Free agency isn’t only about getting the right players for the positions you need, but also about making a splash, and creating a buzz around the franchise for the upcoming season. No team did that better than the Miami Dolphins, by signing Mike Wallace from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dannell Ellerbe from the Ravens.
Other interesting moves were the Ravens losing another linebacker, Paul Kruger, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, while the Chicago Bears took care of their tight end problem by signing Martellus Bennett from the New York Giants.
Mike Wallace didn’t have the greatest 2012, but his 2011 numbers – 1,193 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, reaching the Pro Bowl for the first time, are what mattered to the Dolphins, who were always the team closest to signing the four year veteran. Wallace signed a deal giving him $60 million for the next five season, $30 million of those guaranteed, giving Ryan Tannehill another impressive weapon to use after giving Brian Hartline an impressive extension for about half the money Wallace is getting.
The Baltimore Ravens put themselves in a difficult position when they decided to give Joe Flacco a massive extension, and that meant keeping some players they really wanted, like Dannelle Ellerbe, the man who was supposed to take over the middle for Ray Lewis, is going elsewhere. Ellerbe becomes the second major free agent signing for the Miami Dolphins this off season, getting a contract worth $35 million for the next five years, about half of it guaranteed.
The Dolphins made their third big signing of the first day with another linebacker, Philip Wheeler, who played last season for the Oakland Riaders. Wheeler, who recorded 3 sacks last season in Oakland, will be paid $26 million on the next five season, with $13 million of that being guaranteed money.
It was hard to find someone who didn’t want Paul Kruger with the money to afford him, and eventually, the Ravens lost another key ingredient of their Super Bowl winning defense to a division rival, as the Cleveland Browns got the 27 year old, who recorded 9 sacks last season by signing him on a $40 million for five years contract. Kruger was also having a great postseason with the Ravens to bolster his stocks, recording 4.5 sacks, including two in the Super Bowl, leaving the Browns hoping it wasn’t about having a contract year that propelled Kruger to such heights.
The Cleveland Browns weren’t done with improving their defense by just adding Kruger, and also signed an Oakland Raiders player, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant. The four year veteran (like all major free agents in this market) recorded 10.5 sacks over the last three seasons for the Raiders, and signed a five-year contract worth $34 million.
The 26 year old who began his career with the Dallas Cowboys but enjoyed the best season of his career in 2012 by playing for the New York Giants becomes the tight end the Chicago Bears hope will propell their team’s passing game from being more than just Cutler to Marshall. Bennett caught 55 passes for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns last season, and signed a contract giving him $20 million for the next four seasons.