Nobody wins a Super Bowl title in free agency, let’s get that out of the way first. Recent history is littered with teams that spend lavishly in March and April, get the fans all fired up, and then flop when the games actually begin.
A snippet from last year: the 2014 free agency “winners” included Tampa Bay, Denver, Baltimore, Oakland, Green Bay. Crossing off the Ravens and Packers for obvious reasons … the other three won nothing. Two of the 2014 free agency “losers” – everyone had San Francisco – from that list made the playoffs.
However … it’s undeniable that on the first day of free agency Tuesday, the three best teams in the AFC suffered significant losses.
The Super Bowl champion Patriots lost their star cornerback, Darelle Revis, and there is no immediate replacement. If they lose CB Brandon Browner too, then you can certainly identify the secondary as a massive issue. Vince Wilfork, a defensive leader at tackle, will be difficult to replace as well. The offense returns almost fully intact, minus RB Shane Vereen, but they operated by committee, so it’s not a huge loss. They still have Bill Belichick and avocado Ice Cream-eating QB Tom Brady (37 in August). They should win the AFC East again, but everyone else in the division improved.
The Broncos lost their starting left guard (Franklin, signed with the Chargers), their tight end Julius Thomas (12 TDs), and likely will end up losing two defensive starters – safety Rahim Moore and DT Terrance Knighton. They replaced Thomas with Owen Daniels of Baltimore (see below) but that’s a downgrade. Replacing four starters, plus the fact your QB turns 39 in May and fell apart down the stretch last season, and you’ve got cause for concern. Nobody thinks the Broncos go from 12-4 to .500, but that embarrassing home defeat against the Colts in the playoffs couldn’t have possibly left a good taste in anyone’s mouth.
This is not to say the Colts (ascending), Bills (ascending) or Texans (ascending if Ryan Mallett stays healthy and produces) are on the level of the above three teams yet. There are still a few more dominoes to fall in free agency, and then the draft. But the gap has certainly closed a little bit among the top three in the AFC and the 2nd tier teams.
NOT AWESOME, BABY
I’ve defended Dick Vitale. I’ve long been a fan of his work. He’s terrific for college basketball. But his rant defending Jim Boeheim Saturday was unbelievably bad. It’s almost as if he’s defending his friend, and ignoring what actually went down at Syracuse over Fab Melo. When you read the truth, you feel bad that Dick Vitale is so close to Boeheim, he can’t speak the truth.
ODDS & ENDS
Neat look at how boffo the college basketball ratings are in Louisville versus every other TV market … hey, somebody hired Jay Mariotti to do something! … Pam Oliver’s going to be a sideline reporter for two more years with Fox Sports … Tim Brando’s radio show is coming to an end … suspended NBC news anchor Brian Williams once wanted David Letterman’s job … Toronto’s one of the worst teams in the NHL this year, so naturally nobody is watching them … former NBA player Jason Collins has joined Yahoo Sports for the NCAA Tournament.