Good morning, welcome to NFL Free Agency Day II! Holy crap, if you, for some weird reason, didn't look at the internet yesterday, you missed a lot. Here's a quick recap to get you up to speed.
The West was relatively quiet apart from losing a bunch of players. I'll get to that, but in terms of volume, the Niners made the most noise. After releasing CB Carlos Rogers, they traded a 6th round pick to the Jaguars to acquire physically gifted but so-far-failed-to-launch QB Blaine Gabbert, ostensibly to have him compete for the backup job behind Colin Kaepernick.
They also traded a 2015 conditional 7th round pick for Jonathan Martin (the condition being that Martin would need to make the 49ers roster out of camp), which makes this, essentially, a tryout. Regardless, even if he does make the roster, a future 7th round pick is about as valuable as a ham sandwich, so this is a nice move with some potential upside.
More importantly though, the Niners signed former Colts safety Antoine Bethea to a four-year deal that's worth $5-$6M per year, according to reports. He'll replace Donte Whitner (who left for the Browns) and pair with 2nd year safety Eric Reid in San Francisco's defensive secondary. Bethea is 29.
The Cardinals signed one of the bigger free agent left tackles on the market in Jared Veldheer. This is a nice move for Arizona, who can now pair him next to 2013 first round pick Jonathan Cooper. The Cardinals' left side should be very good in 2014, which should help their run game with Andre Ellington and can't hurt their pass game while keeping Carson Palmer upright. Awesome. Because the NFC West needed more good players.
The Cards also re-signed Frostee Rucker, which helps with their depth on the defensive line.
The Rams and Seahawks made no moves, but that may change on Wednesday.
TE Jermichael Finley has a visit lined up with the Seahawks, and assuming he's healthy enough to play, the Hawks will likely offer him a one-year "prove it" deal to get him back on track after suffering a scary neck injury last year in Week 7. Finley missed the rest of the season and had to have two vertebrae fused, but his doctor has given him an excellent prognosis for full recovery.
As Field Gulls own Aaron Sims points out, the Seahawks' team doctor, Dr. Stanley Herring, specializes in concussions and spine injuries and chairs the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee's Subcommittee on Advocacy and Education. So, as Sims says, if anyone is going to be able to assess Finley, it is him.
Regardless, Finley is an enticing option whose value on the market is greatly diminished because of his injury. This is one avenue that the Seahawks have taken in years past and if Finley checks out medically, a one-year "prove it" deal with the man that drafted him in John Schneider might be just the ticket.
Finley tweeted recently that he's up to 260 pounds at 10% body fat, and this is a significant increase from his reported playing weight of about 235 or so when he was more of a TE/WR hybrid in Green Bay in 2011-12. Does this mean he'd be ready to round his game out a little bit into the blocking realm? Perhaps, though I would assume Seattle sees him way more in the "Joker" role that they envisioned for Kellen Winslow when they traded for him a few years back, and before that, Jon Carlson, before he tore his labrum and missed the 2011 season.
As an anonymous scout told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn, "If proven healthy and someone was looking for a pass catcher, he'd be a consideration. But he is not a fully dimensional, fully equipped tight end. You've got to have a role, a vision for him. If you look at the way Jared Cook played at St. Louis and is used that way, OK." The scout added, "But he is not giving you anything in the running game. Some of that is want-to."
And really, this is acceptable. The Seahawks still do have Zach Miller, recently re-signed Anthony McCoy, and Luke Willson on the roster. Assuming the Hawks do what they've reportedly planned to do and release Miller for cap savings, the combo of Willson and McCoy as the in-line Y tight ends would allow Finley to remain what he's been during his career -- a moveable chess piece.
Cable talked about this back in 2012, noting that when you have multiple versatile tight ends, you can run with two tight end sets and start dictating to the defense what you want to do.
"Zach Miller is what we call the 'Y' tight end. So, he's the guy that's going to line up, most of the time, on the line of scrimmage. Kellen will be what we call an 'U' tight end, or an 'H-Back.' So, he'll be the move around guy, you can split him out like a wide receiver, motion him around, shift him around, where Zach's job will be to do the tough guy work and the grunt work. [The H-back, though,] is a guy that will create matchups with linebackers when you put him in space."
"I think you have to make a decision as a defense now," he said, "do you want to play these guys in base defense? If you do, then you're going to have a linebacker covering those tight ends. If you're going to go the other way, say, we're going to put nickel in the game, then we're going to try to shove the ball down your throat running it. For us, it kind of puts us back into a position of power, where we're going to play off of how they want to substitute and how they want to match up. If they stay in base, you might see us attack them more and throw the ball more, if they get in nickel, you might see us run it more."
"Anytime on offense you can kind of dictate a little bit, then you're ahead of the defense."
At the time, the plan was for Winslow to be that 'joker', and that didn't work out, obviously, but the idea that Finley could come in for that role is pretty intriguing. At the time, Cable noted that Winslow wouldn't be doing much blocking in the first place, so Finley's deficiencies there are pretty inconsequential most likely. "In terms of the "U" tight end," said Cable, "[The H-back] is certainly going to have some responsibility to block, but I think on a list of the top important things for him, on a list of five - fifth. He's going to be moving around, blocking on the move, but he's probably going to be more thought of as a playmaker/receiver type."
