Free Agency Day 1: Five Questions, Five Analysts

| March 14, 2012

Free Agency is underway and so the PFF staff have sat down to discuss the moves over the past 24 hours that have really caught their eye. The five analysts who spent 10 hours on a conference call together yesterday while they tweeted, blogged and dissected what was happening in free agency are about to give their answers to the much loved five analysts, five questions.

It’s a pretty generic start to things in a feature we’re hoping to run every day, as our team looks at the best and worst moves amongst other things.

Gentlemen, have at it.

1. What was the best value move any team made?

Ben: It’s hard not to like the Jaguars tying up Jeremy Mincey for less than $7mill per annum. Mincey is really starting to emerge now that he’s getting the playing time and in a day of exorbitant contracts being handed to receivers this sticks out as a potential value move. If $7million yearly can be described as value.

Khaled: I thought Robert Meachem was going to break out last year but with all those weapons in New Orleans, he just was never going to see enough of the ball to do so. Now, in San Diego, with a QB who likes to go deep? Meachem could finally deliver on that talent.

Nathan: While it’s hard to find value when so many teams are looking desperate on day 1, I think the Chargers got a good contract with Nick Hardwick. There are more teams looking for good centers than good centers available, so Hardwick could have tested the market more, and possibly made more money. He is a solid pass protector on a line that has a few question marks on it still.

Neil: It’s Jason Campbell for me. After losing their franchise QB no team’s fall was as precipitous as the Bears. Just as Cutler was finding his feet, and with Chicago looking set for another year of playoff action, disaster struck in week 11. Both Caleb Hanie and Josh McCown were equally inept in the losing streak that followed and it was obvious a decent alternative to Cutler was required. Given a clean bill of health my first choice would have been David Garrard but given Campbell has played more recently (and at a very high level) it’s hard to argue that logically. My minor reservations come down to Campbell being slow to find his feet in the past but, that aside, getting a borderline starter as your backup is great business.

Sam: I like Marques Colston re-signing with the Saints. It wasn’t a bargain as such, but I think it’s good value for a guy who is at his best in that New Orleans offense. Colston may operate primarily from the slot, but he might be the best receiver in the NFL in terms of catching the ball in traffic and taking hits while doing it. He’s vital to the way the Saints operate and getting him back for a fair market price was a good piece of business, especially when the contracts the Redskins were dolling out came to light.

 

2. What was the worst value move any team made?

Ben: He may yet emerge and prove us wrong but until then the dollar amount that Pierre Garcon has landed from the Redskins seems awfully steep. In comparison to what other receivers have got today and recently both in terms of guaranteed money and overall value that is an awful lot for a very inconsistent receiver. When he’s on he’s very good, but when he’s not he can become almost invisible, even when Peyton Manning was throwing to him he dropped out of games too much. Age is on his side to prove that he is value for this deal but right now this doesn’t look like the type of value signing the “new” Redskins claimed they were all about.

Khaled: I’m answering a little bit later than everyone but did the Bucs just pay Eric Wright $37.5m over five years? My eyes are not deceiving me. That’s horrible. Paying for possible talent and ignoring production. Wright has always flattered to deceive.

Nathan: While you could point to a few moves the Redskins made here, I will go with Adam Carriker. After some solid play in 2010, he consistently wasn’t very helpful in terms of run defense with just 17 stops on the year. As a pass rusher he only had 14 overall pressures on 283 pass rushes.

Neil: In a day of generally underwhelming if understandable signings there wasn’t that much to get upset about. I don’t hate the Adam Carriker move but of all the action yesterday it stood out for me as the one I liked least. $5M/year for a poor run defender and a below average pass rusher is a lot (even with only $7M of that guaranteed) particularly when there was an upgrade available in the form of Kendall Langford.

Sam: I can’t get away from the Pierre Garcon deal. I can see why a team wants Garcon, I really can. He’s young, athletic, and put up some healthy numbers with some less than ideal situations in Indy, but he’s not a #1 dominant receiver, and he makes too many bad plays to really justify that money.

