After looking at activity on a day-by-day basis, we’re going to get a bit more evaluative and look at the entire period to see what moves and teams have made the biggest impression on us. So, once again, Ben Stockwell, Khaled Elsayed, Neil Hornsby, Nathan Jahnke and Sam Monson were forced to sit down together and talk. Like they’re not sick of the sound of each others’ voices already.
It’s Five Questions, Five Answers.
1. What has been your favorite move since free agency started?
Ben: For a single move, I think–even though they overpaid–it’s hard not to like the the Bills getting Mario Williams. He may not be on the plane of the truly elite defensive ends, but they highlighted the greatest deficiency in their defense and did what it took to get him. Through money and sheer bloody mindedness in convincing him to sign, they closed the deal and got an excellent defensive end to upgrade their defense.
Khaled: I like what the Kansas City Chiefs did on a number of levels, but any time you turn one of your biggest weaknesses into a strength, you’ve done very well. That’s what they did at the right tackle spot by swapping Barry Richardson for Eric Winston.
Nathan: I’ll go with Peyton Hillis to the Chiefs. If both Hillis and Charles can return to their 2010 form, then that offense can be very dangerous. I think that move can help the team win the division in 2012.
Neil: As much as they paid to do it I still think the effort the Bills put into signing Mario Williams sends out really positive signals about them and their intentions as an organization. Now if they’d just gone and got the biggest “name” free agent that would hardly have been relevant, but Williams ticks the main two boxes required for me: firstly, he can play both sides equally well, does it against run and pass, and comes into an area of need. Secondly, this isn’t his first big pay day; he’s had money before and that hasn’t affected his desire on the field. There’s no reason to expect a drop off in performance.
Sam: The Eagles re-signing Evan Mathis to a pretty reasonable deal. Mathis was the best guard in football last season and with that little mileage on the clock he’s the perfect guy to get locked down. Given the contracts handed out to Grubbs and Nicks, it’s a bargain.
2. And you’re least favorite move?
Ben: The Cardinals’ move for Adam Snyder is absurd, but is at least structured that it isn’t really overpaying. The same can’t be said for the Bucs’ move to sign Eric Wright, which is truly baffling. Wright is tremendously talented, but has never put it all together for any sort of an extended period. If the Bucs go for a corner in the draft, they may yet be paying their nickel corner an obscene amount of money.
Khaled: Tampa Bay know how to overspend like no other team. Eric Wright may have talent, but his inability to consistently show it on the field should have kept them from committing that much money to him.
Nathan: The Buccaneers adding Eric Wright. Their defense hasn’t looked good recently, and the only big move to upgrade it was Wright. I don’t think he will make things any better, and they spent a lot of money on this move.
Neil: No question the Eric Wright to Tampa Bay deal. The money was pure lunacy but what else would you expect from a front office that made Davin Joseph the highest paid guard in the NFL? Tracy Porter, for all his failings, is still available and a better option. I suspect he won’t get close to that number.
Sam: Eric Wright was handed a ton of money on little more than speculative potential. I’ve always liked Wright as a player more than his production suggested I should, but even in my most Dan Snyder-ish moment, I’d never have considered paying that.
3. Which team has done the most to improve their roster?
Ben: The San Diego Chargers have made a number of excellent signings this offseason. They came in knowing that keeping Vincent Jackson was out, but still retained other key players and got a quality replacement in the shape of Robert Meachem. In addition, they picked up quality players along the way. For a team that had so many of their own free agents to re-sign the Chargers have come out of the first week of free agency looking very good.
Khaled: The only thing holding the Kansas City Chiefs back now is their quarterback. That offense is loaded and deep with skill position players and on the line. Interested to find out if they can overcome the deficiencies of Matt Cassel.
Nathan: I don’t think there is any combination of moves that adds up to the addition that Mario Williams should be bringing to the Buffalo Bills’ defense. There is no one else who has switched teams that will be as much of a difference-maker.
Neil: Three teams have stood out for me; the Cowboys (outside the Nate Livings pick-up), the Chiefs (although I don’t think a lot of Brady Quinn) and the Rams. The reason I’ll go St Louis Rams is the lack of caveats. I like Scott Wells as their new center, think Langford is a shrewd move at DT, and know that Cortland Finnegan will fill a massive void for them at the back.
Sam: The Chargers and the Eagles have both patched a lot of holes by re-signing their own, but I really like the moves the Kansas City Chiefs have made, especially locking down Eric Winston and improving the single biggest weak-point on their roster.
4. Which team has taken the biggest step back?
Ben: The Arizona Cardinals have got Adam Snyder and Levi Brown potentially starting together on the right side of the offensive line. I’m not sure you could do more to hurt your offense if you tried.
Khaled: The Baltimore Ravens have lost players on both sides of the ball that are vital to what they do. I’m not entirely sure if they have the quality on their roster to sufficiently replace the likes of Jarret Johnson, and that means a step back for a defense that can ill afford it.
Nathan: I would say the Oakland Raiders who have let go of the two defenders with the highest PFF grades in 2011 (Kamerion Wimbley and John Henderson) as well as corner Stanford Routt. More players have been lost and others could be too. The additions of Mike Brisiel and Ron Bartell won’t counteract this … a lack of draft picks doesn’t help, either.
Neil: So far, I think the Baltimore Ravens have had a poor free agency period. They’ve lost quality players in Ben Grubbs, Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding, signed nobody and lost out on Evan Mathis to the Eagles. It’s not a disaster, but I suppose the good news is no one else in the AFC North has done much either.
Sam: Purely in terms of losing free agents they’re yet to replace it’s probably the Indianapolis Colts, but they aren’t going to be fixing that roster this season, let alone this free agency.
5. Excluding Peyton Manning, you’re a GM and can pick up one player to significantly improve your team. What team are you and what player do you choose from the available free agents?
Ben: Outside of Manning there are no “marquee” players left. On a short-term deal, though, I think once he is healthy, and as he showed last season in New England, Andre Carter can really provide a boost to a defense. He’s not a long-term option, but if you’re a contender, running a 4-3 defense, with a hole at defensive end you can do far worse than to sign Carter for one year. If I was the Jacksonville Jaguars, I’d take a look at him.
Khaled: You know what the Kansas City Chiefs could do to continue an excellent off season? Make a move for Aubrayo Franklin on the cheap to play nose tackle. His market value dictates cost won’t be too high, he fits into their type of 3-4, and you only need to go back to 2010 to see how good he can be in that base package role.
Nathan: I am the Philadelphia Eagles, and I basically go after any linebacker that I can afford. The top prize would be Stephen Tulloch, but really David Hawthorne, Curtis Lofton, one of the Henderson’s, or many more would fit well. The Eagles are looking like a playoff team next year. Another player or two could make the difference between division winner and wild card team.
Neil: If I’m the Detroit Lions I get Stephen Tulloch back in the fold. He was the main reason the defense improved last year. I understand the reticence to overpay (and I commend them for it) but he’s a vital part of what they do.
Sam: The Detroit Lions need, seriously need, to re-sign Stephen Tulloch. He wants a fair contract after taking a low-ball deal last offseason and he proved this year how vital he is to the team that likes to play with a reckless defensive line. Detroit needs a linebacker behind them that can tidy up the mess and there aren’t many of them in the NFL. Teams don’t like paying linebackers anymore, but this is a move the Lions need to make or they’ll quickly discover they should have.