The NFL All-Offseason Buzz Team
The NFL offseason is full of pomp and circumstance, sound and fury signifying little. Until now, we have mostly had free agency, the draft and off-field incidents to fuel the fire. There has been plenty to talk about, though, and many players have created a buzz for those reasons.
Things have been building a bit as offseason workouts have rolled out across the league, too, which has some players in the news and on the blogosphere in recent weeks.
Which veterans have created the most buzz at their respective positions this offseason, even if it hasn't been good? Click through to find out.
Is he still elite?
That is the question some are asking about legendary New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady this offseason.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus delivered the big blow when he wrote Tom Brady was no longer a top-five quarterback for ESPN.com (subscription required). The stat-based article elicited a response from the man himself, as Brady would later say that wins and losses are the only stats that matter, per Tom E. Curran of Comcast SportsNet.
We can debate the merits of utilizing wins and losses in a team-based sport as a valid statistic another time. Is Brady one of the top five quarterbacks in the league when it comes to play on the field?
Bleacher Report's own Cian Fahey thinks not:
Being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL is about how you perform relative to the players in the league at that time. Even though Brady has plenty of excuses to point to for his poor play last season, too many more players simply played through those excuses and performed more consistently for him to still be considered one of the best in the NFL.
All this talk might be a bit of motivation for the 36-year-old quarterback. Can the three-time Super Bowl winner have his shoulder chipped yet again?
Earlier this offseason, the running back creating the most buzz might have been new Cleveland Brown Ben Tate. He has been supplanted by a younger, more dynamic back making waves in the Pacific Northwest.
The second-year Seattle back flashed his ability last offseason, but an incomplete game combined with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin ahead of him on the depth chart all but kept Michael off the field.
A year of seasoning has Michael poised to pounce on the NFL. If recent practices are any indication, Michael is going to be difficult to keep off the field. This is what Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had to say about Michael, per ESPN.com's Terry Blount:
Michael had several impressive carries in the 11-on-11 scrimmage. There was no tackling, but he obviously would have broken into the secondary a couple of times and showed quite a burst at the line of scrimmage.
"We have very high expectations for him," Carroll said of Michael. "He's going to get a ton of work. He's just a million miles ahead of where he was in terms of understanding what we want scheme-wise, pass protection wise, route wise, and we know he's a natural runner. He's got explosive talent and we just want to get him to fit in."
To be fair, Michael was impressive last preseason, too. The difference is the Seahawks seem bent on getting him on the field more this season.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said the Seahawks may be going to a committee approach at running back, per Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com.
These revelations have caused a stir in the fantasy football community in particular. If Michael can deliver on his promise in some capacity this season, he could be in for some big games.
If any receiver has caught fire in recent weeks, it's Michael Floyd out in Arizona.
The third-year Cardinals receiver is set to explode this season opposite Larry Fitzgerald, at least if his quarterback is right about what he sees in practice. Carson Palmer has been impressed with Floyd this offseason, according to Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com:
Palmer is buying in. He praised Floyd’s concentration in traffic, his ability to beat Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson on a fly pattern and the way Floyd has worked on his flexibility under new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
Now, Palmer said, Floyd is more fluid. He runs effortlessly, catches the ball effortlessly.
“I have very high expectations for Mike this year,” Palmer said.
Palmer also had this to say about Floyd as well, per Vince Marotta of ArizonaSports.com:
Palmer is also happy about the rapport he's been able to build with third-year wide receiver Michael Floyd.
"I'm so proud of Mike Floyd and so excited to see what he's going to do this year," he said. "He and I trained this whole offseason together since late January and he's worked really, really hard to get more fluid and a little bit more explosive and more flexible.
"He's worked extremely hard. I think the year that Mike's going to have is going to shock some people.
Ingratiating yourself to the quarterback when you play wide receiver is a good start to having a huge year. Floyd is turning the right heads in Arizona, and he will be giving football fans whiplash this fall at this rate.
