What just happened?
The 2015 new league year was shot out of a cannon yesterday. In a league where we rarely see noteworthy trades, there were three of them — including one of the best tight ends in the game heading to the Pacific Northwest. Oh yeah, one of the game’s best cornerbacks is returning to his roots (with a lot more money), the Falcons made some under the radar moves that should be appreciated, and Chip Kelly goes all-in with a guy who has missed 39 of 80 games in his career.
Yesterday’s first day of free agency was so big, we decided it had to be recapped with a TDC Rewind. If you missed anything from yesterday, we tackle it here.
1. Revis goes back to the Big Apple.
The Jets desperately needed to make a splash. After the Dolphins signed the best free agent on the market in Ndamukong Suh and the Bills traded for LeSean McCoy, Jets’ owner Woody Johnson knew he needed to make something happen as his team continued its slide to the bottom of the division.
They managed to do it by bringing back a familiar face. Adam Scheffer reported late last night that the Jets and Darrelle Revis had agreed to a 5-year, $70 million contract with $39 million guaranteed. The deal confirms two things. First, the Jets are now a team that has to overpay to bring in good players. Second, Revis is the most shrewd businessman of any player in the league. The guy has capitalized on his talent like no other player in recent memory.
As they continue their seemingly perpetual search for a quarterback, the Jets are miles away from competing for a Super Bowl. Revis knows that. He also knew that if he wanted to return to the Super Bowl Champions, he’d have to take substantially less money. Instead, he optimized to cash in on one final payday. Who could blame him?
2. Seattle gets Russell Wilson much needed help, but is it with added pressure?
Jimmy Graham was targeted 9 times in the red zone in 2014. He caught 8 touchdowns on those plays. Russell Wilson has to be wondering where the hell Graham was in the Super Bowl.
Nonetheless, Seattle’s trade for Jimmy Graham sent shockwaves through league circles as free agency was just minutes old. It also means that they’re serious about helping Wilson and a passing game that struggled throughout last season. However, one aspect dominated my thoughts after I heard about this trade.
Hasn’t the pressure on Russell Wilson in 2015 been ratcheted up a few notches? Most league insiders believe the Seahawks are getting set to cut Wilson a gigantic check in the form of a hefty new contract. However, nothing has been done yet. Could Seattle rethink giving Wilson a new deal and wait and see how he does with his new toys? If Wilson struggles in 2015, it could cast doubts as to whether Wilson is the quarterback many think he is. If he dominates with Graham, then an already high asking price will get even higher.
3. New Orleans changes its philosophy.
The trade of their most dynamic offensive weapon signals a change in philosophy for the Saints. Sean Payton and his team are transitioning back to a more physical, power running game on offense. The team recently surprised people by re-signing Mark Ingram to a four-year deal, said goodbye to pass catching RB Pierre Thomas, and has now made a major upgrade along the offensive line with Max Unger.
Although many scoff at how the Saints could trade Graham in his prime, the reality is that he doesn’t fit the team’s mold moving forward. And, remember, Graham wasn’t part of the New Orleans squad that won the Super Bowl. It’s apparent that GM Mickey Loomis has an eye on re-molding his team into that team more than the arial team we’ve seen over the last few seasons.
4. Kelly goes all in with Sam Bradford.
There will be no trade for Marcus Mariotta in Philadelphia. Chip Kelly is going all-in with Sam Bradford.
That was the signal yesterday when the Eagles dealt Nick Foles to the Rams for Bradford. The more astonishing news were the draft picks surrendered by Philadelphia — a fourth rounder in 2015 and a second rounder in 2016. The Rams will send a fifth round pick to the Eagles this year along with Bradford.
In a matter of a week, Kelly has performed an entire overhaul of his offense. His best QB (Foles), RB (McCoy), and WR (Maclin) are all out of town. It’s a sign that Kelly thinks the best is yet to come in Philadelphia and that he couldn’t get there with his current crop of players. After pushing former GM Howie Roseman aside, the pressure is squarely on Kelly’s shoulders to win now.
5. Ngata trade means Detroit is trying to win now.
The Detroit Lions are familiar with defensive tackles taking up cap room. After enduring Ndamukong Suh’s $22 million cap hit last season, the team was up against it again and chose not to re-sign one of the best defensive players in his prime. However, they didn’t wait long to find his replacement.
Detroit’s trade for DT Haloti Ngata reinforces to Lions fans that the team still thinks it can win now and compete in the NFC. This was the best possible option for Detroit. The Lions desperately needed help along the interior line and Ngata presents a bigger upgrade than free agents like Dan Williams or Stephen Paea. However, Ngata’s $8.5 million cap hit plus over $9 million in dead money from Suh means that the Lions, once again, will have a large amount wrapped up in one position for 2015. Regardless, Lions fans should be pleased this morning with the new centerpiece of their defensive line.
6. Falcons fly under the radar, but made solid moves.
I thought two of the best signings from Day 1 were in Atlanta. Desperate for help at linebacker, the Falcons signed two of them in Brooks Reed and Justin Durant. Durant was a favorite of Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli last season and, if he can overcome injury problems, could end up being a star for the Falcons. Reed has played his entire career with the Texans in a 3-4 attack. It remains to be seen how he will transition to Atlanta’s 4-3 under Dan Quinn. However, these understated moves should not go overlooked. Atlanta scored big yesterday.
7. Retirements loom large over free agency.
I’ve never been so surprised by retirements as I have been this week. First, Patrick Willis retired at the ripe old age of 30. Next, former Titans QB Jake Locker announced that he was hanging it up at 26. Finally, former Steelers’ LB Jason Worilds announced that he was retiring at the age of 27.
Worilds’ retirement is the most surprising considering the fact that he was a highly touted free agent. Locker’s announcement was also stunning after just four years in the league. My initial thought was whether the recent focus on player safety and studies on brain injuries is forcing players to think about their long-term health now more than ever. If so, then kudos to these three for making sound life decisions.
8. The 49ers have had the worst week ever.
To say it’s been a bad week for 49ers GM Trent Baalke would be an understatement. Patrick Willis announced his retirement. Frank Gore left for the Colts. Michael Crabtree said he’s unlikely to return. The Cardinals signed offensive guard Mike Iupati and the Seahawks traded for one of the most dynamic tight ends in the game.
To make matters worse, San Francisco panicked and gave Torrey Smith far too much money. Smith has burner speed that has been lacking in San Francisco for years. However, at $9 million per season, I’m going to go ahead and say that Smith will be the biggest bust of this free agent class.