Now that the rush and confusion of the pre-free agency period is over, we’ve asked Sportsnet’s NFL experts to weigh in on who (or what) won or lost over a week that saw the league’s landscape undergo a dramatic shift.
Russell Wilson: Wilson finally has a top-flight weapon to work with in the passing game. To this point he’s gotten by with an efficient but underwhelming receiving group. Enter new tight end Jimmy Graham, who not only gives the Seahawks a big target in the red zone but takes defenders out of the box to stop Marshawn Lynch. Think the Seahawks could’ve used Graham on their last drive of the Super Bowl?
Green Bay Packers: The Packers are doing their thing again. They rarely jump into outside free agency, and they were able to retain both receiver Randall Cobb and tackle Brian Bulaga without overpaying for either player. Cobb and Bulaga both could’ve gotten more money on the open market, but decided to stay with a Super Bowl contender. Aaron Rodgers has to be thrilled.
Mark Ingram: Trading away Graham could hurt the overall productivity of the Saints’ offence, but Ingram does benefit from the trade. By acquiring Pro Bowl centre Max Unger from Seattle to shore up their interior offensive line, the Saints are making it clear that they are moving towards a ball-control offence as Drew Brees enters the decline phase of his career. Ingram will see an increased workload—and see a rise in fantasy value—going forward.
New England Patriots: It’s early and Bill Belichick probably has at least three solutions mapped out, but it’s hard not to say the Patriots were a loser on the opening day of free agency. Not only did they lose star cornerback Darrelle Revis to a division rival—albeit for massive money—they also saw key running back Shane Vereen depart as well. Their other starting cornerback, Brandon Browner, may be the next to go after his option was declined on Wednesday. Tough day for the champs.
San Francisco 49ers: The Seahawks got better (Jimmy Graham), the St. Louis Rams potentially upgraded at quarterback, the Arizona Cardinals signed guard Mike Iupati from the 49ers while San Francisco lost staples such as Patrick WIllis, Frank Gore, and could soon lose Michael Crabtree and their two starting cornerbacks from last season. Yes, San Francisco did add Torrey Smith, and they’ve got Chris Borland and Carlos Hyde ready to replace Willis and Gore, but right now San Francisco looks like the fourth-best team in the NFC West. Not an easy gig for first-year coach Jim Tomsula.
Tennessee Titans: Are the Tennessee Titans awake yet? They have all this cap space and all they’ve done so far is lock up a long snapper, punter, and reach a deal with average slot receiver Harry Douglas. It’s hard to understand what the Titans are up to. Can you even name three quality players on their roster? Or any three at all for that matter?