Wide-Outs Ready to Fly
With the latter stages of free agency settling in, we are beginning to get the vaguest of ideas of what the NFL landscape will look like in the coming season. Teams have spent big on risky additions, and if you’re Bill Bellichick, you’ve used the power of the Dark Side to manipulate your enemies into basically wanting to help you build your powerhouse even larger.
Though the draft is still weeks away, one position group that saw some interesting movement was wide-receiver. Some teams were able to bolster an already talented group, potentially putting them over the edge, while others were able to make the leap from lifeless salt-flat to a lush green paradise.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Over the Top: New York Giants
Brandon Marshall was one of the earliest signings this off-season due to the fact he was released by the Jets, and therefore not bound by the restrictions of the free agency signing period. Over a period of two seasons in Gotham, he compiled 2,290 yards on 168 receptions for 17 touchdowns. After topping the 1,000+ yard mark his first year there, the bottom fell out on journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and his production dipped significantly because of it.
Marshall, who also has a contract for his sports-talk spot on SHO, didn’t stray far from his old team in New York, signing with the cross-hallway rival Giants, where he will join star pass-catcher and enemy of kicking nets everywhere Odell Beckham Jr, and promising second year player Sterling Shepard. Marshall has stated publically since the announcement that Odell is entrenched as the team’s number one guy, while he plans to step into the number two spot. Shepard is slated as the number three, giving Big Blue a potential three-headed dragon of weapons for Eli Manning to throw to.
The Giants organization once said it was their goal to score at least 30 points a game, and that is looking especially possible with the addition of Marshall. After their defensive spending spree last offseason paid off when they finished ranked number ten overall, this looks like a team poised to make a deep run in the post season. Now, if they could just find a running back. AP anyone?
0 to 100 Real Quick: Philadelphia Eagles
Rookie Carson Wentz was able to compile some nice tape after being thrust into the starter role for Philadelphia last season following the trade of Sam Bradford. Still, he struggled through the middle of the season, and ended the year having thrown 16 TD’s to 14 interceptions. His top targets through the year were Jordan Matthews, and Tennessee cast-off Dorial Green-Beckham.
General Manager Howie Roseman knew getting his young passer some more weapons this off-season was a must if his development were to continue properly. So he went out and got former 1000+ plus yard receiver Torrey Smith from San Francisco, and certified (though oft-injured) number one guy Alshon Jeffrey.
Smith didn’t do much on the West-Coast, dealing with a dismal cast of signal-callers. Now, he gives Wentz a real deep-threat who can take the top off a defense. Jeffrey, meanwhile, is a big bodied pass catcher who can be impossible to cover in the red zone, while also flashing the ability to beat you deep. As long as he stays on the field, he should outplay the one year deal given to him in-route to cashing in.
I Think I Feel a Pulse: The Cleveland Browns
Saying anything good about the occupants of the now-coined ‘Factory of Sadness’ is potential career suicide for any kind of aspiring sports journalist. I crossed that threshold long ago. So therefore, I have no shame in writing these next few paragraphs.
Though the departure of Terrell Pryor may have blind-sided many Browns fans who thought they had found the first cornerstone to their franchise’s rebuild, it shouldn’t spell doom for the Dawg Pound. Kenny Britt brings a wealth of experience having played 6+ seasons in the NFL now, first with the Titans, then most recently with the Rams. Meanwhile, 2016 first-round pick Corey Coleman should continue his development while creating a pivotal role for himself in the offense.
The Browns spent four draft picks last year on wide receivers, and we should definitely see the return of at least two of them (Coleman being one). While Coleman batted injuries throughout his rookie season, fellow rookie Ricardo Louis was able to make his own small impact, compiling a total of 205 yards on 18 receptions. Other rookies Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton totaled 77 and 3 yards respectively, and may be long shots to make the roster next season.
If Kenny Britt works out and the Browns can properly develop their young pass catchers, there might actually be some hope on the horizon for the shores of Lake Erie.
One Last Piece to the Puzzle?
As per usual, the 4pm starting time for NFL free agency is more of an ambiguous guideline. As I’m sitting down on my filthy, college-house couch to write this, it’s a few minutes past 1pm, and my phone has been blowing up since yesterday with ESPN updates (da-na-na! da-na-na!)
Knowing completely that the landscape of the league could change within the next few hours, I had to give some thought as to what I could write about that wouldn’t be rendered completely pointless after one or two big moves. So I went with what jumped out to me first and foremost, and that is the early free agency activity of some of last season’s bottom of the barrel finishers.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the early action of:
The Cleveland Browns:
So far, the possessors of the number one overall pick have shown the ability to wield their checkbook and make three seemingly progressive moves thus far. The hapless stars of BELIEVEland have managed to sign WR Kenny Britt, who is coming off a 1,000 yard season with the Rams, and Center JC Tretter, who despite a laundry list of injuries played well for the Packers whenever he saw the field. They were also able to reach a contract extension with Guard Joel Bitonio. The current status of Terrell Pryor and where he stands in negations are currently unknown, but the Browns have not kept it a secret they would love to have him back.
