Every March, we get to see a certain amount of craziness in the first wave with certain players getting ridiculous regrettable contracts, players getting cut to save cap space and some players slipping under the radar and becoming steals. Yet it not that often that we see trades, let alone blockbuster ones at this time of year with teams being more interested in free agency and the upcoming draft than in exploring trades. Then from last Tuesday, everything changed when Chip Kelly started to go crazy and traded 2 time All-Pro RB LeSean McCoy for Bills LB Kiko Alonso. Then we saw more craziness as the Brandon Marshall was traded to the Jets who also cut Percy Harvin. Now I’m going to try and sort through the madness and for the simplicity sake I’m going to sort it into five categories; Trades, Browns moves, cuts, retirements, free agency and best free agents remaining, with each one being published on consecutive days.
- The main one that shocked people and really set the ball rolling was the one of LeSean McCoy to the Bills for Kiko Alonso. Obviously McCoy is an immense talent being a two time All-Pro who has gone over 1300 yards three times in his six year career but with a $10 million cap hit next and already having six years on the clock and being a free agent next year it is understandable but still quite surprising that he was traded from the Eagles. I must admit I’m a fan of Kiko Alonso from his rookie year and that he is really nice consolation for the Eagles, I would still be worried about his health and whether it could have any long term effects on his health. From a Bills point of view it has got to be a home run trade to help kick start the Rex Ryan era in Buffalo. From his days in New York, we know that Ryan always had good defences regardless of good or bad the players at his disposal were but lack the offensive talent to match on the other side. I mean when Mark Sanchez was your best player you know you have a bit of problem. With McCoy the Bills get a franchise running back to go along with the veteran Fred Jackson who will take the pressure off of a passing attack that relied on rookie WR Sammie Watkins last year. The Bills also wrapped up McCoy for another five years with a five year, $40 million dollar contract. Alonso was a massive loss after the Bills signed Brandon Spikes and moved Alonso from middle linebacker to weak side linebacker.
- The Bills then went out and further solidified their offense by trading for veteran QB Matt Cassel sending a 2015 5th round pick and a 2016 7th round pick to Minnesota in exchange for Cassel and a 2015 6th round pick. While Cassel is hardly the ideal situation for an offense he is still an upgrade of EJ Manuel and will give the Bills some invaluable veteran savvy while also helping to teach Manuel. This could well be Cassel last stop if everything goes right and he manages to lock down the starting role permanently.
- Then out of the blue the Bears decided to trade Brandon Marshall to the Jets for pretty much nothing in return. The deal was that the Bears sent Marshall and a 2015 7th round pick to the Jets in exchange for a 5th round pick. While Marshall did have his worst year since his rookie season last year and failing to break the 1000 yard for the first time in 7 seasons he still has plenty to contribute. With Chicago cleaning house during the offseason with John Fox replacing Marc Trestmann and Marshall known as a bit of a locker room distraction and his $7.5 million cap figure, it is understandable but still surprising none the less. With Marshall’s arrival the Jets can push Eric Decker to his more natural position WR2 and have a true number one receiver to lean on.
- Then if the Marshall and McCoy were surprising I don’t if there is a word that can describe the trade of Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks. Less than 12 months ago the Saints made Graham one of the faces of their franchises along with Drew Brees giving him a 4 year, $40 million dollar deal. Yet when Seattle came calling they weren’t all that reluctant to part with him exchanging him along with a 4th round pick for former All Pro centre Max Unger and 2015 1st round pick (31st). Don’t get me wrong Unger is a fantastic player and provided they can get even a starter with the pick then this is a fair trade but it most have been a real difficult one to feel good about. Graham is just a frankly ridiculous player at 6-7 with 4.5 40 speed with the ability to line up anywhere on the pitch. With him the Seahawks get the best tight end in the game and a legitimate down field threat. With a target of his size it is safe to say that Richardo Lockette won’t be getting any screens in the Redzone next season. With Graham and his ability the Seahawks would have to be preseason favourites to be hoisting the Lombardi trophy at the end of the year.
