By Nick Van Fossen
Kansas City Chiefs
(P) Dustin Colquitt (Three years, $7.5 million)
(FB) Anthony Sherman (Three years, $6.3 million)
(WR) De’Anthony Thomas (One year, $880k)
(ILB) Terrance Smith (One year, $630k)
(RB) C.J. Spiller (One year, $900k)
(WR) Sammy Watkins (Three years, $48 million)
(LB) Anthony Hitchens (Five years, $45 million)
(RB) Damien Williams (One year, $1.5 million)
(DL) Xavier Williams (Two years, $2.75 million)
(QB) Chad Henne (Two years, $6.7 million)
(QB) Alex Smith (Redskins)
(CB) Marcus Peters (Rams)
(LB) Tamba Hali (FA)
(S) Ron Parker (FA)
(CB) Darrelle Revis (FA)
While the Chief’s offense is young and primed, the main need this offseason for the front office was to address an aging defense and replace former Pro-Bowler Tamba Hali. This is where former Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchenscomes into play. Hitchens, a former 4th round pick, totaled 304 tackles and 3.5 sacks during his 4 years in Dallas. Hitchens is young at only 25 years old, and he has the perfect skill set that the Chiefs are looking to add to their defense. He runs well sideline to sideline and fills running lanes very well, and also plays well in space. Last season the Chief’s defense ranked 25th in the NFL allowing 120 yards a game, and the addition of Hitchens will immediately help upgrade both their run and pass defense.
The most notable signing for the Kansas City Chiefs was adding wide receiver Sammy Watkins and his deep play ability. The addition of this type of playmaker will be huge for first year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes who is known for his ability to extend plays and launch the ball down the field with a rocket arm. As much as I like the idea of adding another weapon for Mahomes, the receiving core for the Chiefs was already good enough when you include Travis Kelce, and adding an extremely expensive piece on the outside is unnecessary. Watkin’s deal is worth $48 million, which makes him a top 10 highest paid receiver, even though he has never produced close to that level. While I do not hate the move by any means, the Chiefs should have allocated this money more wisely.
The Chief’s offseason has been an interesting one so far after trading away Alex Smith and Marcus Peters, and adding Anthony Hitchens and Sammy Watkins. Moving on from Alex Smith in order to acquire Kendall Fullermakes sense because they have Pat Mahomes up and coming, but trading away a top 5 cornerback who was still on his rookie contract is a bold decision. I am extremely interested to see where the Chiefs use their draft capital in late April, which could influence how I view this free agency in retrospect. Overall, for the time being I am against the Peters trade and Watkins singing, but I do like the Hitchens signing and Fuller acquisition. Did the Chiefs get better? Only time will tell.
Los Angeles Chargers:
(WR) Tyrell Williams (One year, $2.9 million)
(LB) Nick Dzubnar (Two years, $3million)
(C)Mike Pouncey (Two years, $15 million)
(K) Caleb Sturgis (Two years, $4.45 million)
(TE) Virgil Green (Three years, $8.6 million)
(K) Roberto Aguayo (Two years, $1.2 million)
The Chargers’ two issues last season were interior offensive line and special teams field goal kicking, which is why the two best moves that the Chargers front office made this off season were signing Pro Bowl level center Mike Pouncey and two kickers in Caleb Sturgis and Roberto Aguayo to short, small money contracts. The addition of Pouncey in the middle alongside an improving Dan Freeney, Forest Lamp, and offensive line in general will greatly improve the Chargers’ ability to run up the middle and control the clock. Although Aguayo has been disappointing in his time so far in the NFL, his college days show that he has the leg talent and skill to make big time field goals.
With the Chargers not losing any substantial pieces or signing any large expensive pieces it is hard for me to find a bad move for them. This team has one big move it needs to make, and that is signing safety Tre Boston. As long as the front office re-signs him or addresses the position in the Draft I see this as a succesful free agency period.
The Chargers played at a very high level for many games last season, but were crippled by poor field goal kicking and late game play. The front office addressed the two issues from last year with the signing of Mike Pouncey and taking chances on Roberto Aguayo and Caleb Sturgis. Following a productive yet reasonable offseason I expect the Chargers to make big strides next year as the championship window will only be open for a few more years with Philip Rivers.
