What Are The Next Stops For Jonathan Martin And Richie Incognito?
By Brett Spielberg
Both the protagonist and antagonist of the NFL bullying scandal are out of the league. Jonathan Martin is working out and apparently eager for a second chance; Richie Incognito spent time in a rehab facility and looks to be spiraling toward a sad end.
But of the two linemen, Incognito is the one with actual on-field value for 2014. He might not be the best teammate, but then again, his other 50 teammates seemed to go on a limb and vouch for his character. Meanwhile, Martin is still statistically one of the worst offensive linemen in the game. If he catches on somewhere next year it might be because of his character, his untapped potential or maybe just for the media buzz.
Let's not write off either player and assume that both will catch on somewhere for the next season.
The question then is where?
For Martin, all signs point to San Diego. After handling the Manti Te’o ‘Catfish’ saga in stride, the Chargers appear to be a player-friendly team with a new culture, sans Norv Turner. Martin appreciated the way the Chargers handled a sticky situation, and it’s not farfetched to think he’d like to be in that same scenario. His California roots don’t hurt either, but don’t expect the 49ers to take a chance on him. While San Francisco would be ideal from a comfort level, the team culture, media scrutiny and expectations wouldn't mesh. The Indianapolis Colts feature Martin’s Stanford QB Andrew Luck, and Luck has made a point of vouching for Martin.
But the Colts need real pass protectors, and unless Martin will take a minimum deal with no guarantee, Indy doesn’t look like the spot.
And then there’s the one team that makes football decisions for the value of media attention, not to build a team. I could see the Jets pursuing Martin and spinning the story in their favor. Along with the blogosphere and the Worldwide Leader in Sports, the New York media would go into a feeding frenzy with Martin.
How’s the team? How are the coaches? Are the locker rooms comparable? What about the fans? How does the Miami media compare to New York’s?
Those are just the first 30 seconds of questions Martin would face, but Woody Johnson would sure love that New York Daily News back page.
Then there’s Incognito. Personal issues aside, the dude can play football. He’d fit right in on the Jets, other than the fact that the media would eat him alive, or at least try to cause him to step on a landmine and melt down in front of millions.
But on the right team, say the Seattle Seahawks or the St. Louis Rams, he could be valuable. If anyone knows how to connect with a player it’s Jeff Fisher. I’d trust him to put Incognito back on track. Same goes for Pete Carroll. He won’t discipline Incognito, but I’ll bet he could keep him in line and extract every bit of value left in his big body.
When it comes down to it, both of these guys might never play in the NFL again. But they both might be starting on an offensive line near you in a few months.
That’s what makes free agency so much fun. Let’s wait and see what happens.