NFL Free Agency: Winners and Losers (Part 3)

CaptureBroncos and Cowboys Riding Low

Brandon Loree | RVR Contributor

          Free Agency marks the start of the new year for the NFL. So happy New Year. Players from across the country who have expiring contracts with their teams have the chance to look for work else where with other teams. It is always a tough time for teams coming off strong playoff performances to retain all their talent because everyone wants to be paid like winners.

          For instance, the Denver Broncos were able to keep Von Miller (Super Bowl 50 MVP) with the franchise tag, but lost their promised franchise QB Brock Osweiler to Houston and star DT Malik Jackson to Jacksonville. Both players played huge parts in Denver’s Super Bowl run, but this is what happens when players contracts are up at the same time. One teams loss is another teams treasure. This is what makes Free Agency so fun. Favorite players and gems from other teams have the opportunity to go to your favorite team.

          Free Agency is an all year event, but the first three days have the most signings. So based on those first three days, Wed. March 9th – Fri. March 11th, here are four teams who struck gold and four teams who have a lonely rain butt hanging over their heads.

          This is part two where I focus on the Losers and then you can check out part one which is about the Winners

Losers:

Denver Broncos: 

Key Acquisitions: QB Mark Sanchez, T Russel Okung, T Donald Stephenson

Most people would not expect the Super Bowl winning champions to fall on a list with the title of a loser, but John Elway and the Broncos found themselves here. Like I said in the paragraph above, Free Agency can be a crazy thing. The Broncos were able to place the franchise tag on their star pass rusher, but lost their future of their franchise in Brock Osweiler to the Texans. Now one can argue that because Osweiler only started seven games as opposed to sixteen, he is more of a work in progress than a franchise QB. However, with Peyton Manning retired and the only QB on Denver’s depth cart has never played a game, they had to make some move this off-season.

Mark Sanchez was a very interesting route for the Denver Broncos to go to. Yes he has had success in the league before, but the last couple years in Philly have been anything but dismal. He decided to go with a change in scenery and I feel like Kubiak’s system will only benefit Sanchez and help him return to the success he had in New York. Having said all that, I feel Denver will probably draft a QB this year and use Sanchez as a bridge player. When you think about it, Peyton Manning was not healthy at the start of the season and the team still found ways to win games. No one knew what they were getting with Osweiler, but they still once again managed to win games. Denver feels that the Super Bowl and the season was won because of their defense so that is the direction they are going with into the season.

Russel Okung was a great signing. He is an insurance policy in case Ryan Clady can not stay healthy another year. Okung is younger than Clady and is more established as a better pass protector. He is really good with his feet and able to control rushers with extending his arms and his strength. He was a left tackle for Seattle, but he can play the right or left side. Expect to see Okung opposite of what ever side Denver puts Clady only if he can stay healthy.

Stephenson was brought in to be the swing tackle for the team. A swing tackle is an offensive lineman who can play either the right or left side when ever the team needs him to. Stephenson has been consistent for Kansas City since he was brought in, but does not have starting capability. He is slower than Clady and Okung and needs work on his feet. This was a good pick up to bolster their depth at Tackle just in case either starter goes down because they both are dealing with their own injury problems.

Dallas Cowboys:

Key Acquisitions: CB Morris Claiborne, MLB Rolando McClain, DT Cedric Thornton

Oh the Dallas Cowboys. I love them, but the rest of America would rather see them play in country with the Maple Leaf on their flag. The Cowboys ended up with a 4-12 record after a title clinching 12-4 season the year before. As one can see their record was flipped from last year to 2014’s. That essentially was the definition of their season. Everything was turned upside down. They lost DeMarco Murray and they had no back up plan for when Romo went down Week 2. Now coming into Free Agency, fans thought they were going to address the issues that plagued their season. They have not. They let Lamar Miller and Matt Forte walk right by them, and Colt McCoy and Chase Daniel signed somewhere else. Instead, they decided to sign their own guys who are not star caliber players.

