There is no off-season any more... Gary Jordan explains how Free Agency keeps the frenzy alive and who the biggest movers were on FA opening day
There's a saying in the National Football League that has gathered momentum over the last few years, in the same way that Social Media whips up a rumour until it becomes common knowledge, then it's eventually confirmed by a reliable source.
That saying is "there is no off-season".
This was born out of the media frenzy that now surrounds and supports events on the NFL calendar like the Combine, an annual scouting parade of the best College talent which is soon picked off one by one, and slotted into the 32 teams around the country. Players get poked and prodded, told to jump and run as high and as fast as they can possibly go, and then have the media spotlight thrust into their faces. This is all good grooming for the Draft, which for those lucky enough to get chosen is ample reward for their hard work and endeavour.
These two events are roughly 3 months apart, so what does the NFL do to keep our football hunger keen?
Free Agency is the answer. If you can imagine the summer, and the hype and money spent on soccer players switching teams, and then multiply that by one hundred, then you come some way close to what this amounts to for the NFL and its fans.
The Free Agency period is a time for players who are out of contract with their existing teams, and are free to negotiate with others. In some cases a bidding war will start between teams for players' services. Sometimes there is the outside influence of a player's agent to negotiate, and that can be a bigger issue than getting a player to sign on the dotted line. Teams, of course, do their best to hold on to highly valued players, and this is where the team's General Manager starts to count the beans and slide the balls across his abacus so he can stay within the league's salary cap.
This year there was a lot of activity in the market before the official day that Free Agent signings can begin; this is now being looked into by the League office to make sure nothing underhand was taking place. When the opening day did arrive there were some big moves and trades.
Two starting Quarterbacks found themselves swapping jerseys, as the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES and ST. LOUIS RAMS switched Nick Foles and Sam Bradford respectively. This was a big move and shows the Eagles intent on making headway in the NFC race, as they later went on to secure the services of 2014's leading rusher Demarco Murray from the DALLAS COWBOYS. Many experts believe that the Eagles will have something extra up their sleeve come Draft Day as Coach Chip Kelly has his Oregon College QB Marcus Mariota firmly on the radar.
Another big name and big personality that was free to be picked up was DETROIT LIONS defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He was on the pages of a handful of teams as a priority choice, but when MIAMI threw $114m his way he became a Dolphin purely on the fact that no one else would match that figure.
It's always hard to say who the winners and losers are of Free Agency as you can only really tell when the games start to roll in September, however you could say a big win on paper was in INDIANAPOLIS where the Colts acquired Frank Gore from SAN FRANCISCO, and Andre Johnson from HOUSTON. These two weapons will make their potent offense even more mouth watering.
Brandon Marshall has had controversy follow him wherever he lands, but the JETS will be hoping he can stay out of trouble after landing the dynamic receiver. New York has also claimed back the shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis, maybe the Jets could be a dark horse next year under new Coach Todd Bowles. Another big move was that of all-pro Tight End Jimmy Graham to the SEATTLE SEAHAWKS. The two-time NFC champion already gaining a psychological edge over the rest of their opponents. To soften the blow of their star player leaving the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS did get centre Max Unger and some draft picks, but this seems little compensation for a player that finds the end zone with regularity. LeSean McCoy was another move that caused ripples across the NFL shores, as he unceremoniously left the Eagles to end up in BUFFALO, linebacker Kiko Alonso exiting the Bills and going the other way in a sweetener to clinch the deal.
The deals mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg, as many more players have either moved or re-signed on with their current franchise. After the initial month of trading the activity tends to slow as teams prepare for the Draft and maybe use any unacquired players as leverage so they can move up and down the draft order.
This all proves that for the teams, coaching staff, players and fans "there is no offseason."