March 9th 2016 was the day that the new NFL year started. Which means players get released officially. Any Trades are ratified by the League and any player out of contract not under the Franchise Tag becomes a Free Agent out to get the best deal possible out of his current, or a new, team.
It is the first part of 2016 that fans of all 32 teams can get excited as they get the chance to dream of signing the perfect piece of the puzzle they might have been missing. With a 2 day negotiation period before the start of Free Agency the first day isn’t a surprise anymore as players often agree, but don’t sign, deals before the deadline. This happened this year with a lot of the top free agents getting new contracts before the start of the NFL year. The biggest movers on the opening of Free Agency were the New York Giants, The Oakland Raiders and The Houston Texans. Three teams desperate to get to the next level. The Giants and the Raiders missed the playoffs after flirting with getting in for a while and The Texans won the terrible AFC South and snuck in the play-offs before being blowout 30-0 at home.
Why? The Giants: The Giants made some big moves on Day 1 that will instantly help their defence, which was torched all year by potent passers and rushers, they needed help next year and drafting at 10 gives them a chance to get 1 real impact player on Defence should an elite draft prospect fall but the chances were slim and they retooled their Defensive Line and Secondary to a level where it should be one of the better DLs next season. They resigned Jason Pierre-Paul who, after an accident, will play with one five digit hand. Olivier Vernon had a chance to not hit Free Agency but The Dolphins released him from his Franchise Tag after they signed Mario Williams and he got a HUGE deal from The Giants, An NFL record for a Defensive End, 5 year $85 million deal with $52.5 million of that guaranteed. That contract is an overpay for a good DE but not the best in the League. That type of contract belongs to one DE in the NFL, JJ Watt. Finally, Damon Harrison of City Rivals New York Jets completed the revamp of their Defensive Line. He is a big, run stuffing Defensive Tackle who will dominate the centre of the line and block rushers from dominating the line.
Why? The Raiders: The Raiders have improved their team in the last two years through the draft and free agency. Khalil Mack is the key part of their defence and a young stud that will be dominant for the next 10 years in the NFL. The Raiders have sought out a partner for him at OLB/DE by signing Bruce Irvin from the Seattle Seahawks. Irvin will provide a dangerous partner for Mack and give the Raiders two great OLBs to hunt QBs.
Why? The Texans: The Texans provided the biggest surprise of Day 1. They swooped in a stole The Heir from the Super Bowl Champion, Denver Broncos, Brock Osweiler was the heir to the Broncos throne but Brock is rumoured to have had little interest in re-signing there and the QB needy Texans got a QB that they hope lives up to his potential. Osweiler will surely be better than Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden and the rest of the QBs they have tried recently. It has been a problem for the Texans since Matt Schaub declined rapidly. They didn’t just bring in Osweiler they signed the top RB on the market, Lamar Miller, who is in line to replace Texans Legend but Injury Prone and Cap Burden Arian Foster who was released. Miller is a much safer player to bring in as he has demonstrated more ability to play in the NFL and has more than 7 starts. The Texans have a Defence that can hold teams and an Offense that will start to score some points with Elite WR DeAndre Hopkins getting a new QB and a new RB. They should probably be the favourites to win the AFC South next season but will face tough competition from all three other teams as they have all started to improve.