The NFL free agency period is over, after a much-anticipated whirlwind of signings and tradings that left teams and fans excited over what’s to come. And with that begs the question, which signing will have the biggest impact in each division? Reporters across ESPN were in agreement on the following players.
Stephon Gilmore, cornerback, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots win this one, signing a five-year $65 million deal with Pro Bowl cornerback Gilmore. The Patriots like his size (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) and Miami Dolphins reporter James Walker believes that amongst cornerbacks who play it safe, his “willingness to play man and bump-and-run coverage” and plain aggressiveness made him worth signing. At 26, Gilmore will receive elite-level coaching under Bill Belichick which could mean he’ll reach his prime here.
Tony Jefferson, safety, Baltimore Ravens
Jefferson signed a four-year $36 million deal with GM Ozzie Newsome guaranteeing him $14M. So he is obviously someone who’s worth that much upfront. According to Pittsburgh Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler, Jefferson will be “hard-hitting playmaker” after completing the 2016 season with 96 tackles, two each of forced fumbles and sacks. The AFC North is all about tough plays, so Jefferson will fit right in playing against the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.
Calais Campbell, defensive end, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars ranked sixth in total defense last season but had a weak pass rush and lacked turnovers. Campbell will improve their stats, considering he had 56.6 sacks in nine seasons. Which included a career-high nine in 2013 and an impressive eight in 2016. Jaguars reporter, Michael DiRocco is confident that Campbell will bring “some much-needed consistency” to the Jags hit-and-miss pass rush. An improved pass rush will result in more turnover creation, something the team desperately needs considering the Jags’ defensive backs intercepted only 11 passes in three seasons.
Jared Cook, tight end, Oakland Raiders
The Raiders passing game is already strong but Cook is an added weapon. Some analysts, including Kansas City Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher, feel that quarterback Derek Carr will be able to get more production from Cook as the primary tight end than he did from Clive Walford last season. It’s possible the number of passes going to wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will be reduced, but Cook will almost certainly improve Oakland’s efficiency in the passing game.
Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
Quarterback Carson Wentz finally has a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Jeffery, who is a cornerback’s worst nightmare. He and speedy receiver Torrey Smith will be solid targets for Wentz, thus making his job a lot easier than it was last season. According to Eagles reporter Tim McManus, “no move [in the NFC East] changes the dynamics on offense quite like the one for Jeffery.” He uses his body efficiently, and despite only ranking 119th in catch percentage (56.5), his big-play abilities will positively impact Wentz and the Eagles.
Mike Glennon, quarterback, Chicago Bears
Glennon may be the biggest impact signing in the NFC North, but he’s also the one who garners the least confidence. He isn’t that gifted a quarterback, and – as Detroit Lions reporter Michael Rothstein says – “he’ll be running an entire offense — and doing so without Alshon Jeffery.” Yet, despite the 27-year-old Glennon having a 5-13 record as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, the Bears still feel he’s their best option for moving them out of the bottom of the division. Maybe he will.
DeSean Jackson, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The general consensus is that quarterback Jameis Winston will have a weapon in Jackson. There’s praise aplenty for the former Washington Redskin – Carolina Panthers reporter David Newton goes so far as to call Jackson a “premier speed receiver”. He possesses a rare combination of skill and speed. His career average of 17.7 yards per catch is the highest among active players. The Bucs have only managed an average of 20 points a game on offense over the last two seasons. Jackson’s explosiveness may help the Bucs get back up to elite-level speed, which has been missing since 2009.
Chandler Jones, outside linebacker, Arizona Cardinals
Jones’ 41 sacks are the fifth most in the NFL. The Cardinals pass rush was instantly revived when they acquired him in a trade with New England last year. He ended the season with 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and 44 hurries. Seattle Seahawks reporter Sheil Kapadia suspects the Cardinals had a plan to keep Jones in Arizona for as long as they could. The franchise certainly spared no expense signing him for $83 million over five years. However, at not even 27 years old, he may be worth every dollar if he keeps the pass rush dangerous in the coming years.
NFL Free agency
There have been a plethora of big impact signings over the last few weeks right across the league. These players and countless others were acquired after much deliberation from key figures in each franchise. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if it was all worth it.
by Yvonne Hew – contributor