Free agency as it happens, with reaction to how each (major) signing impacts the draft.
Andy Levitre (G, Buffalo) to Tennessee
This signing, and the aggressive nature of the Titans’ approach, suggests they won’t draft for the interior offensive line with the #10 pick. Having been linked with Jonathan Cooper (good fit for their zone blocking scheme), the addition of Levitre should allow Tennessee to look elsewhere. And I suspect one of their biggest priorities will be to add one of the best interior pass rushers, such as Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson. UPDATE — The deal is worth an incredible $46.8M over six years with $13M due in 2013 alone.
Mike Wallace (WR, Pittsburgh) to Miami
The Dolphins know they need to surround Ryan Tannehill with talent. They re-signed Brian Hartline and will now add downfield speedster Mike Wallace. The contract is speculated to be hefty, so they’ll need an instant return. They could still add another target with the #12 pick (such as Cordarrelle Patterson) but what seems more likely is they’ll bolster their ranks with a second or third round prospect. Ryan Swope would be perfect, due to his familiarity with the playbook and quarterback. Miami has two second round picks due to the Vontae Davis trade with Indianapolis.
Paul Kruger (DE, Baltimore) to Cleveland
Wonder how this one will go down in Baltimore? Kruger switches teams within the AFC North for a reported $41m contract. The Browns have added a pass-rush partner for Jabaal Sheard and should be able to get their 3-4 defense rolling with Ray Horton on board. They have two quality outside linebackers now. I think they could still target a 3-4 end with pass rush ability, just as Horton used Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Ziggy Ansah remains an option, but Richardson could be the second coming of Dockett.
Louis Vasquez (G, San Diego) to Denver
Another player moving within the same division, Vasquez jumps ship after only a middling attempt by the Chargers to keep him. This will ensure Peyton Manning stays well protected and the Broncos have a blossoming, young offensive line that should also set the stall for a productive run game. This shouldn’t impact the Broncos draft plans too much. They need to upgrade that secondary.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB) is cut by Buffalo
They really wanted rid, huh? This saves only $450k but it goes to show that teams will take on any kind of saving to just move on from a non-starter. The Bills need a quarterback. And this adds weight to the suggestion they’ll trade up for ‘their guy’ in the draft (as noted in last week’s mock). Despite all the negative press around Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and co, teams will identify guys they like. And in some cases they’ll be aggressive to get them.
Martellus Bennett (TE, New York) to Chicago
The Bears were an option to go tight end at #20, but this gives them some security. Their main priority is to rebuild a rancid offensive line. Gabe Carimi was a bust waiting to happen in round one and the Bears tried to add Phil Loadholt before he re-signed in Minnesota. Jake Long is headed to St. Louis for his first visit, not Chicago. Does he get out of the Rams complex without a deal? If they go into the draft without a left tackle then moving up to get at the trio of Joeckel, Fisher and Johnson seems a strong possibility. UPDATE — apparently they’re speaking to Jermon Bushrod (T, New Orleans).
Delanie Walker (TE, San Francisco) to Tennessee
Replacement for Jared Cook? I for one will be pleased to see Walker out of the NFC West. He always seemed to perform well against the Seahawks. Whether that same success translates to the AFC South, I’m not sure. The Niners found a niche role for him. They are a very creative offense. Tennessee’s is not.
Seattle’s deal for Percy Harvin is now complete!!!
— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) March 12, 2013
In terms of other news so far, Kansas City defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey is visiting with the 49ers. The Buccaneers are being strongly linked with a trade for Darrelle Revis. Nnamdi Asomugha and Antoine Winfield were cut today. The Packers are considered the clubhouse leaders to sign Steven Jackson. If you missed it earlier, Leon Washington was released by the Seahawks.
Pete Carroll speaks
He just did a spot on Sirius FM with Pat Kirwan, pulling out of a free agency meeting to conduct the interview. He described the deal for Percy Harvin as trading up in the draft to get the best receiver. He denied speculation that Sidney Rice could be cut, insisting that wasn’t an option. Carroll left the door open for Leon Washington to return to Seattle on reduced terms. He also insisted they will continue to compete during free agency and will be open to further deals.
And for those wondering…
Dannell Ellerbe (LB, Baltimore) to Miami
Wow — maybe the first big shock of the day? Baltimore is really feeling the effect of signing Joe Flacco to a mega-deal. First they lose Paul Kruger to a division rival, now Dannel Ellerbe heads to Miami for $35m. While the media wax lyrical about Anquan Boldin’s playoff performance, Ellerbe was just as much of a factor on defense. This loss will be felt. Whether he can continue to perform at a high level remains to be seen. The consolation for Baltimore is they’ll be stocked with compensatory picks in 2014. In terms of this years draft — after losing Kruger, Ellerbe and watching Ray Lewis retire, it surely makes linebacker a huge need at #32?
