I didn’t expect the first week of free agency to be this busy. When I pulled up Spotrac to see who signed where, I wasn’t too surprised about some contracts. I won’t go through all of the moves however there are some faces in new places that instantly stand out.
When the Giants had Derrick Ward, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Brandon Jacobs, that was the most potent backfield in the league for that time period. Last free agency season when we signed Rashad Jennings and drafted Andre Williams, the expectation was that our running game could return to that. Flash forward a year later, acquiring Shane Vereen from the Patriots is giving a clear picture of the Giants’ priority in strengthening the ground game. Vereen and the Giants agreed to a 3 year/$12.35 million deal. From a fan perspective, I’m excited about what this backfield can accomplish with everybody healthy. It’s not too many running backs that could take off downfield and catch the ball like Vereen did.
There was a collective “WTF” when it was announced the Saints and Seahawks had struck a deal; sending Pro Bowl center Max Unger and a 1st round pick to New Orleans in exchange for a 4th round pick and the Saints’ franchise tight end, Jimmy Graham. At face value, it doesn’t make sense. Statistics tell the story accurately though. For example, Drew Brees was sacked 29 times last season with 17 interceptions. Russell Wilson was sacked 42 times with 7 interceptions. The key in that? Unger missed half of the season because of injury. So the deduction from that is Unger does an excellent job of keeping his QB upright and opening holes for run plays. The Saints need that. I liked what I saw from Seahawks primary tight end, Luke Willson. Jimmy Graham can’t block so I anticipate the Seahawks running a lot of 2 TE sets going forward.
LeSean McCoy is a Buffalo Bill. File that under “are you sure this isn’t being reported from a parody account?”. Along with being traded to a frozen tundra, McCoy signed a 5 year/$40 million extension. McCoy is coming off an injury-free, 1319 rushing yard season. The Bills have been on an upward swing too. They’ve added a new coach, added QB Matt Cassel, and retained both Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams. Without McCoy, they finished last season with a 9-7 record; their first winning season in over a decade. Curiosity is peaked on how he’ll affect their record in the upcoming season.
What happened to the Raiders and all that cap space? I think many casual “cap-ologists” projected the Raiders to go after all of the top free agents. They had the money to do so; over $30 million. Yet they failed to snag any top free agents to fix some holes. Maurice Jones-Drew retired, so they went and signed career reserve Roy Helu Jr. to back up Latavius Murray. They signed veteran LB Curtis Lofton, DT Dan Williams, and picked up a few secondary players. But that’s really it. The only signing I do like for the Raiders is 2014 Superbowl MVP Malcolm Smith. The 4-3 defense that the Raiders run is nicely suited for Smith with Khalil Mack on the strong side.
Speaking of cap space, the 2 win Titans made good use of theirs. They were 2nd in league for available cap room at a pinch over $37 million. With the release of Bernard Pollard, they signed safety Da’Norris Searcy. They also added Falcons 3rd option receiver, Harry Douglas. Douglas is one of those hidden gems among wide receivers. He never was a starter in Atlanta yet he’s serviceable when called on. The Titans will have the 2nd pick in the draft. If I were a Titans fan, I’d want them to take Leonard Williams. Aside from the atrocious secondary, the Titans defense allowed their opponents over 2000 yards on the ground. Simply put, they have no real pass rusher. With Dick LeBeau as the new defensive coordinator, Williams is a no brainer.
Year in and year out, players exhibit the desire to secure their future while still playing. Every agent is advising his player to never leave any money on the table. There’s this false sense of entitlement that fans and to an extent, team front offices, expecting players to give discounts on the promises of a Superbowl run. So I’m not mad that veterans like Antrel Rolle, Darelle Revis, and Vince Wilfork went for the money. Free agency is more about cashing out than it is buying into a hope of winning.