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17 March 2022
ESPN’s NFL Nation
The contract had been produced and was ready to sign. As a new member of the New York Jets, star cornerback Antoine Winfield was ready to become enormously rich, but suddenly his phone chimed, and everything changed.
Winfield made one of the most spectacular free-agent flips in NFL history in March 2004. He returned to the Jets’ facility the following day to sign a six-year, $30 million deal after being wined and dined by club brass. The team had reached an agreement in principle, and they were organizing a press conference to announce their major addition.
Coach Mike Tice of the Minnesota Vikings, who is also recruiting Winfield, refuses to be beaten. He arranged for Winfield to be picked up by a private plane at a little airfield approximately 20 minutes from the Jets’ Long Island base. Mike Pegram, the owner of 1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet, was one of Tice’s buddies who owned the plane. The following day, Winfield signed a six-year contract with the Vikings for $34.8 million.
The Jets were silent all of a sudden.
A deal isn’t a deal until the contract is signed, as the phrase goes. At least three players, pass rushers Randy Gregory and Za’Darius Smith, and running back J.D. McKissic, have accepted to terms with one club only to sign with another in the last few days.
Freelancing has evolved. Free-agent trips around the nation — the “meet, greet, and dine” period — are no longer available. Everything is moving swiftly these days, with agents and clubs concluding agreements shortly after the so-called legal tampering period begins. They forgo the steak meals and chat only about turkey. The league’s worst-kept secret is that they discuss before the rules allow it.
NFL Nation examines a few noteworthy free-agent trades and how they turned out for both the rejected club and the new one. Cimini, Rich
What went wrong? Sanders informed the Chiefs he would take their contract offer, but the organization subsequently found out he told the Broncos the same thing. He signed with the Denver Broncos, who were led by Peyton Manning at the time. Adam Teicher’s remark
How did the Chiefs make their pivot? They didn’t do it. The Chiefs were unable to find a suitable replacement for Sanders. They spent the whole 2014 season without a touchdown reception by a wide receiver. Dwayne Bowe was their sole wideout in the top four in terms of receptions, although he only had 60. Not surprisingly, it was the Chiefs’ lone season without making the playoffs since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013. Teicher’s words
2015: Frank Gore joins with the Colts after agreeing to join the Eagles.
What went wrong? Gore recently told the Associated Press that he had agreed to play opposite quarterback Nick Foles in Philadelphia, but that Foles was dealt the following day to the St. Louis Rams. Gore’s change of heart was prompted by this, as well as receiver Jeremy Maclin’s free agency departure. Tim McManus, Ph.D.
How did the Eagles make their pivot? They partnered DeMarco Murray with Ryan Mathews and signed him to a hefty five-year contract. Murray was never at ease while he was in Philadelphia. Murray was moved to the Tennessee Titans the following summer after the combo was doomed from the start. McManus remarked
What was the outcome of the signing for the Colts? Gore wanted to join the Colts because he had never before in his career played with a quarterback as skilled as Andrew Luck. During Gore’s three seasons with the Colts, the two only played together for 22 of a potential 48 games since Luck’s injuries became unbearable in 2015. During his three seasons with the Colts, Gore rushed for 2,953 yards and 13 touchdowns. Mike Wells’ remark
Anthony Barr nearly signed with the Jets before returning to the Vikings in 2019.
