NFL Free Agent and Trade Madness: What’s going on in the NFL this offseason?

NFL Offseason Free Agent Trading Madness - Image Copyright: Fox Sports

Between trades, retirements, and numerous unanswered questions regarding a multitude of free agents, true football fans never have to worry about getting too bored during the offseason. This year has been a particularly exciting year for free agency, with major players such as Ndamukong Suh and DeMarco Murray on the line. With the first week of free agency at a close, it’s worth taking a look at what’s transpired so far.

There’s a lot of information to process here, so we’ve gone ahead and divided the following trades in accordance with each of the eight major divisions. Feel free to scroll down to the division or team you’re most interested in, or go ahead and read through for a fuller picture of how the league is developing in preparation for the 2015-2016 season.

AFC East

The AFC East has now played host to one of the most talked about free agency deals of the offseason. After much speculation regarding the eventual whereabouts of DT Ndamukong Suh, he signed with the Miami Dolphins for a six-year contract valued at $114 million. This is pretty much the deal that Suh’s agent had wanted for him, with the star tackle now making more than most QBs in the league. Not surprisingly, Suh’s signing (and the resultant cutting of Randy Starks from the team) has overshadowed news regarding Miami’s acquisition of former Steelers CB Brice McCain as a replacement for the now retired Cortland Finnegan. Between Suh and McCain, Miami stands to improve its defense both on the ground and in the air.

The New York Jets have reportedly signed CB Darrelle Revis, a former team member who spent half a dozen years with the team before leaving for two years. They snatched him up as a free agent, offering him a guaranteed $39 million with up to $31 million more if he stays with them for the next five years. Revis will be reunited with CB Antonio Cromartie, who has also signed onto the Jets after some time away from them. Between the two, the Jets are set to play some major defense in the upcoming season.

Currently, no one knows where WR Percy Harvin is going to end up. While many had speculated that the New England Patriots might make a move on him, he’s been cozying up to the Buffalo Bills. TE Charles Clay also met with the Bills, and it looks like he might be headed in their direction. The Bills certainly appear to be focusing on their offense, having just recently signed former Baltimore backup QB Tyrod Taylor.

The New England Patriots seem to be letting go of more players than they’ve been gaining, having lost CB Darrelle Revis and let go of CB Brandon Browner. They’re also going to be without RB Shane Vereen this year. They have, however, gained former Dolphins LB Jonathan Freeny, as well as DB Chimdi Chekwa and WRs Kevin Dorsey, Brian Tyms and Brandon Gibson. Dorsey appears to be the primary gain here, with Revis by far the most major loss.

AFC North

The Baltimore Ravens recently sent DE Haloti Ngata to Detroit, receiving two draft picks in return. They’ve also been renegotiating contracts, freeing up cap space by restructuring LB Terrell Suggs’ salary into a massive bonus and re-signing DB Anthony Levine for another two years. In addition, they’ve given RB Justin Forsett three more years for the price of $9 million. While the Ravens may have lost WR Torrey Smith and OLB Pernell McPhee, they should still benefit from their strengthened relationship with a running back that many consider to have been underrated up to this point.

While Ndamukong Suh is the most highly publicized free agent coming out of Detroit by far, there has also been a fair bit of press regarding what will happen to newly unrestricted DT Nick Fairley. He’s been meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals, and there are a lot of rumors that they’re close to striking up a deal. The Bengals have also tendered LB Emmanuel Lamur and CB Chris Lewis-Harris, in addition to signing on LB A.J. Hawk and LG Clint Boling. Regardless of what happens with Fairley, it appears that Cincinnati is approaching next season with a strong mind toward defense.

Cleveland just lost TE Jordan Cameron to the Miami Dolphins, even though initial reports had stated that Jordan was staying with the Browns for another two years. This news arrives not long after Cleveland lost LB Jabaal Sheard to the New England Patriots. While this turn of events is unfortunate, the Cleveland Browns made a smart decision by re-signing QB Thaddeus Lewis and WR Marlon Moore. They also took on WR Brian Hartline before the free agency technically started. This is another clutch move, as Hartline managed 1000 yards between 2012 and 2013 with more than 75 successful catches in the latter year alone. Still, they’re going to need to add some talent during the draft.

Some were worried about what would happen to the Pittsburgh Steelers when they lost OLB Jason Worilds to the free agency, but this turned out to be irrelevant. Instead, they lost him to retirement at the ripe age of 27. Worilds might be replaced during the draft, as the Steelers have been looking pretty closely at Kentucky OLB Bud Dupree. In the meantime, it looks as if they plan to spend the remaining offseason courting free agent RB DeAngelo Williams. They’ve also re-signed TE Matt Spaeth, pretty much the only valuable tight end on the team aside from Heath Miller.

