The NFL's frenetic free-agency period is already over. Blink and you miss it.
And as we head closer to the draft, with that now the singular focus for most front offices, there are some contending teams with striking vacancies on their roster. There are some teams who have been in the playoffs recently that may have taken a step back, or could prove to be quite challenged even to tread water. Things come at you fast up here, and with few impactful veterans still to be had, I wouldn't blame some recent playoff teams to be a little worried about their state of affairs with winter now behind us.
The Steelers were always facing a daunting 2021 offseason, and their decision to keep Ben Roethlisberger, and also JuJu Smith-Schuster, at the detriment of an already needy cornerback room, comes with some potential peril. Pittsburgh also is risking things by going with some unproven offensive linemen, and has a need for an edge presence with Bud Dupree gone.
The Ravens ended 2020 with a lack of edge players and impact pass catchers on the roster … and, yeah, that continues to stick out now. Arguably the weakest receivers room in the entire NFL, and with Tyus Bowser, an aging Calais Campbell and rotation man Pernell McPhee as the best options on paper today, one could not blame the Ravens for harboring some concern. Behind surging Hollywood Brown on the depth chart at WR? Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay, who barely played on offense at all last season, and James Proche, a healthy scratch. Yikes.
The Patriots have been playing coy about their quarterback woes since Tom Brady headed to Tampa, and for all the money they spent upgrading a horrible group of skill players, going to games with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham seems less than ideal. Newton has a role, but playing 17 games with him could present complications.
The Titans took a step back at receiver/tight end and throughout the secondary. The Colts still need a left tackle and pass rushers, and have been utterly quiet outside of the Carson Wentz trade, which comes with its own possible warts. I like what the Browns have done in the secondary, but secondary pass rush was and is an issue. Seattle has been in the market for pass rush seemingly forever and must still be.
Don't get me wrong – we are still mere weeks into what can feel like an endless offseason. Abundant time remains. But March provides a unique opportunity to check some boxes and eliminate some issues before heading into the draft, and that won't be the case for a number of NFL teams.
Several pass-rush options remain, and could be bargains
There are still some options for pass rushers that could make a difference. Kerry Hyder is viewed by some teams as the best option out there, coming off an 8.5 sack season filling in for injured Nick Bosa. As part of a strong rotation he could really shine, and the key for Hyder at this stage could be finding the right scheme/coaching fit. Carlos Dunlap started to look like his former self once he got out of Cincy and got to Seattle, and while he is getting up there, he has plenty to still tap into.
Melvin Ingram has been limited by injury in recent years, scaring some teams, but his pedigree is strong, as is his tendency to get to the quarterback. Justin Houston has had a few teams tailing him and remained effective with the Colts. Jadeveon Clowney is probably someone teams would like to wait to sign until they have a better idea of his health after another lost season with the Titans, but there will be suitors, as there were a year ago (though not at the franchise tag figure).
At least a few of these guys will end up providing significant bang for their buck in 2021. And some will show that the end is near. I'd suspect by this time next week most of these veterans are accounted for. Happy hunting.
Golladay's deal with Giants shocking
Lot of surprised teams that Kenny Golladay got his $18M per year on what amounts to a guaranteed two-year deal. As in shocked.
With the receiver on the market deep into the week and the money pretty much dried up, and only three options – Bears, Giants, Bengals – New York still ended up giving Golladay what he was seeking at the start of this whole process. Within hours of the Steelers signing JuJu Smith-Schuster for less than half that amount on a one-year, $8M deal with no frills. Strange, indeed.
Perhaps it will put the Giants over the top. And Golladay's combination of size and speed and explosive yards per catch provides game-breaking potential. Should the Giants be able to tap into it. With New York spending very big – besides the biggest receiver deal the Giants also agreed to the largest deal on the defensive side of the ball to retain Leonard Williams – and the NFC East still considered the worst division in football, one would think ownership is expecting big gains from coach Joe Judge in year two.
Color me a skeptic, even with the Giants securing two of the premier players available in this tepid free-agent class.