March 10, 2016 - Greg Gabriel
Who Has Done Well Early in Free Agency?
You can look at just about any football website right now and you may find an article on who has won or lost in free agency so far. Having spent 30 years in the National Football League, I find those types of articles absurd. It will be well into September before we know who actually did a good job with their signings to date. Not only do you have to factor in whether or not the signed player has become a productive player, but is he playing to the level of the contract he was given? We have seen far too many instances of March signings turning out to be awful signings by midseason. How many players signed in free agency the last two years are already off the clubs that signed them? Plenty! I have always felt that the teams that are able to fill needs with quality young players are the clubs that usually are doing the best job. That said, after the original group of signings Wednesday, I feel these clubs have done a good job. Jacksonville – The Jaguars had more available cap space than any other team in the NFL. Going into free agency they had about 90M to spend if they so desired. While they may have overpaid some for a few players, they have been able to get quality players for their undermanned defense. Defensive lineman Malik Jackson, formerly with the Denver Broncos, was generally looked at as the best defensive lineman available. Not only he is talented, but he is only going into his fifth year and still has upside. While the price tag was hefty (90M), at his young age he should provide a substantial return on the Jags' investment. Jacksonville feels in order for them to have a top running game they need two quality running backs. They drafted T.J. Yeldon last year and then signed Chris Ivory at the opening of free agency. The two should be a strong compliment to each other. The Jaguars have had a need at free safety for a while and got one of the better ones available in former Cleveland Brown Tashaun Gipson. Like Jackson, Gipson is only 26 years old and still has upside on his already consistent strong play. He already has 14 career interceptions. Oakland – Like Jacksonville, the Oakland Raiders had a lot of money available in free agency. So far, it looks as if they have spent wisely. Some feel that offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele was the best lineman available in free agency. He is a powerful man who has played exceptionally well at guard while in Baltimore and has the athletic traits and length to possibly move to tackle. The cost was high (58M) but there were a number of clubs trying to sign Osemele. Early Thursday morning the Raiders were able to sign the best corner available in former Kansas City Chief Sean Smith in a deal that could be worth as much as 40M. Late Wednesday night it looked as if Smith was going to stay with the Chiefs, but Oakland was able to up the ante. New York Giants – Giants owner John Mara made it clear earlier in the off season that General Manager Jerry Reese had to win this year. With the gun to his head and cap space available, Reese has gone all in in the early stages of free agency. The first big move was holding on to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul with a one year contract. Reese then went out a singed former Miami Dolphins' defensive end Olivier Vernon. Vernon held the transition tag going into free agency, but Miami dropped it after they were able to sign Mario Williams. Vernon gives the Giants another strong edge pass rusher. To bolster the interior defensive line, the Giants signed away nose tackle Damon Harrison from their stadium partner the New York Jets. Finally the added former Ram corner Janoris Jenkins to help out a weak secondary. On paper, the Giants defense looks much improved. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe