2015 NFL Free Agency Diary

  • Buccaneers Upgrade Defense by Signing DE Robert Ayers and CB Brent Grimes

    After a few slow days at the start of free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, general manager Jason Licht struck twice on Friday as the Buccaneers upgraded their defense by signing former New York Giants defensive end and former Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes.

    “Robert is a versatile pass rusher who can play a variety of positions along the defensive line and has been successful both from the interior as well as the edge,” said Licht. “He has posted 20 sacks over the past three years, is coming off the best season of his career and is an ideal fit for our 4-3 defensive system. Experienced pass rushers who can provide consistent pressure and disrupt an opponent’s passing game are critical to our defensive success and Robert will do all those things, along with providing veteran leadership.”

    In 2015, Ayers set career highs in sacks (9.5), tackles for loss (11) and forced fumbles (2). His team-leading 9.5 sacks in 2015 are the most by any player that entered free agency this offseason and his 22 quarterback hits were the 12th-most in the league last season. Ayers recorded at least one sack in each of the final five games, with his 7.5 sacks in Weeks 13-17 standing as the second-most in the league during that time. He has been one of Pro Football Focus’ top six 4-3 defensive ends each of the past two seasons.

    Ayers (6-3, 275) comes to Tampa Bay after two seasons with New York (2014-15). He originally entered the league as a first-round selection by the Denver Broncos in the 2009 NFL Draft and spent his first five seasons in Denver (2009-13). In his seven-year career, Ayers has played in 96 regular season games, with 39 starts, totaling 204 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 26.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He has also played in six career postseason contests, with one start, notching nine tackles, three tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks.

    Although that is a huge number of sacks last year in just 12 games, you do have to take into account that the Giants defense finished last in the NFL in yards allowed and last in passing. Teams simply threw more against the Giants (29th most pass attempts) than most other teams, therefore he had more chances for sacks.

    The Bucs also potentially upgraded the secondary by signing Grimes, who had a down 2015 campaign in Miami.

    “Brent is the kind of playmaking defensive back that will make an immediate impact in our secondary,” said Licht. “Brent is a four-time Pro Bowler who will come in and provide an immediate upgrade at a position we felt we needed to address this offseason. His familiarity with our defensive system, combined with his aggressive style of play, makes him an ideal fit for us.”

    Grimes (5-10, 185) comes to Tampa Bay after three seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2013-15). Prior to his time with Miami, Grimes spent six seasons with Atlanta (2007-12) where current Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith served as the Falcons head coach from 2008-12. In his nine-year career, Grimes has 90-of-106 regular season games he has played in, totaling 401 tackles, 99 passes defensed, 26 interceptions (357 return yards, two touchdowns), two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

    “I am very excited to be able to continue my career playing in a defensive system and for a defensive coordinator that I am very familiar with,” said Grimes. “Tampa Bay has a great core of players on both sides of the ball and I am looking forward to doing what I can to help re-establish the Buccaneers defense as one of the best in the league.”

    A four-time Pro Bowl selection (2010, 2013-15) and a 2014 Second-Team Associated Press All-Pro, Grimes’ 26 interceptions are tied for the seventh-most among active players. Since joining Miami in 2013, Grimes has totaled 13 interceptions, tied for the fourth-most in the league during that time. A two-time Defensive Player of the Week (NFC Week 15, 2010; AFC Week 9, 2014), Grimes was named the NFL Alumni Defensive Back of the Year following the 2011 season.

    The biggest issue with Grime is figuring out if last season was the start of a sharp decline in play, or just a one-year blip, as he had to play under multiple systems with the dysfunctional Dolphins coaching staff.

    Another issue will be keeping his wife Miko under control as far as her badmouthing the team.  Numerous league sources told Football Insiders that they "wouldn't touch Grimes because of his wife."

    She often spoke out via social media and through her radio show about the Dolphins coaching staff and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

    It's obviously a potential distraction that the Bucs were willing to take a chance on.
  • Top Available NFL Free Agents After Day 1

    The first day of free agency saw a furious amount of signings as many players shifted teams, which may have shifted the landscape of power in the NFL.  If you're looking for a bargain, it's usually not there on the first day, but here are some of our top free agents that remain on the market.

    1. Robert Ayers, DE, New York Giants- Ayers has had a lot of suitors and he's going to pick the best match for his talents, i.e. the most money.  He will likely land in Florida with the Jaguars or Bucs.

    2. Nick Fairley, DT, L.A. Rams- Fairley has a nice list of suitors and might end up as a member of the Jets.

    3. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers- Weddle is the best safety available and should cash in even though he's on the wrong side of 30.