The Browns were able to ink a known deep threat in Britt at a cost of 32 million dollars over four years. The signing of the former Rams/Titans wide-out makes sense for an organization that is currently in rebuild mode. Britt, though still only 28, can bring some veteran leadership to a locker room that other than Pryor, is relying on a lot of young talent in players such as 2016 first round pick Corey Coleman, and fellow second year players Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton, and Ricardo Louis. If the Browns are able to retain Pryor, the Dawg Pound may have a little bit more to celebrate about in 2017.
The incoming JC Tretter, meanwhile, gives the Browns the ability to perhaps salvage the career of former first-round pick Cam Erving. Erving has been much, MUCH less than stellar playing the Center position. The experience of Tretter will make it easier to slide him over to guard, where he may be a more suitable run-blocker. On the flip-side, Tretter does come with his own baggage. Battling a litany of injuries since his rookie year, he only started a total of 10 games for the Packers out of a possible 33, though it must be noted he played very well whenever he did. If he can suddenly become more reliable for the Browns than he was for Green Bay, then there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be a bargain deal.
Update: Browns have signed former Bengals Guard Kevin Zeitler to a five year deal, further strengthening the O-line. Could they be gearing up to protect a new quarterback?
Update: Oh, god damn. The Browns have acquired Texans QB Brock Osweiler, his monster contract, a 2018 second round pick, and 2017 sixth round pick from the Texans in exchange for a fourth rounder this year.
The Jacksonville Jaguars
Yeah, yeah, people are saying THIS is the offseason the Jags get it right. Finally, ALL the pieces are falling into place. However, this does has a teeny, tiiiiiiiiny chance of ACTUALLY being the year.
The Jags were able to snag (hey! That rhymes!) Safety Barry Church and Defensive End Calais Campbell, bolstering a defense that finished 29th overall last year. Campbell brings a horrifyingly physical pass rush that they were lacking all last season, while Church brings a reliable veteran presence who can make tackles in the open field.
Church suffered a torn Achilles early in his career, but was able to start every game for the Cowboys from 2013-2016. He’s tough, and he can get physical when defending the pass. Meanwhile, Campbell had 8 sacks, and 53 combined tackles last year as a leader of the Cardinals defense. Joining him with Fowler Jr. and Malik Jackson can make for a potential fire storm for opposing offensive lines.
Update: The Jaguars are expected to sign former Texans Cornerback A.J Bouye. This should make for an interesting pairing on the outside with Jaylen Ramsey.
The San Francisco 49ers
Settle down, I’m not about to call Brian Hoyer the savior of San Fran. But, it’s at least a start. Hoyer has been a serviceable starter for the last three teams he’s played for. In fact, he posted a total record of 10-6 playing for the Cleveland Browns. Imagine that!
Last year, he threw for six TD’s and no interceptions while stepping in for an injured Jay Cutler on the Bears. Despite there being talk of him remaining in Chicago after the Bears eventually cut Cutler, he ultimately decided to follow former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to the Bay Area, who might be able to coax the best out of him the way he did in Cleveland, while also having the opportunity for a week one start.
Then, there’s Pierre Garcon, who’s leaving the sinking ship in Washington for a franchise that’s hoping for a resurgence. Garcon finished last season with 1,041 yards and 3 TD’s as one of Cousins’ favorite targets. With Desean Jackson heading to Tampa Bay, Garcon set out to find his own pot of gold. Typically known as a ‘possession receiver’, Garcon showed he could flash his speed last season finishing with an average 13.2 yards per catch. If he and Hoyer can develop a quick connection, we have the potential to see a much more efficient offensive attack in San Francisco.
Also worth noting, rumors are still swirling about a possible Cousins to San Fran trade either this year or next. A Cousins/Garcon reunion might be the exact formula they need for a quick turnaround.
Honorable Mention: Chicago Bears: Quentin Demps, Mike Glennon.
In Search of Greener Pastures
In the past few days, reports have swirled around the name Mike Glennon. Recently, it was brought to light how the Buccaneers had offered the NC State product a contract which would have made him the highest paid back up in the league, beating out Philadelphia’s Chase Daniel. But, with him expected to command a salary of anywhere between 12 and 15 million dollars annually, it’s no surprise that he’s opting to test the market.
The most likely landing destinations for Glennon discussed so far have been Chicago and the Jets. However, there’s the matter of two guys named Jimmy Garropolo and Tyrod Taylor. If the Bears are able to swing a trade for Jimmy G, as has been reported to be of great interest to them, that would give the Jets leverage of being one of the most attractive destinations for a QB hoping to start, and two qualified passers to choose from. The odd man out in Gotham might just find himself coming down the aisle for the Cleveland Browns next season (oh no!).
Let’s take a closer look at Chicago: Reports have surfaced suggesting that Glennon’s preferred landing spot is with the Bears, where the roster is still looking to rebuild from the ashes of the Jay Cutler ear. There, Glennon would have the opportunity to work with an offensive mastermind in John Fox, and by the way the stars seem to be aligning right now, possibly Alshon Jeffrey. But, it’s also no secret the Bears would love to get their hands on Jimmy G.
