After three years, teams are still experimenting with Plan B free agency, the system whereby clubs can protect 37 players, with the risk of losing the unprotected players during a two-month signing period after each season. The Giants look for young Plan B players who are potential keepers (like special teams demon Reyna Thompson, whom they lured from Miami in 1989). The Cowboys want lots of young players (16 in '90) to plump up their roster. The Raiders like to look at everybody, and then they pick veterans they think have a good year or two left in them ( Bob Golic in '89, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott in '91).
The following are SI's top-five Plan B signings of 1991:
1. Matt Millen, REDSKINS. Washington has bought itself a two-year solution at the crucial NFC East position of run-stopping linebacker. Millen, 33, will be happy to butt heads with Ottis Anderson, Johnny Johnson and Emmitt Smith twice a year, because he has come home. "I grew up in the NFC East," says Millen, who starred at Penn State before spending 11 seasons with the Raiders and 49ers. "The NFC East epitomizes the old NFL, and people have always told me I'm a throwback."
Now he'll get to spend more time on the 10 acres that surround his 235-year-old farmhouse in Hokendauqua, Pa., a suburb of Allentown. "Great old house," says Millen. "It's an NFC East house."
2. Pete Holohan, CHIEFS. The Rams made a terrible mistake by leaving this guy unprotected. He's the perfect third-down receiver for a top percentage passer like K.C.'s
Steve DeBerg—assuming, of course, that Holohan is not hobbled much longer by the arthroscopic surgery he underwent on his left knee in the off-season. Among tight ends in the last three years, only the Eagles' Keith Jackson, with 194 catches, made more receptions than the 32-year-old Holohan, who had 159.
3. Glenell Sanders, RAMS. "I love the way this guy plays," says L.A. coach John Robinson. Though Sanders, a middle linebacker, probably won't start right away in L.A.'s new defensive scheme, he plays with abandon—the way the Rams haven't played for several years. Sanders, 24, might be the best young Plan B player to emerge this year. When Mike Singletary retires, the Bears will be sorry Sanders is gone.
4. Ronnie Lott, RAIDERS. At 32 he's playing his third position, strong safety, and is not nearly the player he was five years ago. Furthermore, some 49ers say that last season Lott went from being a leader to being obnoxious and bossy. But he is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and he wants to prove that the 49ers made a big mistake in letting him go. "They gave up on me, and that dumbfounded me," Lott says. "I've still got a lot of blood and sweat to give. I'll give it here."
5. Felix Wright, VIKINGS. Minnesota benefits from a strange twist of contractual fate. In 1990, after a long holdout with the Browns, Wright, a free safety, agreed to a one-year contract with the stipulation that Cleveland would set him free to enter the Plan B market in '91. Now Joey Browner has a distinguished colleague alongside him deep in the Viking secondary.