Now that the holdout is over, the NFL has been busy with free agency and it officially doesn't start until 6pm tonight. Here's my thoughts on all of the transactions thus far through this free agency pre-signing period.
Let's start with the biggest news first. Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth going to the New England Patriots for next to nothing. This is what the Patriots front office is so good at doing. Taking guys who are at the peak of their prime or that have a lot of gas left in the tank and rejuvenating their career and making them super stars again. Let's not forget these are both previous pro bowl players. Haynesworth is lazy as he's shown in the past, but then again so is Randy Moss but look what New England got out of him. Bottom line, I never want to hear that Manning always has better talent around him than Brady!
Next we'll go to the Jets resigning Santonio Holmes. I think this was a good move to keep him, but I don't understand all the hype around this guy. Was he really the best receiver in the free agency class? He's never been a number one receiver! He doesn't produce No. 1 receiver numbers. He averages 580 yards and 5 or 6 TD's a year. Last time I checked, No. 1 guys like Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson are putting up well over 1,000 yards a year and around 100 catches with double digit TD's. This guy will always be known for the catch in the Super Bowl with the Steelers, but he's going to have to do a lot more than that for me to consider him a No. 1 guy.
Staying in the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins made a splash by signing Reggie Bush. This will add some excitement to a team that resides in a city that never sleeps. It's yet to be determined if the Dolphins will keep Ricky Williams or Ronnie Brown, but it doesn't look promising for either of them to stay in teal and orange in 2011. Now we'll see if they can swindle Orton from Denver to solidify that QB position.
The Cardinals were able to get their QB in Kevin Kolb from the Eagles. This was no surprise to anyone, but I think they would have been better off taking Kyle Orton. Kolb is really not a proven QB yet and he has never played in the system that Arizona runs out in the desert, so there will be a steep learning curve there. Orton is a proven winner and can produce at a high level. Even McNabb would have been a better fit here, but I realize Arizona is trying to solidify that spot with someone younger and who will be there for the next decade for them.
Speaking of the QB position, there was a lot of shuffling this week around the league. First off, the Seahawks take Travaris Jackson from the Vikings, which sent Matt Hasselbeck to the Titans who released Vince Young, who later in the day signed a one year deal with the Eagles. The Seahawks downgraded here in my opinion. Yes, Jackson is younger and more athletic, but he couldn't hold a starting job with Adrian Peterson, Sydney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, and Visanthe Schancoe around him. How can he perform in Seattle with a dismal running game, no receivers (apart from the new acquisition of Rice from the Vikings), and an old patched up offensive line? I see Seattle winning 6 games this year. As for Hasselbeck, he'll have no one to throw to out in Tennessee, and Vince Young will learn how to be a man under Andy Reid's guidance.
The Carolina Panthers were one of the big winners in free agency. Not only did they keep DeAngelo Williams, Charles Johnson, and so far, Steve Smith on the roster, they also acquired Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen to be bookend tight ends. Olsen may be the most underrated tight end in the league, and will provide Cam Newton with a big target in the middle of the field. These were smart moves by Carolina to get two great security blankets for their rookie QB and sure up that one-two punch running game.
That leads me to the Chicago Bears. What are you thinking? They got rid of their best talent that Cutler had to throw to and picked up Matt Spaeth from the Steelers. Spaeth is a huge TE, who can block like a guard, but cannot run the field and catch the ball like Olsen could. So now you have an additional blocker, but your running back is holding out for more money. They were able to slightly upgrade the WR position by signing Roy Williams from the Cowboys, but he has not proven he can play at a high level since 2007.
Even after dealing Reggie Bush to the Dolphins, the Saints still may have the deepest back field in the league with Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, and newly acquired Darren Sproles from San Diego. The NFC South will be one of the toughest divisions again this year, as I expect Carolina to be much better.
One of my biggest disappointments this year is Mike Brown and the Cincinnati Bengals. First off, letting Carson Palmer walk away was the most selfish, ego driven moves I've ever seen. Instead of trading a highly talented, respected QB around the league and getting some draft picks or some players you need, you let him walk away and retire from the game? This is all ego on Brown's part. He didn't want to look bad and wanted to "win" this battle with Palmer so bad he put his franchise in a terrible position. They've also lost their top two receivers, possibly their RB, their best cornerback(Joseph, Texans), and their dignity. I see the Bungles winning 3 games tops this season.
I'm excited to see what happens this year with everyone having just a few weeks to get their rosters ready for the regular season. After the smoke clears from one of the craziest free agency periods ever, it will be interesting to see what teams can gel together the quickest and return to form as the season progresses. Early predictions, Raiders will finally win the AFC West this year, Lions will make the playoffs, and the Rex Ryan will predict another Super Bowl...oh wait...he already has!