Wednesday, 13 March 2013

NFL Free Agency: Day 1

The NFL has been working on making each event on the calendar a huge event to be built up to and then unleashed on an unsuspecting public and then followed frenetically as it unfolds. Fueled by the Blackberries and iPhones of NFL news mavens, who earn their crust on days like this, the opening of Free Agency has taken on a likeness to Sky Sports Transfer deadline day without the presence of Jim White (what can only be considered a bonus).

Here are your big story lines from last nights actions
(rankings are from Pro Football Talks hot 100 followed by details of contracts where available)

Miami and Cleveland make big moves early
Cleveland are a team with a completely new management structure in place and need to make huge strides to improve their team quickly, Miami are at the other end of the scale with a need to improve dramatically to save the job of the current GM, Jeff Ireland.

In Cleveland new General Manager Mike Lombardi (yes, him off NFL Network) moved to restock their defence and eat up some of their spare cap space with the additions of former Raiders Defensive Tackle Desmond Bryant (ranked #33 5 years $34m) and Superbowl winning outside linebacker Paul Kruger (ranked #7, 5 years $40m with $20m guarenteed). They're also due to host former Cardinals linebacker Greg Toler.

Miami made improvements on both sides of the ball with the addition of Mike Wallace (ranked #1, 5 years £60m(!)) to give their offence a deep threat that has been missing since they traded Brandon Marshall to Chicago. On the defensive side of the ball they picked up Ravens middle Linebacker Danell Ellerbe (ranked #39, 5 years £35m) and then promptly released Carlos Dansby to restore some cap space.


Ravens Defence gutted
Good news Ravens fans, you still have Joe Flacco! Bad news Ravens fans, he can't play middle linebacker! Of all their big name players hitting free agency post Superbowl win there is currently only one still unsigned (Ed Reed). The team lost Paul Kruger to AFC North Rivals Cleveland and Dannell Ellerbe to another AFC rival in Miami. Ed Reed is still floating around as an unrestricted free agent (UFA), Anquan Boldin was traded to the 49ers and Ray Lewis isn't coming back.

The question has to be asked, how much magic can Ozzie Newsome really work in the draft? This particular free agency class wasn't particularly deep with talent at the middle linebacker position (although Dansby being cut by Miami could be a nice pick up) and picking last in the first round is no guarantee that one of the blue chip prospects fall to you (and even then, no guarantee that they play well).

Philadelphia Eagles make understated moves
Two years departed from the "Dream Team" free agency splurge, the Eagles made some very tidy moves to restock their roster with talent and address areas of need. With a move to a 3-4 defence next year, restocking their front seven to suit was a priority and Nose Tackle Isaac Sopoaga (unranked, $12m 3 years) will be dropped straight into the middle of the defensive line after a diminished role for the 49ers.

Linebacker Jason Phillips (unranked) from Carolina added depth and experience of the 3-4 and much needed help in the secondary came in the shape of Corner Back Bradley Fletcher (unranked) and former Oregon Strong Safety Patrick Chung (ranked #88).

On the other side of the ball, H-Back James Casey (unranked) was signed from the Texans and figures to be moved all over the field in Chip Kelly's offence.

Not one Back
Not a single free agent running back was picked up in day one! With five running backs in the top 100 (Reggie Bush (#29) Stephen Jackson (#30) Rashard Mendenhall (#56), Ahmad Bradshaw (#76) and Shonn Green (#93))and several others looking for work you would have thought SOMEONE would have found a new job.

Rumors are rife that Reggie Bush will be moving to Detroit and Stephen Jackson has been heavily linked to Green Bay, so expect the running back class to pick up pace soon.

Indianapolis also make moves under the radar
So far Indianapolis' moves make you go "hmm". They re-signed slot corner Darius Butler (ranked #82)  and picked up under rated corner Greg Toler from the Cardinals. In the front seven they added linebacker Erik Walden (unranked) from Green Bay and Defensive End Lawrence Sidbury (unranked) from Atlanta.

Their offensive line will be boosted by the addition of Tackle Gosder Cherilus (ranked #58) from Detroit and Guard Donald Thomas (unranked) from the Patriots who the Colts will obviously be hoping can help keep franchise Quarter Back Andrew Luck on his feet.

What moves do you expect to see happen in the next few days? Where do you think your team could improve? Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

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