As the names of high-caliber free agents keep coming off the board, the Atlanta Falcons made most of the news on the third day of free agency by addressing their running back needs and signing Steven Jackson from the St. Louis Rams, hoping his addition might push them to the Super Bowl.
The Seattle Seahawks (Signing Michael Bennett) continue to stack up on defensive ends while the Minnesota Vikings made a surprising move by signing Matt Cassel from the Kansas City Chiefs to make life a little bit more difficult for Christian Ponder.
After nine seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Steven Jackson is heading to more ambitious pastures (at the moment), signing a three-year, $12 million deal with the Atlanta Flacons. He would have made more on his last season with the Rams, but Jackson felt that without too much gas in the tank left (another 1000 yard season?), it’s better to play for a contender. He had 1,042 yards rushing and four touchdowns with the Rams last season. It was his eighth straight season with more than 1,000 yards rushing.
Although it’s hard to find a fanbase that will be pleased with signing Matt Cassel, but the Minnesota Vikings felt they need to get some insurance for Christian Ponder, who isn’t the world’s greatest quarterback. The quarterback signed a one-year, $4 million deal, including an option for a second season Cassel, recently released by the Kansas City Chiefs after a horrendous season, can void. He would have made a base salary of $7.5 million this season had he not have been released.
Busy Eagles – Connor Barwin, Cary Williams & Kenny Phillips
The Philadelphia Eagles hired a very offense-oriented coach, but seem to be making a lot of moves towards improving their defensive situation. They released Nnamdi Asomugha, and came up with another departing Baltimore Ravens player, cornerback Cary Williams. Williams signed a three year deal worth $17.5 million, $10 million guaranteed, continuing his rise after being a sixth round pick, becoming a starter for Baltimore in 2011 and winning the Super Bowl last season.
Safety Kenny Phillips is no stranger to the Eagles after playing for five seasons with the New York Giants. Like Williams, Phillips is also a Super Bowl champion. Connor Barwin (LB) is the non-secondary enhancement of the day for the Eagles, signing a six-year, $36 million deal. Barwin played as the strong side linebacker for the Texans last season, hurting his sack numbers, which led the team with them in 2011.
The Seattle Seahawks continue to make impressive improvements to their defensive line, and might show the way of the future for stopping the read option – stacking you line with defensive ends. Bennett had a career-high nine sacks last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Seattle.
The New Orleans Saints were arguably the worst defensive team against the pass last season, so making improvement along their secondary was a must. They began by signing Keenan Lewis from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Lewis, 26 and a New Orleans natives, became a full time starter for the Steelers only last season, and led the AFC with 23 passes broken up, considered to be a rising star at cornerback. He signed a five year deal worth $26.3 million, $10 million of them guaranteed.
The New England Patriots were one of the worst return teams in the NFL last season (25th in the NFL with a 21.2 yards-per-kickoff-return average last season), so they added Leon Washington from the Seattle Seahawks, who was second in the NFL in kickoff return yards last season, and is tied with Josh Cribbs for the most kickoff returns for touchdowns in NFL history with eight.
Smith, leaving the Miami Dolphins, was one of the more coveted cornerbacks among the market’s free agents. After being linked to half a dozen teams, it’s the rebuilding (nicely, one would say) Kansas City Chiefs that added the 25 year old, signing a deal is worth $18 million, including $11 million guaranteed. Smith has five interceptions and 40 passes defensed in 63 career games. The move was made possible due to the release of Matt Cassel, freeing up enough cap space.