During free agency, every single signing is up for debate and scrutiny. No one is entirely sure how each addition will work out. More often than not, there are some very real surprises. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are good or bad, just that they’re ultimately eye-opening.
Looking back on the 2020 offseason, who made some of the best free agent signing? Here’s a look at five of the best signings from the 2020 offseason.
5. Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers
What a career resurgence for Robby Anderson. After being stuck in the mud for four seasons with the New York Jets, many believed Anderson had hit his professional ceiling and would be nothing more than a complementary receiver. The Panthers saw something more in him, and credit to head coach Matt Rhule, who certainly got the most out of Anderson. In his first season in Carolina, Anderson led the team with 136 targets and 95 receptions. He closed out the year with 1,096 yards and three touchdowns. While his production numbers were second to fellow receiver DJ Moore, there’s no denying Anderson has taken over as WR1 in Carolina and is just getting started.
4. Blake Martinez, LB, New York Giants
Since the retirement of Antonio Pierce following the 2009 season, the Giants have struggled to find an impact middle linebacker who can stop the run and drop into coverage without being a complete liability. That spot had been a persistent weakness until this season. The arrival of Blake Martinez signaled a significant change in East Rutherford, both on the field and in the locker room. Voted defensive captain by his teammates, Martinez finished the season with 151 tackles (third in NFL), six QB hits, three sacks, five passes defensed and one interception. He was snubbed for the Pro Bowl but did receive an All-Pro vote.
3. Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How could this list possibly exist without the inclusion of the great one himself, Mr. Tom Brady? Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Brady is among the best to ever play the game. His presence in Tampa Bay has turned that franchise around. Yes, the Buccaneers brought in head coach Bruce Arians and then surrounded Brady with a ridiculous level of talent, but that’s only served to highlight the level at which Brady plays — even at 43 years of age. Some thought he was finished after his split with New England, but Brady responded with 4,633 yards, 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 16 games this season. The 40 touchdown passes were the second-most of his career, and the 4,633 passing yards were his most since 2015. The achievements are remarkable when you think about it.
2. James Bradberry, CB, New York Giants
For all the criticism Giants GM Dave Gettleman receives, it’s rather telling to see two of his free agent signings on this list. However, there’s no denying that both are deserved. Like Martinez, Bradberry joined the Giants and immediately established himself as a hard-working leader who brought much to the table both on and off the field. In the locker room, he worked closely with a very young and inexperienced cornerback group, while he completely dominated on the field. Bradberry’s 18 passes defensed were second in the NFL. His 79.8 PFF grade was second on the Giants and seventh overall at his position. Unsurprisingly, Bradberry’s play earned him Pro Bowl recognition.
1. Philip Rivers, QB, Indianapolis Colts
It was strange to see Philip Rivers in another uniform, but 2020 was a strange year, and the NFL regular season reflected that. At the age of 39, Rivers had one of his best seasons to date, completing 68 percent of his passes for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. It was also just the second time since 2009 that Rivers led his team to double-digit wins. Though the Colts were bounced out of the playoffs in the Wild Card round, it was through no fault of Rivers. If this season does end up being his last, there’s no reason for Rivers to hang his head. He gave the Colts every last thing he had in the tank and helped revitalize a franchise that had been teetering.
The New York Giants have made a big move to solidify their secondary, as they agreed to a three-year contract with former Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry on Monday.
Bradberry will sign a three-year, $45 million deal that includes $32 million guaranteed, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.
Bradberry’s $15 million annual salary is just a tick less than the $15.05 million Xavien Howard gets from the Miami Dolphins. Both players will likely be topped by former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones when he finds a new home.
Bradberry started 60 games over four seasons with the Panthers and became one of the best cornerbacks in football during that span. He stepped into the No. 1 cornerback role after Josh Norman was released and signed with the Washington Redskins, and Bradberry proved that the Panthers made the right move. The former second-round pick had three interceptions and 12 passes defensed last season.
Week 8 started on Thursday night with a blowout win for the Baltimore Ravens. The rest of the week produced games that were closer, with the Houston-Seattle game delivering a particularly awesome ending. The Jaguars had the week off, which means at least one quarterback was spared an embarrassing game. But between special teams, poor rushing attacks, and some quarterbacks, there were plenty of disappointments in the week.
Here’s a look at the biggest disappointments of Week 8.
