With nearly 250 players claimed and 550 Million spent, suffice it to say that the first RDFL off-season free-agency period was nuts. Like Emerald Nuts (note the product placement, and feel free to contact me if you’d like to advertise). 31/32 teams picked up players in the off-season period, with only an already complete and salary capped Seattle team abstaining.
As an aside, I almost wrote “Seattle side”. I need to cut back on my World Cup viewing, or I may start saying things like “Surely a scintillatingly creative effort by the Tampa offending Side” or assigning yellow cards for poor bulletin board grammar. In which case, there are several teams who’d have a longer suspension than Luis Suarez.
Before we get to the team-by-team analysis, let’s take a look at a few observations:
1. Defensive Primacy – 140+ defensive players were signed, compared to just 85 on offense. Further, more than half of the offensive players signed were wide receivers. Moreover, much better deals were available for defensive players, particularly at the higher end of the contract scale. My “all overpaid” offensive team was easy to construct. I couldn’t even get there on defense.
2. Takin’ a flyer – Almost 40% of offensive and defensive players were signed to contracts of 1 Million or less. On the one hand, the vast majority of these players have no guaranteed role on their respective teams – this year or next. On the other hand, it’s probably not enough dead money to matter.
3. No Stars – There was a notable lack of impact players this year in free agency. My guess is that this will change substantially over the next couple years as people are forced to release better players for salary reasons – but when the prizes of the free agency crop are Carson Palmer, Riley Cooper, and LeGarrette Blount, it’s not an impact class.
4. Recouping the Picks – Of the teams that vastly overbid for Free Agents and put themselves peril of cap penalties, most have actually been able to get back in business and score draft picks for guys they picked up. Free Agency can be a gold mine for teams who are willing to work the trade wire hard and have a stomach of steel.
Let’s take a look at some of the notable moves this off-season.
1. Arizona Cardinals (68.73M spent on 28 players)
Appearing to be a perfect picture of moderation, the Cardinals picked up 7 players on the first day of free agency, all on the defensive side of the ball, grabbing solid starters at every defensive position. However, encouraged by their shopping success (and perhaps inspired by that Tina Fey commercial where she gets points for every transaction), the Cardinals were back on day #2, picking up TWENTY-ONE additional guys and making Arizona the immediate destination of garbage pickers everywhere. Even after trading away several pick-ups, the Cards remain 11 players and $11 million over the cap, and have some serious work to do to get ready for week #1.
Still, Cards owner Nathan Reising isn’t panicking. He’s already flipped several of his pick-ups for nice future draft picks, and had this to say about his day #2 aggressiveness.
I had more bids than that on day 1, but grossly underestimated the aggressiveness and caliber of the league members. As you know I had a ton of holes to fill…I was bound and determined to fill them, one way or the other. That being said…it seems I am now the one stop shop for all things defensive, RB, and WR (assuming you value prospects and backup players ).
For those still in the market… Ye olde Redbird Trading Post is open for business!
2. Dallas Cowboys (61.67M spent on 22 players)
The mission was clear. Dallas needed a Defensive End. And when Dallas GM Robert Walters wants something, he
never settles. So rather than getting one Defensive End, he went out and picked up NINE. Yep. Nine. As in the number of innings in a baseball game, the number of lives possessed by a cat, and the number of times I’ve unsuccessfully tried to trade for Alec Ogletree. (Please, Darren??? Please??? I love that guy!).
The ever eloquent Walters reacting to drafting nine DEs: “oh shit”.
Having drafted nine defensive ends, Dallas did what any sane owner would do, and traded them all for nice draft picks. Unfortunately, he was forced to trade TOO many of them and had to make a desperate grab for Chris Clemons midway through Free Agency.
Walters reacting to my request to trade for a Defensive End: “Man, I’ve never had extra defensive ends! I didn’t have enough until I just picked up Clemons”
Umm…. what about those nine…. errr… never mind.
The Contract of Darkness – San Francisco 49ers – Riley Cooper
Of course the story of free agency is the San Francisco 49ers signing Riley Cooper for 13.66M. Now let me be clear. I don’t have an issue with the spending. San Francisco remains under the cap and Cooper fills a need for a serious contender.