Like with Christine Michael, the fantasy football realm is aflutter with the noise surrounding Floyd.
There hasn't been too much buzz at tight end this offseason, at least not of the positive kind.
Another tight end who has been making some waves for the wrong reasons is Vernon Davis out west. Per NFL.com's Marc Sessler, the talented San Francisco starter has refused to show up at offseason workouts because he wants a new deal.
Per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis cites building his "brand" as the reason he is holding out after becoming the first athlete to sell stock based on his career.
It's an interesting strategy given he still has two years left on a hefty deal he signed a few years ago. It's difficult to see this doing much to spur the 49ers to change anything in his contract anytime soon.
That might be what Arizona Cardinals fans are saying about Jared Veldheer's arrival in free agency. For a while, it seemed that Levi Brown might be the answer at left tackle, but Cardinals quarterbacks have been running for their lives in recent years.
Veldheer was brought in as a free agent out of Oakland. Having blocked the blind side for quarterback Carson Palmer in 2012, Palmer knows what he is getting in the newly minted Cardinal.
As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling wrote, Veldheer was "slow played" by Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie while the Cardinals made an aggressive play in free agency. Oakland's loss was a huge gain for Arizona.
D'Anthony Batiste was a turnstile at left tackle last season for the Cardinals, a big reason why Palmer was sacked 41 times. Veldheer allowed just one last season.
The Denver Broncos lost guard Zane Beadles to free agency and didn't bother to replace him with a free agent or a draft pick. No sweat, though, as they had a plan all along.
That plan was Orlando Franklin, who had been playing right tackle for the Broncos since coming into the league. So far, so good, according to Arnie Stapleton of The Globe and Mail:
We feel great about that move, and I think he feels really good about it,” offensive co-ordinator Adam Gase said. “I really like his size inside. I really think that’s going to help firm up when we’re going a lot of our quick game. We want him to get his hands on people. Instead of having to worry about a speed rusher outside, he’s dealing with some of the bigger guys in the league. I feel very confident about him moving inside.
So does Franklin, who’s looking forward to being more physical in the run game at guard.
It will be interesting to see how he transitions, even if he has past experience at the position.
How often does a center get attention in the offseason?
Alex Mack got plenty of that early on in free agency, as teams were deciding whether they should extend an offer to a guy who was tendered with a transition tag by the Cleveland Browns. The Browns could match any offer, after all, so what was the point?
That didn't stop the Jacksonville Jaguars from trying, though, signing Mack to a five-year, $42 million deal. It was a creatively constructed deal that pays Mack $26 million over his first two seasons, per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora—unheard of money for a center.
The Browns were willing to match that after all, though, and Mack will stay in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.
The Minnesota Vikings may have made a mistake in letting sack artist Jared Allen go in free agency.
Despite perhaps losing a step at 32 years of age, Allen still has plenty left to leave on the field. Take his 11.5 sacks last season, for example—he might not have been as good all around, but he was still valuable to that defense.
The Chicago Bears pounced on him in free agency, adding him to replace 34-year-old Julius Peppers.
Starting anew with a division rival was a bit strange for Allen, who said it was "a little odd" according to ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright.
The biggest impact Allen might have is freeing up teammates to make plays, and that is not lost on fellow signee Lamarr Houston, per Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times:
But Houston doesn’t mind the Robin role to Allen’s Batman. They can still be a dynamic duo.
“It’s amazing, just amazing,” Houston said of playing with Allen after organized team activities last week. “It’s a good move by [general manager Phil Emery], coach [Marc Trestman] and an organization that wants to win.
“They went out and grabbed everybody they needed. It’s a good thing. It’s even better for me to get to learn from somebody like that.
Chicago did grab a lot of defensive help, and Allen might have been the biggest addition.
Nick Fairley is entering a contract season thanks to Detroit's decision to decline a fifth-year option on the big defensive tackle. It seems he is taking that seriously this offseason.