Morris Claiborne has not lived up to being the #6 pick in the draft four years ago. The Cowboys decided to decline his fifth year option on his contract because they would have had to pay him $11 million dollars. This is all due to his lack of production in the league. His rookie season was decent, but managed only to get one interception. He was healthy for really the first time in a long time for all of last year. Coming out of training camp, it looked like he was the best corner on the team until he had a setback with pulling a hamstring. Granted, he was coming back from knee surgery this year and played better than expected. He still had no INT’s, but played extremely well against Julio Jones Week 3. Dallas gave him a “prove it” one year deal, so from a money stand point it was a good investment. He was one of their better corners this year which needs a lot of help. Hopefully Mo can provide that.

Rolando McClain was the first free agent to sign with the team. Just like Claiborne, he is also on a one year deal worth up to $5 million. When he was healthy and on the field last year, he made the defense a lot better. He is very intelligent and strong so he fits the mold for the middle line backer. He and Sean Lee made a great team when it came to reading coverage’s and stopping the run. This is why Dallas brought him back and I could not agree with them more. However, he is not reliable off the field. Last year he, along with Greg Hardy were suspended for the first four games of the season. McClain violated the substance abuse policy and was punished by the league. In 2014, health remained an issue. He was constantly dealing with concussions and he took himself out of the playoff game against Green Bay. Dallas cannot trust him enough to lock him up on a four-year deal, even though they want to. Hopefully this year, he will not be suspended for any games and will be able to become that star MLB that Dallas knows he can become.

Cedric Thornton was probably the best signing Dallas has had all off-season. He helps them at the one technique in a defense that relies on pressure and run stopping ability. He is all that in more. Thornton is an upgrade from Nick Hayden where he is big, but fast. He can become a great compliment to Tyrone Crawford, who plays the three, and could be a good rotation guy as well. Maybe Dallas decides that he will not be an every down player so he can maintain his energy and power that shows up on film. Strength and quickness are his most noticeable traits, but he is also very intelligent. When it comes to stopping the run, you have to be smart. He never shoots a gap earlier then he has to and never gets tangled up with his teammates. He has good awareness with space and his surroundings as well. Cedric Thornton is nothing like J.J Watt, but is a good fit for the Dallas Cowboys who needed depth along the defensive line.

NFL Free Agency: Winners and Losers (Part Two)

Free Agency 2

Raiders and Eagles Flying High

          Free Agency marks the start of the new year for the NFL. So happy New Year. Players from across the country who have expiring contracts with their teams have the chance to look for work else where with other teams. It is always a tough time for teams coming off strong play-off performances to retain all their talent because everyone wants to be paid like winners.

          For instance, the Denver Broncos were able to keep Von Miller (Super Bowl 50 MVP) with the franchise tag, but lost their promised franchise QB Brock Osweiler to Houston and star DT Malik Jackson to Jacksonville. Both players played huge parts in Denver’s Super Bowl run, but this is what happens when players contracts are up at the same time. One teams loss is another teams treasure. This is what makes Free Agency so fun. Favorite players and gems from other teams have the opportunity to go to your favorite team.

          Free Agency is an all year event, but the first three days have the most signings. So based on those first three days, Wed. March 9th – Fri. March 11th, here are four teams who struck gold and four teams who have a lonely rain butt hanging over their heads.

Oakland Raiders:

Key Acquisitions: CB Sean Smith, OLB Bruce Irvin, OT Kelechi Osemele

The Oakland Raiders are finally ridden of the losing franchise curse. They have a solid, young QB (Derek Carr), a young RB (Latavius Murray), and an elite pass rusher (Khalil Mack). I know 7-9 is not considered a winning season, but try to remember the last time the Raiders were not picking in the top 10 in the Draft. Their offense was good last year, but not outstanding. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper will continue to develop as a good tandem going into next season. Their defense was good like the offense, but not great. There was never a compliment to Mack on the outside and Justin Tuck got to old to play at a level he once did.

They addressed the biggest needs on defense which was the line and CB. They signed a young LB in Bruce Irvin, who is familiar with the defensive scheme because Ken Norton Jr. is the def. coordinator. Norton Jr. use to be Irvin’s LB’s coach in Seattle. He will be on the other side of Mack and will be able to take some of the pressure off of him so they can both get double-digit sack totals. Not to mention Mario Edwards Jr. in the middle will generate pressure as well.

