Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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Well ladies and gentlemen, it hasn’t even been a full week since the new NFL year began and this has already been an off-season for the ages. From the likes of Ndamukong Suh signing a six-year/$114 Million deal with the Miami Dolphins & the Buffalo Bills trading for LeSean McCoy, I can’t remember the last time this many big moves took place in such a short amount of time. I know that there is still plenty of time left in the off-season and we are less than seven weeks away from the NFL Draft, but I figured with as much that has already occurred, it might be time to recognize the winners and losers so far throughout the National Football League.
And without further ado, here we go…
After hiring Rex Ryan to be their next head coach, I wasn’t sure what they had up their sleeve come the new league year. In a shocking move to start the year, the Bills traded promising linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for All-Pro running back, LeSean McCoy. While this move sent most of the football world into confusion and the Bills had to give up Alonso, it isn’t very often that a team can acquire a deadly playmaker like McCoy.
Showing signs of greatness in 2013 as the league’s leading rusher in Chip Kelly’s offense, McCoy will have the opportunity to shine in Buffalo as Fred Jackson will keep his legs fresh and his new offensive line is arguably better than the one in Philly. As long as Ryan knows what he is working with, McCoy can do great things in upstate New York.
Along with the McCoy trade, the Bills sent two late round draft picks to Minnesota for quarterback Matt Cassel (who will give E.J. Manuel a run for his money), signed electrifying receiver Percy Harvin to a one-year deal and re-signed dominant defensive end Jerry Hughes to a five-year contract.
If Cassel does anything, he will be the boom or bust on what Manuel can become. There is a lot of hope for E.J., and I like his potential, but if signing a veteran like Cassel doesn’t release the kraken from within, then it’s to move on from Manuel.
You can never have too many weapons like Harvin and Hughes is slowly becoming the steady-eddy of studs in this league, so wrapping him up long term is a very smart move.
St. Louis Rams
I’ve been waiting for the Rams to move on from Sam Bradford, and they finally did. In return for Bradford and a fifth-rounder to the Eagles, St. Louis received promising quarterback Nick Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick and a 2016 second-round selection. I think that Bradford is nothing but a swell guy, but I’m convinced that he is made of glass. No matter how talented you are, when you can’t stay healthy, you’re no good to anyone. The Eagles apparently wanted him and after what Foles showed us in 2013, I think that the Rams have found their guy of the future.
On top of the Foles trade, the Rams went out and bolstered their already impressive defense by signing the freakishly athletic linebacker Akeem Ayers to a two-year deal. They also picked up a solid man to rotate on the defensive line in Nick Fairley, who agreed to a one-year “prove it” contract.
I am extremely interested to see how dominant the Rams defense can be. By re-signing Lance Kendricks and Kenny Britt, Foles should have some nice targets to throw to.
After losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, 45-7, the Colts knew that they had to sure up both sides of the ball. On defense, the Colts signed defensive end Kendall Langford to add depth to the line. They also signed veteran linebacker Trent Cole to a two-year deal and re-signed free safety Mike Adams for two more years.
On the ends, depth is always a plus and Langford can be that guy. As for the linebacking corps and the secondary, the experience that Cole and Adams will continue to establish in that growing defense will be instrumental to their success.
On the offensive side of things, Andrew Luck finally has a few more weapons to work with as Indianapolis signed a low risk, high reward CFL receiver in Duron Carter and made a big splash by signing All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson.
If those two won’t stretch the field and make Luck’s life a little easier, the Colts also brought in All-Pro running back Frank Gore on a three-year deal to keep the opposing defense honest and to give Luck his first established running back.
Right now, the Colts are my favorite out of the AFC.
Surprising Winner: Tennessee Titans
Over the last decade, the Tennessee Titans haven’t been very impressive across the landscape of the NFL. But after keeping an eye on the moves they’ve made so far during the off-season, things are definitely happening in Nashville.
It has been no secret that Tennessee’s defense has been terrible in recent years, so they made some changes by signing hard hitting strong safety Da’Norris Searcy and stud linebacker Brian Orakpo to four year deals. They also picked up cover corner Perrish Cox and re-signed Mr. Consistency in Derrick Morgan to a four year extension. If anything, Orakpo and Morgan will stabilize the linebacker roles while Searcy and Cox will blind-side a few receivers who cross their paths.