But this contract is of the devil. The DEVIL. Let’s break it down, shall we? First, 13 Million. Thirteen. As in Friday the 13th. The number of misfortune. And .66. How much you want to bet that if we saw the rounding, it would be 13.666? The number of misfortune, combined with the Devil’s number, to draft a guy who was nearly out of the league a year ago for screaming drunken racial epithets at a Kenny Chesney concert. And really, what’s more corrupt than a Kenny Chesney concert? Did I mention this contract was going to be almost 20M by the time it stops being guaranteed?
Fortunately, 49ers GM Steve Peterson has a plan. What could it be? Replacing cheerleaders with priests trained in exorcism? Having a mob heavy on call to break Riley’s kneecaps and IR him for life if he needs the salary back? What could it be?
“I am feeling good about the pick. He provides my team with a legit #2 WR. We have the cap space. Our concern for him was around the new rule for use of the N word receives a 15 yard penalty. He is currently enrolled in sensitivity training. Detroit is reportedly his sponsor.”
Let’s recap. San Francisco drafts Riley Cooper for 13.66 million, and the plan is sensitivity training with Detroit. What could possibly go wrong?
Fun with First-Rounders
Buffalo Bills – In my off-season preview post, I was very clear. I TOLD you that Buffalo was about to win Fantasy
Football. I pointed you to the roster, the massive amount of cap space, and those number 1 picks. I called him out as the danger to the league he was. But did anyone listen? Nope. All Buffalo did was flip one of those #1 picks and a couple nice pieces for AJ Green. Then, he picked up THREE first rounders for CJ Spiller and change. And STILL has 1.6, which I suspect he is somehow going to turn into LeBron James. He walked into the store with Spiller and two first rounders and walked out with AJ Green and four. That’s like going to the grocery store with six bucks to buy bread and peanut butter and walking out with a deep dish pizza and a 50-spot.
Let’s look at this another way. Buffalo now has AJ Green, Nick Foles, Trent Richardson, Julius Thomas, Torrey Smith, Stevie Johnson, and SEVEN first round picks over the next three years. I’m telling you, this team is FO’ REALZ.
New York and Detroit –
One of the crazy things about life is how things multiply. You put two rabbits together, and all of a sudden, you have more rabbits. You put two cats together and you have more cats. You put two Kardashians together in a bad show and suddenly you have endless hours of crappy TV. This shouldn’t be the case for draft picks. But I suspect shennanigans. Because Detroit and NYG just each traded each other about 34 picks. And it seems to me like they suddenly both have more picks than they started with.
Speaking of which, commendations to both Detroit owner Michael Seraphim and NYG owner Chris Adamson. To Detroit for NOT bidding on 87 free-agents. That was literally the over/under number Vegas had, and he only bid on 8, most of which were other people’s transition tags. And to Adamson, for taking a GUTTED team (and I mean Philadelphia 76ers level gutted) and making it competitive in a single off-season. The three best divisions in football this year are all in the NFC, with the West, North, and East all packing three potential play-off teams.
Vasily Zaytsev Sniper Award – Jeff Hemlick, Cleveland Browns
The first day of free-agency is a bit like the Hunger Games rush to the cornucopia. Everybody charges in to get the good stuff, and most people get killed by offering ridiculous contracts. Then there are the tricky ones. The snipers. The fox-faces. Who watch from afar and then swoop in to grab the bargains after the first-day bloodbath is complete.
This year, it’s Cleveland. After buying only two special teamers on the first day, the Browns picked up 6 more guys on VERY team friendly contracts, including Emmanuel Lamur (0.78), Lavar Edwards (0.75), Theo Riddick (0.75), Jeff Heath (0.85), Tony Jerod-Eddie (1.63), and Chris Houston (1.72). That’s about 6.5 million for some potential stud young players, many of whom could break out this year and be incredible bargains for years to come.
Kansas City’s All Overpaid Offensive Team – As noted above, I tried to do this for a defensive team as well… but really couldn’t. I came up with 2 LBs, 2 CBs, and pair of Safeties who I thought were overpaid. But not a single Defensive Lineman and not too many defensive players at all. The lesson of this years draft – overpay for offense, bargains on defense.
QB – Brian Hoyer (6.0 M, Cleveland) – He could get injured. He could get Manzielled. He plays in Cleveland. That 6M MIGHT be worth it this year. But it ain’t gonna be worth it next year.
