NFL Offseason - Free Agency through Minicamps

We’ve got a week until free agency season opens, so I thought it was time for an NFL offseason thread.

Here’s rotoworld’s list of free agents by position and ranked. On ESPN’s list you can sort by team and other factors.

In other big NFL news today, the Eagles have traded LeSean McCoy to the Bills in exchange for Kiko Alanso. That’s probably the biggest player for player trade since Portis/Bailey. Quite out of the blue.

I think the Eagles clearly get the better end of the deal, unless there’s something about Alonso’s recovery that the Bills know and they don’t. Alonso is younger, and at a position that isn’t so fungible. On the other hand, LeSean McCoy feels like he’s been around forever, but he’s only 26. He was a very young rookie. So it’s not as if this is a one or even two year RB rental - he can be their feature back for 4 or 5 years. Given the relative strength of the Bills defense, and their incoming offensive woes at quarterback, perhaps it actually could be a good trade for them. I don’t know.

The Bills already had Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Seems like a weird trade for them. Do you see either team moving to try for Marriota? I don’t see Winston getting past Tampa. Oh, and where do we think Andre Johnson ends up, now that the Texans have given permission for teams to talk to him, or he to them?

I don’t get this reasoning at all. McCoy has shown himself to be an elite running back, while Alonso sat out all of last year with a torn ACL. Alonso is a very good coverage LB, but he’s not much of a pass rusher and is average against the run. I’m not sure that’s worth a Pro Bowl RB who is only 26.

To me, it was clearly a financial v. talent consideration. McCoy is a cap hit, and Alonso is cheap. Done and done.

The Eagles are all in on Chip Kelly, which I’m not sure is the best decision. We will see.

Yes, kind of. There’s age, but there’s also wear and tear. I wouldn’t be shocked if he started declining early. Then again, I also wouldn’t be shocked if he ran for 2,000.

Jackson is old and busted. Spiller is a free agent ex-Bill.

He won some DROY awards, and fills a need.

I think it’s the only decision. It may or may not prove to be the right decision, but it’s the one they had to make. Kelly is what he is, and he does what he does, and if you’re gonna hire him you have to let him do things his way, and either be a revolutionary or a flop. The dumbest thing they could do is go “half-Kelly.” (They may not have had a choice; he just won a power struggle with Howie Roseman, and it was a him-or-me deal apparently.)

It’s obviously a tremendously ballsy move, and very risky. What strikes me is that it’s a *confident *deal. It’s not the move you make if you’re focused on 2015 as a make-or-break season.

I’ve always found “fills a need” to be one of the most overrated statements about the NFL draft or player acquisition in the league. Yes, a team needs A, and gets someone who does A, but it says nothing of value or how good the player is, which is much more important.

I don’t think it is. The teams that put all their eggs in one basket (aka RGIII or Julio Jones, or Shanahan to the Redskins or Lovie Smith to the Bucs, not only hurt their current teams, but can devastate their teams for years.

Right. But ceteris paribus, filling a need is a good thing.

Or Belichick in New England or Parcells pretty much everywhere after New York.

The analogy to players isn’t correct: players are subject to injury and much more risk, and they aren’t in charge. But some coaches are such strong personalities that either you give him the control he wants or you don’t bring him in the first place. You don’t bring in Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and then tell him you want him to adapt his offense and run more dive plays. You don’t hire a Ryan as DC and tell him you want to moderate his defense and run a lot more 2-deep zone.

I don’t think the unitary coach/GM structure the best in general, either. But if you wanted Parcells, or Shanahan, or if the Patriots want to keep Belichick, it’s the structure you live with, because that’s the deal.

Kelly doesn’t have the track record of success those guys do, but so much of what he does is very unique and unusual that when you hire him, you have to know you’re committing to an experiment. I’d bet very strongly that this is exactly the mentality Kelly demanded of Lurie when he got hired. For better or worse, that decision was made two years ago; nothing for it now but to give him a fair shot.

The general trend around the NFL has been to consider the running back position more and more fungible for years now. McCoy is a running back that has 5.5 years of wear and tear as an every down running back. He doesn’t have an injury history and he seems pretty durable (and has a fairly low contact running style), so it’s entirely possible that he’s on the higher end of the longevity. How much of a running back speedy decline comes from age vs milage? I’m sure someone has done the math, but I wonder if 30 year old running backs slow down because they’re 30, or because they’ve been getting beat up for the last 7 years.

Alonso, assuming his injury is typical and a full recovery is expected, is one of the top defensive assets in the league in a franchise-building dynasty sort of sense. Maybe I overrate him, but I would guess he’ll be top 5 at his position for longer than McCoy will be at his, and furthermore, running back is an easier position to plug in replacement guys without as much loss in performance.

On the other hand, perhaps it could work out for both teams - perhaps the overall offensive efficiency and general offensive scheme of the Eagles makes them think they can do a better job with a replacement-level running back and don’t have a high need for an elite one, whereas perhaps in Buffalo, since the running backs drive the offense, requires more talent there. And Buffalo’s defense has more pieces around it to be able to compensate for the loss of Alonso and move on.

