Written by Matthew Slinn
After a predictably hectic Monday, ‘Hurricane SFL FA’ has slowed down somewhat, giving us the perfect opportunity to take a look back and reflect on the changes across the league in the last 48 hours. Around 50 players have transferred to a different locker room so far, with potential for more, sporadic activity later in the week. Some big names and even more impressive contracts have changed hands as the makeup of Season 18 already looks quite different to its predecessor. In this quickfire piece, we will briefly break down the activity of every team in the SFL over the last 48 hours. This article will not contain any grades, any strong opinions or predictions for the future – that can all wait for another day. Today we focus on the facts. Let’s take a look at the chaos that ensued, mostly yesterday, starting with the Arizona Scorpions.
Eddie Gauge, Ashley Jackson and the rest of the Scorpions Front Office had a busy start to Free Agency, mostly out of necessity. After the very recent departure of the Hands brothers and a hole left by Max Night, the Scorpions had to act quickly. Wide Receiver Ryan Owens was signed from San Diego as the current #2 behind TJ Punk, joined by 6’4 Jae Hayden at tight end. Hayden pairs up with Will Todd to form a double-headed group. Defensively, experienced Jacksonville Kings star Hunter Norwood slots in to fill the void left by Max Night and Shaud Allen picks up a silver contract at strong safety to complete the biggest name signings for Arizona so far.
Late Addition: Patrick Kelly has just signed at offensive guard at a value of 61.3. Kelly brings his bulk over from St. Louis.
Having brought back 19 of their 20 players from Season 17, the Swarm didn’t seem to feel the need to make any kind of waves in the early knockings of Free Agency, and the roster remains at 19 as I type this. Outside linebacker Garrett Hudson was the only player to leave and test FA. Atlanta have given nice-sized contracts to Bryant Dynasty and BDG Hollewood, and Boo Chisholm and Siege Falco return to complete a very evenly matched #1-#2 receiving combo.
Despite winning the Season 17 Championship, Baltimore have not rested on their laurels and took to Free Agency a couple of times to improve their defense. Journeyman defensive end Joe Duncan has joined the Vultures defensive line, opposite Al Walker on a contract of just over 69 points in value – slightly more than Walker’s I might add. The second addition came in the form of former San Diego linebacker, Devin King. The young star partners outside linebacking duties with Alvin Mack, both carrying a silver cap hit.
The Skyhawks were one of the teams who stayed inactive during the initial rush of Free Agents coming across the wire, choosing to take their time and do business more methodically. The result was a pair of vastly experienced defensive players – Clint Hendershot and Christopher Colon. Linebacker Hendershot has travelled from D.C to lead the Skyhawks’ defensce from the middle and Colon returns after a one-season hiatus in Las Vegas. Both bring with them a Gold contract and bags of knowledge.
This week has been a very busy one so far for the Charleston Predators as they signed up three new players and brought an old face back into their secondary. Jacob Clear has returned for Season 18, coming out of retirement to play CB once more in Charleston. He will line up as the current #2 cornerback behind Corey Mennor. Staying with the defence, Chris Joseph and Erich Hammer have arrived to beef up the front seven, Hammer an especially interesting story as he switched from the Florida Storm, as divisional rival. The opposite side of the ball has been quiet but not motionless. Sioux Falls guard Dusty Wilson has decided to stop blocking for Julian Tyree and focus on his new assignment, T.D Drew.
After another tough season in the North Division, the D.C Dragons found themselves with some holes to fill following the departures of a decent amount of players, perhaps most notably, safety Jack Russell. Up to this point, the Dragons have been semi-active in plugging the holes, making two signings including one from a divisional rival. Yes, Kappa Jones, formerly of Queen City, has decided to join the Dragons and effectively replace Russell in the secondary. A much larger cap hit came in the form of 6’7 tight end, Lauren Percoco, joining with a fat contract of 86.22. Percoco is currently slated to be D.C’s #1 tight end for Season 18.
After a season of much-needed rebuilding in Denver, the Nightwings managed to retain the majority of their roster for Season 18 and currently sit pretty with 18 signed players. A couple of new faces have also arrived from elsewhere, specifically to bolster the defense. Defensive Lineman Igor Barbatov joins at defensive tackle to try and fill Dez Troyer’s shoes, with a silver contract his reward for testing FA. Speaking of rewarding contracts, Ron Hoff has also made the move to the Nightwings defense, boasting a huge 87.94 contract, virtually unheard of for cornerbacks in the SFL. Hoff has immediately become one of the Top 5 most well-paid corners in the league.
Having already featured Florida on Tuesday’s ‘LIVE REPORTING’ article, there isn’t much else to say. The Storm did an excellent job of retaining players, probably helped by the second trip to a championship game in two seasons, and replaced linebacker Erich Hammer with vastly experienced defensive tackle, Rhett Sawyer. Florida’s off-season has been quick and clean so far.
