Thanks to the lockout, signings and trades originally planned for March had to be delayed until now, in late July.
Going through everything that has happened as of Thursday, I will list what I think are three best, worst, underrated and overrated free agent signings and trades of 2011 and also give reasons why.
Posluszny has been one of the most productive linebackers in the league since 2008 with 397 total tackles in the last three years.
Like seemingly most linebackers on teams switching to a 3-4, Posluszny prefers the 4-3 for his skills. “That was a huge part of this decision for me,” he said. “I wanted to get back to a 4-3.”
He will get that in Jacksonville, where Posluszny is needed after losing Justin Durant to the Lions. The cost may be a tad much ($7.5 million per year), but Posluszny will step in and instantly be the best linebacker on a team that needs one.
Franchise quarterbacks are extremely tough to come by, as is the opportunity to acquire them. Kolb has the potential to be that franchise player for Arizona.
His stats don't tell the real story, but as Michael Vick's backup in 2010, Kolb looked, at worst, surefooted to succeed at managing an offense.
The contract number may look high, but if he turns out to be Matt Schaub (another former Vick backup), the money will look like pocket change to the Cardinals.
Marshal Yanda, Ravens: Five years $32 Million, $10 Million Guaranteed
Yanda has been a quality, versatile offensive linemen since tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL in 2008, starting 16 games at right tackle and nine at right guard for Baltimore the last two years.
Head coach John Harbaugh has said he would prefer Yanda stay at right guard permanently for 2011.
Yanda isn't an elite player, but he provides something all NFL teams want—a tackle that can slide over to guard in a moment's notice. The contract is also very team-friendly, as less than a third of his deal is guaranteed.
Sidney Rice, Seahawks: Five years, $41 Million, $18 Million Guaranteed
The negative side? In his three other years with Minnesota, Rice has averaged 21 catches for 272 yards and three touchdowns. His problem isn't talent, it's health.
Committing five years and $18 million to a wide receiver with chronic knee problems isn't my idea of a wise signing.
Charles Johnson, Panthers: Sixyears $72 Million, $32 Million Guaranteed
Admittedly, yes, hyper productive pass-rushers are the second-highest commodity in the NFL (behind quarterbacks), so when you get one, hold on to him. But is Johnson a “hyper-productive” pass-rusher?
Dwight Freeney and Jared Allen both signed similar deals in their respective careers. In the four years before Freeney signed his deal, he accrued 43.5 sacks. Allen racked up 43 sacks in the four seasons before his monster deal in 2008.
How many sacks did Johnson have in his previous four years? 21.5.
Brad Smith, Bills: Four years, $15 Million
Yes, the Bills need talent at wide receiver. Lee Evans is just a deep threat at this point in his career, Roscoe Parrish is a return specialist now and Stevie Johnson is the definition of inconsistent.
So the Bills went out looking for a consistent, possession wideout. And all they could find was Brad Smith?
This is why they're the Bills. They draft C.J. Spiller instead of a quarterback or lineman, and they sign a former college quarterback who's best skill is returning.
He will do nothing but be “Josh Cribbs lite” for poor Buffalo fans.
Justin Durant, Lions: Two-year deal
Durant has the potential to be a stud linebacker, but he needs a productive defensive line in front of him to cover up the linemen.
He never got that in Jacksonville, where its defensive line always had problems protecting its linebackers.
Durant will get that in Detroit where Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley will take care of the blockers, giving Durant the opportunity to maximize his potential.
Melvin Bullitt, Colts: Multi-year deal
Bullitt went from a no-name undrafted safety in 2007, to a fill-in for Bob Sanders, to the full time starting strong safety in Indianapolis in the upcoming 2011 season.
Re-signing Bullitt was key to the Colts' success. Without him, Indy is down to guys like Chip Vaughn and Al Afalava to start at strong safety—something nobody needs to see.
With rumors of St. Louis gaining interest, Indianapolis had to act quickly to keep Bullitt on the squad.
Ray McDonald, 49ers: Five years, $20 Million, $7 Million Guaranteed
The 49ers re-signing McDonald won't grab many headlines, but he is an important piece of the Niners defense.
He has been a quality reserve for the last three years in San Francisco, but looks to move up to a starting role in 2011.
McDonald is an upfield penetrator at the 3-4 end spot, and with Aubrayo Franklin looking to leave, the 49ers need to keep as many players as they can.
After being drafted eighth overall, Jake Locker is not ready to start day one for the Tennessee Titans due to the lockout-shortened offseason.
So Tennessee needed someone to bridge the gap to Locker. It decided on 35-year-old Hasselbeck. The same Hasselbeck that threw 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.
People remember the nice games he had in the playoffs last year, but not his overall body of work in 2010. Hasselbeck isn't a reliable enough option at quarterback for Tennessee, and I have a feeling Locker will get pushed into work sooner than expected.
Ever since being drafted second overall in 2006, Bush has failed to live up to expectations. He has been nothing but a return specialist and a scat back. Bush was set to make $11.8 million in 2011, and both sides knew something had to be done.
Instead of restructuring Bush's deal, the Saints decided to get some value while they could and traded him to Miami for safety Jonathon Amaya and an undisclosed draft pick.
Bush has said he wants to be the Dolphins' featured back. Miami drafted Daniel Thomas this year for that.
Bush will have the same role he had in New Orleans, and to give up draft pick(s) for someone who hasn't lived up to any expectations as a pro is indefensible.
Eric Weddle, Chargers: Five years, $40 Million, $19 Million Guaranteed
Weddle has been San Diego's starting free safety for the last three years. With only six career interceptions, nothing he does jumps off the page stat-wise.
Weddle is an above-average safety. So San Diego decides to lock Weddle up for $40 million and $19 million guaranteed? Can you say “overpaid"?
Weddle does everything well, but nothing spectacular. Giving him that much money was a mistake.