March 15, 2012
With all of the talk this NFL offseason surrounding QB’s like Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, the first few days of free agency have been all about the receivers. With a slew of deals being handed out for big name wideouts, I want to take a look at five deals and what they mean for each team moving forward.
Calvin Johnson is debatably the best wide receiver in the NFL, and now he is being paid like it. Staying with the Detroit Lions for seven more years, Johnson signed the richest deal in NFL history. The $132 million ($60 million guaranteed) contract tops that of Larry Fitzgerald just a year ago. While this signing is huge for the future of the Detroit Lions on the field, this deal needed to be made so that they could try to restock the team this offseason. The cash-strapped Lions needed cap relief, and this deal saved them $9 million against the cap this year. Already having lost starting corner Eric Wright this offseason and with MLB Stephen Tulloch also a hot target, the Lions need all the help they can get signing players to get them back to the playoffs again this season.
It only took one stop for arguably the biggest free agent receiver on the market to figure out where he wants to play next season. Jackson signed a 5 year, $55 million deal with the Tamps Bay Buccaneers on the first day of free agency. All of the “5”’s in the deal are in honor of his new quarterback Josh Freeman, who I am sure will be happy to have a deep threat like Jackson on the team. The best part of this deal is it lets young receiver Mike Williams become the #2 receiver, taking all of the pressure off of him and getting him away from top corners. Josh Freeman will get more open looks, and with two players who can stretch the field, the Buccaneers can continue to run the ball with less defenders stacked in the box. Add Pro Bowl Guard Carl Nicks, who signed on Wednesday, to this team and the offense is looking much better. While the defense needs a lot of work, it was a good start to free agency for Tampa Bay.
Three of the top free agents this off-season were coming from the New Orleans Saints offense, and they managed to keep two of them, at least for now. The Saints used the franchise tag on Pro Bowl QB Drew Brees, keeping him in New Orleans. However, Brees to this point has refused to sign the agreement, so only the future will tell us if a holdout is upcoming or if Brees will get the extension he wants. The Saints lost the aforementioned Carl Nicks to the Buccaneers, but were able to re-sign their #1 Receiver Marques Colston just hours before the opening of free agency. Having Colston back will help keep the Saints offense explosive, and hopefully help in their talks to get Brees back on the field.
Pierre Garcon & Josh Morgan
The Washington Redskins needed to upgrade their team this offseason, and with limited resources, have done just that. The Redskins took a huge cap hit from the NFL after front loading contracts in the NFL’s uncapped season in 2010. They also traded 3 1st round picks and a 2nd to move up to the #2 pick in the NFL Draft. With all of that, they went out and got two young receivers (possibly a 3rd if they can land Eddie Royal, who they have talked with) that can grow with what everyone assumes will be Robert Griffin III after the draft. Pierre Garcon comes from the Colts, and at 26 will get his shot at being the #1 receiver in Washington. Josh Morgan, also 26, will also get a shot to grow with (potentially) RGIII and revitalize the Redskins receiving crops. They will join veterans Santana Moss (32) and Jabar Gaffney (31) in what they hope to be a breakout year with their (expected) young, rookie QB. The Redskins are looking to make a big jump next season and have made some significant moves early this offseason.
While technically a trade, it happened in the opening moments of free agency and will have a profound effect on the upcoming season. The Chicago Bears traded two 3rd round draft picks to the Miami Dolphins for Pro Bowl WR Brandon Marshall. This reunites Marshall with Bears QB Jay Cutler, who were teammates in Denver. Cutler and Marshall could possibly be the best QB-WR combination in the last 20 years, if not ever, for the Chicago Bears, and makes them instantly more dangerous on offense. Add in Matt Forte out of the backfield, and the large cap space the Bears still have available, and Chicago will be right back in the mix for the NFC North.
March 9, 2012
Yes, we all know that Peyton Manning holds the keys to the NFL offseason. Mario Williams will be coveted? No kidding. With all of the press the top 5 free agents of 2012 receive (and deservedly so) there are many other quality free agents getting little to no attention. Well not anymore! I give you the top free agents no one is talking about.
The NFL’s leading tackler last season, London Fletcher is a great pickup for any team looking for a middle linebacker. I wouldn’t recommend many linebackers at age 36, but London Fletcher has only gotten better as the years go on. Fletcher has never missed a game (knock on wood) in his 14 year career, and has had over 100 tackles in each of the last 12. He is a great pickup that should come at a “decent” price considering his age.
The San Diego Chargers have been a breeding ground for running backs the last few seasons. Players like LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Turner and Darren Sproles have all moved on to new teams and been successful. Now, Mike Tolbert will hit free agency after splitting carries with second year back Ryan Matthews. Tolbert is a bruiser who has decent speed and can catch out of the backfield. A young guy, 26, he could part of a team’s 1-2 punch for a long time.
