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The NFL’s official league year doesn’t even begin until Tuesday, March 10, but the free-agent frenzy got underway over the weekend and some of the biggest fish have already landed.
The top free agent of the 2015 class is reportedly heading to a new team, and such is the trend overall this offseason.
Here are the six biggest moves of NFL free agency so far this offseason:
1. Suh to the Dolphins
The top-rated player in this year’s free-agent class, Ndamukong Suh will reportedly head to South Beach by ways of the richest contract for a defensive player in NFL history — about $114 million (per ESPN).
The Dolphins landed the biggest fish in the pond in what now becomes a “win-now” season for Joe Philbin. Unquestionably Philbin’s hot seat is scorching now that the top defensive tackle in the league is manning the middle of his defensive line, which bodes well for the production of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon off the edge.
Now the Lions are poised to lose both Suh and possibly Nick Fairley, meaning the team could be breaking in an entirely new interior part of their defensive line in 2015.
2. Maclin to the Chiefs
For the second straight year, the Eagles are saying goodbye to their most productive wide receiver, and this time is not by choice. Jeremy Maclin is reportedly heading to Kansas City to re-unite with former head coach Andy Reid and instantly bolster a wide receiving corps that did not score a touchdown in all of 2014.
The Eagles lost DeSean Jackson last offseason and just sent LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in a trade. Now the burden falls on soon-to-be second-year player Jordan Matthews to be the No. 1 wideout, while the position will likely be an area of focus in the upcoming NFL draft.
This is a step in the right direction for Kansas City, which will likely part ways with the highly expensive Dwayne Bowe at some point. Maclin shifts to the top of the depth chart ahead of Junior Hemingway and others. Still, the Chiefs need to add some depth at the position.
3. McCourty stays with the Patriots
The best safety on the free-agent this offseason, Devin McCourty will remain with New England. Now the next big question is what to do about the other defensive back who could become a free agent?
McCourty represents a prototypical Bill Belichick type of defensive player, and the safety accepted a less lucrative deal to remain with the defending Super Bowl champions.
By cutting Vince Wilfork and having McCourty accept a hometown discount, the Patriots must be gearing up to make Darrelle Revis an offer he can’t refuse. The Patriots must make a decision Monday whether to accept or decline the players’ option. If they choose the latter, there could be a bidding war for the cornerback coming.
4. Smith to the 49ers
Torrey Smith is reportedly heading to the Bay Area on a new deal with the 49ers. Smith, notorious for being the Ravens’ speedster the last couple of years, will now the be re-united with another former Baltimore wideout Anquan Boldin.
Smith will reportedly get a deal worth between $8 and $9 million, which is more than Baltimore can offer him given its cap situation. He’ll be a part of a new wide receiving corps that’s likely saying goodbye to Michael Crabtree, who is also a free agent.
Reports indicate Andre Johnson, a candidate for release in Houston, could find a home in Baltimore as Smith’s replacement.
5. Maxwell, Gore to the Eagles
The Eagles sent McCoy to the Northwestern New York State and released Cary Williams, and are expected to fill both their spots with big splashes in free agency. One move is to ink the top-rated cornerback, Byron Maxwell, as well as the ageless wonder Frank Gore.
Maxwell is the latest member of Seattle’s Legion of Boom to head out of the Pacific Northwest. He was expected to land with either Atlanta or Jacksonville with his former Seahawks defensive coordinators, but instead will cash in on a reported $63 million deal. The Eagles allowed the second-most passing yardage in 2014 and are in need of a true No. 1 corner.
The 31-year-old Gore is the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher and for the first time in his professional football career won’t be wearing the scarlet and gold. Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards each of the last four years, and his straight-ahead running style what Chip Kelly was reportedly seeking out of his next featured back.
Update: Gore decided not to sign with the Eagles and signed with the Colts after concerns about Kelly’s “overbearing approach” (h/t The Big Lead)
6. Cobb stays with the Packers
However, Cobb wound up taking a hometown discount after all, accepting a reported $40 million pact despite rumors that Oakland would overpay to land the speedy wide receiver.
Cobb earned a deal worth $10 million annually and stays in an offense that benefits him the most. Getting to play in the slot in between proven vet Jordy Nelson and up-and-coming Davante Adams allows the Pack to remain NFC North favorites and Super Bowl contenders.
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