NFL Free Agent Frenzy Signing Period & March Madness

Time out has been called from discussion of the ongoing NCAA basketball tournament to jump into the current frenzy known as the Free Agent signing period in the NFL.
Never before has there been such considerable activity, reaction and analysis of this annual procedure as there has been this year.
Everywhere I’ve gone, the first question I get is about the comings and goings of some prominent players, mostly quarterbacks. On top of that is the speculation of what teams will do in the upcoming draft, also featuring many highly-regarded quarterbacks, and one particularly promising running back.
Most of the attention has been on where the quarterbacks would fall in this spirited game of musical chairs.
We start, of course with Kirk Cousins, who after wearing the franchise tag of the Washington Redskins for two seasons, became free to roam and haul in unprecedented dollars in the process.
Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings, who came within a game of reaching the Super Bowl. It’s amazing to me, that the Vikings, of all teams, would be shopping for a new QB in light of the fact they had THREE signal-callers in demand by other teams.
Case Keenum, came out of nowhere after an undistinguished career toiling for four different clubs, to perform in grand fashion in nearly leading the Vikings to the promised land.
But the Vikings, to their credit, were thinking bigger, and knew they needed someone out of their circle, to really get them where they want to go.
I like Kirk Cousins, always have, and believe Minnesota made the right move.
I’ve seen Cousins lead a Redskins team with flaws to triumphs they otherwise would never have achieved.
Cousins is a fighter. Tough, resilient, determined, a solid person and perhaps most of all, a genuine leader.
His huge 84 million dollar deal over three years, all guaranteed, is unprecedented in many ways. It will set the standard for the renegotiation of other proven QB’s and open a new world of what this most important position on a team represents.
I try to avoid talking contract numbers in sports because it is boring and it only means owners can afford to pay.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t.
So now, in this wild time in the NFL off-season, there is incredible movement everywhere. It used to be said, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.
Now, I’d say, you can’t even tell the players WITH a scorecard.
I say this tongue in cheek.
The three other Vikings quarterbacks have departed. Keenum to the Broncos, Sam Bradford to the Cardinals, Teddy Bridgewater to the Jets.
All three of those teams needed new quarterbacks badly. Two of the three players, Bradford and Bridgewater come with baggage. They have all suffered serious injuries. So, while they are upgrades for their teams, they both are gambles. Keenum, less so. But there is the lingering question whether he can perform as well again.
Another highly-touted free agent backup quarterback, A.J. McCarron left the Bengals for the Bills, who saw their signal-called Tyrod Taylor head to Cleveland.
There’s no way we’re going on-and-on delving into all the major signings, but there things to consider about this phase of the pro football off-season.
One, history shows, the signing of free agents is for the purpose of filling a needed gap or three, not for building a team.
That happens through the draft.
Look at the Super Bowl champs. The Eagles knew they needed an upgrade in the skill positions of wide receiver and running back to help their second-year whiz Carson Wentz, and they accomplished it.
Many teams make what proves to be unfortunate moves in free agency.
I am always curious when a non-winning team pays big money for a big name player who maybe more interested in his pocketbook than in winning a championship.
The pressure is off. So the player gets a hefty paycheck, his team doesn’t contend, and his play is not up to the level anticipated.
One example could be tackle Ndamukong Suh. He left a contending team in Detroit to sign with the struggling Miami Dolphins. I am aware Suh is regarded as one of the premier players at his position in the league, and he was a durable performer in his three years with the Dolphins. But was he worth the huge salary he received before Miami released him last week?
On the other hand, when contending team signs a player who may not have reached his potential with a losing club, I see that as a plus.
Receiver Alshon Jeffrey who went from the Bears to the Eagles, and tackle Andrew Whitworth who switched from the Bengals to the up-and -coming Rams are two of the moves which were smart for the player and the team.
Then, there is the player who actually went from a contender to a pretender and not only made his team considerably better but had his greatest season.
That would be defensive end Calais Campbell who departed Arizona for Jacksonville. A phenomenal move for both the Jaguars and Campbell.
Smart people running the front offices is the key to a team’s success.
Will their moves pay off?  Will the Giants solidify their porous offensive line with former Patriot Nate Solder?
Will 32-year old Danny Amendola be to the Dolphins and their quarterback Ryan Tannehill, what he was to the Patriots and Tom Brady?
Will Jimmy Graham be effective as a down-the-middle tight end threat for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers as he has been for the Saints and the Seahawks?
Then, of course, how will this crazy free agent carousel affect the strategy in the draft in late April?
Will the Browns draft a quarterback at number one, or select the great running back Saquon Barkley of Penn State, then choose a quarterback at number four?
Where will the highly-rated QB’s fall? Their names are Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Mason Rudolph.
Are any of them in the class of Carson Wentz and Jared Goff of the Rams?
Which teams will strike it rich come April? And which teams have already rung the bell in free agency?
It’s been a wild ride so far. There’s more to come. It’s been so much fun to see the passing parade.
All happening before one pass is actually thrown.
Time out from the NCAA basketball tournament is over and now we get back to March Madness which has lived up to its reputation: dramatic games in the one-and-done adventure and shocking upsets which seem to never end.
The mightiest of course was the stunning victory by UMBC over the number one seeded team in the entire derby, Virginia.
For years, we’ve heard the mantra.
Never has a 16th seed knocked off a Number One.
Well, now we’ve seen it happen. UMBC, University of Maryland Baltimore County knocked off the vaunted Cavaliers, in a game that will go down in history.
There were others in the first two rounds and you can take your pick.
13th seed Buffalo over Arizona sitting at Number four. Loyola of Chicago at No. 11 beating Tennessee after eliminating Miami in Thursday’s first round.
How about a pair of 2-seeds, North Carolina and Cincinnati getting the heave-ho at the expense of Texas A&M and Nevada?
I am not ashamed to say I have observed college basketball and the NCAA tourney for 60 years. That’s right. 60 years.
I have never seen what my school, Syracuse is doing this year. They were on a bubble that was about to burst in even getting a bid.  Finally, they were the last one in. Had to win a play-in game just to make the 64-team field.
So they managed to survive against Arizona State last Wednesday in Dayton.
Now things would be getting serious. I have followed the Orange since my collegiate days. They’ve had everything. Powerhouses,  teams that were hopeful of advancing deep into the tournament, overachievers
and underachievers.
But never a team like this.
One that really couldn’t score, couldn’t shoot.  A lineup relying on most of the starting five to play the entire game. In effect, no bench. Vulnerable to foul trouble, and not fiercely aggressive on the boards.
But a team that has confounded every opponent thus far with a zone defense that takes their foes  out of their game. It is not a simple zone. It is a complicated one, executed beautifully by players with length and a wing span that has driven Arizona State, TCU and Michigan State crazy.
All three teams have been held to between 25 and 30 points below  their scoring average. Jim Boeheim has done his best coaching job in a career of masterpieces. The Orange hang in every game, then miraculously pull off the victory. Call it winning ugly. But that’s how they play.
Maybe they had no right in getting into the tournament in the first place.
Maybe they had no right beating Arizona State, TCU and 3rd seeded Michigan State.
But here they are. On to the Sweet Sixteen. Duke is up next. The Blue Devils are the real deal, and have time to get ready for what they’ll face.
But who knows?
Danny Amendola
Saquon Barkley
UMBC Stuns Virginia
Orange Advance