Free Agency Early Winners And Losers
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After two days of free agency in the National Football League, some teams are starting to separate themselves as doing very well this offseason while others are struggling through what’s been called salary cap hell.
The team at the top of the heap thus far is the Denver Broncos. The Broncos were just a few plays away from the Super Bowl last year behind Peyton Manning and general manager John Elway has turned into an NFL version of Pat Riley thus far in the offseason.
The Broncos signed former New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker to a two-year contract Wednesday and simultaneously gave Manning one of the best weapons in the league and weakened the Patriots.
Elway and the Broncos also put another solid blocker in front of Manning when the team signed guard Louis Vasquez. The Broncos also added linebacker Stewart Bradley, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Terrance Knighton.
While the Broncos have been putting together a solid team in the AFC, in the NFC all attention is out west at the arms race between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers, the Super Bowl loser last season, added defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and are poised to add either Charles Woodson or Ed Reed at safety. But the biggest addition was wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens.
The 49ers essentially stole Boldin from the Ravens and the former Florida State star will plug in opposite Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis to form an impressive triumvirate of receiving threats for quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Up the Pacific Coast Highway in Seattle, the Seahawks gave quarterback Russell Wilson a shiny new weapon in wide receiver Percy Harvin, acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings.
With Harvin in house, the Seahawks struck again Wednesday night by signing defensive end Cliff Avril away from the Detroit Lions. Avril is a speed rusher to pair with Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons on an already potent defensive line.
Elsewhere, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are quietly putting together one of the more dynamic secondary’s in the NFL. The Bucs spent a top pick last year on safety Mark Barron out of Alabama and now have added Dashon Goldson via free agency to pair with him.
The big question for the Bucs is whether they have the will and the ammunition to finally pry cornerback Darrelle Revis away from the New York Jets. But the thought of watching Drew Brees go at it with Revis at least twice a year is a fun thought for NFL fans.
Finally, Miami has put together one of the more expensive, yet explosive free agent classes this year. The Dolphins struck first signing wide receiver Mike Wallace away from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wallace is a speed receiver who will force defense to loosen up coverage underneath, opening the field for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Fins also got younger on defense signing Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler to replace Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. If Ellerbe and Wheeler work out, it will give the Fins a much needed addition of speed on the defensive side of the ball.
Still, Miami has holes at tight end, offensive tackle, and cornerback to fill. But, the Fins have around $20 million in cap space remaining this season and as free agency continues, the price tags for players will continue to diminish.
On the flip side, the New York Jets are expected to lose Revis and are in a full-fledged rebuilding mode after wild spending pushed the team up to the brink with the salary cap. The Raiders will also be in cap purgatory for at least another year as they try to move past bad decisions on the past.
Finally, the Baltimore Ravens, the defending Super Bowl champion, has lost Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe, Anquan Boldin, Ray Lewis, Bernard Pollard, and likely Ed Reed. Still, if there is one team in the NFL prepared to rebuild quickly, it’s general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens.