We're roughly halfway through the 2017 NFL season, and we're beginning to see the returns (or the lack thereof in some cases) of each team's offseason acquisitions, particularly in the free agency department. While it has yet to be determined who is going to be a shoe-in for the playoffs this season, there are some pretty overwhelming indications that some free agency acquisitions are either failing or excelling with their new team. Just about all of them saw some level of hype in the offseason, but now that the cleats are on the turf we've been able to see the reality of their production.
As is the case with every season, some have lived up to the hype, and some have crashed and burned early on. Some are performing at an average level despite being paid like an All-Pro, and some were paid the equivalent to peanuts and are among the best in the league at their position. It's been quite the season so far, and these free agent signings have been a significant reason why. Let's take a look at some of the best and worst that we've seen so far.
Ranked below are 10 NFL offseason acquisitions that already look terrible, and 5 that are actually working out.
15 Kenny Britt (Terrible)
The Browns were looking for a veteran receiver to come in and give their young quarterbacks a sure-handed target for the next few years. Britt was coming off a 1,000-yard season with the Rams last year, and he seemed to fit the bill, even if they knew they were going to have to overpay for him. So far however, Britt has looked wholly incompetent, and likely is just cashing a check until he can go to a contender, or retire all together.
It's not the only reason that Browns quarterbacks, rookie DeShone Kizer in particular, have looked terrible this season, but it's a large piece to the puzzle. Britt is producing like a mediocre receiver, not someone who was given a multi-year deal to revitalize the position on a team in need of help. Thumbs down here.
14 Adrian Peterson (Terrible)
We may need to ultimately hold the phone on this one, since Peterson has shown signs of life since being traded to the Cardinals, but there's no question that he was a disaster in the few games he played with the Saints this year. In a signing that was supposed to solidify the New Orleans backfield into a juggernaut, Peterson's production was absolutely terrible. He looked slow in the scheme, and it wasn't soon before he ceded carries to incumbent Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara.
Perhaps he can make one final run in Arizona now, but the initial signing with the Saints was still a failure. There's a good chance that AP is just at the end of his rope now, and will be retiring as soon as next offseason. With as much punishment as he's taken over his legendary career, it wouldn't be a surprise.
13 LeGarrette Blount (Worked Out)
What was considered to be a garden-variety stopgap signing for the Eagles' backfield has transformed into a true asset for their offense. Philly's offense is one of the most improved in the league this year, and Blount is a major reason why. He's been able to provide them with a sturdy run game that has accelerated them to one of the best teams in the NFC at the moment.
For a player on a mere one-year deal, this is a phenomenal return. Philadelphia may not have the services of Blount for the long-term, but they'll be able to win with him in the interim, as they've proven so far. For such a cheap price, Blount is paying dividends that one would expect out of a player on a substantial deal, and improving the Eagles offense by leaps and bounds.
12 Pierre Garcon (Terrible)
Garcon's counting stats are going to be good considering the 49ers have no one else to really throw the ball to right now, but that doesn't mean this signing has worked out. For one thing, he's 31-years-old right now, and likely won't be able to see the rebuild through, even if it ends up happening. Then there's the fact that he's not even being used to help break in a promising rookie quarterback. No, C.J. Beathard doesn't count.
It's just curious why San Francisco was willing to invest the money in this. Garcon is a solid route-runner who can post some decent yardage numbers, but he isn't the kind of player who is going to turn a bad team into a good one. This seems to have been a misstep for the Niners up to this point.
11 Eddie Lacy (Terrible)
It may be time to close the book on Lacy as a potentially still-dangerous NFL running back. With ample opportunity to seize the stating role in the Seahawks' backfield, he came up far short, and is now riding the pine in Seattle, likely to continue for the rest of the season. Lacy may have been a low-risk signing, but it's also one that could have provided a spark for a sub-par Seahawks running game. Ultimately, he's proven that he's regressed as a player since the beginning of his career in Green Bay.
There's actually a decent chance that Lacy's career could be over after this season. He probably won't be resigned in Seattle, and who would want to take a chance on a ineffective, older running back with documented weight issues? Lacy is clearly swirling the drain, and likely won't be of much use to any NFL roster in the future. This was a real miss for the Seahawks.
10 Alshon Jeffery (Worked Out)
Another addition to the Eagles offense, Jeffery may not be posting league-leading stat lines, but he's given Carson Wentz a certified number one target as a receiver on the outside of the field. This was an area that killed Philadelphia last year, and now the problem has been rectified, in large part due to Jeffery's presence. He's been another factor in the resurgence of the Eagles' offense.
He's a better candidate to be re-signed than Blount is right now, although both have had equal contributions to the roster. Jeffery is in the statistical prime of his career, and could easily contribute to a winning team over the next few years, if the Eagles want to pay him a hefty contract. Whether they will or not is still up in the air, but Jeffery's signing has paid dividends this season.
9 Terrelle Pryor (Terrible)
Pryor has been one of the great NFL comeback stories in recent memory. After failing as a quarterback for the Raiders in the early part of his career, he was able to resurrect himself as a wide receiver for the Browns, and proved that he has a potentially dangerous skill set at the position. The issue is that he just hasn't been able to capitalize consistently for the Redskins this season, despite only receiving a one-year deal in the offseason.
