Dans Look at Free Agency Day 1
The NFL Season is finally here! So with Free Agency going crazy, 2 days before it officially opens, I thought now would be a good time to go through a number of the bigger transactions. Obviously I’d love to know what you guys think so hit up on twitter (@gridirongents).
Anyway let’s start with the surprise big spenders of the 1st day of free agency
Olivier Vernon (DE), previous team: Dolphins, Janoris Jenkins (CB) previous team: Rams, Damon Harrison (NT) previous team: Jets, all join Giants. Jason Pierre-Paul (DE) stays with Giants: Okay… Right so the Giants spent huge on their defence in what has been considered a “win now” philosophy, which is hard to argue with. I’m not a big fan of this, but it has worked on occasion (see Denver Broncos). The problem I have is that by spending big on these players, they are putting a tremendous amount of pressure on other areas of need and with little cap space to build for the future (I’d imagine OBJ will want to get paid at some point). Despite not being a huge fan of the way they went about it, I do like these players. Olivier Vernon has the chance to be a number one pass rusher and at the age of 25 they get a player for the future. Janoris Jenkins might not be as good a cover corner as Prince Amukamara, but he certainly is more reliable. Damon Harrison is a nice pick up, but for way over the odds. The biggest surprise is that they haven’t tried to retain Robert Ayers, who could be a nice little player for a number of teams.
Brock Osweiler (QB) joins the Texans (previous team: Broncos) : Osweiler was, for me far more valuable to the Broncos than any other team. The giant contract he’s just signed says something different however. Osweiler isn’t a top tier QB, but Bill O’Brien does have a good history of getting the most from underrated QBs. Brock got his pay day and only time will tell whether he should have swallowed his pride and stayed with the Super bowl champions.
Matt Forte (RB) joins Jets (previous team: Bears) : I’m writing this whilst wiping away the tears. Forte was a great player for the Bears and whilst they had eerily similar stats to Chris Ivory, this is an excellent signing that I believe has at least a couple of years still left in him. Forte gives the Jets serious options as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Good bye Matty and good luck.
Kelechi Osemele (G) joins Raiders (previous team: Ravens) : One of my favourite moves for a team that are serious up and comers in an AFC West that is looking a little different this morning. Latavius Murray will be over the moon this morning as the Ravens pick up one of the most underrated guards in the league.
Danny Trevathan (ILB), joins Bears (previous team: Broncos) : Let me just take my party hat off and clear away the confetti. Danny Trevathan was the player that the Gents had as the most sought after defensive piece, with inside line-backer being a big need for a number of teams. This move for both parties just makes sense. Trevathan reunites with John Fox and defensive coordinator gets a centre piece that he can mould into his Navorro Bowman. This to me is the single biggest game changing pick up and as a Bears fan I’m over the moon.
Mario Williams (DE) joins Dolphins (previous team: Bills) : Unmotivated player joins an unmotivated defensive line that could force a highly motivated Cameron Wake out of the team. The Dolphins in my opinion continue to tread water by making big money mistakes.
Bruce Irvin (OLB) joins Raiders (previous team: the Seahawks) : Ken Norton Jr. gets a former Seahawks player. Irvin’s value in the run game is essential to this team, not to mention having a legitimate piece that can cover tight ends, a huge hole on defence last year.
Malik Jackson (DE) joins Jaguars (previous team: Broncos) : Almost certainly overpaid, but once again they’ve got the cash. Jackson joining this team gives the Jags some options to go in a different direction, in the draft. Jackson will line up opposite Dante Fowler Jr. in what will almost certainly be a more traditional 4-3 defensive end role than he was used with the Broncos.
Rishard Matthews (WR), joins Titans (previous team: Dolphins): It’s pretty clear that the Titans need receivers with the rumours that they may be picking up Roddy White and now the signing of out-of-favour Miami receiver Rishard Matthews. Many believe that Matthews could be a decent option as a pass catcher and for reasons unknown, he was shunned by previous Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. This is a semi-risky move but could pay off in a year with a serious receiver drought.
Ladarius Green (TE), joins Steelers (previous team: Chargers): With Gates staying and effectively ending his hall of fame career in San Diego, this move seemed inevitable. The Steelers gain an instant replacement for Heath Evans in the pass game. Green however won’t be able to replace Heath in protection, an issue the Steelers will definitely have to think about.
