2015 Football Free Agency Recap

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Here’s where I’ll be posting my takes on NFL free agents and where they sign.

DeAngelo Williams to Pittsburg from Carolina

The story of what never was. Trapped in a quagmire of running back mediocrity, Williams always showed the most potential in Carolina, and got paid like a top back in the league. His injuries were always untimely, and as a result he hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2009. Now 31, he’ll be the primary backup for Le’Veon Bell.

Darren McFadden to Dallas from Oakland
2 years $5.8 million

It has looked like McFadden lost some of his burst after so many injuries. The Cowboys aren’t giving up much to get him, so it’s a low risk option in the backfield. I have a feeling they’ll add another back (possibly in the draft) before the start of the season.

DeMarco Murray to Philadelphia from Dallas
5 years $42 million

This is a good move in terms of fit. His skills go really nicely with the Eagles play calling and offensive line.  However, the financial aspect of the trade are all out of whack.  In trading McCoy earlier this month, it looked like the Eagles were trying to save money at running back, which would have been smart.  Then they gave a ton of cash to Murray and Ryan Matthews, two very injury prone backs. If Murray stays healthy like he did last season he’ll put up great numbers. That just isn’t a guarantee.

Brian Orakpo to Tennessee from Washington
4 years $32 million

Mostly due to injuries and being part of a bad defense his entire career, Orakpo has never lived up to expectations. He’s probably a good fit in Tennessee, who desperately needed defensive help, and if he plays all 16 games this year should earn his money. It’s a little risky, but a risk that might pay off.

Andre Johnson to Indianapolis from Houston
3 years $21 million

It’s hard not to look at this as a straight Wayne/Johnson swap, and it’s a perfect fit. Johnson is 3 years younger, is faster, taller and has about the same injury risk as Wayne. He’s never been a beast in the redzone like one might assume, but he’s also never had a quarterback close to as good as Andrew Luck. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Johnson wasn’t nearly as good as most probably expect him to be, but the fit looks right.

Nick Fairley to St. Louis from Detroit
1 year $5 million

Fairly was a beast when he was on the field last year, but a lack of consistent effort through his rookie contract is probably what prevented him from grabbing a long-term deal. He joins an already stacked front seven in St. Louis, so even though his role will be diminished, he’ll have an easy time making an impact.

CJ Spiller to New Orleans from Buffalo
4 years $18 million

It’s all about the fit for Spiller. He has the speed and size to be great, but with injuries and Fred Jackson taking away his playing time he only reached the tip of his potential in 2012, when he averaged 6 yards per carry and rushed for 1,244 yards. Since, his yards have steadily declined, however he’s still only 27. The Saints look to be building their team for a run-first offense, and with the right touches and behind a good line, he can be an effective speed option for the team.

Percy Harvin to Buffalo from New York Jets

Rex Ryan must have liked what he saw last year, bringing Harvin to Buffalo on a team-friendly one-year deal.

When he was healthy early in his career, Harvin was one of the fastest guys in the league, and was a successful option out of the backfield, in the slot, and as a return man. He was even getting MVP attention early in 2012 before Adrian Peterson went nuts in the second half of the season.   It’s hard to believe that all of that talent and potential is gone, and it’s easy to say if he is used correctly he could be great again. But if the last two teams he was on were any indication of how tough it is to find a role for him, and how much of a bad influence he can be for a team, this could get ugly.

Jordan Cameron to Miami from Cleveland
2 years $15 million

I don’t blame Cameron for wanting to leave the Browns. After a great season where he was just under 1,000 yards from the combination of Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, the Browns couldn’t get him the ball. It doesn’t help that he was injured, but if he wants to maximize his potential, anywhere would be better.

The Dolphins were wise to add another weapon on offense, and they’re paying him about the same as they would have payed Clay. The only hesitation I have is with Cameron’s injury history. This could wind up being Dustin Keller 2.0.

Marcus Gilchrist to New York Jets from San Diego
4 years $22 million

Gilchrist should fit in really nicely with Todd Bowels’ defense. Bowels likes to use his safeties in multiple ways, and Gilchrist has experience at free, strong, and corner.  The money isn’t bad either. Again though, similar to what I said about Cromartie, Gilchrist seems more like overkill than a move that was absolutely necessary.

Antonio Cromartie to New York Jets from Arizona
4 years $32 million

After one and injured bad season with the Jets, Cromartie bounced back in Arizona as part of an extremely deep secondary. Now, he rejoined the Jets and finds himself in a familiar place and a similar situation.  He should thrive in this defense, just like he did last year.

