Getty Images :: Peter G. Aiken (Ware), Bob Levey (Talib), Jeff Zelevansky (Gabbert), Al Pereira (Byrd)
Getty Images :: Peter G. Aiken (Ware), Bob Levey (Talib), Jeff Zelevansky (Gabbert), Al Pereira (Byrd)

The Billion-Dollar Day

The craziest—and spendiest—day in the history of free agency is in the books. But the most unbelievable part? Bigger news is still ahead, with DeMarcus Ware, Chris Johnson, Jared Allen and other NFL stars still on the market

Tuesday, 1 a.m. ET: The NFL’s first billion-dollar day is over, and it’s officially the craziest day in the 22-year history of free agency. I’ve done the math with the available numbers: 64 player signings for an estimated total outlay of $1,001,500,000.

One billion dollars. In nine hours, NFL teams agreed to contracts totaling $1 billion.

The mayhem is not over. Some of the biggest names in the game are on the street or on the verge of being there, their fate to be determined perhaps by the time you read this. Darrelle Revis will be released or traded, a year after the Bucs traded first-round and fourth-round picks for him. Demarcus Ware, quite possibly the best pass-rusher of his day, is on the street, and could do a deal with Denver today. And Julius Peppers and Jared Allen and LaMarr Woodley and Chris Johnson and Darren Sproles and Cortland Finnegan could find new homes today too.

As Wednesday dawns, the craziest thing I can think to say is this: Today could be loonier than yesterday.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Jonathan Martin trade. You were asleep when that happened? Just before 11 on the East Coast, Miami sent the star of the Ted Wells Report to San Francisco, to be reunited with college coach Jim Harbaugh for conditional 2015 draft compensation in hopes that Martin can resume a fruitful NFL career.

That’s how incredible a day it was: Jonathan Martin, at the center of the Dolphins’ national bullying scandal, one of the most famous (infamous?) players in football in 2013, gets traded, and it’s somewhere in the netherworld of the NFL day, fighting for headlines with Dallas whacking Ware, Chicago firing Peppers, Denver’s shocking rebuilding of its secondary, Atlanta doing six deals before midnight, the cash-strapped Saints looking under the couch cushions for $54 million to sign safety Jairus Byrd. Heck, Martin might not have been the most eye-opening acquisition (Blaine Gabbert?) in his own new city.

Just what the NFL wanted: Eyes glued to the TV and the web for news, any news, about football 25 weeks before the new season begins. 

Jonathan Martin switched coasts Tuesday as Miami traded the troubled guard to San Francisco. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)
Jonathan Martin switched coasts Tuesday as Miami traded the troubled offensive lineman to San Francisco for a conditional 2015 draft pick. (Wilfredo Lee/AP)

* * *

A quarter-century ago, I remember Giants GM George Young holding court at a league meeting, decrying what veteran unrestricted free agency would do to the game. You can’t exchange guards annually the way baseball teams move second basemen in and out of a lineup, he said; teams need time to build chemistry. Free agency as an institution was going to be a pox on the land of a well-played game.

But in the NFL office, free agency was something else: a way for the league to begin to own the offseason, to take it away from college basketball and the Hot Stove League that baseball had always used in February and March to get fans excited for the coming season. Free agency could be the NFL’s own Hot Stove. And in the 22 opening days since the free market entered the NFL calendar in 1993, never has there been the kind of excitement around the market that there was Tuesday.

FA Live Blog

The MMQB's writers weigh in with instant analysis of all the big moves in free agency. FULL STORY

Excepting Martin, five significant events of the day:

Denver showed it’s serious about rebounding from the Super Bowl embarrassment. The Broncos signed cornerback Aqib Talib to a deal close to what Sam Shields got in Green Bay and Vontae Davis got in Indianapolis: $9.5 million a year. That came after signing safety T.J. Ward, and before the serious pursuit of the 31-year-old Ware, who will visit the team today. I’m partial, obviously, working for NBC as well as The MMQB, but is there any question that the best opening game of the season the league could schedule (on NBC Thursday Sept. 4) would be Denver at Seattle in an electric Super Bowl rematch?

