I posted this on March 9, 2009, and it's just as relevant then as it is on the eve of free agency 2010. This is a reminder for people to chill out when these no-name signings come along. -Chris
Every year, as the first wave of free agency trickles down, NFL teams begin to fill up their rosters with players we fans have never heard of. It's all part of the long roster dance that involves getting as many bodies in training camp as your salary cap and the 80-man off season roster limit allows. Hopefully, you get lucky with one, or if you're really lucky two standouts that you weren't expecting. The rest, a coach will fill out on special teams if they even make the final 53.
Some of these guys are career, practice squad journeymen. The occasional signing is from a different football league (Sippio?). As training camp nears and begins, there will be "street" free agents getting released as quickly as they were signed. Before the final roster cuts in late August/early September, NFL teams may have 20-25 players that will be lucky to complete two NFL seasons in their career (Sort of made that last line up but it feels right, doesn't it?).
The common factor among most of these second wave signings is that you've never heard of these players. Neither have I. That's why we shouldn't sweat it when the Kansas City Chiefs sign a no-name guy like C.J. Jones (In fact, I was inspired to do this post after reading the comments here on Jones).
After the jump, I've got three reasons why you shouldn't get worked up about some of these guys the Chiefs are going to sign during free agency:
Talent level is similar at the bottom of the roster
That's the type of player we're talking about in this post, the bottom of the roster. Every NFL team is going to stack their rosters with 80 players and they'll only keep 53 (that's including the practice squad) to start the season. That is a lot of cuts. And most of them don't mean a thing. You may have heard that phrase (I forgot who said it) that the bottom 20 or so players on any NFL team are indistinguishable talent-wise from the other bottom 20 players on any other team. They're special teams scrubs; use only in case of an emergency players. That's why the bottom of every roster changes so often- not much separates these players from one another. You can plug one guy in and take one guy out and it has few on-the-field ramifications.
Low cost, low risk
The small cost of carrying a guy like C.J. Jones doesn't preclude the Chiefs from pursuing other players in free agency as many have suggested. Most of the time, it only costs the team a few thousand bucks per player in guaranteed money to bring these guys in anyway. Guess what Chiefs guard Brian De la Puente's signing bonus was last year? $3,000. These are low cost, low risk players. That's why the "I can't believe we signed C.J. Jones instead of T.J. Houshmanzadeh" type argument is pointless (Not that anyone made that particular argument, at least I don't think so).
Does anyone actually think we're using up any significant portion of our salary cap space on these guys? Do the math if you want. A guy like Jones or De La Puente is so cheap and expendable that their roster presence wouldn't be mutually exclusive to a player of Houshmanzadeh's talent level and salary requirements.
You roll the dice on these guys
C.J. Jones is pretty much guaranteed not to make the Chiefs 53-man roster come September. Pending a great training camp (and it would have to be one of the best training camps ever if that even means anything), Jones isn't a Chief Week 1 of the 2009 season. He is 28-years old and has barely played in one game in his career. The Chiefs didn't pick him up because they think that he is going to break out in '09. He's bottom of the barrel, camp fodder. Rotoworld described C.J. Jones as Scott Pioli's "pet project." Judging by his past career, making the Chiefs 53-man roster would the equivalent of breaking out for Jones.
Signing these journeyman or unknown free agents isn't a poor reflection on a coach's ability to evaluate talent and a coach shouldn't be criticized for making these signings. Every franchise signs unknown guys during the off season. Take a look at the NFL transaction report if you don't believe me. Carl Peterson did this in KC. Scott Pioli did it in New England. Your starters need guys across the line to hit against during camp. You need special teams players. You need "camp bodies". It's what NFL teams and coaches do.
So, the next time the Chiefs sign a couple of free agents you've never heard of, don't sweat it. Remember that they cost little money to keep on the roster; very likely won't even be on the team when the season starts; and that the cycling in and out of these players is all part of the NFL off season.