I love the smell of free agency in the morning. Just like in the NFL, the Dynabowl is split between the haves and the have nots as half the team throw their cap space around like a cat in a bag and the other half count their pennies looking for that $2 linebacker that will really propel them to the next level. Below is a slipshod, poorly thought out review of free agency in 2017.
I know free agency isn’t done yet. Shut your hole. Disclaimer: I haven’t looked at or included the majority of the small deals in this piece. Mostly because I’m lazy.
Rex Burkhead (NEP, RB) – $1, 3 years
Doug Baldwin (SEA, WR) – $48, 2 years
Cameron Brate (TBB, TE) – $22, 4 years
A quiet free agency so far for T2 as their cap-strapped status shows through. Goody and Mat moved to address two problem areas though with Baldwin added to a lackluster stable of middling talent at WR and Brate joining Eric Ebron to add to a depleted TE pool. Doug Baldwin seems like a decent value here as he has shown high-end production for the last two years. You could question how good he would be in another team (or, rather, how well he would be used) but the 2 year deal recognises those questions and minimises the risk. Cameron Brate is a huge overpay in my book. At $22 you are expecting him to be the top 5 TE he was last year every year and with Tampa expected to draft a TE high I wouldn’t be comfortable about his future.
Of the smaller deals, Rex Burkhead is the one who stands out. T2 moved quickly to lock Burkhead down when he didn’t have a team and gambled on his landing spot. He ended up in New England and with the Patriots moving on from Blount, looking unconvinced by Dion Lewis and seeing James White as a purely receiving back he could get a big opportunity to impress there. Nothing is certain and Burkhead will have to fight his way up the depth chart but if he can do it then this deal could be a huge steal.
Eli Manning (NYG, QB) – $8, 2 years
Eli Rogers (PIT, WR) – $4, 4 years
Pierre Garcon (SFO, WR) – $2, 3 years
Akiem Hicks (CHI, DE) – $2, 3 years
Tyrann Mathieu (ARI, S) – $15, 5 years
The Sadness really started to turn a corner last season and, perhaps mindful of some expensive extensions to come, Geoffrey Manboob did not swing big in the free agent market. With the loss of Brees there was a big hole at QB and Eli Manning, though an imperfect solution, goes some way to filling it. The Sadness are carrying 6 quarterbacks currently (Glennon, Goff, Alex Smith, Osweiler and Bridgewater) and none inspire confidence. If Manning is as unconvincing as last season then this could turn into a game of whackamole as Geoffrey tries to guess which QB will be competent from one week to the next. Rogers and Garcon are a couple of nice, cheap deals at WR. Neither has an elite ceiling but both could be very solid contributors and nice trade pieces if the right situation arises. Garcon in particular could easily end up in the top 25 at WR as the number 1 target in San Francisco and you aren’t kicking that out of bed for 2 bucks.
Only two moves stood out for me defensively. Akiem Hicks has been playing well in Chicago’s front seven and was a top 10 DE last season. In short, exactly the kind of player you may as well bet $2 on in free agency. Mathieu is a bigger risk and a bigger question mark. If he plays 16 games in a season he will be worth that money but with a few big injuries in his past now his health has to be a major concern.
Jalen Richard (OAK, RB) – $17, 3 years (still active at time of writing)
Marqise Lee (JAC, WR) – $11, 4 years
Marvin Jones (DET, WR) – $13, 2 years
Ndamakung Suh (MIA, DT) – $49, 2 years
Robert Quinn (LAR, DE) – $8, 4 years
Kurt Coleman (CAR, S) – $11, 3 years (still active at time of writing)
Bradley McDougald (TBB, S) – $4, 4 years
With cap space to burn, GM David Slater seems to have gone free agent crazy this off-season. RB is a clear area of need for the Losers and Richard (if won) showed flashes last year but the money seems off the charts here to me for a player who isn’t likely to escape RBBC. The Losers do also have DeAndre Washington on their roster so maybe this is an aggressive move to lock down that backfield but I wouldn’t bet against the Raiders bringing in another player in FA or the draft to add yet more uncertainty to the mix. Lee and Jones are a pair of WRs who offer a bit of depth at WR but it must be asked if this was really needed. As Slater himself will tell you if you open up a 3 second pause on conversation, he has a lot of talent at the position already. Jones’ numbers from last season look fine but he was not a reliable week-to-week proposition and Marqise Lee is as likely to disappear down the depth chart again as he is to have another top 30 season.
There are two real eye openers on defence with the Losers going aggressively after Suh and, bizarrely, Kurt Coleman. Suh is a lot of money but he does, at least, have a top level ceiling that could pay off in spades. Kurt Coleman, on the other hand, is a fairly run of the mill safety who was picked up off waiver wires in both of the last two seasons and now becomes a top 5 paid player at his position. Perhaps both of these moves are intended by Slater merely to push up extension costs for other players at their position but, if so, I don’t quite get the logic at safety. Robert Quinn is the Losers’ best move of free agency. Like Tyrann Matheiu above he is a player who can really perform above and beyond at his position when healthy but unlike Mathieu he is being paid at a very reasonable rate. Slater can afford to front-load all his guarantee and proceed for the next 4 years knowing he has a player who can be cut for nothing but,if fit, has the potential to be top 3 at his position.
East Flanders Dungeoneers
Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG, DE) – $22, 2 years
With arguably the weakest roster in the league and plenty of cap space it’s no surprise to see Pete Conaghan making a big splash in the… in… in Free…
I can only assume Pete was busy with real life while all this was going on.
In defence of the Dungeoneers, they were probably the team with the fewest players released in free agency and thus didn’t need to fill out their roster too much but it’s hard to believe that the squad couldn’t have benefited from some of the players on offer.
Here Comes The Brees
Drew Brees (NOS, QB) – $Whatever needed paying, forever (wait, what? They didn’t? And he calls himself a fan!)
Torrey Smith (PHI, WR) – $1, 3 years
Robby Anderson (NYJ, WR) – $3, 3 years
JJ Nelson (ARI, WR) – $7, 3 years
Lorenzo Alexander (BUF, LB) – $2, 2 years
Christian Kirksey (CLE, LB) – $9, 4 years
Jonathan Cyprien (JAC, S) – $3, 3 years
With big extensions looming the Brees were a little limited in free agency this season and prioritised moves to bolster their perennial Achilles’ heel at wide receiver. I like all three deal to varying degrees. Torrey Smith is the best value here. He will be a starting wide receiver in Philadelphia and it feels difficult to hold his San Francisco wilderness years against him with the shitshow on offence there. For $1 there is zero risk here and plenty of reward. Robby Anderson is by no means guaranteed to get plenty of snaps in New York but he really came on at the end of last season and, particularly if the team cuts Decker, he could be in line for a bigger piece of the pie. JJ Nelson is the deal I like the least. Carson Palmer is done and the Cardinals have no plan B. Add to that the fact that Nelson could not prove himself reliable last season and you have a speedy receiver with a lot of variance. It’s not a particularly expensive deal though so there’s not a huge risk.
On the other side of the ball Lorenzo Alexander may have been a flash in the pan but why wouldn’t you take a chance on him repeating some of that production for $2. Cyprien is another solid move on the defensive side as he has shown himself to be a steady if unspectacular performer and someone that you can drop in each week you need to and feel happy with his floor. Kirksey is the biggest gamble of the Brees’ free agency as he is a lineback who has yet to really prove he can perform to a high level. He has shown flashes, however, and is still only 24 so has plenty of room to grow. I think it’s unlikely he consistently performs to a level that is greater than replacement however.