A little more than a week into the NFL Free Agency signing period, and more deals have been made already than in The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul on a good Saturday morning. Here’s some Winners and Losers, with any significant Futures Odds movement since the wheeling and dealing began.
The Colts seem to have been one of the more aggressive teams so far, signing free agents RB Frank Gore (49ers), WR Andre Johnson (Texans), DE Trent Cole (Eagles) and DE Kendall Langford (Rams) and re-signing backup QB Matt Hasselbeck—always a wise thing in the NFL to have a reliable backup QB. Indianapolis also will be parting ways with RB Trent Richardson, who reports this morning (Tuesday) have headed to the Oakland Raiders. All this movement caused some knee-jerk, over-reaction to Indianapolis’s early moves, making the Colts Super Bowl 50 favorites at the MGM Sportsbook in Las Vegas at 5/1. Shoring up the DL and adding some possibly very productive veterans at some key skill spots in Gore and Johnson is definitely an improvement in Naptown, but now having the lowest odds to win the NFL Championship in some places may change over the next couple of months with The Usual Suspects—the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers—probably being the three real favorites with Indy and star QB Andrew Luck now a close fourth. Richardson leaving and being replaced by Gore and WR Reggie Wayne retiring and having Johnson fill his void is progress in my mind, and this team is really trying to get better the smart way through slow and steady growth, so don't forget about them when you make your NFL Picks.
DT Jared Odrick signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Dolphins have already locked down the prize possession of the Free Agency period, signing former Lions DT Ndamukong Suh to a 6-year, $114,285,00 contract and Miami also signed TE Jordan Cameron, formerly of the Cleveland Browns. The Fish also popped the quirky Transition Tag on TE Charles Clay and WR Brian Hartline was signed by the Browns, among many other various Miami transactions. So, so far so good in Miami (33/1 to win Super Bowl, was 40/1, Bovada), but still very far from that desired, finished, final product for the 2015 NFL season.
The Buffalo Bills re-signed talented, young DE Jerry Hughes and has signed RB LeSean McCoy (Eagles) and Percy Harvin (Jets), so, a nice start up in Buffalo where The Snow should be gone by the Bills preseason opener. Buffalo lost backup QB Kyle Orton to retirement, as well as TE Scott Chandler (Patriots), G Erik Pears (49ers), S Da’Norris Searcy (Titans) and RB C.J. Spiller (Saints) to free agency, but the Bills signed QB Matt Cassel (Vikings) and G Richie Incognito (Dolphins) to go along with McCoy and Harvin, so like fellow AFC East partners Miami, Buffalo should be a better football team in 2015 and have done a really decent job so far. The Bills are all the way down to 33/1 (from 66/1) at Bovada, so punters (the gamblers, not the dudes used often on 4th Down in the NFL, Bubba) agree. But still, they’re the Bills. Chicago Cubs fans understand.
New York Jets
The New York Jets have maybe impressed the most up to this point, signing free agent stud CB Darrelle Revis (Patriots), CB Antonio Cromartie (Cardinals) and SS Marcus Gilchrist (Chargers) as well as trading for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Texans) and WR Brandon Marshall (Bears). So, first-year General manager Mike Maccagnan—who also signed and kept free agent RB Bilal Powell and MLB David Harris—has done a great job to date and this team should be hard to throw on this season and New York AFC seems to be building a Secondary like the fearsome Seahawks have, a sort of East-coast version of the Legion of Boom, with less emphasis on the hitting and maybe more emphasis on the precision-like coverage. Bettors at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook jumped at Jets’ Futures after all of these moves, driving the odds from 100/1 (to win Super Bowl 50) all the way down to 40/1 (last Wednesday), so whatever perceived value on the Jets at that historic betting shop in the building where Elvis Presley used to live and play has long gone, although bwin and Betfair (and a couple of others) still have the Jets available at 100/1 odds.
