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Blockbuster trades, Revis' return to Jets highlight first day of free agency

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

The Jets brought back cornerback Darrelle Revis on the first day of free agency in the NFL on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (Adam Fenster/Reuters/Files)

The Jets brought back cornerback Darrelle Revis on the first day of free agency in the NFL on Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (Adam Fenster/Reuters/Files)

More blockbuster NFL trades have gone down in the past few days than we normally see in a decade. At least it seems that way.

Three more biggies went down within minutes of the start of the new league year on Tuesday -- a wild day that featured just-in-time re-signings, first-day free-agent signings, big-name roster cuts and unattached players criss-crossing America to visit potential new teams.

Oh, and the now requisite, annual, holy-crap contract given to cornerback Darrelle Revis by his newest team. Or, in this case, his old team -- the New York Jets.

More on that in a moment.

The three new trades, which all went down at about the start of the new league year at 4 p.m. EDT, shook the NFL landscape for a good three hours on Tuesday, and had people’s Twitter timelines spinning like slot machines as everyone tried to come to grips with the brain-battering news.

Trade 1: The jaw-dropper

The New Orleans Saints dealt all-pro tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth-round draft pick to the NFC champion Seahawks, for Seattle’s 1st-rounder this year (31st overall) and centre Max Unger.

Bam. Just what the Seahawks needed -- an elite pass catcher for Russell Wilson.

Never mind that he’s not a wide receiver. Graham led the league in touchdown catches two years ago from another small, accurate QB, one Drew Brees, and can do wonders for the Seattle offence.

Obviously, it means that last year’s starting tight end -- Luke Willson from La Salle, Ont. -- is relegated to second string.

But here’s the thing. Willson has blazing speed (legit 4.5 in the 40) and, thus, himself was a mismatch problem for most linebackers and many safeties.

Now Seattle has two mismatch tight ends. And Graham is even more athletic, and has better hands. At 6-foot-7, 265 pounds Graham is basically a monster wide receiver.

“The opportunity to get a player that can make these types of plays that we’ve seen Jimmy Graham do for a number of years really got us excited in complementing the rest of our team,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We think he’s a fantastic target that we can implement in a number of ways.”

Why would the Saints get rid of Graham? Great question, especially when Brees as it was last season didn’t have enough quality receiving targets.

The obvious first thought is for cap purposes. New Orleans had the most work of any team in the league to do to get under its carryover-adjusted 2015 salary cap (in its case $145.1 million) by Tuesday at 4. Presumably, this helped a bit. But the $40-million, four-year deal Graham signed last spring is back-loaded, so most of the savings are next year and in 2017.

Bottom line: with Marshawn Lynch back and presumably happy with $24 million more coming his way, and now an elite pass catcher in Graham, the Seahawks have more talent at the offensive skill positions in Carroll’s six-year tenure.

The priority now for Carroll and GM John Schneider is to rebuild the offensive line that, even before the departure of Unger to New Orleans and guard James Carpenter to the New York Jets (where he signed as a free agent on Tuesday), it was a banged-up, sub-par unit.

Trade 2: The head-scratcher

If you can find anyone who knows what’s going on in the mind of Philadelphia Eagles head coach and newly anointed director of football operations Chip Kelly, gimme a ring.

It doesn’t just seem like he’s jettisoning anyone and everyone who ever took a snap on offence under his predecessor, Andy Reid. He’s practically doing so.

Philly dealt its ostensible starting quarterback Nick Foles to St. Louis, for its oft-injured quarterback Sam Bradford. The Eagles also get a 2015 fifth-round draft pick, while the Rams get 2015 fourth-round and 2016 second-round picks from Philly.

If Bradford doesn’t ever start, or gets injured, the Eagles get either a 2016 third or fourth round pick back from St. Louis.

So, gone from the Eagles offence this week are Foles, running back LeSean McCoy (whose trade to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso became official Tuesday), wideout Jeremy Maclin (a free agent whom Philly won’t re-sign) and long-time starting guard Todd Herremans (who was cut last week).

Kelly shipped out star wideout DeSean Jackson last year.

The Eagles now have these three quarterbacks on the roster: Bradford, Mark Sanchez (who re-signed Monday) and third-stringer Matt Barkley.

Sure as a slow spring thaw, Bradford does not possess the mobility that Kelly likes in his quarterbacks, especially not now after late-summer surgery to repair his second blown ACL in as many years. But Bradford is accurate, and Kelly loves that attribute in his passers.

Is he planning to trade one, two or all three of his current QBs, in some effort to trade up from No. 20 overall to No. 2 in the draft? To acquire another of his beloved former University of Oregon players, quarterback Marcus Mariota?

He’d sure love to do it. How he might achieve it is another thing that probably only Kelly himself knows at this point.

Trade 3: The run-stopper

Out with Ndamukong Suh, in with Haloti Ngata.

The Detroit Lions couldn’t (or wouldn’t) match Miami’s gargantuan free-agent contract offer to Suh, which reportedly is worth $19 million per year with $60 million guaranteed.

