The first day of free agency is in the books, and it was a doozy. After a quiet legal tampering period (#NnamdiSilence), the Eagles brought in Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Chance Warmack, and there was a flurry of activity through out the league, as usual.
Super Bowl champions aren’t built in a day, but offseason champions can be. Even though meaningful games won’t kick off for six months, there are already some clear winners and losers.
While Vince “Dream Team” Young signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the Eagles had a great first day of free agency. They did so because they addressed their biggest need in free agency with the best WR on the market and added a legitimate deep threat along with a 25 year old potential starter on the offensive line and crucially did so without committing a single dollar to 2018. Jeffery and Warmack are on one year deals and Smith’s is essentially a series of three one year deals. And Smith and Warmack could flame out in August and the Eagles would only be on the hook for a combined $1 million in dead money.
Truly “winning” the offseason isn’t just about adding talent, it’s about adding talent wisely. The Eagles signed three players to help Carson Wentz’s development and did so without committing anything for 2018. That’s smart shopping. Others wisely shopped as well.
The Giants made one move, and it was pretty good. They swapped out Victor Cruz, whose return after missing a year and a half was fairly remarkable but unimpressive, for Brandon Marshall, who is just a year removed from one of the best seasons of his career. His two year, $12 million contract won’t be an albatross if 2017 Marshall is similar to 2016 Marshall, and he gives Eli Manning a big target (6’4”, Odell Beckham is 5’11” and Sterling Shepard is 5’10”) and the Giants have three WRs who can move all over the field. That’s dangerous.
Detroit made one move of real note, but it was a terrific upgrade. They replaced free agent Riley Reiff, who was average at best, with Ricky Wagner, one of the best right tackles in the league. They did lose guard Larry Warford, but guards are much easier to find. Wagner is now the highest paid right tackle in the league, but he’s a proven top level player, there’s every reason to believe that Detroit is getting what they’re paying for.
Most teams can’t say the same.
There’s plenty to chose from here.
Where to begin. The Redskins had one of the better pass offenses in the league the last two years with Kirk Cousins throwing to DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. Jackson left for Tampa and Garcon for San Francisco. Cousins, franchise tagged for the second year in a row, personally requested Dan Snyder for a trade to the 49ers to reunite with Kyle Shanahan, he was turned down. And then last night the Redskins fired Scot McCloughan, his role as window dressing to disguise a continually chaotic organization no longer tenable. Bringing in Statler and Waldorf to the biggest joke in the league would be the logical next move.
The Cowboys have done exactly as expected: seen starters and key contributors depart because they don’t have any cap space to sign players, and still haven’t done anything with Tony Romo or added anyone. Barry Church, a four year starter, signed with the Jaguars and Terrell McClain, who finally became a starter in 2016, left for the Redskins, along with the expected departure of former starter/2016 6th OL Ronald Leary to the Broncos. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are still free agents. That’s 58 starts by three players over the past two seasons that have left, with potentially 50 more about to, and currently just $8 million in 2017 cap space (that can rise to just $13 million with a Romo cut or trade) to replace them.
Barring a miracle, the Cowboys were always going to be losers in free agency this year. The miracle didn’t happen.
San Francisco had money to burn, and they burned it. They gave fullback Kyle Juszczyk a whopping $10.5 million guaranteed, which is more than Chris Ivory and Matt Forte got last year and five times the highest guaranteed money of the highest paid fullback in the league.
They also gave Malcolm Smith $11.5 million guaranteed, which $4.5 million more than the total amount he made in two disappointing years in Oakland and, less egregiously, Pierre Garcon $20 million guaranteed.
It’s like their GM has absolutely no front office experience. Because he doesn’t.
Did the Rams actually fire Jeff Fisher? It doesn’t seem like it. They gave 35 year old left tackle Andrew Whitworth 3/36 with $15 million guaranteed, and then gave Robert Woods, who’s career bests are 65 catches, 699 yards and 5 touchdowns, all in 2014, 5/39 with $15 million guaranteed. Woods will be just 25 when the season starts and giving Jared Goff a young receiver to pair with Jared Goff makes sense, but they’re paying entirely on potential that has never been realized to catch passes from a QB that couldn’t beat out Sean Mannion last year. And they’re paying Tavon Austin, who has been even less productive than Woods, $15 million this season. Les Snead hasn’t learned his lesson, and maybe, just maybe, Jeff Fisher wasn’t quite as bad as we thought he was.
And they’re trying to trade Trumain Johnson and his $16.7 million franchise tag cap hit, with every signing in free agency the chances of someone taking on that contract decrease.
Don’t be fooled: Cleveland should have gotten better in the Brock Osweiler trade, as a market for such a deal was already set. In 2016 a team with a desperate QB situation gave a 1st and 4th to a team that ate $11 million in cap space when the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford. The Texans, desperate to get out of Osweiler’s contract, gave up Osweiler, a 2nd and a 6th to the Browns for a 4th. That cleared Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary from Houston’s books. Since no one else was going to make that move, Cleveland had all the leverage here, and could point to the Vikings-Eagles deal as the benchmark. Instead, the Browns took on a bigger cap hit than the Eagles did, and got worse draft picks. It’s still a good trade, as Cleveland has the money to burn and a 2nd rounder is no chump change, but it’s not even the best trade with a team panicking at QB in the last seven months.
But that alone doesn’t make for a rough first day in free agency for the Browns. They also gave Kenny Britt $17 million guaranteed, making him the 18th highest paid WR by guaranteed money. Like the 49ers, just because a team has cap space doesn’t mean they have to throw it away.