RB – Jordan Todman (6.8 M, Jacksonville) – Jamaal Charles is making 4.8M this year. So are Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Doug Martin, and a host of other studs. Jordan Todman is making 6.8M to duke it out with Denard Robinson for the privilege of backing up Toby Gerhart.
WR – Devin Hester (7.1 M, Dallas) – He is absolutely an electric return man. No question. And there was definitely a dearth of solid WR candidates on the market. But he’s on the wrong side of 30 and did not catch a single pass last year. Fortunately, his opportunities this year in the receiving game should markedly improve, as he’s only slotted behind such slop as Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Harry Douglas… Errr… This salary only works if his returning is absolutely dominant. We’ll see.
WR – Mike Williams (6.2 M, Tampa Bay) – I admit it. This is a selfish pick – after having Mike Williams on my team last year, I want to publicly punish him for his terrible showing. 6.2M is not an outrageous price for a starting WR. But rumors have Williams as the #3 WR in Buffalo, and possibly not even that. Williams is a decent receiver. But he’s not a burner. Except for his owners. Them – he burns.
WR/RB – Andre Holmes (4.9 M Oakland) – So I’ll be clear – I’m not against this pick-up. Oakland had the money to spend and Holmes definitely has potential. But 5M to catch passes from Matt Schaub while sitting behind Juron Criner on the depth chart seems like an awful lot.
WR/TE – Riley Cooper (13.66 M, SF) – You know Riley was going to show up here.
TE – Andrew Quarless (5.05 M, KC) –
“Wow! I bid on Quarless too, but only 1.5M. You can have him!” – Another owner to KC on June 4th. Pretty much sums it up.
Best pick by team: What follows is an exhaustive list of my favorite pick from each team. It’s more than 2,000 words long, quite boring, not proofread and contains no pictures. My bad. Read at your own risk.
For those who don’t want to, I’ll be back on July 15th, live blogging the draft from this site. That should be a good time for all of us!
Arizona – Wait and See – Arizona picked up 28 guys, many of whom have flashed pure potential. Let’s see who emerges from this class as a bargain stud – and who Arizona has to trade picks to get rid of.
Atlanta – Moise Fokou (LB, 1.7M) – The other option here was Chris Polk, as RBs in a Chip Kelly offense tend to get a lot of work. If the 63 carries per game Shady McCoy gets ever cause him to miss time, Polk could be an incredible bargain. But I’ll go with Fokou – a reliable ILB is worth his weight in a less expensive metal than gold (say, aluminum) and Fokou has a lot of potential to wrack up the tackles
Baltimore – Will HIll (S, 2.8M) – Yes, he’s suspended. Yes, he’s irresponsible. Yes, he’s probably a creep. But he’s also damn good. He’ll find a home. And when he does 2.8M for double digit FPG at safety will seem like a bargain. Honorable Mentions to Vincent Rey (who will be outstanding when the Bengals lay off the LSD and realize Maualuga is bad at football) and Jeremy Kerley (who will be outstanding when the Jets stop BEING bad at football).
Buffalo – Duke Williams (S, 0.98M) – Buffalo is an example of a rich team spending like a poor team, going into free agency with 30+ M to spend and spending less than 10M. But you can’t say they didn’t find bargains. Duke Williams is going to start sooner rather than later, and less than 1M for an active, starting safety… Yes. Please. I think the Bills could have done a little more to upgrade their Defense now, but this pick is going to look really really nice in a year. Or when he gets franchise tagged.
Carolina – LeGarrette Blount (RB, 6.5M) – Yes, that’s a lot to spend on a backup running back. But everywhere Blount has been, he’s started as a back-up and ganked way more work than he should have gotten, particularly touchdowns. Now rumors emerge from Pittsburgh of a RB time-share… Nice work by Carolina this off-season pouncing on just the right pieces to fill out their lineup.
Chicago – Anthony Sherman (RB, 2 M) – Some nice restraint shown by the Bears this year – they needed a back-up running back and spent 3M on a pair of lottery ticket RBs named Anthony. These feel like the kind of scratch and sniff lottery tickets where the grand prize is a $50 shopping spree at Wegman’s as opposed to riches for life, but still – need a backup RB, get a backup RB. Sometimes, discipline pays.
Cincinnati – Steve Mclendon, Derrick Shelby, John Hughes (.87-.9M) – What’s ALWAYS valuable? Cheap defensive line-men. What does Cincinnati have now in spades? Cheap defensive linemen. There’s no guarantee that any of these folks will start, but paired with Cameron Heyward, Cincy could have the best DL for the value in the league.
