Three NFL Teams that Crushed Free Agency in 2017!

There’s a tried and true saying in the NFL: “championships aren’t won in the offseason.”  Year after year, there are numerous teams who go out and “break the bank” in free agency, only to see mediocre results in the regular season, with some of those high-priced acquisitions failing to live up to the fat paychecks they’re earning. But at the same time, those teams who make the right combination of moves, by balancing the high-priced free agent acquisitions with the moderately-priced role players or young players with upside, can quickly change the trajectory of a given side of their football team, if not their football team as a whole.

Taking a look at the 2017 NFL offseason to date, three teams appear to have positioned themselves for significant improvements this upcoming season, thanks to both the quality, and quantity, of moves that they’ve made:

3. Philadelphia — After two straight seasons of finishing with a 7-9 record, the Philadelphia Eagles have positioned themselves to take a sizable step forward this offseason, given some of the additions they made. For anyone who watched the Eagles for any period of time last season, their biggest need — at least on offense — was painfully clear: they desperately needed reliable weapons to whom Carson Wentz could throw the football. The Eagles decisively addressed said need by adding wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, formerly of the Chicago Bears, and wide receiver Torrey Smith, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. Jeffrey provides Wentz with the tall, reliable receiver who can go up over cornerbacks to catch the ball, whereas Smith provides the vertical threat that Wentz can use to attack defenses vertically. On defense, the unit looked like it would mostly stay the same, save for any badly needed upgrades they would make at the cornerback position. But, they were prepared to lose the services of defensive tackle Bennie Logan to free agency. That became a reality when Logan signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, the Eagles actually may have ended up with a better player in the long run, after acquiring defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan from the Baltimore Ravens, for nothing more than a swap of third round picks. Such a price is nothing short of a steal for Philadelphia, as they acquire the rights to one of the young, talented, and unheralded defensive linemen in the NFL. That essentially means that if the Eagles were to make any upgrades at cornerback and running back in the 2017 NFL Draft, this could be a profoundly different — and profoundly better — team next season.

2. New England — It might seem silly to include the reigning Super Bowl champions on a list of teams that have improved themselves this offseason, but that is actually the case with the Patriots (as scary as that may seem). New England, under Bill Belichick, usually won’t make any overtures towards free agents sure to garner lucrative contracts. That’s why it came as a surprise to many people when the Patriots quickly inked cornerback Stephon Gillmore to a five-year deal with $65 million, on the first day of free agency. Coming off a Pro Bowl season, Gillmore gives New England a pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks, alongside Malcolm Butler. Their other big move in free agency wasn’t actually an acquisition, but rather the retention of Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower opted to return to New England on a four-year, $35.5 million deal. As the middle linebacker for New England (and a favorite of the coaching staff), Hightower was an integral part of the Patriots defense. Being able to retain his services was a huge win for them. On offense, New England gave future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady yet another weapon, in the form of wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The Patriots sent the #32 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft to New Orleans for the rights to Cook, who will provide Brady with a deep threat that was sorely lacking last year. Add in the acquisitions of defensive end Kony Ealy from Carolina (an underrated pass rusher) and tight end Dwayne Allen (who has shown the ability to be a dominant red zone option), and it’s not hard to see why New England should be the favorites in the AFC yet again.

1. Jacksonville — For the second straight year, Jacksonville has gone out and spent liberally in free agency, enhancing the young and talented foundation of players they’ve taken via the NFL Draft with veteran players at key positions. This year, the Jaguars were able to secure the services of one of the true crown jewels of the 2017 Free Agency period: defensive end Calais Campbell, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals. The Jaguars only had one player finish with eight more sacks last season — rookie defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue — whereas Campbell himself has recorded  56.5 sacks over his nine seasons in the league. Jacksonville also went out and signed cornerback A.J. Bouye to a five-year, $67.5 million deal.  As one of the breakout stars of 2016, not only does Bouye give the Jaguars one of the very best tandems of cornerbacks in the NFL (alongside uber-talented rookie Jalen Ramsey), but it also makes a key division rival — the Houston Texans — weaker in the process. Finally, the Jaguars also went out and upgraded what could’ve been their biggest position of need heading into this offseason at left tackle, acquiring veteran tackle Branden Albert from the Miami Dolphins through a trade. Albert has struggled with injuries recently, but he’s less than two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl appearance. With his acquisition, it not only affords quarterback Blake Bortles more protection next season, but it also allows Jacksonville to continue to upgrade their team, by taking the best available player with their first round pick (#4 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Special Teams Ace Maragos Opposes NFL Kickoff Rules Changes

