Free Agency Diary

Actual Winners and Losers of 2015’s NFL Free Agency

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Sometimes the winners of free agency aren’t who you think they are.  Where teams like the Raiders, Giants and Jaguars are being lauded for last week’s signings, teams that don’t make the biggest splashes can prove to be just as, if not more effective.

The Miami Dolphins received all the kudos for 2015’s big signings, but it didn’t work out that well for the team, who had to fire two head coaches.  We’re going to recap some of the winners and losers from last year.

Winners

Arizona Cardinals – Sometimes you have to take risk in order to be successful, which is exactly what Arizona did by signing guard Mike Lupati to a five-year, $40 million dollar deal.

The risk paid off as Lupati made his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl by helping Arizona finish eighth in rushing and second in passing.

As the Cardinals look to get over the hump, they’ll need to make some tweaks on the other side of the ball.

New York Jets – New York was one win away from reaching the postseason for the first time since 2010, but they weren’t able to defeat former head coach Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills in week 17.

However, the Jets showed great signs of life on both sides of the ball. While Fitzpatrick wasn’t a free agent pickup, getting him via trade from Houston paid off major dividends, as he rattled off the best season of his 12-year career.

Not to mention, the Jets also traded for Brandon Marshall during the free agency period a year ago and he caught 109 balls to go along with over 1,500 yards and a career best 14 touchdowns.

After winning a Super Bowl in New England, Darrelle Revis elected to go back to New York and the 30-year-old showed why he’s still one of the best cornerbacks in the world.

Revis snatched down five interceptions this past season, which was his highest total in a season since 2009.

Green Bay Packers – Whenever free agency comes around, Packers fans don’t expect much, if anything at all.

For years now, it’s been the Packer way to build through homegrown talent and while that was the case in 2015, general manager Ted Thompson did a great job of retaining two key pieces.

Wide receiver Randall Cobb and offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga were set to hit the open market, but not only did they re-sign with Green Bay, they took discounts, which just doesn’t happen anymore.

With Jordy Nelson being out for the season, the re-signing of Cobb became even bigger.

Losers

San Francisco 49ers – Where do I start?

Last year, San Francisco had one of the worst off-seasons in NFL history. We’ve seen teams lose keys guys to free agency before, but it was more than that in the Bay Area.

Former head coach Jim Harbaugh bolted to Michigan, while offensive tackle Anthony Davis and linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland retired out of nowhere. Oh yeah, Justin Smith retired as well, but his announcement wasn’t as big of a surprise.

Frank Gore and the aforementioned Mike Lupati both left via free agency and to add salt to the wound, Michael Crabtree went across the bridge to Oakland to revive his career.

Crabtree caught 85 passes for 922 yards to go along with nine touchdowns.

Finally, the team was forced to waive Aldon Smith after his fifth arrest in training camp.

Cleveland Browns – It seems like every year the Browns could be on this list, which is a major reason why this franchise hasn’t experienced success in what seems like forever.

In what could be considered a desperate move, Cleveland overpaid for Josh McCown, who many felt was lucky to get another opportunity as a starting quarterback.

Cleveland wasn’t done wasting money as they threw away millions of dollars on wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who only caught five passes this past season.

Miami Dolphins – This one starts and ends with Ndamukong Suh.

Miami made Suh the highest paid defensive player ever after signing him to a $114 million deal. Needless to say, Suh fell very short of expectations in his first year in South Florida.

Suh appeared in all 16 games and he only totaled six sacks. Clearly things could change in year two, but considering the amount of money Miami has invested in the four-time Pro Bowler, they’ll need a complete 360 from him this upcoming season.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.