Accrued seasons! Franchise tags! Transition players! Okay, the NFL’s free agency period isn’t quite as exciting as actual NFL football – you won’t hear the guys at the Worldwide Leader going over the highlight package, yelling in unison, “Darrelle Revis, you just got… SIGNED UP!” But this is where the hunt for the Super Bowl begins anew. If you hire the wrong guys for the job, or if you pay them too much, your chances of winning go down. Pretty simple.
But how many people who regularly bet on football are actually paying attention? The professionals live, eat and breathe NFL, so they’re on top of these things. Casual bettors, not so much. So let’s take advantage of them by spending a few minutes to catch up with the free agency carousel and see who’s going where.
Bears on Patrol
The Chicago Bears had the league’s most efficient defense in 2012. Last year, they fell all the way to No. 25 (No. 17 pass, No. 32 rush), enough to keep an otherwise talented Bears team out of the playoffs at 8-8 SU and 4-11-1 ATS. So a few changes were in order. Chicago’s top free agent signings as we go to press are all on the defensive line: DE Lamarr Houston, DE Jared Allen, and DE Willie Young.
This is an outstanding haul for the Bears. Allen (11.5 sacks last year for Minnesota) is a great fit in Chicago’s base 4-3 defense, and still has plenty of zip for someone who turns 32 this week. Houston (6.0 sacks for Oakland) also has elite speed, and while Young (3.0 sacks for Detroit) is a bit more nondescript, he’s got a few moves and should operate fairly well in the 4-3. Definitely keep your NFL betting scope on these Bears in 2014.
It’s been an interesting offseason for the 49ers (12-4 SU, 11-5 ATS). We knew their secondary was in for a makeover, and while both CB Tarell Brown (to Oakland) and safety Donte Whitner (to Cleveland) have both skipped town, the Niners have done a pretty good job of filling those holes. Their biggest signing: safety Antoine Bethea (110 tackles for Indianapolis), who inked a reasonable 4-year, $23-million deal to head out West.
The Niners also hope to get some good production out of former Vikings CB Chris Cook (47 tackles) in press coverage situations. Meanwhile, they need a receiver to replace Mario Manningham (nine catches), who has returned to the New York Giants. Rumor has it that DeSean Jackson (82 catches for Philadelphia) could land here after getting cut by the Eagles. That might be enough to keep San Francisco’s championship window open for one more year; the Niners are tied with Denver as second favorites on Bovada’s Super Bowl futures market at 15-2, behind the defending champions from Seattle at 6-1.
This Is My Boom Stick
With New Orleans TE Jimmy Graham on a franchise tag and Cleveland center Alex Mack being named a Transition player, the most talented player left on the “open” market is Green Bay TE Jermichael Finley (25 catches). But the Seahawks have reportedly come to some kind of terms with Finley, who expects to be signed up once he gets his medical clearance – which could take a while.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t more deals to be made. Anyone looking for an upgrade on the offensive line could probably snap up New Orleans tackle Charles Brown or Carolina tackle Bruce Campbell at a decent price. There’s also more secondary help available in Atlanta safety Thomas DeCoud and Miami CB Dimitri Patterson. Make sure to keep track of these players as they find new homes or stay with their original owners. Your football betting bankroll with thank you.