Cleveland – Lavar Edwards (DE, .75M) – See my previous point about cheap defensive ends. Lavar Edwards has a very high ceiling on the Titans D, and if he busts out over the next two years, he could be an extremely cheap franchise end for years to come. Cleveland can afford to wait on him, and if he pans out, this will be a beautiful pick-up.
Dallas – Chris Clemons (DE, 3.0M) – I liked this DE snipe when Dallas made it. I liked it better 3 days later when the Jags cut Jason Babin. Clemons is not just a prospective starting DE, he’s a starting DE, and at 3M, he’s a great value. Honorable mention picks to Audie Cole, Sean Lissemore, and Ryan Griffin, who may yet end up as a stud TE in Houston. Love what Dallas has done in the off-season so far – this is one of the more well-rounded teams in the league, and should compete for an NFC playoff spot.
Denver – Matt Shaughnessy (LB, 3.6M) – The Broncos were surprisingly aggressive during free agency, grabbing a bunch of really nice pieces, including Jeremy Ross, Duke Ihenacho, Lance Dunbar, Malik Jackson, Vince Wilfork, and a minimum deal for Brandon Bostick. But the centerpiece is Matt Shaughnessy, who I think has the potential to be a franchise guy for the Broncos for years to come. This was some nice work by a team with Super Bowl aspirations and very few draft picks.
Detroit – Transition Tags – Hard to pick the best guy Detroit selected, because this was such an admirable display of restraint from a team we all expected to pick up 306 guys. But Detroit did drive up the price on no less than 5 team’s transition players, undoubtedly increasing his popularity.
Green Bay – Marcus Sherels (CB, 1.5M) – Why is this a great pick-up? Not just because Sherels is going to be a great CB – but because he may also turn into a spectacular return man. In which case he’s worth three times this much. Great pick-up by the Pack here.
Houston – Griff Whalen (WR, 0.75M) – Not much to talk about here. Had the Texans actually picked up 4th ranked DT Damon Harrison and his 200 FPG, this would have been it by a WIDE margin. But the Saints matched, and Houston came back with a pair of under a million buck flyer picks. Whalen may be a bargain if he seizes the return man role – but he may be a free drop next year just as easily.
Indianapolis – Marlon Brown (WR, 6.3M) – Another team that was not very active in free agency, the Colts chose to conserve most of their 30+M in space for… something. They did add Marlon Brown however, and while I don’t love 6.3M for Marlon Brown, the Colts are not exactly up against the cap, and 12 PPG with upside isn’t something to sneeze at.
Jacksonville – Jordan Todman (RB, 6.8M) – Yes, I think he’s overpaid at almost 7M. But he’s also no slouch. I think he has talent, and ends up starting in Jacksonville sooner rather than later. Mostly, I’m just bitter that JAX outbid me for him!
Kansas City – Mike Quarless (TE, 5.05M) – 5M is a lot. But he’s a starting Tight End. And Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the football. Let’s repeat that. Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the football. Fantasy 101. Anytime you hear the words “He’s starting” in conjunction with “Aaron Rodgers is throwing him the football”, you take the guy. And Jermichael Finley is more likely to suit up for the 76ers this year than the Packers.
Miami – Pacman Jones (CB, 5.3M) – Why is this the best pick for the Dolphins? Because it’s the only pick for the Dolphins. 10 PPG at a position of need is nothing to sneeze at, and they had the money. But the better off-season move may have been releasing Jermichael Finley to free up the space for this acquisition.
Minnesota – Matt Cassel (QB, 1.75M) – Vikings owner Pedro Fiadeiro quietly had a nice free-agency period. Picking up Andre Branch on the cheap is looking better and better in light of Babin’s dismissal, but this is the gem. 1.75M for Matt Cassel. Yes, Bridgewater is the future. But Cassel is good. He’ll keep the seat warm for whoever the Vikings draft, and I think will provide the best FPG / salary of any quarterback in 2014, particularly chucking it to an emerging Cordarelle Patterson.
New England – Cole Beasley (WR, 1M) – Love this pick-up. This is how you build in free agency without spending a fortune. Beasley grabbed 6 PPG last year. This year, he replaces a departed Miles Austin catching passes from Tony Romo. And unlike Miles Austin, Beasley can stay healthy. He’s not Dez, but I think he scores at least 12 FPG this year, making him a great bargain at only 1M.
