NFL Preseason: 10 Offseason Moves That Everyone Is Overlooking
The preseason is underway and the NFL regular season crawls ever closer to Week 1. With the unprecedented free-agency period and the ferocity at which it moved, there are players that have slipped through the cracks and under the radar that you need to get caught up to speed on.
The following slideshow will shed some light on some guys you may or may not have heard switched teams in the last month. They all have potential impact on their new teams and could change their team's fortunes for the 2011 season.
Enjoy the list and feel free to leave a comment if you feel someone was overlooked.
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Kansas City Chiefs: Steve Breaston
The Kansas City Chiefs have realized that they have budding stars at running back in Jamaal Charles and at wide receiver in Dwayne Bowe. Matt Cassel is starting to accumulate the level of talent he once played with back in his New England Patriots days.
Steve Breaston may not be a direct impact player for the Chiefs, but he will have an impact on how they run their offense; and consequently, how defensive coordinators scheme their game plans for Kansas City this year.
Breaston will take some attention off of Dwayne Bowe and tight end Tony Moeaki as a legitimate outside threat when the Chiefs look to pass. He also allows the Chiefs to run the ball more efficiently with Jamaal Charles, due to the dual outside threats preventing defenses from stacking the box.
In a division that contains sub par secondaries, Breaston should be able to excel in his new shade of red.The former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver has not put up eye-popping numbers thus far in his career, but solid number nonetheless.
What else would you ask for from a No. 2 receiver? Put up solid numbers, take some attention away from the No. 1 guy, and go grab some touchdowns every now and then.
Recording an average of 715 yards and 51 receptions over the past two seasons with the Cardinals should transition over to a rising Chiefs team with some potent playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
Atlanta Falcons: Tyson Clabo
There has been a lot of noise coming out of Atlanta, rightfully so, about the Atlanta Falcons and the moves they have made this offseason. Most notably, the mass draft pick trade that allowed them to move up to the No. 6 pick in the 2010 NFL draft to pick up former Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Julio Jones.
Atlanta certainly has a championship-caliber team, and the addition of Julio Jones only adds to the weapons already on the squad. They have found a cold-blooded quarterback in the draft from a few years ago in Matt Ryan.
That is all well and good, until your quarterback gets clocked by Charles Johnson or Jonathan Vilma and gets up hearing a deafening ringing noise in his head. The Falcons had three must-have offensive lineman that were eligible for free agency. Arthur Blank could not afford to see his team lose and try to replace all three.
The Falcons re-signed starting right tackle Tyson Clabo to a five-year, $25 million ($11.5 million guaranteed) contract to ensure their investment at quarterback remains unharmed. Money well spent for an experienced tackle in the NFL.
I understand it may not be the glamorous, sexy or a front-page signing—like a Ray Edwards—that NFL fans crave, but for the Falcons and Matt Ryan, they will be able to sleep a tad bit better this season. Matt Ryan now has a little more time to sit in the pocket and throw darts to his two weapons on the outsides.
Arizona Cardinals: Daryn Colledge
Oh boy, this choice made me think for quite some time whether it exceeds some of the other signings made by the Arizona Cardinals this offseason. Kevin Kolb obviously takes the cake for most headlines coming out of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Todd Heap made me wonder for quite sometime if he should be considered as the overlooked signing for the Arizona Cardinals.
The reason I picked Daryn Colledge goes back to the Kevin Kolb trade headlines. As an NFL GM, why take a massive risk with a relatively unproven quarterback who you handed a $63 million contract ($20 million guaranteed) and not provide all the assets possible for him to succeed; those assets also include protection, not just weapons.
Todd Heap certainly provides Kolb with a new offensive toy that he can rely on, but not all the best toys have bells and whistles. Daryn Colledge comes off a Super Bowl-winning year starting on a team that respected his game, but were not willing to fork out the dough for a solid, not great, offensive lineman.
The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, had leaks spewing from all over the offensive line and the signing of Colledge allows them to patch one of their holes. Kevin Kolb—as with Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons—will be able to go into a deeper sleep this fall with Colledge on his line protecting him from big, mean defenders.
Of course, $20 million guaranteed after just seven starts would allow anyone to sleep fairly well at night.
New England Patriots: Shaun Ellis
Year after year we must compliment Bill Belichick because he always seems to steal somebody under the radar, and having to give him credit does not sit well in my stomach. How this pickup did not receive huge national publicity, I do not know, but my jaw dropped when I saw this come across the wire.