While I love those additions, my favorite signing by the Titans is receiver Harry Douglas to a three-year deal. He may only be six feet tall, but with his vision and route running ability that he displayed in Atlanta, Douglas plays much taller than that. I look for Douglas to shine in Tennessee.
In 2014, everything finally started to come together for the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo was clicking on all cylinders; Dez Bryant was arguably the best receiver in the NFL; DeMarco Murray was the league’s leading rusher behind the league’s best offensive line and the defense was finally starting to play as a unit. Being one questionable call away from the NFC Championship game, wouldn’t you try to keep everyone together? Well, they didn’t.
The Cowboys did franchise Dez Bryant and re-signed right tackle Doug Free to a three-year deal, but when he is finally playing healthy and productive, you don’t re-sign DeMarco Murray?? I understand that money comes into play, but Murray is only 27-years-old and your team is playing their best football in years, so you should do whatever it takes to keep these guys together. Dallas didn’t.
I can even understand that business is business, but don’t try to play us for dumb and put a band aid over the problem by signing Darren McFadden, who is a past-his-prime draft bust, to a two-year deal. McFadden is half the player Murray ever will be and if the Cowboys don’t target a solid running back in the draft, then they will truly be losers this off-season.
I am going out on a limb here knowing full well that Chip Kelly could end up looking like a genius, but I’m going to call the Eagles losers so far this off-season. Even though they got Oregon and Kelly product Kiko Alonso, I don’t like getting rid of LeSean McCoy. I think he still has a lot of tread left on the tires and he will make the Eagles pay one day. Then they trade for Sam Bradford, which as I explained (see Rams section above) makes no sense to me. If he stays healthy, then yes, Kelly will have won that deal. But that's a big if.
For a moment, I was going to call the Eagles winners after they signed DeMarco Murray to a five-year deal, but then they agreed to a three-year contract with oft-injured Ryan Matthews. How much sense does that make? You have two running backs that want to be the main back and that just isn’t possible. In the end, someone is going to get pissed off and demand a trade or release. Maybe they will get it worked out, but until then, the Eagles have lost this off-season.
New Orleans Saints
In a passing league, the Saints have always been at the forefront of that movement. With weapons around him, Drew Brees has proven that he can make the aerial attack work in the Big Easy.
Well, it looks like the Saints want to make some changes as they traded the best tight end in the league, Jimmy Graham, and a fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and a first-round pick. They also just traded one of their other best receivers in Kenny Stills to Miami for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third round pick. Then the Saints decide to add a rushing attack by re-signing Mark Ingram to a four-year deal and signing C.J. Spiller to a four-year deal as well.
Look, I understand that other necessary positions needed to be filled, but when you are known for slinging the ball, DON’T TRADE THE GUYS WHO CATCH THE BALLS!! Adding a guy like Spiller will open up the running game, but if you have no receivers to stretch the field besides Brandin Cooks, then it isn’t going to work.
Plenty of moves can still be made, but as of now, the Saints are losers.
Surprising Losers: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers ended up being a huge disappointment in 2014, so you looked for them to make some moves in the off-season. So far, that hasn’t been the case. Most notably, Frank Gore left to sign with the Colts and Patrick Willis retired from the game of football.
Now, I understand that the organization has drafted guys like Carlos Hyde and Chris Borland to fill those positions once Gore and Willis were gone, but for a new coach and a new regime, that veteran leadership could’ve been very valuable. They also just signed running back Reggie Bush, who could bring some experience to the table, but it seems as if he is never healthy.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that losing mainstays like Willis and Gore is hard on any team. When you don’t have a guaranteed answer to fill their roles, then I just can’t give my seal of approval. For now, the 49ers are losers, and their really wasn’t anything they could’ve done about it.
Well, there you have it, folks! There is obviously still plenty of the NFL off-season left to go, but those are my winners and losers at this point in the game. What say you? Am I crazy? Is there a team that I have missed for either category? Be sure to let us know in the comments below and we hope that there are still plenty of off-season moves to come!