The free agent frenzy that comes with the new league year is something that only the NFL and NBA seem to have mastered. Why the NHL and Major League Baseball don’t hype the new league year up as much as these two leagues do, we’ll never know, but what we do know is that we’re only a few days into the new NFL year and some major dominoes have fallen.
San Francisco and Chicago have new quarterbacks, though their long-term futures are unclear. The Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants are seeing who can add the most to challenge Dallas for the NFC East crown in 2016, while the Patriots still reign supreme in the AFC East. Adrian Peterson may be on his way out of Minnesota for good, DeMarcus Ware is riding off into the sunset, and the Redskins overpaid more players.
If you ever had any doubt in your mind that the NFL was still supreme, take a look at how much activity there was over ‘marginal offensive linemen’ changing places. Almost a week into the free agency period, so many league icons and mainstays have linked up with new teams in search of everything from a nice vacation home to a Super Bowl ring. Which players are set to thrive in their new destinations, however, and who is going to bomb miserably?
And, of course, which free agency signing will the Redskins regret most this year?
It’s a new day in the NFL and as we wake up to smell the coffee, let’s look at some old faces who are now in new places.
20. Thrive: Alshon Jeffrey – Philadelphia Eagles
There are few better deals in the NFL than the one that Jeffrey signed with the Eagles: a prove-it deal. Simply put, it’s a one-year deal usually for anywhere from four to eight million (though someone like Jeffrey who has produced in the past and still young enough will get more, which in his case was $12 million a year) and the player has to prove that they’re worth a bigger contract. Usually, you’ll see players coming off injuries or suspensions signing these types of contracts, which is why Jeffrey didn’t end up with a four-year, $40 million deal like we’d expected.
But, the Eagles landing Alshon Jeffrey on such a cheap contract (all things considered) is a steal, as Carson Wentz now has a true, dynamic receiver he can throw to. Jordan Matthews isn’t bad and there’s still potential with Dorial Green-Beckham but Jeffrey is the type of explosive wideout that a young quarterback like Wentz absolutely needs. Part of what’s ruined young quarterbacks in recent years is the lack of weapons in the passing game, but between Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, the Eagles are building one of the NFC’s top offenses…on paper.
19. Fail: A.J. Bouye – Jacksonville Jaguars
Why would AJ Bouye leave Houston, a team that is going to be in the hunt for the AFC South title every year with that killer defense, for a Jacksonville team that is a perennial loser? I understand wanting to get paid and I’m far from the type of person who would pass up a five-year, $67.5 million contract, but going to Jacksonville?
Bouye deserved to get paid after a spectacular 2016 season, but not to the level of $67.5 million. This isn’t a in-his-prime Darrelle Revis or a Patrick Peterson hitting the market, but a player who had one great year on a great defense. Giving Bouye a three-year, $21 million deal would have made sense, but five years and $67.5 million? If you ever wondered why the Jaguars are always at the bottom of the NFL standings, here’s reason #731.
18. Thrive: Brian Hoyer – San Francisco 49ers
Brian Hoyer is not a bad quarterback. Seriously. Over the past three years, Hoyer has averaged 2,459 passing yards a year and completed 59.6 percent of his passes with a 12-7 TD-INT ratio; keep in mind, those stats came with the 2014 Cleveland Browns (lol), the 2015 Houston Texans (not as much of an lol), and the 2016 Chicago Bears (lol). In fact, if not for a bad game against Buffalo and Mike Pettine feeling pressured to start Johnny Manziel, Hoyer could have made the playoffs with the Browns!
Hoyer is not a bad quarterback – he’s not elite, but he’s a solid stopgap for a team looking to develop a young prospect or wait on a quarterback in another draft. Now, barring a trade with the Redskins for Kirk Cousins, Hoyer is going to most likely be the stopgap in San Francisco, allowing the 49ers to go somewhere else other than quarterback with the second overall pick (Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen figures to be the pick). On an offense with Pierre Garcon, Jeremy Kerley, and Carlos Hyde, the 31-year-old Hoyer should return to his 2015 form, where he threw for 2,606 yards on a 60.7 completion percentage and had a 19-7 TD-INT ratio.
17. Fail: Matt Kalil – Carolina Panthers
Coming into the 2012 NFL Draft, Matt Kalil was viewed as a franchise left tackle out of USC and his selection by the Minneosta Vikings was universally hailed as brilliant. In his first two years, Kalil was solid with the Vikings and was a Pro Bowler in 2012, but has battled injuries and poor play the past three years. So, why would the Carolina Panthers give him $55 million over five years with $25 million of that guaranteed?