The 12-year veteran made an inter-divisional swap to the perennial winners of the past decade. Interpret what you want about what exactly Shaun Ellis’ move signifies about Rex Ryan and the New York Jets versus the mastermind Bill Belichick. At the very least, this move shows an intelligient gamesmanship move by the New England Patriots in taking away a divisional rival’s force on the defensive line.
Belichick has constructed a defensive line this offseason that, on paper, could wreak havoc in the AFC East. By now you should be aware that the Patriots took a gamble on Albert Haynesworth. If Belichick cannot get that guy motivated to play and back to his Tennessee Titans days, then the Patriots will cut their losses and move on.
However, just think about this possibility along the defensive line for the Patriots. Vincent Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Ron Brace or Gerard Warren starting along the line. They will destroy offensive lines as if they were at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Maybe there remains something to be learned by the Patriots about Shaun Ellis. The New York Jets let him walk and sign with the Patriots without much of a fight. That suggestion may be a reach, but it would not be surprising at all if it were true. Shaun Ellis will make an impact this season along that overnight intimidating defensive line.
Philadelphia Eagles: Anthony Hargrove
Of all the moves that the Philadelphia Eagles have made this offseason, there have been a few to slide under the radar. Defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove slid into Philadelphia under the cloak of darkness and impressed the Eagles coaches in his short time at training camp.
The Eagles made moves to bolster their toothless defensive line—and defense for that matter—with the nationally covered signings of Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins. Trent Cole has been looking for troops of his caliber to go into battle with him on Sundays, and the Eagles have provided him with reinforcements.
Hargrove comes in after redeeming himself in his personal life, and on the football field, in New Orleans. He adds another piece to the middle of their defensive line with a Super Bowl ring on his resume.
The Eagles moved swiftly to sign Hargrove after trading away Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson who suffered a seizure during training camp in the first week of August. Hargrove provides much needed depth to the interior defensive line for an Eagles team that faces tough divisional running attacks every year.
St. Louis Rams: Mike Sims-Walker
Sam Bradford proved himself worthy last season of the No. 1 overall draft pick from a year ago. The former Oklahoma Sooner orchestrated a threatening push for the NFC West division title last season.
St. Louis already had their starter at running back with Steven Jackson and productive talents at wide receiver with Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson. Amendola and Gibson combined for an unimpressive 1,309 yards for a starting one-two combo at wide receiver.
The St. Louis Rams front office brings another speedy weapon in from the Jacksonville Jaguars that will free up some extra space for the other wide receivers to work in. Mike Sims-Walker may not be the flashy wide receiver Rams fans desired, but he has produced solid numbers during his time in the NFL thus far.
Sims-Walker comes to a team that has a more accurate quarterback than he had in Jacksonville and one who likes to throw the ball a little more often. Bradford, without a doubt, will help improve Sims-Walker’s numbers in 2011 as he gets acclimated into his new offense.
Another move that seems to have slipped through the cracks due to the lack of star power, but could prove to return great dividends for the Rams in the league’s weakest division. Sims-Walker could move into the No. 1 receiving spot after a year in St. Louis with the speed he will bring to the field on their artificial surface.
Detroit Lions: Jerome Harrison
Whoever picked up this guy should be given a raise. The Detroit Lions Martin Mayhew needs to receive a nice bonus after picking up free-agent running back Jerome Harrison. This guy deserves to be starting somewhere in the NFL. He has way too much talent to be wasted.
Harrison swapped teams last season in a trade going from the Cleveland Browns to the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia already had an established Pro Bowl level running back in LeSean McCoy, so Harrison was forced to sit on the bench.
The Detroit Lions believe they found their starting running back for the future in the elusive Jahvid Best, but do not be surprised if Jerome Harrison challenges him for the starting spot. Harrison had a measly 40 carries last season, but gained 239 yards on the ground, averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
Compare that to Jahvid Best who took in 171 carries rushing for 555 yards for a sub par average of 3.2 yards per carry. I realize Harrison had a smaller sample size than Best, but I fully expect Harrison to push for Best’s job by Week 1. At minimum, Harrison will be splitting carries, I can guarantee you that.
Detroit has been talked about by national media pundits as a team to watch this season, which I agree with, but I cannot stress how excited this pick up should be to Lions fans. My jaw is still trying to pick itself up off my desk. I absolutely love this pickup by the Detroit Lions. Remember the name Jerome Harrison if they make the playoffs for the first time this century.