Chris Maragos has become a lobbyist, or so people might assume, considering all the effort the Philadelphia Special Teams Ace is injecting into his fight against the League’s plans to change the kickoff rules once more. At this point, the NFL spread doesn’t seem so important, what with all the hullaballoo surrounding NFL coaches and their stand against league executives.

If you talk to NFL executives, they will tell you that they are simply trying to make NFL games safer, this after analyzing statistics and determining that a lot of the high-speed collisions that cause injuries manifest during the kickoff.

Maragos claims that the kickoff is hardly as chaotic as some people think and, surrounded by so many talented players, he has never felt that his safety was compromised at any time. If anything, Maragos thinks that people like competition committee member Stephen Jones of the Dallas Cowboys are the true threat; having already moved the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line a few years back, Maragos has more than had enough of the NFL’s meddling.

It has been the NFL’s goal for a while now to reduce the number of returns, which is one of the reasons why the ball will be put on the 25 rather than the 20 (though only for a trial period of one year). The NFL isn’t completely deaf to the calls of coaches. During the offseason, senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino met and spoke to special teams coaches.

Whether or not the meeting (conference call) achieved its objectives, it should be noted that Blandino downplayed any rumors about the Kickoff being eliminated, admitting that it was still one of the most exciting plays of the game. Yet, the NFL’s determination to make changes cannot be ignored. Clearly, the league thinks that the kickoff is a threat. All the attention surrounding the issue of concussions in the NFL is driving executives to take action to rebrand the game of football.

For Jones, coaches and executives should stand ready to take every step possible to ensure the safety of players. At the end of the day, no matter the conversation, the safety of players should be prioritized, even if that means that players might get fewer opportunities (especially those not good enough to shine on offense or defense).  Maragos would probably disagree here, especially considering his opinions about the vital importance of kickoffs and punts as effective gateways to stardom. In support of his point, Maragos has been known to point to Delanie Walker (Tennessee tight end), his teammate in San Francisco for whom Special teams was essential to keeping him on the roster.

Another supporter of Maragos’ position, Minnesota Receiver Adam Thielen believes that the key to safety is practice. If players do what they are supposed to do on the practice field, they are less likely to make mistakes during NFL games.For Maragos, the further alteration and eventual elimination of the kickoff would be a great blow to football, removing a play that many have come to associate with the game.

 

Three NFL Teams With Awesome 2016 Drafts!

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are usually on the losers of the draft, but not this year. They traded away the 2nd overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles and got lots of picks including a first rounder in next year’s draft. They then traded the 8th pick to the Titans and got even more picks while drafting speedy WR Corey Coleman later in the first round. They also got two great pass rushers in Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib, along with a nice addition to the OL in Shon Coleman. They then got QB Cody Kessler to add more competition with Robert Griffin lll. The Browns had a solid draft, but since it is the so often incompetent Cleveland Browns, they definetely had a great draft by their standards and should show improvement.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders struck gold by drafting the best safety in the draft in Karl Joseph, who has solid coverage skills but specializes in coming into the box and unloading on RBs and WRs. The Raiders needed defensive help, and they got it with pass rushers Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. Ward is raw but has a ton of upside if he can develop and Calhoun has some of the best technique of any DE in this class. They also drafted a solid backup to QB Derek Carr in Connor Cook, who was widely considered to be the 3rd or 4th best QB in the draft. The Raiders have a young nucleus of talent on offense with Carr, WR Amari Cooper and RB Latavius Murray, so the defensive additions should help the Raiders win more games this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars had the best draft by far in my opinion, they were able to land two top 5 players in this draft. CB Jalen Ramsey was the best player in this class to me because of his versatility, size and elite athleticism. They also got a steal in LB Myles Jack at the top of the second round. Jack fell so far because of a knee injury he suffered in college that ended his season. Before that injury, he would have been a top 5 selection. The Jaguars also essentially have another 1st round player coming in this year as their top pick last year DE Dante Fowler suffered a season-ending injury in minicamp. With a healthy Ramsey, Jack and Fowler the Jaguars defense should be much improved and will help out the offense. The Jaguars are young but extremely talented on both sides of the ball and can compete in the AFC South this year.

