Free Agency 2016

NFL AM: Chargers Quietly Winning In Free Agency

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Worst To First Chargers?

After the San Diego Chargers 4-12 2015 campaign, everyone in the front office seemed to be on the hot seat.  Then owner Dean Spanos granted head coach Mike McCoy and general manager Tom Telesco questionable contract extensions, and it just might work out after all.

Telesco’s free agent class isn’t getting the overwhelmingly positive publicity of the classes in New York, Oakland, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville, but it’s possible that the Chargers may be the most improved team in the first week of free agency.

On Sunday, San Diego inked former Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward to play opposite rising star Jason Verrett.

Since this happened on a Sunday morning and Hayward isn’t a huge name, it’s not being treated like an overwhelmingly big deal.

This was another great signing by the Chargers.

The team also signed wide receiver Travis Benjamin (Cleveland Browns), nose tackle Brandon Mebane (Seattle Seahawks) and free safety Dwight Lowery (Indianapolis Colts), and retained tackle Joe Barksdale, tight end Antonio Gates, quarterback Kellen Clemens, defensive tackle Damion Square, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman and offensive lineman Kenny Wiggins.

No blue chip types of players other than Gates, who is a few years past his prime.  Instead Telesco found great fits that didn’t cost much and should make the team much better in 2016.

San Diego’s free agency period appears similar to the Washington Redskins’ last year.  Washington finished 12-4 in 2014 then signed a bunch of second-tier free agents.  Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, safety Jeron Johnson, cornerback Chris Culliver, defensive ends Stephen Paea and Ricky Jean Francois, and they traded for safety Dashon Goldson.

None of Washington’s signings broke the proverbial bank and it helped result in an NFC East title.

Could San Diego go worst to first in 2016?

Why not?  They have the best quarterback in the division by far.  A first-round running back returning after his first full offseason.  They have a healthy Keenan Allen coming back alongside a legitimate deep speed threat in Travis Benjamin.  Defensively, Corey Liuget is one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL and the Chargers young corps of linebackers is as good as any.  Now that there is a legitimate cornerback opposite Jason Verrett, there’s no telling how good this defense can be.

Benjamin also will help with special teams as the Chargers had a league low 84 total punt return yards in 2015.  It was the lowest amount in the NFL since 1981.

“Travis is explosive,” said Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy. “He’s a playmaker that brings a different dynamic to our team. He was highly productive last season and his speed will be an asset to our offense. We’re also excited for what he can do as a returner. His speed and overall athleticism will help us in both phases.”

“He’s just so explosive,” echoed quarterback Philip Rivers. “We saw it when we played them (Cleveland) last year. He makes defenses look out because he can run by you in a hurry. He is very versatile and I think he will fit right in as another guy to spread the ball around to. His punt returns are awesome when you watch them, so he will bring a lot to our return game, too.”

Armed with the third-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a high pick in each proceeding round, don’t be surprised if the Chargers are on top of the AFC West in this fall.

Jets Have Leverage In Fitzpatrick Negotiations

The New York Jets currently have Geno Smith, a man who had his jaw busted by a teammate prior to the start of the 2015 season, and second-year quarterback Bryce Petty as their only quarterbacks under contract.

After leading the team to a 10-6 record, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that free agent quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was going to be welcomed back.

After just about a week of free agency, it doesn’t seem like very much of a done deal.

The Jets and Fitzpatrick are reportedly not close to a new contract, and both sides have good reason to be sticklers on what they want.

Fitzpatrick and his agent just witnessed Brock Osweiler, who’s started all of seven games land a four-year, $72 million deal.  They also saw Kirk Cousins help lead the Redskins to nine wins and get franchised, which will pay him nearly $20 million in 2016, and the Eagles granted Sam Bradford a two-year, $36 million deal after a third-place finish.

Sure, Fitz is 32 years old and not 25 and 27 like Osweiler and Cousins respectively, but he is a more accomplished player who led the Jets to the biggest increase in victories by any AFC team last year.  With the kind of money that’s being thrown around to quarterbacks, it’s no wonder that the Harvard graduate wants some tossed his way.

From the Jets perspective, why should they pay Fitzpatrick nearly $20 million per year just because the Texans and Redskins were desperate?

Fitzpatrick has played in as many playoff games as most of you who are reading this, and at 32 years old do we really think that there’s about to be a renaissance in his career?

