2014 NFL Free Agent Signings: Winners & Losers from Day 2
Day 2 of 2014 NFL free agency has come and gone, and it's once again time to declare winners and losers from the proceedings.
For a long while, it appeared as if Day 2 would fail to match the sheer insanity achieved on Day 1. But a late avalanche of news started rolling with the announcement that the Patriots had signed cornerback Darrelle Revis and failed to let up until the wee hours of the morning. Who said there was an NFL offseason?
The top wide receiver is no longer on the market. The Buccaneers have a new starting quarterback. The Broncos added a pass-rushing stud. And the Raiders remained the Raiders. All of this made the NFL's version of January 2 just as exciting as New Year's Day.
Again, it's worth noting that things are far from over this offseason. This list comprises the winners and losers of Day 2. It's still entirely feasible that a squad labeled a loser in the early days of free agency could bounce back and field a Super Bowl-caliber roster in 2014. Well, except the Raiders, but you get the idea.
The winners on this list were chosen for a variety of reasons. Whether it was a receiver signing a big-money deal, two AFC powerhouses bringing in star defenders, a journeyman quarterback being handed the reins to a starting gig, or a quarterback and wide receiver finally receiving some help, there's no question that the day featured its share of victors.
The losers were chosen because a coach didn't get to reunite with his favorite player, a club handed over its quarterbacking reins to a journeyman, a star rookie lost his starting job, a stud defensive end watched his contract go to someone else, and because the Raiders did what the Raiders do.
Here are the winners and losers from Day 2 of 2014 NFL free agency.
Winner: Bill Belichick
After watching John Elway and the Denver Broncos dominate the first 24 hours of free agency with a trio of high-profile signings, Patriots coach Bill Belichick fired back with a blockbuster transaction of his own.
Just hours after he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots agreed to terms with cornerback Darrelle Revis on a one-year, $12 million deal, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Revis is still the best cornerback in the NFL. He finished 2013 as the top-ranked player at the position per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). With Aqib Talib now in Denver, Revis slides in nicely as the Patriots' top cornerback.
The Patriots didn't have to break the bank, either. While Revis will earn more than any other cornerback in 2014, it isn't a long-term contract. Yes, the possibility exists that Revis could take his mercenary routine to another NFL franchise next offseason, but that's a risk that Belichick had to be willing to take. With the Broncos reloading and gunning for AFC supremacy, the Patriots couldn't afford to stand idly by and watch Elway further the gap between the two teams.
And Revis, the ultimate soldier of fortune, has the opportunity to cash in once again next offseason, provided he plays at the high level that we're all accustomed to seeing. If he stays healthy, there's little doubt that'll be the case.
All in all, the Patriots acquired the best cornerback in the NFL.
That makes them the biggest winners of Day 2 of free agency.
Loser: The Oakland Raiders and Their Fans
On Tuesday, I made Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie the biggest loser of Day 1 of free agency.
Thanks to an almost unfathomable series of events, McKenzie has topped the list for a second consecutive day, an impressive feat considering the Raiders possess more salary cap room than any team in the league.
Shortly after the free agent period opened on Tuesday, the Raiders lavished tackle/guard Rodger Saffold with a five-year, 42.5 million contract, including $21 million guaranteed, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
It was an easy and obvious first guess to call it an atrocious signing. Just last week, I wrote that Saffold, who missed 17 games over the past three seasons, represented one of the biggest risks on the market.
On Wednesday night, a little over 24 hours later, the situation devolved into theater of the absurd.
Schefter reported that Saffold and the Raiders had a "disagreement" about his health status, and Saffold will return to the St. Louis Rams on a five-year contract. Schefter went on to say that the Rams had "no concern whatsoever" about Saffold's shoulder, citing agents Alan Herman and Jared Fox.
To reiterate: McKenzie gave an injury-prone offensive lineman $21 million guaranteed, and then the aforementioned lineman failed his physical (per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network) the next day and will return to his old team.
McKenzie and the Raiders entered free agency with the most salary cap room in the league, and now their plans have gone to hell. Former Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer signed with the Cardinals. The two other top tackles, Eugene Monroe and Branden Albert, signed with the Ravens and Dolphins, respectively.
In addition, many of the top free agents are now off the market. So yeah, it's great that the Raiders won't have to pay Saffold, but where will they spend the money now?
Anyone that is spinning this as a positive for the Raiders doesn't have a clue. This is a total, unmitigated disaster. McKenzie never should have given Saffold the money in the first place. Just check out this tweet from Mike Silver of the NFL Network. You can't make this stuff up.
Silver later went on to tweet that it was owner Mark Davis who pulled the plug on the Saffold contract, which is extremely disconcerting for Raiders fans. Davis now appears to be a meddler like his late, great father, Al, but minus the football acumen.
But that doesn't change the fact that McKenzie made the atrocious signing in the first place.
The great Raiders fans deserve so much better than this.
At this point, as Rotoworld's Evan Silva noted, McKenzie might not be fit to make the team's draft picks this May.
He's now been the biggest loser of the first two days of 2014's NFL free agent period.
Winner: Eric Decker
Late on Day 2, Decker's fortunes flipped, and he made a small fortune as a result, inking a five-year, $36.25 million contract with the New York Jets, including $15 million guaranteed, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Even though Decker didn't make what many expected he would—Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald postulated that he could have commanded a deal worth as much as $10 million annually—he still did very well for himself.
While it remains to be seen if Decker can produce big numbers away from Denver's offensive juggernaut, there's no doubting that his signing with Gang Green makes him a Day 2 winner.
