Who Won the First 48 hours of NFL Free Agency?
When I first pitched this to my editor on Monday, I did so anticipating a Tuesday and Wednesday that would feature one or two aggressive teams and one or two outrageous player contracts. Instead, the past two days happened. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t ever remember free agency being this fun – or this captivating – in the past. What has been a lull in the NFL offseason between the combine and the draft for the past couple years is now perhaps more exciting than anything before or after it. Remember, the combine and draft center around prospective talents. This year, established talents have been flying all over the place – that takes the cake in my book.
In case you missed it, these are the big moves we’ve seen so far:
The Patriots made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by signing Revis to a two-year deal. Now, Revis didn’t quite deserve the Pro Bowl nod he received last year, but he certainly showed flashes of his old self. This year, two years removed from tearing his ACL, Revis seems likely to rebound in a big way. Of course, if Vince Wilfork leaves, there’s still a big hole in the middle of the Patriots’ defense.
No question Decker was the big winner in this deal, signing for a reported $36.2 million over five years, with $15 million guaranteed. That is, assuming all he was looking for was a big payday. If he was looking for more – say, wins, for instance – he might not be so happy. The Jets cut Santonio Holmes, their barely serviceable number one receiver for the past couple years, which means Decker will be left to carry the load by himself. Oh, and one more thing: Decker’s a number two receiver at best. Good work, Rex.
This is perhaps my favorite pairing so far. For Tate, he gets a solid contract – $31 million over five years – for solid work over the past several years. Oh, and he’ll be paired with that Calvin Johnson guy. For the Lions, they get a (desperately) needed number two receiver for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Win-win, and I expect it to produce wins this season.
You know how some people insist you can make a team better with addition by subtraction? Well, the Raiders – innovative team that they are – managed to be the first to make their team worse with subtraction by addition. They’ve added retreads like Justin Tuck and Darren McFadden, neither of whom can stay healthy, and gone out and signed average players to superstar contracts re: Austin Howard. All that, and they let their two best players, Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer, walk. Sigh.
Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner might end up being good players for the Browns, but there’s no way they live up to their contracts. Dansby turns 33 this season, and Whitner’s not worth $28 million. Oh, and the Browns have now unloaded both first round picks from 2012, so they’re pretty much shooting par for the course.
Likes and dislikes here. Nabbing Jairus Byrd was a great move, and watching him work with Vaccarro next season is going to be a thing of beauty. But sending Sproles out the door and into the arms of a major NFC competitor? Eh, not a fan.
OK, so maybe they were reeling from losing out on the Byrd sweepstakes. Maybe that explains this move. Because think about it: LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles occupy the same niche. If anything, McCoy is better, meaning the Eagles added, what, an insurance policy in case McCoy goes down? I don’t think insurance policies win championships, last time I checked. Remember: since 2011, the only two NFL running backs who have 150+ catches and 8+ receiving touchdowns are McCoy and Sproles.
The Broncos might be the closest to “winning” free agency so far. It’s an old saying in the NFL that no team, no matter how great, is ever one player away from winning the Super Bowl. Well, perhaps with that in mind, Broncos GM John Elway went out and got three. Take a look at the Broncos before the additions – their biggest needs were cornerback, safety, and pass rusher. And Elway went out and got Talib, Ward, and Ware. Not too shabby. Still, Ward’s the only player that doesn’t seem to have a downside. Talib has had injury issues and problems off the field, while Ware missed six games last year and recorded a career low six sacks in 2013.