By Anthony Blake on March 12, 2014
NFL free agency opened without much fanfare in the early going, but the activity built up to a crescendo as the evening moved along and several teams opened up their wallets. Plenty of teams got significantly better in the aftermath, and some other squads should be less enthused about the scraps left to peruse as they attempt to pick up the pieces. It may be a bit premature, but here are the biggest winners and losers from the free agency period.
Yes they got the big prize in Jairus Byrd, but that was merely a trade-off with Malcolm Jenkins leaving town. Sure they got younger and better at the position, but Lance Moore was released and Darren Sproles is being shopped to finance the deal. It just doesn’t seem like the lone addition will offset the multiple subtractions required to make it happen.
There was one priority in Baltimore this offseason, and they managed to lock him up in LT Eugene Monroe. The Ravens shelled out five years and .5 million while the Dolphins spent way more on an older and less sturdy Branden Albert. This is the type of deal GM Ozzie Newsome is known for, and it will be very beneficial to Joe Flacco and company down the line.
It’s hard to hate on the Brownies for trying, but signing aging veterans is for teams on the cusp of winning the Super Bowl – not teams trying to become relevant again. Karlos Dansby for four years will make him 37 when the deal expires which is asking for trouble, and Donte Whitner is clearly a downgrade from losing T.J. Ward at safety.
Keeping CB Vontae Davis was huge, and adding Arthur Jones on the defensive line was equally large. Though the Colts lost safety Antoine Bethea and RB Donald Brown, the team re-signed Ahmad Bradshaw and still has the draft to address the safety spot. This was a modest victory for Indy.
So you thought the Dolphins did swell landing Branden Albert, huh? Well, they traded away a former 2nd-round pick for a conditional 7th-rounder (loss) and lost Paul Soliai to the Falcons. Albert will add protection, but his price tag is enormous for an injury-prone tackle set to turn 30 in the fall. Spending big money two years in a row doesn’t always mean more victories.
This is a cautiously optimistic grade for a team ready to quit on Darrelle Revis already after signing Alterraun Verner to replace him. Michael Johnson could be a huge addition to the pass rush, but he could also be a bust waiting to happen in that Tampa-2 scheme. Clinton McDonald is a great value addition at DT, but there’s just something fishy about this spending spree for the Bucs.
Darren McFadden is back, and Rashad Jennings is gone. This team made mistake after mistake by trading off a bargain in Jared Veldheer for an overpriced Rodger Saffold at LT. They also waived goodbye to Lamarr Houston who is one of the more underrated defensive players in the league. This is yet another gaffe in the long history of mistakes by the Raiders’ front office.
Call me crazy, but low-key signings and underrated trades have really upgraded the 49ers. Donte Whitner left, but Antoine Bethea will be a more than adequate replacement at a much cheaper price. Getting Blaine Gabbert for a 6th-round pick is a steal as backup QB, and adding Jonathan Martin at OT is an even bigger heist for a 7th-rounder. This organization knows how to build a perennial championship contender, and it isn’t by spending big money.
It’s not so much about the moves the Chiefs made (because they made none) as it is about the players the team lost. Branden Albert is gone – although Eric Fisher will take over at left tackle – and Geoff Schwartz also left. The dynamic Dexter McCluster signed with the Titans, and now the Chiefs are thinner across the board. They really have some bargain hunting to do before this free agency period is labeled as an abject failure.
Sure it looks like the big defensive splurge will prevent the team from keeping Eric Decker, but Peyton Manning can make any receiver go to the Pro Bowl. Adding Aqib Talib is twofold as it takes away from the Patriots and adds to Denver’s secondary, and safety T.J. Ward will bring a much-needed physical element to that unit as well. It seems like the Broncos figured out that building a defense is the way to win when Peyton is in the house.
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