Loser: Rex Ryan
When news broke that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were looking to either trade or release star cornerback Darrelle Revis, you can bet your bottom dollar that his former coach with the Jets, Rex Ryan, would have moved heaven and hell to ensure Revis' return to Broadway.
Manish Metha of the New York Daily News tweeted as much earlier tonight, saying that Ryan "badly" wanted to bring Revis back into the fold.
Instead, Ryan had to sit back and watch as Revis agreed to terms with division rival New England.
Now, not only will Ryan not get a second opportunity to coach one of his favorite players, but he'll have to face him twice a season, and have to deal with seeing him star in a Patriots uniform under coach Bill Belichick.
Even the signing of receiver Eric Decker won't ease the sting of Revis signing with the Patriots. That makes Ryan a Day 2 loser.
Winner: Josh McCown
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new starting quarterback, and it's 34-year old journeyman Josh McCown.
McCown inked a two-year, $10 million deal with the Buccaneers, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, and Buccaners coach Lovie Smith wasted no time anointing McCown as his guy. According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Smith was asked if McCown is now his quarterback, and Smith replied, "Yes, he is."
McCown played extremely well in relief of an injured Jay Cutler last season, tossing 13 touchdown passes against only one interception. So well, in fact, that there was an actual debate as to whether or not McCown should have remained the starter when Cutler was healthy enough to return.
It's a stunning revival for McCown, who was coaching high school football in North Carolina two years ago. Now, he's the clear favorite to be the Week 1 starter in Tampa Bay.
That makes him a huge winner from Day 2 of free agency.
Loser: Mike Glennon
Mike Glennon was the NFL's best rookie quarterback in 2013, tossing 19 touchdown passes against nine interceptions for a bad Buccaneers team.
But that performance wasn't enough to win over the hearts and minds of the new regime in Tampa Bay.
While the team's signing of quarterback Josh McCown didn't come as a surprise, particularly as coach Lovie Smith recently spoke about wanting to add a veteran to compete at the position, (via Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune), the fact that Smith anointed McCown as his guy definitely did.
Now, Glennon looks like a long shot to be the team's starting quarterback in Week 1.
Loser: Buccaneers Fans
Yes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had an incredible Day 1 of free agency, signing defensive end Michael Johnson and cornerback Alterraun Verner. The haul was enough to earn them a place on my winners list on Tuesday.
There's no doubt that the team's defense will be impressive under the stewardship of coach Lovie Smith, a fact that Bleacher Report's Matt Miller astutely pointed out.
McCown is a 34-year old journeyman. Do you know why he possesses the "journeyman" label? Because he hasn't been all that good over the balance of his career.
Yes, he had a terrific 2013 season, tossing 13 touchdown passes against only one interception in relief of an injured Jay Cutler. But there's little doubting that the Midas touch of Bears coach Marc Trestman, a noted quarterback guru, amplified McCown's performance. And so did having weapons like receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
The move harkens back to Smith's time in Chicago, where his teams routinely fielded a strong defense but inconsistent offense with an albatross at the quarterback position. Smith's proclamation of McCown as his guy lent to flashbacks of him claiming "Rex (Grossman) is our quarterback" week after week in the mid 2000s.
Not one fan of the Buccaneers should feel excited about the possibility of McCown starting 16 games next season.
For more on McCown, check out this column from Bleacher Report's Cian Fahey.
Winner: John Elway
But Elway saved perhaps his biggest splash for Day 2, signing pass-rushing demon DeMarcus Ware to a three-year, $30 million contract, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
While the 31-year old Ware had a career-low six sacks last season while battling an elbow injury, there's no doubt that the future Hall of Famer still has a lot of gas left in the tank. He will join linebacker Von Miller to form arguably the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL.
In just over 24 hours, Elway has reloaded on defense in the hopes of winning a Super Bowl title while Peyton Manning remains his starting quarterback.
Winner: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson
For the entirety of Calvin Johnson's seven-year career in Motown, it seems as if the Lions have been searching for a playmaker to pair with him at the receiver position.
And now, it looks like they have their man, as the team signed former Seahawks receiver Golden Tate to a five-year deal worth $31 million, including $13.25 million guaranteed, per Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Last season, Tate caught 64 passes for 898 yards and five touchdowns in helping Seattle to win a Super Bowl title. As the Twitter account for Pro Football Focus noted, Tate has only dropped seven passes in four seasons and led all receivers in 2013 in forced missed tackles with 24.
In addition to freeing up room for Johnson, the news also must be music to the ears of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who now has a legitimate second option in the passing attack.
The signing of Tate means that Stafford and Johnson are Day 2 winners.
Loser: Jared Allen
The stage was all but set for former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen to become a member of the Denver Broncos.
But the Cowboys threw a monkey wrench into those plans by releasing pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Broncos were prepared to sign Allen to the same three-year, $30 million deal that they eventually gave to Ware. But once Ware became available and visited Denver, the Broncos opted to sign him instead.
The 31-year old Allen has had a fabulous career, totaling 128.5 sacks. But he's never won a Super Bowl title, and right now, it appears as if the Broncos were going to offer him his best chance of playing for a legitimate title contender.
Rapoport later reported that Allen would "be at peace living his life without football" if he doesn't get "fair value" for his services.
While it's tough to imagine a scenario where Allen isn't playing for a playoff-caliber squad in 2014, watching Ware sign a deal that was originally meant to be his has to sting.
That makes Allen a Day 2 loser.