Nothing short of a first-round pick is expected to pry the Eastern Illinois product away from the clutches of Bill Belichick. Which is exactly why Glennon shouldn’t wait for a Brock Osweiler type pay-day. The closer we get to draft day and the longer the Bears are left without an answer under center, the more likely they are to possibly panic and send a king’s ransom to Foxborough for the stud-back up. AJ McCarron (Bengals) is also a possibility, though not as likely.
Then there’s the Jets. Gang-green is in the middle of what is for all intents and purposes a re-build, despite the denial of such an idea by head coach Todd Bowels. With Fitz-Magic being extinguished in the Big Apple and Geno Smith being a complete afterthought of the forgotten Rex Ryan years, the Jets are down to two passers under contract. There’s Bryce Petty, who showed limited starting ability though with brief flashes of brilliance, and Christian Hackenberg, who might still be grasping the idea of his locker combo, never mind an NFL playbook.
Glennon would be an instant upgrade over either of those options, but the cost is what should make them hesitate. The Jets would have to shell out a good deal more guaranteed money to convince him to turn down a deal in Chicago (assuming the Jimmy G deal doesn’t go through), and they could use that money to fill any other number of holes on both sides of the ball. Then again, if they believe Glennon could really be ‘the guy’, any price shouldn’t be too steep. However, I’m just not sure they, or anyone, could believe that.
Both teams should be weary about throwing too much money at above-average backups anyway. Though there's always pressure on coaches and front offices to get a solution now, they shouldn't under-estimate their ability to bridge their organizations into a time when more qualified signal callers might be available, either through the draft or free agency. College quarterbacks such as USC's Sam Darnold and UCLA's Josh Rosen are expected to be quality options next April, and hey, there's sure to be Sam Bradford!
We should have a better idea of where Jameis Winston’s former back up is heading in the next few days. The Bills still need to decide what to do with Tyrod Taylor, and then there’s Tony Romo. If Taylor stays put in Buffalo, Glennon shouldn’t have any trouble fetching big money. However, if Taylor hits the market, he would almost certainly top Glennon on any GM’s list.
Free agency begins this Thursday, March 9th. And me being me, I can’t help but focus on the quarterbacks destined (or rumored) to hit the market. There are so many little things that can happen to force the falling of dominoes that eventually leads to the dust settling at the start of training camp. So let’s begin by taking a look at:
The Tony Romo Sweepstakes.
Romo is one of the most intriguing signal-callers to hit the open market in years. He’s a Pro Bowl caliber passer with the accuracy to hit a bed pan from 50 yards out. The only problem is, you guessed it, staying healthy. Who’s going to commit serious money to a guy who hasn’t played a full season since before Teddy Bridgewater’s leg didn’t look like a string of sausages?
An argument can be made here for the Texans, but the presence and contract of Brock Osweiler could stand to be a distraction. The best case scenario would be the Broncos, but, even if the two sides were able to reach a deal that even Elway was comfortable with, this option still has its obstacles.
The Broncos for one have the ‘problem’ of having two young, high-ceilinged QB’s in Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch on the roster already. Last year, Siemian proved himself to be a capable starter, when he went 8-6 on the season, eclipsing the 3,000 yard mark. He totaled 3,401 yards, with 18 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, for a total rating of 84.9
Lynch, meanwhile, was respectable in his two rookie-year starts, going 1-1, throwing two touchdowns and one pick. And even though the rookie was able to display the physical traits that made the Broncos use a first round selection on him, such as his big arm and ability to use his legs, it was obvious he still had a lot to learn in terms of his progressions and field vision.
If the Broncos think moving on from Siemian and allowing Lynch to learn behind a proven leader and winner such as Romo would be best, then perhaps a possible trade with another quarterback needy team could be a viable option. Someone like the Bills, who have obviously not fallen in love with current starter Tyrod Taylor, who come March 9th, stands to make $27.5 million in guaranteed money on a 6-year deal.
If the Bills decide Taylor isn’t worth the money, Sending a late round pick to Denver for Siemian, who is still working on a very manageable rookie deal after being selected in by the Broncos in the seventh round, could definitely be in the cards. Whaley and the Pegula could wait and see if Siemian builds on his solid rookie campaign, while allowing last year’s fourth-round draft pick Cardale Jones to develop.
Check back later for more quarterback market analysis.
Connect With Us on Facebook and Twitter!
Penguin Tundra Sports Blog was created in 2016 by a very bored college student who was obsessed with Rugby and Football. That same college student knew how to write pseudo-intelligently, so what better way to show off than to create a blog. Along your journey though the Tundra's domain, you may come across outlandish opinions, horrible spelling errors, and some shit that is just outright wrong. Well then, you should comment, give my blog more attention, and we will have our day in internet court. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy talking about sports as much as I do.
Logo Typography Credit: PhotoBucket