Jaye Howard (DE), Derrick Johnson (ILB), Tamba Hali (OLB) all stay with the Chiefs: With so many free agents on the market, the Chiefs had to move quickly to make sure these players didn’t go anywhere. The Jaye Howard contract intrigues me. Howard was rumoured to be a potential $100m player. He signed a 2 year $12m contract, which shows that he wants to stay on a team he feels comfortable with. Next up for Kansas will be keeping Sean Smith on the team.
Jeremy Lane (CB) stays with the Seahawks: This to me was an essential signing for the Seahawks. Every year for the last 3 years the ‘Legion of Boom’ has lost their number 2 corner and whilst it didn’t affect them the 1st 2 years, last year we saw a drop in the level of play from the Seahawks secondary. Jeremy Lane is an underrated piece in the slot who can match up nicely against smaller, tougher slot receivers. If you want proof, look at how much the Super bowl changed against the Patriots after Edelman “accidently” took out Lane.
Derrick Shelby (DE), joins the Falcons (previous team: Miami) : Sneaky signing that could improve a Falcons team that desperately need help in the trenches. Don’t expect to see him on every down but could be a nice little role player.
Rodney McLeod (FS) previous team: Rams, Nigel Bradham (OLB) previous team: Bills, Brandon Brooks (G) previous team: Texans, Chase Daniels (QB) previous team: Chiefs, Leodis McKelvin (CB) previous team: Bills, all join Eagles. Eagles trade Kiko Alonso (ILB) and Byron Maxwell (CB) plus 13th pick for 8th overall pick. Eagles also trade DeMarco Murray (RB) to Titans, switching 4th round picks: Free agency is when the Eagles go to work, which is why I lumped all these players in together. For the last 3 years Howie Roseman has put together the supposed Eagles “dream team”, been deposed of his role by Chip Kelly, who released a number of big signings to bring in players he felt comfortable working with only to be deposed by Howie Roseman, who then proceeded to wash that Chip right out of his hair by trading away Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray, creating cap space to pick up key pieces to his secondary, a much needed offensive line piece and a QB that could potentially challenge for the starting job with Sam Bradford. March is never quiet for the Eagles. The Eagles will probably be looking at defensive front 7 players in the draft, with Jim Schwartz changing the defensive scheme to a more traditional 4-3 look.
Tashaun Gipson (FS), joins the Jaguars (previous team: Browns) : Not a good start for the Browns who were quiet in free agency, bar the fact that they lost a ton of talent. This should have been a priority for a team that has a ton of cap space. One of few decent areas for Cleveland was the safety tandem of Whitner and Gipson, which whilst I respect the Browns not paying over the odds for a decent yet not exceptional player, good safeties are hard to find. Gipson signing with the Jaguars just shows that the Jags have become a team that players want to join finally after years of becoming a team that players avoid, have put themselves on the map as a destination for top free agents, much like the Raiders. The Browns unfortunately stay down in the mud.
Mitchell Schwartz (OT), joins Chiefs (previous team: Browns) : Talks of poor negotiating potentially leading to Mitchell Schwartz moving away from Cleveland are a concern. Whilst not one of the top tackles in the league, you can add right tackle to an ever growing list of needs. Chiefs pick up a decent starter at a position that is tough to fill in free agency.
Alex Mack (C), joins Falcons (previous team: Browns) : I’m not as big a fan of Alex Mack as a lot of people, but he joins a Falcons team desperate for help in the trenches. The Browns lose another starter and turn a decent offensive line into a line with serious needs.
Travis Benjamin (WR), joins Chargers (previous team: Browns) : Last year we thought the Browns receiver group might be the weakest in the league. Travis Benjamin made us question that… Free agency has not been kind to this team. Chargers get a speedster to help free up Keenan Allen who must be one of the most covered receivers in the league. Maybe we’ll see him return to rookie season form.
Coby Fleener (TE), joins the Saints (previous team: Colts): Fleener might be a sneaky fantasy pick up for me this year, combined with Dwayne Allen he would be rarely used in protection. With the Saints we’ll almost certainly see a lot of 2 tight end sets, with Hoomanawanui used in protection. Saints seemed to get a step closer to what they wanted to do on offence last year.
Michael Griffin (FS), joins the Vikings (previous team: Titans) : The talk had been that they were making a play for Reggie Nelson, who (as of writing this), is still on the market. Michael Griffin (who will look great next to Harrison Smith) is a solid pickup for a defence that could be easily one of the best in the league next year.
Bobby Massie (OT), joins the Bears (previous team: Cardinals) : Not a major signing but as a Bears fan I did want to mention what it might mean for their line this year. Bobby Massie has played predominantly on the right, which is where I think we’ll see him for the Bears. Expect Kyle Long to move to left tackle, now that Jermon Bushrod has been released.
