3 Winners of Week 1 of NFL Free Agency

by | Mar 23, 2020 | General | 0 comments

Amidst a pandemic that suspended sports around the world, the NFL was stillfunctioning as usual, and then some. Not in terms of game action, but in terms of transactions,and a lot more than usual. We’ve seen star receivers, corners, and defensive linemen traded fornothing. We’ve seen several players go to division rivals. We’ve seen 2 Top 5 draft picks in your2018 Fantasy Football leagues switch teams. We’ve seen Tom Brady head to an NFC team thatwas on nobody’s radar a month ago. Translation, free agency has been wild, not only with thesignings but with the trades. Here are 3 winners from this wild offseason so far.
Philadelphia Eagles

Since Chip Kelly made so many bizarre trades in the 2015 offseason, Howie Rosemanhas been one of the best general managers in football, not only undoing that but building one ofthe deepest, most balanced, and mentally toughest teams in football. This offseason proved nodifferently, with some very good value picks and what was, in my opinion, the move of theoffseason. Beginning with the signings, Javon Hargrave for 3 years and $39 million is a nicemove to help their run defense and pass rush. Hargrave, at 27 years old, is one of the bestyoung run stoppers in the game and has been a decent pass rusher for a 3-4 nose tackle,recording 6.5 sacks and 4 sacks in his last 2 seasons with the Steelers. While he may be arotational player for the Eagles, he is an excellent young run stopper that will clog up the middlewith his size giving guys like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Malik Jacksonmore opportunities to rush the passer too. Defensive back Will Parks for a 1-year, $1.6 milliondeal is another great move. Parks is a guy that is versatile, having played safety, slot corner,and outside linebacker in 4 years with the Broncos. With the Eagles lacking corner depth andlinebacker depth and losing Malcolm Jenkins in free agency, Parks can fill many different rolesand allow defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to rotate different coverage looks even more.Filling an even bigger hole, the Eagles also signed linebacker Jatavis Brown to a 1-year deal(contract currently undisclosed). Despite being undersized at 5 ’11’ ‘ and 221 pounds, Brownhas proven himself as a good coverage linebacker, particularly zone but also decent inman-to-man too, and a decent tackler at the second level. Injuries have plagued him throughouthis 4-year career, and didn’t play much last year for the Chargers due to them signing ThomasDavis. With the Eagles having a big void at linebacker after losing Nigel Bradham this year andJordan Hicks last year, Brown should get the playing time, and will help out a lot in coveragedespite being an iffy run stopper. However, the Eagles have had a stout run defense for years,so they won’t need him in that. They signed him for what they needed him for, so expect him toproduce. Lastly, there is the move of the offseason so far, with Roseman absolutely ROBBINGthe Detroit Lions for Darius Slay. The Eagles got a Top 5 corner in football and a Top 3 cornerperformance wise last year for just a 3rd and 5th round pick. The Eagles haven’t had acornerback this good since Troy Vincent in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Even corner depthhas been a missing piece for the Eagles, a franchise that has constantly had trouble developingcorners as well as seen free agent corners bust there. Slay has been a lockdown corner foryears, Top 5 in most years, Top 10 on down years. He led the league with 8 interceptions in2017. While he won’t do that with the Eagles because he likely won’t be thrown to enough toaccumulate those numbers, Slay is the shutdown corner that has been the missing piece of this defense for years, and the Eagles were able to get him for just a 3rd and 5th round pick!?!Absolutely masterful job by Howie Roseman, and in my opinion is the move of the offseason.

