Ten Under-the-Radar NFL Moves of the 2009 Offseason
Every year in the off season all the talk is about the top free agents who cash in, but often it’s the free agent signings, that don’t get as much attention, that provide the biggest impact.
Here are ten of these signings that may not have been noticed by everyone, but will be when the season starts.
Laveranues Coles, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
After opting not to use the franchise tag on T.J. Houshmandzadeh and his departure to Seattle, the Bengals were in dire need of a receiver.
Coles forced his way out of New York and landed in a great situation in Cincinnati. Coles is a possession receiver who is not afraid to go over the middle and make a tough catch.
He and a reportedly rejuvenated Chad Ocho Cinco should give a healthy Carson Palmer a great pair of receivers to throw to.
Joey Galloway, WR, New England Patriots
Galloway had a rough final year in Tampa Bay, staring only four games and playing only nine due to a foot injury. The 37 year old Galloway was then released and signed to a one year deal by the Pats.
He reportedly still has his 4.4 40-yard dash speed and should be the slot receiver after Jabaar Gaffney left for Denver.
With Tom Brady back, the Pats offense will look to repeat its historic 2007 numbers and Galloway will be a big part of it.
Matt Birk, OL, Baltimore Ravens
Birk was not resigned by the Vikings after 11 seasons and six Pro Bowl appearances.
The Ravens lost Jason Brown in free agency, after he signed a huge deal with Rams, but Birk should be a formidable replacement, and comes at a cheaper cost.
Playing center, Birk will anchor the line and provide leadership to the Ravens' young offensive lineman.
Jeff Garcia, QB, Oakland Raiders
Garica is not the passer he once was, but at 39 he can still get the job done. He had a 90.2 QB rating last year after starting 12 games for Tampa Bay but was not resigned by the team in the off season.
Garcia then signed a one year deal with the Raiders.
At worst, Garcia will provide the Raiders with a veteran presence behind JaMarcus Russell, and he could end up starting if Russell doesn’t start playing like a number one pick.
Fred Taylor, RB, New England Patriots
Taylor was unceremoniously cut by the Jaguars after 11 seasons with the team, as they wanted to hand the reigns over to Maurice Jones Drew.
Taylor was then picked up by the Pats and will join a crowded backfield including Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris.
Taylor has been impressive so far and is the favorite to start, but will defer short yardage opportunities to Morris and Maroney.
Byron Leftwich, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Leftwich didn’t garner much interest on the free agent market, despite a solid showing last year in limited duty behind Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.
He was picked up a little before the draft by the Bucs. The contract is easy to get out of if he fails to impress, so it’s a low risk investment for them.
Leftwich was a top-ten pick and is still only 29 years old. He will compete with Luke McCown, who has no starting experience, for the starting job.
Lito Sheppard, CB, New York Jets
The free agent corner back class was average despite getting huge contracts, so the Jets decided to go to the trade market to fill its cornerback need.
They acquired Sheppard, who vocally said he wanted out, from the Eagles. Sheppard was buried on the depth chart in Philly last year but has two Pro Bowl appearances in his career and is still just 28.
The Jets didn’t give up much to get him, only giving Philly a fifth-round pick and a conditional pick for next year, which hinges on playing time and the Jets signing him to an extension.
Sean Jones, S, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles lost their defensive leader in the off season in Brain Dawkins, but he was getting older and his play was declining.
To help replace him, the Eagles signed Sean Jones, who was not resigned by the Browns. Jones can play either safety position, and will be looking to prove himself and get a big contract next year after signing only a one-year deal with the Eagles.
Igor Olshansky, DE, Dallas Cowboys
Dallas lost Chris Canty to the division rival Giants, as they signed him to a huge contract in the off season. To replace him they signed Igor Olshanksy, who played in the 3-4 defense in San Diego, to a cheaper deal.
Olshansky has a history with head coach Wade Phillips, who was the defensive coordinator with San Diego in his first three seasons. He is very good against the run and will be a nice addition to the Cowboys' defensive line.
Angelo Crowell, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Crowell missed all of 2008 after injuring his knee, and was not resigned by the Bills in the off season. The Bucs then picked him up and he will compete to start at strong side linebacker.
Crowell was one of the most underrated players in the league, and before the injury and had 140 tackles in 2007. He is finally healthy now and is looking to return to his pre-injury form.