We all know about the top 50 free agents that are gonna get huge paydays this season. But going on what we saw last year in free agency, Shanahan is likely to go after a different type of player. Here are some guys I really like that would fill holes on the roster and likely cost under $5 million per season:
1. Mike Brisiel, G, Houston Texans - He is 31, but could fill the hole at LG and create competition and depth on the other two offensive line positions for a few years while we groom Maurice Hurt or a 2012 draft choice. More importantly, he is an ideal fit for our ZBS and would probably be just as effective within the system as a more expensive option like Ben Grubbs. With him, Trent Williams and either Will Montgomery or Kory Lichtensteiger at center, we should be able to open up huge cutback lanes for Roy Helu and Evan Royster.
2. Aubrayo Franklin, NT, New Orleans Saints - A lot of fans have been clamoring for Paul Soliai (including myself, admittedly), but Franklin could come much cheaper and actually be an even better fit for what we are looking for. He was in a 4-3 this year where he was not nearly as effective as in 2011 as a 3-4 NT. He is extremely effective against the run, so plan would be to use him as a rotational guy in short yardage situations, with Barry Cofield remaining the starter and the NT in nickel packages.
3. Dwight Lowery, S, Jacksonville Jaguars - A converted corner whose strength is in coverage. He is only 26 and he is learning a new position, but he already has proven himself to be an effective starter there. He is a bit unproven, but he is young and will come cheap. His experience at corner gives us some flexibility to lineup against a WR when opposing offenses run out 4 or 5 receiver sets. I also read he looked very effective in one on one match ups against tight ends, which is crucial in today's NFL.
4. Anthony Collins, RT, Cincinatti Bengals - Another 26 year old entering his prime that should be looking for a starting job. I am hoping that the Redskins will finally chalk up the Jamal Brown project as a bust and move on. That would leave Collins as a perfect fit in DC. He seems to be mobile enough to play within the ZBS, but even within the learning curve he will be an upgrade. At 3 or 4 million dollars, we actually may be able to save money by releasing Brown and signing him. Given that he is at least a strong, young, healthy body, it seems like a no-brainer upgrade over Brown.
5. William Middleton, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars - Once again, a young player entering his prime looking to secure major playing time in the NFL. He fits the mold of a Josh Wilson/Stephen Bowen type signing that we should expect to see more off this year. He was effective as a starter last year and although he is a bit unproven, we should certainly be comfortable bringing him in on nickel packages. He likely won't cost more than 4 million per season and his ceiling could be even higher than a solid nickel corner.