In the previous offseason preview, we ended with the glorious number of 29 mil under the cap. However, there is no doubt that this team has holes to fill. Lets start by talking about the players who were on the team last year and are now free agents starting March 1. To begin with, here is the list:
Unrestricted free agents
LB Kevin Bentley
PK Josh Brown
DT Chuck Darby
WR D.J. Hackett
TE Bennie Joppru
ILB Niko Koutouvides
OT Sean Locklear
TE Marcus Pollard
CB Marcus Trufant
OG Floyd Womack
DT Ellis Wyms
Restricted Free agents
RB Alvin Pearman
FB Leonard Weaver.
I think the only one out of this group who for sure will not be back is Marcus Pollard. I label Pearman and Joppru as guys not to worry about; easily replaceable. For the sake of this discussion, I am going to say Chuck Darby’s career is over. Nobody has heard as much, but for a old guy who is undersized, coming off a serious knee injury is tough.
Weaver: the Hawks will give him a second round tender (1.47 mil)
Obviously, the big names are Trufant, Locklear, Brown, and Hackett. These guys are part of the core that has brought 4 division titles. There isn’t a name on the list that Hawks fans shouldn’t want back, but there is also the economic piece of the equation.
In my opinion, the best way to talk about FA’s is not with guesstimates, but with comparable contracts. These players are not necessarily equivalents on the field, but they are players who will get similar money.
Trufant: There is no way around this. He will take a big chunk of the money. 9.5 if we franchise him. If you look at the contract he is trying to emulate, it’s Clements deal. However, this deal is unique because SF had sooooooo much space last year. Clements got a 10 mil roster bonus (which counts only in one year) for 07, and he will get a 10 mil signing bonus(prorates over 5 years) this year. He has minimal base salaries until the 3rd year. If we sign Trufant long term, my guess is the Hawks would want to reverse this. Signing bonus this year, and maybe two roster bonuses in the next two years. If this is the case, the cap hit could be as low as 3-4 million, but the team would probably make it a little higher to reduce the numbers in the next two years. Assume 7.5 if he signs, 9,5 if he is tagged.
Brown: What the hell is the problem with signing Brown. I don’t get it. This should have been done during the year when we could have spread the hit out. Anyway, when the Colts signed Vinateri in 06′, his signing bonus was 3.7 and his first year cap hit was 1.6. Brown should be asking for this type of contract and the Hawks should suck it up and give it to him. He is a class act with ice water in his veins.
Locklear: I have some questions about resigning Lock. Most people think slam dunk, have to do it. My feelings are that if he is the heir apparent to take over for Walt, get it done. If he is not gonna make a great left tackle or you want to draft another cornerstone LT in the next few years, then let Willis play. He is cheap and they thought he was good enough to move him to guard just to try and get him on the field. Anyway, look at what Leonard Davis got from the Cowboys last year: 17 mil guaranteed, 16 of that in a first year singing bonus, 1st year cap hit, 3.6. I know Davis is now a guard, but he was seen as a tackle. Seems fair, do it! Lock might even do a deal for less, he has expressed an interest in staying here.
Hackett; Do we want Hack back??? Honestly, probably only if they can convince him to do a one year deal and hit the market again next year. This is not a terrible idea for either side. But if this team appears deep at one position it appears to be WR. However, if we do want Hack, we could keep him. Lets use Patrick Crayton deal he signed during the year: 4 yrs, 14 mil, first year cap hit 2.5
These four would take 15 of the 29 million if we resign Trufant, a little more if we tag him. Considering that we would need 4-5 mil for rookies and we have a list of secondary players, this limits are options. However, if we want to make a splash in FA, its simple let Lock or Hack, or Both go. Then we could talk Faneca, Williams, or Turner. The question you need to ask is the drop off from Lock to Willis, or from Hackett to Obamanu/Taylor worth the money the team would have to shell out. I don’t like weakening any position, but I would weaken right tackle if we could improve both Guards. One guy, with the right attitude, could make this line nasty again.
Next is the secondary Hawks who are free agents……
WHEN THE OFFSEASON PREVIEW CONTINUES…