10 observations from Day 1 of NFL free agency

10 observations from Day 1 of NFL free agency
March 12, 2014, 7:00 am
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Jairus Byrd (left) and Malcolm Jenkins (middle) signed with the Saints and Eagles, respectively, while Darrelle Revis (right) appears headed for the open market. (USA Today Images)

Ten observations from the first few hours of free agency, which saw 26 players change teams and 26 billion tweets sent out.

1. The Malcolm Jenkins backlash really surprised me. My Twitter feed hated the signing, and things got so crazy Tuesday evening that one follower actually posted that Jenkins is no better than Patrick Chung. Come on now. Jenkins is 26, durable, smart, versatile, started for a Super Bowl team, good locker room guy, good value. One of his strengths at 6-foot is his ability to line up and cover a tight end, something the Eagles have struggled with over the years. Is he a superstar? No. But you’re not going to have a superstar at every position, and for the Eagles, it was all about upgrading at safety. Jenkins is an upgrade. A significant one. This is like the Connor Barwin signing. Everybody talked about how his level of play dropped off in Houston in 2012, but once the Eagles got him in their system, and we actually saw him play, he turned out to be a heck of an addition. I expect the same from Jenkins this year. I think we’ll look back at this as a solid move.

2. As for Jairus Byrd, extraordinary talent, but I’d be skittish giving a guy with chronic plantar fasciitis $28 million guaranteed, which the Saints did. When you sign a player to a long-term, multi-million-dollar deal with a huge guaranteed bonus, you’re making a long-term commitment to that player, so it’s not just where will he be in 2014 or 2015 but where will he be in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Byrd is very good, but he’s not the fastest guy out there, and he’s not the healthiest. I think the Saints overpaid.

3. DeMarcus Ware is an intriguing name, but I’d tread carefully when adding a 31-year-old guy who’s been banged up and whose production has declined from 19½ sacks in 2011 to 11½ in 2012 to a career-low six in 2013. The Eagles are all about being young, healthy and fast, and I’m not sure Ware is any of those things right now. From 2006 through Week 8 of 2012, Ware had 100½ sacks in 104 games. In his last 21 games, he has 8½ sacks (or one more than Brandon Graham). It would be fun seeing Ware sack Tony Romo a few times a year, but I just don’t like the way he’s trending. If all the medicals came back totally fine? I’d make an exception to the 30-year-old rule. When he’s right, he’s an All-Pro. And we all know how desperately the Eagles need a pass rusher. But I’d have to be really convinced he’s healthy to make an offer.

4. What about Darrelle Revis? Tough call. He’s about the same age as Nnamdi Asomugha was when the Eagles signed him from the Raiders, and he’ll be joining his third team in three years. So there are a couple red flags. But Revis is still a tremendous player, and if the numbers aren’t too outlandish, I’d be intrigued. The Eagles already have Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher? So what. Adding Revis to their secondary would instantly make the them better. He’s 29 and has been hurt -- notably with the ACL in 2012 -- but he played at a high level last year in Tampa. What about the Eagles’ philosophy of only going after young, healthy, ascending free agents? Like with Ware, I’d make an exception for Revis, if the numbers are workable. With Revis, I doubt the numbers would be workable.

5. It’s going to fall under the radar, thanks to everything else going on Tuesday, but re-upping Donnie Jones was huge. He’s a human field-position flipper. Think about 33 punts inside the 20 but only eight touchbacks. That’s insane. Important move.

6. It will be interesting to see if anybody signs Chung. I just can’t imagine a team watching his 2013 film and saying, “Hey, I want this guy.” If Chung doesn’t join another team, the Eagles will have to pay him the $1 million guaranteed portion of his $3.25 million 2014 base salary. If he does go somewhere else, the Eagles are only responsible if he signs for less than his guarantee. They would be on the hook for the difference.

7. If you made a list of the five worst safeties in Eagles history, Chung wouldn’t be the worst. That honor would go to Erik McMillan, a one-time Pro Bowler with the Jets who Rich Kotite signed to a $1.3 million contract with a $500,000 signing bonus to replace the popular and productive Wes Hopkins in 1993. McMillan lasted six games before getting jettisoned. He flat couldn’t play. But Chung would be second. Then who? Matt Stevens? Jarrad Page? Sean Jones? Jaiquawn Jarrett? A lot of candidates. Too many recent ones.

8. Would be great to see Michael Vick sign with the Jets and be reunited with Marty Mornhinweg, Vick’s offensive coordinator during his resurgent 2010 Pro Bowl season. I know Vick has gotten hurt the last three years, but I still think he has one last good run in him. Maybe I’m dreaming. Vick turns 34 this summer, and he’s 12-19 in his last 31 starts. I’d just like to see him get one more chance to lead a team, and maybe things will turn out differently.

9. Interesting how few offensive skill guys have signed so far. Seems like there’s a real premium on defense this year, and that’s a direct result of the way the Seahawks won the Super Bowl and how that team was built. It’s also a reminder of just how strong the draft is with receivers. Why sign a free-agent receiver when you can get an equivalent guy a lot cheaper in the draft?

10. Most overpaid guy on Day 1? The Raiders signed offensive lineman Rodger Saffold to a five-year deal worth $8.5 million per year. Saffold has never made a Pro Bowl team and hasn’t started more than 10 games since 2010. Just wow.