2014 NFL Free Agency Quick Takes

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Now that free agency’s under way I’ll be giving my flash opinion on the big signings. Nothing fancy, just a sentence or two.  I’ll be updating these as things happen, with the most recent signings near the top. Enjoy.

Mike Williams traded from TB to BUF
I think this means the Bucs will be looking for WR help in the draft, and didn’t like their investment in Williams.  The Bills get someone with sure hands, but who doesn’t really add any game changing ability.  To me, he’s a poor mans Steve Johnson, and they needed someone who’s an upgrade.

Owen Daniels from HOU to BAL
When healthy, Daniels is an elite receiving TE, and could thrive in the Ravens offense as a third of fourth option in the passing game.

Desean Jackson from PHI to WAS
From a talent standpoint, Jackson would help just about every team in the league, and Washington is not exception.  The questions now are his on and off the field antics, and if he’ll become a team cancer or not.  Whether or not the Eagles allegations about his personal life were true, now that the info is out in the open,  I think Jackson will make sure to prove them wrong and stay out of any troubling situations.

Jacoby Ford from OAK to NYJ
After not going after Desean Jackson, the Jets sign different speedster receiver with a non-existant track record.  At this point in Ford’s career it’s hard to tell if Oakland vastly missuses him or he just doesn’t have what it takes to be an effective wide out.  Ford looks to have big play potential and could be a difference maker as a returner as long as he can stay on the field, and is used correctly.

Carlos Rodgers from SF to OAK
The Raiders continue to add recognizable veterans in all areas of the game.

Kenny Britt from TEN to STL
The Rams needed a lot of help at receiver, and Britt can potentially give them that tall, deep threat they’ve been looking for at a bargain.  But there a a ton of questions here, including health and effort.

Chris Clemons from MIA to HOU
A replacement for the failed Ed Reed experiment in Houston.  The Texans are trying to fill as many holes as possible before the draft so they can be flexible when their pick comes around, and truly draft the best players available, not just to fill a need.

LeGarrette Blount from NE to PIT
This signing works.  Blount is a nice fit for a team that’ll give him a lot of carries and may have a struggling offensive line.  As the game goes on he can over power defenders for extra yards, and every so often breaks a big one.

Maurice Jones-Drew from JAX to OAK
The signing is baffling to me. And the three year contract is even more confusing.  Oakland just signed Mcfadden for the season, and I see MJD as almost the exact same player, with more milage in his career.  I know that DMC  tends to get injured, but this doesn’t look like a simple insurance policy.  It feels like they’ll be using both of these guys even game, and that seems like overkill.

Mark Sanchez from NYJ to PHI
As much as people enjoy bashing Sanchez well beyond he deserves, he can make a big difference for the Eagles if Nick Foles has to miss time during the year.  Foles hasn’t been the most durable player in the two years he’s been in the NFL.  If Sanchez had to be thrown into a game, he has nice experience and would have more weapons around him than he ever had in New York.  A very competent backup with upside for the future.

Shaun Phillips from DEN to TEN
The Titans want an edge rusher, and Phillips was the best available late in free agency, with 10 sacks for the Broncos in 2013.

Jared Allen from MIN to CHI
Allen replaces Peppers and is a better fit for the new defensive system the Bears are trying to install.  He won’t have too much of a different role than the one he had on the Vikings.

Jonathan Dwyer from PIT to ARI
This move is only significant in the scenes that it might cut into Ellington’s touches.  Jonathan Dwyer isn’t any better than Mendenhall last year, and is essentially filling his shoes in this offense.

Cortland Finnegan from STL to MIA
After resigning Brent Grimes the Dolphins were smart to cover the other side of the field with Finnegan.  An passionate player who’s consistent from game to game.

Devin Hester from CHI to ATL
Hard to imagine Hester contributing much on offense, so I’m reluctant to say this signing was to add receiver depth, which the Falcons desperately need.  More likely a scenario where they wanted to try to get a spark in the return game and use him in some gimmicky packages.

Michael Vick from PHI to NYJ
This move can go a few different ways:  Vick is healthy and noticeably out-performs Geno Smith for the starting job, and gives Geno time to develop while learning from a veteran who plays a similar style.  Or Geno out performs Vick, builds some confidence and the Jets have a competent backup incase something happens  and a mentor.  What would be disastrous is if Vick only slightly beats out Geno, but gets the starting job, or worse, the team goes back and fourth between the two.  I think it could be beneficial for Geno to develop from the side lines, especially if the team is winning with Vick at the same time, but if Geno performs just as well there’s no reason to bench him.

Matt Schaub from HOU to OAK
One of the more consistent QBs in the league over the last five seasons, Schaub is coming off a terrible season.  Was it a fluke or sign of things to come? Schaub never fully lived up to his expectations, in large part due to his injury history,  but had been productive and kept his teams in the game for the most part.  As bad as the Texans were last year, he actually goes to a Raiders team with far less weapons.

Henry Melton from CHI to DAL
Melton missed a lot of games last year, but is a tackle with good size and a nice track record.  Melton’s played on some really good defenses and could help bring a positive culture to the Cowboys’ unit.

