NFL free agency 2014: The good, the bad and the ugly from the weekend

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The deal that the Browns struck with Ben Tate could be a steal, while the contract that the Dolphins gave Cortland Finnegan is puzzling.

After the initial flurry of moves highlighted the beginning of free agency, things have slowed down in NFL news. However, there was still a small wave of activity as teams continued to plug holes in their rosters and scooped up role players.

Let's take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the weekend.

The Good

Ben Tate gets a two-year, $7 million deal from Cleveland

SB Nation NFL

Originally thought by many to be the top running back on the free agency market, former Houston Texans running back Ben Tate sat on the market for a few days before finally landing with a team. The Cleveland Browns locked down the 25-year-old back on Saturday to a two-year deal worth up to $7 million.

While Tate suffered a broken ankle early in his NFL career, that injury may be the reason the Browns got such a discounted price for such a successful back. It also could be why the Browns were only willing to give Tate a two-year deal, according to Chris Pokorny of SB Nation's Browns blog, Dawgs By Nature.

The 5-10, 220 pound running back will be entering his fifth season, one in which he has averaged 4.7 yards per carry as a backup behind Arian Foster in Houston. Tate has had some issues with injuries, though, which might be the reason why the Browns are only committing to a two-year deal with him, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The Browns finished the 2013 season with only four rushing touchdowns, the fewest in the NFL, and were 27th in total rushing yardage. After trading Trent Richardson early in the season, the team turned to Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya and Edwin Baker, who collectively averaged 3.4 yards per carry.

In 14 games and seven starts in 2013, Tate averaged 4.3 yards per carry and tallied four rushing touchdowns.

Walter Thurmond joining Giants on a one-year, $3.5 million contract

In four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, cornerback Walter Thurmond remained mostly buried on the depth chart. He participated in 34 games and started in eight, but couldn't crack the field long enough to be one of the premier defensive backs on the free agency market.

Still, a one-year deal worth only $3.5 million represents great value for the Giants, as they will likely receive a player who can instantly step into the starting lineup. After all, it's not really his fault that the Seahawks had the ridiculous combination of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman terrorizing opposing wide receivers for the past three seasons.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is still on the market, so Thurmond's role in the Giants secondary is still likely to be impacted by the team's pursuit of the former Denver Broncos cornerback; however, the Giants would still likely start Thurmond, regardless.

The Giants defense finished 18th in the NFL in points allowed in 2013, but were in the top 10 in passing yards and touchdowns allowed.

The Bad

Brandon LaFell gets $11 million over three years from New England

The New England Patriots didn't give Tom Brady many targets to work with during the 2013 season, which made wide receiver a priority for them. Even though the team was able to retain Julian Edelman, its biggest splash on the offensive side of the ball was reaching a three-year deal with former Carolina Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell.

A third-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, LaFell improved during his time with the Panthers and eventually earned a spot in the starting lineup for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. However, he never translated that playing time into the statistics to warrant an $11 million contract.

While wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen racked up receptions and yards in the Cam Newton-led offense, LaFell never eclipsed 50 receptions in a season. That's hardly the production to make Brady relieved with his new wide receiver corps.

To Richard Hill of SB Nation's Patriots blog, Pats Pulpit, the numbers aren't very impressive, but aren't disastrous either:

None of those numbers are too impressive, but this 6'2, 210 lbs receiver is consistent. He's picked up 36-49 receptions, 613-677 yards, and 3-5 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

If you're looking for a potential #1 wide receiver, you're looking in the wrong place. If you're looking for the 2nd best target on your team, you're not going to find it here. But while his price tag seems high, it's still only the 40th highest receiver contract in the league; LaFell is getting paid to be a WR2.

Injuries to Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, among others, forced the Patriots to use a long list of receivers, as 14 different players caught passes from Brady in 2013.

Emmanuel Sanders' agent dealings

The Denver Broncos reached a deal with former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, but his lengthy free agency tour ended with some controversy, of sorts. After striking a deal with the Broncos, the Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Francisco 49ers cried foul about the way Sanders handled contract negotiations.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the shady dealings of Sanders' agent:

Agent Steve Weinberg, on behalf of the wide receiver, accepted a deal with the Chiefs in principle, according to one team source. Weinberg then engaged in negotiations with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to another source involved in the process.

While shopping the Chiefs' offer to the Bucs, Weinberg never explained that he had already accepted the terms of Kansas City's offer. Later in the night, Sanders' agent had agreed to terms with the Broncos, which is where he is currently headed. Sanders and Weinberg also rankled the 49ers by agreeing to visit, then blowing it off.

While the dealings were undoubtedly shady, if true, it's also hard to feel bad for teams that have all the leverage and ability to back out of any contract they no longer want to adhere to. So, yes it's bad business from the agent, but it's also a rough business from both sides. An agent taking advantage of the system to maximize the amount of money his client receives is hardly deplorable.

The Ugly

Carolina wide receiver corps

The top four wide receivers for the Carolina Panthers in 2013 were Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon. They now play for the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears, respectively.

Carolina tried to rectify its losses by bringing in former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks, but he left to join a "better fit" in Indianapolis. A better fit that Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman even agreed with, according to Nicks.

Now the projected starters for the Panthers at wide receiver, as of Monday, are Marvin McNutt and Tavarres King, a pair of players who have never recorded a reception in the NFL. The team will almost certainly have to rely on the 2014 NFL Draft to fill the voids left by the departure of the entire receiving corps, but it's tough to imagine that Cam Newton will be too excited about rookies leading the way in the passing game.

With a large void at left tackle as well, the Panthers now have plenty of holes in their offensive depth chart and not much money or draft capital to fix them with.

Cortland Finnegan receives two-year, $11 million deal from Miami

A Pro Bowler in 2008 with the Tennessee Titans, Cortland Finnegan is now far removed from his days as an elite cornerback. In 2013, he looked far removed from his days as even a decent cornerback. To put things simply, Finnegan was awful.

How awful? Finnegan may have been the worst cornerback in the NFL in 2013.

In just 367 snaps in the St. Louis Rams defense, Finnegan managed to accumulate a -19.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, ranking ahead of only Houston Texans cornerback Brice McCain, who played in nearly twice as many snaps.

That's not to say that Finnegan can't turn his career around and look like he once did when added to the Miami secondary. After all, Brent Grimes had an impressive showing in 2013 after being written off by many teams, including the Atlanta Falcons. However, Grimes received a small "prove-it" deal, not the $11 million over two years that Finnegan received.

The folks over at SB Nation's Dolphins blog, The Phinsider, were a little more optimistic about the contract, although they admitted that he will undoubtedly have to play better to justify the money:

Yes, it's a significant amount of money. He's not very cheap to cut before the season due to poor play because at a minimum, he'll cost $2 million, and it's likely to be more than that. If he's on the week 1 roster, his total 2014 salary of $3.5 million becomes fully guaranteed, so he ends up earning $5.5 million this year and counting $4.5 million against the cap. That's equivalent to #2 cornerback money. He doesn't have to fully return to his Pro Bowl form to justify this year's salary because #1 CBs are getting paid in the $8-12 million per year range, and his contract falls well short of that. However, Finnegan does have to be a very good #2 cornerback to live up to the deal.

Finnegan was placed on injured reserve by the Rams in November after suffering a fractured orbital bone. He played in seven games and started in five, but was released earlier in the offseason to save cap space for the Rams.

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