So the Lions are replacing Suh with another of the game’s fiercest, best-penetrating defensive tackles: Ngata.

Detroit also received a seventh-round pick in the trade with Baltimore. In exchange the Ravens got Detroit’s fourth- and fifth-round picks.

The anchor of the Ravens’ defensive fronts for the past nine seasons, the 31-year-old Ngata ought to settle the interior of the Lions’ D-line, on a defence that was one of the league’s best in 2014.

Why would the Ravens part with him? Purely for cap reasons. He’s set to earn $8.5 million this year.

To a man, everyone in the Ravens organization admires Ngata, even after his four-game suspension last season for performance-enhancing drug use. It’s a big loss for the Ravens locker room, as well as for the team’s D-line.

Revis Island II

He’s baaaack.

Mere hours after officially being cut by the New England Patriots, shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis signed with his old team, his first team, the New York Jets.

His latest huge contract is enormous: $70 million over five years, with $39 million fully guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Jets owner Woody Johnson just couldn’t miss out on Revis for not fully loading a Brinks truck full of cash.

It’s Revis’ fourth team in four years, after the Jets -- who drafted him in 2007 -- traded him to Tampa Bay two years ago. The Bucs gave him a six-year, $96-million contract with no guaranteed money. They cut him last March.

The Patriots signed him for one year plus an option. After winning the Super Bowl, the Pats decided not to pick up the costly option.

New Jets head coach Todd Bowles, a defensive specialist, is no doubt ecstatic. And not just with this signature acquisition.

The Jets also dumped a load of cash at the feet of another free-agent cornerback: Buster Skrine, a starter for two years in Cleveland. He’s due to earn $34 million over four years with the Jets.

After re-signing inside linebacker David Harris the other day, the Jets defence looks a helluva lot more formidable now -- as it already boasted one of the league’s top D-lines.

What’s more, on offence the Jets signed Seattle’s left guard James Carpenter (for $20 million over four years), and the trade for Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall became official when Marshall passed his physical.

Now the Jets just need a quarterback.

Buzz that they’re going to pick up Ryan Fitzpatrick (should the Texans cut him after re-signing Ryan Mallett, and should they sign free agent Brian Hoyer, the now ex-Brown) won’t go away.

It should go away, no matter how comfortable new Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey might be with Fitz, his QB in Buffalo from 2011-13.

Pained mediocrity at the quarterback position does not go over well in the Big Apple.

Bills keep upgrading

It’s been an eye-opening off-season since Doug Marrone walked out on the Bills on New Year’s Eve.

Getting Rex Ryan as head coach, Greg Roman as offensive coordinator and Aaron Kromer as offensive line coach were all coups.

Now Ryan and GM Doug Whaley are upgrading the roster, impressively.

The trade with Philly for McCoy -- one of the league’s best playmaking running backs -- became official Tuesday. So did the trade with Minnesota for quarterback Matt Cassel.

On top of that, the Bills were still busy:

* They reportedly were close to signing free agent fullback Jerome Felton, from the Vikings, as Buffalo is bereft at that position. The deal reportedly is worth $9.2 million over four years.

* According to the Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci, the Bills submitted an offer sheet to Miami tight end Charles Clay, who got slapped with a transition tag by the Dolphins a week ago. Miami can match Buffalo’s offer, but if they choose not to, the Bills owe the Dolphins nothing -- a provision of the transition tag.

* And WR Percy Harvin, officially cut by the Jets earlier in the day, was reported by the New York Daily News to be visiting the Bills before any other team.

Other free-agent signings

These included ex-Pats RB Shane Vereen with the Giants, ex-Ravens TE Owen Daniels with the Broncos, ex-Rams QB Shaun Hill with the Vikings, ex-Bears DL Stephen Paea with the Redskins, ex-Cowboys WR/KR Dwayne Harris with the Giants, ex-Ravens WR Torrey Smith with the Niners, ex-Bills S Da’Norris Searcy with the Titans, ex-Niners G Mike Iupati with the Cardinals, ex-Packer LB A.J. Hawk with the Bengals, ex-Niners RB Frank Gore with the Colts, ex-Eagles LB Trent Cole with the Colts, ex-Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson with the Patriots and ex-Bengals RT Marshall Newhouse with the Giants.

Re-signings

These included G Joe Reitz (Colts), RB Bilal Powell (Jets), DT Dwan Edwards (Panthers), RB Matt Asiata (Vikings), S Colt Anderson (Colts, honest), TE Virgil Green (Broncos).

Other players cut

These included Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams, Bucs OT Anthony Collins, Patriots CB Brandon Browner, Dolphins LB Philip Wheeler and Dolphins G Shelley Smith.

Potential landing spots

These included ex-Packers CB Tramon Williams with the Saints, ex-Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray with either the Raiders or Jaguars and ex-Lions DT Nick Fairley with the Bengals.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/JohnKryk

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