Mario Manningham from SF to NYG
A reunion between the Super Bowl hero and his former team.  I’m sure his absence was the main reason for the Giant’s recent struggles.

Kellen Clemens from STL to SD
Clemens in coming off a surprisingly successful season, and is a nice insurance policy for Philip Rivers.

James Jones from GB to OAK
Jones is a solid veteran that learned a lot being in Green Bay’s offense.  I’m not sure if his addition will be enough for the Raiders, who are thought to be targeting receivers early in the draft.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from DEN to NYG
Even as an up and down player from year to year, Rodgers-Cromartie easily becomes the Giants best DB in a long time.  They probably had to overpay him a bit, considering the corner market it thin and he’s coming off his best season, but it was something the team had to do in order to reach that next level on defense.

Walter Thurmond from SEA to NYG
Thurmond stepped up his game when Browner missed time last season, but was part of an extremely complete and efficient secondary.  It’s hard to know how effective he’ll be with much weaker help on the Giants, and that’s why they only gave him a one year deal.

Brandon LaFell from CAR to NE
LaFell isn’t anything special, but this move shows that Patriots really don’t trust any of their young receivers.  I’m not sure LaFell is that much better than any of the guys they already have.

Emmanuel Sanders from PIT to DEN
Sanders has been sneaky good the last few seasons, and would thrive in Peyton Manning’s offense.  He’s not as big as Eric Decker, and might start as the teams number three behind Wes Welker, but should develop quickly around such knowledgeable players.

Ben Tate from Hou to CLE
Ben Tate finally gets to show that he’s capable of being a lead back in the NFL.  The Browns get a back that they trust, and fill one of their biggest needs. Now they can target other positions in the draft.

Julius Peppers from CHI to GB
The 34-year-old Peppers will stay in division and join a defense that still needs a lot of work. The Packers will have to add some more guys, preferably younger ones, if they want the unit to become respectable.

Brandon Spikes from NE to BUF
Buffalo had an improved defense last season, but they lost their defensive coordinator and best defensive player Jairus Byrd, so I’m not sure if the addition of Spikes to an already pretty stout front line is exactly what the Bills needed.

Antonio Smith from HOU to OAK
As I wrote my last entry about Oakland the Smith news came out.  This defense could be great if all the pieces fit together.

Tarell Brown from SF to OAK
Another defensive addition for the Raiders. Brown isn’t as big a name as the others but still a proven player with playoff experience.

Hakeem Nicks from NYG to IND
A one year deal might be best for Nicks, who has an opportunity to prove he can still be productive and joins a nice receiving core with Reggie Wayne and TY Hilton.

Brandon Browner from SEA to NE
Going from Sherman to Revis is pretty cool for Browner, who can take advantage of most teams second receivers. After his suspension, the Patriots might have something really special in their secondary.

Steve Smith from CAR to BAL
Smith will fill the void left by the Boldin trade last year.  He looks like a prefect fit but a lot of these older receivers who’ve played there whole careers for one team don’t pan out when they change late for the last year or two.

Cortland Finnegan from STL to MIA
It was a good move to sign a second cornerback. Even if Finnegan is slightly unpredictable, he’ll make an impact.

Ted Ginn JR from CAR to ARI
This singing goes two ways. They hope Ginn can replace some of Andre Robert’s production, but more importantly, the move will most likely end Patrick Peterson’s kick returning career for good.

Lamarr Woodley from PIT to OAK
Oakland is spending its money on defense and the offensive line this offseason. Woodley, like Justin Tuck, is an established vet with a few good years left in him.  If the pieces fir this should be a much improved unit.

Captain Munnerlyn from CAR to MIN
The Vikings needed a corner to go with last year’s first round pick Xavier Rhodes, and Munnerlyn is a consistent player who finally got recognition last season. Not a pure shutdown guy, but is near the top of the 2nd tier DBs in the league.

Justin Tuck from NYG to OAK
Tuck is probably past his prime but he’s a veteran that could have a few more good years in him, and Oakland had the money to sign him.

Chris Clemons from SEA to JAX
Every year the Jags look for an impact DE to anchor their defense. Chris Clemons is another attempt at that. He’s a solid player that could help any defense, but not sure if he’s exactly the type of play-maker they’ve been looking for.

Tracy Porter from OAK to WAS
Porter instantly becomes the best player in Washington’s secondary, and he isn’t anything overly special.  But anythings an upgrade from DeAngelo Hall (who the team resigned shockingly)

Darren Sproles TRADED from NO to PHI
The Eagles didn’t trust their backup running backs last season, and even though McCoy is still the man and catches the ball out of the backfield already, Sproles fits into the up tempo offense and might find himself in some new packages.  Just another wrinkle for opposing defenses to consider against an already advanced NFL system.

Eric Decker from DEN to NYJ
The best wide receiver in a market that’s filled with depth but lacks huge talent at the top.  The contract’s respectable, and the Jets desperately needed to get a sure thing on offense.  Decker adds something right away, but won’t be a game changer alone.

