By Vincent Frank
While NFL free agency hasn’t even officially kicked off, we already have a ton of reported player movement. Made possible by the three-day legal tampering period in which teams can talk to agents of players set to hit the open market, the weekend before the new league year starts has become extremely hectic.
On that note, let’s check in on the top 10 takeaways from this past week of the NFL offseason.
1. LeSean McCoy Deal Proves Devaluation of the NFL Running Back is Real
Kiko Alonso may very well be a great linebacker. He has Pro Bowl upside, and was downright dominating as a rookie in 2013 prior to missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
That doesn’t mean Alonso was fair-market value for someone of McCoy’s caliber. After all, we are talking about a player that has accumulated over 9,000 total yards in six seasons and is still just 26 years of age. In reality, this trade pretty much magnifies the idea that today’s NFL has devalued the running back position.
Moving on from McCoy, the Eagles are also getting slammed a bit for giving 31-year-old running back Frank Gore a ton of guaranteed money. Mark Ingram also netted just $4 million annually on a four year deal. By today’s standards, this isn’t much money for a starter-caliber running back.
More than just the money, it seems that teams view running backs as interchangeable right now. That may very well remain the case for years to come.
2. Zero Viable Quarterbacks Remain on the Free Agent Market
With both Mark Sanchez and Josh McCown off the market, it’s readily apparent that there are no starter-caliber quarterbacks on the market. Brian Hoyer and Jake Locker headline a class that leaves a whole heck of a lot to be desired. They do so with opportunities to compete for starting gigs depending on where they end up.
This also means that the trade market should be fairly robust for teams looking to gain value for quarterbacks who don’t fit into their long-term plans. That’s where someone like the Eagles’ Nick Foles comes into play. He could potentially net Chip Kelly and company a Day 2 pick. If the 49ers are indeed serious about shopping Colin Kaepernick, that adds a second viable starter to the trade market.
3. Philadelphia Eagles are Early Losers
Replace McCoy with a 32-year old RB. Lose top WR, overpays for a decent CB, re-signs below-average QB. Chip, what's your plan?— Vincent Frank (@VincentFrankNFL) March 9, 2015
An objective analysis of Philadelphia’s performance thus far this offseason can’t be too kind. The team traded LeSean McCoy, only to replace him with a running back that will be 32 when the 2015 season comes calling. It then missed out on retaining Jeremy Maclin, who is reportedly signing with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Equally as dumbfounding, Philadelphia re-signed Mark Sanchez to potentially start for a team that’s without its two best offensive players (McCoy and Maclin) from a season ago.
This all came on the heels of Philadelphia releasing numerous valuable veterans in order to put itself in a position to be key players on the open market. Is it possible that Chip Kelly’s attitude as it relates to his players being disposable could be an issue here? Either way, Philadelphia has a lot of work to do between now and the start of training camp. If Kelly has a plan, it’s time for us to see it.
4. Ndamukong Suh Chose South Beach over Detroit, Duh
Suh was given $114 million reasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins, but the All-Pro defensive tackle knew he was going to get paid no matter what. Unfortunately for fans in Detroit, the idea of actually spending time in South Beach compared to the Motor City had to be one of the determining factors here.
As it is, the best defensive tackle in the business will now attempt to keep Tom Brady and the Patriots from winning yet another division title next year. It’s pure speculation on our part, but that had to be one of the reasons Miami went so hard after Suh. With him in place along the interior of the team’s defensive line, the Dolphins now stand a better chance than ever before of unseating the Patriots in a division that has been absolutely dominated by Brady and company.
5. San Francisco 49ers are Unusually Active in Free Agency
Not only did San Francisco nab Darnell Dockett from the division-rival Arizona Cardinals this past week, it is said to be the likely landing spot for free agent wide receiver Torrey Smith. In addition to this, the 49ers are said to be in on both Brian Hoyer and C.J. Spiller. It’s a dramatic turnabout for an organization that has remained quiet in free agency under the current front office regime.
San Francisco did lose Frank Gore to the Philadelphia Eagles, but that was something most of us saw coming. With Carlos Hyde on the roster, there was no reason for the 49ers outbid Philadelphia for Gore.
The interesting dynamic here regarding San Francisco is that it had to know avoiding free agency wasn’t going to be an option. With both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals seemingly widening the gap between themselves and the 49ers, general manager Trent Baalke and company had to make a splash in free agency. If the Smith reports are true, they did just that. If not, San Francisco will continue to hit the open market in a strong way. That’s the name of the game in the new NFC West.
6. Ted Thompson and the Packers Continue with Amazing Player Retention Philosophy
A total of $10 million per season for Randall Cobb? To say that he gave Green Bay a hometown discount would be an understatement. It remains to be seen what the Torrey Smith’s and Jeremy Maclin’s of the world received, but it’s safe to say Cobb could have cashed in big time if he waited until Tuesday.
This is just the latest example of Green Bay making sure to take care if its core players before they hit the open market. Thompson’s track record of retaining these players for less-than-market value took form over the weekend. And to be honest, that’s one of the reasons Green Bay will remain contenders for the foreseeable future.
7. Bottom Feeders Still not Attractive Destinations
While free agency hasn’t officially started, it’s rather clear that some of the worst teams in the NFL have not been as active as many figured they would be. The Oakland Raiders missed out on both Ndamukong Suh and Randall Cobb. Meanwhile, neither the Jacksonville Jaguars or Cleveland Browns have hit the market hard. In fact, Jacksonville’s only potential moves right now seem to be to potentially overpay Denver Broncos tight end Julius Thomas and Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.
We fully understand the necessity to build through the draft, but these three teams have a combined $170 million in cap room. It will be interesting to see if any of them hit the market when free agency officially comes calling on Tuesday.
8. Adrian Peterson Market Taking Shape
The Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts may be suitors for Peterson should the Minnesota Vikings put him on the open market. Other suggestions indicate that the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders might come calling. While some of this is conjecture, it shows that the Peterson trade market would be robust. It’s now all about whether the Vikings actually put the future Hall of Famer on the open market.
9. Quarterback Purgatory is Real
Matt Cassel, Josh McCown, Mark Sanchez, Brian Hoyer and Geno Smith. These five quarterbacks all stand a good chance of starting for their respective team in 2015. No wonder teams with actual long-term solutions at quarterback are willing to pay top dollar to retain them.
With two potential franchise signal callers in the 2015 NFL draft and no viable quarterbacks on the open market, some of the lesser teams in the league will continue to struggle actually fielding a consistent contender in large part due to their quarterback situation. That’s the sad reality. And while this might change depending on Colin Kaepernick’s situation in San Francisco, some of these teams are going to continue sitting in the cellar until they find long-term solutions.
10. NFL Needs to do Away with the “Legal” Tampering Period
Players can’t officially sign with new teams until Tuesday, but a large amount of the top-tier free agents are already off the market. This has taken place during the “legal tampering” period that started Saturday afternoon. If the NFL really wants to get the most of this frenzied part of the offseason, it needs to do away with this three-day window. It’s that simple.
Be sure to check out our up-to-the minute NFL offseason tracker.