In the last free agent wish list piece, we spotlighted linebacker Craig Robertson, a restricted free agent of the Cleveland Browns. We're going back to the Dawg Pound again today, in hopes that safety Tashaun Gipson might be available.
As the Denver Broncos gear up to switch from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4, they only have a few missing personnel pieces. Nose guard, inside linebacker, free safety. Rahim Moore, a second round pick of the Broncos in 2011, is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
In his four seasons in Denver, Moore's career can be summed up as solid but unspectacular. And maybe a bit of a roller-coaster. The Broncos drafted him to be a ball-hawking centerfielder, but alas, in four seasons, Moore only managed 8 interceptions, but he did recover 3 fumbles.
I would't characterize Moore's career as a failure - far from it. He's been a solid pro, but the team could get so much more out of the position than Moore has given them. Imagine having a safety next to T.J. Ward who can go sideline-to-sideline and is unafraid to stick his nose into the action in run support.
Tashaun Gipson is that guy. Going undrafted in 2012 out of Wyoming, Gipson is coming off of a Pro Bowl season (his first), but like his teammate Robertson, he's set to become a restricted free agent. Fortunately for teams interested in his services, they probably wouldn't have to relinquish a draft pick to acquire him, because he's a former undrafted rookie free agent. But that depends on how the Browns ultimately value and tender him.
The Browns will likely tender him with Right of First Refusal. Here's what that means per Article 9, section 2 the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
One-year Player Contract with Paragraph 5 salary of at least $1.323 million.
No compensation is given to the original team if another team signs this player to an offer sheet. This is typically applied to players who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. Now, if a team signed Gipson to an offer sheet, the Browns would get the first right of refusal to match it. And so on.
So a competing team can up the ante by signing the player to an offer sheet that they perceive might be a little too rich for the original team. Gipson is a player primed to break recent tradition and actually have some offers from competing teams as a restricted free agent.
The Browns have two young defensive pieces set to become RFAs. Gipson and Robertson. Both would be excellent fits in Denver. And the Browns have a history of letting Pro Bowl safeties walk in free agency. Gipson is coming off of a season that saw him snag 6 interceptions, while missing five games with a MCL sprain.
Despite the time he missed, he was still elected to the Pro Bowl. He finished the 2014 season with 52 combined tackles, 6 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 8 passes defensed. This production earned him a +10.3 cumulative grade via Pro Football Focus.
He finished the season as the No. 10 safety, according to PFF, which is amazing, considering the time he missed. Pairing him next to his old "dawg" T.J. Ward would be something special to behold. The Broncos are projected to have around $27M in available cap space, with that number likely increasing with the projected increase of the salary cap.
About half of that $27M will probably be appropriated to Demaryius Thomas, whether it's via the franchise tag or an extension. The Broncos have several roster holes, but there are some cuts they can make to free up more room -- Manuel Ramirez and Chris Clark come to mind.
When it's all said and done, factoring the cap increase, the Broncos could have as much as $10M more in available cap space to work with. Nevertheless, it is not unlimited and the team has to figure out what they're going to do with Terrance Knighton. If they choose to let him walk, they'll have to sign or draft a nose tackle.
Targeting Gipson, which would not require relinquishing a valuable draft pick, makes sense. He's a rangy centerfielder, with a nose for the ball and a knack for baiting quarterbacks. Only one player in the NFL has more interceptions than Gipson since 2012 - Richard Sherman.
The Broncos could use some help in the turnover department, an area they struggled in last season. With Wade Phillips' attacking front seven, it will create opportunities on the back end for turnovers. The Broncos could significantly bolster their defense by swooping in and signing Tashaun Gipson out from under the nose of the Browns. He'll likely cost less than going after an unrestricted stud like New England's Devin McCourty.