Watching "Pawn Stars" last night brought the realization home that one man's trash is another man's mid-tier free agent.
Seriously, whether it's a a Civil War rifle, a toy bartender who makes dirty martinis or Emmanuel Sanders, the value of a product is whatever someone is willing to fork over for it. Or, in the latter's case, whatever someone verbally agrees to fork over. You get the point.
Over the past week, we've seen incredible player movement based on this market reality, with the direct result being some power-shifting across the NFL -- and the indirect result being a re-jiggering of our NFL.com Power Rankings. All of these roster shakeups have the league hierarchy all shook up.
As always, feel free to share your thoughts: @HarrisonNFL is the place.
Let the dissension commence ...
(Expletive deleted) got real this offseason. Seattle lost key components from its pass-rush rotation ( Red Bryant and especially Chris Clemons) and a solid nickel corner ( Walter Thurmond). Throw in the departure of the fiery Golden Tate -- who made many big plays for this franchise -- and even the most ardent Seahawks fan will agree it's clear the team is weaker. That said, Seattle cleaned up in Super Bowl XLVIII for a reason. Retaining Michael Bennett? Huge.
I wouldn't compare the Elway-Belichick arms race to Kennedy-Khrushchev, but I see Big John's point about competing with the Patriots for football world domination (well, outside of soccer, that is). First, the Broncos have to break down how they were dismantled in February. Then we'll see how the Ward-Ware-Talib trifecta plays out. As much as we love DeMarcus Ware, we have to point out that Aqib Talib put the ban on opposing WR1s last season. The cornerback was truly a great signing.
We're not ready to jump the Patriots over the 49ers yet, but everything surrounding Harbaugh-gate smacks of the Jimmy Johnson-Jerry Jones feud that rocked the Dallas Cowboys exactly 20 years ago, when the two-time defending champs lost their head coach in an ego tussle with ownership. Of course, in that case, Johnson was not upset about money -- it was never considered an issue -- but there seems to be a lot of that going on in the Bay Area. And ego. Whatever the case, the Niners had better hope Antoine Bethea's best days aren't behind him and that Eric Wright can play. (Not the old Eric Wright, who was amazing.)
While Bill Belichick's recent track record in free agency has been ... um ... uninspiring, we think Darrelle Revis will work out slightly better than, say, Marcus Stroud or Chad Ochocinco -- or even Danny Amendola. What's more interesting to these eyes, however, is how some of the kids -- namely, Jamie Collins at outside linebacker and Alfonzo Dennard at cornerback -- will play. (Especially Dennard, who's bound to see a lot more balls coming his way with Revis on the other side.)
The Saints won't be players in free agency. ... New Orleans is in salary-cap hell. ... This might be a down year for Sean Payton..
Really? Boom! So maybe Jairus Byrd isn't as sexy a name as Revis or Ware; the acquisition was still big-time, and quite a coup for a front office thought to be sitting on the sidelines. Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro will comprise a dynamic duo in the back end. Who has a better safety tandem?
Tell you what: The Colts are either going to be so-so on offense or freaking explosive. If Reggie Wayne struggles to recover from knee surgery, Hakeem Nicks re-ups for season tickets to the injury report and Trent Richardson continues to be Trent Richardson, this team could be staring at 9-7. But if Wayne can still play, Nicks turns the dial back three years and Richardson decides he's tired of people discussing his personal life and not his game, look out.
I like the club not overpaying to retain receiver James Jones and picking up a veteran D-lineman in Julius Peppers. Maybe Peppers didn't play well with the Bears last season, but if placed on a pitch count, he can still be a real force. Let us not forget that Aaron Rodgers is healthy, Randall Cobb is healthy and Eddie Lacy is not a rookie anymore.
The Chiefs could be due to take a slight step back this year, and by that I just mean they might win one or two fewer games. At this point, Kansas City's going to be relying on some relative unknowns to step up. That includes OT Donald Stephenson, DE Allen Bailey and FS Malcolm Bronson. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of them -- you're not alone. This is what the salary-cap era has wrought: depth issues. Let's see what those guys can do -- and what K.C. does in the draft -- before judging too harshly.
Any way you look at it, there is NOTHING not to like about the Eagles dealing a fifth-round pick to the Saints for Darren Sproles. Yes, the running back will turn 31 this summer, but it's not like he's an every-down player. Moreover, the Eagles think they can win now. And given the state of the NFC East, that's not a kittens-and-rainbows outlook -- it's reality. Finally, that fifth-round selection falls in the back end of the round anyway, meaning it will represent somewhere around the 160th-best college player on the board. Big whoopie.
