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Biggest Winners and Losers (So Far) in the NFL Frenzy

Posted on July 28, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Sidney Rice will be going in a new direction as a member of the Seattle Seahawks.

We are just three days into the NFL’s high-end version of a swap meet, but it is already clear that some teams have money to burn and are burning it as quick as they can. It will, of course, be months before we can determine the real winners and losers from these last few days, but here are some of the players and teams that seem to have done well and others that have not fared as well so far.

Smiling All The Way To The Bank

Charles Johnson and DeAngelo Williams – Carolina Panthers – Typically one of the stingier teams in the NFL, the Carolina Panthers whipped out the check book to retain two of their top veterans.

Johnson, who is coming off an 11.5 sack season in 2010, was one of the more sought-after players in free agency, but the Panthers didn’t give him any chance to get away as they agreed to a six-year $72 million contract (with #32 million guaranteed) the first day they could talk.

Though he was limited to just six games and 361 yards rushing in 2010, the Panthers agreed to a five-year, $43 million contract ($21 million guaranteed) with Williams. If he is healthy, it is a great move because it gives the Panthers one of the better one-two punches in the league with Williams (1,515 yards rushing in 2008, 1,117 in 2009) and Jonathan Stewart (1,133 yards in 2009, 770 yards in 2010).

Sidney Rice – Seattle Seahawks – Like Williams, Sidney Rice missed much of the 2010 season due to injury and is now being rewarded with a huge contract (five-years for $41 million with $18 million guaranteed). If he is able to repeat the success he had with Minnesota in 2009 (83 catches, 1,312 yards), then the signing will be a good one for Seattle. However, given that in his other three NFL seasons Rice has only 63 catches for 817 yards, you have to wonder at least a little if his success was a result of playing with Brett Favre at the top of his game as much as it was Rice’s ability to be a long-term superstar.

Santonio Holmes – New York Jets – It seems to be a trend that players who didn’t play a full season in 2010 are receiving huge contracts to start 2011. However, unlike Williams and Rice, Santonio Holmes missed four games in 2010 not because of injuries, but because of off the field issues. The New York Jets obviously aren’t concerned about the past as they inked Holmes to a five-year, $50 million contract even though according to the NFL’s conduct policy he is one-strike away from missing an entire season. In just 12 games last season he caught 52 passes for 746 yards and six touchdowns and in 16 games in 2009 had 79 catches for 1,248 yards and 5 touchdowns while with Pittsburgh.

Which Player Will Make the Biggest Impact For His New Team?

  • Kevin Kolb (36%, 10 Votes)
  • Albert Haynesworth (21%, 6 Votes)
  • Chad Ochocinco (21%, 6 Votes)
  • Matt Hasselbeck (11%, 3 Votes)
  • Reggie Bush (7%, 2 Votes)
  • Donovan McNabb (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 28

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Paul Posluszny – Jacksonville Jaguars – Perhaps one of the greatest examples of how some teams just needed to spend money due to the new salary cap rules is former Buffalo Bill and new Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny. Though the former second round pick has never been to a Pro Bowl, the Jaguars offered a six-year contract worth $45 million, including $15 million guaranteed. Yes he led Buffalo with 152 tackles a year ago, but in four seasons Posluszny has just four sacks and three interceptions, so he is not a big-play guy.

Making Smart Football Moves

Matt Hasselbeck will be holding down the fort in Tennessee while Jake Locker learns the game.

Matt Hasselbeck – Tennessee Titans – I think you could argue that the player who ended up getting the best situation out of the entire free agent frenzy is Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Jake Locker. For a while, there was speculation that the eighth pick in the 2011 draft was going to be thrown immediately into the lineup on a rag-tag Tennessee team that has a new coach and questions at receiver. Now all of a sudden, Locker will have a chance to sit behind and learn from a veteran quarterback who has led his team to seven playoff appearances and a trip to the Super Bowl. If he can stay healthy, Matt Hasselbeck has enough left in the tank to keep Tennessee respectable and show Locker how to prepare for life in the NFL.

Donovan McNabb – Minnesota Vikings – Though the situation in Minnesota is a little different than Tennessee because few expected the Vikings to rely on first round pick Christian Ponder in 2011, you could easily argue that like for Locker in Tennessee, the addition of Donovan McNabb to the Vikings will help the long-term development for Christian Ponder. Though McNabb’s one-year in Washington did not go well, he is still a talented veteran quarterback and capable of leading the Vikings until Ponder is ready to take control. Having a superstar running back like Adrian Peterson to hand the ball to will help McNabb and should make the Vikings a stronger offense in 2011.

