This past week in the NFL has been the classic case of hype and hope. Players are signed on big deals, some rightfully so and some not so deservingly, but we gift big awards on the hope that teams have done something right. However, at least on paper, here are the real winners and losers of free agency.
New York Giants
The Giants defence was the definition of a mess last season. Bad at rushing the passer consistently, poor against the run and embarrassing against the pass so with a new look coaching team comes a new look defence to go with it.
They spent big on Olivier Vernon, who has 25.5 sacks in his past three years and should offer pressure opposite the resigned Jason Pierre Paul, who could either be great or absent. Damon Harrison was a solid pick-up from the team across town and Snacks should help shore up their porous run defence.
They also did well to pick up Janoris Jenkins from the LA Rams but there will still be a need to add a lot more to the secondary, which is where they may go in the draft. They spent high but brought in young guys that could hit their prime soon, which they are absolutely banking on.
With a young core, Oakland would have wanted to fill some holes with experienced veterans before looking ahead to the draft again. What the Black Hole will love is that is exactly what they have tried to do.
Bruce Irvin hasn’t set the world alight with 11.5 sacks in his past two years but adds a solid threat opposite the freakish athlete in Khalil Mack. Grabbing Sean Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs not only gives them a solid corner with playmaking ability, it weakens a divisional opponent.
Getting a great guard in Kelechi Osemele will help both the run and the pass game, especially if he’s not kicked out to tackle and while possibly being overpaid, he could be a foundation for their offensive line. There’s a lot to like despite a few risks, they could be a contender in a very interesting AFC West.
San Diego Chargers
This may be a little biased and ideally I would like to keep it quiet but it’s difficult to ignore that the Chargers made some really solid moves without an enormous amount of outlay or risk than others have.
With Malcolm Floyd retiring, Travis Benjamin looks like a solid replacement as a genuine deep threat to add to the likes of Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson, especially off an almost 1,000 yard season with a 14.1 yard average. Casey Hayward has been good as a slot corner for the Green Bay Packers and will be valuable either there or opposite Jason Verrett for San Diego.
Signing former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane finally fixes a problem position for years and he could be a real force in the run game. If they can shore up their line a little or find another playmaker in the secondary, Mike McCoy’s men could be a real bounceback candidate.
It looks like a complete rebuild job in Cleveland for Hue Jackson as he has almost zero talent left on an already thin squad of players.
Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz and Travis Benjamin all left town on reasonable deals and with the Browns not shifting on their original offers, it seems like such a strange move. All might have been part of their 3-13 team last season but they were all solid pickups for those that did want them in their talent pool for the 2016 season.
There wasn’t much coming through the door either, other than the speculation that they are in the hunt for Colin Kaepernick. When your biggest news in the month of March is that you cut a player that couldn’t win games and couldn’t stop drinking, you know you’re in a big hole.
The reigning Super Bowl champions were keen for a Hall of Fame quarterback to retire so they could usher in a new era, only for the incumbent player to jump ship for a team he feels give him a better chance to succeed.
Brock Osweiler was supposed to take the keys from Peyton Manning but after they didn’t want to risk too much on an iffy seven-game vet, they let someone else do it. It’s not that decision that’s bad, it’s the fact that they now have Mark Sanchez as their number one quarterback heading into the season.
Malik Jackson was paid heavily to leave, which isn’t too much of a blow but the market for decent-to-good pass rushers should worry them. It’s good DeMarcus Ware cut his base salary but Von Miller is going to be very expensive (yet worth it) and it’s hard to see the defence completely carrying the team next season.
A team that always like to get involved in American Football’s version of March Madness, the Dolphins brought in plenty only to seem stagnant and older where it mattered.
They allowed Oliver Vernon to walk, signing 31-year-old Mario Williams who has never looked like the superstar he was briefly with the Houston Texans. Then they trade for the Philadelphia Eagles’ bust candidates in Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso in the hope they can rediscover their form, a risk move indeed.
Lamar Miller moved on, giving the team no run game and they didn’t sign any of the capable offensive lineman to shore up a pretty poor unit. They simply only filled holes they had created for themselves, fixing none of their real needs and some would even say downgrading for not much of a discount.