Tag Archives: Denver Broncos

NFL free agency 2017: As odd and frantic as ever

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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NFL Awards 2017 predictions

Super Bowl LI is on the horizon and with all but the big one out of the way, it’s time to talk about the NFL awards. Who will come out on top? Who will miss out? Here’s a look at my predictions for the end of season festivities:

 

Most Valuable Player – Matt Ryan

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Ryan has been the picture of almost perfection this season. Source: fansided.com

Matty Ice finally got over the hump this year and in such a big way, he has to walk away with this award.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback finished with 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns against seven interceptions and a quarterback rating of 117.1, all career numbers.

That’s not to say that he doesn’t have a lot of help. The Falcons have a balanced offence with two quality running backs and the best receiver in the league in Julio Jones which when combined with an offensive line that has stayed healthy all season, Ryan has really been able to shine.

Kyle Shanahan’s offence has also made him hot property as a future head coach and his moulding of Ryan this year has been outstanding. No one ever thought that the Falcons QB would ever quite crash through the glass ceiling but he proved any doubters wrong in 2016/17.

There is an argument to having Tom Brady as the MVP as well, his TD-to-interception ratio is ridiculous and he’s had a great season too but this one goes to Ryan. From start to finish this season, he has not hidden away or chocked like in previous seasons and this team would look completely different without him.

 

Coach of the Year – Jason Garrett

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Pittsburgh Steelers

Garrett has done a sensational job in turning this team into a contender. Source: fansided.com

Hands up, who actually thought that the Dallas Cowboys would even make the playoffs this year?

Unless your name is Michael Irvin, you are lying. There’s no doubt that the team now have a solid roster but a lot of credit should go to Garrett and how much extra he got out of this team to finish with the second-best record in the NFL.

Yes, they got a lot of help from two special rookies and an incredible offensive line but Garret always got them in a position to win. It was his play-calling that got them the lead that they would rarely surrender and when they did, they managed to recover spectacularly which was highlighted in the win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It almost got them all the way back against the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs too but unfortunately, they had a magician playing for them that evening.

With a no-name defence and some strung together receivers outside of Dez Bryant, Garrett worked wonders with this squad. There were a few great coaches this year but none quite stood out like he did.

 

Offensive Player of the Year – Tom Brady

USP NFL: AFC CHAMPIONSHIP-PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT N S FBN NEP PIT USA MA

Brady has a chance to write history and has played phenomenal football all year. Source: USA Today

This is easily the hardest award to predict, given some spectacular performances this year.

David Johnson was sensational, the first to amass over 1,000 yards rushing and 800 yards catching since Marshall Faulk and only the second in NFL history. Le’Veon Bell may have changed the game for running backs with his ever-so patient style that seemingly throws off every defence.

Julio Jones had a monster year that included an insane 300-yard game. Aaron Rodgers produced more miracles than ever before as he scraped by with half of his weapons taken away from him.

However, with Brady missing out on the top award, there is no chance they do not give the New England Patriots something. He has been terrific since his comeback, highlighted by the fact he’s thrown just two interceptions all year which is mind-numbingly good.

Some will argue that his backups did go 3-1 as well but Brady has been a cut above this year. He was mad and it showed on the field.

 

Defensive Player of the Year – Von Miller

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos

Miller has arguably deserved this award for a long time, so he will finally get his reward. Source: predimonentlyorange.com

While Khalil Mack will be in the conversation and could pip him to the post, it was clear this season that Von Miller is a difference maker on defence.

The offence stumbled spectacularly for the Denver Broncos which eventually lead to them missing the playoffs. Their defence did not take any days off and along with a great secondary, it was the play of Miller that kept them in the hunt until the end.

He put up great numbers in the run game, registering more tackles than ever and four stuffs. His 13.5 sacks has only been beaten by Atlanta Falcons’ Vic Beasly and he also forced four fumbles on the year.

Those are some great numbers and why they might not quite be as monstrous as his 2012 numbers, where he was beaten to the award by JJ Watt, they are still very impressive. Aaron Donald would also be a front runner had he not played on such a poor team but Miller finally gets his dues this time.

 

Rookie of the Year – Ezekiel Elliott

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Elliott has come better than advertised, he’s the real deal. Source: Sports Hub

A pretty easy choice, Ezekiel Elliott has been a revelation for the Dallas Cowboys all season long.

He registered 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns in a ridiculous year where he has torn teams apart. From that special late run against the Steelers to dominating almost everyone that stood in his path this season, he’s been superb.

Credit also has to go to his offensive line, something the Ohio State man has regularly stated himself, as they heled create some great creases that Elliott turned into huge gains. His foot speed, his toughness and his ability to make every kind of run really separated him from the pack.

While taking a running back so high in the draft can be a real risk, Elliott looks the real deal. Behind one of the best lines in the NFL, he could become one of the great running backs in Cowboys history and that is saying something.

 

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Dak Prescott

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Prescott surprised everyone, but can he keep it up? Source: IB Times

If the above award is going to one Cowboy, this one has to go to the other.

Dak Prescott has been the surprise of the year. With Tony Romo out before the season even began, many thought that any chance of Dallas doing anything of note this season sat on the injury table with him.

Prescott was excellent in pre-season, which is usually as useful an indicator as Michael Fish telling you a hurricane is coming, but we were wrong to doubt him. He carried that momentum over into the regular season and put in some really solid performances.

He was aided by a strong running game, an incredible offensive line and a great few weapons in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten but he was still pretty special. Whether he simply proves to be lightening in a bottle remains to be seen but for now, he an Elliott are the future of the Dallas Cowboys.

