As we all know, the NFL league year started yesterday at 4:00 pm, and with that came the beginning of free agency. The start of free agency is always an exciting time of the year where the moves come fast and furiously, and this year was no exception. Let’s buy and sell some of the moves already made that could shake up the league in 2013.
SELL: Dolphins sign Mike Wallace, 5 years / $60 million - And that includes a whopping $30 million guaranteed! I think when the Mike Wallace in Miami Era comes to a close, this contract is going to go down as one of the worst free agent deals ever, mentioned in the same breath with Albert Haynesworth and Nnamdi Asomugha’s heinous pacts. Wallace is a solid wide receiver, but he’s pretty one-dimensional and only really thrives at getting deep down the field. That’s a great skill to have, but if you’re going to get this kind of money, you need to be a truly elite receiver, and Wallace just doesn’t fit that bill. I appreciate that the Dolphins are trying to put weapons around their young first-round QB (something I wish the Jets did for theirs), but I think this was just too much money for a player who isn’t among the top 10 best at his position.
SELL: Dolphins sign Dannell Ellerbe, 5 years / $35 million - As you can see, the Dolphins really made a splash on Day 1 of free agency, throwing around huge money with reckless abandon. Ellerbe had a good season in Baltimore this year playing next to Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ed Reed, but lots of players have thrived in that role alongside Ray Lewis in the middle of the Ravens defense. Does the name Ed Hartwell ring a bell? How about Bart Scott? Adalius Thomas? All were linebackers with the Ravens who thrived there, got big money elsewhere, and never came close to having the same success. It’s a virtual certainty that Ellerbe will be joining that less-than-spectacular group of players as busts with their new teams.
SELL: Dolphins sign Phillip Wheeler, 5 years / $26 million – This one just blew my mind. The other two were bad, but as noted on Twitter by @TurnOnTheJets, this was the one that basically ensured General Manager Jeff Ireland will be teaming up with Mike Tannenbaum and Scott Pioli on the NFL Network next year breaking down the draft prospects and doing comical mock drafts. You know full well there’s a producer over there already planning out some new show that features all three of them called “GM Corner” or something crappy like that. This is just an awful contract for a player who’s statistics were inflated on an atrocious Raiders defense in 2012. I’d be shocked if he even makes it to year two before the new GM in Miami has to clean up this mess.
BUY: Browns sign Paul Kruger, 5 years / $40 million – I don’t expect Kruger to play quite as well as he did in Baltimore this year when he racked up 9 sacks in the regular season and 4.5 more in the playoffs, but I think Kruger is a very good all-around player. Terrell Suggs was out most of the season, so Kruger was the top pass rusher on the team, and he still managed to thrive while also playing the run very well. I expected him to closer to $10 million per season, so this is a good signing for the Browns who are switching to the 3-4 defense and needed a player like Kruger to get that started.
SELL: Browns sign Desmond Bryant, 5 years / $34 million - Ok, so the Browns didn’t make all the right moves yesterday, but you do have to give them credit for trying I suppose. Bryant was a sought after, under-the-radar type player that had several suitors. I didn’t expect him to get this type of contract though, and the Browns definitely overpaid. That being said, they did need pieces for the 3-4 defense, and they could have done worse. He’ll be solid, but will never live up to that kind of money, and will ultimately end up being a forgettable player, even if his hilarious mugshot from two weeks ago will never be forgotten.
BUY: Chiefs sign Mike DeVito, 3 years / $12.6 million – This was too much money for the Jets to match with Quinton Coples waiting in the wings to play a bigger role, but for a team like KC that has cap room and needs solid players to switch to the 3-4 defense, this move is perfect. DeVito is as solid as they come against the run and will be able to step in and play from Day 1, while providing veteran leadership and someone who knows what new Defensive Coordinator Bob Sutton is looking for. Very shrewd signing for the Chiefs, who will definitely be a team to keep an eye on in 2013.
BUY: Bears sign Martellus Bennett, 4 years / $20 million – This may seem like a lot of money for the former Giant, but he’s going to fit in really well with the Bears. He’s a very good blocker, which is necessary in Chicago since they have one of the most hideous offensive lines in the league, and he’s a solid receiver. Jay Cutler badly needed another reliable target to keep the pressure off of Brandon Marshall, and anybody who watched Kellen Davis routinely drop passes down the middle of the field last year for the Bears knows just how badly they needed a dependable tight end.
BUY: Bears sign Jermon Bushrod, 5 years / $36 million – Again, the Bears may have overpaid a tad in bringing in their new left tackle, but anybody who watched J’Marcus Webb attempt to block the past few years knows that a legit starting left tackle needed to be brought in. They drafted Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi in the first round recently to try and fill this role with no success, so it was time they went and threw some money at the problem. Bushrod isn’t great, but he will do a solid job, and that combined with the Bennett signing will surely make Jay Cutler a happy man.
SELL: Rams sign Jared Cook, 5 years / $35 mllion - I understand that the Titans quarterback position hasn’t been the best the past few years, so Cook wasn’t able to be fully utilized, but come on. $35 million for Jared Cook? The same Jared Cook who has 8 TD’s in four full seasons? The one who had 523 yards this past season? I know he has a lot of potential, but this contract is just way too excessive. Besides, do you have any confidence that Brian Schottenheimer is going to be the one who figures out how to get the most out of this guy? I certainly don’t.
BUY: Titans sign Delanie Walker, 4 years / $17.5 million – The Titans lost Cook, then went and got his replacement for half the cost. Walker was playing second fiddle to Vernon Davis in San Francisco the past few years, but he’s a very solid all-around player who can do a little bit of everything. He can line up at tight end, fullback, h-back, or pretty much anything else the Titans need from him, while also providing solid blocking. This was a good signing, even if the cost was a tad high.
BUY: Titans sign Andy Levitre, 5 years / $39 million – Was this a lot of money to give to the former Buffalo Bill? Perhaps. But Levitre is a very solid player and will help stabilize the Titans offensive line, which was a complete and total mess in 2012. The Titans have a first-round QB that they couldn’t protect and a franchise running back that they couldn’t open any holes for. I give them credit for realizing what a huge problem their line was — particularly the guards — and aggressively going about fixing it.