Wanting to protect Cam Newton should have been a priority for the Panthers, but putting someone who can’t stay healthy and is a poor offensive lineman when he is healthy in charge of that seems like a mistake. There’s hope among Panthers fan that Matt will be able to improve and return to past form by playing alongside his brother, Ryan, but this move is bound to fail.
16. Thrive: Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
I briefly alluded to this when talking about Brian Hoyer, but the 49ers made a great move snagging Pierre Garcon from the Washington Redskins. Even if the money seems like a bit too much (47.5 million over five years with 17 million guaranteed), it’s important to remember that Garcon is going to be playing under former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Luckily for Garcon, Shanahan knows the former sixth-rounder’s strengths and weaknesses, which is being an elite route runner and possession receiver; Garcon doesn’t have to be that wide receiver who completely takes over the game the way someone like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens was. San Francisco shouldn’t be anywhere near the playoff hunt this season, but Garcon’s leadership and playmaking skills should be key in the 49ers’ return to contention. Anything to get out of the dumpster fire that the Redskins are becoming, right?
15. Fail: Robert Woods – L.A. Rams
We knew coming into the offseason that the Los Angeles Rams wanted to add a wide receiver to the mix, preferably a veteran one who could help Jared Goff progress. In a market with Garcon, Terrelle Pryor, DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon Marshall, and Kenny Britt – who had over 1,000 yards for the Rams last year – Los Angeles instead chose to go for…Robert Woods. That’s the same Robert Woods who had a 16 game average of 57 catches, 688 yards, and three touchdowns in his four years with the Bills.
But wait, you argue, Woods was playing in Buffalo where there wasn’t a consistent quarterback situation until Tyrod Taylor arrived. That’s true, but when you watch Woods play, it’s hard to get that feeling of, “imagine how good this guy could be on a team with an elite passer.” Instead, you get the feeling of, “this guy wouldn’t even crack the rotation on a team with an elite passer” because Woods is not a good receiver. Had the Rams signed Woods to a two year, $10 million dollar deal, that’d have been one thing; but five years and $39 million?? Oy vey…
14. Thrive: DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For some reason, this was a controversial acquisition that left football fans confused and unhappy, especially after the rumors that Jackson was headed back to Philadelphia. When you think about this signing, though, this is exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed to do this offseason. Like the Alshon Jeffrey move and how that impacts Carson Wentz, signing Jackson to a three-year deal is a move that will surely help Jameis Winston at the quarterback position.
The one concern that people have about Jackson is how he’ll deal with age and the diminished speed that will come with it, but Buccaneers fans should have faith that the problem won’t happen anytime soon. If there were any doubts that Tampa Bay is serious about making a run at their first NFC South crown since 2007, the signing of Jackson should immediately erase those concerns.
13. Fail: Russell Okung – L.A. Chargers
Really, you could call this section Matt Kalil 2.o. Like Kalil, Okung was hailed as a can’t-miss offensive line prospect when the Seahawks drafted him sixth overall out of Oklahoma State in 2010, but the results have been mixed. Like Kalil, Okung was a Pro Bowler in 2012 and like Kalil, Okung is bound to fail at his newsest spot: San Diego.
If that sounds unnecessarily harsh against Okung, it has nothing to do with the guy as a person. Russell Okung as a player has been inconsistent on the field and, prior to playing all 16 games last year with the Denver Broncos, injury-plagued. Now, you’re asking a veteran offensive lineman with a history of ankle issues to protect Phillip Rivers for the next four years? AND you paid him 53 million with 25 guaranteed? When is Rivers going to ask for a trade?
12. Thrive: Chance Warmack – Phildelphia Eagles
Slowly but surely, the Philadelphia Eagles are winning this offseason. But why, you ask, would I say that about an offensive lineman who, for all intents and purposes, failed out of Tennessee and could be on his last chance at an NFL career? As mentioned with Jeffrey, there are few better types of contracts than the ‘prove-it’ deal and Warmack, only 25, is the type of player whose talent means there’s still hope.
By no means should Eagles fans expect Warmack to be the next Tyron Smith or Zack Martin, but this is a low-key move that makes too much sense. Besides, it’ll do Warmack some good to get out of the mess that the Titans were, where he had three different head coaches from 2013-16 and saw plenty of young players get driven out. It’s a new start for Warmack and a new day for the Eagles.