Breno Giacomini from SEA to NYJ
The first Jets signing on the year replaces Austin Howard at offensive tackle.  Not too much upside here but he’s a player who John Idzik is familiar with and is a consistent veteran, and could help at a position that’s production has been very up and down lately.

Darrelle Revis from TB to NE
After losing Talib the Pats had to do something in their secondary, but Revis might be overkill.    The Pats didn’t have that much money to start free agency, so even though Revis could be a defensive game changer and play like a  $20 million corner, it still leaves them with some holes, like at receiver.

DeMarcus Ware from DAL to DEN
It looks like Denver’s going for it all this season.  Ware is one of many big names Denver went after early in the week on defense, and in theory should be a beast next to Von Miller.

Josh McCown from CHI to TB
McCown to the Bucs makes a lot of sense. He’s a short term fix but will give the team enough time to develop their QB of the future, whether it’s Mike Glennon or someone they draft.  McCown won’t win them any games, but he’s a poor man’s Alex Smith that can lean on Lovie’s new defensive scheme.

Golden Tate from  SEA to DET
Tate’s a nice fit for Detroit.  He’s durable, physical receiver who makes things happen with the ball in his hand, yet doesn’t demand the ball on offense.  Perfect for an offense that spreads the ball around.

Isaiah Trufant from NYJ to CLE
Trufant is an average nickel corner and good special teams guy who’s worked in new Browns coach Mike Pettine’s defense in the past.  A good depth move for their secondary.

Jonathan Martin TRADED from MIA to SF
This trade works on all levels.  Miami receives something for a player they couldn’t possible keep around, while the 49ers get a very usable offensive lineman for cheap.  Now Martin will get to play for his former college coach on an established team.

Karlos Dansby from ARI to CLE
Strong signing for the Browns, who cut their former linebacker earlier in the week.  Dansby is underrated in my mind, and the money here seems right for a guy who fills an immediate need.

Donald Brown from IND to SD
Don’t get this move on a lot of levels. I thought Indy would resign him but now they’ll be relying on Trent Richardson almost exclusively.  The Chargers sign him after Ryan Matthews’ best season, and with Danny Woodhead still around to catch out of the back field, there aren’t going to be enough balls to go around for the three. Brown is a similar player to the  frequently injured Matthews, so he’s a suitable backup in terms of offensive scheme, but with the production he had as a feature back in 2013 I can’t imagine he’ll be happy siting on the bench for most of the season if it comes to that.

Blaine Gabbert TRADED from JAX to SF
I’m shocked the the Jags were able to get a sixth round pick for the former first rounder, who’s shown nothing in the playoffs.  I understand that San Fran needs a backup QB and Jim Harbaugh thinks he can turn any quarterback into a superstar, but signing an established veteran instead of a project player that doesn’t fit your offensive system probably would have been wise.

Aqib Talib from NE to Denver
Seems like a ton of money to me, but not only does Denver replenish it’s secondary, it takes away one of New England’s best players.

D’Qwell Jackson from Browns to IND
Jackson is a very average linebacker. Indy has a decent amount of young guys on the defensive front, so adding Jackson shows those guys still need time to develop.

Arthur Jonees from BAL to IND
See “D’Quell Jackson”

Donte Whitner from SF to CLE
Thought this move made sense as a viable replacement for T.J. Ward BEFORE both players contracts came out.  The Browns are paying Whitner, who’s two years older and not nearly as much of a play-maker, more than Ward received with the Broncos.  Unless the team offered Ward this contract to stay in Cleveland and he decided to play for a contender instead of taking the money, this is a bad move.

Alterraun Verner from TEN to TB
When news got out that Revis would be released, Tampa Bay had to sign someone to fill the opening.  Verner isn’t as dominant as Revis  is at full strength, but fits the Bucs’ new defense and is a great bargain.

Rashad Jennings from OAK to NYG
Jennings is a consistent back with a little upside. Definitely not a game changer but is a quick fix for a team like the Giants that clearly doesn’t trust their RB situation from last season.

Austin Howard from NYJ to OAK
Howard is a decent tackle with some upside, but the Jets probably weren’t too upset to lose him, especially at $30 million.

Jairus Byrd from BUF to NO
Fantastic move for the Saints to sign Byrd, the best young safety in the league. Their defense was already on the upswing, and a move like this could help Rob Ryan solidify it in the top 5.

T.J. Ward from CLE to DEN
Denver’s weakness in 2013 was defense, and the hard-hitting Ward is a nice piece in a changing secondary.

Brandon Myers from NYG to TB
This might seem like an insignificant or confusing signing, but Lovie Smith likes tight ends that can block, and this might but an end to any hype Tim Wright got at the end of last season.

Branden Albert from KC to MIA
Getting a veteran player like Albert was a must for the Dolphins this offseason.  With everything that went on last year on the offensive line, Albert should help replace some of they guys they were forced to part with.

Antoine Bethea from IND to SF
The 49ers get an upgrade at the safety position with Bethea, who’s been more productive than Whitiner throughout his career.

Zane Beadles from DEN to JAX
The Jags know that when they bring in a new QB, their offensive line has to be stout, so adding Beadles was a no brainer.

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