Biggest Free Agent Moves
When NFL free agency kicks off it means two things: first, your favorite team might look a lot different next season, and second, a lot of people are going to get very rich very quickly.
An interesting phenomenon occurs every year in free agency regardless of which teams are good or bad. Some good teams are aggressive and look for those couple of players who they think will help them lock up a Superbowl. Meanwhile, some good teams let their players walk away to help leave money to sign the core of their roster. At the same time, some bad teams look to land a big name for a quick fix or to energize a fan base. While other bad teams accept futility for another year and let some people test free agency to try and keep the core of their roster so they can build through the draft. All of these strategies obviously have their merits and their risks, and there have been plenty of examples of each, this year included. Some teams like the 49ers and Patriots are letting some key components go, hoping that they can replace or improve the missing pieces. But other teams like the Seahawks and Falcons are grasping for that one player who will give them an edge. Here is just a quick look at some of the biggest moves and what they mean to all the teams involved.
Wes Welker going from Brady to Manning: This isn’t the biggest signing of free agency, but it has by far my favorite story line behind it. Welker has been a key cog of the New England offense for the last several years, and he is also one of Tom Brady’s best friends. After taking a reported low ball offer, about five million a year, from the Pats, Welker decided to take his talents to Denver to work with Peyton Manning. This isn’t too surprising, as the Patriots have long history of letting players go who they feel aren’t worth the kind of money the open market dictates. What makes this situation awkward is that Tom Brady accepted about half the salary of other top tier quarterbacks to try and give the Pats the cap space to keep players. Reports are coming out that Brady is “enraged” by the Pats front office letting Welker go, especially to a top contender like the Broncos, who could very well be in a position to knock the Pats out of the playoffs this season. The only solace for Brady is they have replaced Welker with Danny Amendola who has a very similar skill set and talent level, but he is younger and often injured.
Seattle Seahawks’ aggressive off-season: Holy Moses, the NFC better watch out because the Seahawks mean business this year. After losing in the divisional round of the playoffs last year and having what many believe to be the best team in the NFC, they have gone out and made some big splashes. Being one of the teams in the league that is running the surprisingly rare 4-3 defensive front has enabled the Seahawks to add both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to solidify their front line. The front seven was the biggest concern heading into free agency for the Seahawks, and they have done all they can before the draft to shore up any issues. Perhaps in bigger news though, the Vikings were willing to part with their offensive Swiss army knife Percy Harvin for three draft picks. By giving up a first and seventh round pick this year and a third next year, the Seahawks have accumulated one of the scarier sets of skill position players in the league. Between Marshawn Lynch, Harvin, Sydney Rice, Golden Tate, and the emergence of Ronnie Turbin last year, the Hawks are posed to strike for their first Superbowl this year.
Reggie Bush attempting to balance the Lions offense: Last season, Matt Stafford was forced to attempt an NFL record 727 passes due to the ineffectiveness of the Lion’s running game. Their leading rusher had less that 800 yards and averaged a dismal 3.7 yards a carry. Bush is a solid feature back who can be spelled by the power of Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. The Lions struggled in the run game last year because speed back Jahvid Best’s return from a concussion hasn’t gone as anyone would have liked. Adding an explosive receiving threat out of the backfield, as well as someone who can make people miss in the open field and get to the corner in the run game, will open up the rest of the offense. Bush hasn’t been the running back people thought he would be coming out of USC, but he proved in Miami he can be a feature back and hopefully he will continue to improve with the Lions. If they can get their defense together, I think the Lions can improve a lot with this simple and pretty cheap addition to the offense.
The Baltimore Ravens Salary Purge: Joe Flacco made a lot of headlines this offseason by signing his 6-year $120.6 million deal just a few weeks ago. Flacco said it symbolized the Ravens finally committing to him long term, but he might have taken less money if he knew the cost. So far this off season, the Ravens have traded postseason hero Anquan Boldin to the 49ers, let LBs Paul Kruger and Danelle Ellerbe walk away, and lost starting safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard. The departure of these players, combined with the retirement of Ray Lewis, means the Ravens will replace at least six starters, including five on defense. Ozzie Newsome has done a wonderful job as the Ravens GM for over a decade, so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this kind of salary cap purge can cost a team three or four wins in a season. It will be interesting to see if Flacco accidently crippled his team by signing such a massive contract as a reward for Baltimore’s first Superbowl in thirteen years.
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