[Analysis by NFL expert Preston Rowe]

Five NFL Teams with Severe Quarterback Problems

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Cleveland is the capital of NFL misery.

Robert Griffin is not the answer! No way!

Some experts are inexplicably positive about Griffin’s possibilities of being successful with the Browns after his stay in Washington broke down over 4 seasons.

The Browns signed the 26-year-old Griffin to a two-year, $15 million agreement with $6.7 million ensured on Thursday.

Considering  his fantastic rookie season in 2012, Griffin has actually regressed. He represented 21 touchdowns  and 22 turnovers in 2013-14. The Redskins didn’t even play Griffin in 2014 as Kirk Cousins won the job.

Griffin will likely be out played once more quickly. The Browns should choose a quarterback, most likely California’s Jared Goff, with the 2nd general choice in the draft on April 28. Cleveland ought to get its leading option, unless Tennessee discovers a trade partner ready to go up to No. 1.

Now Griffin should be the coach?

Josh McCown would be much better fit for that function. The 36-year-old McCown tossed 12 touchdowns and 4 interceptions in 8 starts last season for the Browns.

The Browns continue to be in Quarterback Hell. That’s why they’ll be taking a quarterback at No. 2.

Which other teams remain in QB Hell? The Browns have company!

SAN FRANCISCO

Starter: Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick.

Outlook: The 49ers have actually discovered little interest in attempting to trade Kaepernick. Gabbert, the former Jaguar, began 8  games last season for the 49ers, tossing 10 touchdowns and 7 INTs.

Option: The 49ers have the 7th choice in the draft and need to draft  either Goff, North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz or Memphis’s Paxton Lynch. Exactly what might doom the 49ers is if the Browns take a quarterback, followed by Dallas (No. 4). A team might make an offer with either the Jaguars (No. 5) or Baltimore (No. 6) to jump ahead of San Francisco.

L.A.

Starter: Case Keenum.

Outlook: The 28-year-old Keenum has actually started 15  games in his four-year career, completing 56.7 percent of his passes. He’s represented 16 touchdowns and 14 turnovers.

Option: The Rams have to grab a quarterback in the draft. They might get fortunate and have Lynch available to them at No. 15, however  they may need to trade to get ahead of San Francisco.

DENVER

Starter: Mark Sanchez.

Outlook: Broncos GM John Elway bungled this scenario, permitting Brock Osweiler to sign with Houston after Peyton Manning’s retirement. Elway traded for the substandard Sanchez, and more assistance is required. The 29-year-old Sanchez has actually represented 99 touchdowns with 108 turnovers and is a professional 56.7 percent passer.

Option: The Broncos ought to sign free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s a journeyman quarterback, however he had the ability to toss 31 TD passes last season for the New York Jets. Let him take on Sanchez!

New York  JETS

Starter: Geno Smith.

Outlook: The Jets have actually revealed a lack of interest in bringing Fitzpatrick back. It’s unexpected, however it tells us they think receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker had more to do with that TD count than Fitzpatrick.

Smith’s season was messed up last year when a colleague broke his jaw in a locker room run-in. Smith, 25, has tossed 27 TDS and 35 picks.

Lazy Joe’s Secret to Picking NFL Winning Teams.

Clueless?   Too much sex, drugs and rock-n-roll ? Picking the home team to win will give only about 54% accuracy.

 

However, you can

simply pick the team that has scored the most points in the current season!  (If a tie, pick the home team.)

This “system” has exhibited 62.4% accuracy over the past ten seasons, beating many so-called experts. Typically, the best AI systems can  predict with about 68-69% accuracy by using hours of simulation and computation.

In 2015 top artificial intelligence systems only returned about 65.9% accuracy at best. In 2016,
top systems returned 67%-69%.