Chad Ochocinco and his personality will be an interesting mix with the business-like New England Patriots.

Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco– New England Patriots – In a matter of hours, the New England Patriots made two surprising additions by trading for defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth from Washington and receiver Chad Ochocinco from Cincinnati.

The turmoil around Haynesworth’s tenure in Washington is certainly well documented, but given that he isn’t the only player in recent years to have trouble with Mike Shanahan, I’m not yet ready to label him a mal-content that is no longer capable of being a solid football player. If there is any place where a player like Haynesworth can go and resurrect a career, it is New England. If the 30-year-old two-time All-Pro has anything left, the Patriots will get it out of him in spades. Considering that it would cost them only $5 million if he turns out to be a bust, the risk is well worth the potential reward for a team that needs to improve its pass rush.

The situation around Ochocinco is a bit different. He has never been accused of not trying on the field, but instead has been one of the most persistent self promoters the NFL has ever seen. His antics were seen as a funny diversion when he was registering six straight seasons of 1,100 or more yards and annually catching 90+ passes. However, he has just one 1,000-yard season in the last three years and at the age of 33 is no longer a dominant franchise receiver. But with Tom Brady throwing the passes, it would be no surprise if Ochocinco regained some swagger and put up his best season in years.

Steve Breaston – Kansas City Chiefs – When Todd Haley was the offensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, he had a trio of superstar wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. The result was a monster season for quarterback Kurt Warner and a trip to the Super Bowl. Now as the head coach in Kansas City, Haley has created a three-headed receiver group that may not be quite as strong as the one in Arizona, but is still very good. Breaston is reunited with his former coordinator and will team with Pro Bowl receiver Dwayne Bowe and first round pick Jon Baldwin. The result could be the emergence of quarterback Matt Cassel as a top tier quarterback.

Not Quite Sold Yet

Kevin Kolb will have a chance to be a number one quarterback in Arizona.

Kevin Kolb – Arizona Cardinals – For a player who has started only seven games in his career and has more interceptions (14) than touchdown passes (11) in the NFL, there sure seems to have been a lot of people willing to throw money at Kevin Kolb. First he got a big deal from the Philadelphia Eagles last year to replace Donovan McNabb and now the Arizona Cardinals have traded a quality starter and a second round draft pick to acquire Kolb. They also agreed to give him a five-year, $63 million contract. He seems to have all the tools to be an NFL star and will have the luxury of throwing to one of the best receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, but Kolb still has a lot to prove and with his big contract will have to prove quickly that he is a top-10 quarterback.

Tarvaris Jackson – Seattle Seahawks – As we showcased earlier in the article, the Seattle Seahawks just spent a major fortune bringing in a receiver they believe is one of the best in the league. But instead of keeping their veteran former All-Pro quarterback to throw him the ball, they have decided to rely on two young quarterbacks that have not yet shined even when given the opportunity. Former Viking Tarvaris Jackson was given the chance to be the star in Minnesota, but he never took advantage of his chances and ended up spending the last two years backing up a 40-year-old (Brett Favre). In 20 career starts, Jackson has a 10-10 record and his career numbers include a 58.7 completion percentage, 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Charlie Whitehurst led the Seahawks to victory in a playoff-clinching game against St. Louis, but was rewarded by being benched in favor of Matt Hasselbeck in the playoffs. It will be a big surprise if either of these quarterbacks can emerge as a solid NFL starter. More than likely, the Seahawks will be shopping for a quarterback in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Fans Are The Real Losers

As of now, both Carson Palmer and Brett Favre are retired. How long will that last?

Carson Palmer – Cincinnati Bengals – I could make a pretty good argument in favor of both sides in the Carson Palmer debate. He did sign a contract and the Bengals made personnel decisions based around the assumption that Palmer would live up to his contract. However, contracts in the NFL are typically made of tissue paper and often written in disappearing ink. If the Bengals decided that Palmer was no longer a player they wanted to have around, they could cut him tomorrow regardless of what his contract says. The real losers in this mess are the fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. A team that has made only two playoff appearances in 20 years, the Bengals have had more players spending time in the local jail than make it to a Pro Bowl over the last decade. The Cincinnati fans deserve better than having their star quarterback quit the game rather than play for the management and the management be unwilling to trade the player to help make the team better for the long term.

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