The Schein Nine  

 

Free agency feelings: Love Broncos' binge, hate Raiders' route

A few days into the NFL's annual free agency frenzy, the range of emotions continues to swing by the minute. It's easy to have a true love/hate relationship with the transactions.

In free agency, you get the good, the bad and the Raiders.

Here are my personal thoughts on this emotional roller-coaster, Schein Nine style:

1) LOVE: Denver Broncos add Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward

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John Elway is going all in, putting the best possible team around Peyton Manning with one simple item in mind: the Lombardi Trophy. What's not to love? The Broncos' three biggest areas of need this offseason were cornerback, safety and pass rusher. Elway nailed them all. This isn't an example of haphazard, fantasy football spending.

OK, so the Talib contract ($57 million over six years, with $26 million guaranteed) is lofty for a player who has a history of injuries and off-field issues. But Talib is the great, physical, lockdown, play-making corner the Broncos desperately needed. They overpaid a tad for a difference maker. That's a chance you take on the risk/reward scale when you're gunning to win a title within Manning's remaining window.

Meanwhile, Ware, who turns 32 in July, still has gas left in the tank. I'm fine with his contract ($30 million over three years, with $20 million guaranteed). He's good for 10 sacks next year, and his mere presence will significantly help Von Miller.

Prior to free agency's opening, I pegged Denver as the perfect fit for Ward, citing the Tom Heckert connection. This is a major upgrade at safety.

2) LOVE: New England Patriots nab Darrelle Revis

Of course they did. Only the great Bill Belichick could stick to his game plan of not overpaying Talib ... lose the Pro Bowl cornerback ... then UPGRADE the position by snatching up Revis. Vintage Patriots. Classic Belichick.

Revis is still one of the best corners in the game. He's less of a financial commitment than Talib. He's also perfect in Belichick's system and will be two years removed from knee surgery. Love it.

And of course, this adds to the wonderful acrimony between the Patriots and Jets. Revis was never re-upping with his original team. Yes, he enjoyed a brilliant tenure in New York, but he was more interested in greenbacks than Gang Green. Always vocal about wanting more money, Revis had two prolonged and contentious holdouts. I bet Woody Johnson would've rather had his Jets play with 10 men on defense than roll with Revis again. I don't blame the owner one bit for not forging a reunion. Revis is a great acquisition for New England, but he burned bridges with Woody's Jets.

3) LOVE: Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut Revis ... sign Alterraun Verner, Michael Johnson and Josh McCown

Lovie Smith was never paying Revis $16 million a season -- it didn't fit his system. Also, Lovie wasn't the one who traded for Revis in the first place, so cutting him was a no-brainer. Tampa Bay smartly replaced him with my guy Verner, who fits like a glove. Johnson is another defender in the Lovie mold -- a strong run stuffer and pass rusher on the edge.

And Lovie wanted a veteran quarterback to lead a group that he believes is ready to win now. I'm a noted Mike Glennon fan, but again, he was brought in by the old regime. Adding the experienced McCown, who played great for Chicago in 2013, was a logical move.

4) HATE: Oakland Raiders generally bumble through free agency

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Where do I start? How about at the very beginning? Despite having ample salary-cap room, Oakland foolishly let Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer -- arguably the team's two best players -- walk in free agency. That's where the insanity begins, but hardly where it ends.

Oakland then ticketed insane money for the bank account of Rodger Saffold, who was on my list of riskiest free agents because he can't stay on the field. In no universe was Saffold, a tackle better suited to play guard, worth $21 million in guaranteed money. This was ludicrous, even by Raiders standards.

So, of course, we get this, from the department of "You can't make this stuff up": A day after reaching this wild contract agreement with Saffold, it's voided because he doesn't pass the Raiders' physical.

Seriously, you really can't make this stuff up.

To add to the chaotic state, the St. Louis Rams then instantly decided to re-up Saffold. It's all rather embarrassing.

But wait, there's more!

Austin Howard is a solid tackle -- emphasis on solid. Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie gave him a stunning five-year deal worth $30 million -- with a reported $15 million guaranteed! That's crazy talk.

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Then, for some reason, Oakland re-signed Darren McFadden. I don't want to hear that this is low-risk because McFadden took a one-year deal for $4 million. The Raiders should've learned by now that you simply can't count on the injury-prone McFadden. Yes, he's electric when he's 100 percent healthy, but in six seasons, he's started more than seven games just twice.

And, of course, the Raiders met with over-the-hill defenders Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley. (UPDATE: Oakland signed Tuck and Woodley on Thursday.) One NFC GM told me that Woodley "is a huge risk. He doesn't look like the same guy and looks heavy on tape."

Oh, good.

Earlier this offseason, owner Mark Davis said the Raiders "have to hit it right now." McKenzie continues to miss.

5) HATE: Cleveland Browns sign Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby

I have been very positive on Cleveland this offseason. When everyone in the world was tearing the Browns apart last month, I wrote a column praising owner Jimmy Haslam's extreme makeover.

But I cannot comprehend the money the Browns just dished out. I touched on the issues surrounding Dansby in my riskiest free agents column, with one NFC GM telling me, "He's 32. He is turning 33 this season. He played at a high level last year, but he's looking for a huge payday. You can't pay a 33-year-old inside linebacker top dollar. You just can't do it. It's a huge mistake."

Welp, the Browns reportedly committed $14 million in guarantees. Remember the last time Dansby left Arizona? Don't blame you if you don't -- he immediately became a nondescript player in Miami.

And I like Ward, whom the Browns let walk, more than Whitner, who was handed a $28 million deal by Cleveland.

6) LOVE: Jairus Byrd flies to New Orleans Saints

As I said in Wednesday's "Instant Debate," this was the "wow" moment of free agency. Byrd was No. 1 on my board when free agency opened, but nobody had New Orleans as a potential suitor. Credit GM Mickey Loomis for shocking the world and getting Kenny Vaccaro a spectacular collaborator at safety.

Byrd is a star and worth every penny of the $56 million deal. Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is going to have fun playing with these toys. Lots of fun. This is the kind of move that pays off in January.

7) HATE: Carolina Panthers cutting Steve Smith

I don't get this. Smith has a great rapport with Cam Newton. And the Panthers had a dire need at wideout -- even when Smith was still on the roster. He's not the player that he was in the past, but Smith still had value for the Panthers as a good, reliable player and presence.

8) LOVE: Golden Tate lands with Detroit Lions

I can't stress enough how much I love this pickup. Tate is a really talented and tough receiver. He's a winner. For the Lions, he's well worth the five-year, $31 million deal (which contains $13.25 million in guarantees). He's the perfect complement to Calvin Johnson.

9) HATE: Branden Albert gets paid by Miami Dolphins

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Miami needed to upgrade the offensive line. It's been well-documented. But is adding Branden Albert the right move? Nobody values offensive linemen more than Andy Reid -- and Reid immediately made his feelings clear about Albert when he walked in the door and drafted Eric Fisher. Yet, Miami gave him $47 million (with a reported $25 million in guarantees).

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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