New Orleans – Rafael Bush (S, 1M) – The Saints were spectacular on both sides of the ball last year. Very few holes to fill. Rafael Bush could be a great get if he grabs a starting role in New Orleans. And if not, Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins should suffice just fine, with Bush adding a spot of depth.
New York Giants – Justin Durant (LB, 0.73M) – The Giants definitely win this off-season’s participation award, playing ping pong with first round picks and actively grabbing players throughout free-agency. Why do I think Justin Durant is a fabulous pick? Because if he even has an even shot at replacing Sean Lee in the heart of a Cowboys defense that will literally never get off the field, he is a starter for any team in this league. And at .73M, you don’t get better bargains. Great snipe by NYG.
New York Jets – Hussain Abdullah (S, 0.73M) – Minimum contracts for starting safeties are really hard to beat. Abdullah will be the straight man to Eric Berry’s gambler, and should rack up the tackles and most likely a few picks. I think Abdullah can average double digits this year. If only Jets ownership in real life was this smart!
Oakland – Carson Palmer (QB, 6.7M) – Don’t laugh. Carson Palmer has a clear starting job throwing the football to Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, and 6.7M is a great value for a veteran franchise quarterback. Most of us are paying double digits this year. I thought he’d go for more. Honorable Mention to Matt Asiata, Superman’s understudy. AP is, in fact, mortal, and getting older. He’s capable of getting hurt. If he does, Asiata can be a massive bargain at 1.7M.
Philadelphia – DeVier Posey (WR, 0.72M) – Remember when they were hyping this guy as the Robin to DeAndre Hopkins batman? Doesn’t seem that long ago. He’s been a bust so far, but at a minimum contract, is not much of a risk. If he puts it together and Andre Johnson forces himself out of Houston… we might have a winner on our hands!
Pittsburgh – Robert Lester (S, 2.2M) – Say it with me – starting safeties with small contracts are a very good thing. Write it on the board 100 times. Then do it. I like Lester at this price.
San Diego – Alan Branch (DT, 1M) – 7 PPG from a stable and healthy defensive lineman? Yes, please. Like the Tamme pick-up too. Probably won’t pan out unless Julius Thomas gets hurt – but stud Tight Ends do have this rather annoying tendency to get banged up, and having Peyton Manning’s long-term security blanket is never a bad thing…
San Francisco – Riley Cooper (WR, 13.66M) – Yes, the Devil got his soul. But he got a starting WR who was a touchdown machine for Quarterback Nick Foles last year to fill the one remaining weak spot on his team. Fantasy Football is NOT for the faint of heart, and I love the cojones this pick required. That said, I would have loved it even more for 5M less.
Saint Louis – Delano Howell (S, 5.6M) – Pricey, sure. But he’s going to replace Antoine Bethea in Indianapolis. You just hope he’s still starting when the rest of the Rams young guns are ready to be studs.
Tampa Bay – Carlos Roger (CB, 0.75M) – This pick isn’t sexy. But a starting CB with a guaranteed role for a minimum salary is EXACTLY how you want your CB situation to unfold. While I don’t love the Mike Williams pick, I do like Tampa’s Defensive lottery tickets in Rogers, DE Alex Carrington, and CB Josh Robinson – and I like the risk on Carlson too – there’s no guarantee either Housler or Troy Niklas take that role, and it’s a bargain for a starting TE.
Tennessee – Rishard Matthews (WR, 0.99M) – How do you approach free agency when you’re already over the cap and have too many players? Simple, you pick up bargain after bargain after bargain. Less than a million bucks for an emerging WR qualifies. If he doesn’t start, he’s roster filler. But Miami’s receiving core is in no way sacrosanct, and if he starts, 10-15 FPG is by no means out of the question.
Washington – Brandon Thompson (DT, 0.75M) – Sometimes, you pick for role. Sometimes, you just pick for talent. Brandon Thompson has talent in spades. But he’s stuck behind one Geno Atkins, so he might not get the chance to be talented at anything other than drinking gatorade on the bench for a while. But if he does… watch out!
Abstaining: Seattle Seahawks
Get those cheat sheets ready for July 15th – and join me then, as I’ll be live blogging the draft, Bill Simmons style…