Five Quick-Hit Observations from Day 1 of 2012 NFL Free Agency

As expected, teams didn’t waste any time making a splash on Day 1 of the 2012 NFL free agency period. (Funny how so many deals get done minutes after the opening of free agency when teams and players aren’t supposed to talk to each other until then.) While the receivers stole the show on Tuesday, the biggest name on the market is still without a home. Below are quick-hit observations from the first day of the NFL free agency period.

1. The Bears and Brandon Marshall are a perfect marriage (at least for now).
Most of the speculation involving the Bears the past 24 hours was centered on Mario Williams. But it was another big name acquisition that rookie general manager Phil Emery had his eye on. The Bears have been without a prototypical l No. 1 receiver for decades but Marshall will change all of that. From what I’ve read, Marshall deeply respects Jay Cutler and the feeling is mutual. Cutler targeted Marshall early and often while in Denver and as long as the latter can keep his head on straight, this trade should benefit the Bears greatly. And while some Chicago fans were clamoring for Emery to sign Vincent Jackson, the Bears’ faithful have to be ecstatic about landing Marshall instead. As for the Dolphins, two third-round picks are nice but Miami is now left with Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Clyde Gats as its top three receivers. The Dolphins lacked offensive talent coming into the offseason and today they just sent their top playmaker to Chicago. While they may have parted with a headache, they just created another need for themselves in the process.

2. The Redskins overpaid for Garcon, but they’ve upgraded their receiver corps nonetheless.
The Daniel Snyder-led Redskins have been overpaying free agents for the better part of a decade. So when I read that they gave Pierre Garcon a five-year, $42.5 million contract it was hardly surprising. There’s no doubt they overpaid for Garcon’s services, but at least the fit is good. The former Colt is very good after the catch, which certainly suits head coach Mike Shanahan’s West Coast offense. Along with Garcon, the Skins also added Josh Morgan and Eddie Royal, so a team that desperately needed more playmakers on offense has come out of the gates strong this offseason. Robert Griffin III should sleep easy tonight knowing that his future receiving corps just got dramatically better over the last 24 hours.

3. It’s good to see the Glazer Family spend some of the Bucs’ cap money.
Two years ago the Buccaneers won 10 games and nearly qualified for the playoffs mostly because of a weak schedule. So the Glazer Family decided that they weren’t going to spend money last offseason in order to improve a young team that still needed to be tweaked. (Oh sorry, unless you want to consider the six-year, $19.5 million contract they gave free agent punter Michael Koenen.) This year, however, the Bucs made a statement by signing Vincent Jackson on day one of free agency. Even though Jackson could be limited in new head coach Greg Schiano’s run-heavy offense, at least Tampa Bay is actually trying to make improvements to its roster. When healthy and you know, playing, Jackson is a multi-faceted receiver. He’s a deep threat, he has great hands, he runs excellent routes, and he blocks extremely well. He’s the complete package and while $26 million in guaranteed money is steep, at least the Glazers finally cracked open that checkbook of theirs.

4. I can’t see Mario Williams winding up in Buffalo.
If I were Mario Williams I would go on as many visits as were offered to me. Premier edge rushers aren’t exactly available down aisle three at Wal-Mart, so he might as well make the most of the opportunity that he’s been given. Thus, there’s no reason not to go to Buffalo and listen to what the Bills have to offer. Apparently they’re willing to pay him as the top defensive player in the league, which is obviously great for Williams. But at the end of the day I just can’t see Williams signing with a team that’s not a contender. Sure Buffalo came out of the gates hot last year and maybe Williams would be their missing piece. But Ryan Fitzpatrick eventually cooled off and the team’s play fell off a cliff. There’s no doubt that Williams would improve their chances greatly, but there has to be another team willing to pay his asking price. Granted, he may have to take less to go to a contender but at least he would have a legitimate shot at reaching a Super Bowl. With the Patriots in the same division as the Bills, I just don’t see Buffalo contending for a playoff spot soon.
UPDATE: As I was saying, Mario Williams is a perfect fit for Buffalo.

5. Weren’t the Colts rebuilding?
I have no idea what the Indianapolis Colts are doing these days. Last year proved how devoid of overall talent they had when Peyton Manning didn’t play a snap and the team fell apart. And with Peyton off to destinations unknown, the Colts have a long ways to go before being respectable again. After cleaning house last week by parting ways with players like Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Gary Brackett, I thought the team was going to start over with a massive rebuilding project this offseason. Instead, they re-upped with 31-year-old Robert Mathis on a lucrative deal and today signed Reggie Wayne to a three-year, $17.5 million contract. Mathis, and to a lesser extent, Wayne, are still productive players but I’m just not sure what the Colts’ game plan is here. Are they rebuilding or are they just trying to hold onto the past in any way they can?