The problem I have with the signing is it looks like overkill for the Jets. They had an incredibly thin secondary last season, and it was one of the things that killed the team. However, after already adding Revis and Skrine, and having young guys like Dee Millner and Dexter McDougle coming off injuries, it seems like the money definitely could have been better spent elsewhere. The team should have an incredible defense this season, and that might be enough to carry them to the playoffs, but come a year or two from now they’ll probably be wishing they didn’t have to pay all these guys.

Buster Skrine to New York Jets from Cleveland
4 years $25 million

Skrine was a great nickel corner and during his Browns tenure gained experience working as a second banana alongside top-end corner Joe Haden. Now, with Darrelle Revis by his side, Skrine finds himself in a similar defensive system surrounded by much better talent. The money might look a bit high for a player who’s relatively unknown by common fans, but at only 25-years-old and with the value of man-coverage cornerbacks continuing to rise each year, this deal could look like a steal by year four.

Justin Forsett re-signs with Baltimore
3 years $9 million

The career backup always showed flashes of excitement in his limited work, and in 2014 he was finally given the opportunity to shine. He’s 29, but with the mileage of a 27-year-old, and could be productive again. The only question I have is if he can be effective in a non-Kubiak offense.

Willie Colon re-signs with New York Jets
1 year $870,000

I was looking forward to no longer having Colon on the Jets, but unfortunately he looks like the starting guard again this season, as of now. I can handle paying him the vet minimum though.

Brian Hartline to Cleveland from Miami
2 years $6 million

At only $3 million a year, he’s a very solid option for a team in need of a possession receiver. Hartline’s not in any way a big play threat and the Browns could have probably used a receiver with more upside, but Hartline’s always healthy and has sure hands.

Eddie Royal to Chicago from San Diego

As a Chargers fan nothing upset me more than seeing Eddie Royal targeted. He’s a fine receiver, but there’s absolutely no upside when he gets the ball. He and Jay Cuttler have history, so at least that should work out well.

Ryan Mathews to Philadelphia from San Diego
3 years $11.5 million

I see Mathews and Knowshon Moreno as very similar players. They’re both the same age and they’ve always been pretty good when at full strength.  That’s the problem though.  At this point you can’t assume either of them will be healthy for close to 16 games. As of now, he looks like the starter in Phili, but to think Chip Kelly will going to the season without signing another back would be foolish.

Harry Douglas to Tennessee from Atlanta

Two years ago he was able to step into a productive starting role when Roddy White and Julio Jones were injured. And last year he was pretty useless.  Maybe he can be a productive receiver somewhere, but he’ll never be a viable option to start for a team.

Darrelle Revis to New York Jets from New England
5 years $70 million

Yes, the total contract is huge, but it’s all about the guaranteed money, which is loaded to the front of the contract and would let the Jets or Revis get out of the deal in three years, after Revis’ year 33 season. Revis’ return to New York sures up the biggest hole on the Jets defense, and combine with the other secondary pieces they’ve added, they’re primed to be one of the top defensive team’s in the league.

Shane Vereen to New York Giants from New England
3 years $12 million

He’ll never an every down back, for durability reasons and his skill set. He’s much better as a complement to an offense, then as a pure running option. I don’t know if he adds too much to the Giants’ offense, but considering that Giants running backs rarely get over 200 touches in a season, you would think Vereen would be able to stay healthy as a change of pace option.

Mike Iupati to Arizona from San Francisco
5 years $40 million

Iupati may be coming off a down year but he’s an instant upgrade for this line, and gives them a run blocker that could help get the ground game going. There is a chance he’s a player on the decline, and if that’s the case this might not look like a good deal at the end of the season, but he was the top option on the marker, and the Cardinals went after him.

Jeremy Parnell to Jacksonville from Dallas
5 years $32 million

He’s an above average offensive tackle who should help sure up the Jags pass protection, which will help Blake Bortles’ development as a passer and should keep him upright.   As part of the best line in the NFL last season, he’ll also bring some leadership to the group.

Bryan Hoyer to Houston from Cleveland
2 years for $10.5 million

Another QB is added to the mix of low upside QBs in Houston. The contract is about right, but the team probably isn’t much better off now than they were with Fitzpatrick at the helm.

Tyvon Branch to Kansas City from Oakland

With Eric Berry’s future in doubt, it was wise to sign a safety with similar skills. Branch is coming off an injury, and a one year deal turn into much more by next year if the signing works out.

Orlando Franklin to San Diego from Denver

The Chargers line has been a mess for years, but that has slowly been clearing up. They still needed a lot of interior help, and Franklin gives them much more stability this year and another huge body. The signing also hurts their division rival.

