The San Francisco 49ers wasted no time today, making several key roster moves just hours in to free agency. The move that made the biggest splash for them was acquiring offensive tackle Jonathan Martin from the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are expected to receive a low round pick from the 49ers in exchange for the troubled lineman. It seems Miami has decided to cut their losses with Martin, who was a second round pick out of Stanford in 2012.
Jonathan Martin has been in the news the last few months because of some controversial incidents that occurred between him and ex-teammate Richie Incognito. Many people have been so swept up over the incident that most have forgotten what a talented football player Martin is. He played for three years at Stanford, starting in every game but two of his college career. Martin was expected to go in the late first round of the draft, and several draft experts thought the Dolphins got a steal with him with the forty-second pick. Even though Martin opted out of his senior year to enter the draft, he was thought to be a polished and well prepared offensive player.
Trouble started for Martin the moment he entered camp with the Dolphins. He was a left tackle by nature, but Miami drafted him to play right. Martin struggled through the first 12 games of his rookie year, never really feeling comfortable at the new position. He was moved back to his usual place when left tackle Jake Long went down with an injury, but showed little improvement. Martin started the 2013 season at left, but was moved back after the first month. He would leave the team just a few weeks later.
Jonathan Martin is looking for a fresh start in San Francisco. 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh knows Martin’s skill set and what he is capable of. He coached him during his college days at Stanford, where Martin’s excellent play helped the Cardinal to re-establish themselves as a force in the Pac-10. Harbaugh knows he is taking a risk both on and off the field in bringing Martin to the 49ers. However, the All-American tackle deserves another chance and San Francisco is the best place for that to happen.
Meanwhile on the other coast, the New England Patriots were dealing with their own first day of free agency. Unfortunately for them, it did not go nearly as well as they had hoped. On offense, Tom Brady’s favorite target from the 2013 season decided he would test the open market. Julian Edelman received an offer from the Patriots, who were eager for him to stay in town. However, the offer was not good enough for the budding wide receiver. Instead, he hopes to find a new team that is willing to pay him what he thinks he deserves. In hindsight, New England probably wished they offered more to the only healthy wide receiver Tom Brady has any sort of rhythm with. Edelman is easily a 1,000 yard 90 catch kind of guy, and surely there are several teams who are in need of his services. Both sides have left the door open for him to go back to New England, but at the moment it appears unlikely. Edelman may find the NFL to be a harsher place to play when Tom Brady is not throwing him the ball.
The Patriots also got weaker on the defensive side today. For the second year in a row, the Denver Broncos have signed New England’s most coveted free agent. Last year it was Wes Welker, and this year it is Aqib Talib. Talib will now be a member of the Broncos for the next five years, and receive $57 million to do it. Though his numbers were not eye-popping last year, Talib still showed how dominant a shutdown corner he could be. Much like Deon Sanders and a young champ Bailey, Talib’s numbers are often ugly because he is covering the best wide receiving threat on the field. Teams tend to avoid him, and so his opportunities are less frequent. However, his impact is obvious. The patriots were a completely different defense when he was on the field in 2013. The Broncos are in need of that type of player in their defensive backfield. Fans who are still sulking over the departure of Champ Bailey will be hard to win over. However, once they see Talib take the field in the iconic orange and blue, they will change their tune.
Commentary by Chris Chisam