In case you missed it, the National Football League rumor mill is running at full speed. After years of under-the-table deals and handshake agreements occurring before the official start of free agency, the NFL finally wised up and established an early free-agency period that has since become known as the ‘legal tampering period’.
During this two-day window, teams can negotiate with impending free agents from other teams before they can officially sign them to contracts when the new league year eventually opens. Over the course of the last 24 hours or so, the legal tampering period showed us a lot about how the 2016 NFL offseason will play out. Here’s a look at five things we have learned up to this point.
1. The Oakland Raiders are becoming a free agency destination rather than an afterthought
It’s been a long time since the Raiders were a franchise that the rest of the league took seriously. Coaches didn’t want to coach them, and players didn’t want to play for them. And now, after a run of solid roster management and some excellent draft day decision-making by General Manager Reggie McKenzie, the Oakland Raiders are now a team that has the ability to attract some of the league’s best talent.
We learned on Tuesday morning that the allure of playing with the Raiders’ core group of young, up-and-coming potential superstars — Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, and Derek Carr to name a few — was enough to convince the best offensive lineman on the market, Kelechi Osemele, to spurn all of his other suitors and join Raider Nation.
2. The Philadelphia Eagles are on the right track
The Eagles are quickly and swiftly ridding themselves of all of Chip Kelly’s mistakes. While we aren’t huge fans of the contract extension they recently signed quarterback Sam Bradford (pictured above) to, we do have to acknowledge that the team didn’t really have a better option at the position for the immediate future.
We are, however, extremely impressed by the fact that they were able to rid themselves of two terrible, salary cap-binding contracts — both of which were negotiated and structured by Kelly — by trading away cornerback Byron Maxwell and running back DeMarco Murray. And if the financial relief that moving the aforementioned contracts created wasn’t enough, the Eagles will also get draft pick compensation in return for both players. All said, this has already been a highly productive offseason for Philadelphia.
3. The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t afraid to open up their checkbook
For the third straight year, the Jaguars are set to make a splash in free agency. During the 2014 offseason, they spent big money on offensive guard Zane Beadles. Last offseason, they signed tight end Julius Thomas and defensive tackle Jared Odrick to massive contracts. And this year they have outdone themselves.
According to reports, Jacksonville has reached an agreement with defensive end Malik Jackson on a six-year, $90 million contract agreement that includes $42 million in guaranteed money. While we are impressed by their willingness to spend big money in an attempt at building a winning team, we’re still not convinced that this latest splash will result in them ending their eight-year postseason drought.
4. The Denver Broncos have some serious work to do
As expected, the Broncos will have several holes to fill this offseason. And we’re not just talking about their starting quarterback position, which, by the way, could become even more confusing if Brock Osweiler ends up being lured away by the Houston Texans. On top of replacing Peyton Manning, the Broncos will also be out to replace defensive end Malik Jackson (pictured above), inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, offensive guards Louis Vasquez and Evan Mathis, tight end Owen Daniels, and several others. They still may re-sign a handful of their own free agents, but this much is certain: Broncos General Manager John Elway has his work cut out for him this offseason.
5. The Miami Dolphins clearly haven’t learned their lesson
Less than a year after the Dolphins created a salary cap disaster for themselves by spending huge money on a handful of players, they are back at it again. After re-working a few contracts to create some cap space, the Dolphins have agreed in principle to sign defensive end Mario Williams, who is 31-years-old and coming off of the worst season of his career, while also trading for cornerback Byron Maxwell, who is one of the most overpaid players in the league. For their sake, we’re hoping that the Dolphins eventually realize that they would be better served by building their team through the draft, rather than acquiring high-priced free agents.