This has been the wildest free agency of my generation and it has been great to watch. To see the Patriots get guys, with something left, for close to nothing. To see Tom Cable draw all the former Raiders to Seattle. To see the Eagles sign every starter available. Lastly, to see the St. Louis Rams go under the radar compiling a very solid team.
Welcome to the 2011 off-season!
Between all the trades and free agent moves, this has been an exciting time. What has, for the most part, been tossed aside is the number of key re-signings teams have made in this chaotic period.
Free agents are nice, but it will be the guys that are re-signed that will provide a bigger impact in an off-season lacking OTA’s and mini-camps. Ten guys in particular would have been detrimental to their former teams, one way or another, had they not re-signed.
For a guy nine out of ten people have never heard of, Anderson was a key piece that needed to be retained.
Anderson was the one stable piece to the Panthers linebacker corps last season. Anderson was a top tackler last season, but with Thomas Davis out and Jon Beason trying to learn a different position Anderson needed to step his game up.
Anderson has six years under his belt, but last season was the first time he was given the full time job and he excelled. Now there are two beasts in the corps and if Davis stays healthy, the Panthers’ corps will be the best in the NFL bar none.
Johnson is mostly talked about because of his $72 million contract he received. Looking past that, it is easy to see why re-signing Johnson was crucial to the Panthers organization.
At 25, Johnson is not even in his prime yet. He has grown up within the organization, the organization knows what he is capable of, and in his first season as starter he compiled 11.5 sacks.
He composed more than a third of Carolina’s sack total last season and he is a great guy to control the edge versus the run. He also put the Panthers team and fans at ease after the departure of Brady’s Nightmare aka Julius Peppers.
This brings up the non-business reasons for the re-signing and the contract. They had just lost Peppers, the franchise’s leading sack getter and absolute freak, and losing Johnson the next year would be a huge blow to the fans, the team and the reputation of the Panthers.
The Panthers also needed to avoid Johnson’s return home to play with Atlanta which plays Carolina twice a year. To see Peppers and Johnson playing against them three times this season would be a heart breaker.
Now that he is a Panther for a long time, one side is locked up for the future, and with Greg Hardy pushing to excel on the other side Carolina has slowly forming a pair of home-grown book ends that will dominate for years to come.
Seattle definitely has made a splash in free agency. The Seahawks have added tight end Zach Miller, receiver Sidney Rice, and lineman Robert Gallery.
The biggest move may have come with the re-signing of Mebane. Mebane is another very young guy at almost 26 and has yet to reach his prime.
He was a highly coveted defensive tackle and Seattle was able to retain him for pennies.
The guy has some pass rush ability, but he can push the pocket and he is great against the run. With the instability at the linebacker corps, it is up to Mebane, Chris Clemons and the rest of the line to go beyond the call and do most of the damage.
The NFC West is very weak, but it has some very talented running backs and for Seattle to keep their best run stuffer they will have an inside track to winning the division next season.
The Atlanta Falcons have depth at the offensive line, but no matter how deep a team is losing the three top linemen is going to hurt.
Atlanta did a good job prioritizing the re-signing of their linemen and that resulted in only the loss of guard Harvey Dahl. This move will have an impact, but to keep a guy like Clabo is big.
Atlanta does run between the tackles, but their change-of-pace backs rely on the ends being sealed off. Also, more teams are putting two pass-rushing ends on the field at one time. It is no longer good enough to have just one pass-blocking tackle.
The Falcons will be facing the Colts, Texans, and Eagles with all three going to be attacking from both sides. Would you rather have Clabo facing Mathis, Babin and Williams or a young guy with no starting time?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been scrutinized for not spending much of their money even though they had the most to spend. The only guy they have signed is a punter formerly with Atlanta.
There is a reason for this as they knew the talent they already had and decided to re-sign their own. One aspect they spent a lot of money on is the offensive line. This is a smart move when there is a young, though physically gifted, quarterback taking the snaps.
