March 15, 2012

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First Two Days of Free Agency Dominated by WR’s

By: Junior

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

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.

Signing the richest deal for a WR in NFL history, Calvin Johnson stays off next season's free agent list.

Vincent Jackson

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.

Marques Colston

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.

Brandon Marshall

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

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Under the Radar NFL Free Agents

By: Junior

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.

When stars were missing from the Cowboys were injured, Laurent Robinson stepped in and made an impact, landing him on our list of unheralded free agents.

London Fletcher

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.

Mike Tolbert

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.

Curtis Lofton

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.

Terrell Thomas

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.

Laurent Robinson

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.

Rocky McIntosh

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.

Robert Meachem

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.

Jarrett Bush

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.

August 1, 2011

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End of NFL Lockout Brings Flurry of Activity

By: Anson Whaley

At long last (okay, it wasn’t that long), the NFL Lockout is over. With operations just now getting underway, there’s not much time to lose. Teams are signing players at a moment’s notice and the season will be here before you know it. In only about a week’s time, we’ve seen enough developments to fill up several months of normal offseason activity. Here are the top ten … so far.

10. 49ers Hold Steady with Alex Smith – San Francisco was expected to bring back the underachieving Smith and they did just that by re-signing him. To be honest, I don’t understand this move as Smith has progressed at a pace slow enough to make a snail envious over the past five years. But new head coach Jim Harbaugh was determined to give him another shot so the 49ers will again operate with him under center. Smith does know the offense, but knowing and executing in the NFL are two entirely different things.

9. Cam Newton Signs with Panthers – Sure, Newton was expected to sign, but already? With so little time before camp, Newton didn’t have much leverage if he didn’t want to risk alienating fans. The No. 1 overall pick is off to a fine start by reportedly signing the four-year $22 million deal shortly after the lockout’s end.

8. Reggie Bush Dealt to Miami – As if Ricky Williams’ fate weren’t sealed already with the drafting of rookie Daniel Thomas, adding Bush to the roster all but assured he is finished in Miami. The Dolphins picked up the all-purpose back who should complement Ronnie Brown far better than Williams (Note to self: Do not draft Ricky Williams in fantasy football for the third consecutive season).

7. Seahawks Add Sidney Rice – The Seahawks’ passing game left much to be desired last year – and that’s part of the reason Matt Hasselbeck is no longer with the team. But without a 1,000-yard receiver in 2010, Seattle needed to upgrade its wideouts. They not only will be better with the addition of Rice, but also got younger with the 24-year old.

6. Chad Ochocinco Joins Tom Brady in New England – Johnson, er, Ochocinco, comes with a bit of baggage, but the Patriots had success with another so-called misfit in Randy Moss. Who’s to say history won’t repeat itself? New England needed to replace Moss and Ochocinco is plenty capable of a few more big seasons – especially with future Hall of Famer Brady at the helm.

With Ochocinco on board, Brady has a new deep threat target this season.

5. Santonio Holmes stays put in New York – Holmes was the Jets’ biggest priority this offseason and they got him re-signed. They may have missed out on Nnamdi Asomugha, but signing Santonio gives quarterback Mark Sanchez the deep threat he needs to succeed in the Big Apple.

4. Brett Favre is at it. Again – I really shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore, but, well, call me surprised. Favre had more drama last season than Erica Kane in a Sweeps Week episode of All My Children, and after the disastrous year on and off the field that he endured, I figured there was no way he’d be back in the NFL. But with rumors popping up that Favre could be willing to serve as a backup to Michael Vick in Philadelphia, the Twitter universe exploded. In all seriousness, I don’t expect Favre to make good on this. Common sense, for once, has to win out. Right? Right?!?

3. Donovan McNabb Traded to Vikings – Despite a subpar season last year in the Nation’s capital, McNabb will get another shot at starting as the Vikings’ projected first-team quarterback. How much he has left in the NFL tank is anybody’s guess, but playing in a dome out of the elements eight times a year should help the aging star.

2. Kevin Kolb Traded to Cardinals – The Eagles insisted on a high draft pick in exchange for its backup quarterback and got one in a second-rounder from Arizona. In addition, Philly also secured the talents of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Both teams come out winners in this deal and Kolb should help the Cardinals compete immediately in the mind-numbingly awful NFC West.

1. Nnamdi Asomugha Signs with Eagles – Raise your hand if you saw this signing coming. Asomugha was virtually assured of not being a Raider, but Philadelphia wasn’t one of the NFL teams generally discussed as a viable option. But with his addition, the Eagles have instantaneously improved their chances of winning the conference.