    4. Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas Cowboys- There's no doubt that Hardy is the most talented free agent left, but it might be a while before he signs, due to all of his off the field issues.

    5. Kelvin Beachum, OT, Pittsburgh Steelers- Beachum has battled injuries, but when he's healthy he's one of the better left tackles in football.

    6. Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks- It's a little surprising that there isn't a bigger market for Okung. He can always go back to Seattle if the market doesn't end up being what he thought.

    7. Prince Amukamara, CB, New York Giants- Prince is great when healthy, but he hasn't been healthy enough.  He will still make a lot of money in the next few hours to days.

    8. Aldon Smith, DE, Oakland Raiders- If Aldon Smith wasn't facing a suspension he would be one of quickest, priciest free agent signings, even with his past.

    9. Donald Penn, OT, Oakland Raiders- Penn is an older guy, but he's still a more than solid left tackle. He'd represent an upgrade for a lot of teams in the short term.

    10. Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay Packers- He's only 26 and he can play slot or on the outside.

    11. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans 

    12. Rashad Johnson, S, Arizona Cardinals

    13. Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

    14. Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans Saints

    15. Jared Cook, TE, Los Angeles Rams

    16. Terrance Knighton, DT, Washington Redskins

    17. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, New York Jets

    18. Andre Smith, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

    19. Chris Long, DE, Los Angeles Rams

    20. Chris Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals

    21. Mike DeVito, DT, Kansas City Chiefs

    22. Reggie Nelson, S, Cincinnati Bengals

    23. Louis Vasquez, OG, Denver Broncos

    24. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Indianapolis Colts

    25. Robert Griffin, III, QB, Washington Redskins

    26. William Beatty, OT, New York Giants

    27. Akiem Hicks, DT, New England Patriots

    28. Jaiquawn Jarrett, S, New York Jets

    29. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Seattle Seahawks

    30. B.J. Raji, DT, Green Bay Packers

    31. Zach Miller, TE, Chicago Bears

    32. Duke Ihenacho, S, Washington Redskins

    33. Jason Jones, DE, Detroit Lions

    34. Brent Grimes, CB, Miami Dolphins

    35. Patrick Robinson, CB, San Diego Chargers

    36. Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets

    37. Geoff Schwartz, OG, New York Giants

    38. William Moore, S, Atlanta Falcons

    39. Percy Harvin, WR, Buffalo Bills

    40. Manny Ramirez, OG, Detroit Lions

    41. Kroy Biermann, DE, Atlanta Falcons

    42. Jeremy Mincey, DE, Dallas Cowboys

    43. Brandon Browner, CB, New Orleans Saints

    44. Vernon Davis, TE, Denver Broncos

    45. LeGarrette Blount, RB, New England Patriots

    46. Ted Larsen, OG, Arizona Cardinals

    47. Adrian Claiborne, DE, Atlanta Falcons

    48. Roman Harper, S, Carolina Panthers

    49. Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers

    50. Owen Daniels, TE, Denver Broncos

    51. Phil Dawson, K, San Francisco 49ers

    52. Evan Mathis, OG, Denver Broncos

    53. Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets

    54. Jermaine Gresham, TE, Arizona Cardinals

    55. Stephen Wisniewski, C, Jacksonville Jaguars

    56. James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers

    57. Reggie Bush, RB, San Francisco 49ers

    58. Haoli Ngata, DT, Detroit Lions

    59. Mike Wallace, WR, Minnesota Vikings

    60. Jermaine Kearse, WR, Seattle Seahawks

  • John Elway, Broncos Gambled And Lost

    Day 1 of NFL Free Agency was a busy one as more than 100 players signed deals to either stay with their teams or move to new ones, potentially affecting the balance of power in the NFL.  Although most teams that participated have something to be happy or frustrated about, we're going to look at the five biggest items that stuck out.  We begin with the defending Super Bowl champs.

    John Elway Gambled and Lost


    There have been very few things that haven't gone John Elway's way since taking over as VP of the Denver Broncos.

    To win a Super Bowl with a quarterback that couldn't throw the ball down the field further than 15 yards was fortunate, to say the least.

    It appears that Elway's luck may be turning.

    Elway was able to get defensive tackle Derek Wolfe to re-sign at what is now looking like an unbelievably team friendly deal.  That may have skewed the market in his mind and for whatever reason the Broncos couldn't come to an agreement with outside linebacker Von Miller and were forced to give him the exclusive franchise tender.

    That began a series of events which saw the decimation of the Denver roster with very few legitimate solutions.

    Without Miller under contract, the Broncos had to place their faith in their negotiations with quarterback Brock Osweiler.  Unfortunately, bad feelings hovered as the former second-round pick was benched in favor of Peyton Manning, who was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL last season.

