2010 NFL Free Agency: Five Winners and Five Losers

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IMarch 12, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03:  Julius Peppers #90 of the Carolina Panthers looks on the sidelines during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

NFL free agency is in full swing and nearly a week old. In the first year since 1993 without a salary cap it has been a kind of slow free agency period.

With the top eight teams from the 2009 season under free agency restrictions and other teams playing the wait and see game, it has slowed free agency down this offseason. Also with the uncapped year making what could have been a great free agency class, is now a so-so one with several big names becoming restricted free agents instead of unrestricted free agents.

Enough time has passed that the 2010 NFL free agency period does have some winners and losers. Not all by free agent signings with some teams making moves on the trade front.

A week into this new NFL world and let us recognize five winners and five losers so far. Plus a look at what one team might have to do now in this offseason.


5.  New York Giants/Atlanta Falcons 

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Tying for the fifth spot is the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons. Although, a case could be made for a couple of other teams to slide in to this spot.

The Giants were able to get Safety Antrel Rolle and it did not cost them anything more than signing him after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals. Rolle had another strong year making the transition from cornerback to safety.

New York also released the last remnant to the Plaxico Burress’ black eye. That cost the Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, an over-30 player coming off an injury.

Add depth to the quarterback position the Giants were able to sign Jim Sorgi away from the Indianapolis Colts.  Sorgi should be a solid backup to starter Eli Manning after backing up his brother Peyton Manning. New York did not make a huge splash into free agency but they did add two quality players that could help this team get back into the playoffs.

The Atlanta Falcons are in this spot as well because they were able to resign their backup quarterback Chris Redman. While Redman is not a starter he showed last year he could help this team if he has to play a couple of games due to an injury to starter Matt Ryan.

The biggest move the Flacons made was signing cornerback Dunta Robinson to a six year deal. This move gives Atlanta another good corner to go along with Brent Grimes.

After allowing 240 passing yards a game last season the Falcons hope Robinson can help improve this secondary. Robinson, a Georgia native gets to return home as well.

4. New York Jets 

All the noise the Jets have made so far during the free agency has been through trades. First Jets might have set themselves up as the best cornerback duo in the NFL.

New York was able to acquire cornerback Antonio Cromartie from the San Diego Chargers for a third round pick that could end up being a second round pick. Cromartie will play opposite shutdown corner Darrelle Revis what could be argued as the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.

The Jets also got some draft picks by trading Safety Kerry Rhodes to the Arizona Cardinals for a 2010 fourth round pick and a 2011 seventh round pick. One move the Jets have made that has been questioned was releasing running back Thomas Jones.

Jones is an over 30 running back, and we all know what that means, who wore down late last season. This year’s draft is deep at running back so the Jets will not have a hard time finding a rookie backup for new starter Shonn Greene.   

Also this is a deep defensive draft to pick up a replacement for Rhodes. One thing the Jets could do is sign a veteran wide receiver for quarterback Mark Sanchez.

3. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have done a great job addressing what is perhaps their biggest need. Finding wide receivers to help Joe Flacco reach his full potential and make their offense more than one dimensional.

Baltimore will take a public relations hit for signing wide receiver Dante Stallworth. The Ravens appear to be ready to take whatever bad press comes out of having Stallworth on the team.

The biggest move the Ravens have made was trading for Anquan Bolden from the Arizona Cardinal. Baltimore only had to give up a third and fourth round pick in the 2010 draft to get help at the wide receiver spot. Also the Ravens signed Bolden to a three-year deal to keep him around.

The Ravens can now focus on drafting younger players to shore up their aging defense and look for a wide receiver for the future if Stallworth or Derrick Mason needs to be replaced after the 2010 season.

2. Detroit Lions

How strange is it to consider the Lions a winner at anything much in the last 10 years or more? That is what exactly has happened so far during this offseason.

Detroit added Nate Burleson at wide receiver to give second year quarterback Mathew Stafford another target. Burleson also will help Calvin Johnson in the passing game.

The Lions have also have upgraded their defense by trading for defensive tackle Cory Williams from the Cleveland Browns for a fifth and seventh round draft picks in the 2010 draft. Detroit also traded the Atlanta Falcons a sixth round pick and swapped a fifth round pick for cornerback Chris Houston.