Torrey Smith to San Fransisco from Baltimore
5 years for $40 million

He’s a great deep threat that’s always had a lot of upside.  San Fran didn’t have the ability to make big plays through the air last season, so adding a young and versatile deep threat was a smart move, even if the price seems a bit high.

Antrel Rolle to Chicago from New York Giants
3 years $11 million

Rolle is a good safety with bad injury luck. In a retooled defense on the bears, this is a cost, effective signing.

James Carpenter to New York Jets from Seattle
4 years $20 million

A useful signing, but not an ideal one. Carpenter is an upgrade for New York, but the problem with their line over the last few seasons has been pass protection, not run blocking (where Carpenter excels).

Roy Helu to Oakland from Washington
2 years $4 million

Helu is a great receiver out of the backfield, and could be a poor-man’s Shane Vereen if used correctly.

Jeremy Maclin to Kansas City from Philadelphia
5 years for $55 million

A well rounded receiver.  He’s fast, can catch the ball downfield and has good route running ability.  Considering how barren the receiver position has been in KC, any name would have been competent, and Maclin helps in a big way.

Ted Ginn Jr. to Carolina from Arizona
2 years $4.2 million

He’s only been a kick returner in the past (apart from one season in Carolina), and he hasn’t even been too effective in that capacity lately.

Devin McCourty re-signs with New England
5 Years for $47.5 million

The Patriots were wise to resign McCourty. With Wilfork now gone he’s the most stable part of that defense, and they prevent the best defensive player still on the board from joining another team.  His years of being a corner really paid off. McCourty is one of the best safeties in coverage in the NFL and has a combination of speed, size and smarts that would have made him fit in any team’s system.

Frank Gore to Indianapolis from San Francisco

Finally, after many had been predicting Gore’s demise for years, he showed signs of decline. It wasn’t too much of a drop, and a lot of it could be attributed to him being a part of a bad offense and sharing some of the workload with Carlos Hyde. I don’t think Gore can be an effective every down back now, but in what should be a pass happy offense he could see some open running lanes and still accumulate some good numbers.

Brandon Flowers Resigns with San Diego

I didn’t understand why the Chief were so quick to cut him last season, and I was shocked when the Chargers didn’t resign him right away. Flowers has had one bad season in his career, and bounced back big in 2014. The Chargers went from one of the worst pass defenses in the league, to one that was above average, and he was really the only addition they made. Knowing he’ll be around again in 2015 is a good start to free agency for the team.

Byron Maxwell to Philidelphia from Seattle

It’s hard to know if he’s a really good corner, or one that benefited greatly from the defense he was on. He could wind up like Walter Thurmand and Brandon Browner, who weren’t exactly as advertised, or he could be a helpful piece for the Eagles secondary.

Jacoby Jones to San Diego from Baltimore
2 years $5.5 million

Mostly a return guy, but Jones can contribute a little more on offense than most would expect. He’ll be the same kind of backup role that Eddie Royal should have been last year.

Julius Thomas to Jacksonville from Denver

Obviously the best receiving tight end on the market, Thomas is the closest thing to Jimmy Graham or Gronk in the league. He’s not a guy that can just be plugged into an offence, or that will make a bad offense suddenly competent, so to assume he’ll put up the numbers he did in Denver would be unfair. Still, with a core of good receivers around him in Jacksonville, at the very least he should be able to pull down a lot of touchdowns to help the team score in the redzone.

Ndamukong Suh to Miami from Detroit
6 Years $114 million

Suh was the most talented defensive layer on the market, and he got paid like it. Even with all the baggage that comes with him, his in-game impact is worth the potential headache.I think Suh makes the Dolphins defense better for sure, but for a team with so many holes to fill, I don’t know if it was the best use of money.

Jerry Hughes re-signs with Buffalo

Was great in Buffalo last year, and even with a new defense in place should be able to contribute again.

Mark Ingram resigned with New Orleans
4 Years $16 million

Outside of DeMarco Murray, Ingram might actually be the running back on the market coming off the best season. Unfortunately for him it was the only season he’s accomplished anything noticeable since being drafted. Still, it’s good for the Saints to resign him and stabilize part of their offense, especially now that Pierre Thomas is gone.

Randall Cobb Resigned with Green Bay
4 Years $40 million

I don’t think people realize how great Randall Cobb is. He’s a speedy deep threat that can spread the field, but a surprisingly effective target in the red zone. It makes sense that Green Bay resigned him, and that he would want to continue working with Aaron Rodgers, but this contract is a steal for the Packers.

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