    The Houston Texans opened up their checkbook and signed Osweiler to a deal that averages $18 million per season. Denver's offer wasn't close to that and when you add in the fact that Texas has no state income tax and the perceived slight from Osweiler, moving on was a no-brainer decision.

    And now the Broncos are left scrambling at quarterback with only Trevor Siemian under contract.

    We didn't even mention that the team lost star defensive end Malik Jackson to Jacksonville, their best inside linebacker in Danny Trevathan to Chicago, and they were forced to release starting guard Louis Vasquez and AFC Championship Game hero, tight end Owen Daniels.

    Elway obviously has a plan, but it's unlikely at the beginning of the week that he thought he would lose the quarterback he spent four years grooming, and two of his best defensive players.

    Good luck Denver, you're going to need it.
  • NFL AM: Chiefs Retain Derrick Johnson

    Kansas City Chiefs retain Derrick Johnson:


    In a free agency period that has seen teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders jump out quickly by spending some of their loads and loads of cap space, and has seen the New York Giants dish out about $20 million more in guaranteed money than they had the past five seasons combined, the Kansas City Chiefs are quietly doing work to ensure they can remain competitive in a quickly changing AFC West.

    While the Denver Broncos have lost both of their quarterbacks, Malik Jackson, and Danny Trevathan to start, the rest of the division is catching up. The San Diego Chargers added speedy receiver Travis Benjamin, and the Oakland Raiders are off to one of the better starts in the free agency period by starting out by signing Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele and landing versatile pass rusher Bruce Irvin, along with cornerback Sean Smith, formerly of the Chiefs.

    While Kansas City can’t brag about big flashy signings, they’re very quietly going about their business by retaining some of the important pieces that seemed destined to leave.

    On Wednesday, the Chiefs brought in the new league year by keeping some of their most important defensive pieces in house. Much as they had with linebacker Tamba Hali, who has played his entire NFL career in Kansas City, the Chiefs re-signed veteran linebacker and lifetime Chief Derrick Johnson to a three-year pact which will likely allow him to finish his career where it began.

    The team also re-signed defensive end Jaye Howard who joins Berry, Johnson and Hali as returning Chiefs defenders.

    While right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is their biggest free agent splash to date, Kansas City fans should be very excited to see a couple of their better players like Johnson and Hali be able to retire Chiefs. It’s something that doesn’t happen enough in football, and it’s good to see some of football’s best fans watch a couple of their best play their entire careers in one place.

    Coby Fleener signs with the New Orleans Saints:


    Some were surprised when the Indianapolis Colts re-signed tight end Dwayne Allen to a new long-term contract and allowed Coby Fleener to walk away in free agency. With the Colts needing to dedicate to the run game in attempt to keep all of Andrew Luck’s organs intact this season, sticking with the more complete tight end made sense.

    As the New Orleans Saints have shown in the past, their offense doesn’t need a conventional tight end who’s also a good blocker in the run game (See Jimmy Graham), so it made all the sense in the world when the team locked up the former Stanford tight end to a five-year deal Wednesday.

    Fleener is a great fit in New Orleans, and he has to be foaming at the mouth to play with Drew Brees and in Sean Payton’s offense.  Of course the fifth-year tight end had a very good relationship playing with his quarterback and college teammate Luck, but the focus of the tight end in the New Orleans offense makes this an incredible opportunity for Fleener.

    Saints tight ends have been an integral part of the New Orleans offense for years, and there may not have been a greater example of that than departing tight end Benjamin Watson.

    A season ago Watson set career highs in receptions with 74, and receiving yards with 825, while tying his best single season touchdown mark of six.

    Jimmy Graham put up monster numbers in the New Orleans offense before being shipped off to Seattle before the 2015 season where he proceeded to look like just another tight end when asked to play like a more conventional tight end for the Seattle Seahawks.

    Graham had at least 85 receptions each of his four years as the Saints starting tight end, with no fewer than 889 yards, and at least nine touchdowns each of those years.

    This is the opportunity in front of Fleener. The chance to not only be a team’s starting tight end, but a focal point of its offense. The new Saints tight end put up some nice numbers in Indianapolis, but this is an opportunity to prove he’s one of the best tight ends in football. He never looked like that in Indy, but the New Orleans offense has a way of doing that for a guy. Just ask Graham and Watson.

    Pacman Jones remains in Cincinnati:


    Wednesday the Cincinnati Bengals brought back one of their own, re-signing veteran cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones to a new three-year contract.

    Jones would be a tough sell just about anywhere else as the corner has been a headache on and off the field during his NFL career. Last season alone we saw the Pacman help cost his team a playoff game with a ridiculous personal foul in the final moments against Pittsburgh, and you know, ripping Raiders’ rookie receiver Amari Cooper’s helmet off before intentionally slamming Cooper’s head onto it.