AFC South

Although former 49er Frank Gore was on the hook to play RB for Philadelphia, he has decided to sign a contract with the Indianapolis Colts instead. Less than twenty-four hours later, the Colts signed WR Andre Johnson. These are both major assets to the Colts’ offense, with Gore having earned over a thousand yards rushing while Johnson has over a thousand yards receiving. After a devastating loss to the Patriots in the AFC title game last year, this offensive boost might be just what the Colts needed. Their defense is getting a boost as well, as they have reportedly signed deals with LB Trent Cole and DE Kendall Langford.

The Houston Texans just gave QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to the New York Jets in return for a late round draft pick. They gained another late draft pick from the Rams in return for QB Case Keenum. These two trades were balanced out by their acquisition of former Browns QB Brian Hoyer, now contracted with Houston for the next two years following a $10.5 million deal. The Texans also signed FS Rahim Moore to the tune of $12 million over three years. According to rumors, they’re currently looking at adding DE Da’Quan Bowers and DT Vince Wilfork to their roster as well.

While Houston had reportedly had interest in SS Da’Norris Searcy, he has now signed on as a DB with the Tennessee Titans. Many think the Titans might be looking for a new QB to replace the now retired Jake Locker, and they might be looking at Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota when the draft rolls around. In the meantime, rumor has it that they may be looking at pass rushers. They cannot rely on OLB Kamerion Wimbley to get the job done. Rumor has it that former Redskins OLB Brian Orakpo might step in, especially with current FS Michael Griffin campaigning for him to gain a spot on the team.

DE Red Bryant is no longer with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Coach Gus Bradley has been making some additions to the team that he appears to be pretty excited about. The team seems satisfied as well, with QB Blake Bortles already talking about his future working relationship with one of the team’s new additions, TE Julius Thomas. The Jags have also added LB Dan Skuta, FS Sergio Brown, CB Davon House, DE Jared Odrick, and RT Jermey Parnell. There was brief talk of signing former Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray, but these rumors eventually didn’t go anywhere. Amazingly, the Jags have managed to add these players while keeping close to $30 million of salary cap space open.

AFC West

The Denver Broncos have signed on two particularly valuable players so far, DE Vance Walker and TE Owen Daniels. Each player has donned a different jersey each year of their professional career, and each is highly versatile in terms of strategy and overall physical prowess. That said, they’ve also lost four incredibly talented players to free agency. TE Julius Thomas is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, FS Rahim Moore is now with the Houston Texans, LG/RT Orlando Franklin is now with the San Diego Chargers, and DT Terrance Knighton is now with the Washington Redskins. While Walker and Daniels will make solid additions to the team, the hole left in Denver’s lineup is going to be hard to fill during the draft.

With the San Diego Chargers having signed Orlando Franklin to a five-year contract worth more than $35 million, the team still has a few holes to fill. They’re looking at DB Jimmy Wilson, but many say that what they really need is a new RB and a couple of new WRs. They had been looking at WR Andre Johnson before he signed with the Colts, and they similarly lost the consideration of WR Eddie Royal when he signed with the Bears. Right now, it’s unclear who their new receivers might be, as well as who might replace recently departed RB Ryan Mathews (who recently signed with the Eagles). If they don’t figure something out soon, they may have to wait for the draft.

The Kansas City Chiefs recently released WR Dwayne Bowe, but WR Jeremy Maclin has signed with the team and appears to feel at home with them. The Chiefs have also acquired former Saints G Ben Grubbs, who should make a valuable addition to their offensive line. These gains have been met by losses as well. Despite their attempts to tender LB Justin Houston, he is currently considering pursuing an offer from another team. In addition, it looks as if C Rodney Hudson is heading to Oakland to play ball for the Raiders.

Hudson should be fairly happy with the Raiders, especially since he is now set to receive more pay than any other center in the NFL. His five-year contract is worth $44.5 million, a high price considering just how many other players the Raiders have signed this year. They’ve also cut deals with former Cardinals NT Dan Williams, as well as TE Lee Smith and LBs Malcolm Smith and Curtis Lofton. Add to this list former Eagles S Nate Allen and former Redskins RB Roy Helu, not to mention the interest Oakland has expressed in signing former Panthers DE Greg Hardy and former Panthers CB James Dockery. With this many changes to their roster, Oakland should be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the upcoming season.

