Some will declare “winners and losers” from the first week of the NFL’s hot-stove league, but in all fairness, you really can’t discern which teams did well until the season is over.
Case in point, the 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: In free agency last year, they signed defensive end Michael Johnson, quarterback Josh McCown, and left tackle Anthony Collins, filling three big needs.
None of the moves worked out, and all three players were released this offseason.
So let’s just try to discern which teams did well on paper.
The Indianapolis Colts are looking to take the next step, after having their postseason efforts end, in back-to-back years, in blow-out losses to New England.
So instead of going young in free agency, they signed a bunch of seasoned vets, who can help them not only with play-making ability, but with leadership, and give them a more battle-tested unit.
Wide receiver Andre Johnson gives them a big receiver to compliment speedster T.Y. Hilton. Their trade for RB Trent Richardson didn’t work out, so they needed a bell cow at running back to compliment QB Andrew Luck and their high-powered passing attack. So, they went out and won a tug-of-war with the Eagles for Frank Gore, the San Francisco 49ers all-time leading rusher. They got much needed guard help by signing long-time Eagles mainstay, Todd Herremans.
Adding an edge pass rusher to Robert Mathis coming off an achilles injury was a must, and they signed another former Eagle, Trent Cole, who has 85.5 career sacks.
We will see if these veterans can help push this team over the top.
The New York Giants didn’t do a lot, but made one move that could pay huge dividends, the signing of New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen.
Vereen is one of the NFL’s best receiving backs. The Giants play a “West Coast Offense,” a system that calls for a lot of throws to running backs. With the talented tandem of Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz at receiver, and all the defensive attention they will garner, there are going to be a lot of opportunities to check down to Vereen underneath. This signing could turn out to be an excellent move. Vereen might have the best hands of any back in the NFL, and has quick feet (like his cousin Ben Vereen) to make defenders miss in the open field.
The Arizona Cardinals had trouble running the ball last year, so the addition of the best run blocking guard in free agency, Mike Iupati, makes a lot of sense. The 6-5, 331-pound Somoan is a powerhouse who gets a lot of push in the running game.
They also added a much needed edge pass rusher with the signing of Lamar Woodley, who was miscast last year in Oakland as a defensive end. He is best used as an edge rushing outside linebacker, in a 3-4 defensive front, and that is how the Cardinals will use him.
The addition of defensive end Cory Redding should help as well. He fits their system well, and is one of the NFL’s best leaders, giving some of the best fire-and-brimstone speeches before games. He’s great at firing up the troops.
In a division with perhaps the best quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, it’s not a bad plan to load up on good cover guys, and the Jets added three of the best free agent cornerbacks (in a weak class), signing Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Buster Skrine. They also signed a safety who covers like a cornerback in Marcus Gilchrist. They aren’t going to beat the Patriots at the quarterback spot with Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, so they might as well try to “keep up with the Bradys” by blanketing the field with good cover guys, and getting after him with their talented defensive line.