Free agency: 10 things I'd like to see


The National Football League officially turns the page to the 2014 season Tuesday. Here are 10 things I'd like to see happen with free agency upon us.

More teams re-sign their own players: Free agency is fun for fans, but teams need to treat it like dessert and partake in moderation. The draft is dinner.

The smartest franchises build through the draft by taking the best player available on their board and supplement for need through free agency. That is how championships typically are won. Seattle is the most recent example.

The most recent cautionary tale of how a team can mishandle free agency was the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. Led at the time by president Joe Banner, coach Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman, the Eagles were chasing a title. They felt they were just a few pieces away from winning the franchise's first Super Bowl.

After the lockout, Philadelphia added cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, defensive end Jason Babin, running back Ronnie Brown, wide receiver Steve Smith and quarterback Vince Young in free agency and traded quarterback Kevin Kolb to Arizona for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Eagles went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, then went 4-12 in 2012, and Reid was fired.

The Eagles learned their lesson, which is part of the reason why Roseman and new coach Chip Kelly made re-signing their own players a priority this offseason. They kept wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper from hitting the free-agent market and extended the contract of offensive tackle Jason Peters, among other moves.

The Oakland Raiders do the same: OK. It is Oakland. The Raiders don't have a starting quarterback, a starting running back or a starting left or right tackle. They need to overhaul their defensive line and retool their secondary. They haven't had a winning season since 2002.

But Reggie McKenzie has more money to work with than any other general manager in the NFL. He should throw some of that money at left tackle Jared Veldheer and defensive end Lamarr Houston. Convince Veldheer and Houston to stay the only way possible: by paying them.

If Veldheer and Houston say no, then McKenzie has a bigger problem than even he might have thought.

Buyers beware of running backs: Rashard Mendenhall announced his retirement, at age 26, over the weekend. The former Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals running back said he was tired of living a private life in the public eye and wanted to do other things. Good for him.

But there might not have been much of a market for Mendenhall, who gained 687 rushing yards and scored eight touchdowns last season, just like there might not be much demand for any other backs in free agency. Donald Brown, LeGarrette Blount, Rashad Jennings, Knowshon Moreno, Ben Tate, Darren McFadden, Darren Sproles, Maurice Jones-Drew and the list goes on and on. Too many running backs, not enough jobs.

It used to be that age 30 signaled the end of a running back's NFL career. Now, it is more like 27.624 years old. Teams need to fill this position through the draft, not free agency.

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