11. Fail: Marcus Cooper – Chicago Bears
Another signing of a player who lacks the intangibles needed to be competitive in football, Chicago signing Marcus Cooper to a three year deal worth $16 million (with $8 million guaranteed) makes no sense. It’s almost as if when discussing players they should sign, someone looked at Cooper’s Wikipedia page, saw that he had two interceptions in a game against the Buccaneers last year when he was with Tampa Bay, and said, “this guy is a game changer. Sign him.”
What Chicago doesn’t understand is that they may already have a young, playmaking, game-changing cornerback in former Florida Atlantic Owl Cre’Von LeBlanc. Now, the Bears are putting LeBlanc on the bench for someone that the undrafted corner is much better than? What are the Bears doing? Do they want to contend? Which leads us to…
10. Thrive: Mike Glennon – Chicago Bears
First off, Mike Glennon’s contract continues to astound me. Why would the Bears give a veteran backup who is 5-13 in 18 career starts with the Buccaneers $45 million? Nothing about this deal makes sense financially, yet every other aspect of it does. How is such a thing possible, you ask?
Mike Glennon is most likely nothing more than a stopgap for the next quarterback, be that Mitchell Trubisky, DeShaun Watson, Sam Darnold, or someone they swoop in the middle rounds of the next two drafts, but he’s taking over a team with some serious offensive potential. We got to see what Jordan Howard could do on offense last year. Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright joined the team on prove-it deals, and the offensive line is improving. Glennon got a raw deal of things in Tampa Bay once Lovie Smith came to town, but in Lovie’s former stadium, the veteran quarterback can show why Greg Schiano was so high on him out of NC State.
9. Fail: Calais Campbell – Jacksonville Jaguars
If you ever wondered why the Jaguars are always at the bottom of the NFL standings, here’s reason #732. When Calais Campbell was in his prime with the Arizona Cardinals, there were few 3-4 defensive ends who were more feared or more dominant. Unfortunately, age gets even the best of us, meaning that the soon-to-be-31-year-old Campbell is in trouble…or, at least, the Jaguars are.
Jacksonville had a need at defensive end and signing Campbell for two years and $16 million would have been fine, but to give the guy a four-year, $60 million deal with $30 million guaranteed? Now is when we’d ask if the Jaguars had lost their mind, but did this front office ever have one? When will Jacksonville learn that signing older players with playoff experience to massive deals isn’t going to work? Speaking of players with playoff experience…
8. Thrive: Micah Hyde – Buffalo Bills
Fact: Micah Hyde is only 26. Fact: Micah Hyde has become one of the more versatile safeties in the NFL over the past few years. Fact: the Buffalo Bills made one of their best moves in recent memory by signing Hyde to a five-year, $30 million contract with less than half of that guaranteed. No one, it seems, circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.
What makes this signing so great is not only that Hyde fills a need, but that he’s going to a place where he can excel anywhere they ask him to excel. They need him to cover Rob Gronkowski or Hunter Henry? Fine, Hyde matches up against tight ends with some of the best. They need him to return kicks? Well, he’s not Devin Hester, but no one is Hester. You only need him to play hard? He can do that and the Bills, who have made some questionable free agent moves in the past, seem to be in a good position here.
7. Fail: Stacy McGee – Washington Redskins
A team who continues to make questionable free agent moves, however, is still the Washington Redskins. You would think that after so many moves – Albert Haynesworth, Chris Culliver, Stephen Paea, and David Burton should all immediately come to mind -that someone in the front office would say, “wow, none of these moves made sense. Let’s stop overpaying defensive players!”
And while Scot McCloughan was far from a perfect general manager (and we wish him the best of luck in fighting his personal demons), there’s no way he was the one who sent this move up to Daniel Snyder. When you pay for a rotation player, you’re normally giving them a two, maybe three year deal that makes sense given the play they’d shown in the past; which, for Mcgee, probably would have been a two-year, $9 million deal with incentives. Giving a rotational defensive tackle five years and $25 million when you already have defensive tackles is exactly the type of move that suits the Redskins.
6. Thrive: Terrelle Pryor – Washington Redskins
And somehow, this toxic, nonsensical front office still managed to make one of the best free agent signings on paper by landing Terrelle Pryor on a one-year, $8 million contract that essentially serves as a prove-it deal. Most likely, Pryor’s hope is that if he can put up over 1,000 yards with the Browns’ rotation at quarterback, he can probably break records with a competent, proven signal-caller like Kirk Cousins throwing his way.
If Pryor does what he thinks he can do – and what everyone thinks will happen given he no longer has the long list of jersey names as a quarterback – then he is going to cash in big time next year. For now? Pryor, who excelled in his first season as a wide receiver after nearly falling out of the league as a quarterback, is headed for stardom and success in our nation’s capitol.
