NFL’s March Madness

By Matt Case 03/24/15

Now two weeks into NFL Free Agency, most teams have been able to grab somebody to add to their roster for the 2016 season. We are still over four months from training camp before we get to see how these new players fare in new uniforms, but here is a look at all 32 teams’ biggest pickup this offseason. 

1.     Arizona Cardinals (13-3): DE/OLB Chandler Jones – 4yr, $8.2 million 

Jones put up career number for the Patriots last season with 12.5 sacks and four deflected passes. He joins a defense that allowed an average of less than 20 points per game, but ranked 20th in sacks. Since the Cardinals haven’t lost any defensive ends or outside linebackers, Jones is an addition, not a replacement.

2.     Atlanta Falcons (8-8): C Alex Mack – 5yr, $45 million

Goodbye Gino Gradkowski, hello Alex Mack. After just one year in Atlanta, Gradkowski is leaving the team but staying the division to join the NFC champions Carolina Panthers, so center was the main concern for Matt Ryan and the Falcons. And they picked up the best center on the market and possibly all of football for next year and signed the 30-year to five-year deal, making him the third highest paid center in the league.  

3.     Baltimore Ravens (5-11): FS Eric Weddle – 4yr, $26 million

The three-time Pro Bowler Eric Weddle is headed to last season’s tenth best passing defense in Baltimore, after spending the first nine years of his career with San Diego with three playoff wins and none since 2008. 2015 was also the first time Weddle did not get an interception. If the Ravens do not sign strong safety Will Hill, last year’s free safety Kendrick Lewis could fill his spot and give Weddle the starting gig at FS. 

4.     Buffalo Bills (8-8): No Signings

Believe it or not the Buffalo Bills have yet to sign a free agent so far. They have about $7.5 million in cap space, but have only re-signed tackle Cordy Glenn, and guard Richie Incognito. They also lost Mario Williams to AFC East foe Miami Dolphins, and have yet to resign Percy Harvin. 

5.     Carolina Panthers (15-1): C Gino Gradkowski – 3yr, $3.2 million 

Fortunately for Carolina, their backup punter is the only player who has signed with another team. They resigned Charles Johnson and fullback Mike Tolbert. Gradkowski is by no means a top player, but as a former starter he is a solid backup to long-time Panther Ryan Kalil.

6.     Chicago Bears (6-10): LB Danny Trevathan – 4yr, $24.5 million

The Chicago Bears gave up over 120 yards on the ground last season. They hope that number will be smaller in 2016 with the signing of Trevathan, who can play both inside and outside positions. Playing opposite Von Miller, Trevathan was part of the monster Denver defense that nearly won the Super Bowl by itself. Trevathan had 73 tackles last year, and picked off two passes. 

7.     Cincinnati Bengals (12-4): SS Taylor Mays – Contract not reach yet

Mays is on here for the Bengals because he is their only signing at this point. They already resigned George Iloka, with Derron Smith behind him at strong safety, but Mays might sneak into a backup position at free if a deal is not made with Reggie Nelson, and Shawn Williams gets the starting role. 

8.     Cleveland Browns (3-13): FS Rahim Moore – 1yr, $1.9 million

With the loss of Tashaun Gipson, Moore joins a Browns defensive back unit that earned only 11 picks during the season. With that said, the defensive line didn’t help much with pressure on the quarterback, because the talent of cornerbacks Joe Haden and Tramon Williams with strong safety Donte Whitner is certainly there, and Moore will definitely be a solid addition downfield. 

9.     Dallas Cowboys (4-12): RB Alfred Morris – 2yr, $3.5 million

The Cowboys’ season was a mess last year with injuries to Romo, Bryant, and others. The light in this tunnel was Darren McFadden, who managed to squeeze out a thousand-yard season. Morris ran for over a thousand yards in his first three seasons, before earning only 751 in 2015. He has never missed a game though, and could compete with McFadden for a starting job, or do solid work in the two-back system. 

10.  Denver Broncos (12-4): T Russell Okung – 5yr, $53 million

For the most part, Denver has seen its free agents fly out the window in players like Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan, and Brock Osweiler. However, after losing to them in the Super Bowl three years ago, former Seahawk Russell Okung is headed to the mile high city. The Broncos offensive line gave up 39 sacks among Manning and Osweiler, so they were able to grab someone who could protect their new QB from the left side. The Orange Crush also lost tackle Ryan Harris from the right side. 

11.  Detroit Lions (7-9): WR Marvin Jones – 5yr, $40 million

The Lions needed to find a replacement for Calvin Johnson fast, and while he isn’t the 6-foot-5, 230-pound athlete of Megatron, Marvin Jones does have experience. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder was targeted over 100 times with Cincinnati last season, eventually catching 65 for 816 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jones also joins Golden Tate and tight end Eric Ebron as weapons for Matthew Stafford. 

