After the NFL Lockout officially came to an end on Monday, this week was expected to be one of the craziest transaction periods in sports history–and it’s certainly lived up to all of the hype.
Four months worth of free agency signings, trades, and cuts have been squeezed into just a few days as teams anxiously look to get organized quickly since training camp is already underway and the first preseason game is right around the corner. There have been plenty of teams that have benefited this week with the moves they’ve made–but there are also teams that could have been more aggressive and made better decisions with the moves–or lack of–they made.
Here’s a look at five teams that should be considered winners and five teams that should be considered losers through the first week of transactions in the NFL.
Loser: Minnesota Vikings
There seems to be a common theme going on in Minnesota each season when it comes to delaying the process of focusing on a quarterback to build the franchise around. First, it was Brett Favre. Now, the Vikings plan to use Donovan McNabb with the “win now” factor instead of focusing on their hopeful franchise quarterback of the future–which is now Christian Ponder. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe McNabb has at least another solid year or two left in him and is capable of producing impressive numbers with the right weapons–but it’s difficult to praise the Vikings for acquiring McNabb when they hurt themselves by losing Sidney Rice to the Seattle Seahawks.
Winner: San Diego Chargers
2010 was a strange season for the Chargers considering there were times when they ranked No. 1 in both overall offense and defense–yet still fell short of reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2005 season. San Diego realized how important it was to re-sign Eric Weddle–who agreed to a five-year deal worth $40 million with $19 million guaranteed–right away considering his strong interest from other teams and managed to do so. Along with keeping Weddle, the Chargers added another key veteran to their defense after reaching an agreement with Takeo Spikes–who recorded 109 combined tackles with the San Francisco 49ers last season and has proven throughout his career to be a very effective leader. Two key moves by a team that is expected to once again be a strong contender in the AFC West.
Loser: Miami Dolphins
They may have missed out on DeAngelo Williams–but the acquisition of Reggie Bush could work out well for the Dolphins considering how much they were in need of adding another running back. Bush may not have lived up to his high potential in the NFL, but he should benefit from a fresh start in Miami and won’t have to worry about a crowded backfield like when he was with the Saints. Unfortunately, the biggest regret by the Dolphins may end up being their failed attempt to acquire Kyle Orton from the Denver Broncos. After it seemed like the deal was only a matter of time, the Orton trade was reported “dead” on Friday and Miami ended up signing former Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Moore instead. While there still seems like a chance the team could still attempt to make a deal with Miami, this news comes as nothing but disappointing for Dolphins fans considering all of the uncertainty surrounding Chad Henne.
Winner: Houston Texans
Year after year, it seems like the Texans are expected to finally overcome the hump and reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. While that obviously didn’t happen last season, Houston has made the right moves this offseason to make sure they fix one of their biggest weaknesses from the 2010 season–their passing defense. The Texans’ defense ranked 31st in the NFL last season by allowing 267.5 yards per game through the air. They may be missing out the Nnamdi Asomugha, but the Texans received one of the most underrated cornerbacks the NFL has to offer in Johnathan Joseph at a much cheaper price. Take that into consideration with the signing of strong safety Danieal Manning–the Texans’ passing defense will be much better in 2011.
Loser: Seattle Seahawks
If he can manage to stay healthy and return to his dominant 2009 form, the Seahawks will have a great addition to the passing game in Sidney Rice. However, the Seahawks entered the offseason in desperate need of adding another quarterback–especially after they failed to add one in April’s draft. Not only did they let Matt Hasselbeck go to the Tennessee Titans, but they missed out on acquiring Kevin Kolb–who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday–from the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m sure Seattle fans are thrilled about the battle for the starting job between Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson.
Winner: Carolina Panthers
It’s hard to imagine the Panthers having a successful week when it comes to free agency considering how rough last season was–but they seem to be making all of the right moves. After finishing with 11.5 sacks last season, Carolina entered the offseason knowing their top priority was to re-sign defensive end Charles Johnson–who agreed to a six-year, $72 million deal with the team on Wednesday. On top of that, the Panthers were able to keep DeAngelo Williams on board after agreeing to a new deal that will pay the running back $43 million ($21 million guaranteed) over the next five years and provide Carolina with a dynamic duo alongside Jonathan Stewart. Not to mention the addition of Greg Olsen–who was acquired from the Chicago Bears on Thursday–will hopefully provide the Panthers with another threat in the passing game–which they obviously could use after last season.
Loser: Buffalo Bills
The Bills missed out big time when linebacker Paul Posluszny tested the waters of free agency and left the team for the Jacksonville Jaguars. They may have managed to add Brad Smith, but considering all of the aggressive moves being made by the New England Patriots, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins–Buffalo appears to be heading towards the bottom of the division once again in 2011. Other than the addition of Smith, the most exciting transaction this week for Buffalo when it comes to free agency was the addition of Tyler Thigpen to compete with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback–which shows how aggressive the Bills have been this week.
Winner: Philadelphia Eagles
It was only a matter of time before Kevin Kolb was shipped off to the Arizona Cardinals–but give the Eagles credit for what they were able to obtain in return for a quarterback that has started just seven career games. Not only did the Eagles land a Pro Bowl cornerback in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but they also managed to convince the Cardinals to give up a second-round pick as well to acquire Kolb. Take that on top of the signings of Jason Babin and Vince Young (not official, but most likely to happen over)–the Eagles appear to be ready to make another strong run in the NFC this season.
Loser: Cincinnati Bengals
Remember all of the hype surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals heading into last season after the addition of Terrell Owens? They were the defending AFC North Champions at the time and were expected to give the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens a run for their money in the division. Instead, they finished the 2010 season with a 4-12 record and were one of the biggest laughing stocks of the NFL–and this offseason isn’t much better. Chad Ochocinco was traded to the New England Patriots. Johnathan Joseph signed with the Houston Texans. Antwan Odom was released. And Carson Palmer appears to be heading towards retirement since owner Mike Brown refuses to grant his wish for a a trade.
As if things in Cincinnati weren’t already a mess–the transactions made this week just made the 2011 season even more interesting for the Bengals.
Winner: New England Patriots
As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around–the Patriots are always going to be strong Super Bowl contenders at the beginning of the season. It may sound crazy, but the additions of Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth may end up being one of the biggest steals from this offseason considering all New England had to do was surrender a few late draft picks to acquire them. Both players have been considered problems over the past two seasons with their previous teams, but both Ochocinco and Haynesworth have the potential to be very effective if they’re willing to put their egos aside and focus on the most important factor–wining a Super Bowl. If any head coach is capable of making these two players turn their act around and help them live up to their true value–it’s Belichick.
Dan Parzych is the Lead NFL Content Editor for RantSports.com/NFL, where he writes and edits NFL content for RantSports.com.
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