The first day of free agency was a frantic one, as general managers threw cash around like they were making it rain and players bolted to the highest bidders like they were Scrooge McDuck diving into a pool of money. Here’s a look at the biggest winners and losers from Day 1.
Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville made some big splashes by improving both its offense and defense. Malik Jackson is a disruptive force on the defensive line and his pressure alone should help improve a pass defense that ranked 29th last season. But adding safety Tashaun Gipson solidified the pass defense even more as his veteran presence would be great fit in Jacksonville’s secondary.
Pairing Chris Ivory with T.J. Yeldon gives the Jags a “Thunder and Lightning” look: Ivory is a power downhill runner while Yeldon is a speedy east-west runner. That versatility will surely help the offense, which showed brief signs of brilliance in Blake Bortles’ second year under center.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders poached cornerback Sean Smith from AFC West-rival Kansas City Chiefs, simultaneously dealing a blow to a division opponent while improving their defense. Smith’s two interceptions won’t “wow” anyone, but ti’s because no on wanted to throw the ball to his side of the field. Oakland also brought in linebacker Bruce Irvin from the Seahawks to pair him alongside one of the best young linebackers in the NFL, Khalil Mack.
Bringing in Kelechi Osemele to anchor the offensive line is also a great move. Osemele can play both guard and tackle and excels in both pass-protection and run-blocking. Latavius Murray ran for 1,066 yards, but the Raiders ranked 28th in rushing as a team. More blocking for Murray and protection for Derek Carr will work wonders for Oakland’s offense.
Loser: Cleveland Browns
More a Biblical exodus from Cleveland, than an NFL free agency, the Browns lost their starting safety (Gipson), center (Alex Mack) and number-one wide receiver (Travis Benjamin). It’s clear that no one in their right mind would want to play for the Browns, but how can Cleveland chase away the black cloud hanging over its franchise? A trade for Colin Kaepernick, perhaps:
— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_LI) March 10, 2016
Whatever the Browns choose to do, they need to make sure it’s a decision that will not only improve the team’s personnel, but also the team’s perception. Cleveland has an air of dysfunction and currently is not an attractive landing spot for free agents. The departure stings all the more for fans on Lake Erie’s shore, as new head coach Hue Jackson is a promising hire who now has an even deeper hole to dig the team out of.
Loser: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins made a few moves, but were they the right moves? Signing Mario Williams might seem like a viable move to replace Olivier Vernon, but Williams is far from the player he once was. Trading for Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell did nothing besides move Miami from the eight-pick to the 13-pick in this year’s draft. Alonso has missed 21 games over the past two seasons and Maxwell is hardly a shut-down cornerback. All three of the Dolphins’ additions are players who are on the decline.
Have not spoken to anyone who thinks the Dolphins have more talent today than they did last day of ’15 season.
— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) March 10, 2016
Along with Vernon, leading running back Lamar Miller also left the sunshine state, further depleting an offense that ranked 26th last season. Miami just has too many holes on both sides of the ball to be considered anything other than a team in the lower-tier of the league.
Loser: New Orleans Saints
Spoiled by pinball-machine offenses and the clockwork arm of Drew Brees, the Saints (and their fans) have seen diminishing on-field returns in recent seasons. A trend that is sure to continue in 2016. The Saints did nothing to address serious issues on defense or the offensive line, opting instead to overpay Coby Fleener a year after Brees made Benjamin Watson a reliable and capable receiver. Watson’s departure to Baltimore was a modest bummer, but the Saints grossly overreacted by nabbing Fleener versus putting that money towards shoring up any of the team’s other more pressing concerns.
Winner: New York Jets- The Jets need to figure out their quarterback situation, but signing Matt Forte and retaining Bilal Powell makes for a dynamic backfield.
Winner: New York Giants- The Giants dropped some dollars to shore up it’s defense, which was incredibly inept last year. Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins are all major upgrades.
Loser: Denver Broncos- The reigning Super Bowl champs lost out on Brock Osweiler and have no clear options to replace him. Leading tackler Danny Trevathan also walked away from Denver.
Loser: Los Angeles Rams- The Rams failed to attract any big-name stars to Los Angeles, at least so far.
Yet-To-Be-Determined: Houston Texans- Shoving $72 million over four years to an unproven quarterback like Osweiler seems desperate, but the Texans needed to find some stability after having four different starting quarterbacks last year. Lamar Miller is a solid replacement for Arian Foster, but not much more.
Tags:cleveland brownsjacksonville jaguarsmiami dolphinsnew orleans saintsnflnfl free agencyoakland raiders
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