While as a contributor here at The Sports Geeks I know that my stories are not going to be your up-to-the-minute source for offseason moves in the NFL, I can provide you with some thoughtful analysis of the free agency signings and trades that are making headlines so far for the 2010 season. For a more complete list of free agent moves you can check out the NFL’s official coverage at http://www.nfl.com/freeagency, but for the sake of The Sports Geeks, here are the big stories of the free agency period so far.
Cleveland Quarterback Carousel
- Cleveland Browns release QB Derek Anderson.
- Seattle Seahwaks QB Seneca Wallace traded to Cleveland Browns.
- Cleveland Browns sign former Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme.
- Cleveland Browns QB Brady Quinn traded to Denver Broncos.
It was clear from the first moment of Mike Holmgren’s involvement with the Cleveland Browns franchise that the team would be seeing changes, but I think few people saw all of these quarterback moves happening in the first weeks of the free agency period. A team that swapped snaps under center between former Pro Bowler Derek Anderson and former first-round draft pick Brady Quinn for the past two years quickly made the decision to release Anderson—the more proven of their QB options. Quinn’s coronation to starter was put on hold, however, with news of a trade for Seattle Seahawks backup Seneca Wallace—a player Holmgren is familiar with from his days coaching in Seattle—followed up by the very recent signing of released Carolina Panthers QB Jake Delhomme. With Delhomme receiving starter’s money for 2010, rumors got out that Quinn was on the trading block and he ended up being traded to the Denver Broncos.
It’s hard to understand this series of moves. The duo of Anderson and Quinn were among the worst QBs in the league from a statistical standpoint over the past few years, but many in the Browns organization still believed Quinn to be the future face of the franchise if only he were able to string together more healthy play. The decision to pursue Seneca Wallace makes sense because it gives the Browns a legitimate, NFL-tested backup, but the move to go after Delhomme is highly questionable; especially because he lost his starting job to youngster Matt Moore in Carolina after an atrocious season. Delhomme does provide the Browns with another NFL-tested QB who has been to Pro Bowls and even made a Super Bowl appearance, but without a Kurt Warner-style return to form in 2010 the Browns may still have woes at arguably the most important offensive position. I believe that Cleveland should have kept Quinn around as a contingency plan—albeit an expensive one—in the event that Delhomme has another dismal season like his 2009 campaign; obviously Mike Holmgren and the Browns management didn’t feel that way. Now Quinn will get a new lease on life in Denver while the Browns hitch their wagons to a QB who lost the leadership role for his last franchise.
Quarterback Contingency Planning
- Former New York Giants QB David Carr signs with San Francisco 49ers.
- Former Indianapolis Colts QB Jim Sorgi signs with New York Giants.
- Former San Francisco 49ers QB Shaun Hill traded to Detroit Lions.
- Former Carolina Panthers QB A.J. Feeley signs with St. Louis Rams.
- Miami Dolphins QB Chad Pennington re-signs with Dolphins.
Backup quarterbacks have gotten some love early in the free agency period, with perhaps the biggest name in the backup world—Jim Sorgi—making the move from being Peyton Manning’s backup to brother Eli’s backup in New York. The Sorgi signing marked a three-team run-around where Sorgi takes the place of former Giants backup David Carr, himself on his way to San Francisco to take the place of former 49ers backup Shaun Hill, who signed with the Lions to backup Matthew Stafford. Outside of this QB three-way, A.J. Feeley was signed by the Rams to bring a veteran arm to St. Louis (and, rumors have it, put an experienced signal-caller in place if the Rams draft a rookie QB) and Chad Pennington resigned with the Dolphins as back-up to Chad Henne, who got the starting job when Pennington went down to injury last season. Of these five major backup signings so far, expect Carr and Pennington to have the best chance at making an on-field impact depending on the performance and health of their team’s starters.
Patriots TE Departures
- Former New England Patriots TE Benjamin Watson signs with Cleveland Browns.
- Former New England Patriots TE Chris Baker signs with Seattle Seahawks.
I remember a time when the joke went that Tom Brady’s favorite receiver was whoever was open, regardless of their name or position. Obviously, with the arrivals of Randy Moss and Wes Welker in New England, the offense became a little more straight-forward; for better (2007) and for worse (2009). Tight End used to be a productive position for the Patriots, but with the departures of long-time Pat Benjamin Watson (to Cleveland and former Pats assistant Eric Mangini) and more recent acquisition Chris Baker (to Seattle), the Patriots literally have no starting TE listed on their official website. It remains to be seen how New England will address this problem, but with Welker likely out until October 2010 it would be smart for them to look at the free agent market or the draft for a big receiving option. Alge Crumpler is still on the market as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans, but his age makes him a stop-gap and not a player of the future.
Big-Name Running Backs Released
- Philadelphia Eagles release RB Brian Westbrook.
- San Diego Chargers release RB LaDainian Tomlinson; Tomlinson signs with New York Jets.
- New York Jets release RB Thomas Jones; Jones signs with Kansas City Chiefs.
