NFL Free Agency Active In Early Going, But Lacking Blockbuster Deals
The new NFL year began yesterday with free agency, and "dozens of younger players cashed in within minutes" of the market opening at 4:00pm ET, according to Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY. NFL player agent David Canter was "quick to point out that with 471 free agents hitting the market, there had been no blockbusting megadeals." But the record $133M salary cap "surely was a boon." Canter said, "The big thing that I like to see is guaranteed money, and you're seeing deals where over half is guaranteed" (USA TODAY, 3/12). But ESPN's Michael Wilbon said the opening of NFL free agency is the "biggest disappointment since the NBA trading deadline. There's nothing there." Wilbon added, "I thought this was supposed to be a gold rush at 4:01 Eastern. ... It's like the NBA trade deadline: A lot of talk, a lot of nothing" ("PTI," ESPN, 3/11).
CLEVELAND ROCKS: In Detroit, Chris McCosky writes "cap-rich teams" like the Browns, Buccaneers and Falcons "made splash deals" when free agency opened (DETROIT NEWS, 3/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Kevin Clark wrote it has been "an infrequent occurrence in recent years, but the Cleveland Browns may have won" yesterday (WSJ.com, 3/11). In Cleveland, Tom Reed writes, "One day into NFL free agency, you get the sense [Browns GM] Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine understand tomorrow is not promised around these parts." They need to "make an impression now and deal with next year if it comes." The first day of free agency "demonstrates Cleveland's aggressiveness" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/12). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio said, "The Browns fall into that category of spending for reasons possibly other than putting together the best football team at the best possible price. They want to erase that stink of dysfunction. They want to get past all of that controversy. They want to create excitement." But NBCSN’s Shaun King said, "Cleveland made the quintessential mistake that all teams make when they act too fast in free-agency. The cost does not line up with the value" (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/11).
DEAR JOHN: In Denver, Mike Klis writes Broncos Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway yesterday "turned his competitive rage into action" by signing free agent S TJ Ward to a four-year, $23M deal and CB Aqib Talib to a six-year, $57M deal. Klis: "So much for concern of a Super Bowl hangover. Elway's free-agent foray should have put some much-needed pep into the Broncos' community" (DENVER POST, 3/12). The Broncos also are reportedly in talks with free agent DE DeMarcus Ware, and ESPN's Scott Van Pelt asked if the team has “monopoly money." The net’s Adam Schefter replied, "It's amazing how they can spread this out over time. But it's a situation here where a number of teams are reaching out to DeMarcus Ware. So many teams around the league want his services but I have been told Denver is appealing on a number of fronts. Denver is going hard after him" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/12).
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED: In San Jose, Tim Kawakami writes the Raiders "actually lost more good players Tuesday than they acquired." That was an "odd thing to happen on the first day of the NFL's movement period, especially for a franchise almost bereft of decent talent already." The Raiders "began the day" with more than $50M available under the cap. Sitting out the "hottest free-agent bidding isn't usually a bad way to play it in March and Tuesday's inactivity wasn't all by itself a devastating blow to the Raiders' immediate or distant future." But it "has to be added" to GM Reggie McKenzie's "very shaky 2013 draft" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 3/12). Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Larry Holder noted the Saints "made a huge, unexpected splash" yesterday by signing S Jairus Byrd to a six-year deal worth $54M maximum and $28M guaranteed (NOLA.com, 3/11).
DO THE RIGHT THING: In Miami, Adam Beasley notes the Dolphins late last night traded OT Jonathan Martin to the 49ers for an undisclosed draft pick, "reuniting him with his college coach" Jim Harbaugh. Martin's departure was "all but inevitable after he publicly accused teammates ... of prolonged emotional abuse." Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross "wanted to do right by Martin, and was involved in the execution of his trade" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/12). ESPN.com's James Walker wrote, "Kudos to the Dolphins for finding one of the few teams with a heavy Stanford connection willing to take Martin in following a major controversy" (ESPN.com, 3/11).