Are you the type of person who reads the ingredients of the stuff you buy at the grocery store? Or do you just grab at familiar labels and chuck them into the shopping cart? I’m guessing the former. So you’ll appreciate how important the NFL free agency period is. This is one of a limited number of opportunities a team has throughout the year to go to the store and acquire some high-end talent. Naturally, some teams do better at this than others. Imagine spending top dollar on a Pro Bowl wide receiver, only to find he’s got two bad hamstrings and an arrest warrant. Sorry, no returns.
We can already see the impact of this year’s free agency signings on the Super Bowl XLIX futures market. The teams that have done the best work, in the eyes of the betting marketplace, have seen their football odds shorten over the past month. Let’s take a closer look at how some of these moves went down at Bodog, comparing their Super Bowl odds from March 15 to those at press time.
New England Patriots: 9-1 to 8-1
The Patriots (12-4 SU, 8-8 ATS last year) made arguably the biggest splash of the free agency period with the signing of CB Darrelle Revis, a five-time Pro Bowler who’s coming off a solid 2013 season (50 tackles, 11 passes defended) with the otherwise brutal Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Revis signed up for one year at $12 million, so there’s no long-term risk, and Revis represents an instant upgrade over the departed Aqib Talib (now with Denver). New England also plucked CB Brandon Browner from Seattle’s Legion of Boom secondary. Not bad.
New Orleans Saints: 22-1 to 20-1
Defense was also a concern for the Saints (11-5 SU, 8-8 ATS) last year, but their biggest challenge this offseason was freeing up money to re-sign TE Jimmy Graham (86 catches, 16 TDs). It looks like they’ll manage to do both; Graham is on the franchise tag, and New Orleans was able to ink both safety Jairus Byrd and CB Champ Bailey. Byrd made the Pro Bowl the last two years for the Buffalo Bills, and while the Saints overpaid him at six years and $54 million, he’s a significant short-term add for one of America’s most popular teams.
Chicago Bears: 28-1 to 25-1
We mentioned last week that the Bears (8-8 SU, 4-11-1 ATS) had beefed up for the 2014 campaign with the signing of three defensive ends: Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young. Well, there’s more where that came from. Chicago also welcomed DE Israel Idonjie back into the fold after a one-year exile in Detroit, and safety Ryan Mundy was brought in from the New York Giants to improve a secondary that could still use some help. We’ll see what the Bears do at the NFL Draft, but for now, they’re already better on paper than last year’s squad.
Oakland Raiders: 100-1 to 75-1
It’s pretty rare for sharp bettors to pick the long shots to win the Super Bowl, and you’re still not going to find a lot of people outside the Black Hole betting on the Raiders (4-12 SU, 7-8-1 ATS) despite the improvements they’ve made. But there’s no question the emphasis in Oakland is on winning. QB Matt Schaub (73.0 passer rating) will get a chance to prove his 2013 season in Houston was an aberration. Schaub, or whomever the Raiders draft at QB, will have the luxury of playing behind an upgraded offensive line, and the Raiders defense looks much better with CB Tarell Brown coming over the bridge from San Francisco and ex-Giants DE Justin Tuck in the trenches.