NFL Free Agency Grades
by Trevor Whenham - 8/3/2011
This has been a truly crazy NFL free agency period. The short time frame, the strong free agent class, and the desperate needs of a lot of teams have made for some real fireworks. On top of the free agency there have been a stunning number of trades — and not just trades of bit parts. Some of the moves have been particularly impressive, while others have been ridiculously underwhelming and overpraised (I’m looking at you, Donovan McNabb).
In my eyes there are five moves that have happened as of midnight on Aug. 2 that stand above the rest in terms of impact and value. I’m thinking of them in a number of ways — the value for money that the teams got, the way the player fills a role in their new teams, and the potential for betting value that the move creates. Here’s a look at those five stellar deals:
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia Eagles - When the speculation was that Asomugha was going to command something in the range of $20 million a year I was very skeptical. He’s a special talent, but he’s a cornerback, and it’s very difficult to justify tying up a sixth of your entire salary cap on any player — never mind a corner.
If anyone is worth it it’s probably him, but I was unconvinced. The fact that the market evolved so differently and Philadelphia only had to shell out an average of $12 million a year, then, makes him a relative steal.
The Eagles didn’t have a killer need, so they were able to upgrade instead of fill a glaring need. Philadelphia is serious about succeeding this year, and this bold move leads the way in terms of setting the tone. The only problem with this deal is that the public’s expectations of this team are going to be extremely high, so value will be impossible to find — especially if they get off to a strong start.
Josh Wilson, CB, Washington Redskins - I love this deal. The Redskins haven’t done a lot right this offseason and their QB situation is a mess, so they aren’t going to get a lot of respect. This is the kind of under-the-radar move that can really pay off to people who are paying attention, then.
Wilson was overshadowed by all the big names in Baltimore in his one year there last year, but he was quietly very strong. He’s a player ready to take a big step forward, and a chance to be a key starter will give him the opportunity to shine. He could prove to be a massive bargain.
Ray Edwards, DE, Atlanta Falcons - This is another truly great deal. The Falcons had a serious need to improve their pass rush and take some pressure off John Abraham, and Edwards is a guy who has been solid and is only going to get better.
They have locked him in for five years in his prime — he’s just 26 — and they have done it at a very reasonable price. This move is good if you evaluate it just like that, but there are too other things to like.
First, it is another aggressive sign — like the move to draft Julio Jones — that this team is looking to shake off their lethargy and become a serious threat. More significantly, the deal shines in comparison.
The Falcons were players in the Charles Johnson market, but when they didn’t get him they got a guy who is almost as good for a much more reasonable price. This deal — just $5.5 million a year — has a chance to go down as a serious steal.
Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos - The Broncos didn’t plan to have Orton on board, but their failed attempt to trade him to Miami or anywhere else is one of the best things to happen to any team from a betting perspective this year. The team wanted to hand the reins to Tim Tebow, but it’s really hard to imagine that he is ready or that he would have gotten that opportunity if his name wasn’t Tim Tebow.
Orton is outplaying Tebow in camp, and is clearly a better option as a starting QB. This isn’t going to be a great team, but they will be much better with the former Bear in command than they would be with the former Gator. I’m not yet convinced that the Broncos won’t screw this one up before the season starts, but for now their inaction is their best move of the offseason.
Steve Breaston, WR, Kansas City Chiefs — I love this move, and not just because Breaston starred for my beloved Wolverines. The Chiefs have a lot going right, and they have some nice weapons on offense. They are young, though, so they need someone who can stabilize them and provide experience while adding some valuable depth and some excellent slot play.
It’s not that Breaston is old — he is only 27 and in his fifth year in the league. He has the advantage of having played for head coach Todd Haley in Arizona, though, so he knows what is expected and knows how far Haley can take a team that believes in him.
With Breaston lining up beside Dwayne Bowe and Jon Baldwin, and with Tony Moeaki at tight end and Dexter McCluster in the backfield and a more mature Matt Cassel slinging passes, this is now an offense that has a chance to really scare some people, and the addition of Breaston is a big part of that.
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