Free Agency offers teams the opportunity to make instant upgrades at positions of need by signing proven players. It is also an opportunity for teams to sign players at needed positions going into the draft, allowing them the ability to draft the best player available, rather than for need. With 2020 being one of the busiest offseasons in recent memory, there is a lot to analyze, so with that said, there is no time to waste.
The Miami Dolphins have the opportunity to completely 180 by becoming instant contenders in the 2020 NFL Regular Season. Out of all of the teams that made additions in free agency, the Dolphins signed the most players out of all of the other teams vying for marquise agents. The Fins picked up big-time names like former Cowboy CB Byron Jones, inked to a 5-year $82.5 million contract, as well as former Patriot LB Kyle Van Noy who signed a 4-year $51 million contract. They completely restructured their defensive front also adding G Ereck Flowers, former Washington Redskin to a 3-year $30 million contract, and former Eagle RB Jordan Howard to a 2-year $10 million contract. Both moves are an instant upgrade on the offensive side of the ball. In addition to these signings, the Miami Dolphins possess the 5th, 18th, and the 26th pick in the first round of the 2020 Draft, as well as two picks in the second round (39th and 56th). There are few teams in the NFL who are in a better position for future success than the Dolphins, and for the first time since the Dan Marino era, Fins are most definitely up.
The Hunted Becomes the Hunter
The Cincinnati Bengals’ 2019 campaign was one filled with agony and depression as they were never able to get the engine going. They still had some luck on their side, however, because the Dolphins, who were expected to be the worst team in the league, upset several teams towards the end of the season and finished with a 5-11 record. Now, after retaining WR A.J. Green via Franchise Tag and adding top free agent DT D.J. Readings, along with five other players during the frenzy, the once feline kittens can mold themselves into the fierce apex predator that their franchise represents. In need of a quarterback, it is a guarantee that the Bengals will draft LSU Tiger quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. I really like the look of their defensive line with Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and now D.J. Reader in the trenches. Their focus going forward, after addressing their offense by drafting their franchise quarterback, as well as an offensive lineman in the second or third round, will be revamping their secondary, as their defensive backs were burned on numerous plays throughout 2019. While they still have a long way to go before they become playoff contenders, they are certainly on the right progressive path towards success in the future.
“Blue, You’re My Boy!” ~ Frank Ricard
This is the year that fans of the New York Giants can finally be optimistic about their future. With QB Daniel Jones entering his first full offseason, he will master the playbook, as well as continue to build chemistry with his receivers. The defense received yet another upgrade through free agency by adding outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell (1-year $4.6 million) and inside linebacker Blake Martinez (3-years $30 million), both former Packers looking for a new beginning. On a one-year “prove it” deal, Fackrell is a low-risk high-reward pickup as he comes in as a relatively low cap hit for a guy who recorded 42 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 2018 prior to becoming the starter at right bench after the Smith Bros arrived in Green Bay last Spring. Martinez however, has generated some worthy recognition as he has consistently been a top 3 leader in tackles in the NFL, as he has recorded 144 tackles in 2017 and 2018 while accumulating 155 tackles in the 2019 season. In his four-year career thus far, he has compiled 10.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 INTs. He has received criticism, however, as the number of tackles he totals does not represent the plays that are made, as many of those stops were registered roughly 6-7 yards off the line of scrimmage. After his departure from the team that drafted him ended in an ugly breakup, Martinez enhanced the bitterness in an interview with the New York Giants’ media team by detailing his responsibilities in Green Bay: “In our defense no matter what it was, since I was the only linebacker on the field, I was taught and told once again, to be the cleanup crew guy. There wasn’t any gap responsibilities for me.” In it is noteworthy that Blake was offered an extension by the Packers, but chose the Giants due to different values of the MLB position. Needless to say, New York has found inexpensive answers at the linebacker position for the time being, and with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, they have the chance to land one of the top prospects in either MLB Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson or an offensive lineman to protect and block for not only their young quarterback but their sensational running back in Saquon Barkley as well.
Are We There Yet?
While the draft is still less than a month away, the free agency period has given teams added comfortability in their rosters as for teams like the Green Bay Packers or New York Jets, have added low-costing players to positions of need which gives them more options on draft day. Rather than picking for need, they will be able to take the best player available on the board. As for the three teams mentioned above, their futures are about to be written as they prepare to select the players that are going to be the face of the franchise for years to come. Expect the Giants, Dolphins and the Bengals to all have an impressive 2020 regular season.