Welcome to the Willie Colon edition of the Oakland Raiders 2011 NFL free agent targets. If you missed it, and you're interested, check out the Jammal Brown and the Tyson Clabo editions by clicking on the links. Just to remind everyone I am starting the free agent spotlight at tackle because I feel it is the most glaring need, and that is due to Jared Veldheer—despite SOB's protest I am underestimating him—only being able to play one position at a time, he is the only player with NFL tackle experience on the roster.
First thing we have to discuss with Colon is his potential availability. If the 2010 rules governing free agency remain intact Colon will be a restricted free agent as he is getting ready to enter his sixth year of NFL service. The Steelers placed a first-round tender on Colon before the lockout ended.
However, I think the chances of the NFL having to play under 2010 free agency rules are diminishing. With it becoming increasingly likely that the 8th Circuit Court will reverse Judge Nelson's decision to lift the lockout it looks to me as if the only way the NFL will start back-up is when a new CBA is reached. If that is the case, it is unlikely that six-year players would still be restricted free agents. Jump over....
If Colon is a restricted free agent the Steelers may not be that big of player in the Colon sweepstakes. Anthony DeFeo on Behind the Steel Curtain:
Along those lines, in my opinion, the drafting of Gilbert pretty much signals Willie Colon's exit from the team. With Flozell Adams stating he'd like to come back for another year, that could be enough time to groom the young lineman and have him ready to start in 2012. The Steelers aren't going to pay second round money for a right tackle if they are at all serious about signing Colon.
The next thing to think about with Colon is his injury status. He missed the entire 2010 season due to a freak accident causing him to rupture his Achilles. Prior to that injury Colon had not had a problem with injuries and as Michael Bean of Behind the Steel Curtain points out this injury should not be a problem for 2011:
Anyway, in my mind, there is no injury concern with Colon. He suffered a freak injury during OTAs when no pads were even on. And the good news, if there is such a thing with an awful injury like that, is that Colon suffered it in June, meaning he'll have had at least 14+ months of recovery. There's a danger of reaggravating the injury if you rush back to action, but the timetable is more or less perfect for a compelte recovery for Colon in '11.
I guess that leaves us only with a discussion of what kind of player is Mr. Colon. Colon's NFL career got off to a rough start. He came to the league from Hofstra and struggled mightily early as he adjusted to life in the NFL. He improved his game each year, and by all accounts he was a high quality right tackle in 2009. Colon will be 28 at the start of the season, and should just be hitting the prime of his career.
Colon is almost 6'4" and in the 320 pound range. He does not move all that well, and he can struggle with speed rushers, but he is a beast in the run game.
Pro Football Weekly charts Colon for giving up nine sacks, four false starts, and two holdings in 2009. That is a lot of sacks! Of course, charting sacks is a very unofficial stat, and pass protecting for the mad scrambler Ben Roethlisberger poses its on challenges. I couldn't find any comments from Steelers fans complaining about his porous pass blocking in '09, so it leads me to believe it is not as bad as the numbers suggest. Backing this is the Steelers placing a first-round tender on him, and Michael Bean on BTSC from the above linked article:
I think Colon is worth keeping, and I think he's worth keeping at roughly the figures I laid out above: 3-years, $14m, $3-4m guaranteed.
That was his sentiment pre-draft.
By all accounts, Colon is a high-character, hard-working type. He is the type of guy that could be a leader for this young line, and fit right into Hue's vision of building a bully. The question is how much is he going to cost?
If Colon is an unrestricted free agent he is not going to lack for suitors. He is clearly one of the top, if not the top right tackles on the market. At 28, Colon is going to be looking for the most guaranteed money he can get. I'm not sure the Raiders are going to want to sink long-term dollars into a right tackle with the young guys they have on the roster that they hope to develop into the answer. It would certainly go a long way to solidifying this line for the 2011 season, and then provide the Raiders with tremendous flexibility and security going forward.