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Big-name Cobras can test market
By Brian Distelberg (7/23)

ANALYSIS
   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. 
   Mike Terry 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.   
   Six Cobras 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 organization." 
 
Six Pack
The Cobras' Free Agents
QB Carlos Garay
FB/LB Bo Kelly
DS Adrian Lunsford
WR/DB David McLeod
QB Fred McNair
OL/DL Jerry Sharp
   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 to woo? 
   The obvious 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. 
   After McNair, 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 more consistent. 
   Fullback/linebacker 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 Grier returns. 
   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.  
   Finally, the 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 somewhere.