Curb Your Enthusiam: Cowboys Free Agent Pool About to Shrink


We’ve discussed the Cowboys best free agent pass rushing options.  Now, let’s consider the odds that the big names — Mario Williams, Cliff Avril, and Calais Campbell — hit the market.  Be prepared to curb your enthusiasm.

1.  Calais Campbell.  Odds of become an unrestricted free agent — .0001%
He’s the best 3-4 defensive line option.  He’s a young 5-technique who has averaged eight sacks per season in recent campaigns.  He’s also a kick-blocking talent.  There’s plenty to like here.  A system fit who could provide a plus pass rush between DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff.

There’s almost no chance he sees the market.  He’s been in negotiations with the team for weeks.  The Cardinals have made it clear they’ll franchise him if a long-term contract is not hammered out before the new NFL year begins.  Last week, Campbell said he would be open to the franchise tag.  That’s a very different sentiment from most UFAs to be.

I’m giving Campbell a Jim Carrey, Dumb-and-Dumber one-in-a-million shot, but all news points to Campbell
remaining a Cardinal.

2.  Cliff Avril.  Odds of becoming an unresticted free agent — 5%
The odds are not as long for the Lions Avril, but they’re still long.  Lions GM Martin Mayhew said he did not want to franchise Avril, but said he might if necessary.  Avril told the press last week he would be willing to play outside linebacker if it helped the Lions.  Avril left his locker intact, so he expects to stay in Honolulu blue next year and beyond.  5% may be generous odds.

3.  Mario Williams.  Odds of becoming an unrestricted free agent — 75%
The Texans cap situation is unclear, but the National Football Post’s Andrew Brandt, a former Packers front office man, estimated that Houston starts with about $5 million in cap space.   The Texans have hard free agent decisions to make.  Williams, center Chris Myers, and running back Arian Foster are all headed for free agency this year.  Next year, starters Matt Schaub, Duane Brown, Connor Barwin and Glover Quin become UFAs.

Houston may tag one of the Foster/Myers/Williams trio, but it won’t be Williams.  His big ’11 cap number means that tagging him would count close to $17 million against Houston’s 2012 cap.  Unless the Texans bean counters get really creative in the next few weeks and sign Williams to a fat, back-loaded deal with lots of guaranteed money up front, Williams will hit the market.

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that with the other big rushers getting tagged, Williams becomes the pass rushing free agent target.  Every team with cap space and a need will likely kick his tires.

We know the Jones can be creative with contracts.  How willing are they to write one for Mario Williams?

Callahan Kept His Guys Productive

I asked K.C. Joyner to break down the 2011 Jets offense.  They had the top rushing offense by yardage in 2009 and the 4th rated unit in 2010.  New York ranked first in Joyner’s run win percentage metric that year.  Last year, the Jets dropped to 22nd in rushing yards.  Why?

CN:  You compile run metrics and we talked about the Jets rushing success in the past.  Dallas just hired Bill Callahan, who coached the Jets offensive line.  What happened to them last year?