5. Fail: Tony Jefferson – Baltimore Ravens
We can explain. It’s not that Tony Jefferson isn’t going to be a good player in Baltimore – he’ll be a fine, suitable safety that will bolster that defense – but the idea that Jefferson is going to be an All-Pro, Ed Reed-like safety is nothing more than an illusion. Every aspect of this contract makes sense, from the landing spot to the actual financial details ($34 million over four years with 19 of that guaranteed), but this isn’t the perfect signing that people are making it out to be.
With all due respect to the NFC West, Jefferson was playing against two extremely weak offenses twice a year in San Francisco and St. Louis/Los Angeles. Now, Jefferson is going to be going against arguably the league’s best offense with the Pittsburgh Steelers, a still-solid unit with the Bengals, and the Browns – who probably have a better offense than the Rams and 49ers. Of all the players on this list that we’ve marked as guys who won’t thrive, Jefferson has the best chance of proving us wrong, but take the change in scenery and what it means into consideration before saying Jefferson is going to be the next Ed Reed.
4. Thrive: Brandon Marshall – New York Giants
Before jumping out of your seat and proclaiming that this move is bound to fail because of what it means for the Giants’ locker room, let’s look at the positives of this deal for Brandon Marshall.
– Marshall has been nothing but a model citizen the past few seasons despite playing in Miami, Chicago, and New York, three cities where players often find themselves in legal trouble.
– Though he has yet to make the postseason in his career and played with quarterbacks that ranged from average to awful, Marshall let his play do the talking.
– The Giants needed another veteran receiver, especially with Sterling Shepard taking over Victor Cruz’s position at the slot, and Marshall fits the bill.
Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. has some attitude issues that need fixing, but isn’t Marshall the best person to help him with that? And isn’t Marshall the type of veteran player who can help the young members of the offense grow on the field? If you thought Eli Manning’s offense was dangerous at times last year, the addition of Marshall only makes them more of a threat.
3. Fail: Stephon Gilmore – New England Patriots
On one hand, Gilmore was so much of a non-factor this past year that the Bills let him slip in free agency to the New England Patriots, the same place where Bill Belichick has a notorious history of taking once-forgotten players and turning them into threats again before letting them leave…where they’ll do nothing the rest of their careers. As Proposition Joe Stewart once said, “might as well dump ’em, get another.”
On the other hand, the Patriots overpaid, giving Gilmore $65 million – 40 of which was guaranteed – over five years (rarely do these big-name signings work in New England) at a position that’s extremely deep in this draft class. Unless Belichick sees something in Gilmore that we don’t – and even then, why not talk to him about what would essentially be a prove-it deal? – this contract screams confusion.
Last year, Gilmore looked so lost on the field in a contract year and now, with all of that money coming to him, expecting him to turn things around in the Belichick system seems like a risk. If it works, it works, but if it doesn’t…why, Bill? Let the Dolphins overpay for him!
2. Thrive: Brandin Cooks – New England Patriots
While not a free agency signing, this move still involves a big-name player going to a new team. How does this move not benefit the Patriots? Despite coming off a Super Bowl win, the Patriots have somehow managed to find a way to get better. Tom Brady arguably just played the best season of his career despite throwing to the likes of Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. The Patriots seem to prefer speed and route running from their receivers rather than big bodies, so Brandin Cooks being a speedy 5’10 makes him a perfect fit in New England.
Cooks put up incredible numbers in New Orleans and there’s no reason to see why his numbers would take a dip in New England. Tom Brady’s going to have a lot of fun throwing him the ball.
1. Fail: Ted Ginn – New Orleans Saints
If the Saints want to contend for one more Super Bowl in the Drew Brees era, they need weapons for their veteran quarterback that can keep him upright, keep themselves on the field, and keep the Saints in the game. That player is not Ted Ginn Jr., who only seems to be good with the Carolina Panthers. When Ginn is with Cam Newton, the two have a chemistry that works to perfection and you can really tell that the two love playing with one another.
However, when Ginn isn’t in Carolina, he’s nothing more than a replacement level wide receiver. If the Saints were looking to avoid overpaying someone like DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon, that’s one thing, but giving Pierre Garcon almost four million a year? The one positive here is that Ginn at least has experience in the NFC South and may be able to take advantage of a Carolina defense that doesn’t have the same shine it once did, but this was a silly move for the Saints to make.
Which NFL players do you think are going to thrive in their new homes? Which do you think will fail? Make sure to let us know in the comment section below!