Ranking the Most Overlooked Moves of 2014 NFL Free Agency
It's easy to celebrate and debate the big signings in free agency.
Everyone knows about Darrelle Revis and the Patriots, Eric Decker and the Jets and Aqib Talib and the Broncos.
However, many people glossed over plenty of other moves. They were less sexy and had less "zing" to the reports, but they might prove just as critical as the big-name signings.
Maybe even more critical.
These are the other moves in free agency that people didn't pay much attention to.
But we did.
8. Dexter McCluster to the Tennessee Titans
Well, Britt was definitely less than effective during long streams of his tenure, but even when Johnson struggled, he was a 1,000-yard back who could break off a big play at any time.
While he doesn’t have the ability to go every down like Johnson used to and lacks the speed of CJ2K and Britt in their prime, McCluster has shown some wheels at times.
The Titans need someone to step in and break off a big play once in a while.
They’re hoping McCluster can be that guy.
7. Chris Clemons to Jacksonville Jaguars
While he didn’t have a tremendous year in Seattle (aside from that whole Super Bowl thing), Chris Clemons is a nice addition to the Jacksonville defense.
In fact, considering he was coming back from an ACL tear from 2012, his 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble point to the fact that even at 32 years of age, he still has some gas left in the tank.
It’s not like Tyson Alualu, Jason Babin and Andre Branch were tearing up offensive lines in 2013, right?
He may not see every snap, but he can be effective at defensive end and has shown he could also step in at linebacker on occasion if need be.
We constantly focus on the offensive side of the ball—which makes sense because that’s where most of the Jaguars' shortcomings are—but adding Clemons will help improve the defense, which is just as vital.
6. Ted Ginn Jr. to the Arizona Cardinals
Sure, Ted Ginn Jr. isn’t likely to be a huge factor as a receiver—especially not behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd—but he could have a big impact in helping out the starting position for the offense.
ESPN also lists him as the player with the third highest total punt return yards and the fourth highest average.
It may seem a small thing, but field position has a huge impact on the game. Better position means a shorter field and less work for the offense to do.
The Cardinals might gain a nice edge with Ginn catching punts and kickoffs.
5. Owen Daniels to the Baltimore Ravens
With Dennis Pitta returning, you might think that any other tight end would be inconsequential to the Ravens offense—especially when the oft-injured Owen Daniels is the guy in question.
Sure, when he’s the chief tight end he seems to get banged up, but he’ll be second banana in Baltimore. He will reunite with former Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and should be a nice weapon across the middle of the field.
We know Kubiak likes two-tight end sets, so despite the fact that Pitta is higher in the pecking order, Daniels will get a lot of playing time. In fact, as Carroll County Times reporter Matt Zenitz wrote early in April, the Ravens intend to use Daniels quite a bit.
The offense needs to bounce back, and giving Joe Flacco another weapon should help it do just that.
4. Andre Roberts to Washington
While Andre Roberts didn’t have a very good season with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013, his numbers weren’t all that far off from his 2012 numbers—he just had less targets.
Drop a receiver's targets from 113 to 76, and he's likely to see a drop in catches and total yards.
The truth is that while Roberts has underachieved, the emergence of Michael Floyd had a lot to do with his gradual disappearance from the offense.
Roberts can line up in several different places in the offense—mostly outside or in the slot—and has shown good hands, a wide catch radius and the ability (and willingness) to make tough, contested catches.
While the Jackson signing rightfully got a lot of press, don’t overlook Roberts. He may have a much bigger impact in this offense than most think.
3. Nate Burleson to the Cleveland Browns
While he might not be the big-play complimentary receiver that Browns fans would like to see line up across from Josh Gordon (that may come during the non-Kevin Costner draft in May), Burleson could be a key piece of the offense nonetheless.
Assuming he can stay healthy (an issue the last two years) and not reach for pizza while driving, Burleson can put up decent numbers as a No. 2. While not a 1,000-yard receiver by any stretch, he was able to take advantage of space that Calvin Johnson opened up in opposing secondaries.
He should have success across from Gordon as well.
2. Jon Asamoah to the Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons offensive line hasn’t been great for a while now, but last season, it hit rock bottom (where it found Jacksonville and Arizona). It was rated No. 30 in Pro Football Focus’ 2013 offensive line rankings.
Jon Asamoah played well for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, grading out as the No. 20 guard in Pro Football Focus’ rankings (subscription link) and the No. 21 guard on the B/R NFL 1000 section on guards.
He does a great job of pass blocking—something the Falcons need help with—but can struggle with run blocking.
As Matt Miller points out in the B/R 1000 piece, Asamoah is only 25, so the best may be yet to come.
He’s not a name many casual fans will know a ton about, but Falcon fans will be happy with him for a long time to come.
1. Geoff Schwartz to the New York Giants
In case it wasn’t driven home in the Jon Asamoah slide, the offensive line is vital to the success of an offense.
Since the Giants signed Geoff Schwartz, too many fans and media have been ignoring the acquisition. He was Pro Football Focus’s No. 8 guard last season, while Matt Miller ranked him as the No. 7 guard (out of 70) in the B/R NFL 1000 list.
I’ve been impressed with him since I covered the Minnesota Vikings as NFC North lead writer and thought it was a mistake for Minnesota to allow him to leave—much like I feel it’s a mistake for the Kansas City Chiefs.
The New York Giants offensive line was a disaster this past year due to injury and poor play. As much as quarterback Eli Manning has to own up to a lot of his poor decisions, he received no help from his line.
Schwartz instantly strengthens the interior of the line, bringing effectiveness on both pass and run plays.
Not only is he an overlooked signing from this free-agency period—for most NFL fans, he’s possibly one of the most overlooked players in the league.
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