The snub has been a motivator for Fairley this offseason, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com:
Fairley was surprised by the move, and is using it as motivation to deliver his best season as a pro in 2014.
"I felt like I would (earn the fifth year), yeah," Fairley said Tuesday after participating in OTAs in Allen Park. "I felt like things went great for me. My first year wasn't too good, but the next two came on.
Fairley got the call from general manger Martin Mayhew while working out in Houston. He initially was upset, but later mulled it over with his agent during dinner and realized the move could be mutually beneficial.
Fairley has lost 30 pounds this offseason in preparation for a big season, he hopes. If he can keep his head on straight and play to his potential, the Lions are going to have a fierce defensive front.
More importantly for Fairley, Detroit will have a tough decision come next offseason.
The New England Patriots parted ways with linebacker Brandon Spikes earlier this offseason. The Buffalo Bills snapped him up on a one-year deal, and Spikes has scarcely been able to stop talking ever since.
Whether it was referring to his tenure in New England as "four years a slave" or saying the Bills were going to "shock the world," per Marc Sessler of NFL.com, Spikes hasn't been shy to speak his mind in Buffalo.
Spikes does join an up-and-coming defense, and a run-stopping thumper in the middle will allow second-year stud Kiko Alonso to move to a more natural position on the outside. If Spikes can back up his words, maybe shocking the world isn't so far-fetched.
The Oakland Raiders have a new-look defense this year, but one holdover is set to have a nice sophomore season at a position that will play to his speedy strengths.
Outside linebacker Sio Moore is moving from the strong to the weak side in that defense, something he has done before, according to Ryan Wilson of NBC Connecticut:
I did this in college," Moore said recently, via Raiders.com. "I started out as a WILL (weak-side backer), and then moved to SAM, where the SAM was an outside linebacker and a down free safety," Moore said. "Moving from SAM to WILL here again, it’s nothing that’s abnormal. I just try to use my versatility and continue to show our coaches and my teammates that I can do anything on the field and I want to continue to work at it, no matter what position.
The move should be a good one for Moore and the Raiders defense.
It has been quite the year for Richard Sherman.
The talented cornerback was a vocal leader for the championship Seattle Seahawks, shrugging off criticism as he took center stage in the NFL.
Despite being a polarizing figure, Sherman was recently voted this year's Madden NFL 15 cover man, much to the dismay of any Seahawks fans who might believe in the Madden curse. Sherman didn't stop there, though. According to ESPN, he is hoping Seattle's "Legion of Boom" will be on the cover alongside him.
More importantly for him and the franchise, however, Sherman signed a long-term contract extension that made him the richest cornerback in the league.
Before Darrelle Revis was released, Jairus Byrd was the biggest free-agency prize. In a bit of an upset, the New Orleans Saints landed him.
Why was it an upset? The Saints weren't exactly in a prime cap situation heading into free agency. They were one of a few teams over the initial projected cap before the league year rolled over, though they ultimately benefited from the cap being higher than initially projected.
A few cuts here and creative accounting there, and Byrd was obtained at a six-year, $54 million cost.
The talented safety hasn't been able to do much with his new team yet, though, after having back surgery. Fortunately, the surgery was relatively minor—it was something he would have played through had we been in football season.
When he makes it back, Byrd will team up with Kenny Vaccaro to create one of the league's best safety tandems.
Jairus Byrd may have been free agency's biggest prize heading into the new league year, but fellow safety T.J. Ward wasn't too far behind.
He came far cheaper than Byrd, though, as the Denver Broncos were able to land him on a four-year, $22.5 million deal. It was one of the steals of free agency, a move that should bolster Denver's secondary quite a bit this season.
Unfortunately, Ward got off on the wrong foot in Denver. Per Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, the talented safety was recently charged with assault and disturbing the peace. The charges were a bit overblown, but nobody likes to make that kind of news off the field.