The Schein Nine  

 

Texans, Giants, Raiders crushing free agency; Broncos regress

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You'd have to be insane to overreact to Day 1 of free agency.

Well, that's never stopped me before.

It's time for our annual "love and loathe" column, Schein Nine style, in the wake of a wild opening wave of open-market activity:

LOVE

1) Texans' two-step improvement

Houston had the single worst quarterback situation in the NFL last year, with four different starting signal callers (Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates and Brandon Weeden). It was a group that resembled the contents of a clown car more than a legit QB room.

Enter Brock Osweiler. It's a coup, representing a gigantic upgrade at the game's most important position.

Bill O'Brien goes from having the worst quarterback group in the league to suddenly possessing a young signal caller who displayed his talent, savvy and work ethic for the Super Bowl-champion Broncos last year. This isn't a hypothetical assessment of a backup with enticing skills. Osweiler beat the previously undefeated Patriots in prime time. He won in the division, he won on the road, he won against a formidable opponent on Monday night. And let's be honest: The offense quite simply functioned at a higher level with Osweiler than it did with Peyton Manning. In the youngster's seven starts, Denver averaged 386.1 yards per game. In the future Hall of Famer's 12 starts (including the playoffs): 312.3 yards per game.

The contract is ultra-rich, there's no question about that. Osweiler got $72 million over four years -- an average of $18 mil per. But I had him rated as the No. 1 free agent because of the position he plays and the skill he showed in a short period of time. Look at Kirk Cousins getting the franchise tag (which he deserved). Look at what Philly just spent on Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. The price of admission at quarterback is steep in today's NFL. I applaud the Texans for doing what it took to get a promising young talent.

But wait, there's more!

Houston wisely scooped up a backfieldmate for Osweiler: Lamar Miller. The running back was severely underutilized by both Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell in Miami. Miller's a major upgrade over the injury-depleted version of Arian Foster we (briefly) saw last year.

The Texans already had a great defense, led by the incomparable J.J. Watt. Now they have legit players at quarterback and running back, two major areas of weakness last season.

Houston is going to hit double digits in the win column next year and be in the mix for everything in the AFC. Plus, the organization has a great coach in O'Brien.

The future is bright for these Texans. They saw an opportunity and went for it. They recognized weaknesses and fixed them. I love it.

2) Giants' defensive overhaul

My big issue in recent years with the much-maligned Jerry Reese has boiled down to one simple fact:

The Giants haven't had the requisite talent to truly contend.

Well, to deal with that problem, Reese threw money into the open market. And, if it's done wisely, I most certainly don't have a problem with that.

The Giants' defensive line needed major help. After Wednesday, that is no longer the case.

I thought Olivier Vernon was one of the most attractive free agents on the market. I never thought he would get $85 million over five years -- with a stunning $52.5 million in guarantees! But the Giants had the money to spend and were desperate to increase the woeful talent base. Also, Vernon is just 25 years old. He's really good and will get even better.

I loved the Giants pilfering Damon "Snacks" Harrison from the Jets. He's a classic clogger, completely stuffing the run on a regular basis. Harrison is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league.

Now, in recent years, I repeatedly have made my feelings known on Jason Pierre-Paul. I've been on record saying he hasn't made a meaningful play since the Giants' last Super Bowl triumph. I'm not a JPP believer and think the Giants should've just cut ties. But at least the team didn't make a long-term commitment, forcing him to prove his worth. And I will admit that his image forces coordinators to account for him. His presence will help Vernon.

In addition to the renewed commitment up front, Reese gave Janoris Jenkins a hefty $62.5 million over five years, including an astronomical $29 million fully guaranteed at signing. Again, I love it. Jenkins is a legit cover corner. He'll pair well with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Giants were embarrassed after missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. They did something about it.

Is Reese "GMing" for his job? Absolutely. This is what he should've been doing for years: adding talent. And the G-Men have a short window to get back into contention, with Eli Manning getting long in the tooth.

I do feel terrible for Tom Coughlin, who was -- realistically -- fired. The future Hall of Famer would've loved coaching these guys with some talent.

3) Raiders' continued renaissance

If NFL players want money and want to win, they consider the Raiders.

Watch:

How awesome is the weight of that statement?

I love Bruce Irvin joining his old coach Ken Norton in Oakland. Irvin will thrive playing with the great Khalil Mack.

I love Oakland signing Kelechi Osemele, a solid, strong and versatile offensive lineman who won a ring in Baltimore.

And I love the Sean Smith signing, snatching a gifted cover corner away from a division rival. The secondary was Oakland's biggest area of need entering this offseason, and I'd still go after safety Eric Weddle.