In the end, I can see why the Eagles did it - Alonso is a very young, upcoming, cheap asset, and McCoy is pricey at a position that is one of the more fungible in the NFL. The Bills side of it is harder to see - they take on that big contract (although, granted, without the dead money/bonus impact), replace what was already a productive stable of running backs, and get less total years out of him than Alonso will have ahead of him.

Maybe they suspect Alonso isn’t as good as his rookie season suggested, and since their defense still did well even with him injured and out, he’s unnecessary. Or maybe they know his recovery won’t be complete. Maybe Rex Ryan wants to make a splash and get some familiar star power, and that he’s going to have a harder time squeezing life out of that offense than he will out of that defense.

I just like Philly’s end of this bargain better.

Edit: I forgot Spiller is a free agent this year. This makes it make more sense from Buffalo’s perspective. But I wonder if they could’ve been involved in the DeMarco Murray/Adrian Peterson/etc. sweepstakes and not had to send a player over.

2nd edit: Just found out Alonso was from Oregon. Now Kelly just has to grab Mariota and build the Philadelphia Ducks.

Oh, I agree. But I think the finances were the paramount reason. Overpaying Trent Cole, Riley Cooper, DeMeco Ryans and other mid level players put them in a tough spot.

For the Bills, it’s easy. They get rid of an injured player who may not be that much better than his replacement Preston Brown, and get an elite running back at a position of need. They have enough cap space that they don’t have to worry about his contract. I think he’ll find success there, but they do need to build that O Line.

I think when financial concerns are considered, it’s a win/win. The Eagles are in a tough salary cap position and have an outstanding O line, so the RB position isn’t huge need, and the Bills get an elite player to help on a woeful offense. If you trust Chip Kelly, which I don’t, then it’s a good deal. We shall see.

Don’t know if you’re aware, but there is increasing talk that this is indeed what he wants. This trade would seem to play into that: They’re clearing up cap space because they’re going to fill all their needs with FA instead of the draft, and they’re doing that because they’re trading a bunch of picks for Mariota.

Very unsure about the wisdom of that. But it’s interesting.

I can’t believe Matt Hasselbeck is still in the league.

Supposedly a deal with the Bucs for Foles, McCoy and 3 first round picks fell through. They might try to do that same deal with Kiko instead of McCoy. I’d take it if I were the Bucs.

Three first rounders for Foles and Kiko?

QB desperation is a sad thing to watch.

No, Foles, McCoy, and 3 picks to TB for TB’s pick, i.e. Mariota.

Appears to have been mere rumor.

Buffalo’s now added Matt Cassel in a trade with Minnesota (with unspecified draft picks going both ways). They went 9-7 last year with EJ Manuel/Kyle Orton and Fred Jackson/CJ Spiller driving the offense. Replace those guys with McCoy (assuming he goes) and Cassel (replacement-level talent, but on par with Orton and an upgrade over Manuel) to that defense (#4 last season in both yards and points allowed), and they’re going to be a formidable team.

I’m sure Cassel’s time on the Patriots played into the decision as well.

Meant to say this earlier: I think that Ryan is of the mindset that he can scheme his way to success on defense, and wants to add talent on the side of the ball he isn’t in charge of. Kelly is the opposite side of the coin.

As that article also suggests, though, McCoy’s attitude to Buffalo will probably warm somewhat if they open up their checkbook in a way that meets his expectations.

On the issue of money, some anonymous group has been paying for billboards in the Detroit area that say:


As one of the commentators in the article suggests, it’s not really clear what the point is. Are they saying that Suh is greedy? Are they suggesting that the Lions should spend what it takes to keep him? My initial assumption was the former, but anything’s possible. Beats me.

Texans release Chris Myers, C.$6m

Evidently a cost cutting move, saving the team his 6m salary and 8m against the cap. According to the link, PFFs 3rd ranked center for run blocking, but poor for pass blocking. I’ve no idea who the Texans are going to plug in, and they may have to find one in the draft. Not great news.

McCoy might warm up to his new team even more if they sign free agent guard Mike Iupati. Buffalo is said to be a front runner for his services. Absolute mauler as a run blocker, although whomever is their QB might not be as happy.

Speaking of Bills/49ers, it’s still unclear if Stevie Johnson is/will be cut as a salary cap casualty. He certainly didn’t produce at a $6 million WR level, but I still see potential there.

Add Vince Wilfork to the list of free agents - the Pats declined his option today. He’ll be an attractive option for anyone looking to shore up their run defense.

Pittsburgh has been unsettled at nose tackle for a couple of years and Wilfork would fit right in there, but they don’t usually go for big free agent signings (and as a Ravens fan, I hope they don’t change now). I’ll be shocked if Rex Ryan doesn’t take a run at him for Buffalo, but I can’t see Wilfork signing in the AFC East unless it’s with the Pats. I think he’s most likely to go back to NE on a reduced contract, but he’ll have some other options available to him.

Sad to see it happen, and I hope he resigns with NE at a reduced contract, but I get the feeling that won’t happen. My heart wants the Pats to figure out a way for him to stay, but the reality is that he can get more money elsewhere and he’s not critical to the Patriot’s defense like Revis is.