NFL Free Agency Dying Down
The free agency period in the NFL is slowly dying down with most of the big name targets already being signed to deals. Every year we see teams spend the entire bank on free agents, thinking it will turn the team around in the blink of an eye. Remember the Philadelphia Eagles 2011 free agency? The “Dream Team,” as Vince Young stated in an interview, signed a slew of high quality players that year. They also finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. While recent history suggests Super Bowl quality teams are built through the draft and player development, free agency can still be a key piece to many franchises. Let’s take a look at a few of the top spending teams thus far and break it down:
QB Brock Osweiler, 4/$72 million; OL Jeff Allen, 4/$28 million; RB Lamar Miller 4/$26 million
Total: $142.7 million
Analysis: The Houston Texans made a wild card Playoff appearance last year that no one predicted prior to the season. The Colts were heavily favored in the AFC South and even Super Bowl contenders to many experts. However, it was the Texans that ultimately won the division due in large part to a stout defense. The lack of consistent quarterback play was illustrated in the wild card match up with the Kansas City Chiefs. Brian Hoyer apparently thought he played for the Chiefs as he had 5 turnovers, including 4 picks. Long story short, the Texans did not want to begin the 2016 season with Hoyer behind center.
They decided to bring in Brock Osweiler after no deal was done for him in Denver. He was signed to a four-year, $72 million contract. He started just 7 games for the Broncos last year going 5-2. He is being paid with the elite quarterbacks of the league with only 7 starts to his NFL resume. It’s all business, however, as there really is no middle class for quarterbacks. Lamar Miller was also brought in on a four-year,$26 million contract. This was a good signing by the Texans. They get a very versatile, young starting running back for the future. Add in the signing of Jeff Allen and the offense is not looking too bad. However, with only 7 starts and all of them coming with a defense that could win games for just about anyone starting, I am not sold on this Texan team with Osweiler running the show just yet.
New York Giants
DE Olivier Vernon, 5/$85 million; CB Janoris Jenkins, 5/$62.5 million; DT Damon Harrison 5/$46.25 million
Total: $206.4 million
Analysis: After firing Tom Coughlin, GM Jerry Reese is on the hot seat after three straight losing seasons. The Giants had a lot of cap space so they decided to go shopping. They brought in Olivier Vernon on a five-year, $85 million contract which is a pretty hefty contract. Vernon really turned it on during the last half of the season last year with the Dolphins posting 7.5 sacks. Pass rushers are becoming high in demand in a pass happy league and Vernon excels at just that. Pair him up with a recovering JPP and the pass rush for the Giants starts to look respectable at least. After losing Prince Amukamara to the Jaguars, the Giants were in need of a number one corner. Well they got just that in Janoris Jenkins on a five-year, $62.5 million contract. Jenkins, while able to get beat often, also makes tons of plays on the ball. He reminds me a little of an Asante Samuel. He will takes lots risks, some paying off and some not so much. Nonetheless, he is an above average corner that will help this Giant secondary for sure. Damon Harrison was also brought in from the neighboring Jets on a five-year, $46.25 million deal. After going undrafted in 2012 and being picked up by the Jets, Harrison has played in all 16 games the past three seasons. He is more of space eater than anything else, but that is exactly what this defense needs after finishing last year 24th in rush defense. While the price may bit a bit high on these guys, they’re all instant starters. Playing in the NFC East is sure to be another throw up as was last year.
Major Signings: DT/DE Malik Jackson, 6/$85.5 million; S Tashaun Gipson, 5/$35.5 million; RB Chris Ivory, 5/$32 million
Total: $190.9 million
Analysis: The Jaguars have not been a very good football team the past decade. Grass is green. Water is wet. They have not made the playoffs since 2007 and have quite honestly, not been even relevant. However, this is not the Jaguar team we are used to seeing. The offense is seeming to come together quite nicely with a young franchise quarterback in Blake Bortles and arguably the best receiving tandem in football with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. They have been missing a lead running back since the departure of Fred Tyalor, but now it looks like they have found their man. Signing Chris Ivory from the New York Jets on a five-year, $32 million contract solidifies the back field in Jacksonville. With stars at every skill position on offense, this team can easily light up the scoreboard come 2016.
The other side of the ball is where majority of this teams probably have been. In 2015 the Jaguars defense was atrocious to say the least. They ranked 31st in points allowed (28.0), 24th in yards per game (375.0), 29th in pass yards per game (268.2), and a somewhat respectable 15th in rush yards per game (106.8). Entering the new league year with the most money to spend, David Caldwell and company have done just that. They grabbed Malik Jackson, free agency’s top defensive lineman on a six-year/$85.5 million contract, Tashaun Gipson, arguably the top safety available, on a five-year, $35.5 million contract, and recently Prince Amukamara on a one-year $6 million deal. All three will instantly start for this team. If the defense can be average at best, the Jaguars 2016 season can be very promising.