for Houston after spending three seasons in Cincinnati. He recorded 20 tackles, an INT and three passes defensed. He currently remains on the market as a free agent as his one-year contract with Houston expired on March 5th.
May 18th – WR Kelly Washington (Baltimore)
Washington played in 15 games (two starts) in a reserve role after making the switch from New England to Baltimore. He caught 34 passes for 431 yards with two TDs. He currently remains on the market as a free agent as his one-year contract with Baltimore expired on March 5th.
May 21st – CB Dre Bly (San Francisco)
Bly filled a reserve role in for the 49ers after leaving Denver in 2009. He played in 16 games (six starts) and tallied 29 tackles, a sack, three INTs, 13 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He currently remains on the market as a free agent as his one-year contract with San Francisco expired on March 5th.
A year ago, the Chiefs did not sign a single veteran free agent in the month of May. In fact, only one veteran UFA signed between May 1st and the start of the 2009 training camp contributed even one game played for Kansas City in 2009; that was S Mike Brown.
Brown signed with the Chiefs on June 25th a year ago, but currently fits the same mold as Bly, Busing, Furrey and Washington as an unrestricted free agent once more still searching for work.
What does it all mean? Does it mean that most veteran players signed this late in the game are a bit over-hyped and/or simply just role players at this point in their careers? Maybe, but maybe not. That’s up for debate.
However, what we shouldn’t feel is a sense of surprise that there hasn’t been a mad rush by all 32 teams to scoop up players like Henderson, Thomas and Hovan…just yet.