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http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ward...n&type=lgns

Ward, Scott among best NFL free-agent values

By Vinnie Iyer - SportingNews

Feb 25, 9:26 pm EST

Buzz up!1 vote Print

In the middle of a recession, it’s important to look for good deals. While some of us can still spend a fortune on brand names, the rest of us are all about value.

It’s no different for NFL owners and general managers when shopping for free agents. They must act quickly with limited resources and pressure to deliver within a set budget—also known as the league’s salary cap. Smart spending in the short term often translates into long-term on-field success.

Every player unsigned with an NFL team as of Friday will be looking for a big payday, but the harsh reality is there’s only so much money and only so many jobs to go around.

Before the checks are written, it’s time to check on the eight most undervalued—and overvalued—commodities about to hit the market.

Best buys

Derrick Ward, RB, New York Giants. To make things clear, he isn’t this offseason’s version of former Chargers super backup Michael Turner, who got nearly $6 million a season in a six-year deal from the Falcons last year. Ward is already a year older (28) and is probably looking for a much cheaper contract, at the cost of around $3 million annually. Really, he is more like Thomas Jones from two years ago.

NFL Free Agency

Iyer: Ward, Scott among best values

AFC’s top targets: East | North

NFC’s top targets: East | North

War Room: Super 99 Free Agents

More: NFL players with franchise tag

The Bears traded Jones, then 28, to the Jets in ’07, and since then Jones has produced a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. Ward, a similar runner who can stay a 1K runner in the right system (Denver?), comes with a nicer price tag.

Jason Brown, C, Baltimore Ravens. He is very appealing for many reasons. He will cost less per season than the two most experienced free-agent centers, Jeff Saturday and Matt Birk. Still only 25 and at 6-3, 320, Brown also has established himself as a strong interior run blocker. With how many good years he has left and his potential to get better all-around, he’ll get plenty of attention as a future Pro Bowler in the middle.

Nate Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers. There’s no need for Pittsburgh to keep Washington as its No. 3 receiver with Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Limas Sweed all ahead of him on the depth chart. Washington, however, can be had cheaply enough to help another team in a similar role and possibly as a No. 2 with the speed to stretch the field.

Demetric Evans, DE, Washington Redskins. He’s kind of been a work in progress in Washington, and his best football is ahead of him. He can start off as a reserve in end rotation with the potential to break out as a consistent pass rusher with the right coaching.

Tank Johnson, DT, Dallas Cowboys. Unlike Adam “Pacman” Jones, Johnson made the most of his second chance that Dallas gave him. He worked well in their 3-4 scheme, and he also had good history performing in Chicago’s 4-3. At 6-3, 300, he’s also only 27 years old.

Bart Scott, ILB, Ravens. Scott has great value because of his versatility and age. He probably fits best working the left side, either outside or inside, in a 3-4, but his tough, hard-hitting style would give him the chance to succeed in the middle behind two big space-eaters in a 4-3.

Sean Jones, S, Cleveland Browns. Cleveland’s front office contemplated using the franchise tag on one of the team’s bright young defenders. His career started slowly when he lost his whole rookie season to a knee injury, but in the four years since, he’s developed into a pretty good playmaker. He turns 27 on March 2, and he has the potential to turn into a special all-around safety as early as ’09.

Ronald Bartell, CB, St. Louis Rams. He just turned 26 on Sunday, and his great size (6-1, 205) for a cornerback should draw him plenty of outside interest. St. Louis’ defense has been so bad the past few years that it was even hard to notice Bartell as a ballhawking bright spot. He will be much cheaper than similarly built Steelers free agent Bryant McFadden (6-0, 190).

Buyer beware

Jeff Garcia, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Garcia just turned 38 on Tuesday, and his little frame (6-1, 205) has taken plenty of beating in his 10 seasons in the league. At this point, it’s hard to see him holding up as a full-time starter for another year, and his caretaking style only works with the help of a dominant defense and strong running game. Let’s say he’s better off being a top backup—say for Tony Romo in Dallas—than starting for a QB-needy team such as Minnesota or San Francisco, and getting the starters’ dollars that go with it.

Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans Saints. Looking at his 21.6 yards per catch and a highlight reel full of long touchdowns in his five-year career, someone will be enticed by the chance to add a big-play receiver. But when taking a closer look at Henderson (26, 5-11, 200), they should see he’s really an all-or-nothing-type producer, and that he never really solidified his role as New Orleans’ No. 3. You can expect some team desperate for a splash to overpay him and see him as a potential starter.

L.J. Smith, TE, Philadelphia Eagles. He has shown flashes of being a superstar receiving tight end in his six years in the league, which were good enough to earn him the team’s franchise tag last offseason. Smith also has a solid frame (6-3, 258) and good blocking skills. The problem has been his issues with consistency and durability. He sometimes drops catchable passes and has been hampered by injuries to his shoulder and knee. In an otherwise bad tight end free-agent class where the Texans’ Owen Daniels is restricted and the Titans’ Bo Scaife is franchised, someone will likely overpay for Smith.

Stacy Andrews, T, Cincinnati Bengals. His size (6-7, 342) has had Cincinnati hold out hope he can emerge as a dominant lineman, something that hasn’t happened. The Bengals gave him the franchise tag last year, which earned him more than $7.4 million. He’s an above-average starter for sure, but offensive tackle-needy teams’ best bet for a franchise type who can start on the left side will be in a deep draft at the position.

Antonio Smith, DE, Arizona Cardinals. Smith had two sacks and played well during Arizona’s surprise Super Bowl run, but considering that came after producing only 3.5 through the regular season, his best fit remains with the Cardinals. That’s where he can line up next and take advantage of two other upfield playmakers, Darnell Dockett and Karlos Dansby. It’s hard to see him finding the same comfortable niche or another 3-4 or 4-3 team. If another team banks on him breaking out as a premier pass rusher and pay him like that, the thinking will be off.

Darwin Walker, DT, Carolina Panthers. His best days were with the Eagles, and he’s no longer that same kind of quick, disruptive penetrator who had 27.5 sacks in six years (’01-06) in Philadelphia. Since then, the 6-3, 294-pounder, now 31, has had durability concerns in first Chicago and then Carolina. If someone pays him to start, it will be a big mistake. At this stage, he’s better off as a rotation player, a role that can keep him effective and from wearing down.

Michael Boley, OLB, Atlanta Falcons. Boley was an outstanding playmaker in 2006 and ’07, racking up three sacks and two interceptions in each season. He was on the verge of becoming one of the NFC’s premier weakside linebackers. Then the coaching change to Mike Smith came, and Boley didn’t fit in nearly as well, getting fewer opportunities to make plays until he was relegated to nickel package duty as a cover man. He needs to go a system—Seattle, Cincinnati—that suits his skills, or he will end up being overpaid.

DeAngelo Hall, CB, Redskins. There’s no question he has some of the skills and swagger that come with a top-flight cornerback, but is the baggage worth it? Neither the Falcons nor the Raiders could handle his attitude. He has found some sanity and stability in Washington, so it makes the most sense for him to re-sign with the team. Any outside team would be taking a big gamble at any price in just bringing Hall into its chemistry mix.

Vinnie Iyer is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at viyer@sportingnews.com.

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Remember the rumors of JA98 being placed into a DT role next season??? If we sign Smith, cool, but, I was hoping we would sign someone like Tank Johnson...placing him back into the 4-3, where he's comfortable, can give us a big push in the middle, but I digress...gotta trust TD and Smitty man, gotta trust those guys. :D

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anything to give JA 98 some competiton

Smith and TD's comments have indicated that we'll either sign a DT and leave JA where he is or we'll sign a starter-caliber DE and kick him inside to DT. If we sign Smith, it won't be to supplant Anderson. It will be to move him inside. Our front four would be Smith and Abe on the ends and Babs and Anderson inside.

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