Written by Matthew Slinn

The early hours of SFL Free Agency is underway, meaning players and teams can finally reveal the well-laid plans they have been cooking up behind the scenes over the past few weeks. The marathon Free Agency show headed by SFL Commissioner, Cameron Irvine, is broadcasting as I write, but over in the Beat Team office, we understand that some of you will want to see the biggest news without dedicating hours of time in your busy lives. This is where the ‘highlights‘ come in. This is the one-stop shop containing the most eye-catching headlines of this season’s Free Agency. We will not be covering every move made that comes down the pipe, and if you want a detailed look at individual teams or players, feel free to peruse the contracts page on the SFL website. For the time being, grab a quick coffee and hop, skip and jump your way through the headlines of the past couple of hours.

Florida Cause a Storm With a Huge Signing

The front office in Florida pulled off a coup as Free Agency kicked off, pulling in former All-Star defensive lineman, Rhett Sawyer. Sawyer is a vastly experienced lineman who has spent the past few seasons in Las Vegas, leading the Fury’s defensive front from the end and tackle positions, the latter where he will be placed in Florida alongside Alex ‘Big Sexy’ Dominguez. Sawyer’s fat 80+ value contract also carry’s weight, but only what he deserves as such a sought after veteran. #54’s sacks and TFL’s have dropped slightly in correlation with improvement on offensive lines, but history shows the numbers he is capable of – 18.5 sacks for Vegas in Season 15. Sources tell me that Sawyer was close to retiring, but this situation seems mutually great for both him and the Florida Storm. Florida are looking to go one better than their last 2 championship losses – this isn’t a bad way to start.

A Pair of Young Defensive Stars Join the Fleet in Portland

I have always admired the defense in Portland. Even during a very tough Season 15 debut campaign, the Fleet’s D kept them in many games – especially that all-action secondary. Earlier in the off-season, underrated safety Shaud Allen declared for Free Agency, leaving Portland with a problem and a hole to fill. What did they do? They went out and secured the contract of Vernard Smith IV at a value of 72.94. Coming from the Arizona Scorpions, who won the West division last season, Smith brings with him sheer playmaking ability – a perfect fit for the way Portland’s secondary likes to play. A total of 13 INTs in just a couple of seasons since being drafted by Arizona speak for themselves. Smith and Bob Funk are going to be a nightmare to go deep on. Now, the headline states that Portland signed ‘a pair’ of defensive stars. That is because the Fleet locked up all-star LB Brody Gulch, from Houston, on an 81.30 Gold value contract. Talk about adding to an already rich position group. Gulch joins Gary Clem, defensive leader Mel Davis and Kahlil Thomas in Portland to form a four-pronged LB corps. Simply put, Gulch is a stud. His three seasons in Houston have been highlighted by an almost unseen amount of tackles – 113 solo tackles alone in the past season. Amongst a stacked group in Portland, these numbers may drop, but individual loss could mean team gains. This defense has improved – no doubt.

Houston Hyenas Host a Heist of the Horrells

We just waxed lyrical about the Portland Fleet signing Brody Gulch from Houston (a huge loss for the Hyenas), so who did they fill the hole with? Well, Portland put Gulch on the table and Houston raised them with a pair of Horrells, David and KT to be specific. A heavywieght contracts of 82.51 and 83.02 respectively, this blockbuster move does a great job of beefing up what was a barren looking LB room that only contained Zed Markov. It’s obvious both Horrells saw the success Brody Gulch had in Houston and want to build on it going forward. David joins from the division rival Fort Worth Toros where he has excelled in pass coverage for a defense that is renowned across the league. KT has flown the short distance from Mexico City, ANOTHER division rival. KT has played solid ball for the Aztecs and I like the theory that her production will only improve lined up next to a family member. This pair of signings also weakens rival teams – in a bid to catapult up the divisional standings and into the playoffs, to sign quality starters from a rival is the perfect way to give yourself the best chance possible. Houston impressed me with this move – it surprised me and I like surprises.

Louisiana Create a Splash on Both Sides of the Ball

Jumping over from drama in the South to the Revolution in the East division, where Louisiana have potentially created the largest waves, signing linebacker Slinn Shady and running back Colin Hart to expensive deals. Before anything else is said, adding 16 seasons of experience to your team is never a bad thing, especially when you take into account the multiple All-Star appearances made by both men. Shady comes in at OLB from the Las Vegas Fury after three seasons in the desert, re-joining a partnership with Blake B. Craize whom he wrecked offenses with in London. Shady brings a wealth of knowledge and leadership to the Revolution defense, a unit already stacked with years under it’s belt. Perhaps the larger surprise and arguably better quality signing came in the form of prototypical power back, Colin Hart. Hart has blasted through defenses for 8 seasons in the SFL, often breaching the 1,000 yard barrier. Hart also brings an insatiable desire to reach the end zone, Season 17 the only time he has not socred double digits in touchdowns, his best a ridiculous 21 on the ground. After the departure of Reggie Streeter, Louisiana needed to act. They acted in a BIG way. Hart burst onto the market after a career leading Sioux Falls to success, but poor form in Sioux Falls the past couple of seasons has potentially forced him to look elsewhere. Louisiana is a very grateful destination.

Vancouver Finally Allow a Kicker into the Legion

It has happened! Vancouver have signed a kicker – with possibly the most optimistic name in the SFL. Chance Touwin joins the Legion from the Los Angeles Lycans, a potentially risky move considering Touwin spent his time as a punter last season. Whilst his kicking pedigree is limited, the specialists in the SFL are the most talented in the world, so you have to expected him to hit the ground running and certainly improve Vancouver’s ability to keep the points ticking over (not that they struggled to score points last season). Touwin has got a fine leg full of natural kicking power. His accuracy and ability in the clutch is still to be tested, but we know that he will only improve with time. I like this move for Vancouver. Yes, their offense can light up the SFL with the best, but after frustrating playoff exits in recent seasons, a star kicker may just be the ticket to turn narrow losses into victories. Bucking the trend can sometimes be the best thing for a franchise.

Make sure to come back tomorrow for more LIVE REPORTING from the SFL Beat Writing team. Enjoy your coffee, return to your busy lives and get ready for the SFL Season 18!