by DANTE EVANS
The NFL free agency period has exploded out of the water within the first few hours of the period starting. A fairly new aspect of the NFL industry, originating in 1992, hit the headlines harder today than in years past with the mobility of players. Stars from all across the league are shifting from team to team by the minute. Not only are there many players that are being traded to various teams, there are some stars that have hung up their uniforms for good.
By the time the preseason starts for the 32 NFL teams, the rosters may be unrecognizable from a year ago. Some of the biggest names out there that have made major changes moved before today. Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle and more commonly known for dirty antics on the field, was among the first to make his move. The former first round draft pick was drafted by Detroit in 2010 and instantly became a wrecking ball on the defensive line. Suh has 36.0 sacks since 2010, the most by a defensive tackle . His move to the Miami Dolphins can be considered a high-risk, high-reward acquisition by the Dolphins. If Suh keeps himself out of trouble and on the field, he will be playing on the same line as Cameron Wake, creating one of the most formidable defensive lines the Dolphins have ever had.
The Lions did not take long to fill the void that Suh left open. Detroit traded for Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. The nine year veteran is coming off a season where he was not very productive, only recording 31 tackles and two sacks. He missed four games last season due to a violation of the NFL’s drug policy. Ngata was a pro bowler every season from 2009-2013, which is the Haloti Ngata the Lions are hoping they receive from this trade. By far the most intriguing offseason is that by the Philadelphia Eagles. They released Jeremy Maclin, who had 1,318 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. This will be the second consecutive year that the Eagles have lost their leading receiver in the offseason, last year they lost DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins. Maclin signed with Kansas City, reuniting with Coach Andy Reid. The Eagles also released Trent Cole, the defensive end who had 79.0 sacks in nine years with the Eagles.
The Eagles also traded away running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills and quarterback Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams. McCoy has rushed for 6.792 yards during his 7-year career, placing him tenth among active players. Foles was considered to be the Eagles long-term solution at the quarterback position. There has long been speculation that Chip Kelly is looking to draft QB Marcus Mariota, who he coached while at Oregon. The Eagles did not just get rid of players during this free agency period, they did pick up a big name on the defensive side of the ball. A member of the vaunted “Legion of Boom” for the past four seasons, Maxwell is coming off a season with 39 tackles and 2 interceptions. Maxwell will bea huge improvement to an Eagles secondary who ranked 31st in opposing passing yards, giving up about 265 passing yards per game.
Sticking with the Seahawks, a huge name of the offensive side of the ball landed in Seattle today. Jimmy Graham was traded to Seattle with a fourth round draft pick in exchange for center Max Unger and a first round draft pick. In his five seasons in the NFL, Graham had more receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns than any other tight end in New Orleans Saints history. He has 4,752 receiving yards and 51 touchdowns since entering the NFL, and has been regarded as one of the most reliable, dominant receivers in the game today. Coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Seahawks are making a push to get to the Super Bowl for a third straight year.
The other NFC West teams were watching the Seahawks closely. The San Francisco 49ers signed Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Smith signed a five year, $40 million deal with the Niners. Smith is an elite threat downfield, averaging 16.9 yards per catch, but has only caught more than 50 passes once in his NFL career. Smith will be teammates again with Anquan Boldin. While teammates in during the 2011 season, Boldin and Smith lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory against the 49ers. It must be true that if you can’t beat them, then sign them.
As another Baltimore player leaves the Ravens, the team that left Baltimore is upgrading its roster with a flurry of moves. The Colts signed former 49ers running back, Frank Gore, who was initially going to the Philadelphia Eagles but changed paths and took a detour to Indy. Not only did the Colts steal Gore from Philly, they also acquired former Eagles linebacker Trent Cole to their defense. The addition of Gore will help the Colt’s rushing game which was ranked 22nd in 2014, and the addition of Cole will be an even larger enhancement to a top 15 defense. Staying in the AFC, former Bears standout wide receiver Brandon Marshall, was traded to the New York Jets. The Jets subsequently released Percy Harvin, who was acquired by the team in 2014. Marshall brings a more physically imposing receiving threat to the Jets, something the Jets have not had since Keyshawn Johnson.
As some players find themselves in new locker rooms, some players are trading in the locker room for the living room. Jake Locker of the Tennessee Titans announced his retirement today. The 26 year-old had a tumultuous career, battling injuries and falling below expectations of the eighth overall pick the Tennessee Titans used on him. Locker played in only 25 games out of the possible 48 games he could have started in.
Another huge retirement came out of San Francisco today. Patrick Willis, coming off a season-ending toe injury in 2014 decided to hang it up today. Willis was the defensive rookie of the year in 2007 and recorded over 950 tackles during his career. He was also selected to the pro bowl in all of his seven seasons. The 49ers are losing their leader on the defensive side of the ball, the main force behind the 49ers three straight NFC championship games from 2011 to 2013.