Everything You Need to Know About NFL Free Agency's Biggest Winners
|Date & Time||Monday March 17, 2014, 12:00 PM (EDT)|
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As with everything in sports (and in life), the NFL free agency period yields winners and losers. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the teams and players that have benefited the most during the first week of the 2014 free agency season. Of course, we’ll have to wait on the edges of our seats until September to see which big contracts were worth it and which ones, frankly, just weren’t.
1. Josh McCown spent 8 weeks of the 2013 season proving that he isn’t a washed-up back-up who can’t play in the big leagues. McCown amassed 1,829 passing yards and completed 66.5 percent of his passes during this period. McCown is undoubtedly one of the biggest winners of free agency so far this year. For a guy who was expected to serve as a second-stringer at best, his 2-year, $10 million contract and presumed starting role in Tampa Bay place him firmly at the top of this list.
2. The Denver Broncos have been major winners in free agency thus far. Clearly motivated by their, quite frankly, humiliating loss to the Seahawks’ D last month, Elway and his staff made immediate moves to remedy the situation. They did let CB Champ Bailey go, much to the chagrin of some fans, but, credit where credit’s due, bolstered their roster by signing CB Aqib Talib, S T.J. Ward, and DE DeMarcus Ware in rapid succession. The Broncos offense, of course, is still in the capable hands (and throwing arm) of Peyton Manning; look for them to impress again in 2014. Can you say “super team”?
3. Jairus Byrd was THE free agent on the market this year. Byrd definitely won when the New Orleans Saints signed him to a 6-year, $54 million deal. This contract sets a brand new precedent for how quality safeties should be paid. Every guy who plays this position ought to be sending the Saints’ front office a thank you note…and maybe some flowers to boot.
4. Vikings QB Matt Cassel won big when he took a gamble on himself. Cassel and his agents opted to void his 2014 contract, which was worth about $4 million with incentives. A risky move, but it worked out when Minnesota re-signed him to a $10.5 million, 2-year deal (worth $13 million with incentives). Pay. Day.
5. The Baltimore Ravens won big when they signed iconic WR Steve Smith, who was released by the Carolina Panthers after 13 seasons. Ozzie Newsome and Co. were already able to reach an agreement with WR Jacoby Jones; WR Torrey Smith and TE Dennis Pitta are also in the mix. Adding Smith gives QB Joe Flacco a solid corps of receivers to target during the 2014 season.
6. CB Brandon Browner is a surprising winner during this year’s free agency campaign. After getting suspended for the duration of the 2013 season, Browner got reinstated (with a mandatory 4 game suspension) for the upcoming year. The New England Patriots gave Browner a 3-year, $17 million contract. Browner, an extremely physical CB, will be a great addition to Belichick’s system and he made-out money wise, all things considered.
7. OT Branden Albert, who was almost traded to the Dolphins by the Chiefs before the 2013 draft, actually won in a big way when that deal fell through. Hindsight is always 20/20, folks. On day 1 of free agency, Albert signed a $47 million, 5-year contract with Miami, making him the highest paid free agent o-lineman this year.
8. The Falcons realized they needed to toughen-up if they want to actually compete in the NFC South. They stepped-up to the plate by re-signing DT Jonathan Babineaux and adding DT Paul Soliai and DE Tyson Jackson. Looks to me like they’re in good shape for transitioning to a 3-4.
9. The Jacksonville Jaguars are, fans can hope, winners with their signing of G Zane Beadles. Beadles was a solid interior lineman during his time at Denver and hopefully those skills, alongside those of young OT Luke Joeckel (the single bright spot on an O-line that “dismal” is too kind to describe) will elevate the Jags’ level of play to that of at least a D2 college team.
10. Given the melee in Miami last season, I’m counting Jonathan Martin’s trade to the Niners as a massive win for him. Getting about as far away from the Sunshine State as he possibly can is probably the best move for everyone, fans included; we can now look forward to hearing analysis about football instead of text messages in the fall.