One would think that an accurate quarterback like Kirk Cousins would be able to get Pryor involved on a consistent basis, but that just hasn't been the case. Time is waning for him to make an impact on Washington's offense, and if he doesn't soon, there's a good chance they could send him packing next offseason.
8 DeSean Jackson (Terrible)
So far, the Buccaneers have been an underwhelming team after being predicted by many to really break out and become a contender this season. The jury is still out on that, but Jackson hasn't been the juggernaut of the receiver they expected to get their offense over the hump. He's has problems establishing a rapport with Jameis Winston, and while there have been flashes of brilliance, it's clear that Tampa Bay doesn't have the best strategy to incorporate him into the offense.
There's time to turn this acquisition around, but it's going to take a concerted effort from all aspects of the Bucs offense to do so. For a unit that's seen so much inconsistency from Winston and the coaching staff, counting on that to happen is a leap of faith at this point.
7 A.J. Bouye (Worked Out)
The cornerback market was loaded with heavily inflated contracts this offseason, and Bouye was at the head of that list. The Jaguars are likely fine with the overpay though, because he's turned their pass defense into a juggernaut, in combination with second-year corner Jalen Ramsey on the outside. It turns out that Bouye was the catalyst they needed to bolster the back end of their defense, and with a ton of cap space, they were right to make the move.
Jacksonville now has their starting corners locked up for the foreseeable future, and Bouye will be a good player for a long time. One of the best signings of the offseason, and it's already working out as they'd hoped.
6 Mike Glennon (Terrible)
The Bears clearly wanted to give rookie Mitch Trubisky some breathing room as the starting quarterback, and let him develop at his own pace as a 2nd-stringer. It was a good idea in theory, but they quickly realized that Glennon wasn't going to get it done under center, with John Fox's job already in question. Glennon was benched early in the season in favor of Trubisky, and now his three-year deal looks like it was a mistake.
Why pay a quarterback any substantial contract when you're just going to throw the rookie in before the halfway mark of the year? Chicago could have used that money to upgrade other positions. Now it's unlikely that Glennon starts another game barring injury, and that Trubisky will be at the helm for the foreseeable future.
5 Jeremy Maclin (Terrible)
Desperate to upgrade their passing game after seeing the departure of Steve Smith in the offseason, Maclin was brought in on the cheap to the Ravens after surprisingly being cut by the Chiefs. While Maclin has produced elite numbers before, injuries and age have slowed him to the point of being just a so-s0 receiver. Baltimore was correct to give him a chance, but it just hasn't paid the dividends that they may have hoped.
Maclin has still had a great career, but it's tough to say how much longer he'll be in the league. He's simply lost a step, and at this point it may just be better to retire all together. Either way, the Ravens will need to keep searching for a playmaker on offense to bolster their passing game.
4 Kendall Wright (Worked Out)
This one has gotten lost under the radar, but with as many injuries as the Bears have faced this year to their receiving corps, having Wright is a huge advantage for rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Wright isn't a star, but he's a sure-handed receiver that the rookie can count on to at least be a viable pass-catcher. Cameron Meredith and Kevin White were both lost for the season, making Wright the de facto number one target for Trubisky.
It's not a flashy move, but if the Bears want Trubisky to develop, he needs to have a receiver that he can rely on. Wright provides that, even if it's not in the most elite form, and he should earn himself a new deal to continue to grow with Trubisky and the passing game.
3 Brandon Marshall (Terrible)
What a disaster of a season it's been for Marshall and the Giants at large. With the signing of Marshall, the team figured to have one of the best receiving lineups in the league, with the likes of upcoming Sterling Shepard and the elite Odell Beckham Jr. in its ranks as well. By Week 6, both Beckham and Marshall went down with season-ending injuries, essentially putting an end to the hopes of the Giants.
But Marshall hadn't been producing like they had hoped anyway. He looked slower, and his age was starting to show on a consistent basis. The Giants whiffed on this signing, and there's no guarantee Marshall will get a second chance next season. The team as a whole may have to go through a rebuild mode on offense, and cutting Marshall will be one of the pieces.
2 Jay Cutler (Terrible)
The Dolphins were desperate after losing starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a season-ending injury, and even they would probably admit that. Cutler was the most talented quarterback still technically on the market, but he was slated to take a broadcasting job after retiring from the Bears in the offseason. Turns out that $10 million can talk, and it convinced Cutler to come out of retirement and make one more go of it.
And he's been about as mediocre as everyone expected. He has experience in Adam Gase's offense, but it hasn't yielded the results that Miami would like so far. Sure, the team is currently above-.500 with a 3-2 record, but that's more in spite of Cutler's poor play. As the season wears on, he'll begin to show more deficiencies. This is a failed rental for the Dolphins at this point in the season.
1 Julius Peppers (Worked Out)
Not many would have thought that a 37-year-old player would be among the league leaders in sacks this season, even for a Hall Of Fame talent like Peppers. That's been the case though, and Peppers is showing why he's been so revered throughout his entire career. He's simply a monster in the pass-rush, and age hasn't slowed him down a bit. The Panthers signed him to once again be a force off the edge, and he's proving as much this season, as usual.
Going back to your incumbent team is never easy, but Peppers is making it look like a seamless transition. There's no telling if he'll hold up for the entire season, but it wouldn't be wise to bet against the veteran all-time great. He's playing as well as he ever has, and could be the catalyst for a deep playoff run in Carolina this year.
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