Talk of Fame Network
Once upon a time the NFL could find impact players in free agency.
That was back in the 1990s when the salary cap was still a new toy, and a Reggie White, Deion Sanders, Curtis Martin, Kevin Greene, Marcus Allen and Shannon Sharpe could be found in the open market.
But with the explosion of salary-cap dollars, it’s getting harder and harder to find those immediate impact players. NFL teams do not let their best players get into the marketplace. Free agency is now filled with older players whose age priced them off their old teams or younger players looking for a chance.
So in this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, we ask our listeners and readers to vote on the best free-agent acquisition during the 2015 offseason, and we give you five choices — two cornerbacks, a wide receiver, a running back and a quarterback. Here are the choices. Who gets your vote?
(Photo courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland
The 10th overall pick in 2009, Crabtree never lived up to his pre-draft billing. He managed only one 1,000-yard season in his six years with the 49ers. After catching 68 passes for an average of 10.3 yards and just four touchdowns in 2014, the 49ers allowed Crabtree to walk out the door. He stayed in the Bay Area, signing with the Raiders, and has caught a team-leading 51 passes through nine games. He already has more touchdowns than last season (5) and his average per catch has jumped by more than two yards to 12.7. He gives young Oakland quarterback Derek Carr a talented, experienced, trusted target.
(Photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)
Chris Johnson, HB, Arizona
Johnson’s career has been on a downward slide since rushing for 2,000 yards for the Tennessee Titans in 2009. He hit 1,000 yards each of the next four seasons, but his totals were closer to 1,000 than 2,000. After rushing for just 1,077 yards in 2013, the Titans let him leave in free agency. He signed with the New York Jets but did not start, rushing for career lows of 663 yards and one touchdown. He did not go to camp with any NFL team in 2015 but signed in mid-August with the Cardinals when rookie David Johnson was slowed by injuries. He made his first start for the Cardinals in the second week of the season and has been there ever since. Johnson has rushed for 734 yards to rank second in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson. He’s had four 100-yard games for the 7-2 Cardinals.
(Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
Terence Newman, CB, Minnesota.
Newman was the fifth overall pick of the 2003 draft by the Cowboys and did live up to his pre-draft billing with two Pro Bowl seasons. Mike Zimmer coached him in Dallas as defensive coordinator of the Cowboys. When Zimmer left to become defensive coordinator of the Bengals, he brought Newman along with him in free agency. When Zimmer became the head coach of the Vikings in 2014, he had to wait a year before Newman was free to again join him with to the Vikings. Even at 37 years of age, Newman became a walk-in starter and has two interceptions for the NFC North-leading Vikings. Minnesota ranks 10th in defense and eighth in pass defense. Newman was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for intercepting a pass and breaking up five others in a victory over Oakland last Sunday.
(Photo courtesy of the New York Jets)
Darrelle Revis, CB, NY Jets
One of the prize catches of the 2015 free agency class, Revis left the Super Bowl champion Patriots to sign with the Jets. It cost the Jets $70 million over five years, with $39 million of it guaranteed. Only Miami defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh signed a bigger free-agent contract this offseason. Revis has gone to six Pro Bowls in the last seven years and is the ultimate shutdown corner. Revis has three interception and, to no one’s surprise, the Jets have jumped from 14th in the NFL in pass defense a year ago into the Top 10 this season.
(Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo
It’s not often you find a starting quarterback in free agency – but that’s exactly what the Bills did when they rescued Taylor from the Baltimore bench. Taylor threw only 35 passes in four seasons as Joe Flacco’s backup and was brought in by the Bills to compete with incumbent E.J. Manuel and veteran Matt Cassel. Taylor won the job and has quarterbacked the Bills into second place of the AFC East. The Bills are 5-4 but Taylor is 5-2 as a starter, missing two games in October with a sprained knee. Taylor has passed for 11 touchdowns against only four interceptions — and three of the thefts came in the same game against New England. He also has rushed for two touchdowns and ranks fourth among NFL quarterback rushers with 243 yards.