NFL Free Agency: The winners and losers following moves for Darelle Revis, Steve Smith and Eric Decker
Week one recap
Wednesday 19 March 2014
With the first seven days of the NFL Free Agency period done and dusted and over $1.52bn in contracts handed out, we look at some of the most notable moves of the week, the winners and losers as well as who's still available.
THE BIG MOVES...
Darelle Revis, cornerback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers to New England Patriots
At first glance, this looks like a disastrous move for the Buccaneers. Only one year on from being traded by the New York Jets to Tampa Bay for a first round pick in last year’s draft, Buccaneers fans would be forgiven in feeling a little short changed. In reality, the real loser in this move is in fact nobody. With Lovie Smith now head coach in Tampa, it was obvious he wasn’t going to pay a player $16m who doesn’t fit his system, and with no guaranteed money to pay, it was an easy decision. For New England, Revis is a great addition, not to mention he doesn’t hold the same financial commitment the team would have had to pay for Aqib Talib. 18-months on from ACL surgery, the Patriots are hoping Revis will be back to the player he was in New York. Even if he’s not, there’s no significant financial risk in the move as his contract is in reality a one-year trial agreement. Revis is still one of the league’s top cornerbacks, and when healthy, the top cornerback. New England gives Revis a great chance for a Super Bowl, and if he stays healthy, another chance to re-establish Revis Island.
Steve Smith, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers to Baltimore Ravens
This decision is still making waves in the US. Steve Smith’s surprising divorce from the Carolina Panthers has left the team with a gaping hole at wide receiver. Smith formed a decent chemistry with quarterback Cam Newton, catching the ball 64 times for 745 yards, not bad for a 13-year veteran. Smith has moved on to Baltimore and promised the team they’re going to get “the best in shape 35-year-old they can get”. Despite his age, Smith should fit fairly well in Baltimore, with Joe Flacco commanding an offence that throws the ball more often than the Panthers did. Newton threw 473 times last season, in comparison to Flacco’s 614. The Panthers however are without any experience at wide receiver. At the moment, not a single wide receiver on the Panthers roster caught a pass last season so next month’s draft will be key for Carolina if they are to stay level with New Orleans.
Eric Decker, wide receiver, Denver Broncos to New York Jets
It’s difficult to see exactly how this will pan out for both the Jets and Decker. The former Broncos receiver enjoyed four good seasons in Colorado. His last two years saw him record over 2,300 yards, but his throws were coming from Peyton Manning and he also enjoyed the luxury of Demaryius Thomas drawing away much of the opposing coverage. Now his quarterback is Geno Smith, who had a mixed first season at best. Decker was by far the top receiver on the market and the Jets have done well to pick him up considering there would have been plenty of other potential suitors for Decker. Whether the Jets use him to his full potential will determine to just how good this move is.
The Patriots and Broncos
The Patriots and Broncos look set to continue their dominance atop the AFC after splashing out in this year’s free agency. For both teams, instant success is clearly the driving factor behind the majority of their moves, and with both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning approaching the tail end of their careers, who can blame them. Denver picked up Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib who was then quickly replaced by Darelle Revis in New England. The addition of Brandon Browner from Seattle has also made the Patriots secondary look considerably more formidable. For Denver, bringing in defensive end Demarcus Ware as well as safety T.J Ward shows that there defence could now be just as productive as their offence. When asked about the free agency splash from both teams, Denver’s VP of football operations John Elway described it as a “fun arms race”.
Despite having nearly $60m in cap space, $10m more than any other team in the NFL, their moves have been somewhat questionable. For a team with so much to work with, they appear to have squandered their opportunity on risky, overpriced players. Linebacker Lamarr Woodley hasn’t started a full 16 games since 2010 and the resigning of Darren McFadden is also puzzling. In his six NFL seasons, McFadden has only started more than seven games in each season twice. The most embarrassing move was that of offensive lineman Rodger Saffold. Saffold was signed to a five-year contract worth $42m, an absurd amount considering he was largely unproven since joining the league in 2010. He only started nine games in 2013 for St Louis. Just after the contract was agreed, it was then voided after Saffold failed a physical at the team’s training facilities. For any Raiders fans hoping this year would be the start of a new era in Oakland, you may have to wait a little longer.
Only time will tell whether their move for Eric Decker will pay off, however the Jets’ search for a cornerback went from bad to worse on Monday. Before free agency, the Jets parted ways with Antonio Cromartie, a player who struggled last year but was still an asset on a team full of liabilities. His cousin, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie was courted by both the Jets and the Giants, over the weekend, with the former Broncos cornerback eventually signing with the latter, reportedly leaving head coach Rex Ryan “pissed”. To make matters worse, Ryan was also hoping to bring back Darelle Revis after he was cut by Tampa Bay. Not only did Ryan not get his wish but he will also be tormented by the idea of having to play Revis at least twice next season after the player signed with division rivals in New England. Although this free agency period is unlikely to be the defining factor of the Jets’ upcoming season, their almost comic fail in acquiring a top cornerback (one which they are in considerable need of) shows there may be some divisions between senior management and coaching staff.
OTHER NOTABLE MOVES
Julius Peppers, defensive end, Chicago Bears to Green Bay Packers
Golden Tate, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks to Detroit Lions
Jairus Bird, safety, Buffalo Bills to New Orleans Saints
Josh McCown, quarterback, Chicago Bears to Tampa Bay Buccaneers
THE BEST STILL AVAILABLE
Michael Vick, quarterback
Vick wants to be somewhere he can start. The Jets, Bills and Raiders are all reportedly interested.
Jared Allen, defensive end
Allen says he will retire if he doesn’t receive the contract that he wants. He has at least 11 sacks each season since 2007, so if his age is of no concern for a team wishing to sign him, he might just get what he wishes for.
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