NFC East

The Dallas Cowboys recently let go of star RB DeMarco Murray, handing the franchise tag to Dez Bryant instead. Surprisingly, Murray hasn’t been in the news much since his release from the team, but it was speculated that the Philadelphia Eagles had considered signing him. This rumor was recently confirmed when the Eagles phoned Murray after losing Frank Gore to the Colts. While the Cowboys had tried to keep Murray on with a contract for $24 million over four years, the Eagles ultimately won him over with an offer of $42 million. Hopefully Murray will work well with former Rams QB Sam Bradford, for whom the Eagles recently traded QB Nick Foles. Bradford missed last season due to injury, but he should be back and ready to play.

Although the Cowboys may have lost Murray in favor of franchising WR Dez Bryant, and there are rumors that they’re close to losing DE Anthony Spencer, they’re still focusing on making additions to the team. They recently signed former Detroit FB Jed Collins and former Minnesota LB Jasper Brinkley. They need Brinkley to replace the hole left by LB Justin Durant, but there is no word so far on how they’ll manage to find anything resembling a replacement for DeMarco Murray. Odds are, they’ll try to find a fresh face in the draft.

The New York Giants just signed former Patriots RB Shane Vereen, and Vereen has expressed extreme satisfaction with his new team. Aside from that, they haven’t made too many major acquisitions. They appear to be focusing primarily on offense, having signed OT Marshall Newhouse and WR Dwayne Harris. They also signed LBs J.T. Thomas and Jonathan Casillias. They could still use a few more defensive players, but they might not move on this need until the first round of the draft.

The Washington Redskins signed former Broncos DT Terrance Knighton and former Bears DT Stephen Paea, while re-signing TE Niles Paul and safeties Trenton Robinson and Duke Ihenacho. They also released DE Stephen Bowen while signing DE Ricky Jean Francois. In general, their offseason has kept the roster pretty even, which a few improvements to their defensive line. However, some say that they need to work on finding themselves a running back. It has also been said that they could use a few more tackles, but this is debatable; they’re good on the defensive side of things with Knighton and Paea, and they just re-signed OT Tom Compton to help keep their offense locked down.

NFC North

Most are focusing on Detroit’s loss of Ndamukong Suh, but they’ve made some relatively decent gains in the first round of free agency. In return for fourth and fifth round draft picks, the Detroit Lions recently received DE Haloti Ngata from the Baltimore Ravens. They also received a pick for the seventh round. In addition, Detroit has just signed former Saints DT Tyrunn Walker, one of the better members of the Saints’ defensive line last season. They signed him for about $1.75 million with a bonus of $750k for only one year of play. While Walker is among their most respectable gain so far, the loss of Suh might still eat at the Lions if their performance this year is found to be lacking in even the remotest sense of the word.

Chicago snatched WR Eddie Royal away from San Diego before he could even give the Chargers his full consideration, be he isn’t even their only quality gain so far. They’ve also signed on LB Pernell McPhee and S Antrel Rolle. There are also rumors that they might manage to snag DT Vince Wilfork before the Houston Texans can make him a viable offer. This would be prudent, as they are arguably in need of a solid nose tackle. The only player on the team with that sort of experience is Jeremiah Ratliff, and he isn’t getting any younger. If the Bears can’t secure a solid tackle like Wilfork, then they might at least take solace in the fact that several solid tackles are entering the draft this year.

The Green Bay Packers just gave RT Bryan Bulaga a $33.75 million contract for the next five years, with pay increasing from $3.6 million this year to as much as $8.35 million in 2018 and 2019. The contract structure leaves them with a little over $20 million in cap space this year, so Green Bay could certainly afford to add some mid-level talent to their roster before the offseason is over. Their strategy at the moment seems to revolve around re-signing their key defensive players, but after losing CB Davon House to the Jaguars and with the future of CB Tramon Williams still uncertain, they might want to look at signing on some new cornerbacks.

A few decent players seem interested in joining the Minnesota Vikings this year. DE Michael Johnson has expressed interest, and there’s been talk of Minnesota pursuing OG Evan Mathis to fill a notable hole in their lineup. The Vikings have also shown strong interest in keeping RB Adrian Peterson despite the recent controversy over child abuse allegations, but so far nothing has been resolved. In any case, they appear to have their bases covered on this front, having re-signed RB Matt Asiata. They are also going to be keeping QB Shaun Hill.

NFC South

The New Orleans Saints are going to be hosting former Seattle C Max Unger, and the Seahawks have even sweetened the pot by offering the Saints a pick in the first round of the draft. Of course, the Saints have made some questionable trades in the past, and this might be one of them. Nothing against Unger, but the Saints may have made a mistake in trading TE Jimmy Graham, one of their top scorers who led the team in touchdowns last season. While trading Graham doesn’t seem like the best idea, the Saints are making some worthwhile gains with Unger, not to mention newly acquired CB Brandon Browner. They’ve also re-signed LB Ramon Humber for the next two years. Still, between Graham, Ben Grubbs, and numerous other players that the Saints have expressed interest in trading, it almost seems as if they’re actively trying to create holes in their roster. Saints fans are all too familiar with this behavior, and it likely won’t lead them anywhere great next season.