Detroit Lions’ red zone offense
The Detroit Lions looked incredible on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers … as long as you don’t count what happened in the red zone. Their offense simply could not deliver in the red zone, and that cost them the game. They took five trips to the red zone and came away with only nine points. They failed to score a touchdown, settled for three field goals, and turned the ball over on downs twice.
They had a first-and-goal from the 10 in the second quarter and ended up kicking a 37-yard field goal. They had a 1st-and-10 from the 16 before halftime and kicked a 34-yard field goal. In the third quarter, they had a 2nd-and-goal from the 1 and got stopped three plays in a row and turned it over on downs. Then they gave up a 98-yard touchdown pass. Then for the second possession in a row they got a 1st-and-goal at the 4 and took the ball to the 1, but this time they took the field goal. After going for the field goal that time, they were down 20-15 on their next trip to the red zone. They were forced to go for it on 4th-and-7 from the 8 and turned it over on downs again.
Detroit’s defense kept them in the game. The red zone offense failed them badly.
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
Winston would probably be near the top of any list of disappointments of the season, as the third-year quarterback is still making mistakes and failing to correct them despite being surrounded by plenty of weapons. On Sunday, Winston threw two more interceptions, lost a fumble, threw the ball all over the place, and failed to get the ball into the end zone. His Bucs fell to 2-5 with their home loss to the Carolina Panthers. Perhaps his lingering shoulder issue has something to do with his poor performance, but if that’s the case, he shouldn’t be playing — he was not good on Sunday.
NFL superstars tend to receive many rewards, ranging from massive contracts to All-Pro nods and trips to the Pro Bowl. But in order to succeed at the highest level, all 32 teams still need role players and unsung heroes to help them along their journey.
Sometimes those role players receive the recognition they deserve — most often within the fan bases or cities in which they play. But frequently, they are not recognized the way they should be.
Each team has some hidden gems on their roster — here’s a look at one for each team.
Arizona Cardinals – Markus Golden, linebacker
Markus Golden is more overlooked than unknown, but at his current rate of development, he won’t be forgotten much longer. Golden finished the 2016 season with 53 total pressures, 41 run stops and 12.5 sacks. The 41 run stops were good for fourth-most among edge defenders in the NFL. Golden is in line for a Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod in 2017 if he continues at this pace. If that happens, the secret will be out.
Atlanta Falcons – Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle
Grady Jarrett was considered underrated in college and that remained true over his first two seasons with the Falcons. Even despite a strong performance in the Super Bowl, Jarrett hasn’t exactly seen his name in lights. If Atlanta didn’t choke the game away, perhaps that would be different, but for now, Jarrett and his 78.3 Pro Football Focus rating will continue to fly under the radar.
Every season, a handful of NFL players who hadn’t quite lived up to their billing suddenly find their way and explode onto the scene. Some players also come from absolutely nowhere to astound — Victor Cruz in 2011 immediately comes to mind as an example. Others may follow a pattern of steady improvement until they reach their apex.
It’s hard to predict exactly which unknown players will come out of left field and surprise, but it is a bit easier to predict the players who should make a big leap as their career progresses.
With that fine line in mind, here’s a look at 10 players who are ready (and should) make the leap in 2017.
10. Jameis Winston, Quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston has been a true presence since arriving in Tampa from Florida State in 2015, but all things considered, he’s been relatively pedestrian over his first two seasons.
Despite being named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, Winston has completed only 59.6 percent of his passes for 8,132 yards, 50 touchdowns and 33 interceptions in 32 games. And while the consecutive 4,000-plus yard seasons are impressive, the touchdown-to-interception ratio is not, continuing a pattern he established in college. Add in nine more fumbles and his turnover statistics become even more problematic.
The good news is that Winston is still a young quarterback who is now entering his third season in the Buccaneers’ offensive system. The Bucs have added some additional weapons for Winston, and 2017 should be the year he completely rounds his game into shape.
9. Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Tennessee Titans (more…)
James Bradberry has a draft day story he will never forget. Only this is one that does not involve hugs, tears and TV cameras.
Bradberry, a 6-foot-1 cornerback from Samford, told Panthers reporters that he was fixing his mother’s toilet when he got the call from Carolina that he had been drafted late in the second round.
Well, at least we can say the man is good with his hands and willing to take on all sorts of dirty work. Those are two good qualities for a player entering the NFL.
Bradberry was the No. 62 overall pick in the draft. NFL Media’s scouting report on him says there is a possibility he could be moved from CB to safety.
At least his draft day story is better than some other NFL players we know.