I am loving this NFL off-season! The combine was great a couple weeks ago, getting everybody all fired up for the draft, which has moved back a month from April to May this year. Not to worry because here’s comes the start of the new NFL season which brings with it “Christmas in March”, also known as the first day of free agency. You got needs, we got players! What better way to fill last year’s holes and fire up the fan base between late winter and draft day than go out and throw money at some other team’s castoffs! Just kidding, there’s a bunch of quality players to be had and football teams are circling like sharks! The process has just begun but already the Buccaneers and Broncos have made moves to seemingly better their teams, targeting players and closing deals.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were first to make a splash, landing one of the top three players on the board, freak-like Bengals DE Michael Johnson, as soon as the free agent period officially began. Johnson had 11.5 sacks in 2012 but only 3.5 last year due largely in part to the injury to DT Geno Atkins. And what’s really exciting is, even at 6’5″ 270 lbs. Johnson has been known to drop into pass coverage! Are you kidding me? If he can just get some push, possibly approach his output from two seasons ago, he’ll earn that 5 year, $43.75 million contract and make the team of Lovie and Licht look brilliant. Then there’s former Titans CB Alterraun Verner. If you’re going to blow up Revis Island you better have a plan in place and it appears the Bucs do. Save mad coin and get a better fit for Lovie’s defensive scheme, a Pro Bowler at that. Sprinkle in maybe the most sought after QB on the market, Chicago’s Josh McCown , and those are three nice centerpieces for the stars of the early free agency period. The Bucs were also able to sign DT Clint McDonald and TE Brandon Myers and by all accounts aren’t finished.
You have to love what the Denver Broncos have been able to do, concentrating on defense and bringing in CB Aqib Talib, S TJ Ward, and DE DeMarcus Ware. Not only does Talib strengthen Denver’s secondary after parting ways with Champ Bailey, it also causes problems for their AFC rival New England Patriots, the team Talib left. Now maybe Belichick has to pony up the money for Revis, limiting what the Patriots can spend on other needs. And with Denver, when Peyton’s under center there’s always a chance. Safety TJ Ward comes over from Cleveland and is a guy who prides himself on toughness and hitting, traits the Broncos were sorely lacking against the Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Ware should have something left in the tank even though last season was marred with injuries and proved to be one of his worst. A future Hall of Famer, DeMarcus Ware will want to excel if only to spite owner/GM Jerry Jones, who held out hope of a reunion. In the ultra-competitive NFL these two teams have identified players, gone after them and gotten them. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Follow Kirk on Twitter @KirkMcEwen