Atlanta’s had a busy offseason, and they seem to be focusing a fair amount of their attention on linebackers. They recently added former Seahawks LB O’Brien Schofield to their roster, having already acquired former Cowboys LB Justin Durant and former Texans LB Brooks Reed. They’re clearly making up for the loss of Sean Weatherspoon, who recently signed on with the Arizona Cardinals. They’ve also taken on OG Mike Person, and they’ve re-signed RB Antone Smith, which should add some offensive fortifications to their currently defense-heavy lineup. Other acquisitions include CB Phillip Adams and DE Adrian Clayborn.

The Carolina Panthers may be losing CB James Dockery and DE Greg Hardy, but they’ll still be keeping some of their top personnel this season. They just re-signed TE Ed Dickson for another three years, not long after re-signing QB Joe Webb and DTs Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole. In addition, they’ve managed to keep RB Fozzy Whittaker, LB Ben Jacobs, WR Breton Bersin and C Brian Folkerts from leaving to join the free agency. While they haven’t made a lot of new acquisitions, they did recently take on former Chicago Bears player Teddy Williams. Known for his ability to play both WR and CB, Williams could easily add some versatility to Carolina’s special teams coverage.

With Adrian Peterson possibly leaving Minnesota after several failures to negotiate terms, there are rumors that he may find a home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have already OLB Bruce Carter, DE Henry Melton and S Chris Conte, although they released DE Michael Johnson and lost DE Adrian Clayborn to the Atlanta Falcons. It is worth noting that the Bucs could use some help on offense as well. Many have already speculated that their first overall draft pick is going to go toward securing QB Jameis Winston, and Tampa’s focus on defense during the first round of free agency seems to hint that this prediction is more than plausible.

NFC West

The Seattle Seahawks weren’t exactly hurting for talent before, but now they’ve got former Saints TE Jimmy Graham. New Orleans also gave them a fourth round draft pick as part of the trade. Of course, that doesn’t mean there are no holes in their current lineup. They lost CB Byron Maxwell to the Philadelphia Eagles, and they had considered replacing him with Walter Thurmond until the Eagles signed him as well. They’ve also lost LB Malcolm Smith and LB O’Brien Schofield. They’ve taken on CB Cary Williams and DB Will Blackmon, so their defense hasn’t been eviscerated as badly as some are thinking. They’re also looking at C Stefen Wisniewski or G Shelley Smith to replace C Max Unger. Having traded their first round draft pick to the Saints, they’ll hopefully be able to plug all of the holes in their roster by the end of the offseason.

The St. Louis Rams now have a new QB, having traded Sam Bradford for Eagles QB Nick Foles. This works in the Rams’ favor, considering Bradford’s career-high QB rating of 79.3 compared to Foles’ rating of 119.2 in 2013. They also have a new LB, after signing a two-year contract with former Patriot Akeem Ayers. Aside from these two acquisitions, not much is new for the Rams at this point in the offseason. They re-signed TE Lance Kendricks, as well as WR Kenny Britt. Many are assuming that they might make a bid for OG Evan Mathis, but this is largely speculation at the moment.

WR Torrey Smith just signed on for five years with the San Francisco 49ers. His contract is worth a guaranteed $22 million, $40 million altogether. Smith wrote a heartfelt letter to Baltimore fans, but that doesn’t mean he’s reluctant to make the switch. San Francisco will certainly be lucky to have him, as he’s arguably one of the best deep receivers in the league. They’ve also signed on WR Jerome Simpson and DT Darnell Dockett. Having re-signed Blaine Gabbert and TE Garrett Celek, it would appear that San Francisco is largely focusing on offense, with only a passing interest in defense. Any gaps in airborne offense caused by the release of WR Stevie Johnson should be filled by Smith and Simpson, but they still need to find a good man on the ground to replace RB Frank Gore.

If Adrian Peterson doesn’t wind up with Tampa Bay or back with Minnesota, it appears that his number one choice might be the Arizona Cardinals. They could certainly use some help running the ball. As of now, Arizona’s major offseason additions are former 49ers LG Mike Iupati and former Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon. They released C Lyle Sendlein, but may already have a replacement due to their signing of C/G A.Q. Shipley. They also managed to work out contracts with DE Cory Redding and DT Corey Peters, and they’ve re-signed DT Alameda Ta’amu. While potential plans to re-sign CB Antonio Cromartie were upset by Cromartie’s new contract with the New York Jets, it’s clear that Arizona has major plans to bolster their defensive line for the upcoming season.