The first round of the NFL Draft happened last night. When the entire Draft is over on Sunday, we will have achieved two milestones in the NFL offseason:
- Mercifully, the ubiquitous yet meaningless Mock Drafts for 2022 will stop.
- Fans across the country will enter a brief phase of euphoria over the new roster additions for their favorite teams.
I suspect that coaches and GMs around the league will see the end of the Draft as the time to do some pending business in terms of roster building. There are still hundreds of free agents out there who could be signed to patch holes in rosters that the Draft did not necessarily fill adequately – – or reliably. There seem to be two main categories of free agents still out there looking for work:
- Players with a lot of miles on the tires whose best days are in the past but who can still play professional football.
- Younger players who have been deemed expendable – – or at least not worth re-signing – – by a previous employer.
Just to give you and idea of some of the available talent in Category 1 above, here are ten players I found very quickly on the free agent list:
- Odell Beckham, Jr.
- Brian Bulaga
- Jadeveon Clowney
- Akiem Hicks
- T.Y. Hilton
- Melvin Ingram
- Julio Jones
- Jarvis Landry
- Tyrann Mathieu
- Carl Nassib
Here is a link where you can find all the outstanding NFL free agents as of now. If you venture there, I promise that you can find another list of 10 veteran free agents whose careers would indicate that they still have enough left in the tank to help a team in the 2022 season.
No one on that list is going to be the league MVP next year; at the same time, barring injury, all those players can make positive contributions to whatever NFL team acquires their services. There may not be any pizzazz to this aspect of roster-building as compared to making splashy trades or making a bold draft pick, but this is an important time for NFL execs and coaches.
In addition, low-key free agent signings are as important as developing a “Draft Board” for a team. Looking at that free agent list in the link above, I saw two signings that had slipped by me because they were not splashy – – but I think both players could be positive acquisitions for their new teams:
- DJ Chark left the Jags and signed a 1-year deal worth $10M with the Lions. I am not going to pretend that I have watched Chark intensively over the course of his career with the Jags over the last 4 years. However, I have seen him play enough to know that he is a speed burner who averaged more than 12 yards per catch with the Jags in his career. The Lions have a possession receiver – – Amman-Ra St. Brown – – and adding a speed guy to their attack should be helpful.
- Jordan Whitehead left the Bucs and signed a 2-year deal worth $14.5M with the Jets. When I saw the Bucs’ games, I thought Whitehead was more important for that defense than either of the Bucs’ much more heralded CBs – – Antoine Winfield and Carlton Davis. The Jets need help in their defensive backfield, and I think they made a good choice signing Whitehead.
I have one other NFL offseason observation for today and it has to do with two outstanding WRs who have been traded in the offseason.
- Devante Adams is no longer a Packer catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. He will be a Raider in 2022 catching passes from Derek Carr.
- Tyreek Hill is no longer a Chief catching passes from Patrick Mahomes. He will be a Dolphin in 2022 catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa.
I think this will be an interesting experiment; Adams and Hill are better pass catchers than anyone that either QB has ever had. The other side of the coin is that both WRs are going to have to deal with QBs who have not ever been considered peers with the QBs the WRs have left behind. Let the games begin – – and the experiments commence…
Finally, with the NFL Draft having begun last night, there are 32 football players who have achieved hero status in the cities of the teams that drafted them in the first round. So, let me close today with these words about heroes from H. L. Mencken:
“Nowhere in the world is superiority more easily attained, or more eagerly admitted. The chief business of the nation, is the setting up of heroes, mainly bogus.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………