2004 NFL Football Free Agency Review
What an amazing off-season in the National Football League. Some of the leagues best and most recognizable players will be putting on new uniforms this August. The Buccaneers dis-banded their Super Bowl defense, losing John Lynch and Warren Sapp to the AFC West. Both of these players are on the downside of their career, but they are winners, and will contribute in a major way to their new teams. The Vikings added Marcus Robinson which makes their WR tandem nearly impossible to defend. Antoine Winfield will bolster their defensive backfield, an area of need for Minnesota. We also saw maybe the biggest deal in the history of the NFL when the Redskins sent Champ Bailey and a 2nd round pick to Denver for ballyhooed running back Clinton Portis. People will pay close attention to the performance of Portis and Tatum Bell, the RB whom Denver drafted with the second pick they acquired from the Redskins. Portis will not have the benefit of a great offensive line in DC, so it should be interesting. Many of the off-season acquisitions will go a long toward determining how their teams perform this season.
Significant Signings and Their New Team
Jeff Garcia, Browns, QB– Will be interesting to see if one the worst offensive lines in the game can protect him.
John Lynch, Broncos, S– See below
Jesse Armstead, Panthers, LB– Armstead is getting old, but he can still play.
Garrison Hearst, Broncos, RB– Great locker room guy. Could get 100-150 carries.
Ian Gold, Buccaneers, LB– If he has recovered from ACL tear, he is a steal for the Bucs.
Marcellus Wiley, Cowboys, DE– Great pickup by Parcells.
Troy Vincent, Bills, CB– Will take over for Winfield.
Antoine Winfield, Vikings, CB– Great, great addition for the Vikings.
Grant Wistrom, Seahawks, DE– Solid get for the Hawks here.
Shawn Springs, Redskins, CB– Will he ever play like he did in college? The Redskins and Dan Snyder’s wallet hope so.
Marcus Robinson, Vikings, WR– Could flourish playing opposite Moss. Injuries have been a problem.
Walt Harris, Redskins, CB– will compete for a starting spot but will probably be the nickel back for the Skins.
Warren Sapp, Raiders, DT– Too old? Come on, he’ll help the Silver and Black’s defense right away.
Robaire Smith, Texans, DT– Bolsters Houston’s defensive line.
Duce Staley, Steelers, RB– This guy can run.
Dez White, Falcons, WR– Has great talent, now he has a quarterback who can get him the ball.
Bertrand Berry, Cardinals, DE– see below
Thomas Jones, Bears, RB– began to show flashes last season of the talent that made him a first round pick by the Cardinals
Eddie George, Cowboys, RB– Parcells did it once with Otis Anderson who was 29 when he gained over 1000 yards for the Giants. Cowboys fans hope this veteren pickup will be enough to get them over the top in the NFC east.
The two most intriguing teams of the off-season were by far the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos who completely overhauled their rosters in hopes of returning to their glory days.
The Washington Redskins started the off-season off with the announcement that Joe Gibbs would return as head coach. His teams were dominant in the eighties and nineties, with stifling defenses, a grind it out running game, and well timed play action passes. Snyder and Gibbs quickly acquired the running back they so coveted when they sent Champ Bailey to Denver for budding superstar Clinton Portis. The Redskins then added Shawn Springs and Walt Harris to fortify the corner spot left vacant by Bailey, and drafted Sean Taylor out of Miami with their first pick in the draft. While the pick angered Kellen Winslow, Gibbs and company made the right decision. Taylor should become a perennial pro bowl safety in the league. Michael Barrow was added to the linebacking corps and Cornelius Griffin along the defensive line.
The Denver Broncos have been plagued by an average defense since John Elway’s retirement and prior. After acquiring Bailey, the shut down corner the franchise has never had, they added John Lynch who will bring tremendous leadership to the defense. The Broncos also resigned Al Wilson, who is the heart and soul of the entire team. They lost Bertrand Berry, who lead the team in sacks last season, to the Cardinals, but held onto Reggie Hayward who is a similar player. Keep an eye on Luther Ellis, who has not played for two seasons due to injuries. When healthy, he is a terror along the defensive line. Ellis could the steal of the off-season. Denver drafted DJ Williams of Miami who has unlimited potential at outside linebacker, but Denver’s recent first round selections have been anything but exceptional. Williams should change that, and they’ll need him to right away. He should start from the get go in Denver, a team in need of solid linebacker play after the loss of John Mobley and Ian Gold.
Overall a busy offseason for a lot of players and teams. These changes should make for a 2004 in which some players re-invent themselves and help their teams reach new heights.