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Ginn likely on the move now that Dolphins have Marshall

Much like Donovan McNabb’s trade to the Redskins, the Brandon Marshall deal will likely impact the future of other players, including Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant and current Dolphin Ted Ginn Jr.

The Broncos now become the favorites to land Bryant with the 11th overall pick in this month’s draft, assuming they don’t mind taking on another receiver with a checkered past. If Denver passes on the Oklahoma State product, there’s no telling how far he may fall in the first round, although chances are he’ll go among the top 20 picks seeing as how he’s the top receiver in the draft.

Ginn’s future is a little cloudier. Even before they acquired Marshall from Denver, the Dolphins were shopping Ginn to potential suitors. Now that the trade for Marshall has been completed, there’s little doubt that Miami will move Ginn this offseason, but to whom and for what are the questions.

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Were the Dolphins wise to commit to Marshall long-term?

The Dolphins have been desperately searching for a true No. 1 wideout for the better part of the last decade. That’s why they ultimately decided to part with two second round picks in order to acquire Brandon Marshall from the Broncos on Wednesday, and why they broke out their checkbook to sign the receiver to a four-year, $47.5 million contract extension.

When Marshall is healthy and happy, there’s little doubt that he brings a lot to the field. At 6’4”, 230 pounds, he has great size and once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a playmaker in every sense of the word. He’s drawn comparisons to Terrell Owens (in his prime), only it’s T.O. that wishes he had Marshall’s hands.

When he’s healthy and happy, Marshall is worth the money. But keeping him happy has proven to be difficult.

Miami did what they had to do. They had a major need at receiver, so they acquired the best one available and made sure they locked him up to a long-term contract. But there’s no doubt that the Dolphins are taking a huge risk by committing to a player that is about as well behaved as Pacman Jones inside a strip club with $10,000 in his back pocket. The hope for Bill Parcells and company is that Marshall will behave now that he has a long-term contract, but there’s no guarantee of that.

In comparison, the Packers signed Greg Jennings to a four-year, $26.9 million contract in June of 2009. Granted, Marshall is more talented and this is an uncapped year, but when you factor in the risk associated with Marhsall, you can see that the Dolphins are taking a big leap of faith. (For another comparison, Marshall is set to make $2 million more than Roddy White too, whom the Falcons signed to a six-year, $48 million contract last August.)

But again, the Dolphins had no choice. In this case, the risk is worth the reward because Marshall is still young (26), very productive and could potentially be the difference-maker that Miami has coveted for years. If he behaves, the Dolphins won’t live to regret their decision.

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Brandon Marshall traded to Miami

Adam Schefter reports that the Miami Dolphins have traded for the talented yet unpredictable Brandon Marshall.

For the second straight year, the Broncos will pull off a blockbuster deal, this time trading wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Miami for a second-round pick next Friday and what is thought to be an additional second-round pick in 2011, according to league sources.

The trade is contingent upon the league processing the paper work and Marshall passing his physical, neither of which is expected to be an issue Wednesday. Marshall is scheduled to fly to Miami to take his physical and, if he passes, sign what will be one of the most lucrative wide receiver deals in NFL history. It is the type of contract that an unhappy Marshall had been seeking in recent years. Miami will provide it, making Marshall very happy.

The general consensus was that Marshall would eventually land in Seattle, but Miami had a need for a true #1 WR and Marshall is one of the best in the game. Two second rounders is a lot to give up for a player with Marshall’s recent history of attitude problems, but head honcho Bill Parcells obviously believes that a new contract and a fresh start in sunny Miami is just what he needs.

Fantasy-wise, this is a boost for Chad Henne and a slight downgrade for Marshall, who has to learn a new offense and develop a rapport with his second QB in as many years. Kyle Orton and Denver’s offense will be hurt by Marshall’s loss, but this probably means that 2009 disappointment Eddie Royal will be a prime breakout candidate in 2010.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Possible landing spots for Brandon Marshall breaks down several possible destinations for receiver Brandon Marshall if/when the Broncos decide to deal him this offseason.

· The first speculation was that Marshall would be headed to the Seahawks or the Redskins, via two of our NFL Nation bloggers.

· Cincinnati has the need for a second WR to go along with Chad Ochocinco, but we’re not sure the Bengals would want another head case.

· The Cowboys need a legitimate No. 1 WR and Jerry Jones would have no problem forking out cash for a new deal to Marshall.

· What about the Pats? Randy Moss isn’t getting any younger, and Wes Welker might be a shell of his former self after shredding his knee.

· Dave Krieger of the Denver Post speculated on some new spots: the Ravens, Dolphins and Cardinals.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post also throws out a Marshall-for-Brady Quinn scenario, but he’s just speculating – he has nothing to back that rumor up.

The problem the Broncos have is that Marshall’s trade value has never been lower. Teams know that he and head coach Josh McDaniels are at odds and that Denver wants to rid itself of him. The Broncos will be lucky to land a third round pick for him, which would be quite a steal for the team that acquires him.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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