10 big NFL Free Agency deals: How are they performing so far?

Richard Moore looks at how off-season acquisitions for the St Louis Rams, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks are getting on at the midway point.

Bang for your buck?

Despite the evident lack of capacious deals this season, there was still a hefty volume of cash thrown around during the free agency period. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look at how some of the players at the heart of such deals are faring thus far in 2013.

Left tackle, Jake Long – St. Louis Rams

Contract - Five years, $45 million, $16 million guaranteed.

Long has allowed four sacks, among the most as far as left tackles go, and is largely responsible for 18 of the 43 hits on Sam Bradford and his replacement Kellen Clemmens, who stepped into the breach following season ending injury to the former. On a more positive note, Long has managed to stay healthy after missing six games over the previous two seasons.

Wide receiver, Greg Jennings - Minnesota Vikings

Contract - Five years, $45 million, $17.8 million guaranteed.

Not so much a purple patch for the new man in purple, as through seven games in 2013 Jennings has accumulated a grand total of 336-yards from 25 receptions, finding the end-zone only twice. Although, the lack of continuity under centre - three different quarterbacks starting over the same period - it’s little wonder Jennings has only caught 11 of the 23 passes aimed in his direction, and that the Vikings passing attack ranks 28th in the league.

Safety, Dashon Goldson - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Contract - Five years, $41.25 million, $22 million guaranteed.

Aside from his drilling of Saints running back Darren Sproles, a hit that yielded a one-game suspension, reduced on appeal to a $100,000 fine, Goldson has offered little by way of contribution. So much so, any interception or fumble will be his first in 2013. A far cry from his most impressive season as a 49er back in 2009, where he racked up 94 combined tackles (76 solo, 18 assists), 2.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions.

Wide receiver, Mike Wallace - Miami Dolphins

Contract - Five years, $60 million, $30 million guaranteed.

30 receptions for 398-yards and one score suggest anything but value for money, but much the highly rated South Carolina Gamecock defensive end Jedeveon Clowney (thirteen sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and 54 tackles in 2012, compared to 25 total tackles and 2.0 sacks so far in 2013) the stats only tell half the story, as impact has been heavily influenced by the way in which defenses scheme to counteract his speed, taking much of the focus and attention away from Brian Hartline (35 receptions for 438-yards, and 2 touchdowns) and Brandon Gibson (30 receptions for 326-yards, and 3 touchdowns). Though with the latter’s season cut short by a knee injury sustained in Miami’s 27-17 loss to the New England Patriots last Sunday, expect Wallace’s productivity to increase significantly.

Outside linebacker, Paul Kruger - Cleveland Browns

Contract - Five years, $40.5 million, $20 million guaranteed.

Kruger may have registered a paltry 2.5 sacks though eight games played so far, representing somewhat of a drop off in production from his most impressive season as a Raven in 2012, where he registered 9.0 sacks, but he presence has played a major role in establishing the Browns as the 7th best defensive unit in the league.

Left tackle, Jermon Bushrod - Chicago Bears

Contract - $35.97million

Given a 25th ranked offensive line that allowed forty-four sacks and eighty-seven quarterback hits throughout the course of 2012, the need for a competent left tackle became an issue of upmost importance during free agency. Though so far through 2013, Chicago’s significant outlay of $35.97million ($7.19 million per season) on the former Saint looks misplaced at best, with Bushrod allowing 2.5 sacks and additional 23 quarterback hits.

Jared Cook, tight end - St. Louis Rams

Contract - Five years, $35.1 million, $19 million guaranteed.

Following an utterly imperious display in the desert against divisional rivals Arizona in week one, a game in which Cook posted a monstrous 141-yards from just seven receptions, and two scores, the 6-ft-5, 254lb tight end has tailed off markedly of late. So much so, that in the ensuing 7 games, he’s put up a grand total of 234-yards from 22 catches; meaning that in the 7 games he’s played since the duel in the desert, he’s put up just under twice (93-yards) the volume of yards posted at the University of Arizona Stadium.

That being said, his value cannot be underestimated due to a number of things, - one being his immense physical attributes, attributes that still provide an effective downfield security blanket for Clemens, and two - a vital blocking component in the run game.

Middle linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe - Miami Dolphins

Contract - Five years, $35 million, $17 million guaranteed.

Ellerbe might be one of Miami’s best tacklers, ranking 2nd with 51 tackles (28 solo, and 23 assists), 2 fumble recoveries, but for such considerable remuneration, Miami should expect more than a player that registers 41st in the league in total tackles.

Defensive end, Cliff Avril - Seattle Seahawks

Contract - Two years, $13 Million.

The arrival of Avril alongside fellow pass rushing defensive end Michael Bennett for a combined $8.55 million and 18.5 sacks, suggested Seattle were very much in Super Bowl or bust mode going into 2013, but so far, at least as far as Avril’s concerned, it’s been anything but super, registering 4.0 sacks and 7 total tackles (5 solo, 2 assists) in 7 games played this season; although niggling injuries have hardly helped matters…

Wide receiver, Danny Amendola - New England Patriots

Contract - Five years, $28.55 million.

Amendola was hailed as a younger and faster version of Wes Welker upon his arrival in New England, but so far the former Ram has found it hard just to stay healthy. Coming into the new campaign Amendola had missed a total of 20 games over the past two seasons, and things haven’t been a whole lot better in 2013, as a combination of groin and concussion issues have limited his productivity to 174-yards from 19 catches from four games.

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