As expected, the first two days of free agency were completely unpredictable. Nothing went exactly according to plan, and we couldn’t have anticipated anything less.
This has been one of the most erratic offseasons in recent memory, and Day 3 provided several surprises and big storylines.
A full list of every free-agent signing can be found here.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest moves on Day 3 of free agency.
RB Steven Jackson: Atlanta Falcons
With Michael Turner’s release prior to free agency, the Atlanta Falcons were in need of another quality running back to shoulder the workload and keep their offense moving the chains. It looks like they found their man.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Falcons agreed to terms on a three-year contract with free agent Steven Jackson:
Another free-agent jolt: Rams free-agent RB Steven Jackson has reached agreement with the Atlanta Falcons.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2013
Jackson was reportedly in talks with the Green Bay Packers about a potential deal, but Atlanta’s offer ultimately swayed the 29-year-old, who played all nine of his years in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.
While Turner was still a serviceable back in 2012, he appeared to have lost a step as a result of innumerable work between the tackles in both San Diego and Atlanta. He failed to top four yards per carry, and Atlanta chose to move in another direction.
With Jackson now in the fold, the Falcons will field arguably the most potent offense in the NFC. Jackson won’t be expected to shoulder the entire offense with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez leading a tremendous passing attack, but he offers more versatility than Turner was able to provide in his final years with the team.
Jackson has a lot of NFL carries under his belt, but he has enough tread left on his tires to churn out a couple more productive seasons. He also has a chance to finally earn a Super Bowl ring after making the playoffs just once in St. Louis.
CB Sean Smith: Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid came to town this offseason with a plan, and so far it seems to be going pretty well.
Chiefs reached agreement with CB Sean Smith.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2013
Smith never reached his full potential in Miami, but he has the size and physicality to provide a lot of help in Kansas City’s secondary. With Robinson and Brandon Flowers already in place, the Chiefs now have three very able corners patrolling the defensive backfield.
With big slot receivers becoming more common in the NFL, Smith should see more work defending the slot. He has the size to be a disruptive press-man defender against any number of inside receivers who usually have a height advantage on smaller nickel corners.
The Chiefs began free agency with a big need at the cornerback position. They now have one of the better pass-defending trios in the NFL.
QB Matt Cassel: Minnesota Vikings
As expected, Matt Cassel was cut by the Chiefs after the trade for Alex Smith was finalized. While Cassel wasn’t the biggest name on the free-agent market, his move to Minnesota could have a major impact.
As reported by Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (via Schefter), Cassel is expected to challenge for the Vikings’ starting role:
Matt Cassel expected to compete for Vikings starting QB job. Now en route to Vikings facility for physical after agreement, per @jayglazer— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2013
Christian Ponder has been far from a sure thing in Minnesota, and adding the veteran signal-caller will give the Vikings a potential contingency plan should Ponder not pan out. Cassel wasn’t exactly an astounding quarterback in Kansas City, but he’s shown flashes of excellent play in his short career as a starter.
Adrian Peterson has been the focal point of Minnesota’s offensive attack in recent years, but he can’t continue to be the team’s only real offensive weapon. Percy Harvin is now with the Seahawks (per CBS Sports), and the Vikings need to do something to jumpstart their passing attack.
Time will tell if Cassel can be the kick start the Vikings need, but he’s certainly another option should they choose to start him under center in 2013.
CB Keenan Lewis: New Orleans Saints
With the Pittsburgh Steelers up against the cap this offseason, several key players were allowed to hit free agency. Cornerback Keenan Lewis was part of that group, and according to Schefter, he’ll be a member of the New Orleans Saints in 2013:
Former Steelers CB Keenan Lewis reached agreement with Saints on five-year deal with max value of $26.3 million, including $10.5 mil gtd.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 14, 2013
Lewis was one of the more coveted pass-defenders on the free-agent market this year. In his first full season as a starting cornerback for the Steelers, Lewis established himself as a capable defender and physical presence in the secondary.
New Orleans’ pass defense has been atrocious in recent years, and adding a cornerback with Lewis’ talent and potential was an outstanding move. The NFC South is loaded with explosive wide receivers, and the former Steelers standout will go a long way in keeping them under wraps in the coming seasons.