Sean Smith was a solid starter for Kansas City the past three years and has had double-digit totals for passes defended since 2012. He is not an interception machine like Richard Sherman, but he will get one or two a year. He is more of a #2 corner, but might help the growth of D.J Hayden who has struggled since coming out of college. He will likely fill the veteran presence void on the defense that was left by Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck. Smith is capable of being the captain of Del Rio’s young defense.

Osemele is a definite upgrade for the offensive line. He was rated the third best player by NFL.com entering free agency and has been great for the Ravens his previous seasons. The only downside is that he has not been healthy enough to play 16 games since his rookie year. The Raiders needed someone on the outside to help protect their star QB and help make lanes that their Pro Bowl running back can burst through. Going against Irvin and Mack everyday at practice should elevate is play a lot.

Philadelphia Eagles:

Key Acquisitions: QB Chase Daniel, FS Rodney McLeod, CB Leodis McKelvin

The Eagles have a lot of problems to address this off-season and it all started with the search for a new head coach. The Eagles decided to go with Doug Pederson, the OC from Kansas City, as the replacement for Chip Kelly (who is now with the 49ers). There were a lot of moves made last off-season that were big for the Eagles. They signed the leagues leading rusher, a member of the legion of boom, and a young star at middle linebacker. Flash forward to this year, all three of them are gone. Now those pick ups last season were questioned towards the tail end of the season because of how much money the Eagles invested in just three players with little production. So Pederson and Howie Roseman, the GM, decided to trim the fat a little. DeMarco Murray is now a member of the Titans, and Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell are new additions to the Miami Dolphins. They were smart in doing so because they have now moved up from 13 to 8 in the first round of the draft, which could produce a great pick for them.

Chase Daniel was brought into Philadelphia as a competitor for the starting QB job. Sam Bradford signed a 2-year contract, but that does not mean he will be the automatic starter going into next season. He did finally stay healthy for 16 games, but lacked production to be a lock into next season. Daniel was the backup to Alex Smith for the past couple of years and has wanted to be a starter in the league for a while. Once his old OC contacted him about the opportunity in Philly, the deal was done. Eagles fans should be excited that Mark Sanchez is no longer the back up because Daniel is a definite upgrade. Maybe an eventual starter.

McLeod and McKelvin will replace Walter Thurmond and Maxwell at their respective positions. They are also a lot better and more consistent than their predecessors. Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins were defiantly at the top of Safety tandems, but Thurmond could not keep up with Jenkins. McLeod is rangy and has a quick first step. Like I said about Sean Smith, he will not get you the interceptions, but can be a really solid player as the last line of defense. McKelvin was interesting because I was not expecting him to be released. He was really good for Buffalo last year and will be better this year under his old DC Jim Schwartz. He has more fire and skills than Maxwell and will likely become the #1 CB going into the season.

Pederson and the Eagles are defiantly making all the right moves early on in cleaning house of the Chip Kelly mistakes. They got draft picks in exchange for the players that they got rid of and everyone knows you build from the draft. It remains to be seen if Pederson can become like his old boss, Andy Reid (former Eagles HC), or just become another boil on the face of the franchise like Chip Kelly was.

NFL Free Agency: Winners and Losers (Part One)

Free Agency Giants and Jags Aren’t Afraid to be Bold

Brandon Loree || RVR Contributor

          Free Agency marks the start of the new year for the NFL. So happy New Year. Players from across the country who have expiring contracts with their teams have the chance to look for work else where with other teams. It is always a tough time for teams coming off strong playoff performances to retain all their talent because everyone wants to be paid like winners.

          For instance, the Denver Broncos were able to keep Von Miller (Super Bowl 50 MVP) with the franchise tag, but lost their promised franchise QB Brock Osweiler to Houston and star DT Malik Jackson to Jacksonville. Both players played huge parts in Denver’s Super Bowl run, but this is what happens when players contracts are up at the same time. One teams loss is another teams treasure. This is what makes Free Agency so fun. Favorite players and gems from other teams have the opportunity to go to your favorite team.

          Free Agency is an all year event, but the first three days have the most signings. So based on those first three days, Wed. March 9th – Fri. March 11th, here are four teams who struck gold and four teams who have a lonely rain butt hanging over their heads.