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Joey Bosa

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers

Did you expect anyone else than Bosa? *shrugs* Source: USA Today

It is scary to think that Joey Bosa only played in 12 games this season.

It’s been a little while since we have seen a young pass rusher make this much of an impact on a team this quickly. The San Diego Chargers barely had a semblance of pressure last year but with an astonishing 10.5 sacks in 2016, Bosa brought the thunder.

He has a great ability of bull-rushing offensive linemen, putting them under immense pressure and using his hand work to get them flustered. Bosa can be so quick to get into motion that his opponents simply aren’t prepared for it and that puts their quarterback in danger.

His 23 QB hurries is only six behind Von Miller in four less games, he set a record for at least two QB hits in his first three games since 2006 when they were first tracked and had a crazy 17 tackles for a loss.

This kid is going to be very, very good and a much-needed star as his team moves to Los Angeles.

 

Comeback Player of the Year – Landon Collins

New York Giants v Washington Redskins

Collins has been on a redemption story all season long. Source: USA Today

Cameron Wake may get this award that tends to go to older players but no one has made a bigger leap in quality this year than Landon Collins.

The New York Giants had a pretty poor rookie season, with questions over his coverage and his usefulness in the backfield. Those worries have been quickly quelled as he has risen to potentially one of the best safeties in the entire NFL.

Four sacks, five interceptions and a fumble recovery all showed how he had really began to affect games in a growing Giants defence. He even recorded his first touchdown as he marshalled a secondary that took a great leap from near the bottom of the league to being one of the best.

Is it really a comeback if he’s never been anything to begin with? Maybe not but it’s hard to deny that Collins has been a difference maker. If you can go from being a “bust” to a Pro Bowler in a season, you have to get recognition for it.

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NFL teams who won and lost in the first week of free agency

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.

 

WINNERS

New York Giants

Vernon could be a difference maker.  Source: Fox Sports

Vernon could be a difference maker. Source: Fox Sports

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.

 

Oakland Raiders

Irvin opposite Mack is a scary prospect.  Source: Bleacher Report

Irvin opposite Mack is a scary prospect. Source: Bleacher Report

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

Some even said Hayward was the Packers' best corner last year, could be a real steal.  Source: jsonline.com

Some even said Hayward was the Packers’ best corner last year, could be a real steal. Source: jsonline.com

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.

 

LOSERS

Cleveland Browns

Getting rid of Manziel hid a lot of bad moves for Cleveland.  Source: CBS

Getting rid of Manziel hid a lot of bad moves for Cleveland. Source: CBS

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.

 

Denver Broncos

Osweiler must have felt shaded by the team, hence his departure.  Source: CBS

Osweiler must have felt shaded by the team, hence his departure. Source: CBS

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.

 

Miami Dolphins

I just can't get excited about Miami signing Mario Williams.  Source: CBS

I just can’t get excited about Miami signing Mario Williams. Source: CBS

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.

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Thoughts on Super Bowl 50

Manning may ride off into the sunset on the back of a Hall of Fame career with a happy ending. Source: CNN

Manning may ride off into the sunset on the back of a Hall of Fame career with a happy ending. Source: CNN

I learned a valuable lesson the other night, never go back on what you stick your faith in. Defence wins championships, it’s been proven more often than not and that logic abandoned many as they felt the Panthers were just too good on both sides of the ball.

However, we had all forgotten that this Denver Broncos defence is very, very good. Last night, they proved they are possibly even greater than that and will go down on record as one of the best in history.

It carried them through a season, through the post-season and eventually in the big dance. They made the big plays they needed, getting to the quarterback and stifling receivers on all kinds of teams which then allowed them to win a championship under Gary Kubiak.

Peyton Manning looks now like he has that fairytale ending should he bow out, which he really should on evidence from this season. The new face of the team, Von Miller, shone as he has all season long and really lead a front seven that caused havoc in their two most important games of the season, which was so impressive.

Von Miller is a stud and dominated the game. Source: USA Today

Von Miller is a stud and dominated the game. Source: USA Today

The Panthers just never clicked into gear on offence, which killed them. The running game never got going, despite their insistence on giving the running back the ball on every first down to start a drive, which in turn gave them long distances on second and third down, which meant feeding time for the Denver pass rush.

Cam Newton couldn’t pull out his own heroics either, over-throwing early before finally settling into a rhythm, only to see his passes dropped. Greg Olsen was blanketed all game long, which hurt them the most, but praise to their stellar defence which kept them in the hunt right until the end, especially the breakout performance from Kony Ealy.

It always felt like one moment for Ron Rivera’s team would do it but Wade Phillip’s defence would never, ever allow that opportunity. They were stout, they were aggressive and they got everything they wanted, when they wanted it.

With every new Super Bowl champion, there’s talk of whether a dynasty could be built but in Denver, it’s a little tricky. They maximised what they had within Manning’s championship window and they now may have a few decisions to make.

Kuechly and the Panthers will be back. Source: Bleacher Report

Kuechly and the Panthers will be back. Source: Bleacher Report

Miller will rightfully get a monster deal, Brock Osweiler will have a lot of swing should Manning go through with retirement and then they still might need some space to shore up the depth chart. If none of the older players drop their level, they will contend again but their time will close quicker than the team they faced on Sunday.

As for Carolina, they should have the ability to bounce back, even though the NFC arguably has more depth of top teams to contend with. They have an excellent defence, a good offence with one of it’s best playmakers in Kelvin Benjamin coming back and they only have Josh Norman to worry about in free agency.

If they can find another little piece in the draft, keep the players fit and firing they will be a dangerous team again next year. They have a great coaching staff along with a good attitude and this won’t be the last time we see the Panthers as contenders.

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