The Raiders boast a great young core with Mack, Derek Carr and Amari Cooper. They can add a running back in the draft. (Ezekiel Elliott would be dreamy at No. 14, but he very well could be gone.)

With a couple more key additions, this team will be ready to get over the hump -- ready for prime time!

4) DeMarco Murray's return to a bell-cow role in Tennessee

All this cat wanted was carries. Chip Kelly seemed to forget about his prized free-agent back last year, inexplicably refusing to run him north-south. As Murray joked to the Titans' official website on Wednesday, "I feel like I took a year off last year, so I am fresh."

Murray is only a season removed from winning Offensive Player of the Year, rushing for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns (both NFL highs). He's a great fit for the Titans -- he'll give Marcus Mariota balance and get those requisite touches.

The Murray-to-Tennessee deal, which became official on Wednesday, was a win for the player, the acquiring team -- and the Eagles, too. Speaking of that ...

5) Howie Roseman's magic act in Philly

As I just stated, I think DeMarco Murray can still provide value in this league. But for a team that is clearly transitioning away from its failed Chip Kelly experiment, his contract was pretty daunting. Getting rid of that and Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso on the same day? That's Harry Houdini meets Ozzie Newsome. This was some serious magic and skill. Roseman was figuratively (would anyone be surprised if it was literally?) locked in the closet last offseason, as Chip Kelly the GM did things that eventually would get Chip Kelly the Coach fired.

Somehow, Roseman got the Dolphins to take two players who grossly underachieved in 2015, while swapping first-round picks and getting into the top 10! This is the kind of thing that evokes laughter when callers suggest it on my radio show. It's not reality.

Now, I still have major questions about the Eagles. I'm a noted fan of Chip Kelly the Coach, and Doug Pederson was hardly an inspiring replacement. Also, Philly's quarterback situation is ... interesting. The Eagles are in for a long season in 2016.

But this was a good (re)start for Roseman. Maybe the Eagles will use whiteout in the media guide to pretend Chip didn't even exist.

LOATHE

6) Dolphins' curious roster makeover

Lot of dice rolling. Lot of dice rolling.

Taking on Maxwell and Alonso is dicey. Both failed miserably in 2015. Letting Vernon go was a mistake.

Mario Williams (signed to a two-year, $17 million deal) became an underachiever and malcontent in Buffalo. And while he was right in saying Rex Ryan didn't use him correctly, you don't make it into a recurring distraction. Teaming Williams with Ndamukong Suh, who marches to the beat of his own drum, is potentially toxic.

Oh, and the first-round-pick swap!!

I feel for new coach Adam Gase. This isn't a rebuilding job. He was brought in to win. Good luck managing egos and underachievers.

7) Broncos' regression

I know, I know: John Elway is fantastic at his job. He just won a Super Bowl. Believe me, I know.

I also know that Malik Jackson was a star last year. He's now in Jacksonville.

I also know, as predicted, Danny Trevathan went to Chicago to get back together with old Broncos coach John Fox.

And lastly, I know that the Broncos wouldn't have earned home-field advantage throughout the 2015 playoffs -- would they have even made the playoffs? -- without Osweiler. They should've signed him weeks ago. This is neglect. It's irresponsible. And Elway, despite his strongly-worded statements on the matter, reportedly offered Brock $16 million per year. So he did want him!

The Broncos blew it. This is a huge deal. The champs got worse.

There are two types of teams in the NFL: those that have a quarterback and those that don't. Suddenly, Denver falls into the latter group.

And the names in the mix to replace Brock are baffling. Can Colin Kaepernick pass a physical today? He's been subpar the past two years -- and was benched for Blaine Gabbert, which is illegal in most states.

If John Elway asked Mike Shanahan for Robert Griffin III advice, what do you think he would say?

In 2016, Osweiler's new team will win more games than his old one.

8) Colts' static approach in a division on the rise

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Dwayne Allen got paid, for some reason. Coby Fleener flew to New Orleans.

There's still time, but so far ... No line help. No defensive help. This was a year to overpay on top-tier talent, to get Andrew Luck what he needs.

Meanwhile, as for the rest of the AFC South, Tennessee, Houston and Jacksonville all are rapidly improving their respective rosters.

9) The talent exodus from Cleveland

Cleveland lost Alex Mack (love the fit in Atlanta), its Pro Bowl center.

Cleveland lost its right tackle, the ultra-reliable Mitchell Schwartz, whom Kansas City signed in a smart move.

Cleveland lost Travis Benjamin -- a rare solid receiver on the roster -- to the Chargers.

Cleveland lost Tashaun Gipson -- a 2014 Pro Bowler who's just entering his prime -- to the Jaguars.

Cleveland couldn't get Marvin Jones to follow Hue Jackson to Cleveland.

Better to laugh than cry. I think ...

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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