Where will Richie Incognito sign in 2016 NFL free agency?
Richie Incognito might be best known for his prominent role in the 2013 Miami Dolphins’ bullying scandal, which is unfortunate considering he has consistently performed at a high level during his nine years in the league. A veteran out of Nebraska’s prestigious football program, Incognito resurrected his career under first-year coach Rex Ryan last season with the Buffalo Bills.
He played well enough to earn an invitation to the 2015 Pro Bowl as an alternate, and enters free agency as one of the premier offensive linemen available on the market.
Notable stat: named an All-Pro at his position by Pro Football Focus (2015)
All-Pro teams: 0
Pro Bowls: 2 (2012, 2015)
Incognito essentially played all of last year on a “prove-it” deal: a one-year contract worth $1.1 million. It was a relatively mild investment by the Bills organization in a player that could have been perceived as locker room poison from the outside, but all reports out of western New York spoke glowingly of Incognito last season, both as a player and as a person.
He’s earned a better contract for himself – something more along the lines of what Jahri Evans played under with the Saints over the past three seasons: an $18 million deal that paid him about $6 million in yearly average salary.
Estimate: 2 years/$14 million/$7 million guaranteed
Will he stay?
As mentioned earlier, Incognito’s time with the Bills last season (actually his second stint with the organization) couldn’t have gone much better, and he’s probably one of Buffalo’s top priorities when it comes to players the team needs to try and re-sign.
The releases of Mario Williams and Leodis McKelvin clears up a ton of cap space for the team to work with, and now that fellow offensive lineman Cordy Glenn has been given the non-exclusive franchise tag, it seems logical that Incognito would be the next domino to fall in the Bills’ free agency plans.
If he leaves…
Speaking of Jahri Evans, his time in The Big Easy might be coming to a close, which would open up a vacant spot along the line that protects Drew Brees. Importing Incognito to fill the void would do more than just help Brees: more importantly, the Saints could tap Incognito’s impressive skills as a run-blocker to open up more holes for Mark Ingram to rush through.
While the Saints have flourished for years with a dazzling aerial attack under Sean Payton, Brees’ advancing age and the decline of the New Orleans defense has made it necessary for this team to place more emphasis on establishing an effective ground game.
The Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos could also be a potential suitor for Incognito should he escape the confines of Orchard Park. Evan Mathis is most likely done in Denver, which would leave the defending champs without a quality replacement at guard.
The Broncos’ biggest questions heading into 2016 are at quarterback and along the offensive line, and while the team must wait to address one of those concerns until Peyton Manning lets the world in on his retirement plans, it’s never too early to start working on the other problem area.