After all of the big name free agents get swept off of their feet by teams with desperate needs, we feel this urge to crown a winner of free agency. This is kind of ridiculous, because we won’t know who really wins until next February, when someone is deemed champion.
But to hell with all of that. It is fun to debate these kinds of things, so why not give this a shot.
Through one week, here are the three teams that I see as having the most successful free agency period:
1. New England Patriots
2. Denver Broncos
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Being a Pats fan, I am obviously biased. But I’m trying to be as objective as possible, in an effort to make this a valid discussion.
The reason I see the Pats as the current winners, is because of what they did to their secondary. This unit went from being one of the worst groups in the league, to one of, if not the best defensive backfield the NFL has to offer. On one side, New England will have the best cover corner in the league in Darrelle Revis, someone who can simply take one half of the field out of play like its nothing. And after week four, Bill Belichick will put out Brandon Browner opposite of Revis, who in 2011, was considered to be much better than Richard Sherman. Browner doesn’t have the coverage skills of a Revis, but he may be the most physical corner in the game today. That physicality is something that has been missing in Foxboro for a long time, and it may be just what they needed to get back to the Super Bowl.
Offensively, the Patriots have been quietly effective as well. They brought back Tom Brady‘s top receiver Julian Edelman, and while he isn’t a vertical threat, he knows how to get open, and how to gain yards after the catch. Then Belichick made a very wise decision, as he brought former Carolina wideout Brandon LaFell to town. LaFell isn’t your prototypical outside the numbers receiver, but he adds some much needed size to Brady’s receiving corps. Those two moves won’t turn the Pats offense back into that 2007 juggernaut, but they will be much better in 2014.
Now I am not discrediting what the Broncos and Bucs have done. In fact, they have done better in some respects. For instance, in terms of talent, Denver definitely wins. John Elway and company have signed Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, Emmanuel Sanders, and T.J. Ward. Peyton Manning‘s defense, specifically the pass defense, will be much better in 2014. But what I don’t like about Denver’s signings, is the amount of money they spent, and it really has a “dream team” type of feeling to it. And as Eagles fans know all too well, that usually doesn’t result in a Super Bowl win.
Yes, Elway has made his team a lot better on paper. But where is the depth that we know Bill Belichick is building in New England? With all the money they blew on these guys, the Broncos don’t have many options when it comes to filling out the rest of their roster. That is why I see the Pats currently in the lead for the “free agency crown”. They spent a lot of money, but you can’t build a Super Bowl team like you’re playing Madden. And even though Denver improved its defense significantly, is it up to par with New England’s? Not even close.
As for the Buccaneers, if it weren’t for New England and Denver going back and forth in this “arms race”, they would be the talk of the NFL right now. They replaced Darrelle Revis with a solid corner in Alterraun Verner, they got Josh McCown, a solid quarterback, and they signed star defensive end Michael Johnson. Lovie Smith has Tampa Bay headed in the right direction, and I think they will make some noise in the NFC South next season.