The value of anything is what someone will pay for it.  With the quarterback market drying up quickly and each team outside of Denver already having a very good idea of who their starter is in 2016, why should New York bid against themselves for Fitzpatrick’s services?

If the Denver Broncos don’t want to sign Fitzpatrick to be their starting quarterback, he has two options: take the Jets offer or become a backup for significantly less money this year.

It appears that the Jets were smart in waiting things out, and now they have almost all the leverage.

Cowboys, 49ers and Patriots Win Compensatory Lottery

The NFL announced the compensatory picks for the 2016 NFL Draft, a total of 33 “extra” selections.  Compensatory picks are given to teams who lose free agents the season before so we can expect the 2017 compensatory lottery to be won by the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers.

Dallas, San Francisco and New England lead the way with four bonus selections in April’s NFL Draft.  As you may or may not know, compensatory picks can not be traded.

Round Round Choice-Overall Selection Team
3 33-95 Detroit
3 34-96 New England
3 35-97 Seattle
3 36-98 Denver
4 33-131 Green Bay
4 34-132 Baltimore
4 35-133 San Francisco
4 36-134 Baltimore
4 37-135 Dallas
4 38-136 Denver
4 39-137 Green Bay
4 40-138 Cleveland
4 41-139 Buffalo
5 33-170 Arizona
5 34-171 Seattle
5 35-172 Cleveland
5 36-173 Cleveland
5 37-174 San Francisco
5 38-175 San Diego
6 33-208 New England
6 34-209 Baltimore
6 35-210 Detroit
6 36-211 San Francisco
6 37-212 Dallas
6 38-213 San Francisco
6 39-214 New England
6 40-215 Seattle
6 41-216 Dallas
6 42-217 Dallas
6 43-218 Buffalo
6 44-219 Denver
6 45-220 Pittsburgh
6 46-221 New England

2015 COMPENSATORY FREE AGENTS

ARIZONA Lost Sam Acho, Antonio Cromartie, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler, Dan Williams
Gained Mike Iupati, Corey Peters, Cory Redding, Sean Weatherspoon
BALTIMORE Lost Owen Daniels, Pernell McPhee, Torrey Smith, Darian Stewart, Tyrod Taylor
Gained Kendrick Lewis
BUFFALO Lost Erik Pears, Da’Norris Searcy, Lee Smith, C.J. Spiller
Gained Tyrod Taylor
CLEVELAND Lost Miles Austin, Jordan Cameron, Brian Hoyer, Ahtyba Rubin, Jabaal Sheard, Buster Skrine
Gained Rob Housler, Tramon Williams
DALLAS Lost Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Dwayne Harris, Henry Melton, DeMarco Murray, Jermey Parnell, George Selvie
Gained Andrew Gachkar, Greg Hardy, Darren McFadden
DENVER Lost Orlando Franklin, Nate Irving, Terrance Knighton, Will Montgomery, Rahim Moore, Jacob Tamme, Julius Thomas
Gained Owen Daniels, Darian Stewart
DETROIT Lost Kellen Davis, Nick Fairley, Garrett Reynolds, Ndamukong Suh
Gained Josh Wilson
GREEN BAY Lost Davon House, Tramon Williams
Gained
NEW ENGLAND Lost Akeem Ayers, Brandon Browner, Jonathan Casillas, Darrelle Revis, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Vince Wilfork
Gained Jabaal Sheard
PITTSBURGH Lost Brice McCain
Gained
SAN DIEGO Lost Andrew Gachkar, Marcus Gilchrist, Ryan Mathews, Eddie Royal
Gained Orlando Franklin, Patrick Robinson, Jimmy Wilson
SAN FRANCISCO Lost Perrish Cox, Michael Crabtree, Chris Culliver, Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Dan Skuta
Gained Erik Pears, Torrey Smith
SEATTLE Lost James Carpenter, Jeron Johnson, Byron Maxwell, O’Brien Schofield, Malcolm Smith
Gained Ahtyba Rubin

TEAMS WITH 2016 COMPENSATORY PICKS

Dallas 4
New England 4
San Francisco 4
Baltimore 3
Cleveland 3
Denver 3
Seattle 3
Buffalo 2
Detroit 2
Green Bay 2
Arizona 1
Pittsburgh 1
San Diego 1
TOTAL 33

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.