A man goes on vacation for one week, and look at all the football news he misses! Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean I haven’t seen the recent roster shake-ups and it doesn’t mean that I don’t have my opinions. So I’ll break down the more notable transactions of the last week.
Patriots Add Chris Hogan, LaAdrian Waddle and Frank Kearse, Fail To Sign A Running Back
I don’t think I was alone when I was expecting the Patriots to make a splash signing or two once free agency started. It seems like they were on the outside looking in, in terms of making moves. However, I’ll play the role of optimistic fan and point out that these are all solid depth moves.
Chris Hogan isn’t the sexiest name on the free agency market, but he’s coming in at a relatively-inexpensive $4 million per year. He’s a stereotypical Patriot receiver- he’s shifty, a good route runner, makes his money coming out of the slot, and he can block decently well. The issue I had with this signing isn’t the money committed or even the player himself, because I’ve actually always liked Hogan with the Bills. My issue is that I don’t think it fills a team need. New England needed, and still needs, a receiver who can stretch the field. Hogan not only doesn’t do that, but as it sits, probably won’t be playing over incumbents Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola or Keyshawn Martin.
The other two transactions are depth moves, and they’re moves I’m completely okay with. I’m a big believer that the offensive line and defensive line are really, really coachable positions. Every pro football player has talent; I’m not saying these guys do. I do think, however, it’s based so much more on technique, which one can learn, as opposed to as much of natural skill (example: you can’t teach a receiver to be faster). Neither Waddle, who is being retained after being claimed in December from the Detroit Lions, or former Redskins defensive tackle Kearse should be a starter unless there are injury issues. But depth is good; lack of it really hurt the Pats down the stretch last year.
If you really want to get me going, we can talk about the lack of a running back at week’s end. I’ve already said it- I don’t think they needed a marquee signing, I do think they need a back who specializes in actually running the ball. And yet, here we are, and the Patriots still have no one. Meanwhile, in the rest of the AFC, free agent prize Matt Forte has moved on to the Jets, the Dolphins snatched up CJ Anderson and Lamar Miller left for the Texans, the Titans got DeMarco Murray on the cheap from the Eagles, and Chris Ivory went to the Jaguars. The Pats recently met with James Starks, a guy who seems like he’s been with the Packers since the Bart Starr days and a guy who has never really impressed me. It remains to be seen how this will play out, because New England always seems to make that one surprising move in the offseason, but I’m really, really upset they didn’t go get a good runner.
Jets Get Forte, Still Not Intimidated By Them
So the Jets got the prize of the free agency. Matt Forte is good, there’s no way around it. I would’ve been thrilled if he came to New England, just like any other guy. He’s the total package, he’s a model of consistency, he’s good at footballing, and he’s so anti-Jet (he’s not a punk) that he probably really really helps that team out. That’s not to mention that this is a great, inexpensive contract (this article really helps dumb it down for people whose brains hurt whenever they math, like me).
However, he still is 30. This signing reminds me slightly of the LaDanian Tomlinson signing a few years back. I’m sure he’ll still be pretty good next year, maybe even the year after that. But towards the back end of this deal, I’d think he’ll be reduced to a third-down, receiving situation back. Either way, it’s a great move for the Jets, since they retained Bilal Powell and brought in Khiry Robinson as well. Their backfield has three capable runners who each bring a different style. I know that super backfields don’t always pan out (see the Philadelphia Eagles of last season), but I think these three backs really mesh well with one another and with the system that they’re in.
Broncos Quarterback… Situation
Okay, so I’ll take shots at Denver pretty much any chance I get. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, whatever. But horse-faced John Elway couldn’t convince Brock Osweiler to stay? With the receiving corps and o-line they have in place? And with THAT defense behind him? If you want priceless, that’s priceless. On a serious note, in terms of Osweiler’s own career, I’m convinced, along with some other people, that there were some hard feelings about losing his job for an unforeseeable reason. Sure, it worked out, they won the Super Bowl, yada yada yada. Try telling that to Osweiler, who never truly played poorly enough to be benched.
Fast forward, and they go get Mark Sanchez from Philadelphia for a conditional 7th-round pick. Again, it’s not the price that they paid for getting Sanchez. This is the thing with the Denver Broncos- their defense is literally so good that they only need a guy who won’t mess up. Seriously that’s it. That’s why they won with Osweiler and the Peyton Manning of last season. At their best, they weren’t making mistakes. So to counter losing both of them in a single month, they bring in a guy who has only messed things up since his pro career began. That’s literally all that Sanchize does! He messes up!
(You had to see that coming from 3,000,000 miles away)
It will be interesting to see how Denver, who lost CJ Anderson and Danny Trevathan (to the Bears), will play next year. I think they got worse while the Oakland Raiders got better (more on them later, yay for foreshadowing!!!).
Speaking of Houston…
I think Houston had the second best free agency frenzy of any team in football. While I do think that they overpaid for Brock Osweiler ($72 million over 4 years), he was the best available option on the free agency market, it’s not a good draft for quarterbacks, and they desperately needed a new guy under center. He’s an obvious upgrade over Brian Hoyer, who shat himself as bad as anyone possibly can in the playoffs.
On top of that, they cut ties with running back Arian Foster, which can be tough because he was such a mainstay there. How did they follow that up? Oh, just by bringing in Lamar Miller to replace the injury-prone Foster. I think Miller was the second-best running back option on the open market, only behind Matt Forte. This allows them flexibility in the draft. I was pretty certain that Houston would draft Ezekiel Elliot at their position in the draft. While I love Elliot as a player, I feel like they could’ve addressed needs elsewhere. I’m also not sure that Elliot is the best locker room presence, and they’ve already got some interesting personalities in that locker room (looking at Jadeveon Clowney). Now, they can still get Elliot if they want- they’d have the best one-two backfield punch in all of football. Or, they could go build up their line, get another receiver, maybe another defensive back. Either way, it was a great day for Houston.
But the Winner Of The Week?
The Oakland Raiders. Hands down. Literally they get an A+. I think that they’re the only team in the AFC West to get significantly better, while their divisional rivals all either stagnated or got worse (on paper, of course).
The Raiders got Sean Smith from the Chiefs, which obviously makes their defense better while making Kansas City’s worse. Smith is a viable #1 cornerback who is a solid tackler for his position. If the Raiders follow through on seemingly every mock draft available and go get Vernon Hargreaves at 14th overall, then they got themselves a damn good secondary.
Their front seven, headlined by an absolute beast of a man in Khalil Mack, got even better with the signing of Bruce Irvin from Seattle. This also does a lot of things. It obviously makes the play on the field that much better, it provides leadership and direction for younger players, and it brings in a winning mentality. Watch out for Oakland next year.
I’ll put it in writing, right here, right now. The Oakland Raiders will go 11-5, win the AFC West, and grab the #3 seed in the AFC playoffs. Mark my words.
Cover Photo courtesy of syracuse.com.
GIF courtesy of SB Nation.