The NFC champion Seattle Seahawks have had pretty good news so far, in the reality that the moody but productive RB Marshawn Lynch will be staying put in the Emerald City, combined with a nice trade which brought New Orleans Saints TE extraordinaire Jimmy Graham to Seattle for C Max Unger. With a weak receiving corps, the addition of Graham—both on the football field and for the Seahawks locker room—will be an invaluable thing and this transaction may possibly end up being wonderful for both sides in The Long Run. And, DB Byron Maxwell wanted to test the Free Agent Waters, and he did and they were very warm, so now he will now play professional football for the Eagles and (likely) drive a better vehicle. But Seattle has signed both released DBs Cary Williams (Eagles) and Will Blackmon (Jaguars), so it’s almost like a Weird Modern Trade of Progress. Seattle’s Legion of Boom defensive secondary will still Rock The Casbah and the team is currently looking at former Raiders C Steve Wisniewski as a replacement for Unger. Seattle and head Coach Pete Carroll do still need to get that reality at Center dealt with, and could still use a couple of WRs. In the NFL Championship (Super Bowl) Futures Book marketplace, the Seahawks have moved from 5/1 up to 6/1 at Bovada. Getting Graham was sheer genius.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay has had some fantastic re-signings, including WR Randall Cobb and RT Bryan Bulaga, and look for The Pack to eventually come to terms with free agent FB John Kuhn, a huge fan favorite in Green Bay and the type of Working Class player who gets teams to conference championship games. Blocks matter. TDs matter. The Packers without Kuhn would be sort of like The Beatles without drummer Ringo Starr...no beat, brother. Also, free agent DB Tramon Williams just signed with the Browns. Keeping Cobb and Bulaga is worth its weight in Platinum and simple (re-) signings like these often fly under the proverbial radar at this time of year in the NFL. The Packers opened up at 5/1 at Bovada, but have been bet down to 7/1 from 8/1. Green Bay will definitely be in the hunt this season after coming so close last season and the memories of that NFC Championship game in Seattle should fuel this team and a Seahawks-Packers rematch in the NFC title tilt would surprise nobody but Squirrels who would be surprised that us Homo Sapiens actually play a game with an inflated ball made out of the hide of a Cow. We weird you little mammals. Deal with it. You furry little freaks like in trees and stash nuts and run on electric wires and stuff. Now who’s weird?
New England Patriots
The defending Super Bowl champs still have many deals to make, but losing a guy like CB Darrelle Revis really hurts, let alone to a divisional rival like the Jets. The Patriots also lost DB Brandon Browner (Saints), but have re-signed S Devin McCourty and landed DE Jabaal Sheard (Steelers) and placed the Franchise Tag on wonderful K Stephen Gostkowski. Not the end of the world yet, but losing a guy like Revis, who’s impossible to replace (as well as Browner), will definitely have its repercussions and Conventional Wisdom says that the Patriots will be easier to throw to in 2015, while the Jets will be harder to throw against. Logic, fam. Embrace it. It’s both tax- and calorie-free. The Patriots are currently 7/1 at Bovada and 6/1 at the MGM Sportsbook and that (7/1) range may be as high as New England’s NFL Odds get as this is still a marvelous football team with a legendary QB (Tom Brady) which will be intent on retaining its NFL crown and proving this franchise in truly in the midst of a Dynasty.