Finley expressed interest in playing with the Seahawks back before the Super Bowl, saying, "the Packers are going to come at me with something and I'm going to go to them first and see what they've got, and if it's not, I would love to be on the first flight out to good old Seattle."
Something about this just seems inevitable. I talked to a few Packers' writers on twitter and both expressed that Finley is a physical freak of nature that got a somewhat bad rep when drops became an issue a few seasons back. However, that problem seems to have been cleaned up (perhaps similar to Jermaine Kearse). Either way, Finley is an exciting thought just because of his top-flight athleticism and playmaking ability. Think Colt Lyerla without all the character baggage.
Past that, the Seahawks are doing what they do, and looking to add to the defensive line through free agency. In addition to possibly working to re-sign Tony McDaniel, Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher has a visit lined in Seattle today, and with Demarcus Ware finding interest from the Broncos, Jared Allen has turned his attention to the Bears and Seahawks.
Hatcher is a 6'6, 300 pound defensive tackle that produced 11 sacks last year and was PFF's 6th rated interior pass rusher -- and he was in excellent company, trailing only Gerald McCoy, Ndomukong Suh, Geno Atkins, Jurell Casey, and Malik Jackson in pressure per snap. Hatcher will turn 32 this year, but is coming off a really excellent season and could play a nice role in Seattle's defensive line rotation if he decides to sign with the Hawks.
We all know Jared Allen, so I don't have to go too in-depth about that, but needless to say, he'd be an intriguing option as a weakside pass rusher. It's worth noting that it's likely Chris Clemons would be asked to take a pay cut or get released if Seattle forays into free agency on the DL too much.
As for the rest of the NFL, let's do some quick cliffnotes:
The Bucs made waves, signing DE Michael Johnson, DT Clinton McDonald, and CB Alterraun Verner. They're expected to release Darrelle Revis to clear up cap room for all this. They also signed TE Brandon Myers (they had also reportedly been interested in Seahawks TE Anthony McCoy). I'm guessing the Bucs may make another move or two before it's all said and one.
The Falcons beefed up their defensive line as part of their rumored change to a 3-4 defense, signing NT Paul Soliai and DE Tyson Jackson. They also signed respected veteran guard Jon Asomoah. They released TE Tony Gonzales and S Thomas DeCoud.
The Saints are looking to trade Darren Sproles, may release Pierre Thomas, may have trouble keeping Jimmy Graham, but broke out the checkbook for top free agent safety Jarius Byrd. The combo of Byrd with Kenny Vaccaro is/will be nice, rivaling, perhaps, Seattle's combo of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas.
The Redskins signed former Cardinals WR Andre Roberts, which may turn out to be a pretty decent pickup for them. They also signed LB Adam Hayward.
The Eagles re-signed their punter, Donnie Jones, and added safety Malcolm Jenkins.
The Giants made a fairly shocking move and signed former Seahawk O'Brien Schofield to a two-year, $8M deal. They also signed RB Rashad Jennings and OG Geoff Schwartz.
The Bears, after missing out on Michael Bennet, signed a nice consolation prize in Lamarr Houston. They also inked LB D.J. Williams and S Ryan Mundy. They also released this guy named Julius Peppers.
The Vikings added to an already nice interior defensive line by signing DT Lindval Joseph. Should be fun to see him paired with Sharif Floyd going forward.
The Raiders signed T/G Roger Saffold and will ask him to play guard. They re-signed Darren McFadden, and added OT Austin Howard.
The Chargers signed RB Donald Brown, and the Chiefs signed S Hussain Abdullah.
The Broncos made a couple of giant moves by signing S T.J. Ward and CB Aqib Talib. I guess they think that defense wins championships?
The Colts got better on Tuesday by signing DE/DT Arthur Jones away from Baltimore, then re-signing CB Vontae Davis and RB Ahmad Bradshaw.
The Titans signed former Seahawks RB Leon Washington and added WR Dexter McCluster.
The Jaguars, in addition to trading Gabbert, re-signed former Seahawk CB Will Blackmon and former Viking RB Toby Gerhart. They added to their OL by inking OG Zane Beadles to a multi-year deal.
The Texans released veteran TE Owen Daniels.
The Dolphins signed DT Earl Mitchell, who had been reportedly an interest of Seattle, and OT Brandon Albert.
K Dan Carpenter signed with the Bills, and they released QB Kevin Kolb, who is still suffering from severe concussion symptoms. Scary.
Overall though, the AFC East was quiet.
The AFC North was not. The Browns locked up former Niner Donte Whitner and former Cardinal Karlos Dansby. The Steelers added former Panther Mike Mitchell. Thanks, take these people out of the NFC.
The Bengals LB Taylor Mays and the Browns and Bengals are fighting over restricted FA WR Andrew Hawkins.
Today is a brand new day. We'll see what happens.