Tampa re-signed guard Davin Joseph and tackle Jeremy Trueblood, two guys that form one of the best right sides in the NFL.
The main guy they re-signed was Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph. Joseph is a critical part of the line as the Bucs running style is north-south through the middle of the line. By keeping the right side intact, they will still be able to run to the right side.
With the competition adding defensive linemen like Shaun Rogers, Aubrayo Franklin, and Jay Ratliff it is imperative the interior be strong. Those are big boys and they can easily shut down a running game and collapse the pocket.
The re-signing of Yanda may have been the best move the Ravens made all off-season. He is a young guard that really came into his own last season.
Furthermore, the Ravens had purged the team of many well-known veterans in order to make cap space, so Yanda could not leave at any cost.
Lastly, Yanda is the only stable lineman for the Ravens right now. Their center is having arthroscopic surgery. One tackle was thought to be released due to poor play and injuries. The other is just learning the left tackle position after failing at the right tackle spot. Yanda is the pillar of the line now, so he is a huge re-sign.
Holmes was the must-have free agent for the Jets. With a dozen free agents, many going to where the money takes them, keeping the team’s No.1 receiver was crucial.
He is a veteran presence, catches everything, and he had 746 yards with 6 touchdowns last season in just 12 games.
Holmes is a great target for Mark Sanchez and needed to be kept. Plus, he could be the only target to be kept. Braylon Edwards is unlikely to return and receiver Brad Smith signed with Buffalo. There will not be a lot of time to gain a connection with new receivers so Holmes will be looked at every play.
Holmes keeps the team as a contender and with a full 2011 season, Holmes should be up with the better receivers in the league.
When John Beck is the outright starting quarterback, you get that feeling it will be a long season. The Redskins have been signing scores of receivers with hopes that one will pan out. Luckily, at least one guy will come to play every game.
The re-signing of Moss will be overlooked by many, but few realize how important he is to the offense. He had over 1,100 yards receiving on 93 catches last season. He was the only guy with more than five year experience on the team.
With a questionable quarterback, he will need a go-to guy that is a veteran in order to help keep his job. Moss still has the hands and speed to make the occasional big play and his presence on the team will outweigh any of those who were signed this off-season.
With Carson Palmer gone, Chad Johnson gone and T.O. gone, the Bengals had to keep someone from the offense. Re-signing Benson is a huge move for the Bengals.
It was a tough road, but the Bengals did re-sign their feature back who rushed for over 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns. He is a downhill runner that will get the tough yards and can do whatever is asked of him.
Whether it is Bruce Gradkowski or Andy Dalton, the Bengals will be relying heavily on their running game. Bernard Scott is a good change-of-pace back, but he cannot handle the load of being a feature back. Scott will get his fair share, but the offense will be on Benson’s shoulders this season.
Alex Smith is still with the 49ers?
As shocking as this is, Smith was re-signed, and it could turn out to be a very good move. Smith is officially a bust as the No.1 overall pick, but to give him some slack he has had a different offensive coordinator every year.
Last season, he looked like he might finally be the franchise quarterback. He threw 14 touchdowns with 10 interceptions and even had a connection with tight end Vernon Davis. Unfortunately, he would later be benched due to a subpar performance.
Most thought Smith was gone, and many probably wonder why he was re-signed. Smith said that he wanted to return to San Francisco, and I think he still believes he can be something.
Smith will have Jim Harbaugh as his coach. Harbaugh groomed the architect-loving Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who is already projected to be the next Peyton Manning. Maybe Harbaugh can do the same for Smith.
The best reason is that the re-signing will give Smith a do-or-die situation where he might make something of himself. Worst case scenario, he does his same routine and gives future franchise quarterback Colin Kaepernick time to learn the NFL game so he will be better prepared when it is his time.
The move gives Smith the chance he wants with an actual coach, and the move gives the franchise time to groom its future quarterback. No risk, high reward for the 49ers, and it could be their best move of the new year.