Winners:

New York Giants: 

Key Acquisitions: DE Olivier Vernon, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Damon Harrison

The phrase “giving away the farm” could not even describe the amount of money Jerry Reese and the Giants spent during the first few days of free agency. They spent a whopping $206.4 million mainly on the players mentioned above. All three of the key players got 5-year deals all above $40 million each. Vernon, one of the top free agents, got a contract just about $85 million.

He originally got the transition tag from Miami which gives another team the opportunity to give Vernon an offer sheet, which he could sign and Miami would have five days to match the offer or else he goes to the other team. Miami took away the transition tag because they could not afford to give him the $12 million guaranteed he would have gotten if he signed, so they felt it was better to let him go. Now he is a member of the New York Giants and will defiantly thrive in Steve Spagnola’s system as a great pass rusher.

Getting Jenkins really does address a need that the Giants had going into 2016 with the lack of CB play. The Giants were constantly torched by receivers and lost many games due to this problem. To name a few, the Falcons game with Julio Jones and the Saints game with Drew Brees. Jenkins is young and talented enough to back up what he was paid. He does have 6 interceptions returned for touchdowns.

The one costly concern about the contracts the Giants gave out is that some of them might not see the end of their contract if they do not pan out to succeed. The Giants would then have a bunch of dead money they might regret spending. However, for right now they are clearly in a win now mode and look like they will be the favorite to win the NFC East going into the season.

 Jacksonville Jaguars: 

Key Acquisitions: DE Malik Jackson, RB Chris Ivory, P Brad Nortman

The Jaguars, along with the Raiders and Browns, have been the ass of the league. The joke teams that everyone assumes will loose more than half their games in a season. The Raiders are no longer that team, and same goes for the Jags. Last year was the first time a WR from the Jags made it to the Pro Bowl since Jimmy Smith in 2001. Quietly, Jacksonville has developed a real threat on offense. They have the franchise QB with Blake Bortles, a contender at RB, and three solid WR’s. The only thing that is preventing them from taking the next step is their defense, and offensive line. Luke Joeckle has been more of a joke and Paul Posluszny cannot keep putting the weight of the defense on his shoulders. To top it all off Gus Bradley is riding a thin line and another losing season could cost him his job. Now to hopefully prevent all of this from happening, the Jags have been busy this off season.

Malik Jackson was the top player ranked by NFL.com entering free agency. Their opinion is correct. He his a super bowl winner that will bring leadership to a defense that desperately needs it. He is a young player with the arrow only pointing up for production. He has the chance to become an elite DT for Jacksonville paired with Donte Fowler Jr. that could become one of the top D-lines in the NFL. He is also great defending the run as well. Jacksonville was ranked 24th in the league in yards allowed per game. Jackson’s defense with the Broncos were first with 283 yards per game allowed. There is a lot of upside with Jackson that causes celebration for Jags fans.

Chris Ivory was the “bell cow” for the Jets last year and has the chance to have the same role for the Jags. He was the Jets feature back, but constintly running the ball in the beginning of the season seemed to ware on him towards the end. He was originally on pace to become the leagues leading rusher, even past Adrian Peterson, but because of injury he could not accomplish that. Jacksonville has a young talented RB in T.J Yeldon who was a spark for the offesnse at times last year. It seems he is not ready to have the responsibility of a full time starter, so Ivory will compliemnt him well. Coach Bradley said that both RB’s will split carries, and that sounds like the best thing for the team right now. Every team needs a tandem in the backfield so other teams stay on their heels the whole game. In New York, Bilal Powell was that change of pace back that Ivory needed if he wanted to take a break or rest. Now Yeldon will be able to fill that role.

Punters are people to. Brad Nortman is a great punter and every team needs one. He has the leg strength to pin a team deep in their own territory and the accuracy to knock the ball out without a touch back. Special teams are an important part of the game and Jacksonville got better as an overall team with the addition of Nortman, He is also a nice guy.

I do not expect Jacksonville to make a full 360° change by becoming a 12-4 team, but I would not be surprised if they are giving the Colts ans Texans a run for their money for the AFC South. I could easily see them becoming a 10-6 team just based on their off-season moves. Kudos to them.

