We're really not opposed to pursuing interesting players in free agency. Just because we focus the majority of our attention on the draft, doesn't mean we think that it is the only sensible way to acquire talent. Still, we do tend to be bargain shoppers. With NFL GMs making it rain this week, we thought we would poke at some of the more outrageous negotiations that we've witnessed so far.
Chip Kelly might be brain damaged
Let's ignore the fact that he traded LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso, who is coming off of an ACL injury. I could make an argument for that move. I really could. Let's also ignore that he let Jeremy Maclin walk. I can dig it. Even though I rather like Maclin, his price was probably too high to keep him around. We'll also ignore what happened with Trent Cole, because he wasn't exactly a spring chicken anymore.
The move that is causing many people to question whether Chip Kelly arrives at Lincoln Financial Field in a stubby yellow bus, has to be the trade he made with the Rams. In exchange for Sam 'Ouch my knee!' Bradford, who's current salary is $13 million (though most of that probably goes towards gold plated wheelchairs), along with a smattering of mid-round draft picks, the Eagles gave up Nick Foles and this years 2nd round draft pick.
With the number of future draft picks involved in this trade, and where the order of a future draft being unknown, it is hard to precisely say who got the best end of the picks that were exchanged. Currently, I'd say the Rams came out ahead, and profited by about the equivalent of a high 4th round pick. That's not a bad pick up, but this still really comes down to the QBs that were exchanged. One is an expensive cripple (Bradford) with a career QB rating of 79.3. The other (Foles) had one of the best statistical seasons a QB ever had, even if it wasn't for a full 16 games, and costs less than a pack of bubble gum.
I could make excuses for this trade. I could say how Bradford has been stuck in a crappy situation in St. Louis, with garbage receivers, and questionable pass protection. I could point to how promising Bradford appeared to be when he was drafted #1 overall, back in 2010. At some point, however, you have to say the argument still tilts in favor of the guy who actually has performed well, at least at one point in time, which would be Nick Foles.. Even if Kelly thought Bradford was better than Foles, the exchange rate should be based on the league-wide perception of value in these two players. If Foles wasn't generally viewed as a more valuable commodity than Bradford, on the open market, then I would be stunned.
Perhaps, it is all just a little bit too insane.
This whole trade appears to be so stupid, that people are furiously concocting many devious theories to explain it. It's all part of a three team trade, but we just don't know who the third partner is yet (he's on the grassy knoll)! This is all part of a crafty maneuver to gain ammunition, so that the Eagles can trade up for Marcus Mariota! Umm, yeah, there is somebody picking in the top ten, who is willing to trade 1st round picks with the Eagles, if only Sam Bradford can be acquired to sweeten the pot. Fascinating. Or, and you'll have to stick with me on this one, because I know it is a bit convoluted and farfetched, Chip Kelly is simply a moron.
While I generally don't put much stock in the supposed brilliance of coaches, there is one trait that some of them possess, that I do greatly respect. That trait is adaptability. It's what I've always liked about Bill Belichick. That man seems willing to alter his plans, based on the players he has at his disposal. As the saying goes, he can make chicken salad out of chicken shit. With Chip Kelly, I'm getting the disturbing feeling that he expects his environment to adapt to his plans.
Packers sign Randall Cobb to $10 million/year contract
I don't have any huge problem with Randall Cobb. The computer may not have viewed him as a great prospect when he was drafted back in 2011, but we're okay with the idea that players can exceed our expectations. That's part of the game, and I wouldn't say that we were betting against him, so much as not wanting to bet on him. He was a fairly odd prospect.
Regardless, the question of Cobb's current value isn't the issue. It's the question of Cobb's value to the Packers that we have some serious doubts about. This is a team that has rarely struggled to find receivers who were capable of getting the job done, almost certainly because they have regularly possessed QBs (Brett 'Dick Pic' Favre and Aaron 'La Cucaracha' Rodgers) who have been able to maximize the output of their receivers. Let's do a brief rundown. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb...blah...blah...blah..