 

3. Who is the best free agent still out there excluding Peyton Manning and Mario Williams?

Ben: It takes a special kind of linebacker to succeed in the wide-9 defensive alignment, and Stephen Tulloch is that kind of special. There are a lot of linebackers out there, but none of them can come downhill while looking comfortable in coverage like Tulloch.

Khaled:  I’m a big fan of Brodrick Bunkley. When you can bully Nick Mangold like he did last year then you have the kind of special ability to change games.

Nathan: John Abraham. The guy is, at this moment, a more consistently productive defensive end than Mario Williams and has shown no signs of slowing down.

Neil: I’m shocked that Eric Winston was cut. He’ll be an excellent pick up for someone.

Sam: It’s Evan Mathis. You look at what he did last year, the lack of tread on his tires and you have maybe the best left guard in football.

 

4. What team was the biggest winner on day one?

Ben: The most active teams overspent, you don’t “win” day one of free agency.

Khaled: The Pittsburgh Steelers. They won’t be losing Mike Wallace it appears and they don’t need to make any free agency moves because they have a great roster. You win by not having your hand forced.

Nathan: I like what the Bears did. While some teams went out and filled a need, they spent a lot of money doing so. The Bears may have spent a bit to get Brandon Marshall, but it filled that need. They also brought back their top corner back Tim Jennings, and greatly improved the backup quarterback spot with Jason Campbell.

Neil: I thought new GM, Phil Emery had a good day for the Bears. I know the Brandon Marshall trade now looks tarnished (after it was made public he’d allegedly punched a women) but the price (two thirds) looks to have that type of thing factored in anyway. He looked pretty good last year with Matt Moore throwing him the ball so extrapolate that out with Cutler as his QB. In addition to that and the Campbell deal (see above) I was really pleased to see Tim Jennings resigned. After his strange benching in week 16 I thought his days were numbered but not so. He didn’t play well against the Seahawks the week before but giving up two catches for 76 yards (no TDS) after a very solid season is hardly shocking. Sometimes I think coaches let testosterone levels get the better of them and they end up playing to the gallery when they should know better. Luckily sanity prevailed and the Bears have the perfect fit for their defense.

Sam: There are no winners on day one, the real winners get decided from all of the 2nd and 3rd tier free agent deals. Most teams that retained their players did well on that front on day one.

 

5. What team was the biggest loser on day one?

Ben: The Redskins will be pilloried by some but whilst they are overspending they are making the necessary moves to upgrade their offense. The biggest losers from free agency so far though are the Houston Texans. Mario Williams won’t be back, Eric Winston has been cut, Chris Myers may not be back. The Texans are losing a lot of good players and this will be a big test of their front office to fill those gaps and keep the Texans competitive in the AFC.

Khaled: It’s predictable and Redskin fans won’t like it, but they’ve spent a lot of money without nabbing top end talent. Put it this way, their receivers, they’d struggle for playing time in any of the other team in the NFC East’s lineups and then they way overspent on the average-on-his-best day Adam Carriker. Patience is a virtue sometimes.

Nathan: I would say the Buffalo Bills. They looked ready to go all in with Mario Williams and Robert Meachem, but then Williams left without a contract while Meachem found a new home in San Diego already. A lot hinges on whether Super Mario signs.

Neil: What was it that made Daniel Snyder select Bruce Allen as his GM for the Washington Redskins? Exactly what is the legacy of his time with the Buccaneers that stood him in such favor? It’s interesting that his resume on the Redskins website tells us far more about his fathers accomplishments and his Alumni programme than about his time with Tampa bay or last years lacklustre showing. To me its all as puzzling as what went on yesterday. Was the plan “we have a problem at receiver so let’s go out and get a whole host of number two/three receivers, pay them like ones and hope the psychology of the whole thing wills out”? Both Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan have talent; they are both excellent after they’ve caught the ball but their previous record regarding that first part (making the reception) is not great. Throw in the Carriker deal (above) and they’ve spent an awful lot of money without generating a lot of substance.

Sam: I know it’s a tired cliche, but the Washington Redskins did it again. They threw big money at guys I can’t see ever really justifying the deals. To their credit, at least these players are young, but they’re also all flawed and dramatically overpaid.

 

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