By Aaron M Smith
It is hard to believe March is here already. While it may have snuck up on us, it has certainly started off with a bang. First March has brought us a new release from the Irish rockers, U2 ( ‘No Line on the Horizon’). But March has also brought us the beginning of NFL Free Agency. I must admit, writing an article while listening to a brand new release is the way to go! Earlier this year it was Bruce Springsteen – this week – it is U2 reminding us why they remain a force to be reckoned with. I must admit ‘Moment of Surrender’ has been the first song to grab me – but many of the other songs are quickly moving up the board.
The NFL has also seen a flurry of activity within the first 72 hours of its free agency period. I am here to hopefully to make sense of what has happened. In order to do that, let’s take a look at the last 72 hours winners and losers:
New York Jets – The Jets have been active early on in this free agency and have added quality pieces to the puzzle. Think new head coach Rex Ryan isn’t preaching defense wins game? Within the first 24 hours, the Jets added serious muscle to their defense adding lineback Bart Scott from the Ravens and trading for CB Lito Shepard from the Philadelphia Eagles. Monday, the New York Ravens…errr Jets continued their purge of the Ravens when they lured safety Jim Leonhard away. The Jets also released Lavernus Coles and with the retirement of Brett Farve – there is obvious work that needs to be done on the offensive side of the ball. But for now, the Jets have gotten off to an aggressive start.
Washington Redskins – Yes, the Redskins make the list and it seems like they make a big splash every offseason. So is it ever going to translate? Not sure right now, but the pressure is going to be on second year coach Jim Zorn after the additions of Albert Haynesworth and the resigning of DeAngelo Hall. People, including myself are questioning whether Haynesworth is worth $100 million dollars, but if it translates into capturing the NFC East, then consider it a bargain.
Kansas City Chiefs – First the Chiefs overhauled the front office and the coaching staff. Scott Pioli and Todd Haley are going to bring excitement and optimism to Kansas City. With one trade they managed two things – get a good young quarterback in Matt Cassel, a good LB in Mike Vrabel, and help create a mess in Denver. Cassel is not going to be Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but given the right system and with good targets – he is going to be an effective QB in the NFL. With Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez as his targets – Cassel has the weapons. Add another quality receiver to that mix and the AFC West is certainly up for grabs.
New England Patriots – No homer alert here. By dealing Cassel and Vrabel, the Pats were able to clear up $19 million dollars in cap space. This allowed for the signings of Fred Taylor and Chad Baker. Taylor could end up being a key pick up, since the Pats tend to run the ball by committee. Also, by acquiring the #34, the Pats have now put themselves in a position of having a late first round pick and 3 second round draft picks in a draft that is considered by many to be very deep. Expect the Pats to concentrate on shoring up an aging defense.
Denver Broncos – Sure the Broncos have added some nice additions in S Brian Dawkins, WR Jabar Gaffney and RB Correll Buckhalter. But where the Broncos have shot themselves in the foot is in the apparent attempt to deal for Matt Cassel and trade current QB Jay Cutler. Obvious new coach Josh McDaniels is comfortable with the QB he has worked with – but if you are going to gamble, you had better have the cards. The Broncos gambled in their attempt to get Cassel and now have a major problem on their hands. Cutler is unhappy that they tried to trade him and now wants out. Problem is, the Broncos don’t have an ideal replacement and now have egg on their face.
Buffalo Bills – For a team that does need help, they sure look comfortable. For the Bills the only activity over the weekend has brought a new backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to the team. I suppose for Bills fans the end of J.P Losman era is a nice start, but the Bills faltered when they lost Fred Taylor to the Patriots. With Marshawn Lynch facing a possible 4 game suspension to start the season, Taylor would have been a nice replacement for the first quarter of the season. The addition of C Geoff Hangartner was a nice pickup, but the rest of the teams in the AFC East are improving their rosters immensly. Is it enough? Of course there is a report that the Bills have signed CB Drayton Florence and are bringing in the likes of Cato June and Lavernus Coles for a visit. This grade could change, but for the first 72 hours, they get a failing grade.
Cincinnati Bengals – When you biggest free agent signing this offseason has been Cedric Bensen – you know you have problems. Plus, the Bengals lost their best and most dependable wide receiver – T. J. Houshmandzadeh. Are th Bengals expecting Chad Johnson to clean up his act this year? Good luck. Think Carson Palmer is sitting back and thinking – ” Hmmm, Tampa Bay needs a QB, maybe even Denver..”.
Baltimore Ravens – So far the Ravens are being ravaged. Gone are starters Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard. Ray Lewis remains unsigned and Samari Rolle wants out. Good news though, Kyle Boller is available in case you want to bring him back as a back up QB. Of course the Bills passed over him…