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.