NFL Free Agency 2014: 1 Day In, 5 Teams of Note
By Russell S. Baxter
Pro Football Guru
Hey, we are all busy.
On Tuesday, March 11, all 32 teams in the National Football League had work to do one way or another.
We will skip the notion of which team or teams did well and which clubs didn’t. Obviously, it’s far too early for any kind of grades when it comes to the 2014 offseason.
Still, here is a quick look at five teams that piqued our interest less than 24 hours into the NFL’s new fiscal year.
In an attempt to put a stunning four-win season in the rear-view mirror as fast as possible, general manager Thomas Dimitroff added three players on the first day of free agency to help the Falcons on both trenches.
Only the Bears gave up more rushing yards than Mike Smith’s club last season, hence the additions of defensive end Tyson Jackson (Kansas City Chiefs) and defensive tackle Paul Soliai (Miami Dolphins). No team in the NFL ran for fewer yards in 2013 and that hopes to change with guard Jon Asamoah (Chiefs).
The Falcons also re-signed veteran defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux but parted ways with former Pro Bowl free safety Thomas DeCoud.
The defending AFC champions were ranked 27th in the NFL in pass defense this past season. And John Fox’s defense also allowed 101.6 yards per game on the ground.
The additions of strong safety T.J. Ward (Cleveland Browns) and cornerback Aqib Talib (New England Patriots) should help. Denver has also been mentioned as a landing spot for former Dallas Cowboys' defender DeMarcus Ware.
But what of numerous players that were key members of the club’s Super Bowl XLVIII in 2013? Running back Knowshon Moreno, wide receiver Eric Decker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive end Shaun Phillips are some of the Super Bowl starters out on the market. Starting left guard Zane Beadles signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday.
Andy Reid’s team didn’t sign anyone on the opening day of the market. But the Chiefs did lose five players to othe teams.
The list includes Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert (Miami Dolphins) and wide receiver Dexter McCluster (Tennessee Titans), along with a pair of performers who both signed with the Atlanta Falcons in right guard Jin Asamoah and defensive end Tyson Jackson. Backup tackle Geoff Schwartz left for the New York Giants.
Let’s not forget that the Chiefs dropped five of their last seven games following a 9-0 start. They also blew a 28-point loss in the AFC Wild Card Playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Is Reid’s team headed backwards after last season’s strong start?
For the second straight offseason, Jim Harbaugh’s club lost a Pro Bowl safety.
A year ago, Dashon Goldson bolted to Tampa via free agency. On Tuesday, strong safety Donte Whitner signed with the Cleveland Browns. In 2013, the Niners drafted Eric Reid in the first round. Now former Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea replaces Whitner in the starting lineup.
Talk about intriguing? On a day where 30-plus players changed teams via free agency, the 49ers orchestrated a pair of trades. San Francisco acquired both quarterback Blaine Gabbert from the Jacksonville Jaguars and tackle Jonathan Martin from the Miami Dolphins, respectively, for draft choices.
In an NFC West where keeping up with the Jones means keeping up with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, Harbaugh and company got off to an aggressive start.
The Bucs have managed to finish last in the always-interesting NFC South each of the last three seasons. Does it stop here in 2014?
It won’t be for a lack of trying as new head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht added a pair of top-notch defenders to the club via Pro Bowl cornerback Alterraun Verner (Tennessee Titans) and talented defensive end Michael Johnson (Cincinnati Bengals). Keep in mind that the Tampa defense has allowed 30 touchdown passes in each of the last three seasons while totaling a combined 85 sacks over that span.
The signing of tight end Brandon Myers (New York Giants), who led the Oakland Raiders in receptions back in 2012, figures to be a big plus as well.
Is there any other club that piqued your interest on Day One of free agency? All thoughts are welcome.
Russell S. Baxter is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com has been covering the NFL for 30-plus years on numerous platforms, including Bleacher Report and Pro Player Insiders. Follow me on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru and Facebook at Pro Football Guru.