Minus Talib, the Patriots are so wasted at cornerback that they might have to join the race to acquire Revis. Under the terms of his contract in Tampa, Revis is owed a $1.5 million signing bonus if still on the roster this week. And the Bucs would have to hand the Jets a third-round pick, not a fourth-rounder, in trade if Revis is still on the roster today at 4 p.m. I realize the new Tampa staff wants to make its own way, but the Bucs have the money to pay Revis. I think it’s crazy for the Bucs to dump one of the best corners in football—and I don’t care what defense they play. Revis can cover in any scheme. Last year, they traded first-round and fourth-round picks to get Revis, and now they’re going to release him or trade him today? Crazy talk. But if it happens, the Patriots, who have a terrible time hanging onto top free agents and lost corner Talib on day one of the market, could try to convince Revis to come over to the dark side in New England after he spent the first six years of his career with the Jets. Revis swears he won’t take a pay cut. We shall see.

But the Bucs had a very good day otherwise. They added edge rusher Michael Johnson from Cincinnati, corner Alterraun Verner—the top corner in free agency on some NFL boards—to replace Revis, and an underrated and undervalued defensive tackle from the Seahawks’ Super Bowl team, Clinton McDonald. Good start for coach Lovie Smith and new GM Jason Licht.

Julius Peppers and Aaron Rodgers could be reacquainted soon, but this time as teammates. (Scott Strazzante/Getty Images)
Julius Peppers and Aaron Rodgers could be reacquainted soon, but this time as teammates. (Scott Strazzante/Getty Images)

Ware and Peppers hit the street within two hours of each other late in the day. Defensive coordinators everywhere rejoiced … particularly in Denver and Green Bay, where pass-rush help is a priority. Denver GM John Elway would love to make Ware a bookend for Von Miller in the rush game, while solid run player Peppers would fill a need for the Packers for a year or two as a tough and physical end to complement Clay Matthews. Other teams will be in play for them too—including Super Bowl champion Seattle, if the price is right.

One contract begat another, as always happens—but this time, it cost Indianapolis millions. The Colts were deep in talks with Vontae Davis in the days before free agency when word came down from Green Bay that cornerback Sam Shields signed a huge four-year, $39 million deal. That sent waves around the league, particularly at a time when so many teams were trying to get cornerback deals done. The Colts were in the $7-million-a-year neighborhood when Shields signed. To get the deal done and keep the valuable Davis in the fold, Indianapolis had to push the money up, up, up … until it was right where Shields’ was. Davis agreed just around the time the free-agent period opened.

Lots of adjustments will be made in the NFL over the next few months, as teams figure new rosters and try to do more free-agent deals. San Francisco’s secondary could have four different starters from the Super Bowl 13 months ago. Atlanta shored up its two weakest points—the offensive and defensive lines, by signing six linemen, two and offense and four on defense. Oakland flipped 40 percent of its starting offensive line.

It’s tough to spend a billion dollars in half a day, but the NFL proved it can be done. And the walls in the league office are still standing. The game will survive. And flourish, apparently.

mmqb-end-slug-square

57 comments
KadenL19
KadenL19

And yet Goddell still thinks the NFL isn't exciting enough.

baskervilleguy
baskervilleguy

At least one team, the KC Chiefs, only contributed players to the spending spree. Will they be the only ones to be hangover free?

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

Being a Packer Backer for more than 50 years, I can sympathize a bit with these crazed teams with only one thing on their minds. "Uncle" Teddy works the "meat market" known as the draft to save the franchise the burden of being cash scrapped every year. It keeps the Packers franchise competitive most years, and the stadium packed too. This make or break attitude is just silly desperation, and a sign of impatience at every level.....but it's not our money in the end, just the Bronco's stash....ZZzzsst! 

CSK
CSK

Why doesn't he include Jared Allen when he discusses Ware and Peppers...all 3 are the top in sacks for the last 10yrs with Allen having the most. He may be the oldest but look how many sacks he had last year on a crappy team

KidHorn
KidHorn

Referring to Martin as a troubled offensive lineman? I thought you were all against the Dolphins and Incognito for their behavior. I guess your true opinion has been exposed.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

Prediction:  Ware and Peppers both to Green Bay.

eddie767
eddie767

So, Denver signs all these defensive players to make it back and win SB. How is that possible, when it was the offense that lost the game? Their D just gave up when Mannings crew kept screwing up.

horsley1953
horsley1953

And try to remember the owners that spent this billion dollars in one day will all plead poverty when they want local governments to build or improve stadiums for them.

Blinker
Blinker

Everyone can see that jerry did not have a choice letting Ware go.  Even so....  I seriously doubt the Cowboys will not make the playoffs again next year.

jzty
jzty

People seem to be hanging onto this bogus Spygate cheating scandal as an actual 'thing'?  Really?  Every team was doing the same thing the Patriots were doing.  Every team was 'cheating' and videotaping because it was legal.  Goodell sent that memo about videotaping to EVERY team in the NFL, not just the Patriots.  If the Patriots were the only team videotaping, then why did Goodell send that memo about videotaping to EVERY team in the NFL?  Because every team was doing it also.  Some people need to get a clue.

