|Kim Klement/US Presswire|
|The Falcons could use upgrades on the offensive line to help keep quarterback Matt Ryan upright.|
In the first few days of free agency, all the attention has been on the teams that have been busiest, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears. But there are also plenty of teams not making moves. Which team is dropping the ball so far in free agency?
Falcons need major help in the trenchesThe Atlanta Falcons don't have a ton of cap room to play with, so it might not be fair to come down hard on them. They re-signed key rotational players in WR Harry Douglas, DE Kroy Biermann and backup QB Chris Redman. Still, with no first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, I would think they'd be more active in trying to shore up the offensive and defensive lines, which are huge positions of concern -- especially since the team's lone pass rusher, John Abraham, is on the free-agent market.
Abraham could end up back in Atlanta if the open market doesn't offer the money that he wants. Then again, Abraham could be a nice addition to a team like Seattle, Jacksonville or NFC South rivals New Orleans and Carolina. There aren't many other pass rushers available, so the Falcons need to find someone to threaten the quarterback.
The offensive line also is a huge concern. I spoke to a Falcons player who said the OL was the root to the team's woes, especially in short yardage, and the remnants of what remains look even worse. Atlanta has to upgrade at left tackle and right guard, and figure out what to do at center with Todd McClure a free agent. There are a lot of solid centers available in free agency and the Falcons need to nab one to keep Matt Ryan protected.
Best teams don't need to go bonkers early in free agencyI'll take the contrarian view on this one and applaud some of the teams that aren't diving into the market. The Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers never go nuts this time of year, for good reason. Prices quickly inflate and free agents often underperform.
Waiting for the market to deflate and then scooping up selective free agents on one-year, prove-it contracts can be wise if your scouting department is strong. (Think San Francisco with Alex Smith and Carlos Rogers a year ago.)
The best teams don't need to go bonkers on the first three days the market opens and the very best deals are generally those that secure proven talent to an existing team -- like the extensions given Calvin Johnson and Trent Cole.
Rams could use playmaking receiver to help Sam BradfordYou have to be careful in criticizing teams with only a few days gone in free agency. There is a long way to go before teams have to play a game. Also, roughly half the NFL teams can't participate in the big-money portion of free agency.
Sometimes teams can be very effective in the "secondary market," like last year when the San Francisco 49ers signed Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson.
But one team that would have liked to have gotten more done is the St. Louis Rams, particularly at wide receiver. When the Rams moved down to No. 6 in the draft in a blockbuster trade with Washington they lessened their chances of getting top wideout Justin Blackmon. One way to partially compensate for that move is to sign a receiver in free agency, something they have not done yet.
Seattle should be taking advantage of significant cap spaceIt's a little early to say any team is droppin' the ball, but the Seahawks are a club that needs to make the most of this time in the marketplace. This organization is sitting on 7-9, 7-9, 5-11 and 4-12 records over the past four seasons. The Seahawks' last decent team went 10-6 in 2007, but got demolished in the playoffs. In that time, they've had three head coaches. GM John Schneider (whose namesake played "Bo Duke" on Dukes of Hazzard -- just sayin') should be smart, but not overly conservative. Being overly conservative can be just as damaging as executing a bad free-agency deal.
I like that the Seahawks haven't gone cuckoo over these wide receivers -- most of those deals have been far too pricey. Yet, Seattle has holes on the O-line and at linebacker, and should be a strong contender for a quarterback. Kick coverage was an issue last year. Ditto pass rush. It's time to get active. It should be noted that the club re-signed Marshawn Lynch, Red Bryant and Pat McQuistan, but that's not enough. Hosting Steve Hutchinson was great. Sign him. Jason La Canfora recently reported that Seattle had $27.7 million of cap space. That's after Lynch was re-upped. Make some quality use of it and close the gap on the Niners.
Jets have far too many holes to stand pat; Titans, Broncos need more than PeytonI don't disagree with the methodical approach some teams are taking because the money that's been thrown around the first two days is ridiculous. I wouldn't have wanted my team to engage in that first wave, because mark my words, there will be plenty of teams looking to get out of these deals in two years. (Pierre Garcon, anyone?)
That being said, there's three teams that still need to be making more noise. The Jets haven't drafted well the last couple of years and have relied on free agency to shore up weaknesses. They're going against previous offseason strategies by talking to players like Chaz Schilens and Drew Stanton. But are those guys really going to take you over the top? They need an infusion of talent at OL, WR, DL, LB, S and even RB. So far, they've re-signed Bryan Thomas and Nick Folk.
It's also going to be a hard fall for either Tennessee and/or Denver. They've gone all in on Peyton Manning, laying off of other free agents because of the money it will take to potentially sign Manning. These are both teams that are on the cusp of being very good and need to bring in more players to put them over the top, but they can't right now because each thinks they're getting Manning. Even the Dolphins and Cardinals, the other two Manning "finalists," have done some work in free agency -- likely because they know they're not the favorites to land him and aren't waiting around. Either the Titans or Broncos (or both) will lose out on Peyton, and they'll be chasing scraps to fill the rest of their holes, as well, making it impossible to improve on 9-7/8-8.