J.R Sweezy (G), joins the Buccaneers (previous team: Seahawks) : Once again not a huge signing, but an important one. The Bucs made some big moves last year to solidify one of 2014’s worst offensive line. With a shiny new QB and Doug (MUSCLE HAMSTER) Martin resigning, this was an important area of need.
Dwight Lowery (FS), joins the Niners (previous team: Colts) : Kind of a head scratcher for me unless we’re going to see some big changes to the Niners defence. Possibly this is a sign that we might see the Niners start to resemble something closer to the Cards and Jets, with hybrid line-backers/ safeties.
Benjamin Watson (TE), joins Ravens (previous team: Saints) : With the wide receiver market being a little on the thin side, this move makes total sense for a Ravens team desperate for targets. Flacco gets a legitimate go to guy and Benjamin Watson gets deservedly paid after a good season filling in for Jimmy Graham.
Doug Martin (RB) stays with the Buccaneers: This is kind of a no brainer. This is a team on the up and Doug Martin is an essential part of that. Behind an improving offensive line and with a 2nd year QB that seemed to improve as the season went on, Martin could be in for a decent season.
William Hayes (DE) and Mark Barron (OLB) stay with the Rams: One of few instances of letting players hit the market and it simply not working out for them. Barron is a smaller hybrid line-backer, originally joining the league at safety. William Hayes became a far more important piece when Chris Long was released. This team has needs, but solidifying existing pieces was just as important.
Haloti Ngata (DT) stays with the Lions: The defensive line has been hit hard over the last couple of years and although Ngata wasn’t as effective has he has been over the previous couple of years, they simply can’t add defensive tackle to the growing list of areas of needs.
Lamar Miller (RB) joins the Texans (previous team: Dolphins) : The next couple of signings say to me what the Texans intentions are this season. Lamar Miller is a good player, but don’t expect him to replace Arian Foster. The big difference however is that we’ll see him play. Miller was somewhat stifled with the Dolphins. Now he has a chance to shine as a feature piece on this offence.
Alex Boone (C) joins the Vikings (previous team: Niners) : Boone shone in the Harbaugh years of the Niners. Now he becomes a feature piece on a bad offensive line with a young QB. A lot of pressure on Boone this season, but a definite step up and it’s easy to forget that the Vikings had some key injuries on that line last year.
Antonio Gates (TE) stays with the Chargers: Still productive. More valuable to Rivers than anyone else. Gets to retire as a lifelong Charger… which is nice.
George Iloka (FS) stays with Bengals: A number of players on the Bengals defence were set to hit free agency and they (like the Chiefs) did a good job of keeping hold of them. Reggie Nelson is still on the market and with decent depth in the secondary I’d imagine we don’t see him return to Cincy.
Rolando McClain (MLB) stays with Cowboys: Much like Gates, McClain is more valuable to the Cowboys than any other team. Whilst he has a questionable history with suspension, when on the field he has proved to be a decent piece of the Cowboys defence.
Marvin Jones (WR) joins Lions (previous team: Bengals) : Marvin Jones replaces Calvin Johnson… okay that might be a tad flippant, but there’s no overlooking that the Lions now have 2 no. 2 receivers.
Dwayne Allen (TE) stays with the Colts: Essential signing for the Colts whose offensive line seem intent on letting defensive players try to injure one of the former hottest QB prospects in the league. Dwayne Allen is as important in max protect as in the passing game.
Chris Ivory (RB) joins Jaguars (previous team: the Eagles): I like TJ Yeldon, but if they can keep Ivory healthy and maybe reduce his snaps, this is an excellent pick up for a team that’s spending money from a Scrooge McDuck like vault. The Jags mean business.
Donald Stephenson (OT) joins Broncos (previous team: Chiefs) : It’s an area of need and there’s little chance there’ll be much left in the draft at 31. Stephenson comes in to help fight a few fires for the Super bowl champions.
Richie Incognito (G) stays with Bills: Whilst I’m not a big fan of his, Incognito has earned at least a little respect with me by taking a fairly modest contract with the team that basically gave him a 2nd chance.
Matt Cassel (QB) joins Titans (previous team: Bills), Matt Schaub (QB) joins Atlanta (previous team: Ravens) : Titans and Falcons fans will be hoping their starting QBs don’t suffer any injuries.
That’s day one folks, don’t forget to listen to this week’s pod as we get into the nitty gritty of a few of these moves.
WELCOME BACK NFL!