Vegas oddsmakers may disagree, but Green Bay and New Orleans look more likely to make the Super Bowl from this laptop. Throw Atlanta into the mix and the NFC appears awfully top-heavy. The rich got richer over the last two weeks.
While the Eagles aren’t some super team, they certainly are fascinating. And they didn’t have to pay a lot to improve their roster.
Coach Andy Reid picked up a Pro Bowl cornerback (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) in exchange for a backup quarterback (Kevin Kolb). They replaced Kolb with a more talented backup quarterback (Vince Young.) Top free-agent prize Nnamdi Asomugha came in at a price barely higher per-year than recent deals for vastly inferior players like Stanford Routt and Champ Bailey.
The Eagles improved their defensive line depth with Cullen Jenkins without paying a lot of guaranteed money. They picked up two of the better offensive line bargains in Ryan Harris and Evan Mathis. Even the big deal for Jason Babin could be a short-term affair if he doesn’t produce.
It looked like Philly spent like crazy, but they mostly made smart low-cost bets. Lurie, President Joe Banner, and G.M. Howie Roseman didn’t mortgage the future to go for it just this year. They are in a position to remain aggressive in the long run.
This isn’t the NBA; a couple players don’t necessarily put you over the top. The Eagles know better than anyone that their pickups are only a small piece of the complex, ever-surprising puzzle that is an NFL season.
The players that were on the Eagles last year (hello, Mr. Vick) will make a far bigger difference. The Eagles have a shot. A lot of teams have a shot.
If offseason headlines translated to wins, Redskins owner Dan Snyder would be drowning in Lombardi trophies.
Winning the NFC West
The worst division in football is more confusing than ever. Pete Carroll’s Seahawks took a step back with Tarvaris Jackson signed to start at quarterback. The Cardinals upgraded at quarterback with Kevin Kolb, but their offensive line and defense are full of holes.
The Rams are the team with the clearest plan and look like the division favorites. They built around a strong pass rush and young quarterback Sam Bradford last year. This offseason, they filled in positions of need with sensible under the radar signings. Speaking of which ...
5 teams that quietly got better
1. St. Louis: Guard Harvey Dahl from Atlanta will add nastiness to the Rams running attack. Safety Quintin Mikell shores up a shaky secondary, and coach Steve Spagnuolo knows just how to use him from their days together in Philly. Defensive tackle Justin Bannan adds a capable body for the team’s interior line. Wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker adds a low-cost burner to a receiver group needing a threat.
This is how you succeed in free agency: Bring in contributors without paying them like stars. G.M. Billy Devaney and Spagnuolo have done well re-making this roster.
2. Atlanta: All offseason, we wondered how the Falcons would replace their three free agent starting linemen. It turns out they were able to keep their two youngest guys — right tackle Tyson Clabo and guard Justin Blalock — at fair prices.
Because of the depressed market, they were able to keep both players and have leftover money for pass rusher Ray Edwards. The ex-Viking is exactly the type of player that usually gets overpaid in free agency. But Atlanta brought in the solid starter for less than half Carolina paid Charles Johnson. Atlanta attacked their two biggest areas of need without breaking the bank.
3. Kansas City: The Chiefs improved their wideout depth and team speed with Steve Breaston. His five-year, $9 million contract was among the best values in free agency. Fullback Le’Ron McClain adds more toughness to an excellent running game. Nose tackle Kelly Gregg adds leadership to an underrated defensive line, and linebacker Brandon Siler has plenty of upside for a low price.
There was value out there in free agency this year, and G.M. Scott Pioli found it.
4. New Orleans: The Saints were in a tough spot with the most free agents (29) of any team. They let a few unnecessary pieces go, and aggressively re-signed key guys like safety Roman Harper, wideout Lance Moore, and tackle Jermon Bushrod.
Replacing Reggie Bush with Darren Sproles at running back was a win on the field that saved money and drama off it. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin was the best run-stopper available and the Saints got him at a reduced price. Pair him with February pickup Shaun Rogers, along with incumbent Sedrick Ellis, and the Saints defensive line looks scary.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
5. Green Bay: It was comical to hear some Packers fans gripe about G.M. Ted Thompson staying quiet in free agency. What did you expect?
Thompson’s discipline to rely on drafting and developing works. Bringing back wideout James Jones was a pleasant surprise, and the Packers didn’t have room for many more free agents.
That’s because Green Bay gets back starters Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant, Mike Neal, and Brad Jones from injury last year, among others. That’s just as strong as any free agent class.
The free agent market was flooded with talent, and teams didn’t have time to sign players and integrate them into their systems. That led to a lot of cheap short-term deals for quality players.
High end rookies were the sacrificial lambs of this new CBA, but the free agent classes of 2010 and 2011 got a raw deal. They took one for the team.
1. Miami quarterback: The Dolphins said all offseason they wanted true competition for quarterback Chad Henne. Instead, they got Matt Moore. Miami didn’t go all in on Kyle Orton trade talks, betting Henne would be enough.
2. Bears offensive line: The Bears sniffed around the tackle market, but never closed a meaningful deal. They will move untested second year player J’Marcus Webb to the left side and start rookie Gabe Carimi on the right. Meanwhile, franchise mainstay Olin Kreutz left the team after a contract standoff and there is no great option to replace him.
Fear not Bears fans — You guys did win the Roy Williams and Vernon Gholston sweepstakes.
3. Lions cornerback: They wanted to get Johnathan Joseph, but came up short. Detroit has the makings of a contending team, but their secondary looks shaky at best. Signing Eric Wright from Cleveland was a worthwhile gamble.
PFT: Defensive end finally finds a new team in San Diego — and for a honey of a deal that would be worth a max of $13.35 million.
The Jets take off
Aug. 2, 2011: New York Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum says he's pleased with the moves the team made at the start of the free agency period, discusses their expectations for Plaxico Burress, talks about other key players on the New York roster and more.
2013 SNF Schedule
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