8 NFL Free-Agency Moves Sure to Backfire
If you really think about it, there are a number of things about the game of football that are not an exact science.
The NFL draft is certainly one of them, as is the exercise of free agency. A match made in heaven can either be one helluva move or just plain hell.
With roughly 200 players changing teams this offseason, there are liable to be a few missteps. So here are eight instances where things just won’t work out in terms of a free-agent acquisition.
Call them hunches, educated guesses or just solid analysis. The feeling here is that while the intentions might have been good, the results won’t live up to expectations.
However, remember one very important thing here. I would be very happy to be wrong when it comes to all eight of these forecasts. The players are listed in alphabetical order according to the teams they signed with.
Thanks as usual to Pro Football Focus (subscription required) for their strong statistical support. All financial terms mentioned in the piece come courtesy of Spotrac (subscription required) while the depth charts via Ourlads were a major asset as well.
WR Emmanuel Sanders (to Denver Broncos)
When all the negotiating smoke finally cleared, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers, became Emmanuel Sanders, currently of the Denver Broncos.
Sanders will arrive in the Mile High City with 161 catches and 11 touchdowns in four seasons. Of course, Decker totaled 87 grabs and 11 scores in 2013 alone.
Then again, the former Steelers wideout put up solid numbers this past season, finishing second on the team with 67 receptions and six touchdowns, both career highs. But the former third-round pick only averaged 11.0 yards per reception, the worst-such figure of his brief career.
With wideouts Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Andre Caldwell, along with tight end Julius Thomas, the Broncos remain loaded when it comes to pass-catching options. Can Sanders fill the Decker role adequately?
The jury may be out on that move.
DE/OLB Julius Peppers (to Green Bay Packers)
When the news that veteran defensive end Julius Peppers had been released by the Chicago Bears and then joined the Green Bay Packers was first announced, it seemingly drew more positive reviews than negative.
However, a little closer analysis shows that perhaps this might not be the perfect cure for what ails Dom Capers’ defensive unit.
This past season, Green Bay finished 25th overall in total defense, ranking 25th in rushing defense and 24th in passing yards allowed. The Packers totaled 44 sacks but also surrendered 30 touchdown passes while managing only 11 interceptions.
Peppers will enter his 13th season and his career resume is impressive. The eight-time Pro Bowler has totaled 119 sacks as well as a surprising nine interceptions. But he’s spent his career at defensive end and now makes the shift to left outside linebacker in Capers’ scheme. In truth, Peppers could find himself in numerous roles, as explained by Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.
Then again, who will have to do the explaining if Peppers isn’t up to the challenge?
FS Kendrick Lewis (to Houston Texans)
This move was a little perplexing to say the least.
Yes, if you connect the dots you know that free safety Kendrick Lewis played for then-head coach Romeo Crennel while both were with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Of course, Crennel is now the new defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans. The team is looking to rebound from a 2-14 season.
Lewis certainly knows something about that. He was with Crennel in Kansas City when the team won two games in 2012. And he was with Andy Reid when the Chiefs went 11-5 and reached the playoffs in 2013.
Some would say that was despite Lewis, who Pro Football Focus ranked No. 132 among safeties this past season. The four-year pro suffered through a miserable stretch run and really struggled in the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
So is this the right move for the Texans? And how long will Lewis, who signed just a one-year deal with Houston, be around now that the team recently signed former Miami Dolphins free safety Chris Clemons?
DT Earl Mitchell (to Miami Dolphins)
With the numerous free agents on the defensive side of the football for the Miami Dolphins this offseason, there figured to be changes.
But does the addition of defensive tackle Earl Mitchell mean that defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s unit just got better in a very crucial area?
Stopping the run is always important when it comes to the game of football. Stopping the ground games in the AFC East is very vital if you’re going anywhere in the division. While Miami had its problems running the ball this past season, that wasn’t the case for the Buffalo Bills (second), New York Jets (sixth) and New England Patriots (ninth), who all finished in the league’s top 10 in terms of rushing yards.
It’s any wonder that all but the Jets finished in the bottom half of the league in run defense this past season.
Mitchell, along with most of the Houston Texans, had his struggles in 2013 and was less than stout against the run, via Pro Football Focus. Amazingly, the Dolphins ranked 24th versus the run this past season, one notch lower than the Texans (23rd).
