It has been a wild and crazy week in the NFL.
“Wild and crazy” is such a cliché say thing to say, but it’s one of the first phrases that comes to mind when describing the blockbuster trades and large contracts that kicked off the start of free agency for the 2015 year.
There were a lot of headlines, so we’ve picked our favorites and assigned them superlatives. It’s just like your high school yearbook, except that all the guys we’re talking about are millionaires.
(If you need to catch up on the basics of free agency, you can read our post on it here.)
Biggest OMG Trade: Saints TE Jimmy Graham to Seattle in exchange for C Max Unger AND Philly QB Nick Foles to Ram in exchange for QB Sam Bradford. It’s a tie! We couldn’t pick just one.
The Saints trade is interesting because the organization just gave 28-year-old Graham a very large contract last year and he’s one of QB Drew Brees’ favorite offensive weapons when he’s healthy. Saints fans probably cried, nay bawled, when they heard about the trade. This trade is reflective of the Saints’ motto for 2015 free agency: No one is off-limits. Scary if you’re a Saints player or an attached fan.
If QB Sam Bradford had a children’s book named after his life the last two years, it would be called Sam Bradford and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Season. After earning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010 and forgettable campaigns in 2011 and 2012, Bradford tore his ACL in 2013 and then again in 2014. Chip Kelly clearly thought Bradford would do better in his system than Nick Foles, and St. Louis wouldn’t have agreed to the transaction if they didn’t see a starting QB in Foles.
Biggest (Foot)Balls: Eagles Coach Chip Kelly – Kelly’s bewildering actions spawned numerous hilarious memes. We can’t really makes sense of his aggressive approach, but everyone can agree he loves players that went to Oregon (where he previously coached) and he’s taking full advantage of being given the reigns when it comes to personnel this off-season. In addition to trading for a new quarterback, he sent fantasy football extraordinaire RB LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for LB Kiko Alonso, acquired another fantasy football superstar RB in DeMarco Murray from division rival Dallas, promised to write a big check to CB Byron Maxwell from Seattle, and signed former Chargers RB Ryan Matthews.
Best Businessman: CB Darrelle Revis – I wonder what it’s like to wake up one day and know that no matter what happens, you will be getting $39 million over the next few years. Must be nice. In case you missed it, he signed a 5-year, $70 million ($39 million guaranteed) contract to return to the Jets. In our opinion, the Pats never had a chance of resigning him.
Biggest Shopping Spree: AFC East – With their recent Super Bowl win, the Pats have a gigantic target on their back. Their division opponents – the Jets, the Bills, and the Dolphins – showed that they were willing to pull out their checkbooks to close the gap. Miami already had a great defense in place and it got even scarier when they signed DT Ndamukong Suh (6-year, $114 million deal with $60 million in guarantees). In addition to the historic Revis deal, the Jets welcomed back CB Antonio Cromartie with a 4-year, $32 million contract, and further bolstered the secondary with the addition of Browns CB Buster Skrine (4-years, $25 million). Maybe Coach Rex Ryan and the Bills didn’t make any big defensive moves, but they’ve got an outstanding running back with LeSean McCoy. Yes, on paper, the teams look better, but as Peter King points out, the biggest spenders in free agency aren’t always the biggest winners.
Best Place for Players Over 30: Indianapolis – The Colts’ free agency activity suggests that they are looking to make big changes in the short-term in order to make a hard run for the Super Bowl this year. The last few years they’ve had good regular seasons, but always seem to be missing a few pieces once they get to the playoffs. They welcomed RB Frank Gore from the 49ers, WR Andre Johnson from the Texans, and OLB Trent Cole from the Eagles. Not that anyone asked us, but we think these are some smart signings that should pay off for the team.
Biggest Buyer’s Remorse: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Big spenders should look to Tampa Bay as to why being over-exuberant with your checkbook isn’t always the best idea. The team let go of QB Josh McCown, LT Anthony Collins, and DE Michael Johnson this off-season. Per NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling, the multiple-year contracts signed by these three players during last year’s free agency totaled $83.75 million, $43.75 million of which was in guarantees. Ouch. I don’t know who Michael Johnson’s agent is, but he’s well worth the money because Johnson will still get $7 million from the Buccaneers this year in addition to his new $20 million contract with the Bengals. How do you like them apples?
Biggest Overpaid Position: Cornerbacks – This has been a good year to be a free agent cornerback. All it took was a few hefty CB contracts and then BAM – everyone who can back-peddle is raking in the cash. Running backs are also making out pretty well this year too.
Most Desperate: Browns and Raiders – To be a Cleveland or Oakland fan is an exercise in masochism, but this free agency has been particularly disheartening. For once, the Raiders have cap space to spend, but they just can’t seem to entice any free agents. The Browns are still in quarterback purgatory. Word on the street is that they offered a first-rounder for Sam Bradford.
Most Unexpected Trend: Early Retirements – One of the most sobering trends was the retirement of young players. We saw 30-year-old 49ers LB Patrick Willis, 27-year-old Steelers OLB Jason Worilds, 26-year-old Titans quarterback Jake Locker, and 24-year-old 49ers LB Chris Borland announce unexpected retirements. Willis’s decision was largely influenced by a nagging foot injury, Worilds wanted to devote more time to his religion, and Locker expressed that he no longer had a burning desire to play anymore. Boriland’s statement is the one that probably scared the NFL’s PR department the most, citing safety concerns and long-term quality of life.
Just a reminder – we’re only a week and a half into free agency, so there’s still a lot that can happen. We’re sure there will still be a few more surprises.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!
– Michelle and Val