Cobras can test market
|By Brian Distelberg
On July 14, as
a Buffalo win over Los Angeles ended the Cobras' slim playoff chances,
AFL players and owners were agreeing to a decision that could play a major
role in whether the Cobras reach the postseason next year.
of the Los Angeles Times first reported the agreement between the league
and the AFL Players' Organizing Committee. The six-year pact, which
has been ratified by the owners and is awaiting player approval, provides
increased benefits and, more importantly, free agency to all players with
four or more years of experience. The owners, in return, received
a salary cap and the ability to designate two franchise players.
players, all of whom started at least one game this past season, are affected
by the new agreement; only one, quarterback Fred
McNair, would have been affected under the old deal, under which the
free agency level was eight years.
In The News &
Observer on July 17, Coach Doug Kay said of McNair, "He has a decision
to make about where he wants to play. We'd love to have him back,
and we feel he could be an integral part of success to the future of this
The Cobras, too,
have decisions to make. All six of their free agents played staring
roles at one time or another this season, but starring roles on a 3-11
team. The team can name two franchise players, who presumably can
not sign with other teams without compensation. But hordes of big-name
talent are available: Aaron Garcia, Sherdrick Bonner, Sam Hernandez, Hunkie
Cooper, Steve Papin, Andy Kelly, Cory Fleming... the list goes on (See
the full list on Free Agent Tracker).
So who is worth keeping? And which players should the Cobras try
Cobras' Free Agents
|QB Carlos Garay
|FB/LB Bo Kelly
|DS Adrian Lunsford
|WR/DB David McLeod
|QB Fred McNair
|OL/DL Jerry Sharp
first priority is McNair, who the Cobras need to keep unless they go after
a Garcia, Bonner or Kelly. They can use a guaranteed starting job
and starring role as a big bargaining chip, as well as pointing to the
team's late-season improvement and playoff potential. But the XFL
could come calling, hungry for 'name' players; McNair is a name because
of his brother, Tennessee Titan's quarterback Steve.
the situation is more clouded. Lineman Jerry
Sharp could be the second priority, because of his leadership and experience.
Wide receiver/defensive back David McLeod's
break-out final game could make him job number two, however. McLeod
had an uneven year until that game, however, and the Cobras may want someone
Bo Kelly seems like a likely candidate
to re-sign on his own without too much prodding, since leaving would mean
leaving Coach Kay, who he has played for his entire career, and playing
with a second team in two seasons after spending four years in Arizona.
Kelly does face the prospect of resuming a backup role if Marrio
After an up-and-down
season, the fate of journeyman defensive specialist Adrian
Lunsford is questionable. He upgraded the Cobras' secondary after
he was signed, and did provide a spark on special teams with two kick return
touchdowns. However, there are lots of defensive specialists
on the market.
Cobras can afford to let Carlos Garay
go and bring in a younger arm. Garay is a competent backup, but not
a long-term candidate to replace McNair in a few years. He might
rather be closer to home in New Jersey, unless he is given a shot at starting