Is Mitchell’s arrival an upgrade? He will have to perform better in 2014 than he did this past year.
T Breno Giacomini (to New York Jets)
There’s a lot to be said about familiarity.
A few day after he saw right tackle Austin Howard sign with the Oakland Raiders, New York Jets general manager John Idzik replaced him with someone he knew.
Tackle Breno Giacomini will be wearing a different shade of green in 2014, but he’ll be back in a building he’s very familiar with. The former Seattle Seahawks starter earned a Super Bowl ring with the team this past season when his clubs crushed the Denver Broncos, 43-8, at MetLife Stadium.
Originally a fifth-round draft choice in 2008 by the Green Bay Packers, Giacomini spent the last three seasons with the Seahawks, Idzik's former employer. He’s started all 16 games just once over that span and missed seven games due to injury. His play in Seattle was erratic at best, as clearly shown by Pro Football Focus.
The move to the East Coast puts the veteran blocker a little closer to home, as documented by Dom Cosentino of NJ.com.
While the move to sign the tackle makes sense, it may only have been made to buy some time. With 12 picks in the upcoming draft, the Jets will most certainly address the tackle position. And could they find a young player that fills the bill better than Giacomini? Don’t pencil in the Super Bowl champion as a starter just yet.
FS Malcolm Jenkins (to Philadelphia Eagles)
The Philadelphia Eagles came a long way after a terrible start in 2013. Chip Kelly’s club won seven of its last eight games following a 3-5 start and captured the NFC East.
Although their defense turned opportunistic at the right times, the fact remains that the Birds gave up the most passing yards in the league and surrendered 25 scores through the air.
Which is why, given his play in 2013, the Eagles’ addition of free-agent free safety Malcolm Jenkins from the New Orleans Saints was a little mystifying.
In 2013, Philadelphia attempted to rebuild its entire secondary via free agency. Veteran Kenny Phillips wound up not making the team, and this offseason, the club released free safety Patrick Chung.
Jenkins, a former first-round pick, didn’t have many highlights (via Pro Football Focus) for a Saints team that made a dramatic defensive turnaround from 2012. It will be interesting to see if he can manage his own personal reversal of fortunes in Philadelphia.
CB Chris Cook (to San Francisco 49ers)
Jim Harbaugh and his San Francisco 49ers have been looking to upgrade the cornerback position this offseason.
However, have they found the right man for the job?
A former second-round pick in 2010, cornerback Chris Cook spent four relatively unproductive seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before signing with the Niners this offseason.
The one-time University of Virginia product played in just 34 games with the Vikings, knocked down a total of 13 passes and failed to record an interception in those four seasons.
This past season, Cook played in a career-high 12 games and totaled 47 tackles. But he was also credited with just two passes defensed. Not surprisingly, he received a less-than-scintillating rating from Pro Football Focus.
While this appears to be a low-risk move given the one-year deal, the release of veteran Carlos Rogers and the free-agent departure of Tarell Brown to the Oakland Raiders leaves San Francisco a little thin at the position.
Now add in the uncertainty surrounding cornerback Chris Culliver and his recent issues, as reported of by Eric Kurhi and Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News.
Unless Cook has a reversal of fortunes when it comes to his on-the-field performance, the Niners may suddenly find themselves backed into a bit of a corner.
WR Andre Roberts (to Washington Redskins)
It was perhaps not one of the first names you expected to hear the first few days of free agency.
Welcome to Washington, Mr. Roberts.
In four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, wide receiver Andre Roberts played in 62 games, catching 182 passes for 2,123 yards and only 11 scores. In 2013, he totaled 43 receptions for 471 yards and two touchdowns.
The less-than-imposing touchdown total is certainly understandable considering the four-year pro spent his career playing on the same team with Larry Fitzgerald, one of the all-time leaders when it comes to scoring receptions.
A former starter with the Cards from 2011-12, Roberts (who signed a four-year contract with the Redskins in March) will now be paired alongside Pierre Garcon, who led the NFL with 113 catches this past season.
Veteran Santana Moss remains with the club and Washington has young wideouts such as Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson.
The team also has a new head coach (Jay Gruden), new offensive coordinator (Sean McVay) and a recovering quarterback in Robert Griffin III.
The addition of Roberts seemed like a bit of a reach. And it will be interesting to see if he puts up starter-like numbers in his first season with the club…interesting indeed.