It’s still early but the returns are coming in on the main phase of 2014 NFL free agency. Which teams came out winners and which ones bit the dust hard?
Dynamo: Denver Broncos
Adding three Pro Bowl players to the defensive side of the ball, two of them under the age of 30 and that has to be considered a major victory. The Denver Broncos made a statement they are not letting their Super Bowl defeat stop them from continuing the chase. By adding Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward to the secondary and DeMarcus Ware across from Von Miller their defense suddenly has way more bite than a year ago. Peyton Manning may have one last chance, but it should be a good one.
Deadbeat: Oakland Raiders
Never mind the whole Roger Saffold mess. Yes it was bad all around from the opening interest to the murky failed physical but the fact of the matter is the Oakland Raiders have utterly failed to bring in anybody of serious note in 2014 NFL free agency despite having the most salary cap space. This was supposed to be the year they remade the roster completely into the first winner Raider fans have seen in over a decade. Instead they’ve had to settle for older veterans like Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith to replace rising youngsters like Lamarr Houston. Was it really that hard to interest top names when they had so much money to throw around? Apparently.
Dynamo: Atlanta Falcons
Thomas Dimitroff had a plan for the Atlanta Falcons and he executed quickly and darn near flawlessly. His offensive and defensive lines were the most in need of help and he got them plenty of it in the open hours on the market. For the defense he added stout run plugger Paul Soliai at defensive tackle and solid defensive end Tyson Jackson while also bringing back Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux. Then he shifted to the offensive side when he added 25-year old guard Jon Asamoah, one of the best pass protectors on the market. Now the Falcons go into the draft much more stable and open to pursue the best player they choose.
Deadbeat: Dallas Cowboys
Their two best pass rushers from a year ago in Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware are gone. In their place the Dallas Cowboys have added Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey. Hardly consolation prizes for a team that continues to believe it’s not too far off from competing for a Super Bowl. Yet as they continue to wait the top defensive linemen continue to come off the board. Julius Peppers is in Green Bay and Henry Melton, their best hope at this point might not leave Seattle. Jerry Jones seems so confident he knows what’s best for his team. It should be entertaining to watch him dig out of this hole.
Dynamo: Arizona Cardinals
There comes a point when substance and style meet in 2014 NFL free agency and the Arizona Cardinals pulled it off more than once. Every single need on their roster was addressed in some fashion and done so with a rather impressive bit of bargain shopping. They swiped Jared Veldheer from Oakland to play left tackle, added Jonathan Dwyer to replace Rashard Mendenhall at running back, bolstered tight end with underrated veteran John Carlson and even gave their return game a boost by adding veteran receiver Ted Ginn Jr. These signings not only improve the roster, it also clarifies a lot of their draft priorities. That defines a win.
Deadbeat: Carolina Panthers
One clear cut need. That was it. Nearly every expert agreed the Carolina Panthers entered the active part of the off-season with one need to fill and somehow they’ve bungled it. Not only did they cut loose their best receiving option in Steve Smith, despite him being 34-years old, they failed to bring in any of the notable targets on the market. Eric Decker went to the Jets and even their supposedly slam dunk option Hakeem Nicks shunned them for Indianapolis. Their best hope at this point is to get back Brandon LaFell. Never mind the losses they suffered in the secondary. All around a rough week for Cam Newton and the Cats.