NFL free agency officially started on March 9, but we had a good idea of where some of the big name players were going to take their talents before the 9th due to the legal tampering period, where players are able to negotiate with other teams. So there was always the possibility a player could pull a DeAndre Jordan and back out of their verbal commitment, but for the most part we had a good idea of where many of the big names were going to end up.
With the salary cap rising once again this offseason, many teams had the necessary cash to upgrade key positions. Of course, there were some teams that misused their cap space on questionable signings, but there were also teams that used their money wisely and instantly improved their roster.
The goal of this article will be to show the teams that used their money wisely by discussing 8 NFL free agents that switched teams that also will make a positive impact on their team. We will also look in the opposite direction as well, by discussing 7 players that will not live up to expectations in 2017.
15. Succeed: Jabaal Sheard – Indianapolis Colts
Jabaal Sheard was a very good signing for the Indianapolis Colts. Sheard is capable against the run and if need be, the pass. Sheard is versatile defender that can play in different roles, whether it is lining up on the outside as an edge rusher, or shifting to the middle to generate pressure up the gut. Sheard will probably never make the All-Pro team, but these are the types of signings that build depth and provide versatility to winning teams.
I know some people may point out the fact that Sheard was benched in the middle of the 2016 season by the Patriots. However, he bounced back strong after the benching and had an overall solid two years with the Pats. For only $12.75 million guaranteed over three years, the Colts found a player that will not disappoint.
14. Fail – Robert Woods – L.A. Rams
Robert Woods was a reliable receiver for the Buffalo Bills over his first four years in the league. Woods is a feisty player that can run solid routes and excel in the blocking game, which is a very underrated trait for receivers. However, Woods has never been able to accumulate over 700 receiving yards in one season. In addition, he has never scored more than five touchdowns in a season.
Based on the contract the L.A. Rams gave Woods, it seems they are expecting Woods to a legitimate number two option and perhaps even a 1a type option. The Rams are going to be disappointed when they see that Woods will probably remain at the 600 yard receiving total next year, unless Jared Goff turns into a superstar.
13. Succeed: Eddie Lacy – Seattle Seahawks
I am expecting big things from Eddie Lacy next season. I understand why many fans hate on him, as he does appear to be overweight at times, which should not be acceptable for professional athletes. However, when Lacy has stayed healthy, he has shown that he is one of the better running backs in the game. Remember, Lacy was averaging over five yards a carry for Green Bay last season, before he got hurt.
Overall, I expect Lacy to come in extra motivated next year to prove that he is still one of the best running backs in the game. I fully believe Lacy will rush for over 1,000 yards, unless he gets injured again. In the end, the Seahawks did not have to pay much to get Lacy and they will be rewarded with a successful season from Lacy.
12. Fail: Mike Glennon (Chicago Bears)
I do not have anything against Mike Glennon, but what in the world were the Bears thinking with this signing? Glennon has never proven that he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. In his brief stint as a starter in Tampa Bay, Glennon was average at best. Yet, the Bears decided to pay the man like he is one of the better starting quarterbacks in the game. Really? With this high salary, there will be high expectations.
Ultimately, I do not think that Glennon will be a savior for the Bears at the quarterback position. He can perhaps be a holdover option while the Bears try to draft a quarterback, but I expect another painful season for Bears fans next year. They’d better find somebody in the draft.
11. Succeed: Stephon Gilmore – New England Patriots
At first, I was very confused by this signing. Then, I remembered that it was the Patriots that signed Stephon Gilmore to a massive contract and the Patriots get the benefit of the doubt after being successful for so many years. For a team that does not like to pay free agents tons of money, the Patriots really went out of their comfort zone here. Clearly, this is a sign that Belichick and the Patriots see something special in Gilmore.
Overall, Belichick will hide any weaknesses Gilmore has and put Gimore in the best position to succeed. As a result, I have a feeling we will be be calling Gilmore one of the best corners in the game after the 2017 season. The Patriots just know how to use their personnel better than most teams in the league so it is hard not to expect Gilmore to perform.
10. Fail: Russell Okung – L.A. Chargers
I know the Chargers had an abysmal offensive line during the 2016 season. I also know that the draft is weak at the tackle position this year, but Russell Okung is not the answer. According to Pro Football Focus, Okung has been on the decline for the last few years. In fact, Okung was ranked as the 38th best tackle during 2016, which is not exactly that great. Okung was also part of an offensive line in Denver that struggled all of 2016. Okung has also had health issues throughout his career, which cannot be overlooked.
9. Succeed: Martellus Bennett – Green Bay Packers
Martellus Bennett was a great pickup for the Green Bay Packers and he will not disappoint. In fact, I think Bennett will have an even better year than most people are expecting, statistically. Remember, Bennett played much of the 2016 season injured and will come into 2017 healthy. Thus, I expect Bennett to be a more reliable target for Aaron Rodgers than he was for Tom Brady. Bennett will be a great red zone threat, something Rodgers will capitalize on.
In addition, we cannot forget Bennett’s skill as a blocker. Bennett was huge for New England in this area and was one of the reasons for the Patriots improvement in the run game in 2016. Expect the same impact in Green Bay. Overall, I am expecting a lot from Bennett.
8. Fail: Pierre Garcon – San Francisco 49ers
I understand that the San Francisco 49ers had a lot of money to spend this off-season, but did it really mean they had to pay Pierre Garcon 47.5 million over 5 years? 5 years ago I would have had no problem with this signing, but Garcon is now 30 and probably will take step backs, physically and statistically.