Jared Cook (TE, Tennessee) to St. Louis
The Rams make a big splash. It’ll be interesting to see the terms of the deal. Jeff Fisher knows the player from his time with the Titans. Cook is more potential than production so far, but it’s another weapon for Sam Bradford. They almost had to do something after Seattle’s move for Harvin and San Francisco’s move for Boldin. You need to keep up in this division. Considering the likely size of Cook’s contract, they better hope he delivers on all that promise. This allows the Rams to concentrate on receivers, offensive linemen and defensive backs in the draft. They could also target an outside linebacker. Some names to consider: Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper.
Jermon Bushrod (T, New Orleans) to Chicago
Chicago had to act. They had to improve that line. At least now they have someone who can play tackle. Bushrod joins on a five-year deal. They won’t have to contemplate trading into the top ten. They have a bit more flexibility in the draft. It’s tough needing a franchise left tackle when you’re not drafting in the top ten. The Bears have signed a tight end and a tackle today. In the draft, that could help them improve at guard (Cooper?) or linebacker (Te’o? Minter?). UPDATE — Bushrod’s deal is worth $35.965M with nearly $18m guaranteed. I’m not a fan at that price tag.
Percy Harvin contract news starting to filter through
Harvin gets $25.5 million guaranteed, new-money average of $12.845 million wp.me/p14QSB-7Cnf
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 12, 2013
So that’s $14.5m fully guaranteed in 2013 alone, with $25m guaranteed in total. In comparison, Miami is paying Mike Wallace $30m in guarantees with $13-14m per year. The Seahawks are taking a significant cash hit in year one, but it’ll be interesting to see how much of that is bonus and how much is cap. Front loading with a signing bonus will probably make it easier to re-sign others in the future. If it takes up a lot of cap room, it hampers the teams ability to roll cap into 2014 without serious cuts. And it would also hurt their chances of any moderate free agency moves.
Sammie Lee Hill (DT, Detroit) to Tennessee
The Titans are reportedly close to adding another free agent in the form of a defensive tackle. Some had asked whether the Seahawks would show interest here, but it’s hard to know how good Lee Hill actually is. He didn’t feature all that much behind Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Tennessee addressed two big needs with a guard and a tackle. I still think Sheldon Richardson is a good fit at #10.
Philip Wheeler (LB, Oakland) to Miami
The Dolphins keep on rolling. First Mike Wallace, then Dannell Ellerbe and now Philip Wheeler. Jeff Ireland is going to town. I’m not sure if it’s such a great plan — how many teams fall flat on their faces after going crazy in free agency? Wheeler spent one year in Oakland after starting his pro-career in Indianapolis. The Dolphins still need a pass rusher and improvements to the secondary on defense. You can’t help but wonder what they’ll do next?
Isaac Sopoaga (DT, San Francisco) to Philadelphia
The Eagles, who are switching to a 3-4, needed a nose tackle. This fills a big need on a contract worth $12m with $5m guaranteed. What’s more, Philly is also bringing in fellow Niner Ricky Jean-Francois for a visit. San Francisco will have something like 14 draft picks next month, but they have a lot of needs on defense. They’ll need to hit on a few players at this rate. They already lost Delanie Walker today to Tennesse. They could lose Dashon Goldson. Defensive line, cornerback and safety are big needs for the Niners. Shame.
Darrius Heyward-Bey & Michael Huff are cut by Oakland
This isn’t a big surprise. The Raiders are basically looking at a multi-year rebuild. They didn’t have a pick in the first two days of the draft last year, despite introducing a new front office and coaching staff. This year, they don’t have a second rounder as part of the Carson Palmer trade. They have nothing — and I mean nothing — to build around. I sincerely hope the guys in charge get the time they need, but somehow I doubt it. The Raiders are a mess.
Desmond Bryant (DT, Oakland) to Cleveland
A lot of Seahawks fans wanted Desmond Bryant. I was less enthused. He seemed like one of those ‘nearer 30 than 20’ types who gets pumped up a lot but is probably already in his peak. He was a good enough run stopper but not a great pass rusher. And he (probably) just got paid by Cleveland within hours of free agency opening. The Seahawks, in my view, are better off re-signing Alan Branch to a modest deal. Keep the band together, man. Then use the #56 on a pass rusher. Whether that’s a three technique, a Jason Jones replacement or a LEO. In terms of impact on the draft, this increases the chances Oakland takes a Sharrif Floyd, Sheldon Richardson or Star Lotulelei at #3. They currently have no starting defensive tackles. It also possible weakens the chances of Cleveland adding to their front seven at #6. However, Ray Horton enjoyed the benefits of Darnell Dockett in Arizona. I wonder if he sees Richardson as a similar type of player? UPDATE — It’s a 5-year, $34m deal for Bryant in Cleveland, including $15m in guarantees. No way the Seahawks were paying that.