Once again the NFL proves to be king of all things, now including the off season. “Free Agency,” as the NFL’s version of the Hot Stove is simply known, has become a mesmerizing frenzy. A bridge between the Super Bowl and the draft that keeps us afloat as we breathlessly count down the days until the 2013 NFL season starts.
Such is life for the NFL fan and/or junkie. Be it a diehard of just one team or the casual observers following Free Agency updates league wide. Wes Welker’s Rocky Mountain high-tailing from New England’s (alleged) low-ball offer played out with the same odd intensity as the naming of a new Pope that same day. Blue and red smoke would signal Welker returning to play Brady’s Blanky with the Pats, but blue and orange smoke meant he’d leave Tommy for Satan Manning…
And then finally, poof! Welker signed with Denver, and voila - behind door #2 the Patriots pulled out the 4-years-younger (but technically no longer a “poor-man’s Wes Welker”) Danny Amendola, for similar money they were/weren’t willing to pay Welker.
Before that, New League Year’s Day started with a bang as the 49ers picked up WR Anquan Boldin off of Craigslist from the Ravens (while $100 million dollar man and Only Raven Left Joe Flacco was slummin’ it at the Aberdeen McDonald’s) and the Seahawks traded their first-round pick to Minnesota for Percy Harvin. Soon after, the Dolphins, Chiefs and other teams were also making moves.
Within 24 hours of the start of Free Agency, we (they) were declaring Big Winners. Denver is going borderline Dream Team on us, not only adding Welker but also some protection for Peyton (key interior lineman from the rival Chargers Louis Vasquez), former Eagle Dream Teamer CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, plus Jags DT Terrance Knighton. Miami’s haul was highlighted by guaranteeing former Steeler WR Mike Wallace $30 million dollars and flat-out stealing LB Dannell Ellerbe away from Baltimore like Mayflower trucks in the middle of the night.
Rashard Mendenhall (once rumored to Denver) gave into the inevitable and followed the long line of Pittsburgh players and coaches who make a beeline to the Arizona desert, high-fiving his former Steelers teammate CB William Gay who was leaving the Cardinals to return to Pittsburgh. In Arizona, Mendenhall will run behind a line worse than the Steelers alongside a quarterback committee of Drew Stanton, John Skelton and Who Knows Who Else at Somepoint. At least he’ll get to team up with playmaker Josh Cribbs (free agent signed from Cleveland).
As for Cleveland, new GM Michael Lombardi is building a nasty defense for coordinator Ray Horton to direct under new head coach Rob Chudzinski. Ravens LB Paul Kruger was the big catch but they also added DT Desmond “Mugshot” Bryant from Oakland and Cardinals LB Quintin Groves.
Moves came fast and furious as the Bills cut QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Steelers cut James Harrison. Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez said he was coming back, the Bears grabbed Giants TE Martellus Bennett, and the Rams picked up TE Jared Cook on the side of the incestuous Jeff Fisher highway between Tennessee and St. Louis. Nnamdi Asomugha was cut by Philly. Adrian Peterson got punched in the stomach. Ray Lewis joined ESPN.
Heads were spinning. But there was an excitement to the week, the type of thing other pro leagues couldn’t buy even if they could afford to. Luckily for the NFL, Free Agency just happens to be tailor-made for the Twitter era. All of us can follow Adam Schefter, Jay Glazer, Chris Mortenson, Jason LaConfora, Albert Breer, Jeff Darlington, and a few local beat writers and bloggers from our favorite teams and get all the breaking news instantly.
The Titans landed the top interior offensive lineman, Andy Levitre from the Bills. Safety Dashon Goldson left San Fran for Tampa. The Jets exhumed David Garrard, and the Ravens whacked Bernard Pollard like Pollard has done to so many defenseless players on the field.
At one point I think the Tight Ends traded Jared Cook to the Wide Receivers with the WR’s sending Anquan Boldin to the TE’s in return. It was all very confusing.
Speaking of confusion, the Jaguars cut WR Laurent Robinson (a free agent bust from a year ago), but since he “passed his physical,” he’ll get no injury settlement despite the fact that he suffered FOUR concussions while working in Jacksonville (which in turn played a huge role in him being declared a bust and, hence, fired). But the league says it cares about player safety. It’s crazy.
Speaking of crazy, half the fans in Baltimore were ready to jump in the Harbor while the other half tried to talk them down with the “Trust In Ozzie” mantra. In Kansas City, the Chiefs kept WR Dwayne Bowe and added WR Donnie Avery, completed their trade for QB Alex Smith and bolstered that defense when Andy Reid started pulling big-name DB’s like Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith out of his mustache like it was a clown car. Reggie Bush went to Detroit. The Seahawks landed coveted DE Cliff Avril, and the Jets and Bucs tried to play a game of Pope Smoke about a possible trade for Darrelle Revis. The Texans picked up linty-bearded Ed Reed in a private jet and Steven Jackson spurned the Packers to join the Falcons. Shit was happening!
Meanwhile, the usual busy beavers and big spenders in Free Agency, the Spring Champs from most of the first decade of this century, the Redskins were curiously (and wisely) quiet at the opening bell. In typical Washington fashion, they were fighting two wars: the new momentum of the campaign and latest lawsuit to change the offensive Redskins nickname and the league-imposed salary cap penalties that forced them to restructure some guys, let DeAngelo Hall and Lorenzo Alexander walk, and prevented them from spending on marquee free agents. It was like finally taking away drunk Dan Snyder’s car keys or hiding JaMarcus Russell’s pizza menus.
But as baseball’s spring training got under way and the NBA was fast breaking toward the playoffs on the back of a crazy Miami Heat winning streak, it was NFL Free Agency that was stirring the pot on the hottest stove. We couldn’t look away. NFL Media Insiders barely slept. Players tweeted “wheels up” from airplanes as we wondered if they’d end up signing to play in the hash-tagged city. We got reports quoting people “close to Tom Brady” about Brady’s mood following Welker’s defection to the Elway Empire in Denver. I think we even got reports about the moods of those people close to Tom Brady.
And that was just the first week of Free Agency. More dominoes will fall. (I mean plenty more player movement, that’s not another JaMarcus Russell pizza joke.) Things are just heating up. So before you start punching the Broncos and Seahawks tickets for next year’s Super Bowl, just remember that the Spring Champs rarely take home the real hardware the following February. Besides, we still don’t even know where Tim Tebow will end up playing.