What went wrong? Barr broke an oral deal with the Jets, claiming he would sign a five-year, $75 million contract with them. They promised him that he’d be a versatile weapon in their defense, that they’d be able to use him in a number of ways. It sounded fine at first, but he started to doubt himself. He requested a night to think about it. The Jets, realizing something was wrong, pleaded with him to come in as a free agent. Barr elected to stay with the Vikings the following day, accepting a lower salary to do so. Cimini’s
What happened with the Jets’ pivot? To recover from their humiliation, the Jets made the ill-advised choice to pay free-agent running back Le’Veon Bell $52.5 million over four years. Of course, it was a catastrophe. They ended up releasing a frustrated Bell in the midst of his second season, a deal that cost them $28 million. The Jets, in classic Jets form, turned a defeat into a greater loss. Cimini’s
What was the outcome of the Vikings’ signing? After handing Barr a five-year contract for $67.5 million with $33 million in guarantees, the Vikings were unable to do anything in free agency in 2019. Although he had a career-high 79 tackles and his first safety, coupled with 1.5 sacks, the linebacker only appeared in 14 games that season. Barr was restricted to two games in 2020 and 11 in 2021 due to injuries. He hasn’t gone to the Pro Bowl since 2018, and his deal was reworked last offseason, allowing him to become a free agency in March. Courtney Cronin (Courtney Cronin)
Darqueze Dennard’s agreement with the Jaguars falls through in 2020, and he joins with the Falcons.
What went wrong? The parties apparently agreed to a three-year, $13.5 million contract with a $6 million guarantee, but there was a snag over some of the provisions of the agreement, which the parties were unable to resolve. Michael DiRocco’s remark
What happened with the Jaguars’ pivot? They didn’t find a successor in free agency but did choose cornerback C.J. Henderson ninth overall. Henderson’s greatest game came in his debut season, and he struggled with personal troubles until being moved to Carolina in September. DiRocco’s words
What was the outcome of the Falcons’ signing? This isn’t ideal. Dennard spent one season in Atlanta, playing in eight games and starting six of them. He intercepted one pass and intercepted five others. Dennard left Atlanta the next season, spending his 2021 season between the Giants and the 49ers. Dennard, on the other hand, didn’t come cheap when he was signed, so there’s no real harm done to Atlanta. Michael Rothstein is a writer and producer.
Tyson Alualu gets second thoughts about joining the Jaguars in 2021 and returns to the Steelers.
What went wrong? Alualu agreed to a two-year contract with the Jaguars, but he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and was unable to go to Jacksonville to sign the contract. While he was healing, he had second thoughts about leaving Pittsburgh and chose to remain. DiRocco’s words
What happened with the Jaguars’ pivot? In exchange for former first-round selection Malcom Brown, the Jaguars sent a seventh-round pick to New Orleans. DiRocco’s words
How did the Steelers do with the signing? Alualu was expected to play a significant part as the team’s starting nose tackle, but he shattered his ankle in the first half of the Raiders’ Week 2 game. He was out for the remainder of the season, but he said on social media that he plans to return for at least another year. Brooke Pryor is an actress who plays Brooke Pryor.
Randy Gregory selects the Broncos over the Cowboys in 2022.
What went wrong? The Cowboys were confident in their agreement, and Gregory’s agent even recognized it publicly, only to change their minds in a matter of minutes over forfeiture language, which is typical in every Dallas deal save quarterback Dak Prescott’s. Even if the Cowboys were prepared to remove the condition, it was enough to derail the agreement. Todd Archer is a writer.
What are the Cowboys’ options for pivoting? They can no longer go after Von Miller or Chandler Jones. They were all signed to higher contracts than the Cowboys could afford. Dorance Armstrong (5.0 sacks in 2021) was retained by the Cowboys, who also signed free agent Dante Fowler Jr. (4.5 sacks in 2021). However, depending on what they do at linebacker, Micah Parsons can always be used as an edge rusher. (Archer)
What does it mean for the Broncos now that he’s signed? If the Broncos get this right and Gregory is able to put his 54-game ban behind him, they will have a 29-year-old pass-rusher on their hands who is on the rise in his football career. The $28 million guaranteed in the five-year, $70 million investment will not pay off if Gregory, who has never had more than six sacks in a season, isn’t what the Broncos think he can be. Legwold’s
J.D. McKissic changes his mind about the Bills and rejoins the Commanders in 2022.