(QB) EJ Manuel (One year, $800k)
(DT) Justin Ellis (Three years, $13.5 million)
(WR) Jordy Nelson (Two years, $14.2 million)
(RB) Doug Martin (One year, $2.75 million)
(OT) Breno Giacomini (One year, $1.75 million)
(CB) Rashaan Melvin (One year, $5.5 million)
(LB) Emmanuel Lamur (One year, $3 million)
(CB) Shareece Wright (One year, $1.2 million)
(LB) Kyle Wilber (Two years, $2.75 million)
(DE) Tank Carradine (One year, $1.5 million)
(S) Marcus Gilchrist (One year, $4 million)
(LB) Tahir Whitehead (Three years, $18 million)
(WR) Griff Whalen (One year, $790k)
(WR) Cordarrelle Patterson (Traded to Patriots)
(WR) Michael Crabtree (Ravens)
(OL) Marshall Newhouse (Bills)
(CB) Sean Smith (FA)
(LB) Aldon Smith (FA)
(CB) David Amerson (Chiefs)
Two moves really stand out to me from the Raiders free agency so far: signing wide receiver Jordy Nelson and cornerback Rashaan Melvin. After losing Michael Crabtree and Cordarrelle Patterson wide receiver became a pressing need for the Raiders offense, especially with a quarterback as good as Derek Carr. Nelson and his possession receiver skills will slide in perfectly alongside Carr’s arm talent and give him a veteran to throw too. With that being said, Nelson is not the same receiver he was pre-ACL injury, and struggles to separate well from defensive backs. So I still expect the Raiders to continue to add to the receiving core in the draft as a complementary piece to Nelson. My second favorite move is adding Rashaan Melvin. Melvin played for the Indianapolis Colts last year and was a key piece to a depleted secondary. For a team that used a first round draft pick last year on cornerback Gareon Conley, Melvin will slide into that cornerback #2 role or slot corner. I was very impressed with Melvin’s play last year, and in my opinion getting him on a one year deal for only $5.5 million will wind up being a steal for the Raiders.
I do not have any real issues with the Raiders’ signings. They are taking a few chances on players such as Doug Martin and Tair Whitehead, but both players have produced in the past couple of seasons, are key areas of needs for the team and roster, and are on very reasonable contracts. The only knock I will note is that Jordy Nelson ended up costing about the same as Michael Crabtree, and I view Crabtree to be the better of the two at this point in their careers.
The Raiders have been one of the most active teams so far in Free Agency. They clearly know what their team needs are and are addressing those with low cost, prove it to me contracts. I really like the re-signing of Justin Ellisalong the defensive line and the signing of Breno Giacomini on the offensive line. Mixed in with Rashaan Melvin, Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin, I truly expect the Raiders and first year head coach Jon Gruden to improve greatly and get back to being the playoff team that they were just two seasons ago.
(G) Billy Turner (One year, $2 million)
(LB) Todd Davis (Three years, $15 million)
(QB) Case Keenum (Two years, $36 million)
(DL) Clinton McDonald (Two years, $7 million)
(CB) Tramaine Brock (One year, $3 million)
(QB) Trevor Siemian (Traded to Vikings)
(CB) Aqib Talib (Traded to Rams)
The addition of defensive lineman Clinton McDonald is by far my favorite move from John Elway and Co. this free agency period. McDonald is a space eater at 6’2 300 pounds, and while he may not show up big on the stat sheet his play speaks for itself and helps those around him. McDonald will provide depth and slide in very well alongside Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko. McDonald’s strength is in the run game, and he will help the Denver Broncos defense which is strongest on the EDGE and in the back end.
Buckle up Bronco fans. Elway has missed on quarterbacks in the past, often. Case Keenum had a career year in 2017 with 3,500 yards, a 67% completion percentage and a 22–7 touchdown to interception ratio. All of these very impressive numbers would lead you to believe that Keenum is a high level quarterback, but if you look deeper into the numbers it becomes less clear. Two years ago, Keenum threw for 2,200 yards and had a 9–11 touchdown to interception ratio. In 2017, Keenum was balanced by an elite NFL level defense, a solid line, great stable of running backs, a very good receiving core, and a high level of coaching. I do believe that Keenum is a capable quarterback, and probably the best backup in the NFL. But for an NFL franchise whose window is closing due to an aging defense, more than just a high level backup should be playing for the Broncos. Since the Broncos having good receiving weapons and a high level defense I expect that Keenum can be very productive in Denver, but that he will not lead them to the championship they are looking for.
I didn’t write about it in the worst moves category because it can be difficult to assess a situation with a player from outside the locker room, but the loss of Aqib Talib can only hurt a defensive secondary and created a hole that has to be filled either through free agency, a trade, or the draft. This Bronco team is built so well though that even losing Aqib Talib will not prevent them from winning a championship. But their quarterback play is likely what will. The rest of this offseason is all about finding that man, and unless they plan to draft a quarterback, I cannot confidently say that they have found the next Bronco QB regardless of what they say to the media. I do like the acquisitions of Clint McDonald and Tramaine Brock, but until they find a QB of the future each season just feels lost for such a talented team.