Jake’s Take: NFL Free Agency

The NFL free agency season began with a bang on March 9, resulting in many seemingly-important signings all across the NFL. From DeMarco Murray to Brock Osweiler, impact player after impact player fell to needy team after needy team. I have compiled a list of the top free agency signings, as well as a few players still on the market. Here goes:

Completed Signings

5. DeMarco Murray to the Titans
The premier running back diva, DeMarco Murray was traded to the Tennessee Titans faster than you can spell Tennessee. Murray was consistently awful for the Eagles this past season, averaging an abysmal 3.6 yards per carry in just 12 carries per game, a full yard below his career average in y/a (yards per attempt). Given the circumstances in Philadelphia, though, Murray had every right to be disgruntled and unproductive. Here’s to the Titans finding a proper use for the dynamic downhill back and picking up the $25 million against the salary cap for the next four years.
4. Olivier Vernon to the Giants
The New York Giants expanded their defensive force with the acquisition of Olivier Vernon, a young, athletic defensive end brought in to fill the void of Robert Ayers and the imaginary hole left by an unproductive Jason Pierre-Paul. The four-year veteran put up 7.5 sacks last season, a sack better than his 2014 season, and is poised to do big things in an improving New York defense. Now, if only Eli Manning could figure out how to win in the regular season…
3. Matt Forte to the Jets
I have almost no idea what Forte was thinking when he signed this deal. The contract is for three years and worth $12 million with $8 million guaranteed. This isn’t a massive amount of money for the most durable and consistent running back in the NFL over the past eight years. The only explanation that I can come up with is that Forte was after guaranteed money, as even he isn’t sure that his 30-year-old body can hold up. The running back, though, expressed a sincere and full-throttled desire to win a championship before he retired, but New York is a little too far south to win in the AFC East.
2. Bruce Irvin to the Raiders
Another slightly shocking deal was linebacker Bruce Irvin almost immediately signing a deal with the Oakland Raiders, though most anyone would quickly take the opportunity to work for $37 million over four years. There are some ifs surrounding Irvin, though, as his character has come into question, but the past doesn’t matter for the Raiders. If a player can play football and play it well, the Oakland front office has been known to historically overlook their misadventured past and turn them into a vicious part of one of the most outcast teams in the league, and that is just the place for a player like Bruce Irvin.
1. Brock Osweiler to the Texans
Of course, I’m ending this list with the young quarterback with a high ceiling earning his first big payday. It’s such a cliche story that everyone falls in love with it. Osweiler had a few very good games last season, but it remains to be seen if he can extend that over a full season or if he will succumb to the Nick Foles Effect of Young Signal-Callers (this occurs when the sample of the young quarterback’s work is so impressive that he is given the starting job and a hefty payday, only to flop in the following seasons). Osweiler does has potential, and he will certainly have an accomplished teacher in Bill O’Brien, but it is definitely still too early to claim that Osweiler will undoubtedly be the franchise quarterback for the next decade.

Yet to Sign

There isn’t a whole lot of talent left on the market around the NFL, but I’ve narrowed the list down to the four players I think can make this biggest impact immediately for whatever team they do sign with, along with the best fit for each player.

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
    The undisputed king of the 8-8 season, Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to want stability after just missing the playoffs leading a 10-6 Jets team. He’ll find the money he wants somewhere, but there just isn’t a big market for aging mediocre quarterbacks right now. Look for the typical Rams and Browns interest rumors, but Fitz is going to be too compelled to stay with New York’s budget to leave.
  • Eric Weddle
    Eric Weddle is the most high-profile free agent left standing, and his holdout has seen the signings of other defensive backs like Brent Grimes and Tashaun Gipson. You could argue Weddle is worth more as a leader than either of those two- and you’d be right to do so- but the patience shown by the 31-year-old is both impressive and a little worrying. Weddle is fed up with San Diego, and he wants to win. The biggest potential landing spots for that kind of player are generally Oakland and New England, and the Raiders look like just the hard-hitting, Charger-hating team that Eric Weddle wants.
  • Russell Okung
    The offensive line for the Seahawks was one of the most underwhelming facets of any team in the league this past season, and Russell Okung was at the center of it all. He was not happy with the situation in Seattle, and he is looking for a big payday to come his way. He has visited both the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants this offseason. The Lions are still trying to recover from the loss of Calvin Johnson, but Detroit is looking more and more like a great place for Okung, as Matt Stafford is going to need all the help on the offensive line as he can get without his star wide receiver.
  • Chris Long
    Lastly, we have the ex-LA Ram Chris Long. Long was released by the Rams with James Laurinaitis to save the moving team some money in the salary cap. Long is in the same camp as Weddle, as they are both aging defensemen with a lot left in the tank both as a player and a leader. Any team in need of another threat to rush the quarterback (and that’s all of them) would love to have Long on their team, but not every team will be able to promise him the security he wants. The Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars have put in their two cents to Long, and I project Chris Long joining the high-spending Jaguars this offseason.

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