Real Football Top Offseason Free Agent Moves
The following is an article written by Real Football Services. They are a frequent contributor on newyorkjets.com.
It was a busy offseason in the NFL, one that was delayed by extended negotiations of the league's new collective bargaining agreement. But once the ink was dry there was the usual flurry of activity, with players moving from one team to another, followed by an unusually long quiet period that came as a result of the increase in salary cap monies available to the clubs.
With additional room under the cap, many teams were able to re-sign their own free agents. Still, there were some major moves that could pay off handsomely for several teams. Here's a look at what we consider some of the top free agent moves of the offseason.
Getting an Edge
The signing of RB Edgerrin James gave the Cardinals instant credibility on offense, and the running game coach Dennis Green has been sorely lacking. Some teams may be concerned with the fact that James has a lot of wear and tear on his body, but he won't be 28 years old until August, so he's still got some miles in him. He's got speed to the edge, has the cutback ability to run effectively between the tackles, and is an excellent receiver who will take pressure off QB Kurt Warner. If the O-line can block, this is the best move of the offseason.
Pass the Pepper
The Dolphins, despite their struggles in recent seasons, have had one of the better defenses in the NFL. In 2005 first round pick Ronnie Brown, they gained a versatile RB who has the ability to be the driving force of the offense. They have very good skill players who can catch the ball in WR Chris Chambers and TE Randy McMichael. What they have been missing is someone to get them the ball. The Dolphins addressed their most pressing need in trading for QB's Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington. Culpepper has a gun of an arm and a playmaker's mentality. If he is fully recovered from last season's knee injury and can play within the offense, he could return to Pro Bowl form in Miami. If he isn't ready, Harrington is a polished NFL QB with starting experience whose greatest downfall is his battered confidence. Still, he is a significant upgrade from the days of Gus Frerotte and AJ Feeley.
Coming In Out Of the Rain
Adam Vinatieri, one of the most clutch kickers in the history of the game, comes in from the cold rain and snow of New England to kick in the climate controlled surroundings of the RCA Dome. The rich get richer with this move. Vinatieri is coming off a down year where he connected on just 80% of his field goal attempts and was 0-for-2 on kicks of 50+ yards, but he should get plenty of scoring opportunities playing with the Colts high-flying offense. And for the Indy faithful, no more wide rights in the big spot in the playoffs.
A Little Security
There's little question that Alex Smith is a very talented QB. He has good physical size and strength, is an accurate passer, and has a good understanding of the passing game. However, some of the finest QB's in the game have succumbed to the pressures of the "P Word"….potential. Smith will surely suffer through more growing pains in year two, and when he falters, the Niners will now be able to turn to veteran Trent Dilfer. A depth chart that featured the likes of Ken Dorsey, Cody Pickett, and Jesse Palmer couldn't have left head coach Mike Nolan feeling very comfortable, so the team traded Dorsey to Cleveland in return for a 13-year veteran and former Super Bowl champion. Dilfer is well past his prime and has never been a big play QB, but he will lend some stability to a young team trying to find their way. When needed on the field he's an effective field general who won't make the big mistake. Off the field, he will be an invaluable mentor to Smith.
Dancing on the Star Again
While many will criticize the Cowboys signing of the incorrigible Terrell Owens and point to his many off field distractions and volatile personality, there is no questioning his talent. He has great size, one of the softest pair of hands in the game, the speed to be a vertical threat, and the polish and toughness to make difficult catches in traffic and gain yards after the catch. Head coach Bill Parcells has shown the ability to manage the talented, high-maintenance player, including the likes of Lawrence Taylor and Keyshawn Johnson, and earned the respect of those players along the way. Owens is a game-changing, perhaps a season-changing player if Parcells can keep him in line.
Give-Hope in Tennessee
The Titans have plenty of young, talented receivers in Drew Bennett, Brandon Jones, and Courtney Roby. But with QB Steve McNair gone to Baltimore, Billy Volek or Vince Young, whoever eventually takes over, a veteran WR like David Givens will be invaluable. Not only does Givens know how to help his QB and get open, he has the respect of opposing defensive backs and will open up opportunities for the young guns to finally show their stuff.
FS Chris Hope is a Super Bowl champion who has great range and playmaking ability and brings a needed confidence to a building defense.
Stay at Home
Maybe RB Shaun Alexander really had no intention of going anywhere, but it sure seemed dicey at times out on the west coast. The re-signing of Alexander was critical to any future success for the Seahawks. The loss of OG Steve Hutchinson will hurt, but Alexander makes the whole offense go.
A Leader of Lions
Initially, the big news in Detroit was the signing of QB Jon Kitna who was finally going to become a regular NFL starter again. Not so fast. The Lions also quietly signed former Cardinals QB Josh McCown, and as we get closer and closer to the start of training camp, McCown seems like the guy who could be lining up under center on opening day. Only in his fifth season, McCown has excellent size, a strong arm (over 4,300 passing yards in his last 23 games), and a good head. Plus, he admittedly spent hours upon hours talking to Kurt Warner in the Cardinals locker room last year about the intricacies of the Mike Martz offense. The kid had a year in the playbook before he ever set foot on Ford Field.
The Missing Piece?
The anguished cry in Baltimore for years has been, "If only we had a quarterback…"
The team has fielded a notoriously stingy defense with some of the top defensive players in the NFL in recent seasons, and has featured a bruising rushing attack and a 2,000-yard rushing season from Jamal Lewis in 2003. But they have not had a viable QB (though they did win the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer in 2000) to lead the offense. They decided they could no longer wait for former number one pick Kyle Boller to develop and negotiated a trade for former NFL MVP Steve McNair from the Tennessee Titans. While this was an aggressive and gutsy move by the Ravens, the jury is still out. McNair is as tough as they come and can make plays with his arm and his legs, but he has struggled to stay healthy and has not been nearly as effective as he was even two seasons ago. Even if he does play and play well, the defense is not the dominating unit is once was, and Lewis is a shell of his former self. Nice idea, but it may be too late in Baltimore.
Bill Parcells used three different kickers last season and lost four games by six points or less when one more win would have put his team in the playoffs. He has a young, emerging defense, a veteran signal caller in Drew Bledsoe, three top flight pass catchers in Owens, Terry Glenn, and Jason Witten, two feature backs in Julius Jones and Marion Barber, and now he has a Pro Bowl kicker in Mike Vanderjagt. Yes, he missed the big kick in the playoffs for Indianapolis, but remarkably he made 36 of the previous 40. Parcells could use that kind of consistency on his team.