12.  Green Bay Packers (10-6): No Signings

Green Bay have over $13.5 million in cap space to work with, and so far have resigned OLB Nick Perry and RB James Starks. CB Casey Hayward has gone to San Diego, DT B.J. Raji retired, and OLB Mike Neal is looking elsewhere. The Packers also said they will not resign 31-year-old wide receiver James Jones, to look for younger talent. 


13.  Houston Texans (9-7): RB Lamar Miller (4yr, $26 million) and QB Brock Osweiler (4yr, $72 million)

Houston went deep into Free Agency to grab two top 15 players. They decided not to resign the good but unreliable Arian Foster, and instead signed Miller who rushed for 872 yards and scored 8 touchdowns – he is now the sixth highest paid running back in the NFL. 

Then they picked up Osweiler who essentially saved the Broncos season by leading them to the playoffs when Manning went down and then watched from the sideline as Peyton came back and won Super Bowl 50 under center. Osweiler went 5-2 as the starting QB, throwing 227 yards per game, 10 TDs, and 6 interceptions. Having played under Manning for his first four years, the 6-foot-7 quarterback will get his first starting gig with the Texans. He will also be the 14th highest paid player at his position.   

14.  Indianapolis Colts (8-8): QB Scott Tolzien – 2yr, $3.5 million

The Colts have signed a quarterback, and have currently left two unsigned. Now with two on their roster, they’ll most likely grab one more in either Josh Freeman or Charlie Whitehurst. The 28-year-old Tolzien has only started two games in his career, and three only one pass after coming in for Aaron Rodgers in the Cardinals’ 38-8 smoldering of the Packers in week 16 last year. He will most likely be the third stringer. 

15.  Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): DE Malik Jackson – 5yr, $85 million

The Jacksonville Jaguars have had the second highest amount of cap space this offseason and have not been afraid to use it. In addition to Jackson, they have signed CB Prince Amukamara, RB Chris Ivory, tackle Kelvin Beachum, and FS Tashaun Gipson. The Jacksonville defense ranked 20th last season with 36 sacks and 29th in pass defense. They hope Jackson, who had 34 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 7 deflected passes and 2 fumbles recoveries for Denver last year, will put pressure on the quarterback. Jackson’s salary is second only to J.J. Watt in defensive ends.   

16.  Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): T Mitchell Schwartz – 5yr, $33 million

Tackle Donald Stephenson went the Broncos, so the Chiefs picked up Mitchell Schwartz from the Browns. Used to playing right tackle, Mitchell will probably move to left, opposite of Eric Fisher. The 300-pounder has not missed a game in his NFL career, and even recovered two fumbles last season. 

17.  Los Angeles Rams (7-9): CB Coty Sensabaugh – 3yr, $15 million

To replace Janoris Jenkins, who signed with the Giants, the Rams signed former Titan Coty Sensabaugh and made him their highest paid d-back. In his fourth year in the league, Jenkins earned his first and second career interception which included a touchdown, eight deflected passes, and 42 tackles. For St. Louis, he will play opposite Trumaine Johnson, on a team that ranked tenth in passing yards allowed. 

18.  Miami Dolphins (6-10): DE Mario Williams – 2yr, $17 million 

Miami has spent the second most on defensive players. Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Dion Jordan, and Mario Williams are among the top ten highest paid Dolphins. With Oliver Vernon headed to the Giants, the Dolphins were quick to grab Williams, a four-time Pro Bowler with 96 career sacks. 38 of his takedowns came in his first three years in Buffalo, before earning only five last season in 15 games, with no deflections or forced fumbles – he has 21 and 16 in his 10-year career. The Dolphins were 25th in sacks last year. 

19.  Minnesota Vikings (11-5): G Alex Boone – 4yr, $26.8 million

Alex Boone is moving from a team that ranked 31st with 53 sacks allowed, to a team that allowed 45. It’s not much of a difference, but maybe could fit better with the up-and-coming Vikings. Boone is joining tackle Matt Kalil on the left side to try and protect the young Teddy Bridgewater. 

20.  New England Patriots (12-4): DE Chris Long – 1yr, $2 million. 

Long has struggled his last two seasons, which is why he is only getting a one year deal, but his performance for three seasons before that is why he will still be a starter in New England, and because the Patriots need a replacement for Chandler Jones. 2011-2013, Long put up 33 sacks with the Rams, but due to injury he started only 11 games between 2014 and 2015, bringing down the QB four times. At 30 years old, Long might still have time to do some damage with New England, whose defensive line could be a force with Rob Ninkovich playing opposite Long.  

21.  New Orleans Saints (7-9): TE Coby Fleener – 5yr, $36 million

Benjamin Watson was solid tight end, and replacement for Jimmy Graham, for the Saints last year. But no he’s off to Baltimore, and New Orleans has brought in Fleener. Fleener went to college and played the first four years of his career with Andrew Luck. He’s racked up 2,154 yards and 17 touchdowns in Indy so he’s used to catching passes from a franchise quarterback. 2016 will be the first year Fleener’s starting role is solidified, without having to battle someone like Dwayne Allen or play in a two tight end system. 

