The biggest and best moves so far in the NFL free agent and trade frenzy
The Free Agent bonanza is finally reaching second gear as a flurry of signings and trades have changed the NFL landscape. It was just a matter of time since the new CBA agreement was agreed upon, that big deals would follow and boy have they ever. Teams now are flush with cash thanks to the new rookie wage scale and also after waving some big name players. Big money teams such as the Washington Redskins and the New York Jets are already flexing their muscles by signing resigning their own in-house major free agents. In contrast the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens have cut some of their most familiar and respected players such as Marion Barber, Todd Heap, Leonard Davis, Derrick Mason and many more to clear cap space and make a run at some of the prime time free agents. In this unique and one of a kind free for all, each team has its own dynamic that it is trying to conquer.
So here at the Sportaholic we have decided to list our biggest moves thus far this off-season. There are sure to be many more to follow including the impending signing of Nnamdi Asomugha, the most important of all the free agents. His signing will surely become the biggest of all player movement when it happens, but in the meantime here is our list of the best moves so far.
1. New England trades for Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco: I have to start off by saying the hoodie always finds a way to amaze me. Bill Belicheck has a way of getting the most out of disgruntled veterans (Corey Dillon and Randy Moss) and he addressed two major needs facing the Pats. They once vaunted New England front 7 only produced 36 sacks last year and that was only good enough for 14th in the league. They also just released their leading sack specialist Tully Banta-Cain who had a team high 8 sacks. To address that middle of the road pass rush, Belicheck swung a trade for the talented but mercurial Albert Haynesworth. He immediately bolsters that unit and if motivated could make the Pats defensive lines one of the better one in the league. Now the question becomes can the Pats way of business and commitment of excellence make Haynesworth return to form? That remains to be seen. Everyone saw what Haynesworth is worth when his mind is not in the game, after the Washington debacle. When add Haynesworth to Vince Wolfork and the returning Ty Warren, then you have major beef up front. It will definitely be hard to run on these guys. And if Haynesworth doesn’t want to act right, then Belicheck has no problem cutting his loses like he did Randy Moss last year.
New England also obtained Chad Ochocinco in a stunning turn of events. Ochocinco was a one man rock show in this summer as he tried his hand at alligator wrestling, bull riding and Nascar but now he has to curb his enthusiasm and join one of the more stricter locker rooms in football. New England has been searching for a big play receiver every since releasing Randy Moss. Adding OchoCinco to the likes of Wes Welker and Deion Branch gives them an impressive receiving core. Tom Brady now has one more weapon at his disposal and believe me he will get the most out of Ocho. New England has responded loud and clear to the threat of the New York Jets and seem to be placing all their chips on the table with these two moves.
2. Kevin Kolb traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round draft pick: This one was as a surprising as the Kat Von D and Jesse James breakup. Everyone saw it coming and now that the deal is done, it makes for one of the most sensible trades this off-season. Philadelphia has put all its faith in Michael Vick 2.0 and with his play from last year, it’s not hard to understand. Kolb became expendable and his play has shown he has the potential to become one of the better QBs in the league, especially in the QB ravaged NFC West. Enter Arizona team that tried its hand at Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Max Hall. Much to the joy of future free agent Larry Fitzgerald the cards have played their hand well and landed Kolb. The Cardinal knew that if they were to have any chance of signing the face of their franchise in Fitzgerald, then they had better get him a QB. The Eagles needed another DB to pair with pro bowler Asante Samuel as they had no one else to depend on at cornerback. Rodgers-Cromartie(Formally of Tennessee State University) is already one of the better corners in the league and only with get better with more experience. He is long and speedy which should suite him well facing the like he will in the NFC East. When you play in this receiver talented division then you really have no choice but to make sure you shore up your defensive secondary and that’s exactly what the Eagles did. But they didn’t stop there as they also were able to pry away a second round pick from the Cardinals. Some analysts are griping that Arizona over paid for an unproven QB but I say great trade for both teams due to the circumstances they faced. Arizona drafted another freakishly athletic corner in Patrick Patterson that will take DRC's place. You can’t have good football team without a good QB and Kolb will be an upgrade over anybody else the Cards could have trotted onto the field this year.
3. Reggie Bush traded to the Miami Dolphins: This trade was plain and simple a must for the New Orleans Saints. Reggie Bush’s deal would have been a cap hit of $16 million dollars and with the new salary cap being slashed along with Bush’s limited role in the Saints offense, there was no way to justify paying him so handsomely. The Dolphins on the other hand are about to lose their two leading rushers from last year in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Bush will add a different dimension to their offense with his speed and elusiveness. He also gives the Dolphins a highlight reel star which is just what the people of Miami love to see. If the Dolphins are able to land Kyle Orton as expected, I think this move will pay even more dividends. Anytime you can throw Brandon Marashall and Reggie Bush on the field, then you have a chance for fireworks on offense. Now I don’t think the Dolphins are kidding themselves into thinking that Bush will carry the rock 25-30 times but they did draft Daniel Thomas out Kansas State so they will pair the two. Bush can make you jump out of your seat on one play and pull out your hair on the next so it will interesting to see the next phase of his career. The Saints needed to clear up their back field after drafting former Heisman winner Mark Ingram, who should solidify a solid rushing attack for the Saints. Sometimes deals are done out of necessity and this was one of them. As weird as it will feel seeing Bush in another jersey, this is deal that was necessary for both teams.
