The first day of NFL free agency has come and gone, and even though we’re not even 24 hours in, the landscape of the league has changed considerably. Teams wasted no time getting deals done with players, and a couple of blockbuster trades were finalized as the league opened for business on Tuesday at 4 PM Eastern time.
Here is an updated list of the top free agents available and where they’ve signed at this point, but who were the winners and losers of day one?
Notable Acquisitions: WR Mike Wallace (Steelers), LB Dannell Ellerbe (Ravens), LB Phillip Wheeler (Raiders)
This was pretty much a no-brainer, but simply in terms of recruiting and getting players to buy in immediately, the Dolphins took round one of free agency. I’m not saying the money they gave out is all going to be worth it, but they addressed probably their most glaring need while adding some teeth to their defense.
The Dolphins managed to steal away Phillip Wheeler from the Raiders. He was arguably Oakland’s top defensive player last year playing on a one year contract and proving he can make plays all over the field. Ellerbe is a good fit for their defense and was whisked away from the Super Bowl champion Ravens, who now have a huge hole on the inside of their defense. Without Ellerbe and Ray Lewis last year, the Ravens went on a considerable losing streak and their defense lost much of its toughness. Wallace was a pricey addition to the team but probably a necessary one. He is now the team’s number one receiver with Brian Hartline also re-signed as the #2. Wallace gives them a big play threat at the receiver position that they managed to do okay without last year. He will hopefully help Ryan Tannehill develop into the star QB they drafted him to be. The Dolphins are also reported to be bringing in pass catching TE Dustin Keller for a visit, after losing out on Jared Cook to the Rams.
Notable Acquisitions: S Patrick Chung (Patriots), TE/FB James Casey (Texans), CB Bradley Fletcher (Rams), DT Isaac Sopoaga (49ers)
I loved what the Eagles did on day one of free agency. Their moves didn’t make a ton of headlines by any means, but they quietly got a lot better in the secondary with the acquisitions of Patrick Chung and Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher is a sure tackler, something Eagles fans may not even have a concept of after watching Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie the last two years. Chung is a guy who flashed brilliance with the Patriots, but fell out of favor with coaches and now reunites with his college coach Chip Kelly at a reasonable price. James Casey can be the “Colt Lyerla” of the Eagles’ offense, or a guy who can add speed and athletic ability as an H-back, TE, WR, or FB. Very solid pickups for the Eagles.
Notable Acquisitions: DT Desmond Bryant (Raiders), DE/OLB Paul Kruger (Ravens), DE/OLB Quentin Groves (Cardinals)
The Browns completely revamped their defensive front seven and aren’t done spending yet, from the sounds of it. GM Michael Lombardi didn’t waste any time getting the team’s cash flowing, as Super Bowl champion pass rusher Paul Kruger was among the first players in the pool to sign, and he signed for less than I thought. Desmond Bryant was arrested not too long ago, and the Browns gave him a big contract. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Bryant is a really good player who will pair with Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin to give the Browns an enviable front seven of young players. Quentin Groves also adds depth to the pass rush rotation.
The Raiders’ roster and cap situation is in a complete shambles. They released half of the decent players they had left yesterday, and understandably so in terms of money, but that doesn’t change the fact that the cupboard is bare in Oakland. They lost Phillip Wheeler and Desmond Bryant yesterday, while DT Richard Seymour looks into signing with contenders Denver and Atlanta. Darrius Heyward-Bey was a bust at wide receiver, and was shown the door on Tuesday along with fellow former first round pick Michael Huff, who has been a valuable player for the Raiders. Brandon Myers also is still unsigned and talking to other teams. Reggie McKenzie is not in an enviable situation.
How’s this for a Super Bowl encore? Say goodbye to team captain Ray Lewis, WR Anquan Boldin, OLB Paul Kruger, ILB Dannell Ellerbe, and possibly if not probably safety Ed Reed. Last year, the Ravens played horribly without Lewis and Ellerbe up the middle of their defense, and as per usual, they won’t be over-spending in free agency. I trust Ozzie Newsome will make the correct moves for this team, but after day one of free agency, things are looking bad for the Super Bowl champs.
The Chargers signed our lowest ranked offensive tackle for an ailing offensive line (King Dunlap) and lost offensive guard Louis Vasquez–their best O-lineman–to rival Denver. Philip Rivers can’t be happy in the early goings of free agency.