Thursday, officially day 2, of 2016 NFL free agency period went a bit slower than the first, but some big-name players still were signed to deals on Thursday. Cornerback Sean Smith was the first, early in the morning, joining the Oakland Raiders, and there were plenty others worth talking about.
Mohamed Sanu, Cedric Thornton, Jermaine Kearse and Jermon Bushrod were among the players who put pen to paper on Thursday, following up a huge first day that saw players like Malik Jackson, Kelechi Osemele, and Bruce Irvin change teams. The Raiders dominated the discussion on Wednesday and -- spoilers -- they did again on Thursday.
Free agency has been big this year, as the NFL salary cap continues to grow each season, so do the contracts. Record-breaking deals are being signed and below, we'll talk about who won and who lost on Day 2 of free agency. We'll start with, of course, the winners.
Oakland Raiders: The Oakland Raiders have been spenders in free agency in the recent past, but many of their previous moves were regarded as desperate. They overspent on aging veterans and it never made any difference to the on-field product, but after the Raiders had a productive offseason last year, they put together a competitive season and are suddenly ... an attractive destination for free agent players.
Oakland made waves on the first day of free agency by signing offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele to a five-year deal and linebacker Bruce Irvin to a four-year deal. Just when folks thought they might be done spending, they kicked off Thursday with a four-year, $40 million contract for cornerback Sean Smith.
All of these are young, up-and-coming players. They're not aging veterans with little to offer, and they're not being overpaid. All will start right off the bat and the Raiders have put everyone else on notice.
Whoever plays QB for the Jets in 2016: Nobody knows if the New York Jets will have Ryan Fitzpatrick back for next season because he's still a free agent. After him, the Jets just have Geno Smith, which doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence but the Jets doubled down on the running back position in free agency and that should help out whoever is under center for the team next season.
First, the Jets signed Chicago Bears free agent Matt Forte to a 3-year, $12 million deal. Forte seems like he still has a lot to offer, but the Jets weren't done there. On Day 2, they re-signed Bilal Powell to a three-year deal worth just shy of $12 million, and signed Khiry Robinson, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, to a one-year deal. The Jets will run the ball.
Jermaine Kearse: A week ago, Kearse was quoted as saying he didn't expect to be back with the Seahawks. He was ready to take the next step and break out in 2016, but he doubted the Seahawks saw the potential or that they would be interested in bringing him back at the dollar amount he thought he could get. But something went right for him, and the Seahawks offered him a lucrative three-year deal, which he has accepted. He gets to remain with the team he's grown to be a big part of and he gets a deal that suits his talents.
The rest of the AFC West: We talked about how active the Raiders have been above and that definitely hurts the rest of the AFC West. For one, the Denver Broncos already have big issues with quarterback Brock Osweiler joining the Houston Texans, but they also lost defensive lineman Malik Jackson to the Jacksonville Jaguars and linebacker Danny Trevathan to the Chicago Bears. They held onto Von Miller via the franchise tag, but it might not be enough.
To be fair, the San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs have made some decent moves. The Chiefs brought back Tamba Hali and Jaye Howard, and on the first day the Chargers signed Dwight Lowery, Brandon Mebane and Travis Benjamin. But the balance of power in the AFC West is trending toward the Raiders for the first time in a very long time.
Cleveland Browns: Over the past couple seasons, the Browns have actually added some good players and were it not for complete instability throughout the entire organizational structure, they might have had a shot at winning something this decade. Unfortunately, they're nothing but bystanders this offseason, watching all of Travis Benjamin, Alex Mack, Tashaun Gipson and Mitchell Schwartz depart in free agency.
All of those players are above-average starters and the Browns lost them all. But if you thought the Browns might be able to recover and get some deals done on Day 2 ... well, you'd be wrong. The Browns signed nobody of note and also lost core special teamer Johnson Bademosi to the Detroit Lions.
San Francisco 49ers: Any pretense of the 49ers bouncing back from their recent collapse to field a competitive team in the near future has been disposed of. They haven't signed a single significant free agent outside of quarterback Thad Lewis, and he hardly counts. Meanwhile, the team has watched promising young players at positions of need -- Sean Smith, Kelechi Osemele and their own Alex Boone -- sign elsewhere. Then there's the mess with Colin Kaepernick, who likely doesn't want to return to the 49ers and it's hard to imagine them looking even somewhat competent next season.
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