First day of NFL free agency headlined by major moves



Andrew Saba

Free agency opened with a bang, as the NFL was turned on its head with numerous trades.

The running back market has been filled with underwhelming contracts, as Mark Ingram’s best season was rewarded with a $4 million pay for four years. DeMarco Murray is still waiting to choose his next home, while CJ Spiller, Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson and 2014 star Justin Forsett are among many running backs that have disappeared in free agency uncertain of their future. 

The Philadelphia Eagles have been making serious adjustments under Chip Kelly’s control. After shopping their star running back and fantasy legend LeSean McCoy to buffalo, the Eagles have now moved past the Nick Foles experiment by trading him for the unproven former first overall draft pick Sam Bradford. The Eagles have now acquired yet another Oregon alumni to their roster in Kiko Alonso, who has nowhere to go but up after winning defensive rookie of the year honors just to tear his ACL the following year.

The safest acquisition Kelly has made this offseason was to sign Seahawks star Byron Maxwell and even he has question marks surrounding his $60 million contract with $25 million guaranteed.

The Eagles seem to be putting all their trust into Chip Kelly’s system, though it has not brought them to the playoffs in either of his two years as head coach. This is a make or break year for Kelly, if he cannot get into the playoffs with his college level offense with Bradford/Sanchez at the helm, then Kelly will be in the hot seat and could see his name at the top of the unemployment list.

After looking at how players seem to be coming and going in Philadelphia, it’s no wonder veteran running back Frank Gore reconsidered his contract offer from Kelly to head towards greener pastures in the Indianapolis Colts backfield committee. Gore will get the carries he deserves as a durable back taking handoffs from superstar quarterback Andrew Luck who is ready to make a run at the Lombardi Trophy.

The Seahawks have now become an even greater threat than they were a month ago when they were playing in the super bowl, as they traded their center and first round draft pick for Jimmy Graham, one of the top tight ends in the game. The New Orleans Saints seemed to just give up Graham and his newly signed contract they worked on, as he was an integral part of their offense. Now Seattle will be more dangerous than ever on both sides of the ball, with a Big Three emerging with the return of Marshawn Lynch back, the young wonder Russell Wilson and now a dominating red-zone threat.

Ndamukong Suh, the top defensive player in free agency is set to sign with the Miami Dolphins, meaning he is worth the money and issues surrounding his facade as a dirty player. Suh is the most coveted free agent defensive linemen since Reggie White and for good reason. While perceived as having a negligent attitude, Suh remains a disruptive force on the line of scrimmage, who still has untapped athletic potential to compete with JJ Watt year after year for defensive player of the year. 

His former team the Detroit Lions responded by trading for Baltimore Ravens pro bowl defensive end Haloti Ngada. The Lions found an older but productive replacement in Ngata, who will plug in as an efficient run-stopper for a few more years to come.

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome also let wide receiver Tory smith walk, who was claimed by the 49ers on a wholesome $40 million contract. The 49ers found their replacement for Michael Crabtree who is on the open market, now the wide receiver position is somewhat solved but was the least of the 49ers concerns under new head coach Jim Tomsula this season. Letting offensive lineman Mike Iupati sign with NFC-West rivals Arizona Cardinals was a choice they might soon regret, as he is still a formidable guard who will surely help Carson Palmer who once again will be healthy and ready to burn through the division.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are sticking to their development process, bringing in young talent like tight end Julius Thomas as an offensive weapon for second year quarterback Blake Bortles. Thomas is entering his prime and for a team with plenty of cap space, acquiring a game changing tight end is well worth the price tag of $46 million over five years.

As free agency progresses, look to see the Oakland Raiders making more aggressive moves towards free agents rather than the Jaguars, who outside of a potential DeMarco Murray signing will be playing with a youthful squad ready to make some noise in the increasingly competitive AFC South.

Key resignings also took place, as Randall Cobb with remain with the Packers for a chance to remain contenders with Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers until 2018. This trio will look to put up historic numbers for years to come, while offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga resigned to spend the next 5 years in Green Bay for a solid $7 million annually.  

Loaded with receivers and a bolstered offensive line, it is now up to [Packers’] GM Ted Thompson to address the holes in the defense, specifically the middle linebacker position, following the departures of AJ Hawk and Brad Jones. Just do not expect it to be done through free agency, as the Packers are famous for their successful draft and develop strategy.

The Jets have made headlines by stealing Brandon Marshall for a 6th round draft pick from the Chicago Bears. While he had a down year (721 yard and 8 TD) and has been known for having attitude problems, Marshall is still a huge threat to opposing defenses.

After being stuck in a non-functional Bears offense, Marshall will be determined to have his eighth 1,000-yard season and should bring some energy to an offense with a questionable quarterback under Geno Smith.

On the defensive side of the ball, their hero has finally returned, as Darrelle Revis agreed to sign with the Jets for five years and $70 million. After spending this past season with the Patriots, the Jets fan base are eagerly awaiting the return of their defensive icon who helped lead them to the AFC championship game years ago. New GM Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles have gotten their first offseason off to a great start, as they are working to make significant improvements to this once struggling roster.

This has been a blockbuster week for the many teams who will be adding new faces to their franchises, while players have been moving around the NFL to even their own rival teams. If this first day of free agency has anything to say about it, it’s looking like this offseason is one for the ages with teams 

looking to hit big with veteran playmakers.