- With Ndamukong Suh signing his six year, $114 million dollar (more on that tomorrow) and Nick Fairley being a free agent, the Detroit Lions defensive front went from being their best unit to being one of their worst, that is until they went out and traded for 5 time All-Pro Haloti Ngata. Ngata has long been considered one of the best NTs in the league and with the Lions he has every opportunity to succeed with talented young players like Ezekiel Ansah. From a Ravens perspective, contract talks were apparently going nowhere and it is a big relief to get his $16 million cap figure off the books and still get some value back in the form of 2015 4th and 5th round picks. For Detroit, restructuring and extending Ngata’s contract is a must with the massive cap number. The only real worries about Ngata are his age and the looming 4 game Adderall suspension.
- That wasn’t the end of it though with Chip Kelly continuing to clean house sending Nick Foles, a 2015 4th round pick and a 2016 2nd round pick for Sam Bradford and a 2015 5th round pick. While Sam Bradford is clearly a great talent and a possible franchise QB if he can stay healthy and has all the skills to excel in Chip Kelly’s spread scheme but my big problem for me is that health part. Out of 80 possible starts, Bradford has only started 49 games (61%) and for that he has been paid $65 million and didn’t play at all last season. Although Kelly’s medical staff is renowned for its innovative approach and their ability to keep players on the field they could have bitten off more that they could chew with Bradford whose injury problems go all the ways back to college when he injured his throwing shoulder in his junior year and was a risk when the Rams decided to take him #1 overall. In Foles, the Rams get a player who a serious potential but needs to become more consistent than he was last year. We got a good glimpse of what Foles could be in 2013 when he threw 19 TDs to only 2INTs after taking over from Michael Vick after he went down injured. Another problem for though is what Philly had to give up to go and get Bradford. Bradford, as talented as he is, is not worth Foles, a 2nd and 4th rounder, especially when you consider he only lead the Rams to only 18 wins in his 49 starts (37%).
- Miami who had already been busy in signing Suh, went ahead and took advantage of the Saint’s cap problem and got Kenny Stills in exchange for Dannell Ellerbe and a 3rd round pick. Ellerbe who was injured for of this season and was a disappointment in general since he signed was going to be cut anyway by the Dolphins if no takers were found so being able to get a playmaker like Stills on a cap friendly rookie salary for essentially a 3rd round pick is an absolute steal. While from a New Orleans perspective it’s a bit of a head scratcher as the gave a potential star in Kenny Stills for a an aging linebacker who the probably could have gotten in free agency and a third pick where they aren’t guaranteed by any means to find someone as good as Stills. After the Saints two trades they do have and impressive 5 picks in the top 100 (two 1sts, a 2nd and two 3rds). From a Dolphins point of view it was merely the lead to their big trade of the day.
- Mike Wallace, the most prized free agent of the 2013 free agent market is gone from Miami after only two years. Wallace was shipped along with a 7th round pick to the Vikings in exchange for a 5th round before a $3 million roster bonus would have been paid this weekend. Wallace didn’t really succeed at all in Miami with him and Fins QB Ryan Tannehill not really suiting each other’s games. Wallace is a pure speed guy who can take the top of any defence whereas Tannehill’s biggest struggle is the deep ball so it was never going to be an ideal match. Wallace will go to the Vikings who were big fans of him back in 2013, so much so that they offered him $16 million more than he ended up taking from the Dolphins. Wallace will be a match made in heaven with Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater allowing him of options down the field where is sure to see a ton of man coverage if Adrian Peterson does return and play for the Vikings this season. The big loser in all of this might be Greg Jennings with his $8.9 million cap number who could a casualty.
- Other lesser trades of note include that of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the Jets from the Texans for a 7th round pick. Fitzpatrick will likely be able to outperform Geno Smith in camp and will probably be the Jets starter next season. The Texans also trade away backup Case Keenum to the Rams for a 7th round pick where he’ll probably be a 2nd or 3rd stringer. One weird quirk of free agency was the Texans having 5 QBs on their roster for a day after signing former Brown Brian Hoyer. The Saints also traded guard Ben Grubbs to the Chiefs in exchange for a 5th round pick this year in more cap saving measures.Tomorrow, Browns news.