NFL Free Agency Week One: Is This Really Happening?

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Hyperbole and the media often go hand in hand. This phenomenon is exacerbated in the sporting world. Sometimes however, a statement may sound hyperbolic but is in fact completely true. A statement, like the following:

This past week has been the most insane, unpredictable, off-the-wall period in NFL off-season history.

NFL Free Agency Week One: Is This Really Happening?

Yes, the NFL off-season is always an exciting time, but when the new 2015 league year kicked off this past Monday, things escalated to a level previously unforeseen in league history. I would love to write a detailed, point by point account of what has happened but I’m afraid that if I did, this column would end up being longer than “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Building on that theme however, I will borrow from Dickens to describe the events of the past week. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. At least, that can be said of many of the thirty-two NFL franchises whose owners, executives, and fans are surely as stunned as I am. It seems as though every time you turn around something shocking is happening. I’m afraid that three more huge stories will develop as I sit here writing this very piece.

With that said, while it may be impossible to cover every detail from the last six days, there are many, many events that have to be discussed. Sit back everyone, there’s a lot of ground to cover.

The Philadelphia Eagles, with Chip Kelly at the helm, are having one of the most eventful off-seasons in NFL history. When the LeSean McCoy for Kiko Alonso swap went down, everyone though that Kelly was done making his biggest statement during the NFL’s version of March Madness, especially in the aftermath of cutting Cary Williams, Todd Herremans  and Trent Cole.

Nope. That was just the beginning.

In the days since the trade was consummated, the Eagles have inked former Seahawks’ defensive backs Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond to deals, re-signed backup quarterback Mark Sanchez to a two-year pact, re-signed Brandon Graham to a long-term deal, let breakout wideout Jeremy Maclin sign with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency, flirted with Frank Gore before Gore ultimately backed out and signed with the Colts, appeared to be on the verge of signing Ryan Mathews which came into question when the club agreed to terms on a five year pact with 2014 NFL rushing champion and former hated rival DeMarco Murray, and then went ahead and signed Mathews anyway.

I’m out of breath just from typing all that, and I haven’t even mentioned the other big trade that Kelly made, dealing starting quarterback Nick Foles and a pair of draft picks to the St. Louis Rams for signal caller Sam Bradford and a conditional pick. Absolutely no one saw a Bradford to the Eagles swap coming and everyone was caught off guard, especially since at first glance the move would seem to take the Eagles out of the running for the Marcus Mariotta trade-up they were rumored to be seeking. In fact, recent rumors indicate that the Eagles aren’t done making moves yet, and might even be looking to trade guard Evan Mathis.

A Mathis trade would be the cherry on top of the wildest, most tumultuous period the franchise has ever seen, but one thing is very clear: Kelly is re-making this team in any way he sees fit. Make no mistake about it, the Eagles will be one of the most scrutinized franchises in the NFL in 2015.

Kelly’s Eagles, however, weren’t the only ones making big trades. For the longest time football has reigned as the sport that produced the fewest big-time trades of all the major sports. This commonly accepted fact has been obliterated in a big way in 2015. In one of the most surprising moves of the week, the New Orleans Saints dealt superstar tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round pick to the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and a 1st round pick.

No one had any reason to think that Graham, one of the premier weapons in the NFL, was available for trade but alas, here we are. Graham immediately becomes Russell Wilson’s top target and adds a component to that offense that immediately vaults the Seahawks into the position of presumptive NFC champion for a third consecutive year (although many had them there anyway).

But the Saints weren’t done making trades yet. The moved guard Benn Grubbs to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fifth rounder, and then dealt wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a third-round selection.

The Stills acquisition, in turn, allowed the Dolphins to move wideout Mike Wallace and a seventh rounder to the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth-round pick, in a deal that yielded compensation for the ‘Phins that is similar to what the Bears received for pass-catcher Brandon Marshall.

Elsewhere, the Detroit Lions made a big splash by acquiring defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from the Baltimore Ravens for fourth and fifth round selections in the 2015 draft. Ngata immediately steps into a prominent role on the Lions defensive line and helps to fill the void created by the departure of Ndamukong Suh, who signed a $114 million dollar deal with the Miami Dolphins. While finding a replacement for Suh is basically an impossible proposition, unless perhaps Gerald McCoy is available (yeah right), Ngata is an impact player that will fill the void capably.

The  number of trades made in the last week is simply dizzying, and  on top of that, most of these deals have involved big name players. It’s remarkable that in a column that is supposed to be about free agency, actual free agent signings have been given very little mention. That’s just the kind of week it has been.

In the NFL off-season, there are always winners and losers. Some teams get better and some teams get worse. That’s the very nature of the NFL and how the the months of March through August play out. This year has been a little different. There has never been this level of surprise and unpredictability surrounding the game we love. While most of the major free agents have new homes, and the biggest trades have already happened (presumably), we are still less than a week into the new league year. If the first six days of the season are any indicator, 2015 should be a year to remember. I’d recommend that fans take a nap right now, but I’m afraid if you did you might miss an Aaron Rodgers for J.J. Watt trade. I’m kidding of course. That will never happen, but it’s certainly been that kind of a week.