NFL free agency isn’t officially 24 hours old, but the winners have already been determined. How do you win free agency? Spend money. Overpay if you have to. Adding splashy, big-name talent results in victories.
Remember last year? The Colts spent lavishly. Missed the playoffs. So did the Eagles. They too, missed the playoffs.
And who could forget 2014? The Tampa Bay Bucs broke the bank for defenders Michael Johnson, Alterraun Verner and Josh McCown. They missed the playoffs. The Raiders also opened the wallet and added LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew. That team missed the playoffs. The Browns scooped up Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner and stole receiver Andrew Hawkins from the rivals Bengals.
Are you sensing a trend?
In 2013 the Dolphins “won” free agency by signing receivers Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, and defenders Brent Grimes and Dannell Ellerbe. No playoffs.
Don’t let the Denver Broncos winning the Super Bowl fool you into thinking titles are won in March. Von Miller the MVP, was homegrown (#2 pick by Denver in 2011). Denver’s leading rusher in the Super Bowl? CJ Anderson, a Broncos undrafted free agent. Denver’s leading tackler in the Super Bowl? Danny Trevathan, a 6th round pick in 2012. By the Broncos. Of course, there were a few key free agents who were key to victory (Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, receiver Emmanuel Sanders, defensive backs TJ Ward and Aqib Talib).
With all that being said, here are your early 2016 NFL free agency winners:
Oakland Raiders: Grabbed a top cornerback in Sean Smith, a beastly guard in Kelechi Osemele and pass rusher Bruce Irvin. The mere thought of Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin rushing the passer is probably the main reason Brock Osweiler got the hell out of that division. If Derek Carr improves a bit, and if there’s no sophomore slump for Amari Cooper and if Latavius Murray can stay healthy … why can’t the Raiders win the division? The Broncos have lost a ton.
New York Giants: You could argue the Giants nabbed three of the five best defenders on the market – the best run stopper in the NFL, Damon Harrison, an elite pass rusher in Olivier Vernon, and a top shelf cornerback in Janoris Jenkins. Three high-impact starters will help improve a bottom-5 defense. If the offensive line holds up, if the running game is improved, and if Victor Cruz can compliment Odell Beckham, why can’t the Giants win the NFC East?
Houston Texans: Splashy QB signing? Brock Osweiler, check. Splashy RB signing? Lamar Miller, check. A playoff team upgrading at QB and RB? The one thing not to forget: Andrew Luck is back. The Texans are going to be heavily scrutinized next year, with the spotlight brightest on Osweiler.