Happy New Year to the NFL, which opened for business at 4PM yesterday. It’s been a busy couple of days, as the Seahawks (Percy Harvin) and 49ers (Anquan Boldin) acquired veteran receivers a day before the floodgates opened. The Dolphins made the biggest waves yesterday by signing WR Mike Wallace and ILB Dannell Ellerbe from AFC North heavyweights, and then later released ILB Karlos Dansby and signed OLB Philip Wheeler from the Raiders. The Colts chose to go quantity over quality by signing four different players (G Donald Thomas from New England, OLB/Colin Kaepernick turnstile Erik Walden from Green Bay, T Gosder Cherilus from Detroit, and DE Lawrence Sidbury from Atlanta). The Ravens lost Paul Kruger to Cleveland but did sign former Giants DE Chris Canty.
Tennessee made some noise signing G Andy Levitre from Buffalo and TE Delanie Walker from San Francisco, while the Chiefs picked up 3-4 DE Mike DeVito and TE Anthony Fasano from the AFC East. Chicago helped out Jay Cutler by signing TE Martellus Bennett (Giants) and T Jermon Bushrod (New Orleans), while Sam Bradford will be happy to know that the Rams added TE Jared Cook from Tennessee. The Broncos added guard Louis Vasquez from division-rival San Diego to keep Peyton Manning upright, and are rumored to be after Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall. The Eagles won’t win the headlines, but made a couple of interesting signings in NT Isaac Sopoaga (San Francisco) and TE/HB/WR/FB/Chip Kelly chess piece James Casey from Houston. About an hour later, the Eagles added CB Bradley Fletcher (Rams), S Patrick Chung (Patriots) and LB Jason Phillips (Panthers). And there were some releases, with Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo), Nnamdi Asomugha (Philadelphia), Sione Pouha (Jets), and Darrius Heyward-Bey and Michael Huff (Oakland) among the more notable cuts. You can check out Pro-Football-Reference.com’s free agent tracker to stay up to date on the latest signings.
The first few days of the league year provide fans across the country with an opportunity to ring in the new year with a dash of optimism. But how often does adding a veteran or two via trade or free agency land a team in the Super Bowl? The table below lists every notable veteran acquisition1 by the 40 teams to make the Super Bowl since 1993, the start of the Free Agency era in the NFL. The “W/L” column shows whether the team won or lost in the Super Bowl, while the AV column shows how much Approximate Value the player provided in his first season with the new team. The N-1 Tm and N-1 AV columns show where the player came from and how valuable he was in the prior year; the table is sorted by the average of the player’s AV in Years N and N-1.
[table id=443 /]
The Patriots built a dynasty by finding valuable free agents, but that hasn’t been the model in recent years. If you go down the list of the last eight Super Bowl champions, the biggest veteran acquisitions by them in the immediately preceding off-season were Jacoby Jones, David Baas, Charlie Peprah, Darren Sharper, Justin Hartwig, Kawika Mitchell, Anthony McFarland, and Cedrick Wilson.
It would be impressive if Harvin makes the Super Bowl with the Seahawks this year… but how’s this for a random trivia question: Tony Martin made the Super Bowl in his first year with a new team twice, first with San Diego and then with Atlanta. Ditto Randy Moss and Ricky Proehl (but not with the Rams), although Martin stands out because he was his team’s leading wide receiver in both seasons.
- Here, notable means having an AV of 4 or greater in Year N. [↩]