AFter an initial week of heavy action am I the only one who feels like the well has gone dry on the VFA period around the League? There have still been some secondary signings to fill out roster depth situations before the Draft rolls around, but the significant action has taken place and most of the names still out there to be signed look more like leftovers than the main course itself. Look for the next real active signing period to come soon after the Draft as teams look to clear a little veteran dead wood in roster areas that they successfully addressed in the Draft. Then there will likely be a few desirable new names on the VFA lists for teams to pursue.
One of the sweetest tasting signing morsels in March had to be in Cincinnati. The BENGALS in adding some depth along their DL have brought MICHAEL JOHNSON/DE back into the fold only 1 year after he signed a big money deal in Tampa. The BUCS showed their all too typical lack of patience and waived JOHNSON back in February after forking out big bonus money less than twelve months earlier. JOHNSON got serious interest from the VIKES and his former DC MIKE ZIMMER, but decided to return to the Bengals for a team friendly contract number. As if that wasn’t a sweet enough victory for the oft maligned MIKE BROWN, and his front office staff, the Bengals just received a 3rd Round Compensatory Draft Pick from the League for losing JOHNSON last year, @ Pick 99. SWEET!
It must feel like old home month in Cincinnati as the team also just signed PAT SIMS/DT, who had been with the Raiders the past two seasons. Who says you can never go home again?! I know more than a few Bengals fans personally, and i can tell you that they can hardly believe that BROWN seems to be winning such sweet victories in the past few years. Now armed with 9 Picks overall, and 5 in the Top 135, the Bengals look to be a serious player in a very sound 2015 Draft prospect pool.
I sure hope someone in the League office is keeping careful tabs on the JETS Salary Cap dollars, because they look like a compulsive shopper on a TV shopping network this month. Even during the current lull period they have been signing second tier VFA players to fill in their depth chart. And it is hard to even calculate how significantly they have improved their CB position talent with the signings of REVIS & CROMARTIE to man said slots. Feels like another case of welcoming home a couple of wayward sons with those two back in town. Part of the current urgency to sign second tier vets has to do with a large hole in the JETS Draft arsenal. The team is missing their picks in Round 5 & 6 right now. THey have 6 total picks but 2 come in the crap shoot 7th Round.
In case you have lost count the SEA HAWKS now lead the League in Draft PIcks for the 2015 Draft, with 11. Even though their trade to acquire JIMMY GRAHAM/TE cost them their First Rounder they still have 5 Picks in the Top 134. Overall they have 3 Picks in Round 4, 2 Picks in Round 5 & 3 Picks again in Round 6. Given some of their interesting picks in recent years (some of which have turned out quite well) this should be an interesting process to watch in May.
Despite the flurry of transactions, especially at the beginning of the VFA period, it is worth noting that of all the regular Picks in the first 3 Rounds of the Draft (96 Picks total) only 3 of said Picks have been traded. The BILLS are minus their First Round PIck because of their trade to move up for SAMMY WATKINS last Draft. Seattle is minus their Round 1 Pick as mentioned above for GRAHAM. And the Dolphins have surrendered their 3rd Rounder, also to the Saints in the KENNY STILLS trade.
Just when the PATRIOTS lost a big chunk of talented vets to Free Agency they find themselves in a good position to replace their losses with younger and less expensive talent. The PATS have 5 Picks in the Top 101 slots and another @ 131. Look for Trader Bill to move around a little bit to get some extra ammo for 2016, but the team will be well served to use most of those picks to bolster their roster depth. Now the deal is finding the right guys at the right slots. Under BELICHICK the Draft process has been rather erratic the past 5 years with 12 of their 44 draftees already out of the League. THen again 8 of their Picks have turned into starters for them, and another 15 are still with the team as back-ups.
By the way, my sources tell me that the PATS made no attempt to bring back BRANDON BROWNER/CB for another year. Despite having clear evidence that he was a penalty machine the team paired him with REVIS for their successful Super Bowl run. But insiders say his penchant for drawing penalty flags drove Little Bill almost to distraction. Right now the team looks willing to take its chances with a CB group of KYLE ARRINGTON, LOGAN RYAN, MALCOLM BUTLER (Super Bowl hero), ALFONZO DENNARD, plus newcomer VFA signings BRADLEY FLETCHER & ROBERT McCLAIN. In fact of the PATS look for secondary help early in the Draft I think it may be more likely they look to the S position sooner rather than later.
The team with the weakest Draft potential looks to be the BILLS of REX RYAN. THat may indeed explain why the Bills have been so aggressive in bringing in VFA talent through signings and trades in the past month. The team has only 6 overall Picks and is missing their 1st & 4th Round Picks.
Surprisingly perhaps, a team sitting in solid Draft position looks like the COLTS, who had an excellent VFA signing period, IMO. The team has already added some serious veteran talent and is stocked with 9 Picks at the moment. The challenge now becomes using those Picks to full advantage. Other than ANDREW LUCK (which was a no-brainer) GM RYAN GRIGSON has a modest success record in the Draft to say the least. But then again the last two years under Bill Polian had netted the team only 1 starter out of 13 Picks. But Grigson has got to hit the jackpot this Draft, or maybe he should be the guy to feel pressure to keep his job, not HC CHUCK PAGANO, as rumored. The COLTS have 3 Picks in the Top 93, and they need to turn those into starters, not busts like Trent Richardson (trade) and BJORN WERNER. 7 of Grigson’s 22 Draftees are either with other teams or out of the League already. This team wins primarily because of how good ANDREW LUCK is. The future is now and they need to convert their 9 Picks, in a deep Draft, into roster upgrades to go with their solid VFA signing group. Someone within the organization, needs to head up an effort to keep JIM IRSAY busy and away from the Draft process over the coming month.
I am still not ready to hand out “Genius Status” to the machinations and trading ways of CHIP KELLY in Phily, but it might surprise many folks to learn that his Eagles are armed with 8 Picks in the 2015 Draft, and 3 are in the Top 84. KELLY should have plenty of opportunities to find some solid fits to balance out his roster in this Draft. It certainly looks like the team has the horses to develop the pounding running game that KELLY desires, but I would suggest a couple of Draftees along the OL, and early, should be a priority for the Eagles, as well as another WR weapon who can go deep. Then they can concentrate on defensive talent to fit their current schemes. By the way, should Chip decide that he wants even more ex-Ducks on his roster I am counting 4 Oregon players in the GBN Big Board Top 100. We also show another 2-4 Ducks as potentially draftable.