- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
2011 NFL FREE AGENCY BUYER'S GUIDE:
Last year the Chicago Bears went into free agency with an aggressive stance. Without a pick in either the first or second round of the 2010 NFL draft, it made a lot of sense both in terms of finances and needs. Unable to target needs through the addition of rookie talent, they had to scour the market, and because they wouldn't be spending much money for those rookies, they could instead target veteran help.
The big prize came with acquisition of Julius Peppers, the best pure pass-rusher on the market. Peppers came into 2010 with double-digit sack totals in six of his eight NFL seasons, and most Bears fans were satisfied with his production. He picked up 8.5 sacks, and was a constant focus of offenses, as he has been throughout his career. Chicago won the NFC North with an 11-5 mark, a significant jump from its 7-9 2009 campaign. A simple audit says Peppers was indeed a necessary spice in a new winning formula.
But that's a simple audit.
Another one says the Bears benefited from one of the healthiest seasons in NFL history. They lost just 11 total games from injured starters. And the player who assumed Peppers' starting spot on the Carolina defense, Charles Johnson, piled up 11.5 sacks, outpacing the man he replaced. Of course, he did that for what was the NFL's worst team in 2010. Now Johnson will be searching for his own massive payday, and the Panthers must question to what degree Johnson's sacks equal wins, just as the Bears will question whether it was health, Peppers or a multitude of other factors that accounted for the turnaround. After all, the team they topped by one game in the North won a Super Bowl with a team so banged up that the real Lambeau Leap was from the practice squad to the active roster.
With the help of AccuScore, we took some of the notable players likely to be on the move this week and projected the impact. As you'll see, while it's a speculative venture, even big names don't come with promises.
He's not a free agent, but Kolb's name has been linked to numerous teams. We've hit Kolb's projectables before, but the reality remains that he's still a leap of faith in terms of promise. His impact in Arizona, for instance, is pretty conservative -- just a 5 percent win-percentage improvement over John Skelton. In Seattle, the difference between him and Matt Hasselbeck is negligible, and he's a clearly inferior option to Michael Vick in Philly:
Chris Sprow examines the projections of several of the top free agents and Kevin Kolb. While they will be highly sought after, they don't necessarily promise to have huge impacts on their new teams.