4. Donovan McNabb traded to the Minnesota Vikings: This is a deal that should have happened last year but of course there was that whole Brett Favre thing (I tried so hard to make it through this column without mentioning him). McNabb finally gets a chance to run a team with a legitimate running attack. His ouster from Washington was another inevitable move for the Redskins of course, but they did manage to get a few draft picks for him. Speaking of the Skins they have decided to go with John Beck as their starter, at least for the mean time. I question that move but hey Shanny has proved me wrong before. This is a coup for Minnesota as they now have the veteran mentor for first round pick Christian Ponder to bridge the gap before he becomes the starter. I do have to question McNabb’s performance after just a dismal display last year. Head Coach Mike Shanahan openly questioned McNabb’s work ethic and off-field preparations and eventually benched him for the great Rex Grossman. Anyone that gets replaced by Grossman has to be questioned. Overall however, I think McNabb has every reason to have a resurgent season as a Viking. Adrian Peterson will do the heavy lifting and all he has to do is make a few plays here and there. If McNabb can at least play half as good as his pre Washington Redskin days, then the Vikings become a dark horse in the loaded NFC North.
5. Jonathon Joseph signs with the Houston Texans: This deal actually happened as I was writing this column. Joseph was rated was the 2nd best corner on the market and the Texans couldn’t wait for Asomugha or didn’t feel they had the means to sign him. This may not be the big fish that Asomugha is, but Joseph will come in and start immediately for the porous Texans secondary. He should provide instant relief for the worst defensive back field in the league with his speed and range. A lot of people aren’t familiar with Joseph but hardcore football fans know that he is one the better defensive backs in the NFL. He was a former first round pick in 2006 and has 14 interceptions since being drafted so the five year $48.75 million dollar contract awarded to him is justified. If the Texans can get anything out of last year’s first round pick Kareem Jackson, then maybe the Texans have their two corner backs for the foreseeable future. The Joseph signing also drops one of the major pursuers of Asomugha off the market, making the Jets the favorite to land the all-pro cornerback.
5. The Wait for Nnamdi: Now I know what your saying, Asomugha hasn’t even been signed yet. But his signing will represent the biggest and most important deal of al the free agents. He will single handily shift power to which ever team he chooses rather it be Dallas, Detroit or the New York Jets. His deal will also be a domino effect for players as he is the biggest name on the board. Sources are saying that he prefers to play in New York and if that is true could you imagine him being paired with the best corner not named Nnamdi Asomugha? He and Darrelle Revis would be able to shut down any elite receiving core while letting the Rex Ryan defense attack in so many various ways. Ryan’s defense relies on corner’s being able to defend in press man coverage and they would have the best two players in the league at just that with Revis and Asomugha. As far as need, Houston was by far was the best fit until they signed Jonathon Joseph. Where ever and when ever his deal gets done it will affect the entire league and test the limits of the new collective bargaining agreement. He will get his money from someone and it appears the Jets are the front-runners for his talent at this point but don’t be surprised if the Cowboys are secretly plotting to make a late run at him, as their secondary floundered last year under Wade Phillips.
Sidney Rice to Seattle Seahawks: This deal screams that Rice just wanted to get paid or some kind of way he was convinced by teammate Tarvaris Jackson to join in a bolt for the Northwest. I don’t see the logic in going to a Seahawks team that will feature either Charlie Whitehurst or Jackson starting. I also understand that if I was to receive a five year $41 million dollar deal, then I probably would go anywhere and play too. Pete Carroll does like big, physical, receivers but his numbers surely take a dip due to uncertainty facing the QB position.
Jason Babin signs with Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have really impressed me with their wheeling and dealing as they added one of the leading pass rushers to their defensive line. Babin played well for Tennessee last year as he amassed 12 sacks and was one of pleasant surprises of the season last year. Now when you pair him with always consistent Trent Cole on the other side of the line, you have a pretty formidable defensive pass rush. Just another savvy move by a smart front office as they have added a franchise corner in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a second round draft pick and Babin who had 12 sacks last year so far in this shortened off-season. And the Eagles probably have a few more tricks up there sleeve. Vince Young is rumored to be on their radar.
Roy Williams to the Bears: The Bears needed to add depth and experience to their wide receiver unit and they got a decent player in Williams. Williams actually enjoyed his best years under current Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz so maybe this could work. Then again Williams could revert back to his Dallas ways and drop every 1 of every 4 passes thrown his way. He is the big strong receiver the Bears wanted but I would be scared to depend on him for anything. He has a chance to be Jay Cutler’s go to receiver and when you have speedsters like Devin Hester on the other side and Johnny Knox in the slot then you have a chance at being explosive at the receiver position. But this all depends on how Williams plays.
So that does it for the list so far and it’s safe to assume this will change as the free agent sweepstakes will continue. Big names such as Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Antonio Cromartie are still on the board. Most teams have the money and will have to make upgrades to their teams if they want to compete. A word of caution, as one source close to the free agents stated that “Sometimes the best move is the move you don’t make.”
Make sure to tune into Beatknockin.com online radio tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. as I will speak on all of the biggest free agent moves and trades in the NFL, plus much more. Special guest Don Merrimon of the Gridiron Press magazine joins me.