Monday, October 24, 2016

The NFL free agency period is a time of relative uncertainty for many players and teams. With the Super Bowl a week away marking the official end of the 2015 football season, free agency is a time for changes and reaffirmations of contracts.

Currently there are several free agents across the league with looming contract questions that would impact the WVUPros on their teams. Bruce Irvin and Adam “Pacman” Jones are two prominent WVUPros getting ready to enter free agency. In a series of articles, we will look at these free agents and how their contract statuses will affect the WVUPros near them.

In Chicago, the Bears organization is looking at Alshon Jeffery’s contract. Jeffery is the lead wide receiver for the Bears who has seen a great amount of playing time over the past few season. That being said, the Bears brought on Kevin White at the 2015 NFL draft. White’s preseason injury left him sidelined in a season where Jeffery only played in nine games during the season due to his various injuries. White was considered to be one of the shining stars of the draft last spring, and is still considered to be a force to reckon with come next season.

If the Bears were to re-sign Jeffery, the question of what it means for White’s role on the Bears office must be asked. If Jeffery were to stay with the Bears, White would likely be competing for the star wide receiver position. However, with the latest rumor of Calvin Johnson possibly retiring, Jeffery may be highly sought after in Detroit to perform as their next star wide receiver. If that’s the case, White would easily slide into the top WR spot for the Bears come next September. If Jeffery were to leave for another organization, and White shows up to play with the strength, agility and intensity that he showed in Morgantown, the Bears will not be missing Jeffery at all come September.

East a few hundred miles, the New York Jets are also facing a question of free agents with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick seamlessly stepped into the role of starting quarterback after Geno Smith was forced out due to his jaw injury and subsequent surgery. The question of what will happen to Smith is a question that has been a question asked  since Smith went under for surgery. Smith was poised for the season of his career in 2015, and ended up having a season where he saw minimal to no playing time after he returned from surgery; Smith played in one of the Jets’ games last season.

Fitzpatrick is a seasoned veteran of the game and many have said Smith could have great deal to learn from sitting the bench behind Fitzpatrick this past season. Smith seems to have shown a great amount of emotional maturity since entering the NFL as seen by many, including Jets owner Woody Johnson. Should the Jets resign Fitzpatrick, it likely means Smith will be sitting second to Fitzpatrick as was in the 2015 season. With Fitzpatrick staying in New York, Smith must show during the off-season that he is capable of being a starting quarterback and he must fight for that position in New York. As has previously been pointed out, Smith needs to show his desire to be the starting quarterback.

Should Fitzpatrick choose not to stay in New York, there are multiple options for Smith and the Jets. One option would be Smith shows his desire to be the starting quarterback, continues to improve over the off-season and show both the coaching staff and his teammates that he has what it takes to be the starting quarterback. The flip side to that would be the Jets organization looking for another quarterback to come in at starting, leaving Smith again on the bench. Without Fitzpatrick, the Jets would likely look to whether Smith can step up and lead the Jets to the post-season and improve on Fitzpatrick’s 10-6, hoping to bank on the momentum Smith showed prior to the start of the 2015 season.

In Tampa, the Buccaneers are faced with running back Doug Martin as a free agent.  Martin was second in yardage in the league for the season, having 1,402 yards as well as six touchdowns on the season. Martin can be seen as lethargic at times, but rarely showed signs of lethargy this past season. In his four seasons in the NFL and with Tampa Bay, Martin has had just under 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. Charles Sims is a young member of the Bucs offense, having just finished his season season. Sims missed a good portion of his rookie season due to injury and showed steady improvement over the 2015 season, finishing 2015 with four touchdowns for the year.

Sims has proven to be an excellent back up running back behind Martin this past season. With Martin’s contract up, the Buccaneers must look at whether Martin’s occasional laziness would return after resigning his contract and whether the cost of that outweighs putting Sims in line behind Martin. Sims will be looking to step into Martin’s shoes should Martin’s contract not be renewed. When given the chance, Sims has shown he is capable of big plays and could be the one making more and more big plays for the Buccaneers if Martin does not renew his contract with the Bucs.

In part two of our look at NFL free agency, we will look at and discuss Bruce Irvin and Adam “Pacman” Jones, and what their free agency means. Stay tuned!



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