Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Top stats to know: NFL free agency (Day 1)
By ESPN Stats & Information
What were the top statistical storylines from Day 1 of NFL free agency?
Most prominent signing: Saints nab Byrd; Broncos net Talib
The New Orleans Saints made the biggest acquisition of the day, agreeing to terms with three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.
Byrd has intercepted 22 passes since he entered the NFL in 2009. Only Asante Samuel (25) has more interceptions over that time.
Late Monday, the Denver Broncos agreed to a deal with former New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.
Talib's 23 interceptions are the sixth-most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2008.
Talib will look to support a secondary that has defended deep passes well in the regular season the last two years, but has struggled mightily in the postseason.
Joe Flacco went 6 of 11 with 3 touchdowns when passing 15 or more yards downfield to eliminate the Broncos in 2012, and Russell Wilson went 3 of 3 for 80 yards in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Browns and Buccaneers spend on defense
The Cleveland Browns positioned themselves to be aggressive in free agency, entering the day $50 million under the NFL Salary Cap (third-most under the cap in the league) and they made an immediate impact by agreeing to deals with ex-San Francisco 49ers safety Donte Whitner and former Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Whitner was a two-time Pro Bowler and a key part of a defense that allowed the third-fewest points in the NFL last season. Opposing quarterbacks had a 39.9 Total QBR against the 49ers last season, sixth-lowest in the NFL.
Dansby was one of two players with 4.0 sacks and four interceptions last season (Lavonte David).
He led all linebackers last season with 17 total passes intercepted or defended and was one of nine players with multiple defensive touchdowns last season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also made a pair of prominent defensive acquisitions, signing Michael Johnson and Alterraun Verner.
The Buccaneers recorded only 6.5 sacks last season by players lining up as a traditional defensive end (end of line, hand in dirt). That was worst among any 4-3 defense and second worst overall. Johnson has recorded 25.0 of his 26.5 career sacks when lining up as a defensive end.
Verner could be a key replacement for Darrelle Revis. Verner is one of 12 cornerbacks in the NFL to start every game in the last two seasons and has never missed a game in four seasons. His 17 pass breakups last season tied for second-most in the NFL.
Position of Note: Offensive Tackle
There was a major first-day run on offensive tackles with Jared Veldheer (Cardinals), Branden Albert (Miami Dolphins), Rodger Saffold (Oakland Raiders) and Eugene Monroe (Baltimore Ravens) all inking huge deals to join new teams.
Albert’s signing may be the most prominent. He played 72 percent of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive snaps last season. When he was on the field, the Chiefs averaged 5.7 yards per run to the left side. When he was off the field, that dropped to 4.1.
The Dolphins averaged 4.4 yards on runs to the left last season, a hair below the league average of 4.5.
The Raiders were also in need of an offensive line upgrade. Oakland quarterbacks were under duress on 32 percent of dropbacks last season, the fourth-highest rate in the league.
Costly contracts resulted in some notable names being cut loose, adding to the free agent pool.
The most notable among them were DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers.
Ware leads all players with 57.5 sacks as a stand-up linebacker over the last six seasons.He has also gotten to the passer as a defensive end, recording 26.0 sacks with his hand in the dirt. Only three other players have 20 sacks when lining up as a linebacker and defensive end over that time- John Abraham, Tamba Hali and Shaun Phillips.
Peppers ranks third among active players with 119 career sacks, trailing only Abraham (133.5) and Jared Allen (128.5). Ware’s 117 rank fourth. Those 117 trail only Reggie White’s 137 for most by a player in his first nine seasons.