NFL free agency: Recapping the madness
By TAYLOR ROSEN
College Contributor Network
It's that time of year, spring is right around the corner, the birds are beginning to chirp again, it's conference tournament week in college basketball, and it's officially a new football season when the NFL free-agency period opens at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday. As we all know, the NFL waits for nobody. The floodgates certainly opened across the league as the 4:00 p.m. deadlined inched closer. Within 10 minutes, three blockbuster trades took place across the league. Deals have been surfacing all throughout the NFL for the last week or so, but Tuesday is the day they can become official.
3:51 p.m. Tuesday: @AdamSchefter: "Trade final: Jimmy Graham to Seattle for Max Unger and 2015 first-round pick, per Seahawks official."
3:53 p.m. Tuesday: @AdamSchefter: "Haloti Ngata and 2015 seventh-round draft pick traded to Lions for fourth and fifth-round draft picks, per @aaronwilson."
3:58 p.m. Tuesday: @AdamSchefter: "Filed to ESPN: Rams close to trading QB Sam Bradford to Philadelphia for Nick Foles and draft-pick compensation, per sources."
4:41 p.m. Tuesday: @AdamSchefter: "Free-agent WR Torrey Smith has reached agreement on a five-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers per me and @caplannfl"
I'm not quite sure how the folks down in Philadelphia know how to feel about their beloved Eagles, and head coach Chip Kelly, right now. The Eagles are now the talk of the league after Kelly decided to trade star running-back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills a week ago, in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso. The team signed former Seattle cornerback Byron Maxwell to a six-year contract over the week. Tuesday, Kelly traded quarterback Nick Foles for an injury prone, but talented quarterback in Sam Bradford. Maybe Kelly plans to use Bradford, and maybe he doesn't. Time will tell, but as of right now, this is now the second consecutive year where Kelly has decided to part ways with productive, and explosive talent. But this year it's different, it seems as if Kelly has his eyes set on completely reconstructing the roster.
Kelly also decided to cut ties with another proven talent in Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is headed to Kansas City to play for the man who drafted him, Andy Reid. The Eagles also lost out on free agent running back Frank Gore, after Gore changed his mind and decided to ink a deal with the Indianapolis Colts Tuesday afternoon. One thing the Eagles have done is clear cap space. With those moves, the Eagles have now gotten rid of three of their top four salary cap hits for 2015, and cleared $20 million+ in cap space. The Eagles are also one of the teams in the mix for running back DeMarco Murray, per Adam Caplan. So maybe they use that space to add Murray, one of the best, if not, the best, running-back in the league.
Last week, the Chicago Bears sent Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick. The deal of which, did not surprise many throughout the league. The Bears made it pretty clear up until the trade that they weren't interested in working with Marshall anymore. This now gives the Jets, and young Geno Smith, a productive and legitimate threat to any defense in the NFL, when healthy. We know Jay Cutler can't be too happy about this deal.
The Jets have been one of the most active teams this offseason. In the last week, the Jets traded for Marshall, signed Darrelle Revis to a five-year $70 million contract, with $33 million guaranteed in the first two years, and also signed former Browns cornerback Buster Skrine to a multi-year deal the same day.
The first big splash in free agency hit the shores of Miami a few days prior to the 4:00 p.m. Tuesday deadline. The Dolphins landed their big fish by signing Ndamukong Suh to a six-year, $114 million contract, with $60 million guaranteed over the first three years of the deal. That's quarterback money, but adding Suh to an already improving defensive unit makes the Fins a team to watch in 2015.
The Browns made a move Monday to add more depth to the receiving core. Cleveland signed the former Ohio State Buckeye, and Canton, Ohio native, Brian Hartline. The Browns gave Hartline a two-year deal for $6 million. This will give new starting quarterback Josh McCown, a sure-handed receiver to target. The Browns couldn't get a deal done with Brian Hoyer, who is now a Houston Texan.
The Jaguars made a big splash by stealing away tight end Julius Thomas from Peyton Manning, and the Broncos. The Jaguars signed Thomas to a multi-year deal worth $20.5 million with $8 million guaranteed. The deal gives young second-year quarterback Blake Bortles a big, reliable veteran tight end to look for when dropping back to pass.
The Giants inked former Patriots running-back Shane Vereen, and former Jaguars linebacker JT Thomas to deals just before the deadline on Tuesday afternoon. This gives Eli Manning another versatile back that can catch the ball very well out of the back field, and the Giants another linebacker to add some more depth to that defense.
The Bengals signed former Packers linebacker AJ Hawk, and have Nick Fairley flying in Wednesday to visit the organization, per Josina Anderson.
The Patriots signed former Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson to a one-year deal worth $825,000, and had Jabaal Sheard in for a visit Thursday night. New England has to make some moves and add to the defense after losing defensive tackle Vince Wolfork, and cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Six-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection linebacker Patrick Willis of the 49ers, announced his plans to retire Tuesday afternoon. Jake Locker, quarterback of the Titans also announced he's retiring on Tuesday after playing just four seasons in the league.
The 49ers adding wide receiver Torrey Smith from the Ravens is a big addition for that organization. With all the change that has taken place since the departure of Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers need to redevelop an identity. Signing one of the fastest receivers in the game to a five-year, $40 million deal will certainly help.
The Colts are flying Andre Johnson into town to meet with the organization Tuesday night, and is likely to sign with the team. After running back Frank Gore, linebacker Trent Cole, and defensive end Kendall Langford already signing deals with the Colts earlier Tuesday afternoon, I wouldn't be surprised to see Johnson sign a deal there as well. Those moves provide the Colts with assets they've been lacking. A power running back, and a true, number one wide receiver. If Gore and Johnson can stay healthy, these moves could make the Colts the favorite to win the AFC.
I believe the biggest winner of the first day of free agency is either the Seattle Seahawks, or Indianapolis Colts. The Birds made two huge moves by signing Cary Williams to a three-year $18 million deal, and trading for tight-end Jimmy Graham. The Colts can one-up the Seahawks if they can ink Andre Johnson to a deal, after already signing Gore and Cole, but both teams filled gaping holes on the first day of the NFL free agency period.
The biggest losers of the offseason, and first day of free agency so far has to be the Philadelphia Eagles, in my mind. It seems as if Chip Kelly is having a power trip in the City of Brotherly Love. After cutting ties with three explosive players in the past two years, and trading a quarterback who proved he can win games as a starter in Nick Foles.
Foles proved he could win games in Kelly's system, Bradford is yet to prove he can play a full 16 game season in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens could be another potential loser of the first day of free agency. The Ravens lost Ngata and Smith without gaining much in return.
Unless, Pat McManamon hit the nail on the head with his article Tuesday evening that said the Cleveland Browns now have more of a chance to land Bradford then they did just a day ago. McManamon isn't sure what Chip Kelly wants to do with Bradford, but he believes the Browns chances of landing the quarterback have increased. The Eagles could send Bradford and draft picks to the Browns for the 12th overall pick in the 2015 draft. The Eagles would then use that pick, and their own first round pick to trade up for Marcus Mariota. Again, this is just speculation, but it could very well be in the works.
It'll be interesting to see where Murray, Percy Harvin and the rest of the big names still out there land. This might be my favorite time of the year, with all the shuffling going on in the NFL, and the real pandemonium that awaits us when March Madness tips off next week.
Taylor Rosen is a junior at Kent State University. He spent time with The Stater covering Kent State football and basketball. Taylor is from Cleveland, and has Cleveland sports under a microscope. Follow him on Twitter: @T_Rosen11