By Jeffrey Balbi
The 2014 NFL season is yet to come, but free agency – which began on March 11 at approximately 4 p.m. – makes it feel like it’s steadily approaching.
What exactly can fans gain from free agency? Well, for starters, it gives them a glimpse of how their favorite team is going to look, along with the kind of philosophies that will be implemented on both sides of the ball. It also gives them a sense of what kind of direction their favorite team will go for the upcoming NFL Draft in May.
As a native New Englander, I love the offseason acquisitions made by the Patriots. Getting a cornerback was a need, as the New England front office did not want to give top dollar for a player with nagging injuries (Aqib Talib). In addition, the needs in the secondary were met with the blockbuster signing of former New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for carrying a high price tag and affecting their cap situation.
Revis, 28, did not come cheap. He was given a two-year contract worth $32 million – $12 million for year one and $20 million for the second. The option year 2015 is in place in hopes of locking him up with a long term deal.
Another top acquisition for New England was the signing of Brandon Browner, former Seattle Seahawks’ cornerback. This past season, Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Browner for the second half due to him failing his second drug test, thus missing the playoffs and his team’s Super Bowl victory.
Browner, who stands at 6 feet 4 inches and 220 pounds, will be suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2014 regular season. The 29-year-old signed a three-year contract with New England worth $15.15 million.
It’s great seeing a cornerback in Browner with the size of the league’s elite receivers such as Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas, who the Patriots will have to face this season.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots have re-signed Julian Edelman to a four-year, $19 million contract and former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell to a three-year, $9 million deal. Great to have some more targets for Tom Brady who is aging and is in a win-now situation.
Outside of New England, the rival Denver Broncos have made some noise as well. The signing of former Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware was a key move as the Broncos were in pursuit of a pass rusher from their front four.
In addition to Ware, former Patriot cornerback Aqib Talib signed with the Broncos on a lucrative six year contract worth $57 million that includes a guaranteed $26 million, which sets a mark for highest paid guaranteed money for the cornerback position. That contract is expected to be limited to a few years due to health concerns for the defensive back.
As the defense is already looking formidable with Ware, Talib, and Von Miller as notable names, big-hitter and run-stopper safety TJ Ward—who is a former Cleveland Brown and coming off a Pro Bowl season—has been added to the squad through a four year $22.5 million contract.
In addition for Denver, the loss of Eric Decker through free agency made the wide receiver position a necessity, as the Broncos targeted former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and speedster Emmanuel Sanders for a three year deal for $15 million.
Other notable free agent signings:
Arizona Cardinals: OT Jared Veldheer (five years, $35 million), CB Antonio Cromartie (one year, $3.5 million), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (three years, $9.75 million)
Atlanta Falcons: DT Paul Soliai (five years, $32 million), DE Tyson Jackson (five years, $25 million), OG Jon Asamoah (five years, $22.5 million), WR/KR Devin Hester (three years, $9 million)
Baltimore Ravens: OT Eugene Monroe (re-signed, five years, $37.5 million), LB Daryl Smith (re-signed, four years, $13.6 million), WR Steve Smith (three years, $11.5 million), TE Owen Daniels (one year, $1 million), TE Dennis Pitta (re-signed, five years, $32 million)
Chicago Bears: DE LaMarr Houston (five years, $35 million), DE Jared Allen (four years, $32 million), DE Willie Young (three years, $9 million), CB Charles Tillman (re-signed, one year, $3 million), S Ryan Mundy two years, $3 million), FS M.D. Jennings (one year, 750k)
Cleveland Browns: SS Donte Whitner (four years, $28 million), RB Ben Tate (two years, $6.2 million), LB Karlos Dansby (four years, $24 million)
Detroit Lions: WR Golden Tate (five years, $31 million), TE Brandon Pettigrew (re-signed, four years, $16 million), SS James Ihedigbo (two years, $3.15 million)
Green Bay Packers: DE Julius Peppers (three years, $26 million), DE Mike Neal (re-signed, two years, $8 million), DT B.J. Raji (re-signed, one year, $4 million), RB James Starks (re-signed, two years, $3.25 million), CB Sam Shields (four years, $39 million)
Indianapolis Colts: CB Vontae Davis (four years, $36 million), DE Arthur Jones (five years, $33 million), WR Hakeem Nicks (one year, $3.985 million), OC Phil Costa ($2.75 million), LB D’Qwell Jackson (four years, $22 million)
Oakland Raiders: DE Justin Tuck (two years, $10 million), DE LaMarr Woodley (two years, $10.35 million), CB Carlos Rogers (one year, $2.5 million), CB Tarell Brown (one year, $3.5 million), RB Darren McFadden(re-signed, one year, $1.65 million), RB Maurice Jones Drew (three years, $7.5 million), OG Austin Howard (five years, $30 million), OT Donald Penn (two years, $9.6 million), DE Antonio Smith (two years, $9 million), FS Charles Woodson (re-signed, one year, $3.5 million), OG Kevin Boothe (two years, $2.625 million), WR James Jones (three years, $10 million)
Washington Redskins: WR DeSean Jackson (three years, $32 million), DT Jason Hatcher (four years, $27.5 million), WR Andre Roberts (four years, $16 million), SS Ryan Clark (one year, $1 million), Tracy Porter (two years, $6.25 million), CB DeAngelo Hall (four years, $17 million).