NFL free agency is now well under way. Almost a week into the free agent period, NFL fans have seen some clubs take bold steps! The biggest card in the free agent deck, Peyton Manning, is still out there (although, Denver has reportedly come out the winner). Randy Moss is back in the bay area, but across the bay this time with the San Francisco 49ers. Mario Williams signed in Buffalo, which completely surprised me. The Bills must have done a hell of a sales job on Williams to bring him to town. It is tough to say this early what teams are winners and which are losers, we won’t know for sure until the 2012 season wraps up. However I’ll go over what has happened up until this point in NFL free agency. This list I have compiled does not include players who have re-signed with the same team, the list is focused entirely on players changing teams.
First, I look at the teams who have lost the most players to free agency. The Raiders have lost the most players to date with six. Oakland had to shed a lot of salary to get back under the cap. So far, Oakland has seen the greatest loss on the offensive side of the ball – TE Kevin Boss, QB Jason Campbell, RB Rock Cartwright and WR Chaz Schilens. While on the defensive side of the ball safety Stanford Routt and DE Trevor Scott have bolted the club. The Raiders could see more players leaving town before all is said and done. It is common in the NFL for teams to release players and then re-sign them to a new contract in order to save money under the cap. The Raiders may not have that luxury because of how far over the cap they were at the season’s end.
The Ravens have lost five players to free agency. Unlike Oakland, the Ravens have seen more defensive players sign elsewhere. LB Jarret Johnson, DT Cory Redding, S Haruki Nakamura and S Tom Zbikowski have all signed with other clubs. Guard Ben Grubbs is the only player lost on the offense so far.
The Seahawks, Texans and Bengals have lost four players. DE Jonathan Fanene, G Nate Livings, C Mike McGlynn and DE Frostee Rucker have fled the Bengals. While S Atari Bigby, TE John Carlson, G Mike Gibson and QB Charlie Whitehurst have left the Seahawks. The Texans saw defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams leave for Buffalo. His loss will be next to impossible for the Texans to replace. Houston also lost LB Lawrence Vickers, guard Mike Brisiel and OT Eric Winston.
The 49ers, Colts and Vikings have lost three players at this point. The 49ers lost LB Blake Costanzo, WR Josh Morgan and C Adam Snyder. The Vikings have seen CB Cedric Griffin, G Steve Hutchinson and LB Kenny Onatolu leave via free agency. The Colts, so far, have lost WR Pierre Garcon, WR Anthony Gonzalez and back-up quarterback Dan Orlovsky. It is definitely a transition time for Colts, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Colts fans are banking on Andrew Luck being the ‘next thing’, he will have Reggie Wayne to throw to, but who knows what the rest of the receiving group will look like.
The Packers, Broncos, Panthers, Titans, Cowboys, Colts, Chargers, Rams, Dolphins, Browns, Chiefs, Saints, Jets and Lions have lost two players each to free agency. The most significant losses in this group are WR Vincent Jackson (Chargers), RB Peyton Hillis (Browns), and WR Robert Meacham (Saints).
The next group of teams have only lost one player to free agency, these clubs are the Giants (WR Mario Manningham), Falcons (WR Eric Weems), Eagles (LB Juqua Parker), Bears (S Brandon Meriweather), Cardinals (CB Richard Marshall), and the Browns (S Mike Adams).
The final group is made up of the Redskins, Jaguars, Steelers, Patriots and Bills – none of these clubs have lost a player to free agency as of yet.
Alright, enough of the losers, let’s move on to the big winners so far this season. And by big winners, I mean the sheer number of players signed so far. We will have to wait a bit loner to determine who had the most successful free agent shopping season, as I think Peyton may have some impact on that list.
At this point we have four teams that have been the big buyers on the free agents market. The Chiefs, Cowboys, Chargers and Patriots have all landed five free agents so far. Kansas City is loading up on offence with RB Peyton Hillis, QB Brady Quinn, TE Kevin Boss and OT Eric Winston. Defensively the Chiefs signed safety Stanford Routt from arch rivals, the Oakland Raiders. The Cowboys have landed linebackers Lawrence Vickers & Dan Connor, guards Mackenzy Bernadeau & Nate Livings and safety Brodney Pool. The Chargers have signed S Atari Bigby & LB Jarret Johnson on the defensive side of the ball, while signing WR Eddie Royal, QB Charlie Whitehurst and RB La’Ron McClain on the offensive side. The Patriots have signed two good wide receivers in Anthony Gonzalez and Brandon Lloyd. Brady could have some amazing numbers this season. Defensively the Pats signed defensive ends Jonathan Fanene and Trevor Scott.
The Redskins and Buccaneers have also been active with four free agents each. Washington grabbed two wide receivers in Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Washington also signed CB Cedric Griffins S Brandon Meriweather. The Bucs have focused mostly on the offence with WR Vincent Jackson, QB Dan Orlovsky and guard Carl Nicks. On the defence, the Bucs have signed CB Eric Wright.
The Colts, Rams and Bears have been active, all with three free agent signings thus far. The Bears signed QB Jason Campbell, WR Eric Weems and LB Blake Costanzo. The Colts have signed C Mike McGlynn, DT Cory Redding and S Tom Zbikowski. The Rams have signed CB Cortland Finnegan, C Scott Wells and DE Kengall Langford.
The 49ers, Jets, Raiders, Vikings, Jaguars, Panthers, Dolphins and Seahawks are all in the game with two free agent signings. The Dolphins have gone defence with CB Richard Marshall and LB Jamaal Westerman, while the Jaguars have gone offence with WR Laurent Robinson and QB Chad Henne. The Jets grabbed WR Chaz Schilenz and QB Drew Stanton. The 49ers have had an interesting week, Alex Smith has been talking with other teams and San Francisco was revealed as a late potential buyer for Peyton Manning. On the market, the 49ers have picked up RB Rock Cartwright and Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham.
The Bills, Eagles, Cardinals, Giants, Browns, Titans, Saints and Browns all have one free agent signed at this point. The Bills signing Mario Williams is just huge. What will the Bills defence look like this year?
The inactive teams at this point are the Lions, Packers, Texans, Steelers, Bengals, Ravens and Broncos. The Steelers have been silent, without losing or signing a free agent yet. The Ravens have lost five players and signed zero, this club better stay healthy this season as depth could be an issue. And then we have the Denver Broncos, who may have won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. The reports are that Peyton has signed in Denver. If those reports are confirmed, the AFC West is going to be very interesting this season. I’ll pick the Raiders of course, again!
So that is the free agent list so far. Again, this list does not include players who re-signed with their clubs from last season. This list is made-up of players who have switched clubs. Randy Moss didn’t play in the NFL last season, so he was not on the list either. The breakdown of positions goes like this –
Wide Receivers – 9 changed teams
Saftey – 8
Quarterback – 8
Guard – 8
Linebacker – 7
Defensive End – 5
Cornerback – 4
Running Back – 3
Tight End – 3
Centre (Canadian eh) – 3
Defensive Tackle – 2
Offensive Tackle – 1