Detroit’s biggest offseason move was the signing of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. While only having seven sacks over the last two years, he is an upgrade over any other players the Lions had starting.

The moves should help the Lions focus on improving weakness with their picks in the draft. The Lions will not make the playoffs this season but look to finally be headed in the right direction.

1. Chicago Bears  

The Bears have spent this offseason adding several role players. Chicago added depth at the running back position by signing Chester Taylor.

Taylor will be a very good running back to back up starter Matt Forte.  Also with the hiring of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator will give Taylor playing time in the passing game.

A good pass catching running back will hopefully cut down on the interceptions thrown by Jay Cutler. Knowing he can check down to able pass catcher out of the backfield will help keep Cutler from forcing passes.

The biggest free agent this offseason was Julius Peppers. Chicago has upgraded their pass rush with this signing.

Peppers will add another solid defensive player to an already good defense, especially if other players can get healthy this offseason. The biggest question is will Peppers show up week to week.

Since his college days Peppers has not been in a large media market. Playing at North Carolina, which is also a basketball school, meant that Peppers has not had a lot of media scrutiny.

Carolina is not a large media market as well and Peppers got to spend his first nine years in the league there. Peppers was, former Tar Heel, a home town player who got to play in a small media market where he went to college.

That will change now that he is in Chicago. The media and fans will expect Peppers to show up and play hard each and every week.

The question is how well will Peppers handle that kind of media attention. Now that he is a big fish in a big pond will Peppers be able rise to expectations for 16 weeks.


5. San Francisco 49ers/ Houston Texans

Again there is a tie for the fifth place spot but this time it is for the NFL offseason losers. Both teams the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans are very similar teams.

After a season when both these teams were close to making the playoff and coming into an uncapped season, it would have been nice to see these two teams make more of an effort to improve.

Starting first with the 49ers, that could have missed a great chance to improve this team in the offseason. San Francisco is in the same division with the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks who are in rebuilding mode and the Arizona Cardinals who look to be taking a step back.

San Francisco could have looked to improve a passing offence that was 22nd in the league last year or a rushing offense that was 25th in the league last year. The 49ers also could have tried to improve their passing defense that was 21st in the league.

Overall the 49ers were 27th in the league in total offense. Before some of the better wide receivers were signed it would have been great if San Francisco had made a run at any of them.

San Francisco also could make a run at one of the over 30 running backs still not signed.  Brian Westbrook or LaDainian Tomlinson both could be good fits with the 49ers. A veteran quarterback to push Alex Smith would be good as well.

The good news for the 49ers is that they have two first round draft picks and a second round draft pick. San Francisco could address needs in the draft but how quickly these players can help on the field compared to a veteran will dictate how far this team goes in 2010.

The Texans are in the same boat as the 49ers only a little closer to making playoffs last year. They were basically the last team eliminated in AFC from the playoffs.

Houston had the first ranked passing offense but the 30th ranked rushing offense. The Texans could have picked up rushing help with one of the big named thirty something running backs that have been cut.

With the 15th overall passing defense and the 11th overall rushing defense, the Texans could have gone after some defensive help, especially after they failed to resign cornerback Dunta Robinson. This would be the year to make moves with Indianapolis in the final eight and their moves are restricted.

The Texans have the 20th overall pick in the first round and a second and third round pick to look to improve. Houston could have missed a chance to catch the Colts this offseason with a couple of free agent pickups.

4. San Diego Chargers  

The Chargers have spent this offseason so far cutting Tomlinson, trading Cromartie, and almost let Darren Sproles go without even putting a tender on him. San Diego looked like it was going to tank the 2010 season.

As far as trading Cromartie, it could be his off the field issues led to him being run out of town. The Chargers more than likely felt his play did not help over look his mounting baby mama trouble.

San Diego might want to look at its offensive line before blaming Tomlinson and Sproles on the team’s weak rushing attack. The Chargers were one of the worst running teams in the NFL last season and against the Jets in the playoffs could not find any running lanes.

The upside for the Chargers is that they are still in a very winnable division depending on if Denver finds another way to collapse and the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs are rebuilding. San Diego could try to replace offseason losses in the draft with one pick in each round of the first, second, and third round.

3. Washington Redskins  

Washington has spent this offseason so far releasing players on last year’s roster. The Redskins dumped several well known players.

