Free Agency tells us a lot. After the excitement of the big names trying out new places wanes, we’re left with a much better idea of who teams are and what they want to become. While teams typically draft the best player available, they go after free agents in areas they perceive to be needs specific to their aspired scheme. To the enlightened viewer, this gives some insight into what the 2017 season might hold.
Patriots Sign Stephon Gilmore, Trade For Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen
Assuming Malcolm Butler is back, the Patriots are going to have two man to man cornerbacks rivaling that of even Denver. In 2016, Butler would typically cover the smaller, shiftier cornerbacks while Logan Ryan would take the top threat with safety help. Adding a top-tier cover corner gives them even more matchup flexibility. Gilmore is just as big and physical as Ryan but is much better in man coverage. He’s been a bit up and down the past few years, but when Belichick signs off on a player to this degree, you have to trust him. With quality cover safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung behind them, this figures to be one of the top secondaries in the league.
The Patriots offense adopts a new identity with each passing week and year. Last year, they tried to revolutionize the league with a nightmarish matchup duo of Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. It never materialized. Allen figures to replace Bennett for the exact same price. He can be a threat in the passing game to a lesser extent than Bennett but is a much better blocker.
Cooks gives Brady the best deep threat he’s had since Randy Moss. He’s shifty enough as a route runner to fit well into the Patriots spread attack but figures to open things up down the field. In the past, Tom Brady’s top deep threats were Gronkowski down the seams and Chris Hogan to some extent. Cooks takes this up to the nth degree.
Browns Sign Kevin Zeitler, J.C. Tretter, Pass On Terrelle Pryor, Opt For Osweiler
The Browns don’t seem content to build their team just through the draft anymore. I’ll preface this by saying I’m not remotely an expert on the offensive line. However, if they can find an upgrade at right tackle, this looks like one of the better front five’s. Along with former second round pick Joel Bitonio, the interior looks rock solid. Turning 33 in December, Joe Thomas is still the class of the league on the blindside. Add a high octane halfback and this offense has an identity.
I don’t pretend to know what Terrelle Pryor is like in the locker room, but letting him walk seems highly questionable. He flashed number one receiver potential as he progressed last season and possesses rare traits for the position. These are the types of players a rebuilding team needs to prioritize, especially for the benefit he’d provide whatever quarterback they roll with. His market turned out to be much softer than expected. Kenny Stills is a fine deep threat, but he doesn’t offer nearly the upside of the former Buckeye.
I find the Brock Osweiler trade hilarious and brilliant. Well done.
Jaguars Sign More Big Names
People have reached the point of tuning out the offseason noise of Jacksonville, but this group looks like it can’t help but be dominant next fall. When Gus Bradley left Seattle, he tried to bring his Cover 3 defense with him, minus all of the thoroughbreds. In postmortem, his vision looks like it’s coming to fruition. In A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, they’ll boast two high-end physical cornerback with the versatility to move around, blitz, and potentially play safety. Barry Church solidifies the box safety spot.
With monstrous Calais Campbell, the front four looks scary. With Malik Jackson, they’ll have to flexible run stuffers that can move across all four spots on the line. Add in the young linebacking corps and you have one of the most athletics fronts around.
Eagles Win The Alshon Jeffery Sweepstakes
This is going to be an evolved offense in 2017. Jeffrey and fellow signee Torrey Smith are down-the-field playmakers who succeed in different ways. The former Bears is a jump ball specialist who big bodies defensive backs in the air. Smith is a one trick pony in any sense of the word who runs fast and does it well. Last year, Doug Pederson took his dink and dunk offense from Kansas City to Philly. Devoid of talent, the offense was terribly vanilla. He had to manufacture big plays with ageless Darren Sproles and nameless Bryce Treggs. If these signings are any indication, that’ll look much different next year. As big-armed Carson Wentz enters his second year, expect this offense to take things vertical.
Jordan Matthews, who enters a contract year, may be on the trade block. Otherwise, he’ll reprise his role in the slot.
Bears Sign Mike Glennon, Many More
After the Brock Osweiler fiasco a year ago, people were ready to pounce on any free agent quarterback to earn big money. This deal, however, seems eminently reasonable. As his soft market seems to indicate, perhaps the locker room headache of Jay Cutler might be real. Maybe they had to cut bait. Sans a passer worthy of the third overall pick, Glennon gives them a young passer who has a chance to become the answer while they build a roster with no identity.
In his first two seasons, the film showed Glennon to be a prototypically build passer with a strong arm and clean release who lacks ideal pocket presence. If the Bears find an upgrade at left tackle(a big if this offseason), they’ll have one of the top offensive lines this side of Dallas. While the cap figure is high, the Bears have cap room to burn. With little guaranteed money after the first year, Chicago can get out of the contract easily if things turn south.