It's that time again.
We're now more than two weeks into the new league year. We've studied the first wave of free agency, the second, then the third. There's nothing more than a ripple in the current now ... and that's where the San Diego Graybeards step in.
For the fifth year, our front office (population: 1) has exhaustively culled through the NFL database of unattached free agents to build a starting roster comprised of players still available to all 32 teams.
The Graybeards offer these players both virtual employment and sanctuary from know-it-all coaches and executives who have ignored them since the market officially opened at 4 p.m. ET on March 13. Below you'll find a collection of players who have the ability to help a team win football games in 2019. You might be surprised some of these players remain unemployed. My hope is that all of these men eventually find real jobs. For now, they can settle for a fake one.
The goal of the Graybeards is simple and everlasting: Build a team that can reasonably compete in the National Football League. Our greatest aspiration is not the Super Bowl. But this isn't about organic tanking, either. We just want to fit in. Sign us up for 8-8 and we are golden. Just win sometimes, baby.
OK, let's get to it.
NOTE: Each player's name is accompanied by what his age will be in Week 1 of the 2019 season.
Last year, my depth chart was topped by Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick. Cutler is now a reality television star, which remains deeply weird and strangely overlooked. As for Kaepernick, I just don't know where he fits in an exercise like this anymore. Don't blame me. Enter Bradford, the oldest 31-year-old man in the world. He is the ideal fit for our brand. Bradford's long-suffering knees -- think Patrick Ewing on the Sonics -- are the patron saints of the Graybeards. Sam's essentially been in mothballs for two years, but here's your reminder that he led the NFL in completion percentage over 15 starts for the Vikings in 2016, throwing 20 touchdowns against just five interceptions. That's our starter. And yes, we gave him $15 million guaranteed just because we didn't want to break tradition.
Osweiler is there because there's a roughly two percent chance Ol' Sam makes it through a 16-game schedule in one piece. McCown, an ancient, beautiful man, is there so all the beat writers can pre-write a notebook lede about his leadership qualities then quietly take a four-day weekend in early August.
If you follow the Graybeards closely, you know the cover of the media guide is extremely important to us. It's our pièce de résistance, really. Hence, the addition of Lynch, who will move season-ticket packages (and maybe a pile or two near the goal line if he's so inclined). Ajayi, still just 25 (until June), is a more realistic bell-cow option whose British heritage gives the Graybeards some lucrative international appeal. Anderson proved he had something in the tank last season with the Rams, while Yeldon is a third-down back with the receiving abilities necessary to corral all those Bradford checkdowns.
We are carrying four running backs because we are certain Beast Mode will quit the team before Halloween.
Dez is another fantastic addition to the media guide cover, and his comeback attempt will earn us some much-welcome coverage from national outlets. Like Dez, Crabtree struggles to separate from defenders at this point in his career, but he was money for eight or nine touchdowns per year before Lamar Jackson took over in Baltimore last November and rendered all pass catchers statistically irrelevant. Maybe Garcon's lost a step, as well, but he's just two years removed from a 1,000-yard season in Washington. Benjamin's here because he's giant and that might scare some particularly cowardly defensive backs.
I remain confident Seferian-Jenkins can be a productive player if he finds the right fit. Catching passes from Sam Bradford and Brock Osweiler on a fake team probably isn't going to recalibrate expectations, but consider this an indication of my belief. This is Gates' second straight Graybeards appearance. Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, speaking at the Annual League Meeting, left the door open for Gates to return for a 17th season with the team. As you can tell, the pickings are slim at the position. If only Michael Hoomanawanui had the impact on the football field that he does on the Scrabble board ...
Make room for the large humans. If I'm being 100 percent candid, I am absolutely terrified of the prospect of putting Bradford -- football's answer to Mr. Glass -- behind a patchwork line made up of journeymen and over-ripe vets. There is some street cred here: Penn has been named to three Pro Bowls, while Sullivan just started in the Super Bowl. Still, this is unquestionably the Graybeards' weak link and I pray for the families of all the players who will rely on them for protection from enemy forces.
We're thrilled to have Ansah, who had 12 sacks in 2017 and a 14.5-sack breakout campaign back in 2015. His injury history is troubling, but he's a worthy gamble no one else has been willing to take. Perry is another 29-year-old with a double-digit-sack season on his resume -- give him a playbook. Clayborn had a quiet season in New England, but graded out well in the analytics community. Ray has all the looks of a John Elway draft bust, but we'll take a flyer and bank on the change of scenery. San Diego is a beautiful place to live.
Suh will join Dez and Marshawn on the cover of the media guide, while also giving the Graybeards a legit presence in the trenches. He's not the same guy he was in Detroit, but he showed he can turn it on in stretches during his one-and-done run with the Rams. Liuget is coming off quad surgery, but has eight years of starting experience under his belt. Who knows what to expect from Wilkerson after his own serious leg surgery? He was grading out well for the Packers before he went down. Urban is a lunchpail guy who will not leave towels on the locker room floor.
Brown feels like a steal, a proven commodity who sits at No. 29 on Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling's Top 101 Free Agents list. Te'o is a sure tackler with a background story that gives the beat guys another money-in-the-bank notebook lede. (We feel a strange responsibility to make lives easier for the people who will cover our team.) Collins has been a disappointment in New England and Cleveland, but the tools are there, right? We were told there would be tools.
Mo Claiborne remains a perfectly serviceable No. 2 cornerback. He'll be our No. 1, but still. Grimes is here because I'm afraid what Miko would do if I left him off. Should I be worried that the average age of my cornerbacks is 31.25? Is youth and peak athleticism important in professional sports?
We're here for the Eric Berry comeback season. (Another easy notebook lede!) We might have to talk Quin out of retirement, but we've been successfully doing that for years 'round these parts.
I refuse to let the mighty SeaBass go out the way he did in the playoffs, pulling a hammy like an overzealous uncle at the family reunion flag football game. Rehab your leg and your dignity with us, Sebastian.
We made this move so head coach Rex Ryan can loudly exclaim "Release the Anger!" whenever he sends his special teams unit out on fourth down. Our team is weird.
So there you go. There are some concerns on the offensive side of the ball, particularly along the line and at the skill positions, but the defense is solid and the media guide is going to be stellar. This team will go 6-10 in its sleep ... 7-9 with some luck ... and 8-8 if the Football Gods have a heart. What do you think?