State of the Union Address: We Don’t Like That

Washington Redskins: Losing Hope

 

 

 

 

This is a clip of Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins talking to reporters after a huge come-from-behind victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 7. It was a great win for the team, for Cousins, and to help catapult them moving forward.

After last nights game, we don’t like that Kirk.

On Monday Night Football, the Redskins went up against a less than dominant Dallas Cowboys team. The game was a wreck up until the late fourth quarter. It was just a war of kickers, and the Cowboys won that battle. With the game tied at nine all with 1:47 left to go, the Redskins were looking to get a huge play out of their “play-maker” DeSean Jackson.

He went back to field a punt and hopefully make a big play which would swing the momentum to the Redskins favor. Instead he fumbles the ball on their own 15 yard line and gives the ball right back to Dallas. After back and forth touchdowns by both teams, the game was tied up once more. However that would not last long. The Cowboys went down the field and set up kicker Dan Bailey for the game winning field goal. Now the kick was not an easy one, but Bailey has only missed one kick all year. It was from 54 yards out and his career longest was 57. A chip shot for him.

The Redskins with nine seconds left tried to pull off a Miami Miracle and naturally failed.

For both teams, the game was dismal and forgettable. The important thing, and the ONLY thing that matters is that Dallas came away with a victory and the Redskins lost.

In a Division that is dominated by poor teams, stacking wins at the end of the season is very important, especially against division opponents. With this loss, the Redskins are now in a three way tie with the Giants and the Eagles and the Cowboys are only one game back from first with a 4-8 record.

If the Skins have any hopes of going to the playoffs, they cannot commit stupid penalties and stupid plays. They were in perfect position to score early on in the game when they had an offensive pass interference penalty that brought them back 15 yards and they had to settle for a field goal.

Sill mistakes like that can be prevented, but they can also cost you the season.

The Redskins do have a good team and have a underrated defense. They did not allow a 100 yard rusher from Dallas (and their “Great Wall” of an O-Line) and Dez Bryant only had three catches for 62 yards. They have a good quarterback who up until last night, was 5-0 at home. The Washington Redskins have all the pieces in place to win the Division and go deep into the playoffs, but they cannot afford to lose anymore sloppy games like they did last night. It is possible this season to bring back the Lombardi Trophy back to the Nations Capital.

Washington Redskins Losing Hope 2

 

A Chip Off The Old Block

Philadelphia Eagles: Searching For Hope

 

 

In his first game in two years, quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 336 yards in the Eagles' loss in Atlanta. (AP)
In his first game in two years, quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 336 yards in the Eagles’ loss in Atlanta. (AP)

 

Earlier pre-season predictions gave the Eagles the edge to win the NFC East because of their swiss army knife of a backfield. They have Darren Sproles who is a quick shifty runner, and two new free agents in Ryan Matthews and the Offensive Player of the Year in Demarco Murray. Murray should be a familiar name to Eagles fans because he was the Dallas Cowboys running back for the past four years. The Offense also gained former first round pick Sam Bradford who would take over the quarterback position from Nick Foles in a trade with St. Louis.

Head Coach Chip Kelly was given the reins as the GM of the team when it came to bringing in free agents and the draft. There are a couple of moves that have been made in the past that has led people to question Kelly’s ideas. He cut prized WR DeSean Jackson two years ago and traded their All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy for LB Kiko Alonso from the Buffalo Bills this season.

The Eaglets at the running back position have not pleased mama bird this year. Demarco Murray who was the leagues leading rusher last year has only rushed for one 100 yard game and Ryan Matthews has dealt with injuries and has been out the past two weeks. Clearly nothing has been done to replace the ALL-PRO McCoy

Jackson was the Eagles deep threat, but they could easily replace him with #2 WR in Jeremy Maclin. He had a phenomenal season last year with 1,318 yards receiving and 10 TD’s. Of course he is now in Kansas City because he wanted to much money that the organization could not give him. But hey, Terrell Owens was replaced by Jackson, and Jackson was replaced by Maclin. This is a problem that is solved every year! The Eagles even decided to go younger at the position by getting a bigger WR in Jordan Matthews last year and WR Nelson Agholor from USC in the first round of the 2015 Draft. The problem was not solved because Agholor has been hurt most of the season and Matthews cannot take the whole offense on his back by himself. So the problem was not solved this year.

