I looked up some free agents on profootballfocus.com, and I found a few interesting guys. All of these players are Unrestricted Free Agents so we can keep our draft picks.
A team in need of a starting tight end could do a lot worse than Crumpler as a stop gap. It’s fair to say that he isn’t the threat catching the ball he once was (as demonstrated by only being thrown at 37 times in 2009), but he remains a safe pair of hands (only one drop) and caught 73 percent of balls thrown his way. Where his true value lies is in his run-blocking, both as an in-line blocker and an occasional lead-blocker from the backfield. Crumpler has the base and strength to be effective at the point of attack and was a key component in opening up holes for Chris Johnson in his amazing season. Performances at home against Jacksonville and at Houston acted as blocking clinics for a non-offensive linemen, and will be something teams will note when looking at the available tight end market.
Phillips was the victim of Tampa Bay trying to get younger last season. Despite solid performances in the past few seasons, especially against the run, he found himself benched for Sabby Piscitelli, who went on to have a very poor season. Tampa spent some time trying to convert him to an outside linebacker without any success, but he has proven ability as a strong safety against the run. What is impressive about his '08 season especially is that he had his finest games against teams that can run the ball very well, with good games coming against Carolina and Atlanta twice. Phillips is past age 30, which won't help his stock, but if a team goes back into the 2008 season tape they might find a guy who can become a decent strong safety for a very reasonable cost.
We all know that T.O. struggled in Buffalo, but after Ryan Fitzpatrick came in and began to at least show a vague threat of the downfield pass, Owens' numbers began to improve, notably against Jacksonville in Week 11 (197 yards and a TD). Owens may be 36 years old, but he obviously keeps himself in top condition, and his work ethic has never been in question. What's more, his quiet season in Buffalo might have helped repair his image in the eyes of doubters across the league. At 226 pounds, he is still a weapon with the ball in his hands, as shown by the end-around carries the Bills were giving him throughout the season. He averaged 9 yards per carry on those plays, with a long of 29. With 10 dropped balls in '09, his hands remain inconsistent at best, but he still has playmaking ability, with a 98-yard reception and an average over 15 yards per reception for the year. Everybody knows what they are getting with Owens, but he has enough skill left and demonstrated enough restraint with the media last season to be worth a gamble for a team that needs a playmaker.
CB Nathan Jones
Jones was Miami's nickel corner in 2009 and now enters the market as one of the top free agents available; such is the effect of the uncapped year and the issues surrounding the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Jones allowed 29 receptions on the 48 passes thrown into his coverage, but at only 11.7 yards per reception. He also picked off two passes and got his hands to another seven. At 27 years old, Jones has youth on his side and could provide a useful sub-package corner for a team that's struggling for defensive backs. His upside is likely limited as he's never displayed the ability to dominate in coverage, but he has proved he can be a solid contributor, and adds ability in special teams, which teams always like.
Most of these players would come on the cheap, so they would be reasonable for the Bengals. Owens would be the most expensive, he made 6.5m last season in Buffalo. Nate Jones would compete for our Nickle and Dime packages, but he might also get interest from a few teams. Crumpler could be our blocking TE while Chase plays the pass catching role, then draft a TE in the 3-6 round to develope. Jermaine Phillips would compete with Ndukwe for the starting SS spot. I figure we draft a FS to compete and learn with Chris Crocker.