Do you lucky people in Green Bay have any idea what it is like in the rest of the world? In the cursed lands I hail from, the best receiver we have drafted in a decade was probably Torrey Smith. Our second best receiver was...umm...wait...it will come to me eventually. Either way, I think you get the point. Wide receiver wasn't exactly a weak spot for your team, and you even had the young pup Davante Adams, who seemed to be making good strides, waiting in the wings. So, why does your team need to devote these resources to a player like Cobb?
The weirdest part of this is reading the comments of Packers fans, who feel that Cobb took less money to stick with the team. Cobb cares about winning rings, not getting paid! Okey-dokey. That seems like a strange view of things, considering the early reports which suggested that Cobb was seeking $9 million/year. Doesn't that mean he actually got paid more money for staying with the home team? Otherwise, I would have to assume that some mystery team was offering to pay $11 million per year, for a 5'10" wide receiver, who's production so far would probably be classified as very good, but not exceptional (at least in the context of a very WR friendly Packers' offense). It's very curious. With Cobb's current salary, you have to assume that the team's expectations for him will be increased. I'm not sure if I would want to bet on Cobb's ability to justify this contract.
Seahawks sign Cary Williams
This is going to be a real test of Pete Carroll's ability to get a reasonable level of performance out of a cornerback lacking any discernible talent. I have to admit, I've always been mystified as to how the Seahawks' secondary functions. For the most part, their team seems to thrive on late round corners, which is strange enough on it's own. That these players also tend to lack a lot of the physical traits we normally expect to see in a prototypical corner, such as exceptional measurable speed or agility, just makes it even more peculiar. Whether they can pull of another miracle with Cary Williams will be quite interesting.
I've seen Cary Williams play, or at least occupy a space on the field, during his time in Baltimore. He was....how should I put this....horrific. Oh sure, if the opposing receiver wants to run straight down the field, Cary seems to understand how to handle this. Running in a straight line is his specialty. If that opposing receiver should choose to change directions suddenly (that's cheating!), Cary will just keep running in a straight line, slowly recognize that something went terribly wrong with his plan, and gradually get his shit together after the receiver has run another 10 yards. As far as I can tell, this pattern continued in his time in Philadelphia.
Haloti Ngata traded to the Lions
I have very mixed feelings about the Ravens trading away Haloti Ngata. As I said a few months ago, the team was clearly in a bad position, relative to the salary cap. We also wouldn't dispute the fact that Ngata was being paid way too much, with a 2015 cap hit of $16 million. It was obviously a problem, and there was no other potential cut that could have stabilized the Ravens cap situation more than unloading Haloti.
The problem is that Haloti can still actually play, and probably at a rather high level. Sure, you can't always hold onto all of your team's stars. Everybody knows that. Still, when you are unloading a star player, and still eating $7.5 million in dead money, all so that you can make up for the bad contracts you have given to players like Ray Rice, Dennis Pitta, Lardarius Webb, and yes, Joe Flacco, then you might have a problem.
Half of those players, Rice and Pitta will be contributing nothing to the team in 2015. Despite that, they will still count for about $15.7 million of the teams cap space this year. While Flacco and Webb should at least get on the field, their combined cap hit (barring any upcoming restructuring) would be $26.55 million for the 2015 season. In total, these four players are responsible for $42.25 million against the 2015 cap, or about 29.5% of the team's total cap space. Do you consider any of these players to be amongst the best at their position?
Imagine if someone sold a pristine Porsche 356, for half its theoretical value, because they needed the cash to cover the maintenance work they were performing on a 2005 Ford Fusion. I'm not saying that a Fusion can't be a useful and practical vehicle, but the economics of that decision would confuse me. Yes, I suppose I am suggesting that Flacco and Webb are the metaphorical Ford Fusion in the situation. It really strikes me as a fairly apt comparison.