That is if Chip Kelly is not in a new zip code by then.

There has been grumblings that the organization has not been pleased by the losing record Kelly has produced at 4-7 and that he might be out by seasons end. I know that would please Eagles fans after two straight blow out losses to two mediocre teams (The Lions and The Bucs).

However…

It is always a positive sign when the Head coach reassures his team that he will be back next year and that he just wants to turn the team around. The Eagles defiantly have the best talent on their team out of all the other NFC teams so they can win the division and get back to the playoffs. It all starts with the coaching. Chip Kelly has to gain back the trust of the front office, the team, and the fans to secure his future as the Eagles Head coach. A lot of people forget that this is the same coach that had a winning record every year he has been there, even his first year giving them a playoff birth.

The Eagles can easily turn things around with five games remaining and they will be tested as they play the 10-1 New England Patriots on Sunday. It will be a game that fans will be able to determine if their team is for real or not. If they lose anymore games, they could find themselves in another off season of rebuilding and chip will be on the street

The Chip can’t be salty. Nothing fun every comes from an original chip. The Chip needs to be zesty, or barbecue. Just something with a little more kick to it. He just can’t be sour and make his team smell like an onion.

Eagles 1

Poisoned By The Big Apple

New York Giants: Running Out of Hope

(Photo Credit: Robert Sabo/ New York Daily News)

Three weeks ago the New York Giants were at the top of the NFC East and the undefeated New England Patriots were coming to town. Even though they lost a heart breaker, that was probably their best, most complete game all season (aside from the shoot out in the big easy). Sports analysts from ESPN to NFL Network said that the Giants had the formula to defeat the Patriots and it showed that they were the the team to beat in the East.

Fast forward to Week 13 and the Giants now sit in second place at 5-6 behind the Washington Redskins with the same record, but are 2-1 in the division which gives them first place.

When sitting down and trying to figure out what has gone wrong with the Giants, it is hard to put the blame on Odell Beckham Jr., who has been a consistent part of the offense this year. In his past five games, four of them came with over 100 yards and five touchdowns. It is clear that he is their play maker.

From a statistical stand point, Eli Manning is having one of his best seasons so far with a touchdown to interception ratio of 23:9. His quarterback rating is at 92.5, which is the best it has been since 2011. In the Saints game that I referenced earlier Eli threw for six touchdown’s and a QBR of 138.2. When a team is losing the blame can easily fall on the quarterback, but not in this case.

If it is not the wide receiver’s or the quarterback, what about special teams?

They have been consistent all year with Dwayne Harris as their Kick and Punt Returner and he even scored the game sealing touchdown against the Cowboys a few weeks back.

I won’t talk about their 32nd ranked total defense today because it would take a whole article to try and correct the problems they have on that side of the ball.

I feel that the problem lies in the running game. The Giants run game has not provided a single 100 yard rusher all season. They have a one-two punch in second year back Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings. Those two are more the power guys. The real threat out of the backfield is Shane Vereen, who was with New England last year and played a big part in the Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks. He is a great pass catcher and when given the open space can punch a team right in the mouth.

The passing game has made up for the lack of running, but that won’t equal a winning formula for the rest of the season. The Vikings of this year and the Cowboys of last were able to find ways to win games with a successful running game. The Giants have not had that since the Super Bowl years of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

Honestly looking at the NFC East, the Giants still look like the favorite to go to the playoffs because of the strong come on as of late by OBJ and the smart play of Eli which makes up for the 9th ranked offense.

There is an opportunity to get back in first place with a win this weekend against the New York Jets and a Redskins loss, but two losses in a row can’t happen again for the Giants. The 2x Super Bowl MVP will have to put the team on his back for these last five games to sneak his team into the playoffs, but The New York Giants won’t be lifting their third Lombardi Trophy of the Tom Coughlin era unless they hit the ground running.

New York Giants Running Out of Hope