April 6th, 2014
Free agency has pretty much come to a close with just a few well known names left such as Chris Johnson getting released by the Titans. And now that the big names have been signed you wonder what they are going to do for their teams next year. Sometimes when a free agent hits the open market a team signs the player and gets that difference maker they need. Other times teams sign a player with a lot of hype and they turn out to be a bust. So here are the teams who snatched those difference makers and the ones who grabbed a player who might have been over evaluated and how these teams will excel and struggle.
Teams that can excel this season:
Denver Broncos- It's hard to beat a record breaking season and a Super Bowl appearance but the Broncos had such a good free agency they can go back to the Super Bowl and win. They signed one of the best safeties in free agency ,TJ Ward, and they also picked up one of the best cornerbacks on the free agent market, Aquib Talib. But they surprised everyone by signing 3 defensive stars when Demarcus Ware joined Talib and Ward in Denver. Other signings were Emmanuel Sanders and Will Montgomery. All these players will improve the Broncos even though Knowshon Moreno and Zane Beadles both headed for Flordia. Talib will be a great cornerback in the system with Chris Harris and an upgrade from the aging Champ Bailey. TJ Ward will bring a new type of play into the safety position. Demarcus Ware will help the pass rush and compliment their defensive line. And finally Emmanuel Sanders will replace Eric Decker who signed with the Jets, at the number 2 receiver spot. With the Broncos new free agents they could do more than just go to the playoffs. They could be a top contender and threat especially with the other AFC west teams not being big factors in free agency. And with Peyton Manning and company already in Denver they can improve their already Super Bowl team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Last season the Buccaneers were among the worst teams in the league. Then they fired head coach Greg Schiano and put Lovie Smith into that position and since then the Buccaneers have been rising. Free agency has been what now makes Tampa look like a more dangerous team. They grabbed Aluterraun Verner a young pro bowl cornerback to replace Darelle Revis and with Lovie Smith being a defensive coach he could develop him into more than just an elite corner. They also snatched Michael Johnson, one of the best defensive ends in the league, from the Bengals. They didn't just go all defense in free agency; they also got some free agents on the offensive side. They picked up what might be the starting quarterback for them next year in Josh McCown and they also signed left tackle Anthony Collins and tight end Brandon Myers. With Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and a great offensive line already on the offensive side and Gerold McCoy and Dashon Goldson already on the defensive side combined with all of their free agent additions make them look dangerous. And now that they have released Darelle Revis and he has gone to New England they could maybe use the cap room for more great free agent moves to put the Buccaneers in the right direction.
Teams that will struggle this season:
Carolina Panthers- The Panthers went deep in the playoffs last season but in free agency they haven't gone deep to sign a player. The Panthers have an elite quarterback and a good defense but it looks like everything is falling apart on both sides of the ball. Their receiving unit fell apart when they cut Steve Smith, lost Dominek Hixon to the Bears, lost Brandon Lafell to the Patriots, and Ted Ginn to the Cardinals. Now they have a whole unit to build and so far all they've done is sign the aging Jerricho Cotchery and they have 3 more receivers to go. On the defensive side they put a franchise tag on Greg Hardy and signed Roman Harper from the Saints but they still have problems. They lost safety Mike Mitchell to the Steelers and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to the Vikings. Both were good players for the defense. Now because of all the free agent moves the Panthers are left with several positions in need. They need secondary help, wide receiver help, and right tackle help. Now they have to rely on the draft and even though it's deep I don't think it'll be enough to fix all the Panthers problems. This is when they really need Cam Newton to carry the team on his back. If that doesn't happen they'll be a disappointment but if he does it'll be a miracle.
Cinncinati Bengals- Another playoff team who has just not been a factor in free agency. The Bengals didn't end their season well last season and didn't start the season well either this season. They just haven't been active in free agency. They lost Anthony Collins their left tackle and cut both James Harrison and Kyle Cook which will definitely sting but the big loss was Michael Johnson. Johnson and Collins both went to Tampa but he was not only the starting defensive end he was an elite and some might say one of the best defensive ends in the league. All of those losses including them losing both their offensive and defensive coordinators will really hurt the Bengals. Now you're probably wondering if the Bengals fought back and signed new players. Well, they didn't. They have been one of the quietest free agent teams with a big cap space. Any other general manager would take that money and spent it on free agent talent. Over this span of time they have only made one significant free agent move by signing safety Daniel Manning. To add to that Andy Dalton is coming off a disappointing year and quarterback might be next on the list for team needs. That adds to a list of needs that includes another defensive tackle to help Geno Atkins, another defensive end, and a cornerback. The Bengals would have to be loaded with draft picks to at least get a couple good fits for those positions but they're not. Just like the Panthers I don't think the draft will fix all of their needs. It is deep and I think they could trade up to get a good quarterback or any other position but they'll have to develop them. Now that they are not in very good shape you'd usually rely on the quarterback but Andy Dalton has been struggling so if it's a rough ride for him next season it'll be a rough ride for the team.
All of these teams have been through great and not so great free agencies before so they know what they're doing. And for the teams that don't look very good at the end of free agency must have a secret when they're in the boardroom on draft day.