2014 NFL Free-Agent Signings: Winners and Losers from Day 4

Nick KostosContributor IMarch 15, 2014

2014 NFL Free-Agent Signings: Winners and Losers from Day 4

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    Day 4 of 2014 NFL free agency is over, and as we've done over the first three days this week, it's time to declare winners and losers based on what transpired.

    Compared to the blockbuster signings and earth-shattering revelations of the past week, the fourth day of the new free-agency period was positively tame, but that doesn't mean important transactions didn't take place.

    Former Panthers receiver Steve Smith quickly found a new team, and he could end up shifting the balance of power in the AFC North. Another receiver, Hakeem Nicks, found a new home—and not necessarily where you might have thought. And Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie overcame the odds and had his second consecutive solid day of signings.

    The winners on this list were chosen because they improved a suspect receiving corps, inked a number of suitable players or ended up signing with an incredible franchise.

    The losers were chosen because they failed to add viable weapons on offense, left a lot of money on the table or made a suspect signing.

    It's important to note that these lists are not the be-all, end-all of the NFL offseason. There's still a lot of time left before September, including the rest of free agency and the NFL draft, for clubs to improve themselves.

    Here are the winners and losers from Day 4 of 2014 NFL free agency.

Winner: Andrew Luck

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    Help is on the way for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

    On Friday night, the Colts signed former Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks to a one-year, $3.5 million deal that could reach $5.5 million with incentives, per ESPN.com's Adam Schefter

    After the Colts lost to the Patriots in the divisional round of the postseason this past January, I wrote that Luck's supporting cast was in need of an upgrade, and signing Nicks represents a low-risk, high-reward addition for general manager Ryan Grigson.

    There's no denying that Nicks suffered through an abysmal 2013 season. He failed to haul in a single touchdown catch and never got on the same page with Giants quarterback Eli Manning. He finished the year ranked as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) 69th-best receiver.

    But Nicks has been dominant in the past, particularly as the Giants rolled to a Super Bowl title following the 2011 season. It's not outside the realm of possibility that he could flash his past form once again.

    Luck's passing targets are starting to look fairly imposing, with Nicks joining T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener and the returning Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen.

    Signing Nicks makes Luck a big winner on Day 4.

Loser: Dave Gettleman

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    On Day 3 of free agency, I made Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman my biggest loser for two reasons: The callous manner in which he released receiver Steve Smith, and his lack of urgency to replace Smith with a viable target in the passing game.

    Day 4 features more of the same, as Gettleman once again lost in a major way.

    Before I explain why, go ahead and check out the Panthers' depth chart at wide receiver, per Ourlads.com. I'll wait.

    If the NFL season started tomorrow, the Panthers would be starting Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt at wide receiver. If you were to multiply the number of career catches combined between King and McNutt by a million, do you know what the result would be?

    Zero. It would be zero.

    On Day 3, Gettleman bid au revoir to the Smith, the greatest player in franchise history. While Smith isn't the same guy he once was, wouldn't it make sense to keep a receiver on the roster with, you know, experience?

    One of the best organizations in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, wasted no time in scooping up Smith, signing him to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million.

    But wait, there's more!

    Hakeem Nicks, a receiver whom many linked to the Panthers, signed a one-year deal on Friday with the Colts, taking him off the market.

    If Gettleman doesn't act soon, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton might be throwing to you and me this fall.

    And that's not a recipe for a return trip to the postseason.

Winner: Ozzie Newsome

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    On Day 4 of free agency, general manager Ozzie Newsome once again proved why the Baltimore Ravens are one of the finest organizations in the NFL.

    First came the signing of former Panthers receiver Steve Smith to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million.

    Smith will join fellow receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones as well as tight end Dennis Pitta to give quarterback Joe Flacco a fantastic foursome of targets in the passing attack. He also brings a brand of toughness that the club lost when it traded Anquan Boldin to the 49ers last offseason.

    Then Newsome re-signed linebacker Daryl Smith to a four-year, $16.1 million deal, per Schefter.

    It's never easy stepping into the spot vacated by a legend, but Smith had a superb 2013 season in replacing future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. He finished the campaign ranked as Pro Football Focus' 16th-best inside linebacker.

    Signing the pair of Smiths makes Newsome an easy winner on Day 4.

    For more on Newsome's victorious day, check out this column from Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey.

Loser: B.J. Raji

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    When it comes to bad business decisions, Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji might have cornered the market.

    Per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Raji reportedly turned down an offer from the Packers last offseason in the range of $8 million per campaign

    That was not a wise move.

    Raji had an awful 2013 season, finishing as Pro Football Focus' 43rd-ranked 3-4 defensive end. There were only 45 3-4 defensive ends ranked. You don't have to be a math major to know that isn't good.

    On Day 4 of free agency, Raji inked a one-year, $4 million deal, per Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel. That means he left $4 million on the table by reportedly rejecting last year's offer.

    While the money surely isn't what Raji envisioned, the silver lining is that the team plans to move him back to nose tackle, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Raji has shown that he plays better there than at defensive end in coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme.

    Even though Raji will get a chance to re-enter the market next offseason after playing at his natural position, he's still a Day 4 loser for leaving $4 million on the table.

Winner: Brandon Browner

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    Darrelle Revis has a new running buddy in the New England Patriots secondary.

    On Friday, the Patriots inked cornerback Brandon Browner to a three-year, $17 million deal, per ESPN.com's Josina Anderson (h/t Schefter).

    It's hard to imagine Browner ending up in a better spot, especially given that he's suspended for the first four games of next season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He'll have a chance to play meaningful football in January and line up opposite Revis, the NFL's best cornerback.

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick loves physical corners who can press at the line of scrimmage, and that's Browner.

    Given where he signed and the money he received despite his suspension, Browner is a major winner on Day 4 of free agency.

Loser: Ruston Webster

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    Nashville might be known as the Music City, but on Day 4 of free agency, Titans general manager Ruston Webster brought a movie subject to town.

    Webster signed former Ravens tackle Michael Oher (of The Blind Side fame) to a four-year, $20 million deal, including $9.5 million guaranteed, per Schefter.

    The only issue is that Oher isn't as good as people think. He finished 2013 as Pro Football Focus' 68th-ranked tackle.

    Oher will replace the recently retired David Stewart, and he's definitely a downgrade for the Titans.

    Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport has a detailed breakdown and grade of the signing here, and he feels the same way I do.

    Giving Oher nearly $10 million guaranteed makes Webster a Day 4 loser.

Winner: Reggie McKenzie

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    Take a look out your window right now.

    Are pigs flying?

    Has hell frozen over?

    I ask because for the second consecutive day, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has earned a spot on my winner's list.

    After bombing in spectacular fashion on Day 1 and Day 2, McKenzie has rebounded nicely over the past 48 hours, signing a series of players who will definitely upgrade what was the NFL's least talented 53-man roster in 2013.

    First he signed defensive end Antonio Smith to a two-year, $9 million deal, per Schefter. Smith had five sacks last season for the Texans.

    Then he inked former 49ers cornerback Tarell Brown to a one-year, $3.5 million deal, per Schefter. Brown finished 2013 ranked as Pro Football Focus' 32nd-best cornerback.

    While neither signing is a blockbuster, both players are solid and improve the quality on defense. The Raiders desperately needed to add serviceable players, and McKenzie did just that on Friday.

    That makes him a Day 4 winner.

     

    Nick Kostos is a featured NFL columnist for Bleacher Report and an executive producer for SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.