With the calendar finally turning over to March, NFL fans can celebrate the start of a new season. Well, those that like to watch the fire-sale frenzy that is free agency, at the very least.
As contracts expire and players are allowed to move freely to another team, it’s time for some smooching from GMs and coaches as they try to promise new hopefuls they’ll be big in their city. Most end with heartbreak but sometimes, they can be a match made in heaven.
Here’s a few thoughts on the first few days of free agency.
The best just got better
The New England Patriots didn’t need any help in being good, NFL. You didn’t have to help them strengthen a team that won the whole damn thing last year, y’know?
They’ll never learn.
Bill Belichick is an absolute master of this game and strangely enough, it was two trades that actually impressed the most. Bringing in an exciting young receiver in former New Orleans Saints man Brandin Cooks to be their new number one option out wide for draft picks was a solid move even after picking up the almost-Super Bowl 49 MVP Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers.
Add to that the pickup of Pro Bowl corner Stephon Gilmore, from none other than a divisional rival in the Buffalo Bills, and former Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook to replace Martellus Bennett and that’s a nice little mix.
The focus shifts now to keeping Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower, which would be a frightening thought to the rest of the NFL. Even with all the picks they used up, they could regain almost all of them by sending Jimmy Garapolo to the Cleveland Browns.
The poor got a little stronger
Speaking of the Browns, they made baby steps toward climbing out of the basement.
They started with the offensive line, just in case they finally find someone to stand behind it. Kevin Zeitler weakens an opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals while adding a veteran to the group, J.C. Tretter is another solid addition and extension to Joel Bitonio finally puts this unit back to where they were before they lost Alex Mack last offseason.
Bringing in Kenny Britt was also a solid move, a relatively consistent performer over the last few seasons. Not trying to combine him with Terrell Pryor, especially when the former QB signed a reasonable deal with Washington, does seem a little odd but spend where you need to spend.
Some of that gigantic cap room was used on a blockbuster trade for Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler. While it’s likely they’ll bin the lobster as soon as possible, they bought a second round pick they can add to the pile of 11 selections in each of the next two drafts.
That booty should have enough value in it to tempt the Patriots to move Jimmy G to Ohio. With the champs moving so many picks, surely it’s only a matter of time?
There’s money if you’re an offensive lineman
If you’re a decent lineman this March, you got paid.
Along with the aforementioned dynamic duo in Cleveland, the Los Angeles Chargers slapped a big deal on former Denver Broncos left tackle Russell Okung and the Minnesota Vikings paid a pretty penny to steal Riley Reiff off their fellow NFC North side, the Detroit Lions.
Neither of those played at a particularly high level last year but with needy teams come looser purse strings. Combine that with a draft reportedly thin on the ground at tackle and guard, anyone with experience with a bit of quality was treated like a diamond in the rough.
There’s no doubt some of these players have talent but to be paid $53 million over four years for Okung? That seems a little too steep of a price.
But there’s not so much for wide receivers
Alshon Jeffery is a legitimate number one receiver in the NFL, yet teams looked at him like he’d kissed their wife right in front of them.
Credit to him for taking a prove-it deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, along with a “promise” to stay if he succeeds, but the PED violation hit his value harder than many expected it to. I mean, enhancing your performance is a big sin but players with worse records have earned plenty of bucks otherwise.
As it was mentioned earlier, the market for Pryor was also thinner than some anticipated. He looked a real threat since converting to a wideout but teams still stayed away from a potential one-season wonder.
Even DeSean Jackson settled for a secondary role as a deep threat in Tampa Bay, which shows there just wasn’t that much love for pass catchers this year. In fairness, the talent level was pretty thin too.
The quarterback market stay still, for now
While the players were thin on the ground at quarterback in free agency, we are really still waiting for the big moves to happen, if they will at all.
Mike Glennon joined the Chicago Bears was the only real deal that has gone down so far. That’s not counting some backups signing up but that isn’t going to change a franchise overnight.
Jay Cutler was released into the wild and had a meeting with the New York Jets but there’s been no paperwork as of yet. He may look if anyone else pops their heads up and then decide if it’s even worth lacing up over a cushy retirement.
Jimmy G can’t stop teasing us on Instagram and in fairness, that one will likely rumble on until the draft next month. New England will like to squeeze every last bit of juice from that deal until Cleveland have no option to throw in a sweetner.
The final chip to fall anywhere is Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys are hoping someone is willing to trade, everyone is giggling at their poker face and are waiting for him to be released and go on a Peyton Manning-esque tour.
That one could go on and on as well, but whether he ends up staying in Texas with Houston or follows in Manning’s footsteps to Denver, it will be the story of the offseason.