You don’t have to go much further down the leading tackler’s list to find Curtis Lofton. 5th in tackles this season, Lofton is a stud linebacker who is only 25 years old. In my opinion, Lofton is one of the players who should be talked about in the premiere talk, as his impact will be felt wherever he signs, and for a long time. A team who is looking for a stop gap can use Fletcher for a season or two, but Lofton could be around for another 5-10 years.
Thomas had a spectacular 2010 season, notching 101 tackles, 4 forced fumbles and 5 interceptions for the New York Giants. Why isn’t he being mentioned with the elite free agents? He tore his ACL in the 2011 preseason and missed the entire 2011 campaign. A risk on whether he will be the same when he returns, the 26 year old corner now has to prove he still has the ability he showed in 2010. If he can, he is worth a solid contract for a team looking for help in their secondary.
Not heard of much before this season, Robinson made the most of his shot when the Cowboys became thin at wide receiver with injuries. With a small amount of looks, Robinson was still able to get almost 1000 yards receiving (858) and average 15.9 YPC. Robinson earned himself a shot as a 3rd receiver and could explode as someone who can stretch the field. With such a small sample size, a team should be able to get him at a respectable price.
A player that has shown flashes of being a solid linebacker, Rocky McIntosh has had a bumpy road during his time with the Redskins. A change of scenery might be a good thing for McIntosh, who still is young enough (29) to rebuild his image with a new team. McIntosh is athletic and has shown the ability to cover (3 Int) as well as rush the passer (8 sacks) during his career. He has had some mental lapses, but if a veteran team can help him to focus and play confident again, he can be a solid player who can be had for a little less than he is really worth.
Similar to Robinson, Robert Meachem made the most of limited targets on a loaded New Orleans Saints roster. While targeted only 61 times all season, Meachem had 40 catches for 620 yards. Another young guy (27), Meachem could be signed to a solid deal for the next four years and flourish with a new team where he can be a dependable #2. If a team doesn’t want to over spend to land a premier wide receiver like Dwayne Bowe, Meachem would be a solid alternative.
This is a two-for-one special coming from one of the better teams in the league. An undrafted player in 2006, Jarrett Bush earned his spot by being a special teams ace for the Green Bay Packers. He is most often used as the “dime” defensive back in the secondary, and has shown flashes of being a solid corner. Unfortunately, when given an opportunity to play more snaps, he didn’t grasp the chance and was demoted back to a spot player. Teams are willing to take a shot on a player who is great on special teams, and Bush could pan out to be a great investment.
March 6, 2012
Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s passing record, Tim Tebow stole all the headlines, and Eli Manning won another Super Bowl. However, it’s Peyton Manning that is about to change the entire landscape of the NFL. Probably.
We should find out any day now whether Manning is going to retire (very unlikely), stay with the Colts (unlikely), or become a free agent (most likely). If Peyton retires or stays in Indy, the impact on what the rest of the league does will be fairly minimal. But if Manning becomes a free agent and leaves town to be replaced by Andrew Luck, the impact will be felt from Seattle to Miami and just about everywhere in between.
We just saw what Indianapolis looks like without Manning and it wasn’t pretty. Now the Colts must decide if they want to have both Manning and Andrew Luck on the roster or do they let Peyton leave and use the money to begin building something around Luck. Once we know what Manning’s decision is, the next domino to fall should be Matt Flynn. The remaining teams in need of a quarterback are expected to be bidding for Flynn or looking for one in the draft.
Word on the street is that St. Louis has decided to trade the second pick in the draft to one of the teams looking to get RGIII. The teams that end up with Manning and Flynn will be out of the running in the RGIII sweepstakes and could impact how much St. Louis can get in the deal. Especially if its Cleveland or Washington because they seem to be the two main suitors for a trade up to the second pick.
Speaking of Cleveland, the Browns are in the best position, by far, to get a deal done with the fourth and 22nd picks in the first round. Unless they decide to pick up Manning and let him take over for Colt McCoy. Then the Redskins would be delighted to move up and draft Griffin. With the Browns out of the way, Washington wouldn’t have to pay as steep of a price to move up from No. 6 to the No. 2 pick.
That is, they would have the edge over Miami who has the No. 8 pick. But Dolphin fans don’t want Griffin. They want Manning. Some fans in Miami saw what happened in Denver last year with Tebow and have set up a website in hopes of getting Miami management to sign Manning and even advertised the site on a billboard near Dolphins’ headquarters.
Seattle and Arizona have the No. 12 and No. 13 picks so they are probably too far down the order to make a run at moving up in the draft for a quarterback. But it wouldn’t prevent them from going after either Manning or Flynn.
What Peyton Manning does will directly impact the quarterback position for several teams and indirectly impact, through the draft and wins/losses for the next couple seasons, every team in the NFL. He’s got a huge decision to make. Let’s just hope he doesn’t do it on live television.