The Redskins have several free agents they have not signed and have released players like Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, Antwaan Randle El, and Fred Smoot. Washington has only signed two of their own free agents.

Washington has signed only two free agents from other teams. Also with the retirement of Chris Samuels, the Redskins have several holes to fill. So far it looks like Jason Campbell will be the quarterback for 2010.

New coach Mike Shanahan will need time to build a team but looks like he does not want to do much through free agency. It will take a lot longer to build a winner just through the draft so Redskins fans need to have patience.

2. Carolina Panthers 

Just like the Washington the Panthers purged their roster as well. For the Redskins and the Panthers fans it must be like watching Lost and the others ridding themselves of the Dharma Initiative.

Carolina cut several players including quarterback Jake Delhomme, Na'il Diggs and, other players that made the Panthers a solid team that reached one Super Bowl. The Panthers also lost star defender Julius Peppers to the Bears.

Lame duck coach John Fox will try to sign a veteran quarterback and see how well Matt Moore plays this season. The Panthers seem to be at a crossroad trying to get younger and keep winning.

With the purge and the lack of any real free agent signings, it looks like Carolina will be rebuilding in 2010. The Panthers will have to make the most of their five draft choices and Carolina does not have a first round choice this year.

1. Arizona Cardinals 

If you are a Cardinals fan it has to feel like two years from the Super Bowl to the toilet bowl. Arizona has seen its franchise saving quarterback Kurt Warner retire, Pro Bowl receiver Bolden traded, and Carlos Dansby sign with Miami as a free agent.

The Cardinals released safety Rolle but traded the Jets for safety Kerry Rhodes. Both players are the same age and have been in the league for six years.

Rolle signed with the New York Giants and Dansby was considered the next best defensive player behind Peppers. Along with the losses of Warner and Bolden this team went from a Super Bowl contender to a middle of the pack team at best.

With the Cardinals turning to Matt Leinart at quarterback, Arizona would like to sign another veteran to challenge him in camp for the starting job. The Cardinals will have to try to fill holes with their first, second and two third round draft picks.

Other winners and thoughts

The biggest overall winners so far this free agency period has been defensive players and the biggest losers so far have been over 30 offensive players.

Other big free agent signings have been the Miami Dolphins signing Dansby and the Jacksonville Jaguars picking up Aaron Kampman the former Green Bay Packer. While Terrell Owens, Tomlinson, and Westbrook are still looking for work.

The most active division this offseason on and off the field has been the AFC North. Nearly every team has made moves or been in the news.

Beginning with the Cleveland Browns, who traded for Seneca Wallace from the Seattle Seahawks and the release of quarterback Derek Anderson.  The Browns have been rumored to have Brady Quinn on the trading block as well.

The only problem with the Wallace trade is the fact that he has been a career backup. Anderson on the other hand was selected to Pro Bowl. It does not make much sense to release a former Pro Bowl quarterback for a player who has never been a full time starter.

Hopefully Cleveland fans were not expecting a quick fix when the team hired Mike Holmgren. Mainly because it looks that the Browns still do not know what they are doing.

Kudos to the Cincinnati Bengals, instead of giving Marvin Lewis another headache by signing Owens the Bengals instead chose to sign Antonio Bryant. Chad Ochocinco might have wanted Owens but the smart move was not adding the colorful wide receiver.

To the Bengals credit they did do a good job last season with players who had a checkered past. It was good to see Cincinnati not push their luck by signing Owens.

Last but not least it brings us to the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers single caller has been accused of sexual assault for the second time in less than a year.

Roethlisberger has not been charged with a crime or been convicted of any criminal or civil charges. But the Steelers and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell might want to talk to Big Ben not matter how his legal troubles work out.

Besides Roethlisberger, the Steelers have Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon as backup quarterbacks. Batch is 35 years old and in the twilight of his career and Dixon has seen little playing time in his three years in the league.

Pittsburgh might have to start the season with Roethlisberger suspended for his off the field actions.   He has admitted to having consensual contact with both women and has said he did not force either woman into sex.

Even without a conviction the Steelers or the league might want to send a message to Big Ben by sitting him down for a couple of games to start the season. With a couple of veteran quarterbacks on the market it might be a good idea for Pittsburgh to work out or sign one of them.