The annual horrible orgy of cash and bitter recriminations known as the NFL free-agent signing period is once again upon us and is in full swing.
Already this year there have been flashy acquisitions, failed bids, desperate needs and cunning moves made by the front offices of several teams. Not all of the players changing home are going to be the salvation of their franchise or the downfall of the team who acquired them, most will fall somewhere in between tose two poles.
With the type of money that several of the top players are demanding and receiving, often unexpectedly, a little care has to be taken in evaluating what to expect from incoming personnel.
That being said, here is a review and a few opinions regarding several of the best and worse moves made in free agency so far this year.
The Eagles have made two solid and expensive moves to shore up a defense that was less than stellar a year ago. Will this make Philly a winner again? No. But it will help them find their way out of the cellar. They will need to add some talent to the offensive side of the ball in the draft, but I think they are going to get their money's worth out of their free agent signings.
CB Asante Samuel: 6 years/$54 million: No doubt Asante is an excellent CB. The knock against this deal (being whispered quietly and not by many) is that Asante is not a "Shut Down" guy who can neutralize a No. 1 receiver with any consistency.
The few who are making that opinion known are justifying it with the "Asante was helped out by the pressure defense and a scheme that put him in good position to make plays".
While these things are true, they still apply in Philly. The eagles run a pressure blitz scheme that gives their corners freedom to move around and jump routes. The Eagles looked a little soft in the secondary last season in part because their blitzes weren't getting to opposing QBs. If they can fix that, then Asante is in position to have another solid five interception season.
DE Chris Clemons: 5 years/$18.5 million
Clemons will help the aforementioned pass rush problems. Philly parted company with Jevon Kearse in an effort to get some bite back into their front seven. As much as I hate to see Philly have any success at all, it looks like this is going to be a good fit as well.
Over all the Bills have been doing well. They made progress in getting the pieces they needed to be competitive and challenge for a wild card spot in the AFC. If WR Bryant Johnson signs and they can find a TE, then the Bills will have made a very successful off season.
DT Marcus Stroud (trade from Jacksonville for 3rd & 5th round pick)
No doubt Stroud has been a beast in the middle of the Jags D-Line for years, making it tough to run and still managing to get pressure through the middle of the line. He offers everything you could hope for from a tackle, but it sadly probably won't be what Buffalo is going to get from him.
Jacksonville was a system that made Stroud look even better than he actually was (which is impressive because he was very good). Take into consideration that in Jacksonville, Stroud played next to another HUGE DT (Jags had three other guys in the 350lbs. range) and in a scheme focused on generating pressure and stuffing the interior run by assigning DTs to very limited gap responsibilities and protecting them on the outside with BIG run-stuffing ends.
He won't have that in Buffalo, which means he will be less dominant. Will the Stroud trade get marked as a bust? No. He's too good for that, but I am still going to say Buffalo got had. Jacksonville got the better end of this deal.
LB Kawika Mitchell: 5 years/$17.5 million
Mitchell was a successful LB in the Giants system, which was built around a dominant front four. He is athletic and has some coverage skill, but is not going to be a dominant presence in his own right. I think the Bills got a pretty good deal on this one. $17.5 million over five years for a young LB with potential to develop, and who fits the system, is a long way from breaking the bank.
DT Spencer Johnson
Is Johnson going to be the compliment to Stroud? Maybe. He played solidly for the Vikings and is a good fit for the new look Bills D-Line. I like this move, and it definitely makes Buffalo better and will make it hard on opponents running games.
Up next will be the Jets and Vikings.