Free agency is a marathon. It’s not that a fast start is bad, it just doesn’t guarantee victory. Classes take months to build and years to judge. But this week is the opening chapter of the book, one that is often indicative of how it will end.
This is not an exhaustive look at this week’s moves. For that, check out Nick Mensio’s Transactions Tracker. For an equally comprehensive rundown of everyone already signed and still available, dive into Evan Silva’s 2015 NFL Free Agents.
Losers — 49ers
The 49ers fired their brain in January. Two months later, the heart walked out. Gone are Patrick Willis and Frank Gore, and likely to follow is Justin Smith. The 49ers have made up for this body-and-soul drain by adding Torrey Smith and 33-year-old Darnell Dockett. That’s better than nothing, but no team has lost more talent over the past seven days. Maybe GM Trent Baalke’s veteran exodus was unavoidable. Or maybe Willis, Gore and Smith saw a sinking ship taking on more water, and determined it couldn’t be bailed out. History will judge Baalke’s victory over Jim Harbaugh. The present has already rendered its ominous ruling.
Winners — Seahawks
Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette, Chris Matthews and Luke Willson. These were Russell Wilson’s “weapons” in Super Bowl XLIX. It’s a wonder the Seahawks were even in position to make one of the most ill-fated play calls of all time. “No. 1 playmaker” was the only real void on GM John Schneider’s No. 1 overall roster, and he’s filled it with one of the league’s best in Jimmy Graham. Graham’s addition coupled with Marshawn Lynch’s placation means Schneider has done something his Super Bowl foes the Patriots have made a habit of doing: Being rich and getting richer.
Losers — Cowboys
It’s possible the Cowboys simply couldn’t afford DeMarco Murray. That doesn’t change the fact that they’ve lost the foundation of their offense. It’s not just that Murray carried the load last season. It’s that he took it off Tony Romo, giving Dallas’ overanalyzed quarterback rare breathing space. So it’s incorrect to say the Cowboys are “only” losing 449 touches and 2,261 yards from scrimmage. They’re also putting the weight of the world back on Romo’s shoulders. It’s a weight that’s often crushed both player and team, a weight that will feel heavier than ever in 2015 unless some combination of Darren McFadden, young holdovers and draft picks can replicate Murray’s smashing dual-threat success.
Winners — Colts
Yes, the Colts got older this week. Didn’t we all? Frank Gore and Andre Johnson boast 64 combined years. Ok. They’re also All-Decade talents aging as gracefully as anyone in football. Gore adds desperately needed interior toughness and durability, while Johnson is a massive upgrade on the remains of Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks. If they don’t pan out, well fine. These are the kinds of chances you can take when your franchise cornerstone is a 25-year-old Andrew Luck. The Colts have earned the right to reload. This year, they’ve done so splendidly.
[RELATED: Gore leaves for Colts; 49ers pursue Bush]
Incomplete — Eagles
If you can hear a piano fall, you can hear Chip Kelly coming down the hall. But for all the sound and the fury of the Eagles’ offseason, has there been any gain? Are DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews at $23 million guaranteed better than LeSean McCoy at his original 2015 salary of $9.75 million? Separated from the Legion of Boom, is Byron Maxwell really that much different than Cary Williams? Is Sam Bradford in any way, shape or form an improvement on Nick Foles? The Eagles are vastly different than they were a month ago. Aside from maybe Kelly, nobody knows if they’re actually any better.
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