NFL cast-offs getting cozy in new places
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Alex Smith is still winning in red. He’s just doing it for the Chiefs these days.
Mike Wallace is finally happy in Miami, Anquan Boldin is making everyone happy in San Francisco, and that’s just the start of the new faces in new places making a splash this season.
Wes Welker went from hauling in passes from Tom Brady in New England to doing the same from Peyton Manning in Denver — how’d he get so lucky? Steven Jackson’s legs are churning in Atlanta, Darrelle Revis is defending passes in Tampa Bay and Elvis Dumervil is putting heat on quarterbacks for Baltimore after a bizarre end to his time with the Broncos.
“I feel amazing,” said Dumervil, who actually agreed to a restructured contract to remain in the AFC West, only for the paper work to arrive late at the league office. Denver was forced to release Dumervil to avoid having the $12 million he was set to make this season become guaranteed. Dumervil still considered staying in Denver, but signed with the Ravens.
“It’s always nice to get a guy in there who can bring new ideas to you and new ways of doing things and Elvis has certainly done that,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s latched on with the things we’re doing, and it’s been a great mesh.”
It’s been a happy marriage for a lot of other high-profile players, too.
After Smith was benched in favour of Colin Kaepernick during San Francisco’s NFC championship run last year, he began looking elsewhere to play this season. The 49ers worked a trade in February to send him to Kansas City, and now Smith is running the offence for new coach Andy Reid. He’s doing it well, too. Smith has thrown four touchdown passes without an interception in beating Jacksonville and Dallas, matching the Chiefs’ entire win total from last season.
“From about mid-season last year I was thinking about where my next opportunity was potentially going to come,” Smith said, “and when this presented itself, I jumped at it.”
He wasn’t alone in jumping on the Chiefs bandwagon.
Reid climbed aboard after 14 seasons leading the Eagles, and veteran defensive backs Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson were signed in free agency. Together, they’ve helped turn around a franchise that heads to Philadelphia on Thursday night seeking its second 3-0 start in a decade.
“The one neat thing about the business is everybody has a personality,” Reid said of his team, more than half of which is new this year. “That’s the way it is in life. So if you’re going to get that full player, they need to express themselves, I think. That’s what we do.”
Wallace has had no qualms with expressing himself in Miami. The former Steelers wide receiver was miffed that he caught only one pass in the opener, but came back to match a career high with nine catches against the Colts on Sunday. He was acquired to give Miami a badly needed deep threat, and so far he’s helped the Dolphins to a 2-0 start.
“He’s a guy that’s really intellectual when it comes to football,” fellow wide receiver Brian Hartline said. “Probably doesn’t get a whole lot of credit, but he really understands the game, wants to learn more about the game and like I said, has a rare skill set.”
Sounds like many of the same qualities Boldin has brought to San Francisco.
The 49ers acquired him from the Ravens for a sixth-round pick, and he’s helped them overcome the loss of Michael Crabtree to a torn Achilles tendon. Boldin was shut down last week by Seattle, but had 13 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown in a Week 1 win over the Packers.
“It’s my job to catch the ball. And anytime (Kaepernick) throws the ball my way, I’m going to make sure to catch it,” Boldin said.
Wallace and Boldin weren’t the only high-profile wide receivers who found new digs. Welker spent six seasons in New England before signing with Denver in the off-season.
Strange as it is to see Walker in a new uniform, though, it may be stranger to see Jackson wearing Falcons threads. The veteran running back had eight straight 1,000-yard seasons for the Rams, and is now trying to help Matt Ryan and Co. pursue an elusive Super Bowl.
“He adds an incredible amount of leadership to this football team,” Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said, “and his combination of on and off the field abilities and passion for this game is right in line with how we feel we build this football team and have built this football team the last few years.”