New Orleans Saints: Darren Sproles
The New Orleans Saints have been one of the best-run organizations in the NFL for quite a few years now. The disappointing part is they do not receive enough credit. The Saints have quietly—thanks to Philadelphia—made some very intriguing moves that make them a Super Bowl favorite in my book.
Let me provide you with an analogy about the swap the Saints made by trading Reggie Bush and signing Darren Sproles. It is pretty simple. The New Orleans Saints traded in their lease (let’s say it’s a Camaro) for a car with more features.
They had the standard, factory Camaro with stock features. It had cloth seats, and it was an automatic. After they signed Sproles from the San Diego Chargers, they traded up to get a Camaro, same color and horsepower, with a custom stereo, leather seats and it’s a five-speed manual transmission.
Bush never panned out to be the player the Saints hoped he would be and certainly did not live up to the money left on his contract. Sproles comes in to New Orleans with a four-year $14 million contract ($6 million guaranteed) to replace the unimpressive Reggie Bush.
Sproles provides the same playing style out of the backfield, return skills (if there are any kick returns this year…), and more production. Just to compare, for arguments sake, let’s look at their production from 2009 since Bush broke his leg in 2010. Sproles brought in 343 rushing yards and 497 receiving yards in 2009. Bush totaled rushing 390 rushing yards and 335 receiving yards for New Orleans in 2009.
The Saints managed to keep this one on the hush-hush, but once the season kicks off teams will be forced to do a double take when they see Sproles line up in the Saints backfield.
Houston Texans: Danieal Manning
The Houston Texans went into the 2011 season picked to be a preseason contender and certainly a team with playoff ambitions. Their secondary had other ideas as they let up touchdown after touchdown as a unit that ranked in the cellar among the bottom third of the league.
Houston clearly had their poor performances on defense haunt them during their sleep throughout the offseason and into the NFL lockout. The Houston Texans front office went out into the free agency market and bolstered their lackluster secondary by adding a cornerback in Jonathan Joseph from Cincinnati. Joseph, arguably, has been touted as the second best cornerback on the market behind prized free agent Nnamdi Asomugha.
When the Houston Texans signed Danieal Manning at safety from the Chicago Bears, it did not receive too much national media attention. The name and position did not draw the fanfare that others may have, but do not let that fool you.
The Texans were desperate to improve their secondary. Joseph hit the wire and made a small splash in the media, but that would not have solved their problems. Jonathan Joseph simply added a piece to a complex secondary puzzle.
Manning, born in Texas, returns to his home state to play for a team that many believe have an outside chance at a Super Bowl run if they properly correct their secondary issues in free agency. The six-year veteran will add experience and consistent play at the safety position.
Adding a cornerback may help, but if there’s no support over the top, you will get burned in the NFL. The Houston Texans flew under the radar with Manning to potentially put their team over the top and earn the franchise's first trip to the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks: Zach Miller
To be honest, Pete Carroll has baffled me with some of his moves; more than once during his short residence in Seattle. I believe my Twitter account has seen its fair share of catcalls for Carroll to return to college football.
Although, when he decided to pick up Zach Miller for a cool five-year $34 million deal, my criticism for Carroll and what he’s doing in the Northwest rescinded.
The tight end position may not be a glamorous position in today’s NFL, but quarterbacks love their tight ends. A reliable tight end that can be a last second read for the quarterback could add 10 yards here and another 15 there, which could be the difference when it comes to adding an extra "W" to your resume.
Carroll brought in both Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice from the Minnesota Vikings to revamp the Seattle Seahawks offense. The Seahawks play in the weakest division in the NFL and want to improve off of their division-winning season at 7-9.
Zach Miller adds a ton of skill at the tight end position. His addition to this ball club allows Carroll to game plan with a dependable safety outlet and proven blocker at the position.
The move also allows the Seattle Seahawks to run a two tight end set with John Carlson. Carroll confirmed the notion by adding:
“We think those guys will play in tandem, on opposite sides, we'll be moving them around to matchups and stuff. I think it's a great asset for us now and we've always liked to play with two tight ends in a number of different packages and this just gives us tremendous flexibility at a really high level."
A great signing for the Seattle Seahawks that should see them compete for a second consecutive division title. It should be intriguing to see how Carroll uses both tight ends as well.
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