NFL Free Agency Day 1 Roundup: Aqib Talib off to Broncos; Browns add Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby
Day 1 of NFL free agency is in the books, and it did not disappoint. Some of the top free agents cashed in and most of them found new homes. The signing came in rapid-fire fashion, so here’s a roundup of all the major action:
None of the big-named running backs inked a major deal, but a handful of the backups found new homes. Rashad Jennings signed with the New York Giants to help revive the team’s running game. Darren McFadden signed on for a “prove it” year with the Oakland Raiders. Ahmad Bradshaw, who was plagued by injury in 2013, re-upped with the Indianapolis Colts for another season. Donald Brown, who enjoyed a career year with Indy, signed a three-year deal with the San Diego Chargers. Toby Gerhart will no longer back up Adrian Peterson; he’s off to the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year deal as well.
Not a lot of action for the wide receivers on Day 1, as the market will develop soon after Eric Decker finds a home and sets his price. But Andre Roberts and Dexter McCluster did change teams. Roberts joined the Washington Redskins on a four-year pact, while McCluster will join the new Tennessee Titans regime under Ken Whisenhunt.
With Jimmy Graham being franchised and Dennis Pitta re-upping with the Baltimore Ravens, there are no marquee tight ends available this offseason. Remaining with their team was the theme for most tight ends; as was the case for Anthony McCoy (Seahawks), Jeff Cumberland (Jets), Clay Harbor (Jaguars) and Jake Ballard (Arizona).
We expected a shuffling of the tackles this offseason, and that’s precisely what happened when free agency officially got underway.
The tackle-needy Miami Dolphins struck first and got their man, Branden Albert of the Kansas City Chiefs for a five-year, $46 million deal. The Oakland Raiders found a pair of book ends in Rodger Saffold and Austin Howard, both of whom inked five-year pacts. Those signings allowed the Cardinals to scoop Jared Veldheer out of the black hole on a five-year contract.
The demand for guards was almost as high as tackle, and the Giants — who were reportedly planning to revamp their line this offseason — got the best player available.
New York signed Geoff Schwartz, who can play at both guard and tackle. The Atlanta Falcons nabbed Jon Asamoah from the Chiefs, while the Jaguars signed Zane Beadles away from the Broncos. Chad Rinehart re-signed with the Bolts on a two-year deal.
The top three defensive ends came flying off the board once Michael Bennett returned to Seattle. The first domino to fall was Michael Johnson, who earned a five-year, $43.75 million deal from the Bucs to be Lovie Smith’s new pass-rusher.
Following suit was Lamarr Houston, who landed with the Chicago Bears as Julius Peppers‘ successor. And Arthur Jones joined his former defensive coordinator in Indianapolis as he signed a five-year deal with the Colts. Former first-round selection Tyson Jackson fled the Chiefs to sign a five-year deal Atlanta as well.
There’s not a lot of depth atop the free-agent defensive tackle list, and most top-tier players have yet to sign deals. The exception is Linval Joseph, who left the Giants and is headed toward the Twin Cities on a five-year, $31.5 million pact. Along with last year’s first-round pick Sharrif Floyd, the Vikings are making a conscious effort to get younger up front.
Cleveland had a plan when they released D’Qwell Jackson. The Browns replaced one of their best defensive players with Karlos Dansby on a four-year, $24 million deal. The Washington Redskins, whose entire linebacking corps was in jeopardy of departing via free agency, re-signed Perry Riley on a three-year deal.
Arguably the biggest splash of Day 1 came as Aqib Talib became the latest New England Patriots Pro Bowler to trade in his jersey for a Broncos one. Talib inked a six-year, $57 million with Denver to help replace Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Champ Bailey.
The top four safeties came flying off the board Tuesday, and leading the way was Jairus Byrd, who broke the bank with a six-year, $54 million contract to become the marquee defensive back for the New Orleans Saints. Byrd replaces veteran Roman Harper and joins a tandem that includes second-year stud Kenny Vaccaro.
T.J Ward will follow Talib to Denver to sure up the Broncos’ secondary, while Donte Whitner left the San Francisco 49ers to join Cleveland’s defense. Replacing Whitner in the Bay Area is former Colt Antoine Bethea, who signed a $26 million deal with the Niners.