NFL free agency is a very quick process. By the end of the first week, all the best players are gone; so if a team doesn’t act fast they’ll almost certainly miss out. Last year the Denver Broncos won free agency by bringing in Demarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, and Aqib Talib in the first week; however, this year they didn’t do so well, losing Julius Thomas to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from free agency this season:
Green Bay Packers: The Packers had a very quiet free agency, which is a very good thing in the NFL. Besides losing Tramon Williams to the Cleveland Browns, the Pack didn’t see much of a chance to the roster that came five minutes away from a trip to Super Bowl XLIX. Wide receiver Randall Cobb agreed to stay in Green Bay for less money than Jeremy Maclin received from the Kansas City Chiefs, and starting tackle Bryan Bulaga stayed put as well for just $8 million in guaranteed money.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals had some extra money to spend this offseason, so they got busy right from the beginning. First, they stole Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati from division rival San Francisco 49ers, giving the All-Pro over $22 million in guaranteed money. Sure, that may seem like a lot for a guard, but the Cardinals will need all the help they can if they hope to dethrone the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West.
The Cardinals also saved a lot of money on other players. The Cards brought in Corey Peters to replace nose tackle Dan Williams for a little over $3 million a year—much less than the $25 million deal Williams received from the Oakland Raiders.
The Cardinals also brought in Cory Redding and Sean Weatherspoon for next to nothing, adding depth and veteran leadership to their defense.
Oakland Raiders: Surprise, surprise. The Raiders had money to spend this offseason, and they definitely spent it. The problem is the Raiders seem to have no idea who to spend money on, so they threw huge contracts at everyone. Rodney Hudson got $44.5 million and $20 million guaranteed—a center.
That’s not all: the Raiders overpaid former Arizona Cardinal Dan Williams, linebacker Curtis Lofton, tight end Lee Smith, and safety Nate Allen. On top of that, the Raiders lost running backs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew over the offseason. Who do they bring in to replace them? Trent Richardson. Good move, Oakland.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Here’s another big surprise. If you’re wondering how teams like the Raiders and Jaguars stay bad year after year it is because they are constantly making horrible decisions in free agency and the draft.
Much like the Raiders, the Jags entered free agency with a ton of cash to blow—in fact, the Jaguars had the most available cap space in the NFL. Well, also much like the Raiders, the Jaguars managed to blow through it all without actually bringing any game-changing players to Jacksonville.
The Jags also showed their passion for handing out millions of dollars to backups. Davon House—four seasons in the NFL, 14 total starts—got $24.5 million. Dan Skuta—six years, 22 starts—got another $20.5 million from the Jags wealth.
The Jaguars did bring in two decent players in Julius Thomas and Jared Odrick; but it cost them $46 million in guaranteed money between the two. Having Odrick on the defensive line will help a little, but the Jaguars will be in for a rude awakening when they realize that Thomas is not nearly as good without Peyton Manning throwing him the ball.