Denver Broncos

While the Broncos didn’t have the “flashy” moves that the Eagles and Cardinals havehad so far, there are a lot of good ones in a mix for a team that was already ahead of schedulein their rebuild last year. While they still could use help on their roster, this free agency has beena nice start. In terms of the signings, they franchise tagged a safety in Justin Simmons who hasplayed very well for Denver in three seasons as a starter and played especially well this seasonin Vic Fangio’s defense. I think they will get a deal done long-term before the season starts,before the safety market gets a huge jump if Jamal Adams signs a huge contract with the Jetsand Derwin James possibly signs early with the Chargers. They also signed versatile and solidoffensive lineman Graham Glasgow to a 4-year, $44 million deal. The Broncos had sometrouble on the interior offensive line last year due to losing Matt Paradis, and much of the guysthey had inside last year were young and inexperienced. Glasgow gives the Broncos somebodyin the prime of his career, is versatile to play both center and guard, and is very disciplinedespecially. He has only committed 16 overall penalties in his 4-year playing career. While heisn’t amazing at one particular type of blocking, he is very balanced at all, and even was adecent run blocker for a Lions team that never had good running backs. Now, he is blocking forPhilip Lindsay and another new nice addition, and protecting a kid in Drew Lock that proved mewrong and looked good in the second half of the season with not much in the way of receiverseither. Moving on, who is that nice new addition? That would be Melvin Gordon. A guy thatprobably lost some money by holding out, the Broncos got him on a bargain contract of 2 yearsand $18 million. Gordon is the most skilled running back Denver has had in a while, generallydoing a running back by committee recently, even on their Super Bowl teams in 2013 and 2015.Gordon, when healthy, is a Top 5 running back skill wise in football, and can also be a goodpass-catching back too, despite not getting much opportunity with the Chargers having DannyWoodhead and Austin Ekeler on their roster in 4 of Gordon’s 5 seasons. With iffy receivingtalent, a young tight end, and a young quarterback, this will give the Broncos another weaponon offense, and Philip Lindsay is a good enough running back himself to give Gordon some restand allow the Broncos to make sure he doesn’t get hurt. This is a bargain contract for theBroncos, assuming Gordon can stay healthy, and he already becomes the best player on a veryyoung and rising offensive team. Speaking of bargains, they also made two bargain trades aswell. Before free agency even started, they traded a 4th round pick to the Jaguars forcornerback A.J. Bouye. While I always have said Bouye is a bit overrated, he played well forJacksonville last season after they traded Jalen Ramsey, and he is balanced where he hasplayed well in both man and zone schemes. The Broncos getting him for a 4th round pick is anice trade, and it allows them to have a veteran presence that can help out a roster filled withyoung corners. While I don’t think he’s nearly as good as Chris Harris, Bouye is a good fallbackthat is cheaper and a good value for a 4th round pick. The biggest bargain of all, however, wasthem getting Jurrell Casey for a 7th round pick. This move made no sense for Tennessee andhow Denver got him for a 7th is insane. Jurrell Casey is one of the better and more versatiledefensive linemen in the game, as a 3-4 defensive end and a 4-3 defensive tackle. He has
recorded anywhere from 5 to 7 sacks in the last 6 seasons in a 3-4 defense, which is very goodfor a 3-4 defensive end, and he is very durable too, playing 14 or more games in every seasonin the NFL so far. Also, Vic Fangio has done well at getting the best out of interior defensivelinemen in the past, from Justin Smith in San Francisco to Akiem Hicks in Chicago to somelesser talents like Ray McDonald, Ricky Jean-Francois, Jarvis Jenkins, and Mitch Unrein, whohe later took with him to Denver. Imagine what he could possibly do with Jurrell Casey, who isprobably at a similar level if not better to what Justin Smith was when Fangio got to SanFrancisco. Despite Casey getting older, he continues to get better, and this trade should helphim and the Broncos get the best out of him too, especially for a team that needs help in thatfront 3 to help compliment Von Miller and their collection of young outside pass rushers. Howthey got him for just a 7th round pick too is insane, for a guy that, after Von Miller, is already thesecond best player on that defense. As a whole, this is a nice group of offseason acquisitionsfor a team that already took a big step up this season, and it’s a collection of moves that, if I’mjudging now, can make the Broncos a playoff team this season.

Arizona Cardinals

Speaking of another bargain trade, the Arizona Cardinals made one of those for a Top 5receiver. While I don’t think this was as big of a steal as the Eagles getting Slay, being that theEagles needed a cornerback more than the Cardinals needed a wide receiver, this was still asteal. Giving up a running back that hasn’t been good in 4 years and, in my opinion, was aproduct of Bruce Arians’ offense similarly to when Andre Ellington broke out in 2013 (DavidJohnson was better, but the value and longevity was similar), along with just a 2nd and 4thround pick for arguably the most skilled receiver in football in DeAndre Hopkins, yeah that’s asteal. Hopkins will expand the playbook a lot more for Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, allowing him toutilize more complicated routes that a 36-year old Larry Fitzgerald couldn’t run anymore andseveral late-round rookie receivers probably aren’t capable of yet, and probably will never be ata high level. Now they bring in Hopkins, who is 27 years old, has been relatively healthythroughout his career, is uber-talented, and besides one down year in 2016 (he still had 954yards), has been a consistent 1,000 yard receiver and near double digit touchdown guy hisentire career, and has done it with bad quarterbacks up until the last two seasons with DeShaunWatson fully healthy. In addition to the big and flashy move in Hopkins, the Cardinals madesome good moves to help out their defense. Jordan Phillips is a nice signing for a defense thatwas 9th worst against the run last year (120.1 yards per game) and will allow Arizona to havethe true nose tackle that Vance Joseph can use in 3-4 packages to create the hybrid defense hehad in Miami when they were a playoff team in 2016. Another good value signing is signingDevon Kennard to a 3-year, $20 million contract. Kennard is a versatile player that is a goodpass rusher and decent screen defender covering the flats, and is scheme-versatile as well.Kennard has good enough size to be a 4-3 defensive end at 6’3” and 256 pounds, and is decentas a 3-4 outside linebacker with his speed as well. While he isn’t that good as a raw coveragelinebacker, he can do everything else well, covering screen passes, stopping the run, andrushing the passer as a speed rusher. Kennard had 7 sacks in back-to-back seasons with theDetroit Lions, and now playing opposite Chandler Jones should help him get more one-on-oneblocking chances where he can flourish and be even better. Lastly, they signed De’VondreCampbell to a 1-year, $8.5 million contract. The Cardinals, in my opinion, got Campbell on abargain considering he had a down year last year. However, he is a talented and well-roundedplayer that will help this defense a lot. While he isn’t a pass rusher, he can do pretty mucheverything else. He has the speed to man cover and decent zone coverage ability too. He is agood outside run stopper and screen defender. While he is undersized, similarly to JatavisBrown, he still is productive as a well-rounded player. The biggest thing too is, with theCardinals having other young and injury-prone defensive players, he played well in 2018 withmuch of the Falcons defense injured all season. While I think Jordan Hicks is more talented,Campbell’s durability can help him emerge into the most productive linebacker on this team, andthey got him for only $8.5 million. One offseason removed for me questioning and bashing whatthe Cardinals were doing, they redeemed themselves nicely at least so far. They still needoffensive line help for sure to help protect Kyler Murray, but there’s still some time as well as the NFL Draft to solve that, which they ensure will be the path now for Steve Keim and theCardinals now that they filled some of their holes with these moves.

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