2014 NFL Free Agency Winners and Losers
Broncos’ Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio should be very happy with the moves his team made in free agency. The Broncos were poor in defending the pass in 2013, and after the season they let go of aging cornerback Champ Bailey. They improved at the position by signing Aqib Talib, who Bill Belichick used to hold Jimmy Graham to 0 yards in the meeting between the Patriots and Saints last season.
Their run defense was strong in 2013, and it will be even stronger in 2014 with the addition of T.J. Ward, the former Browns standout at strong safety. Ward is below average in coverage, but stellar at defending the run.
The Jaguars, Browns, and Raiders seem to be perennial bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the NFL. But Jacksonville is on the upswing, and fans can thank owner Shad Khan for the momentum. Khan invested millions of his own funds in stadium improvements, including renovated locker rooms, swimming pools on the upper decks, and a new scoreboard featuring the largest LED HD display in the world (deal with it, Jerry Jones).
More importantly, Khan fired the dysfunctional General Manager Gene Smith and replaced him with Dave Caldwell, who in turn hired Gus Bradley as the new Head Coach. Bradley was formally Defensive Coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, and is the architect of the defense that dismantled the Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl.
During free agency, Caldwell and Bradley made moves to emulate the Seahawks defense, signing former Seahawks Red Bryant and Chris Clemons to plug up the defensive line. The Jags also signed Toby Gerhart to replace the departed Maurice Jones-Drew. Gerhart played well in his limited snaps for Minnesota, and now that he is finally on a team that does not have Adrian Peterson, look for him to take full advantage of his new starting role.
The Panthers went through the 2013 season thin at wide receiver behind Steve Smith. During the offseason, the Panthers lost Steve Smith, as well as Ted Ginn Jr., and signed the underwhelming trio of Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood, and Jason Avant. Carolina will need to invest a premium draft pick this year to find a true receiving threat for Cam Newton to throw to.
The Raiders are one those previously mentioned bottom-of-the-barrel teams that did not help themselves out this offseason, mainly by trying to do too much. They lost their excellent offensive tackle Jason Veldheer and attempted to replace him with the Rams’ Roger Saffold, only to have Saffold fail his physical, thus voiding his deal.
The Raiders managed to successfully sign two solid pass rushers in Justin Tuck and LaMar Woodley, but these aging players hardly make up for losing the young and talented Lamarr Houston, now on the Chicago Bears. To top off this terrible offseason, the Raiders signed quarterback Matt Schuab, who lost his starting job in 2013 to a player who went undrafted. These moves do not bode well for their future.
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