NFL free-agency Day 1 round-up: Biggest surprises

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lamar Miller, Chris Ivory. (AP)

Got a hot topic? Our NFL panel has opinions. The panel includes Sportsnet deputy editor Jordan Heath-Rawlings, staff writers Donnovan Bennett, Mike Johnston and Jeff Simmons, and associate editor Geoff Lowe.

What was the biggest surprise from Day 1 of NFL free agency?

LOWE: There’s no doubt, Olivier Vernon’s five-year, $85-million deal with the New York Giants shocked everyone. But the biggest surprise of Day 1 has to be the Houston Texans. A team that made the playoffs last season on the back of J.J. Watt and a nasty defence (with some help from playing in a terrible division) has just been bolstered with a potential quarterback of the future in Brock Osweiler and a talented young running back in Lamar Miller.

Now, I’m not saying these moves by the Texans are necessarily the right ones—on paper the future looks bright, but a year from now we could be talking about who Houston should target for its next quarterback. The moves, however, were surprising, as the Texans scooped Osweiler out from under the noses of the defending Super Bowl champions and wasted no time replacing Arian Foster in the backfield. It also put the rest of the AFC South—and in particular, the Andrew Luck-led Colts, who were strangely quiet on Day 1—on notice.

SIMMONS: The Los Angeles Rams. Talk about a disappointing organization. Conventional logic was the Rams might be looking to make a splash to draw some fan interest in Los Angeles, but all the team did Wednesday was re-sign a pair of decent starters at inflated prices and place a first-round tender on quarterback Case Keenum while losing a key pair of starters in Jenkins and safety Robert McLeod. With Jeff Fisher running the show and Keenum at quarterback, the Rams seem destined for mediocrity forever.

BENNETT: Brock Osweiler’s cap number. Brian Hoyer didn’t look like an NFL QB in the embarrassing playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last season, so you knew a move needed to be made. But still, it’s tough to justify giving $18 million dollars a year to a guy who has seven starts to his name. Texans GM Rick Smith was part of the Broncos organization and is friends with John Elway, so Houston is a natural landing spot. But Osweiler’s 1,967 yards, 10 TDs and six interceptions in eight games last year came in an entirely different system from what Bill O’Brien runs. It shows the level of desperation for Houston right now.

HEATH-RAWLINGS: Perhaps it’s not a huge shocker, but a big surprise to me so far is the lack of interest in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Not to say Fitzpatrick is an All-Pro, but he’s clearly the best quarterback on the open market. Yes, Brock Osweiler, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III are younger and more athletic, and each has the (perhaps dwindling) potential to become a bonafide franchise QB. But Fitzpatrick is a sure-handed vet capable of guiding an NFL offence to respectable numbers, and I’m shocked a team that’s ready to win now—like, say, the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, who just won the title with a sure-handed-but-not-athletic quarterback—is chasing more expensive and less accomplished QBs over the reliable Fitz.

JOHNSTON: Chris Ivory to the Jaguars. It wasn’t a bad signing by any means—the running back had a great season with the New York Jets and Jacksonville has an insane amount of money to burn. But the five-year deal at north of $6-million per season for an injury-prone, relatively unproven everyday starter wasn’t cheap either. What’s more, the Jags didn’t necessarily need a new running back—they already have T.J. Yeldon and Denard Robinson.

For Day 1 winners, click here.

For Day 1 losers, click here.

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