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2017 Graybeards: Making a team of best free agents


If you're a veteran who doesn't have a job by April Fool's Day, well, shoot, the joke's on you.

The NFL is a tough business, and it's not an ideal situation for players yet to be identified as a roster solution somewhere. We're now three weeks into free agency, and teams are turning toward the draft. That leaves the unemployed vet trapped in the football equivalent of The Upside Down dimension in "Stranger Things." Say hi to Barb.

The good news: Hope's not completely lost for these vets. Recognizable names will continue to come off the bread line -- a Chase Daniel here, a Ricky Jean Francois there -- but the transaction wire confirms these types of signings have slowed to a trickle. It's a high-stakes game of musical chairs you want no part of.

The disconnect here is that there are plenty of unsigned players who can and will help teams win games in 2017. Most of these useful players get scooped up eventually, but every year, there are guys who simply slip through the cracks.

That's where the End Around comes in. For thethird straight year, we have assembled a roster comprised solely of unrestricted free agents still looking for work as March turned to April.

Per usual, the resulting team left us pleasantly surprised in certain areas and quietly horrified in others. A perfect roster it is not, but consider us to be something of an island for misfit toys. We are the 2017 San Diego Graybeards.

(Sincerest apologies to the city of St. Louis. We enjoyed your hospitality as the Graybeards' host city in 2016, but ownership has decided the people of San Diego need a pick-me-up right now. Denizens of Oakland, you're next!)


We take this project seriously, so we can honestly say we're annoyed as Tony Romo that the Cowboys won't set their one-time franchise star free. Romo would have given us the best chance to win, as well as put some meat in the seats, so to speak. Cutler is a decent consolation prize, assuming he  decides to put some clothes on and continue his career. Kaepernick will inevitably lead to some PR repercussions and a salty Trump tweet, but the 'Beards offer him safe haven and a chance to start. Fitzmagic is here because we don't feel comfortable dressing less than three quarterbacks. When we get to the offensive line, you'll understand.

Well, would you look at that! If the Graybeards win some games this year, it will almost certainly be thanks to a potentially dynamic backfield. AP and Charles are probably the two best running backs of their generation -- and they're not exactly ancient, either. The third guy in the pecking order only led the NFL with 18 touchdowns last season.

For a little perspective, my 2015 backfield in this same exercise was Ahmad Bradshaw and Stevan Ridley. Ahmad Bradshaw and Stevan Ridley! Last year, it was Arian Foster (with the tank on "E") and Blount, who was still two weeks away from re-signing with the Pats. I don't know the status of Charles' knees or the real demands being floated by Peterson's agent, but all these guys should be signed by a real team. We'll happily take them in.

Has an NFL offense ever attempted to play all of its wideouts in the slot? That might be in play for the Graybeards, given the decided lack of speed here. Floyd is our burner of the group and also one of the youngest players on the roster. (General truth: If you're in your mid-20s and you're on the Graybeards, off-the-field issues have likely depressed your value.) Boldin will have 64 catches for 877 yards and five touchdowns every year until the polar ice cap dissolves. Cruz is on the team mostly for the enjoyable "Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuz" chants that will breeze through Qualcomm on 72-and-sunny Sundays in San Diego.

Let's just say the passing game won't lean too hard on this position. Our offensive coordinator is toying with the idea of eliminating this position group altogether.

Jahri Evans is on the Graybeards for the second straight year. When this starts happening, consider it a cue to meet with your financial consultant and start mapping out post-NFL income possibilities. Mangold is a total glue guy, and we're excited to have him. Ryan Clady takes over for Jake Long as the erstwhile blindside glory boy turned injury-ravaged liability. Vollmer can teach everybody how to swear in German.

AVERAGE AGE OF OFFENSE: 31.56 years old


Speaking of glue guys, Big Vince is in the house! Think about the barbecues we'll throw on victory Mondays. This line is not half-bad. So far, this team is easily the strongest Graybeards outfit yet. Pinch me!

Freeney is another returning Graybeard. (Get ya money man on the phone!) I have substantial concerns about getting a pass rush going with these grumpy old men. I'm tempted to get DeMarcus Ware on the horn and see if he'll reconsider retiring. Hey, remember when the Browns signed Kruger to a five-year, $40.5 million contract a few years ago? Yeah, our offer's gonna come in just a bit lower.

Meh. You're not excited about these linebackers, and neither am I. With McClain, we're taking another flier on a guy with character concerns. Management is aware of the risks and enters the situation with eyes wide open.

I don't know if the team is going to be any good, but the cover of our media guide is going to be stellar. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Darrelle Revis and Jay Cutler's bare ass. Speaking of Revis, we're going to deploy him like the old days, asking him to take away half the field by eliminating the opposition's No. 1 receiver. What could go wrong? (Todd Bowles faints.)

Blerg, more character issues -- and yet, Greg Hardy still couldn't find a job with the Graybeards. There's a humblebrag for you. Like Revis, Byrd broke the bank in free agency not so long ago. Life moves fast. Roman Harper is a return member of the Graybeards and, really, the face of the franchise, thanks to that gorgeous salt-and-pepper melon.

AVERAGE AGE OF DEFENSE: 30.43 years old


K: Dan Carpenter (31)
P: Steve Weatherford (34)
LS: Fan Outreach

Dan Carpenter was literally the only realistic veteran option ... so ... yeah ... congrats, bud. Look out for competition from Roberto Aguayo next spring. I couldn't find a single recognizable punter on the market, so I'm bringing Weatherford out of retirement for the second straight year. This is almost entirely based on his great bod. As for the long snapper, we will partner with a local Mexican eatery and hand the long snapper job to the first fan to finish a comically oversized burrito in less than 10 minutes.


Tom Coughlin, our leader last year, was lured away by Jacksonville. (Qualcomm's dearth of operational swimming pools really banged us in negotiations there.) That means a promotion for Shanahan, our OC in 2016. Gailey is plucked out of retirement, mostly because he's the one guy who can successfully run an offense without any contribution from a tight end. Singletary is around mostly to scare the s--- out of all the bad apples I've accumulated on the roster. Westhoff is a cranky staple.

So there you have it. What do you think? The defense concerns me, but I genuinely believe the Graybeards will score points with AP and Charles leading the way on offense. In a world where, say, the Niners were relegated for a year and the Graybeards took their place in the NFC West, how do you think this team would fare?

My prediction: A perfectly respectable 6-10 campaign. Too optimistic? Not optimistic enough? Your turn.

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