What went wrong? McKissic was not originally offered a contract by Washington, but when he agreed to terms with Buffalo, the Commanders announced they would match the offer. McKissic eventually opted not to quit the club and agreed to the same contract in Washington. Alaina Getzenberg is a writer who lives in New York City.
What are the Bills’ options for pivoting? Buffalo signed veteran running back Duke Johnson to a one-year, $1.27 million deal, albeit he is not a straight replacement. Johnson, 28, enjoyed success on the ground with the Dolphins at the conclusion of the 2021 season. He also began his career with five seasons of receiving yards of 400 yards or more. Johnson will likely battle for chances, like as Matt Breida’s position on the team last year, if he remains healthy. The Bills have the option of adding to the position in the draft if they don’t get a huge acquisition like McKissic. Getzenberg’s words
For the Commanders, what does the signature imply? They acquire their third-down back, who caught 123 receptions in Washington’s first two seasons. McKissic was an important part of their offense, not only because of his catching ability, but also because of his flexibility (due to his time as a collegiate receiver, he can run more routes than most running backs) and pass-blocking abilities. The latter will come in useful in allowing Carson Wentz, who is a strong-armed quarterback, to assault down the field. ‘John Keim’
Za’Darius Smith’s contract with the Ravens expires in 2022, and he signs with the Vikings.
What went wrong? The Ravens thought they had a verbal agreement with Smith on a four-year, $35 million contract on March 16. After big-money agreements for two pass-rushers were announced: Von Miller ($20 million per season) and Chandler Jones ($17 million), Smith opted not to accept the contract, which averaged $8.75 million per season. The Ravens attempted to renegotiate the contract, but the two parties were unable to reach an agreement. Jamison Hensley (Jamison Hensley)
What are the Ravens’ options for pivoting? Trading for Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter might be the greatest choice, but it would necessitate giving up draft resources and paying more on a pass-rusher. Other free agent choices include Jadeveon Clowney, Jerry Hughes, Melvin Ingram, and Jason Pierre-Paul, all of whom would be a step down from Smith. Baltimore may potentially re-sign Justin Houston, who had 4.5 sacks last season for the Ravens. Hensley’s words
What does this imply for the Vikings as a result of the signing? Smith will play an important role in the Vikings’ attempts to convert their defense to a 3-4 style. Because outside linebacker Anthony Barr is still a free agent, Smith is expected to line up opposite Danielle Hunter to provide the club a potent pass-rushing duo. Smith has 26 sacks with the Packers between the years 2019 and 2020, and his defensive coordinator at the time, Mike Pettine, is now the Vikings’ associate head coach. Kevin Seifert (Kevin Seifert)
Players aren’t the only ones who may alter their minds; coaches can as well. Bill Belichick notoriously penned a resignation letter as “HC of the NYJ” just before being unveiled as the Jets’ coach in 2000. A few years later, one of his Patriots’ aides did a similar stunt.
2018: Josh McDaniels takes a position with the Indianapolis Colts before returning to the Patriots.
What went wrong? What a way to be abandoned at the altar. After New England’s loss to Philadelphia in Super Bowl XXXIX, McDaniels, the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, verbally accepted to be the Colts’ head coach. The Colts released a statement announcing McDaniels’ first press conference. However, the night before the press conference, McDaniels phoned general manager Chris Ballard to inform him that he was returning to the Patriots. Wells’s
How did the Colts make their pivot? The Colts went through a second round of interviews before deciding on Frank Reich, the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, who defeated the New England Patriots in Seattle. What’s more amusing is that during the media part of assistant coach interviews during Super Bowl week, McDaniels received all of the attention, while Reich received none. Ballard subsequently said that he regretted not interviewing Reich during the first round. Wells’s
How did the Patriots do in keeping McDaniels? McDaniels’ return provided critical stability and X’s and O’s excellence alongside Belichick once he had clarity on his position in the organization — especially given that Tom Brady would later leave as a free agent, meaning McDaniels played a key role in the transition from Brady to Cam Newton to Mac Jones. — Reiss, Mike
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