I had—and may still have—high hopes for the Baltimore Ravens this coming season, as expressed in an earlier and recent NFL Futures story here tabbing the Ravens—but it’s been a pretty rough start for Baltimore and Head Coach John Harbaugh this offseason. Not talked enough about by The Talking Heads on that familiar big sports network known for overkill on The Boob Tube, the departure of WR Torrey Smith (to the 49ers) is a really big blow to this offense. The Tackling Edgar Allan Poes also lost popular NT Haloti Ngata (Lions), underrated OL Pernell McPhee (Bears), SS Darian Stewart (Broncos) as well as WR Smith and TE Owen Daniel (Broncos), although Baltimore has re-signed talented RB Justin Forsett. Still, losing Torrey Smith, McPhee and Ngata so quickly is a dent. The Ravens were 33/1 at Bovada, and are now sitting at 25/1 and will have to snag (in the Draft) or sign a killer WR to tandem with veteran Steve Smith Sr., who was playing when Papa Bear George Halas founded this fine league which plays the highest-level of American Football, despised by so many worldwide for simply sharing the name Fútbol (for the sport of soccer), which (the word ‘soccer’) was not-so ironically invented by Europeans (the English) as an easier way to say ‘Association Football.’ Fools. Keep it down, would you? There’s always someone waiting to be offended These Strange Days and my healthy advice is to put the stupid cell phone down some time and read a book, take a long walk or maybe write your Mother or Father. Time keeps ticking while you’re looking at that Device. One day you’ll see. The United States of America already had (has) a sport called Football, so, calling football Fútbol when we already call it soccer would give us a Football and a Fútbol...so, DO YOU PEOPLE FLIPPIN’ GET WHY WE (North) AMERICANS JUST CALL IT SOCCER NOW????? Sorry, my friend. A man needs to go all-caps and quintuple up on the Question Marks in his writing every once in a decade just to keep the bats down. It happens to the best of us. I’ll simmer down...
As mentioned, and as everyone already knows, the Detroit Lions lost free agent DT Ndamukong Suh, and it’s never a good thing in sports to lose the best player on your team. Never ever. The Lions did go out and do a great job trying to fill that vacuum-gap, signing NT Haloti Ngata (Ravens), but Ndamukong Suh is that Immovable Object everyone always talks about, despite his penchant for playing dirty and stomping prone (opposing) QBs from time to time. The Lions odds to win Super Bowl 50 held pat at 3/1 (Bovada), despite the big man’s departure to the Sunshine State. But despite Suh’s loss, expect the Lions to still be good defensively as they have worked to hard to improve that element of its game and with fellow DL Nick Fairley and now Ngata, Detroit will still have some size and meanness in the middle of its DL. The problem, as seemingly always for this franchise, will be those Green Bay Packers.
As expected, Uncle Peyton (Manning) will be coming back for more throw in Denver, but he will be without the services of TE Julius Thomas (43 receptions, 489 yards, 12 TDs) who signed as a free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fellow Thomas, WR Demaryius (111 receptions, 1,619 yards, 11 TDs), was made the Broncos’ Franchise Tag player, and is still unsigned and, according to Rotoworld (via the Denver Post), isn’t expected to sign his 1-year, $12.823 million tag until July 15. Also, S Rahim Moore left for the Houston Texans and was (essentially) replaced by signing SS Darian Stewart (Ravens), while DB Quinton Carter is a free agent. Denver and General Manager John Elway have re-signed TE Virgil Green and signed TE Owen Daniel (Ravens) to fill the Julius Thomas gap and did land OL Shelley Smith (Texans), but not having that sweet Thomas-Thomas tandem could hurt the Broncos some, who would be Very Wise to act quickly and re-sign veteran (free agent) waterbug and WR Wes Welker. Should the Broncos do that, they’re off the Losers List. Odds-wise, Denver’s championship odds dropped from 10/1 to 12/1 (Bovada). And Life goes on.
New Orleans Saints
Trading TE Jimmy Graham (and a Draft Pick) to the NFC champions Seahawks for C Max Unger (and a Draft Pick) was like cutting part of The Heart out of Who Dat Nation. I am friends with a Saints fan who actually just named her newborn Graham Matthew (in an homage to both now-former Saints TE and movie star Matthew Modine of Full Metal Jacket fame), and am quite sure she may be in as much pain knowing Jimmy Graham is gone as she was giving birth to her beautiful son last year. That man meant much to this franchise. New Orleans also traded WR Kenny Stills (Dolphins), re-signed RB Mark Ingram, signed free agent RB CJ Spiller (Bills) and CB Brandon Browner (Patriots), and failed to tender NT Tyrunn Walker. But just the psychological and physical loss of Graham is massive here to me and bettors moved the Saints Futures Book number from 25/1 to 30/1 (Bovada) after all of this early dust settled. Expect the Saints and QB Drew Brees to be better in 2015, but only because they may have more moves to make in the coming months and because the 2014 season was such a downright stinker in The Big Easy for fans and Head Coach Sean Payton.
