|Derick Hingle / US Presswire|
|The Vikings would be well-served to find a way to keep receiver Sidney Rice in Minnesota.|
Even though most NFL players will tell you they'd love to spend their entire careers with the team that drafted them, once free agency comes they're more than eager to see if the grass is greener -- as in money green.
There are hundreds of free agents who have been waiting longer than usual this offseason because of the lockout to test their "market value." However, the market could be smaller for free agents because several teams have already addressed their needs in the draft. That has prompted several agents to assume their clients could be devalued, and many of them could end up signing short-term deals, mostly with their current teams.
Longtime Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha could cash in on the open market, but with the timeframe to switch franchises, learn new schemes and adjust to a new environment reduced because of the lockout, it could be in the best interests of a lot of free agents -- and their teams -- to stick with what's familiar, even if it's just for one season.
Here are a few examples:
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants
He had a breakout season in 2010, rushing for eight touchdowns and 1,235 yards (the Giants had 2,200 net rushing yards all season). His six lost fumbles were problematic, but that's fixable (see: Adrian Peterson). Bradshaw is an ideal fit for a system in which he's also a valued receiver (47 receptions). Those traits could make him effective with another team, but where would he go to emerge as a semi-featured back? If he's going to split carries, doing it where he's developed makes the most sense, but the Giants have to make it worth his while financially. If not, they could have a hard time finding a player who adds as much as Bradshaw.
Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings
Rice will be the most attractive wideout in free agency, and some team might make things too rich for Minnesota, which has several free agents. The Vikings value Rice and want him back. He would be the featured receiver for new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, and Rice could form a tandem for years with rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, just like Roddy White did in Atlanta with Matt Ryan. Although Rice's injury history is a legitimate concern, the Vikings need to do what they can to keep him. Without Rice, they're pretty much left with Percy Harvin as the main receiving threat, and he's far better playing out of the slot.
Darren Sharper, FS, Saints
Sharper, 35, might not have too much leverage because Malcolm Jenkins played very well with Sharper out most of the season after knee surgery. Still, New Orleans should bring back Sharper because he wants to be there and, when healthy, is productive in so many ways. Not only does he help generate turnovers, he's decent in run support and very solid in blitz packages. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves having interchangeable pieces, and Sharper only adds depth and versatility to a unit that kept the Saints in playoff contention last season.
Logan Mankins, G, Patriots
While Mankins, one of the top guards in the league, could probably fit in with just about any team, his role as the anchor of the Patriots' offensive line can't be understated. The relationship between New England and Mankins has been ugly at times because he wants to get paid, and the team has been reluctant to do so. Now is the time to bridge that gap. Mankins adds a rugged dimension to that offense. If he were to leave, finding someone who can handle the interior like Mankins won't be as easy as it was to find someone to replace Randy Moss.
Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins
Grossman played fairly well in the final three games of the season after taking over for Donovan McNabb. Grossman is the best option for the Redskins -- and them for him. He won't have a chance to start anywhere else, while Washington doesn't have a potential starter better than Grossman. With offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan gaining more control within the organization and Grossman being a player he's familiar with, this seems very likely to happen. It will only work if Washington can run the ball the way Mike Shanahan's teams did in Denver.
Doug Free, OT, Cowboys
Free might not be spectacular, but he's better than he's given credit for, and when you have a better-than-serviceable left tackle, you need to hang on to him. Free, who arguably was the Cowboys' best lineman last season, won't cost huge dollars yet, so Dallas could probably get him for great value now and build a nice tackle tandem with Free and first-round selection Tyron Smith out of USC.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89