OK, so National Football League free agency may not be as high profile as the process is in Major League Baseball, but they sure don’t beat around the bush.
Once the fun starts, it’s just a mad rush to restructure rosters as quickly as possible to narrow down a team’s needs before the April draft.
Lots of pieces are moving and it’s been no exception for my team of choice, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Last week, it looked as though the Chiefs were not going to learn their lesson from last offseason in that the defense needs to be improved and not subtracted from.
If the AFC Championship game and Kansas City’s complete inability to stop the running game between the tackles or the short passing game across the middle in that contest weren’t a stern wakeup call, I don’t know what other evidence they would have needed.
Last week, the Chiefs announced their intent to trade linebacker Justin Houston, who nearly broke the single season sack record just a few short seasons ago. And barring a trade, they said Houston would be released. The latter is what ended up happening, but the Chiefs did not remain idle on the topic of defense and announced Monday the signing of Tyrann Mathieu, also known as the “Honey Badger.”
Mathieu was a key figure in the Arizona Cardinals defense at its peak a few seasons ago and most recently lined up at safety for the Houston Texans last season.
While Eric Berry has been the heart of the Chiefs secondary for many seasons, he’s struggled to stay on the field while battling both cancer and a laundry list of injuries. Mathieu has started all 16 games the past two seasons.
I admit, my initial reaction to the news that Houston would be exiting from the team was fear that the Chiefs would simply double down on the offense behind breakout star and 2018 Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
However, the Chiefs did still need to add depth at running back after releasing Kareem Hunt in November after the release of a tape showing him getting into a fight with a woman in a hotel lobby. Hunt has since signed with the Cleveland Browns, but how many games the NFL will let him suit up for this season, if any, remains in question.
The Chiefs also addressed that need recently with the addition of Carlos Hyde, a veteran running back late of the San Francisco 49ers, Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. However, based on the way Damien Williams stepped up for Kansas City in the final month of the regular season and into the playoffs, the starting job is presumably his to keep or lose with Hyde serving as the primary backup option.
I still would like to see more effort put into the defense, particularly the secondary, but that depends on who the team has their eyes on in the draft next month.
Rest of the League
Let’s not just focus on the Chiefs though. There are plenty of other stars on the move, perhaps none bigger than Antonio Brown.
Over the course of the season, we watched Brown’s relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike Tomlin evaporate, prompting him to ask for a trade at the offset of the offseason. That wish was granted Monday with Brown being dealt to the Oakland Raiders for a couple of lesser draft picks.
The Raiders and Jon Gruden pretty much operated under the break it down and build it back up from the foundation philosophy last season. Time will tell how that works out, but it remains to be seen how patient Brown will be with his new squad’s attempt to rebuild. The biggest part of his problem with the Steelers was losing games that they should have won on paper. What happens if the Raiders aren’t able to put it together in time to do much winning this season? Will Brown again play the malcontent or maybe find a new television show to go on as he did recently with FOX’s “The Masked Singer?”
The New York Jets are reportedly set to open up the checkbook for former Baltimore Ravens linebacker CJ Mosley to the tune of $85 million over five years.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who won a Super Bowl two seasons ago and again led the Eagles to the playoffs after starting the year as the backup quarterback both years, is flying south to Jacksonville. Foles signed a four-year deal for $88 million and takes over for former first-round pick Blake Bortles, who has fallen out of favor despite quarterbacking the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game in 2017.
Joe Flacco, former Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens, was traded to the Denver Broncos where he unseats Case Keenum. One year after signing with Denver on the heels of an improbable playoff run with the Minnesota Vikings, Keenum was again displaced this offseason and joins the Washington Redskins. Washington found itself in need of a fill-in under center for at least the coming season due to the uncertain future of Alex Smith after a gruesome broken leg suffered last fall.
Plenty of other stars remain on the open market, including former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who sat out last season amid a contract dispute, former Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, former Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and a great deal more.
Where will they all go? The good thing about the way the NFL does things is that the waiting period to find that out, at least in the vast majority of cases, will be over in just a matter of weeks. At the rate deals are getting done, most of the top free agent targets remaining could even be signed to new contracts by the end of the week.