The Eagles and Head Coach Chip Kelly have been busier than bees so far, but I’m not too fond of some of the moves...like losing star RB LeSean McCoy (Bills) and WR Jeremy Maclin (Chiefs). The Eagles also unloaded QB Nick Foles (and got Sam Bradford from the Rams) and got LB Kiko Alonso (Bills) in the McCoy trade, but getting Bradford seems like a massive gamble, and when players in all sports fail to prove they can stay healthy from an early point on in their careers, bringing them into a city like Philadelphia which seems to hate so much about its’ sports teams seems like a sure recipe for disaster. Good luck, Sam. I have sent a 12-hour ‘Gentle Streams’ tape for your soon-to-be tortured Soul. If QB Bradford is ever consistently healthy and productive (and good) for the Eagles, I will be surprised. For now, the Maclin-McCoy-Foles losses put Philly on the Loser’s List, although the signing of free agent RB DeMarco Murray (Cowboys) is a nice plus and had gamblers moving Philadelphia’s Super Bowl-winning odds down from 20/1 to 16/1 (Bovada). And with so much having already happened in the City of Brotherly Love, you know that Kelly has much more up his sleeve, although he has said the idea of trading up in the coming 2015 NFL Draft (April 30-May 2) to try to get his former University of Oregon QB and Heisman Trophy-winner Marcus Mariota is basically hogwash. Good for him. Too many in the media feeding on hogwash, a low-nutrient, non-food item if you really analyze it. Basically, bathwater from Pigs.
San Francisco 49ers
It’s been weird, weird weird for the Niners so far and it should continue to be weird. And sort of Bad-Weird. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh returned to his alma mater (University of Michigan), free agent RB Frank Gore signed with the Eagles, free agent WR Michael Crabtree is likely going—maybe to the Redskins or Chargers who are both reportedly now looking at the former Texas Tech standout—standout G Mike Iupati has signed with the Cardinals and DL Justin Smith, LB Patrick Willis and now young and promising LB Chris Borland have all announced their retirements—the 24-year-old Borland’s coming surprisingly just this morning (Tuesday) citing fears of the long-term effects of head trauma caused by this violent and fast-paced game. Mercy. That’s a lot. San Francisco did land two underrated and very athletic offensive skill position players in WR Torrey Smith (Ravens) and former Heisman Trophy-winner RB Reggie Bush (Lions), but, with such a beloved coach like Harbaugh leaving (because of immature and unappreciative team owners), QB Colin Kaepernick seeming like a never-ending project, the flight of Gore and likely future flight of Crabtree, combined with the retirements on defense, and this is a franchise currently waiting for the tornado now surrounding it to go away. Playing in a new stadium (Levi’s) in a city with a different name than yours’ (Santa Clara) with a mercurial QB with Chicken Legs (Kaepernick) in now, the NFL’s toughest division (NFC West) have certain challenges that come with it. It ain’t easy being the San Francisco 49ers in These Strange Days of 2015. Joe Montana and Steve Young are too old to come back, Bay boys. The 49ers odds have plummeted from 20/1 to 33/1 at Bovada on all this early offseason action. Fluid markets react to news, and the ranks of those sports bettors currently thinking that a Niners Futures ticket is a wise thing to have and hold is quickly dwindling.
Biggest Winners to This Point: Jets, Colts, Bills, Seahawks, Packers
Biggest Losers to This Point: Ravens, Saints, 49ers, Eagles, Patriots