Word out of Carolina is that general manager Dave Gettleman has been reading
"Pro Football Preview: Who's Gonna Win the Title in 1938?". Which explains why he apparently doesn't see the need to have a receiver with a single NFL catch on the roster.
The Panthers finally got back on the football map last fall. Let's hope they don't crash back to Earth just because they end up having to rely on someone like Sidney Rice to convert on third-and-8.
Boy, it's tricky completely buying into the Cardinals -- just given the spectacular strength of the NFC West -- but based on the depth chart, it is tough not to like the group being built out in Arizona. The John Carlson and Jared Veldheer signings might lack splash appeal, but the former allows the offense to run out two tight ends and the latter shores up a well-documented team deficiency (offensive tackle). Now it's up to Carson Palmer to play lights out.
This might be the third-best team in the AFC West, but like the Cardinals in the NFC West, the Chargers can hold their own versus the rest of the league. Re-signing Donald Butler to rejoin a now-healthy Charger defense was integral to the success of the 2014 campaign. While he didn't play at a high level last year, he has before, and at 25, his best days are in front of him.
Everything in Cincinnati swirls like a whirlpool around the issue of quarterback play. Are there things we should be paying attention to beyond Andy Dalton? Losing Michael Johnson -- a vital member of the pass-rush rotation -- hurts. What looms larger is losing not one but both coordinators. Some were glad to see Jay Gruden go. As for Mike Zimmer? That's another story entirely. The Bengals' defense kept this team in a lot of games over the past six years. It's your baby now, Paul Guenther.
Bears' free agency strategy in a nutshell:
1) Re-sign the guys you had to have ( Peanut Tillman , D.J. Williams).
2) Shore up the pass rush ( Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Israel Idonije).
3) Let the luxury items go ( Josh McCown, Michael Bush, Julius Peppers).
We still wonder about giving so much guaranteed money to a guy (Houston) who has never broken the seven-sack threshold, but oh well. The defense needed help and the front office had cash.
Somewhat quietly, the Ravens have managed this offseason very well. No Harbaugh drama on this coast, and none of the high-profile departures of the 2013 offseason. Re-signing Eugene Monroe, Dennis Pitta and especially the unheralded Daryl Smith made so much sense that you would think Ozzie Newsome is the GM. Well, he is -- which is why, as much as any other reason, this franchise has won two Super Bowls. Getting Steve Smith was smooth.
As long as Ben Roethlisberger is quarterbacking this team, the Steelers have a puncher's chance in the AFC North. (Of course, he wasn't good enough to make this team.) While Pittsburgh didn't have the funds to make a serious dent in free agency, the Mike Mitchell acquisition was phenomenally smart. At 26, he provides some much-needed youth at safety. And he's coming off a solid campaign in Carolina, where he was excellent in coverage. Maybe the Panthers let him go because he can catch the ball; that seems to be their M.O. lately.
Miami's offseason has gone a whole lot smoother than, well, the regular season. And it's hard not to appreciate the direction the club has taken in the marketplace. The Dolphins signed an offensive tackle in Branden Albert, retained their most important free agent in Brent Grimes and added another big piece in Cortland Finnegan. Getting Randy Starks back in the fold was important; he had an excellent 2013. If Louis Delmas can stay healthy, the defense will be one of the best units in the AFC.
Perhaps it's a product of the win-now salary-cap era, but the Giants won the Super Bowl just 25 months ago, and yet, nobody talks about them as potential contenders. Make no mistake, GM Jerry Reese is thinking about winning, as Big Blue has been busy busy busy in the free-agent marketplace. While adding RB Rashad Jennings was smart, pulling in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond could allow New York to compete with Philadelphia for the NFC East title. Very curious about how this group will perform come September.
Here's another team that, like the Giants, has proceeded wisely in free agency. Acquiring Jon Asamoah and Paul Soliai to shore up the front lines was huge. Tyson Jackson should figure prominently, as well. Jackson rebounded from a poor 2012 campaign to be a viable player up front in 2013. The question in Atlanta is whether this team is closer to the group that made it to the NFC Championship Game in 2012 or the squad that went 4-12 in 2013. Smart mid-tier signings should nudge the Falcons closer to the former.
Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey aren't exactly Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware -- and the Cowboys had the worst defense in the league with Hatcher and Ware. Ugh. Thus, it was a serious dose of good news when Dallas landed Henry Melton. He's coming off a major injury, but his signing is a bit easier to understand than Brandon Weeden's.
He might not be a star, but getting Golden Tate to come suit up in Honolulu Blue is a major development. The Lions needed two major things: 1) a complementary piece outside to take pressure (and coverage) off Megatron, and 2) some attitude from someone on offense. Love him or hate him, Tate comes to play. He's a poor man's Hines Ward -- and that's not meant as an insult. Ward was an MVP in a pretty important game in Detroit not too long ago.
The potential is there for a turnaround ... the
potential. Without getting too carried away, the Bucs certainly represent one of those teams that can go from the basement to the wild-card round in one year. Three things would have to happen:
1) Josh McCown parks Mike Glennon's butt on the bench and puts up a 3,700/25/10 line -- as in, nearly three TDs for every pick.
2) The Falcons' offensive line and defense struggles for the second year in a row.
3) Carolina continues to think the wide receiver position is completely pointless.
Project Make The Playoffs For The First Time In 15 Years is off and running this offseason after Project Make The Playoffs For The First Time In 14 Years failed in 2013. The Bills have been posting photos of head coach Doug Marrone and new O-line acquisitions in the snow that are heartwarming ... what's more important at this stage is the development of EJ Manuel and how the secondary will fare minus Jairus Byrd. Yes, the club didn't want to spend too much money on a safety. But is Mario Williams that much more impactful? The club guaranteed him $50 million two years ago. Byrd's signing bonus in New Orleans was half that.
While everyone watches the Chris Johnson situation, let's ponder the mystery of why the club gave Michael Oher more than 9 million bucks guaranteed. Frankly, it's hard to decipher what the Titans are doing. Meanwhile, the club lost one of its best young players in Alterraun Verner via free agency. Hey, at least they got the one guy who wants to hold a clipboard more than any guy in NFL history.
Loved the Ben Tate signing. (And still do!) No matter how you look at this team offensively, the need for a 200- to 250-carry back was there. If the Browns roll with Brian Hoyer, they will need a running game to complement a quarterback not thought to be a franchise quarterback. And if Hoyer is replaced by a first-rounder in May's draft, how important will a Tate-fueled ground game be then?
The Jags know they won just four games last year. They know the franchise has been in a black hole worse than the movie "The Black Hole" over the past few years. That said, major kudos to GM David Caldwell. Instead of making a giant splash, he carefully added pieces like Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and Ziggy Hood to provide Gus Bradley with a line rotation that can stop the run and get after the quarterback. Meanwhile, Toby Gerhart has been the consummate pro and will help allow Jacksonville to pound the ball and play defense.
The Cassel-Ponder brokerage at quarterback is primed to break fans' hearts again -- unless, of course, the Vikings nab Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel on draft day. Either way, the club did make an effort to firm up all three levels of the defense with serviceable free-agent acquisitions. Call me Positive Perry here, but I loved the Captain Munnerlyn signing. For all the Revis/DRC/Talib blabber, signing a solid corner for $5 million a year was boss.
Tough to gauge what's happening in Raiderland right now. Oh, there's been some activity. ... But has it been conducive to rebuilding the club? GM Reggie McKenzie let some young players walk ( Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer) because he didn't want to pay their market price. That's OK. But signing Donald Penn and Justin Tuck? James Jones could work out, but the thought here is probably not too different from what Raider fans are thinking: With $70 million to spend, is this -- Jones, Tuck, an unproductive LaMarr Woodley, a 30-year old Kevin Boothe and Tarell Brown -- the best the Raiders could do?
Some interesting smaller moves made by the Redskins in free agency. For example: Andre Roberts, one of those players who often makes the plays that win games without the fanfare or giant fantasy numbers. Of course, the crown jewel for Washington was the acquisition of Jason Hatcher. The beauty of Hatcher is his ability to play inside or outside. Oh, and the fact he'll aim to absolutely destroy the Cowboys twice a year.
All eyes on the franchise with the No. 1 overall pick. Most of our mock drafters have the Texans rolling with Jadeveon Clowney. That sounds like what Houston should do, especially if the club is not in love with any of the quarterbacks. New head coach Bill O'Brien should get two to three years at the minimum to turn around his new team. There is no rush to get a quarterback now, at least not with the first overall pick. Take the best player available and roll.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.