NFL free agency sees big names released
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
While the opening of the NFL free agency period is generally seen as a flurry of names signing big contracts and moving to new teams, the aspect commonly forgotten about in the buildup is that there will be a good deal of players receiving their walking papers as well—and this year proved to be no exception.
Two of the cuts involved quarterbacks whose contracts looked iffy even at the time of signing. Ryan Fitzpatrick got the axe after another miserable season in Buffalo, and Kevin Kolb was dropped by the Cardinals in the “what took you so long?” cut of the year. Fitzpatrick got off to a hot start in 2011, prompting the franchise to lock him up long-term, but his demise began immediately after signing his six-year $59-million deal. He would end the season with a league-leading 23 interceptions and the team would finish a woeful 6–10. Fitzpatrick followed his disappointing 2011 campaign with an equally disastrous 2012; the Bills were 6–10, again. However, despite the Harvard grad’s struggles, he’s still better than the alternative. Unless the Bills pick up a new quarterback through the draft, they could be faced with the less-than inspiring prospect of having to start Tarvaris Jackson.
Kevin Kolb fared about the same. After making Michael Vick their main man, the Eagles were able to parlay Kolb’s handful of mediocre starts into the Cardinals’ second-round pick and highly-regarded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It was a lopsided trade right from the start. Arizona would then continue to dig themselves a hole by handing Kolb a five-year $63-million contract. Now, two injury-plagued seasons later, the team has finally rectified its mistake and kicked him to the curb.
Also newsworthy this offseason is the dismantling of the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens squad. While stud receiver Anquan Boldin was dealt for a sixth rounder from San Francisco in order to free up some cap space to sign some important names on the defensive side of the ball, the team has been able to do nothing but watch hopelessly as their stars take flight for greener pastures. Linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, and cornerback Cary Williams all signed rich new deals, heading to the Browns, the Dolphins, and the Eagles respectively. Ed Reed appears to be on the cusp of signing with the Texans, and hard-hitting strong safety Bernard Pollard was cut. Toss in Ray Lewis’ retirement and the Ravens are looking to have a completely different defense. For all his talk of being a leader, Joe Flacco sure made a selfish move when he put his name on that record-breaking, team-crippling contract.
Over in New England, Bill Belichick has continued his tradition of letting aging stars walk. Wes Welker is now a Denver Bronco and Peyton Manning has to be salivating over the weapons he now has at his disposal. With Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker already in the fold, the Broncos now have one of the (if not the) deadliest receiving corps in the league. Belichick was quick to replace Welker though, signing his clone, Danny Amendola, within hours of the Welker move. Amendola comes with injury concerns, but if he can stay healthy, the Pats should be able to carry on without skipping a beat.
And finally, not that there was ever any real doubt of this happening, Mike Wallace has cashed in with the Miami Dolphins, receiving a five year $60-million deal. Miami fans might actually have something to cheer about next season.