We’re less than a week into free agency, but typically the first weekend of the free agent period brings with it a lull. The league offices are closed and deals pretty much have to wait for Monday to become finalized. For a 24-hour business, the home office keeps a 9-to-5 schedule.
While admittedly too early to rank offseason moves, here are our choices for the teams that have most helped themselves and been most injured during the first week of free agency. In some towns, they’re toasting the winners. In others, they asking, “What’s the deal?”
There’s a long way to go between now and the draft and a second wave of signings will start next week, but, for now, these are our picks for free agency winners and losers.
Kansas City – The Chiefs have the first pick in the draft, which could have extensive trade value to the right team. But the only key player lost to date is DE Glenn Dorsey. Not only did the Chiefs franchise Branden Albert to buy time to sign him long-term, they traded for Alex Smith and signed free agents Dunta Robinson, Sean Smith, Donnie Avery, Mike Devito, Anthony Fasano, Chase Daniels and former Vikings Husain Abdullah and Geoff Schwartz. They’ve spent a lot of money in hopes of getting better in a hurry.
Seattle – The Seahawks added an explosive weapon in Percy Harvin, but have also signed Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett that could create the league’s best DE rotation, by far. If Russell Wilson can take his game to the next level, Seattle will be a trendy Super Bowl pick. Suddenly, everyone wants to be part of the party.
Miami – The Dolphins gave free agent deals to Mike Wallace, Dannell Ellerbe, Phillip Wheeler, Brandon Gibson and Dustin Keller. If not for the pending loss of left tackle Jake Long, Miami would rank at No. 1. But, without a dominant left tackle, all the money invested in offense over the last 11 months may be for naught.
Denver – See what happens when you put John Elway and Peyton Manning together? Not only do they sign Wes Welker, they pluck guard Louis Vasquez away from O-line barren division rival San Diego and get disgruntled Philadelphia CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to come to the Rockies. So far, so good in terms of ramping up the Manning-Patriots rivalry. Ultimately, however, the fate of Denver’s final grade will be left to the ending of the Elvis Dumervil saga. He had to be cut because of a late filing of a new contract.
Tennessee – The Titans like to make a big free agent splash, but with a new organizational chart, they’re spending like drunken sailors. Dashon Goldson and Andy Levitre are two of the biggest signings of free agency, but they also added Shonn Greene, Dealnie Walker, George Wilson and Sammie Lee Hill. There hasn’t been a loss they didn’t expect, so they’ve worked free agency as much to their own advantage as any team in the league.
Chicago – The two biggest offensive needs for Jay Cutler were a left tackle and a tight end. The Bears covered both, investing in OT Jermon Bushrod to protect his blind side and Martellus Bennett to be his go-to tight end. If they can do something about the growing concern at linebacker, this offseason could be a slam dunk.
Cleveland – The Browns haven’t lost anyone of note to date in free agency and have added Baltimore LB Paul Kruger (along with $34 million). They’ve made some low-level moves and nobody has raided their cupboard yet, which may explain why the Browns remain in the lower half of the league so consistently.
Minnesota – The Vikings kept everyone they wanted. The Antoine Winfield decision could still play poorly against them – he had one of his best years as a Viking last year. He earned that money for 2013. There are also reservations about getting rid of Percy Harvin because of his rare dynamic talent, but, in the end, the Vikings got Greg Jennings and a first-round pick they can use for another wide receiver (Tavon Austin, Keenan Allen and Robert Woods come quickly to mind – Cordarrelle Patterson is asking too much). The combination of the two will cost the same as the Vikings would have paid Harvin – making it a two-for-one swap on a disgruntled player and a third-round pick next year to play with. If Matt Cassel has anything left, it’s been a pretty good week at Winter Park all things considered. Now, how, the funny money cupboard is pretty well bare.
Baltimore – Enjoy those rings. The Ravens have lost Ray Lewis, Matt Birk, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Anquan Boldin, Cary Williams and Bernard Pollard from their title team of less than two months ago. That doesn’t take into account that Ed Reed and Bryant McKinnie may follow. All they’ve added are a couple of aging NFC East defensive ends. Ouch! Remember that parade, Ravens fans? You may have to wait another decade for the next one.
New York Jets – The Jets asked a bunch of guys to take pay cuts or get sent packing and haven’t signed a free agent to a deal more than $2.5 million a year. In the process, they’ve lost LaRon Landry, Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Sione Pouha, Mike Devito and Yeremiah Bell. The Jets are crashing and burning.
Pittsburgh – The Steelers haven’t made a significant signing and have lost James Harrison, Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall, Keenan Lewis and Ryan Mundy. Pittsburgh doesn’t typically get involved in free agent bidding wars and, as such, are looking pretty dismal out of the gate.
Buffalo – In the last week, the Bills have cut their franchise QB, lost their best offensive lineman (guard Andy Levitre) and cut LB Nick Barnett and safety George Wilson. Unlike last year when they broke the bank on Mario Williams, 2013 is breaking the back.
St. Louis – Had the Rams signed Jake Long, there could be reason for optimism. But he hasn’t signed and protecting Sam Bradford has become even more important. In the meantime, over the last year or so, the Rams have lost Brandon Lloyd, Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. The Rams need to get him some WR weapons or Bradford will have a forgettable career.
New Orleans – The only addition has been Steelers CB Keenan Lewis and they’ve lost Drew Brees’ blindside protector, Jermon Bushrod, backup QB Chase Daniel and a couple of backup linebackers. It may not seem like much of a loss, but Bushrod alone makes this a desperation mode for the Saints.
Arizona – The Cards have added some Line 2 guys on the depth chart (or guys who should be on Line 2), but either lost or cut four members of their secondary. When the buzz surrounds Drew Stanton being your starting QB, there is a lot of work yet to be done.
Dallas – The Cowboys haven’t signed an outside free agent, forced a half dozen veteran players to restructure their deals, and released Marcus Spears, Dan Connor and Gerald Sensabaugh in the process. There aren’t a lot of happy Cowboys, especially now that Joe Flacco made Tier 2 QBs like Tony Romo worth almost $20 mil a year.
Detroit – If you believe games are won and lost in the trenches, the Lions have a lot of work to do. They lost starting O-linemen Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman and defensive linemen Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Sammie Hill. When your only achievement is career underachiever Reggie Bush, things aren’t looking good in Motown … again.
Green Bay – The Packers haven’t done much of anything in free agency, but will be without Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson, a couple of guys who did Lambeau proud for a lot of years.
Houston – The Texans have yet to make a significant signing and have lost LB Connor Barwin and safety Glover Quin. With a bullet finally put in WR Kevin Walter, change is needed there, too. But, to date, nothing.
Atlanta – The Steven Jackson signing is an upgrade and paying through the teeth to coax Tony Gonzalez to come back is admirable, but not only did center Todd McClure retire, but, in order to pay those two, they cut Michael Turner, John Abraham and Dunta Robinson. That’s a lot of jerseys of Falcon fans now being used primarily for wiping Georgia dipsticks.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.