    I’m still trying to wrap my head around how Jones wasn’t suspended for that altercation in a league that’s supposed to be focused on head injuries and player safety.

    You have to give Jones this. While it will always be difficult to reconcile that a man was left paralyzed after an altercation with him where one of his associates allegedly shot the man, he has seemed to stay out of trouble in recent years. Ironically, it’s the poor decisions he makes on the field that still leave you concerned that he might do something stupid off of it.

    Jones is a perplexing individual. Unlike a guy like Greg Hardy, who seems to have zero redeeming qualities and teammates can’t seem to get away from fast enough, the Bengals cornerback seems well liked by his teammates, and comes across as a fun guy to be around when doing the media rounds.

    On the football field, when he’s not picking up knuckle-headed personal fouls, Jones is the kind of physical cornerback teams want. The former first-round pick of the Titans spent two years in Tennessee before joining the Dallas Cowboys after a year-long suspension, but Jones has seemed more at home since joining the Bengals in 2010.

    The veteran cornerback now entering his seventh season with the team has really settled in with Cincinnati, picking off three passes in each of the last three seasons. The biggest question with Pacman will always be if he can keep his head on straight. When he doesn’t, he becomes a pretty ugly person that’s difficult to root for, but when he does he’s a solid football player who brings a lot to the table. After six mostly-successful seasons in Cincinnati, it’s a risk the Bengals can afford to take as much as anybody.
  • Buccaneers Sign Guard J.R. Sweezy

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have found their replacement for Logan Mankins, as they signed former Seattle Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy.

    [embed]https://twitter.com/RapSheet/status/707698229752762368[/embed]

    Sweezy struggled mightily in pass protection and run blocking last season but at 26 years old is still considered a prospect with plenty of upside.

     
  • Danny Trevathan Signs A Deal With The Chicago Bears

    It is being reported that the Chicago Bears and free agent linebacker Danny Trevathan have come to an agreement, and the former Denver Broncos linebacker will be reunited with his former head coach, John Fox.

    The former sixth-round pick has turned himself into a very good three-down linebacker and should be the next leader in the middle of the Chicago defense.

    He's not a Brian Urlacher type of talent, but he will add stability to a defense that struggled mightily.

    Trevathan is an excellent defender in coverage and can hold up well against the run.  He was a majorly underrated part of one of the greatest defenses ever in Denver last season.

    The Broncos look like a team that's poised to go from first to worst, as they've lost defensive end Malik Jackson, quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, guard Louis Vasquez, tight end Owen Daniels and now Trevathan.

     

  • Eagles Sign Safety Rodney McLeod

    The Philadelphia Eagles have invested heavily in their safety position, as they inked Malcolm Jenkins to a big contract extension a few weeks ago and today signed former Rams safety Rodney McLeod.

    The deal is being reported to be worth $35 million with $17 million in guaranteed money over four years.

    Philly will have the second-best safety tandem in the NFL behind the Seattle Seahawks (Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor).
  • Mebane Comes To Terms With The San Diego Chargers

    In an effort to strengthen their defensive line, the San Diego Chargers came to an agreement with free agent nose tackle Brandon Mebane, the team announced.

    The 31-year old defensive tackle spent each of his first nine seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and should play well next to the underrated Corey Liuget.

     
  • Matt Cassel Signs With The Tennessee Titans

    It's being reported by numerous outlets that the Tennessee Titans have come to an agreement with free agent quarterback Matt Cassel, to back up Marcus Mariota.

    This will likely be a quarterback competition between Cassel and Zach Mettenberger with the loser being released.

    After Cassel's miserable showing last season in Dallas, it's a surprise that he was signed on the first day of free agency.
  • Giants Win Olivier Vernon Sweepstakes

    It came down to the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Miami Dolphins free agent defensive end Olivier Vernon chose to play with the Giants.

    Vernon was PFF's top rated defensive lineman last year and reportedly signed a five-year deal worth approximately $85 million with $52.5 million guaranteed.

    [embed]https://twitter.com/MikeGarafolo/status/707686337101602816[/embed]

    The $52.5 million guaranteed is the most ever for a defensive end and the Giants have revamped their defensive line as they inked Damon Harrison and Jason Pierre-Paul, as well as cornerback Janoris Jenkins.

    New York seems to be trying to replicate the formula that won them a pair of Super Bowl titles (2007, 2011) as they had one of the fiercest pass rushes in football, along with a quarterback who played big in big games.

    They still have Manning, and they've replaced Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora with Harrsion and Vernon, while still having Pierre-Paul.