The free agency frenzy has largely died down, but not after an exciting weekend and some not-so-minor moves in the early part of this week. Here’s another look at the boldest, shrewdest, and strangest moves in the last week of the funnest NFL free agency ever.
The boldest move: The Super Bowl hungry Philadelphia Eagles made multiple moves in the second half of the 2011 free agency bonanza to earn this title. They’re signing of Nnamdi Asomugha took everyone by surprise. Andy Reid swooped in and plucked the best corner since Champ Bailey in his prime from right under the Jets’ noses, and the Philadelphia defense just went from strong to scary. Though their numerous other additions have shined the Dream Team light on them, the pickups aren’t Dan Snyder-esquely superfluous: Players like Vince Young, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin (a re-signing), and Ronnie Brown all add high-quality depth and experience for the Birds.
Second place: After recruiting Sidney Rice last week, Pete Carroll continues to seamlessly adapt his collegiate recruiting abilities to the NFL with the stunning signing of perhaps the best young tight end in the game, Zach Miller, who had widely been expected to resign with Oakland.
Shrewd moves: The Texans fell out of the Asomugha sweepstakes early on, but they signed the second-best corner on the market in Johnathan Joseph. Their smartest move was also inking safety Danieal Manning, a young strong safety who can also cover. The tandem of moves isn’t flashy but dramatically upgrades last year’s pass defense that was one of the worst in league history.
Second place: Again, here come the Eagles. By picking up Ronnie Brown they get a starting-caliber back who could excel in the physical NFC East if the diminutive LeSean McCoy goes down for length of time due to injury.
Head Scratchers: The Vikings acquired Donovan McNabb — not necessarily a bad move — but then addressed the gaping hole at wide receiver left by Sidney Rice by signing Michael Jenkins, a plodder whose strongest asset is his blocking ability. There were far better players available — Malcolm Floyd still hasn’t signed anywhere — but the Vikings will instead go into battle with a top-three receiving tandem of Jenkins, the Bernard Berrian (who stopped scaring defenses three years ago) and Percy Harvin. Harvin is the only name who remotely challenges defenses, but he will be shut down if opposing teams don’t have to worry about who is lining up across from him.
Second place: Randy Moss’ retirement seems premature. Certainly he isn’t the same player he was even three years ago, but even after last year’s three-team debacle it would seem he still has at least something left in the tank.
As for the Redskins, they’ve added plenty of depth on both sides of the ball (though the O-line continues its recent tradition of being precariously thin). It is questionable how talented that depth is, and they passed on some potentially helpful additions, like Brown and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (who was shrewdly added by the Saints). There were rumors they were interested in Braylon Edwards, but the team exercised its newly found discretion in not pursuing the drop-prone, trouble-prone receiver. Still, the restraint is encouraging.
After a decade-plus of aimless roster and coaching turnover, the Redskins might finally be building a franchise that, with the addition of a franchise quarterback (Andrew Luck, anyone?), can contend year in and year out. Like the good old days.
Parting thought: How great would Ricky Williams look in burgundy-and-gold?