Some Free Agent Notes

by Tommy Lawlor

I watched some game tape of potential FA prospects.  I focused on defensive players.

Karlos Dansby – LB – 6’4, 250 – will turn 29 in the upcoming season

Dansby is an unusual guy.  He plays ILB in the 3-4 looks the Cardinals use and OLB in the 4-3.  He actually lined up at DT in one alignment in the Dime defense.  He has ideal size, but isn’t a rugged, physical type of player.  Karlos has excellent agility and athleticism for his size.  He covers a lot of ground, both in pursuit of the run and when in pass coverage.  Good tackler.  Effective blitzer.  Led the Cardinals in tackles this year.  Playmaker.  Has at least 1 sack, FF, and INT in 5 of his 6 NFL years.  I think he would be best suited to playing ILB in the 3-4.  I would actually project him to WLB in the 4-3.  Karlos is too gifted to have him taking on blockers at the POA.  You’d rather have him off the ball where he can use his speed and agility to make plays in pursuit.

Antrel Rolle – FS – 6’0, 208 – will turn 28 late in the upcoming season

Former CB has found a home at FS.  He’s under contract, but is reportedly going to get cut because he’s due a big bonus.  Rolle will be the top UFA Safety if he hits the market.  Arizona likes to keep him back off the ball.  He’s a true centerfielder much of the time.  Has good speed and range.  He’s not a natural Safety, but gets the job done.  Good hitter.  Doesn’t go for killshots, but they may be an advantage with the new rules.  Generally a good tackler.  Effective when he does play in the box.  Willing to get his nose dirty against the run.  His best FS days are ahead of him.  He’s only played there for a couple of years.  He now should have a good feel for the position while still having enough speed and athleticism to be a good player.  Posted solid numbers in 2009:  71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 1 FF.

Antonio Pierce – MLB – 6’1, 238 – will turn 32 in the upcoming season

Released by the Giants following the season.  In watching their games I had noticed that Pierce was not the same player in the last couple of seasons.  Upon checking the tape more carefully that is definitely the case.  He is an adequate player, but nothing more.  Pierce had 2 TDs scored in his area in one game that I watched.  He had a chance to make plays on both scores, but simply lacks the ability to get to the ball suddenly.  One time he could have shot the gap and nailed the runner for a loss, but was slow.  The other play was a short pass where he got stuck on a block and couldn’t get to the ball carrier.  I don’t think any team should pursue him as a starter.  Pierce is still a good leader and quality locker room presence, but his best days are behind him.

OJ Atogwe – FS – 5’11, 205 – will turn 29 this spring

Restricted Free Agent.  Could be trade material.  Outstanding Safety.  Complete player.  Can cover man or zone.  Good hitter and tackler.  Will miss on occasion, but is generally good.  Has some pop.  Good in the box or playing back off the ball.  Willing to take on pulling blockers on run plays.  Plays smart.  Sees things before they happen.  Came into the league at a late age.  Only has 5 years in, but is about to turn 29.  There should be enough “tread on the tire” that he can continue to play at a high level for another 3 years.  Has posted some huge numbers in the past.  In 2007 he picked off 8 passes.  In 2008 he picked off 5 and had 6 FFs.  His numbers dropped a bit in 2009.  He still had a sack, 3 FFs, and 2 INTs.   Good player.

Darren Sharper – FS – 6’2, 210 – will turn 35 in the upcoming season

Caveat emptor.  The highs are high, but the lows are low.  Darren has great instincts and elite ball skills.  Picked off 9 passes this year and ran back 3 for TDs.  Loves to bait QBs.  That works great against young guys.  Look at his INTs from this year:

Matt Stafford – DET – 2 … rookie playing first ever game

Kevin Kolb – PHI – 1 … young QB making first ever start

Mark Sanchez – NYJ – 2 … rookie QB in his 4th start

Chad Henne – MIA – 1 … young QB making 4th ever start

Matt Ryan – ATL – 1 … 2nd year starter

Tom Brady – NE – 1 … can you say anomaly?

Josh Freeman – TB – 1 … rookie QB

Darren loves to jump routes.  Veteran QBs know to be careful when facing him, but young guys think they see an open receiver.  Out of nowhere comes Sharper to make the pick.  He is a playmaker in the passing game.  The downside of Sharper is his tackling.  He is flat out bad.  He misses tackles.  He doesn’t always look real interested in taking on runners.  There are times when he doesn’t even get in good enough position to miss closely.  Darren can’t be counted on to clean up mistakes by the front seven or CBs.  The Saints did not finished 20th or worse in points and yards allowed.  Any team interested in bringing in Sharper as a FA better have a high powered offense.  Not my cup of tea.


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