22.  New York Giants (6-10): DE Olivier Vernon – 5yr, $85 million

The Giants have put all their offseason effort into defense. In addition to Vernon, they’ve signed CB Janoris Jenkins, and nose tackle Damon Harrison. The Giants have been struggling on defense, especially with pressure on the quarterback. Jason Pierre-Paul was resigned to a one-year deal and Robert Ayers is gone so it looks like JPP and Vernon will be the two d-ends. Vernon had 7.5 sacks and 41 tackles for Miami in 2015. New York ranked 30th last year with 23 sacks. 

23.  New York Jets (10-6): RB Matt Forte – 3yr, $12 million

Chris Ivory had over a thousand yards for the Jets last season, and will play for Jacksonville in 2016. So the Jets grabbed Matt Forte, a much more efficient running back. He missed the thousand-yard mark last year for the first time in four years due to missing three games, but was on pace for the mark. He should provide a strong rushing game and could serve as a receiving target, as he caught 44 passes with three touchdowns. 

24.  Oakland Raiders (7-9): G Kelechi Osemele – 5yr, $85 million

Many people might think that Bruce Irvin should be here, but given that he is now the highest paid guard in the NFL, Osemele gets the nod. He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens his rookie year, and is now joining a fairly effective offensive line who ranked 13th in fewest sacks allowed.  

25.  Philadelphia Eagles (7-9): FS Rodney McLeod – 5yr, $35 million

The Philadelphia Eagles have signed seven new players to their squad so far, not including their new head coach. No defensive back has left yet, though strong safety Walter Thurmond has not been resigned yet. McLeod can play either free or strong and with Malcolm Jenkins locked in, it looks like he’ll end up at SS. Since earning a starting job his second year in 2013, McLeod has started 48 consecutive games. Last season he made 59 tackles, 1 interception, 5 deflected passes, and three forced fumbles. 

26.  Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6): TE Ladarius Green – 4yr, $20 million

Long-time Steeler Heath Miller is retiring, so the Steelers needed to find a replacement quick, based on how much Ben Roethlisberger depends on his tight ends. The players they had on their roster, Matt Spaeth and Jesse James, 10 passes for 66 yards collectively. Obviously their numbers are low because of how much Miller played, but Green caught 37 passes for 429 yards and 4 touchdowns for San Diego last season. He’s also 25 years old, so he’s still a relatively young player, but has big shoes to fill. 

27.  San Diego (4-12): CB Casey Hayward – 3yr, $15.3 million

The Chargers will probably not sign Patrick Robinson, as Dallas has expressed interest, so they picked up Hayward. Zero picks for Hayward last year with Green Bay, he made 55 tackles and deflected six passes. With Brandon Flowers on one side, Hayward will be competing with Jason Verrett on the other side for his job. 

28.  San Francisco 49ers (5-11): QB Thad Lewis – 1yr, $760,000

The only sub-million player on this list and he’s on her because the 49ers haven’t signed anybody else yet. If Colin Kaepernick leaves, and all signs say he will, then Blaine Gabbert will get the start if they don’t go to the draft, possibly making Lewis the second string QB. San Francisco will be Lewis’ ninth team in seven years as a pro. He has not played a down of regular season football since 2013.   

29.  Seattle Seahawks (10-6): T Bradley Sowell – 1yr, $1 million

The Seattle offensive line allowed 46 sacks last season, and losing Russell Okung doesn’t help. Sowell hasn’t started in three years, coming from Arizona, but will be either him or Alvin Bailey at left tackle this upcoming season. 

30.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10): DE Robert Ayers – 3yr, $19.5 million

The Buccaneers ranked 13th last season in sacks. DT Gerald McCoy led the team with eight-and-a-half, followed by DE Jacquies Smith with seven. Ayers had nine himself with the struggling the Giants who were without JPP for most of the season. Ayers also deflected four passes and forced two fumbles. Tampa Bay could have a triple threat of defensive linemen. 

31.  Tennessee Titans (3-13): WR Rishard Matthews – 3yr, $15 million

Matthews will now be the highest paid receiver on the Titans, so could end up being their number one. Tight end Delanie Walker is clearly Mariota’s top target, so Matthews joining other decent wideouts like Dorial Green-Beckham, Harry Douglas, and Kendall Wright could be a good move without Tennessee spending too much on that position. Matthews was a top target for Miami last year, catching 43 passes for 662 yards and four TDs in 11 games – a career year that could turn into his first thousand-yard season with the Titans if he stays healthy.

32.  Washington Redskins (9-7): SS David Bruton – 3yr, $9.2 million

Trenton Robinson had one pick for Washington last year. Now that he’s off to Carolina, the Redskins need to fill the strong safety position. Washington’s defensive backfield is very versatile, so their cornerbacks can play safety and vise versa. Because Bruton has the biggest contract of the DBs, it looks like he’ll be getting the starting role at the strong but a lot can happen before week 1. Chris Culliver, DeAngelo Hall, Bashaud Breeland, and Will Blackmon are all among the mix.  

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