My favorite part of the football season is when Fulham beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane for the first time in ten years, but in second place comes the summer transfer window. It’s not that I don’t like watching football— if I didn’t have to study I would probably do nothing else, but there is something so romantic about the transfer window: the hope for a new season, the possibilities in the transfer market, and so on. Learning of the acquisition of a big name player to come play in your small stadium is the greatest of all news. And this love of possibilities translates to the period of free agency in American Football, too. Great questions finally have answers and we begin to learn who will be starting for each team in September.
It’s been one week and there has already been plenty going on. This is what general managers had been waiting for. The most interesting turn of events was the complete dissolution of the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens team, just so they could keep Joe Flacco. It really has been a series of unfortunate events for John Harbaugh, as his winning team has been decimated. It all starts with Flacco getting the most lucrative contract in the history of football in the same year that the cap rose by only $2.4m. Flacco did win a Super Bowl, but the amount of money being thrown at him makes no sense. A six-year deal that will pay him $120.6m is absolutely ridiculous. Given that Flacco wasn’t in the running to be MVP last season on his way to a Super Bowl shows how much money is being wasted on him. Clearly, the Ravens were desperate to sign him up on a long contract and to not lose him to anyone else, but who else could he go to? He just won a Super Bowl in Baltimore. Would he throw that away to move to St. Louis or to Cleveland? I highly doubt that.
Instead of calling his bluff, the Ravens buckled, and tied themselves to an inconsistent quarterback who sometimes makes Jake Locker look like a Pro Bowl candidate.
The deal looks even worse when you realise how many pieces the Ravens lost. Paying so much to one player made them ineffective at resigning their own players and new ones in the free agent market. Having to trade Boldin to the 49ers for a sixth round pick is not smart business unless you are desperate to shed a contract.
Losing Ray Lewis to retirement, Ellerbe to Miami, Kruger to Cleveland, and not knowing whether Reed will come back means that the Ravens’ defence, which was key to winning last year, has now lost its playmakers and needs to be rebuilt. All for Joe Flacco. Is it worth it? The answer, in time, will be a resounding no.
The Broncos have been pretty active, with their acquisition of Welker and then their cutting of Dumerville. Considering how good the Broncos were last season, they seem to be better now, at least on paper. Welker gives another pair of safe hands for Manning to throw to and is a marked improvement on the short route, given Manning’s tendency to get the ball away quickly. The whole Elvis Dumerville scandal is a strange one but it shows that John Elway is pretty much the Lord and Saviour in Denver. Elway’s word is law. He is showing some powerful leadership from the front office and it seems to be paying off. He gambled last season with Peyton and that worked out brilliantly. This time round he told Dumerville he needed to take a pay cut ($4m paycut) and Dumerville apparently agreed to it before his agent messed up the paper work. Elway speaks and everyone rushes to obey his command.
The NFC East seems to be transitioning from the most competitive division — because the teams were of a generally good quality — to a competitive division because all the teams are losing so much. The Giants are beginning to realise they can’t keep both Cruz and Nicks, the Eagles have started rebuilding mode under Kelly, and both the Cowboys and the Redskins are taking massive hits to their spending because of penalties handed out by the league for front loading contracts. All of these teams are trying to either lower wages or just cut players as they attempt to gain some sort of balance in their new environments. For once, Dan Snyder can’t make a huge free agent acquisition that will cripple the team for years, though only because the team can’t sign anyone at all. It looks like it is going to be a relatively unexciting year in the NFC East as the Redskins win the division purely because their rookie pairing of RGIII and Morris costs a pittance.
And before I finish, I want to remember the greatest tragedy of this off-season. This year there was a great injustice done to one player who had worked so hard for his team, had given them his all, and in return was simply cast aside despite his great talents. His name is Ryan Fitzpatrick. The greatest quarterback that ever was any good.