OscarIvánLanzaLópez
OscarIvánLanzaLópez

"...in hopes that Martin can resume a fruitful NFL career."


Resume?!? Martin wasn't very good before the scandal and I doubt he will...

John4
John4

All this signing.  Who have the Raiders signed?  Who have they lost?  Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston.  Their two best FAs, and with ALL that money, could not keep either?   That does not bode well for Oakland.  Look for them to be 3-14 or 4-12 in 2014.

steelerman
steelerman

Another reason your warm beer and cold hot dog is $18.

RealTeddyBiff
RealTeddyBiff

Not sure if Peppers is a scheme fit for GB. How is it that you cover the NFL when you don't truly understand NFL offenses and defenses?

Buck2185
Buck2185

Peter, your beloved Patriots are wasted in more ways than at cornerback. They are in a long awaited decline. The only way they will start to come out of it is to part ways with your little Tommy, and Belicheat, and start a long re-build process. go ahead Peter, pick your Patriots to win the Superbowl again (like you do every year) - which btw, has not worked out well for you in over 10 years.....

KadenL19
KadenL19

@KidHorn He's been referred to as trouble multiple times by multiple reports.  I don't think he's saying at all what you're implying -- that Martin was the one to blame for this, and Incognito and the Dolphins are the "real victims."  What that organization let happen to Martin is awful, and every one in the NFL will obviously be keeping a closer eye on this to avoid it from happening in the future.  Trouble was just a term used to describe his emotional state.  He was troubled.  Anyone with depression or an emotional disorder is troubled.

Bucky182
Bucky182

@CoreyLivermore As a Packer fan, I'd take that. I lobbied for Peppers when he was a free agent the first time around but everyone kept saying he couldn't play in the 3-4. I always thought he could as long as Capers didn't ask him to drop into coverage. One thing Green Bay desperately lacked last year was pressure on the quarterback and both Ware and/or Peppers could provide that. That being said, Green Bay needs to fill a few more holes but I don't see Thompson going too spend crazy in the first few days of free agency unless they are a lock to sign a key contributor (not a big name because its a big name, but someone who can just get the job done).

F4
F4

@horsley1953  I totally agree. The public should never be in the business of building stadiums.

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

@Blinker Just to be sure, you're predicting Dallas in the playoffs?  Did they decide to expand the field to 20 teams?

jsengi22
jsengi22

@jzty Agreed, people need to wise up and understand that the Patriots were made an example of so that the rest of the league would stop videotaping, they were not the only team to video tape other teams practices. Also, why is it only the Patriots that get tagged with cheating, the 2006-2007 Giants were caught faking injuries in multiple games (ironically one of those games was against the Patriots). The Colts have been accused for years of piping in fake crowd noise into their stadium and of course the Saints were found guilty of setting up a program to reward their defensemen for injuring players on the opposing team. And as someone else pointed out the Patriots also caught the Jets filming their practices the year before "Spygate", so folks cheating isn't limited to the Patriots.

killer44
killer44

@jzty  The Patriots were the only team caught AFTER the league sent the memo.

Bucky182
Bucky182

@John4 Was it because McKenzie didn't want to re-sign them and thought he could get better talent elsewhere or was it because Veldheer and Houston just don't want to play in Oakland anymore? The best free agent signings are almost always the re-signing of young, in-house talent. Look at the playoff teams, a vast majority of their rosters consist of guys they drafted, developed, and re-signed. I guess Reggie didn't get the memo while he was in Green Bay.

Bucky182
Bucky182

@RealTeddyBiff If he's not asked to drop into coverage he could be a good fit. I suppose signing a guy like Peppers would mean switching to more of a hybrid 3-4 defense.

KidHorn
KidHorn

@RealTeddyBiff Not knowing anything about something has never been a deterrent to his writing about it.

zonkeriah
zonkeriah

@Buck2185  Really, Buck?  Isn't this same old tune getting old? For at LEAST the last 7 years the Patriot-haters get online during the off-season and wail on and on about how the end is here for New England....and every year they put up double-digit wins playing a first place schedule and win the division to make the playoffs. Last year was the worst ever for you delusional "sky is falling" loonies on the corner, and the Patriots went to the AFC Championship Game. Some day they WILL slip, no doubt. But being wrong year after year after year after year just makes you people look pathetic.