The offseason has been a tough landscape for premier running backs in the NFL so far, with Brian Westbrook, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Thomas Jones all being released from their 2009 teams. The release of Westbrook, while tough, was justifiable and expected after numerous injury troubles over the past few years. The Tomlinson move was a bit more surprising, but Darren Sproles has emerged as the go-to guy in San Diego and Tomlinson was being paid for more than what the Chargers needed him to contribute. Jones, the Jets’ leading rusher in 2009, was perhaps the most surprising release, though Shonn Greene began to spell for him more and more often as the season progressed. Of the three, interestingly enough, Jones and Tomlinson have new gigs. Tomlinson is replacing Thomas Jones in the New York Jets backfield, while Jones will be playing his 2010 snaps in Kansas City with the Chiefs. This leaves Westbrook as the odd man out, with seemingly few prospects left for him.
AFC North Wide Receiver Spree
- Former Cleveland Browns WR Donte’ Stallworth signs with Baltimore Ravens.
- Baltimore Ravens WR Derrick Mason re-signs with Ravens.
- Arizona Cardinals trade WR Anquan Boldin to the Baltimore Ravens.
- Free agent WR Matt Jones signs with Cincinnati Bengals.
- Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Bryant signs with Cincinnati Bengals.
- Former Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens visits with Cincinnati Bengals but is not signed.
- Former Washington Redskins WR Antwaan Randle El signs with Pittsburgh Steelers.
The AFC North has traditionally been a bruising division, with teams focused more on big running backs than the passing game. If early free agent trends are any indicator, the division might feature a much higher-flying pass attack in 2010. The Ravens shored up their lack of receivers with early moves picking up suspended Browns WR Donte’ Stallworth and re-signing veteran Derrick Mason, but by far their biggest move so far was the Anquan Boldin trade to the Baltimore Ravens from the Arizona Cardinals, giving young QB Joe Flacco legitimate receiving threats on offense. The Bengals scheduled workouts with Antonio Bryant (formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Terrell Owens (formerly of the Buffalo Bills), but only Bryant left Cincinnati with a contract. The Bengals also picked up Matt Jones, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who spent 2009 out of football. Finally, Antwaan Randle El returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers after spending some time with the Washington Redskins; with the move, the Steelers returned a key part of their Super Bowl XL receiving corps to Heinz Field.
Defensive Line Shifting
- Former Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers signs with Chicago Bears.
- Former Tennessee Titan DE Kyle Vanden Bosch signs with Detroit Lions.
- Former Green Bay Packers DE Aaron Kampman signs with Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Former New England Patriots DE Jarvis Green signs with Denver Broncos.
Heading into free agency, Julius Peppers was looked at as the top prize for whichever team could land him. After he ended up with the Chicago Bears, however, I have to question that wisdom. The 2009 Bears did not necessarily lose because of their defense—they fell in the middle of the pack for points allowed—but because of Jay Cutler’s ability to target players of the opposing team with his passes. While the Bears made a move on offense by signing Chester Taylor from the Vikings, Peppers will probably not be the key cog of a Chicago turn-around in 2010; not if interceptions continue to be an issue. In other defense line signings, long-time Titan Kyle Vanden Bosch will help the Lions shore up their “D” while Aaron Kampman and Jarvis Green bring exciting prospects to middle-of-the-road teams in Jacksonville and Denver, respectively.
Failure to Field Super Bowl XLIV Onside Kick Leads to Departure
- Former Indianapolis Colts WR/ST Hank Baskett signs with Philadelphia Eagles.
Hank Baskett was a career member of the Philadelphia Eagles until a roster spot was needed for QB Michael Vick. The Indianapolis Colts came knocking and snatched him up as a free agent early in the 2009 season. I’m sure if the Colts knew what the future held for Baskett to start the second-half of Super Bowl XLIV, they might not have made the move. Baskett—and his much more famous wife Kendra, formerly of “The Girls Next Door”—get a return trip to Philadelphia for the 2010 season.
Linebackers on the Move
- Former Arizona Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby signs with Miami Dolphins.
- Former New Orleans Saints LB Scott Fujita signs with Cleveland Browns.
The Karlos Dansby move has garnered more fanfare, but both his move to Miami and Scott Fujita’s signing to the Browns are the biggest linebacker moves so far this offseason. Dansby is slightly younger and was a defensive captain for the Arizona Cardinals last year, making him perhaps a bigger catch—particularly for a Dolphins team with four games a season against the Patriots and Jets. However, Fujita was a key role player for the Saints and will likely be missed as New Orleans attempts to defend an NFL title for the first time in their franchise history—he may not be an all-pro player, but Fujita will help solidify the Browns defense for 2010. At the very least, he’ll bring a special brand of trash-talking to the Lake Erie region.
There you have it–the Top Stories of 2010 NFL Free Agency so far in this 2010 offseason. Keep watching the NFL news and Twitter posts for the latest new signings for this free agency period, and check back in the future for the 2nd Edition of this analytical special. As always, feel free to leave any thoughts in the comments below!