The good, bad and ugly of the NFL offseason

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The good, bad and ugly of the NFL offseason

Pete D. Camarillo

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Last Tuesday marked the beginning of the NFL fiscal year and opening of the arms race known as free agency, where teams are able to court players who have outlasted their contracts. This free agency period has seen player movement unlike any period before it.

Seventy players moved within the first three days and almost a billion dollars in contracts were signed according to ESPN’s John Clayton, and that was only the beginning.

A week has passed and some teams did well luring players away from opponents rosters. Other teams lost the bidding war and landed flat on their face. Plenty of players signed increased their new teams’ chances at hoisting the Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy, and are a “boom”.

However, plenty of teams ended up with players who can not possibly live up to the expectations demanded by their salary, and will be labeled a bust. Other teams stayed away from the marquee players with high risk, high reward, and opted for value in the bargain bin of free agency.

Here are the top players in each of the three categories.

 

Bills vs. Panthers

Former Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd will be a marquee defensive player for the New Orleans Saints, who have hung near the bottom of the NFL’s defensive categories for the past few seasons. Photo Courtesy of MCT

 

Boom – Jairus Byrd, safety, New Orleans Saints

The safety, formerly of the Buffalo Bills, was one of many big-name defender free agents. The Saints surprisingly swooped up the young playmaker from the other teams vying for his services and signed him to a six-year deal, despite their own salary-cap restrictions.

Byrd can make plays in coverage and had four interceptions during an injury-limited 2013 campaign.  When healthy, Byrd has averaged 87 combined tackles per season. He has been a star on the defensive end of the field since his nine-interception rookie year in 2009.

The best part about his $8 million annual salary is that he is only 26 years old and entering the prime of his career.

The Saints desperately needed some help in the secondary as their unit ranked near the bottom of the league. Byrd should be making plays for the Saints’ secondary for years to come, even as star quarterback Drew Brees enters the twilight of his career.

 

Boom – Darrelle Revis, cornerback, New England Patriots

Darrelle Revis was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early in free agency after he refused to restructure his $16 million contract signed just one year prior.  The New England Patriots swooped in on one of the best cornerbacks in the game, offering a $12 million contract.

The Patriots are going to need Revis to compete with the high-octane passing attack of the Denver Broncos, especially following the departure of last year’s top cornerback Aqib Talib.

He is precisely the physical corner the Patriots covet, and he can shut down an entire side of the field. The move is one more on the list of high-risk, high-reward transactions head coach Bill Belichick has been known for in recent years. More often than not, his moves have yielded successful results.

The best part is, Revis’ deal is team-friendly as the Patriots do not hold the mercenary to a commitment after this season.

 

 

Cowboys Eagles

Perennial Pro-Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware, left, has seen his production decline in the past few years with just 7.5 sacks last season for the Dallas Cowboys. Photo Courtesy of MCT

 

Bust – DeMarcus Ware, defensive end, Denver Broncos

The former Pro-Bowler signed a three-year $30 million contract with Denver Broncos, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Ware has 117 career sacks, but only registered six sacks in the 2013 campaign. A $10 million salary is a lot of money for a pass rusher on the wrong side of 30 with some recent injuries.

The Broncos are clearly in “win now” mode, and it is probably because they know something (that no one else does) about quarterback Peyton Manning’s health and longevity. Manning and the Broncos’ championship window is closing fast, but overpaying for an aging pass rusher was not the answer, especially since Ware is not really a fit in the Broncos’ 4-3 defensive scheme.

 

Bust – Julius Peppers, defensive end, Green Bay Packers

Speaking of an-over-the hill pass rusher, the Green Bay Packers netted themselves 34-year-old former Pro-Bowler Julius Peppers.

Peppers spent the last four seasons with the Chicago Bears, but showed a drop in production last season with just 7.5 sacks, his lowest total in three years.

The consensus from NFL evaluators is Peppers has not only lost a step, but has not given consistent effort on every play. Considering he has played in a 4-3 defense his whole career, Green Bay is not a great fit.

Additionally, the Packers needed to add athleticism to a depleted defense, and a 34-year-old pass rusher is not the answer.

 

Panthers v Bears

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith has said he will look forward to making his old team regret releasing him as he joins the Baltimore Ravens as a secondary option. Photo Courtesy of MCT

 

Bargain – Steve Smith, wide receiver, Baltimore Ravens

After a shocking-yet practical release from the Carolina Panthers, the wide receiver was able to test the waters of free agency.

The Baltimore Ravens pounced, signing him to a three-year deal worth up to $11.5 million. Smith ranks No. 19 in all-time receiving yards and comes to the Ravens at a bargain.

But he is no longer the dynamic play maker he once was. At age 34, however, he possess the swagger and toughness the Ravens’ offense has lacked. Smith is still capable of making plays all over the field, so Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco should appreciate having the future Hall of Famer in his wide-receiving core.

Bargain – Justin Tuck, defensive end, Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders had more spending money than any team in history this offseason with over $60 million in cap space. Rather than targeting the high-end players in this free agency class, the Raiders have spent wisely.

Defensive end Justin Tuck has two Super Bowl rings and almost 60 career sacks. He has some injury history, but recorded 11 sacks last season. Considering the Raiders are going to pay him half of what the Packers and Broncos are paying their new 30-year-old defensive ends, the Raiders got extreme value.

Tuck may no longer be elite, but he provides a tremendous amount of leadership. He should be able to flourish on a team devoid of playmakers and be worth every penny of his $6 million annual salary.