FredFunStuff
FredFunStuff

The Pats are my least favorite team in football, but I'm done predicting their doom. They looked bad to me on paper last year and they made it deep into the playoffs yet again. Apparently, with the Hoodie and that guy who slings Uggs on the side, they can't lose. I don't understand it, but they'll keep winning.

newshamg
newshamg

@Buck2185  I'm not a Patriots fan - heck I am not American - but do children like you really get a thrill out of lame posts? I mean this seriously - are you actually an adult behaving like some 12 year old or you really are 12?


"little Tommy" "Belicheat" - grow up son.

pirate
pirate

@Buck2185 You know, this whole thing gets very old, and very tiresome. Please come up with some new material. I've been reading this crp for 10 years, easily.

hayhowesq
hayhowesq

@Buck2185  Little Tommy. Belicheat. That's cute. I used to do that too. Of course, I was 8 years old then.

Richard60
Richard60

@Buck2185  I love the Pats haters, see you in the 2014 playoffs. Denver is just like Philly in 2011.

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@Bucky182 @CoreyLivermore

And so much for that.  Ware signed with Denver.

Thank you once again, Ted Thompson, for not doing squat in free agency.  I'm so sick of watching every other team sign free agents in positions of need and our beloved Pack doing nothing and then getting hammered in the playoffs AT HOME EVERY FREAKING YEAR BECAUSE OF THE DEFENSE.

Michael Louro
Michael Louro

@F4 @horsley1953 - except the "public" benefits from new stadiums, as they are not used exclusively for 8 NFL games per year. Believe me, I think it's B.S. to ask taxpayers to foot a lot of the bill, but I do see how it's mutually beneficial

AF Whigs
AF Whigs

@killer44 @jztyWeren't the Jets found to be doing the same thing at some point after the Pats were busted?  No doubt the Patriots were doing something they weren't supposed to be, but I agree with Jzty - everyone was doing it. 

John4
John4

@hayhowesq Correct.  Football is better on TV.  No drunks.  No obnoxious fans.  No expensive parking, tickets, food, drinks, etc.  

Buck2185
Buck2185

@newshamg @Buck2185 Not being American, I can maybe understand why you can't read. I am not 12, I am 8 yrs old (please see above). Please buy yourself a ticket to wherever you came from...

John4
John4

@pirate And of course, the Patriots have not won a SB in 10 years, easily.  Why is that?  Did their QB decline?  No.  It's just that they cannot cheat in SBs any more.  Kind of messes up Belichik's plans, not being able to cheat and all.  

Buck2185
Buck2185

@pirate @Buck2185 Since I am only 8, you couldn't have been reading this crap for 10 years. What has been happening for 10 years is your Patriots have not won a Super Bowl. Oddly, this coincides with the same time they were exposed for cheating...

John4
John4

@Richard60 Unlikely.  Their best CB is gone.  Their possession receiver is likely gone.  Their offense is a year older, and has talent.  The Patriots MAY make the playoffs, as a wild card, but are no threat to get to another SB so Bill Belichik can cheat AGAIN.  

Buck2185
Buck2185

@Richard60 @Buck2185 Denver just got your best defensive back. Your defense is exposed, your offense is average, and you can't cheat anymore. The only reason they may make the playoffs, is because of the sorry division they are in. IF they do make it, they will be one and done......You really do need to consider a re-build. Until then, I will enjoy watching them continue to decline.

BY
BY

@SkokieDog @Michael Louro  Yep, I've read the same studies. Major sports franchises (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL)  do NOT do much except drain the local economy and line the owner's pockets.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@Michael Louro It's funny that several reputable economists who have studied the cost-benefit propositions of pro sports stadiums have been unable to find lots of value added for the community (i.e., the taxpayers) relative to the team owners. The owners are the only people who benefit directly from the infusion of vast sums of taxpayer dollars into these projects. 

RS1022
RS1022

McDaniels/Denver were caught, with the same video guy from the Patriots. I don't remember if they were caught or turned themselves in, but ultimately the final straw for McDaniels with Pat Bowlen. Apparently he was trying to bring "The Patriot Way" to Denver.

pirate
pirate

@Buck2185 @pirate Not MY Patriots. I've been a Seahawk fan since about '79. It would surprise me to learn you're 8 years old, because the whole "Bellecheat" thing and "Little Tommy" is about 12 year old level. Your parents must be very proud. But I didn't say I'd read YOU writing that. Just that I've been reading it for 10 years. What you're telling me is not only are you stealing other people's material, you're not even stealing good stuff.

John4
John4

@Buck2185 Watching the decline of the Patriots will be one of my highlights for the 2014 season.  

Newsletter