Written by Joe Hubbs and Media by Mikey Ward.
The middle of March is a sports atmosphere; a mixture of every sport, combining for the happiness of every sports fan. As spring training ignites, the coming of baseball and hockey is in mid-season. The NBA wraps up its race to the playoffs and March Madness has everyone filling out brackets. As for football fans, the Super Bowl does not loom far in the past. A withdrawal from the sport forges depression among crazed fans who long for some more head-smashing action. While we won’t be able to see any world-rocking sacks, or fifty yard touchdown passes for quite some time. The good news for all of us football fans is that as of March 13th, free agents were given free reign to sign. The high profile players traveling between teams and the often mind boggling contracts offered to them can provide the hard hit that some fans miss, getting their minds back into the game.
At this point, the NFL off season is still young, but a number of noteworthy deals have already been made. Let’s take a look at the best moves so far.
Some see signing the near 30 year old back as questionable, but for only $4 million a year, Jackson comes at a bargain price. The Falcons, after releasing feature back Michael Turner, needed a guy who could carry the ball with efficiency. There is no one more efficient in the league than Jackson, who in his past eight years has carried for 1000 yards or more, the only player in the history of the game to do so. In this midst of several struggling Rams teams, Jackson has always been the one bright spot.
With both of the Chargers corners free agents, and a lot of quality cornerbacks on the market, the Chargers wasted no time in improving their defense. Cox, who played his last four seasons in Jacksonville, averages three interceptions a season. Last year the 26 year old contributed 60 tackles along with one forced fumble and 11 pass deflections. With only $2.5625 million guaranteed per year, this is a low risk deal for a select cornerback, who hasn’t been given a lot of notice based on the struggling team he has played with in the past. The Chargers still have one opening for corner, but their number one is already in place with Cox.
The Seahawks added on to their improving team this off-season by inking these two skilled pass rushers to their defense. Cliff Avril, a member of a ferocious Detroit Lions defense last year, recorded 9.5 sacks in 2012. Bennett, who began his career in Seattle, had nine sacks for Tampa Bay last season. In their playoff loss against Atlanta last season, their ability to pass rush hurt the Seahawks. The addition of these two defensive ends brings a quick fix to that problem. Seattle should be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season.
Coming out of an injury-plagued season with the Giants, Phillips signs a one year deal with the Eagles to try and boost his value back up. With five years of experience, it is hard to deny that this guy is one of the top safeties when healthy. In a 2011 campaign with New York he stacked up 82 tackles with four interceptions. The Eagles get the number two spot with Phillips because his potential outweighs the risk. If he struggle and cannot come back to his former strength, the Eagles can release him with no penalty; it is a non-guaranteed contract.
One of the biggest questions in free agency- why did the Patriots let Welker go? Over the past six years, he thrived as Tom Brady’s number one passing target, receiving for over 1000 yards in five of those seasons. His chemistry with Brady was uncanny to say the least, and there is no doubt that he will continue his productivity with another one of the league’s premier quarterbacks in Peyton Manning. The 31 year old has garnered the reputation as the league’s best slot receiver, and for only six million a season the Broncos have found themselves a bargain. Patriots fans across the country are scratching their heads at this one.
Other noteworthy free agent signings include: Reggie Bush, RB- Lions, Andy Levitre, G-Titans, Dashon Goldson, S- Buccaneers, Danny Woodhead, RB- Chargers, Martellus Bennett, TE- Bears, Jake Long, OT- Rams, Phil Dawson, K- 49ers, Keenan Lewis, CB- Saints, Tony Gonzalez, TE- Falcons, Chris Houston, CB, Detroit Lions, Louis Vasquez, G-Broncos, Sean Smith, CB, Chiefs, and Cullen Jenkins, DL- Giants.
Not only have there been a lot of great moves, but some teams have taken it upon themselves to break bank in signing help. One Such move includes a Titans $10 million deal to former Jets running back Shonn Green. The back has been significantly overrated since breaking into the league. Although he broke 1000 yards last season he averaged less than four yards a carry. Also I can’t help but question why the Titans need him. Chris Johnson provides more than enough offense on the ground, and there had to have been cheaper options for a backup to give him a breather.
The Dolphins have not had what football fans would call a good season in a while. That being said, they took it upon themselves to go ahead and dump $60 million on Mike Wallace over the course of five years. Holy cow! This guy is good, but he isn’t Calvin Johnson or Brandon Marshall. If he doesn’t produce, the Dolphins could be resenting this contract which guarantees $27 million to the former Steelers wide receiver.
Other possible bank busts include: Ed Reed, S- Texans, Anthony Fasano, TE- Chiefs, Connor Barwin, OLB- Eagles, DeAndre Levy, LB-Lions, and LaRon Landry, S-Colts.
A lot of time is left between now and next football season. These moves only mark the beginning of the money throwing, deal bartering, and new identity seeking free agent frenzy. Several good players and role players still wait for an offer. Workhorses like Sebastian Vollmer, Elvis Dumervil, Brent Grimes, and Brian Urlacher remain unsigned. Past stars like Brian Urlacher, Michael Turner, Takeo Spikes, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Charles Woodson still remain unsigned. Players hunger for money, and teams desperately seek that piece to make them a Super Bowl contender. Nothing is predictable. Nothing is for certain. So if you are one of those people longing for some NFL action, excitement and tension can come from the paper and pen too, not just the field.