I know Garcon had a solid 2016 by accumulating over 1,000 yards receiving. However, it would be wise to remember that Garcon was playing with a much better quarterback in Washington than he will be playing with in San Francisco. Additionally, Garcon also had two very good receivers that could free up space for him in Jamieson Crowder and DeSean Jackson. Garcon will not live up to the hype that his free agency contract has created.
7. Succeed: DeSean Jackson – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Unlike his former teammate Garcon, DeSean Jackson will live up to expectations in Tampa Bay and probably exceed expectations. Jackson is the perfect fit for the Buccaneers. His speed and deep route running ability will ensure defenses are no longer able to solely focus on Mike Evans. In addition, Jackson will help open up the middle of the field for underrated receiver Adam Humphries. Suddenly with Jackson, the Bucs have a very dangerous receiving core.
Add in the fact that Jameis Winston seems to improve every season, and Jackson should have no trouble living up to expectations, unless of course, he is injured. Overall, with the addition of Jackson and internal improvement, look for the Bucs to take a big step forward next season.
6. Fail: A.J. Bouye – Jacksonville Jaguars
When will Jacksonville ever learn? How many times are the Jags going to sign big name free agents, only to be disappointed come regular season? The Jags need to continue to try and build through the draft and also look for some value signings.
Now none of this means A.J. Bouye is a bad player, but I am just not sure he is as good as the Jaguars think he is, especially with the contract he received. Bouye is feisty, has good ball skills and plays with a lot of heart, but does this necessarily mean he is a number one corner? Remember, Bouye emerged out of nowhere last year and has not proven he can sustain this high level of play over a long period of time, yet. Maybe Bouye and the Jags prove me wrong, but I need to see more before I am sold.
5. Succeed: Dontari Poe – Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons’ signing of Dontari Poe may have been one of the best signings of this offseason. I understand Poe had a bit of a down season last year, but this is not of huge concern to me. It is not like Poe slowed down because of his age, as he is only 26 years old. I think teams just figured out better ways to play against Poe last year.
Being the great defensive tackle he is, Poe will come back stronger and make the proper adjustments to get back to his old form. Add in the fact that Atlanta was able to sign him to a one year “prove it” type deal, and I see good things happening for both sides. Poe will dominate in his one year, which obviously benefits the Falcons, and as a result, Poe will get paid by a desperate team in next year in free agency.
4. Fail: Calais Campbell – Jacksonville Jaguars
Another Jacksonville Jaguar to make the list. I know Calais Campbell has had a tremendous career. Campbell will also be a great leader for the Jaguars. Furthermore, Campbell had a great individual season in 2016 and looked like the Campbell of old, but remember he is going to be 31 next season and this is the age where you see players at his position start to slow down. Add in the fact that Campbell is going to be playing in a completely different system and I do not see Campbell living up the $60 million contract he signed.
To be fair, Campbell may still play well in 2017, but I just do not think his performance will match his salary. Campbell could easily prove me wrong and honestly it is not smart to bet against him. Only time will tell.
3. Succeed: Brandon Marshall – New York Giants
Brandon Marshall will show everyone that he is still one of the games better receivers in 2017. Marshall had a brutal year by his standards in 2016, but playing alongside a superstar wide receiver and much better quarterback will be more than enough to get him back on track.
I know Marshall is getting up there in age, but his style of play will allow him to perform at a high level. Marshall does not rely so much on speed, but more so on precise route running and he uses his physicality to win 50-50 balls. With defenses focused on Odell Beckham Jr, Marshall will have one on one match-ups and rip defenses apart. I fully expect Marshall to get back over 1,000 yards next season and be a third down machine/security blanket for Eli Manning and the Giants.
2. Fail: Matt Kalil – Carolina Panthers
Similar to the Chargers and Okung, the Carolina Panthers were desperate to improve their offensive line, especially since the draft is considered weak this year at tackle. However, if the Panthers big plan to improve their offensive line was sign Matt Kalil to a huge contract, they may be in some trouble.
Kalil was signed to a $55.5 million deal this offseason despite coming off a hip surgery. Kalil has also seen his play decline, which makes this signing even more surprising. Maybe Kalil will be able to bounce back and prove many people wrong much like Michael Oher did when he signed with Carolina. Perhaps he’ll also feel revived by playing alongside his brother Ryan. However, for the time being I do not see a way Kalil is going to live up to expectations of his massive contract. Good luck, Cam Newton.
1. Succeed: Alshon Jeffrey – Philadelphia Eagles
The Alshon Jeffrey signing has the potential to be great for both Jeffrey and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles desperately needed a wide receiver after leaving Carson Wentz out to dry in his rookie season. Enter, Jeffrey. The best part of this deal for the Eagles is that they were able to sign Jeffrey for a pretty good price and term (1 year with a $9.5 million dollar cap hit). The one year contract allows both parties to see if Jeffrey is a fit. If Jeffrey does fit, the sides can talk extension, and if not, they can go their separate ways after.
Jeffrey will give the Eagles a much needed game changer on the offensive end. Wentz will have someone to throw jump balls to and have someone that he can rely on in clutch situations. I expect Jeffrey to be well worth the money and have a 1,000 plus yard receiving season. Combine Jeffrey with Jordan Matthews and suddenly your receiving core is not looking so bad anymore.
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