The frenzy is underway and 2014 NFL free agency hasn’t disappointed. In the midst of the carnage, what were some notable blunders and burglaries committed?
Chicago Bears land Lamarr Houston – Result: Burglary
Contrary to popular belief, pro football isn’t all about sacks when it comes to playing defensive end. Signing Lamarr Houston (six sacks in 2013) may seem like a consolation prize after the Chicago Bears missed out on Michael Bennett (8.5 sacks), however their signing has unforeseen benefits. It saves them upwards of $1.5 million per year that would’ve gone to Bennett. Houston is two years younger and very versatile in terms of his ability to rush and stop the run. On top of that he was also voted team captain last year, so there’s a leadership element involved as well. It was a necessary signing for Chicago, but also a smart one.
San Francisco 49ers trade for Blaine Gabbert – Result: Blunder
Whoever managed to wrangle a draft pick away from the San Francisco 49ers for Blaine Gabbert deserves a pay raise or simply part ownership of the team. First of all, yes, I understand that from the objective point of view Gabbert had a tough situation in Jacksonville. He’s still young and physically talented but the fact is the former Missouri star has repeatedly failed to pass the eye test on tape and also doesn’t inspire confidence in his ability to stay healthy. This move has a rather pungent scent of arrogance to it, like Jim Harbaugh feels he can turn anybody around after what he accomplished with Alex Smith. Not only could Gabbert end that streak, but it may have cost San Francisco a draft pick.
Atlanta Falcons sign Paul Soliai – Result: Burglary
Everybody knew the Atlanta Falcons entered 2014 NFL free agency with the intent of improving their presence in the trenches, especially on defense. They certainly didn’t waste time. Among a flurry of moves to remake the defensive line, their best was saved for when they landed former Dolphin Paul Soliai. So often overlooked next to Pro Bowler Randy Starks, the 30-year old was one of the best 3-4 nose tackles in the league, a sturdy force against the run. His addition to the Falcons front should make them instantly tougher and harder to deal with.
Miami Dolphins haul in Branden Albert – Result: Blunder
I understand that the Miami Dolphins need offensive line help in the worst possible way and they had to get somebody in 2014 NFL free agency but to pay Branden Albert, a man who hadn’t reached a Pro Bowl until 2013 (drafted in 2008) and has only completed a full season healthy once in a six-year career reeks of “overpaying.” Conversely, the Arizona Cardinals got Jared Veldheer for the same amount of years (five) at $37.5 million. It could be argued the two tackles are on relatively the same tier in terms of ability. The fact Miami had to pay almost $10 million more speaks for itself.
Pittsburgh Steelers grab Mike Mitchell – Result: Burglary
Remaking the secondary is one of the stated goals for the Pittsburgh Steelers but it was clear they wouldn’t be able to do anything crazy as far as wild spending in 2014 NFL free agency. However, if they picked their moment right they might’ve been able to get a steal. That is what they landed in safety Mike Mitchell. Overlooked a lot at times on a talented Carolina Panthers defense, Mitchell quietly put together a very solid season with 66 tackles, 3.5 sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. The kid is still just 26-years old too. He should be an instant help in that aging and depleted Steelers secondary.
Oakland Raiders add Rodger Saffold – Result: Blunder
The number 17 comes to mind when thinking about former Rams guard Rodger Saffold. No, it isn’t what he wore on his jersey in high school. It’s how many games he’s missed over the past three seasons. Saffold started just nine games in 2013 and though he helped stabilize things for St. Louis at times, to give that man $42.5 million is mind boggling. The Oakland Raiders did need help with their offensive line but to pay a man who has not proven he can stay healthy to block for whichever young quarterback they eventually put in place has to go down as one of the biggest head scratchers of Day One.