Fort Worth Toros
The Toros are a squad that looks one of the most incomplete in the SFL at the current time. Last season was an unexpected struggle and a mini-rebuild is looking likely. The only free agency acquisition made up to this point is the signing of wide receiver, Mike Twinscrew. Twinscrew has joined from Louisiana in a big name deal, carrying a solid value of 94.26. Twinscrew joins Stephen Hacker and Cade Stephens to form a well-travelled trio of receivers.
As I detailed in the preceding article to this one, the Hyenas made one of the biggest and most unexpected splashes of the off-season when they signed both K.T and David Horrell from divisional rivals. It seems like Houston’s front office didn’t rest on their laurels and went further to fill out their defense. Former player Cai Cash returns as the #2 cornerback behind Marco Swift whilst KT Slayer joins Frank Stackhouse at defensive tackle to complete a four-star D-Line. Slayer and Cash sign at bronze and gold contracts respectively, whilst the Horrells havve cost the Hyenas 160+ points of value.
A team that it seems is still in a rebuilding phase, the Jacksonville Kings were the first franchise to sign a player in free agency this season, snagging Garrett Hudson from Atlanta. Hudson will line up alongside John Martin, Hudson taking the OLB role with a developmental contract of 65.85. After the initial foray into the FA market, the Kings’ locker room remained quiet.
Los Angeles Lycans
The L.A Lycans were another team with a few holes to fill coming into free agency, and while they didn’t sign many players, there was activity on the defensive side of the ball. Outside linebacker Kevin Brackett has arrived, coming over to Los Angeles from Vancouver, a division rival in the pacific. Brackett partners up with fellow silver-contract LB, Buddy Blaze. Before Brackett signed on the dotted line, Portland defensive end Gary Marx signed, switching inside to defensive tackle for a contract value of 69.09, good for silver. The slightly undersized Marx is the only defensive tackle currently suiting up for the Lycans.
It has become customary for the London Knights to create tidal waves across the Atlantic during Free Agency in recent seasons, but this season was a little more subdued. Having said that, the Knights did sign four players. JT Dulaney signed as London’s new kicker for Season 18, then legendary tight end Tybeerious Bovine hopped across the pond after departing from Las Vegas. Bovine will be the #1 tight end in London, pairing with Benji Mattson. Later in the day, Chad Roland revealed plans to bring back two former Knights players – Fox Highwind and Jack Russell. Highwind and Russell both brings hefty values with them, the receiver settling into the slot behind Vin Calia and Mike St. Green, Russell becoming the #1 strong safety.
Louisiana created headlines early on in the Free Agency window when they signed a pair of much sought after veterans at pretty hefty contracts. Slinn Shady joins the Revolution from Las Vegas, with one of the most expensive contracts for an outside linebacker at 81.23, whilst running back Colin Hart is one of the select few whom have joined the 100 club, boasting a value of 103.93, #1 when compared to other balanced running backs. Two new faces coming in for a combined value of nearly 190 shows intent from the Revolution front office.
Lone Star Glory
The masters of convincing players to return en mass, it was no surprise to see the Lone Star Glory very inactive in free agency, simply because they didn’t need to be. LSG seem to have rewarded their most loyal and arguably most important players, giving big deals to Ace Fenech, Ike McBride, Greg Soto and Dave Axis. Cornerback Bo Martin Jr also carries a sizeable chunk of value for a cornerback at 84.77. Lone Star’s sole signing was kicker, James Troll. The former Queen City player is a developmental piece with a value of just over 64.
Las Vegas Fury
In contrast with Lone Star, Las Vegas have found themselves in the middle of a forced changing of the guard this off-season with the departure of some prominent players. There are many roster spots to fill, although much of the core of the team still remains intact. The Fury started to retool their roster in Free Agency, firstly by signing free safety and new General Manager, Justin Reside. Reside comes in on a bronze contract to replace Tom Creeg after a short time with the Tulsa Desperados. More recently, the linebacking room was bolstered by the signing of former Jacksonville King, Yakov Zolotov. Zolotov comes in as the sole LB on the roster after Slinn Shady and Eric Davis left for Louisiana and retirement respectively.
Mexico City Aztecs
The Aztecs showed no activity once free agency started and have kept that position throughout the process so far. Despite the lack of activity, there are a few holes to fill in the roster. Sixteen players have returned for another crack at the championship game, meaning seven spots are still there for the taking. Of the players that have returned, Matt Willson and Phoenix Jones retain nice contracts, but the real story is tight end, Mike Daggs. Daggs has been rewarded with a mammoth contract of 109.39, second only on the team to quarterback, Willson. Daggs’ record-breaking value shows how important he is to this Aztecs team.
The Portland Fleet are another team that made enough noise to warrant a place on the ‘Highlights’ article from Tuesday, so nothing will be uttered here that hasn’t already been said. The Fleet signed two defensive stars very close to their prime at sizeable contracts. Vernard Smith IV transfers from Arizona to torment Pacific division QB’s and Brody Gulch becomes the 4th linebacker on the roster after signing from Houston with a value of 81.3, a great value to build on.
Queen City Corsairs
QCC seem to have tried to balance the stratagems of Season’s 16 and 17 this off-season by returning to stars on the offensive line. First up was the signature of Robert Krohn at offensive guard, soon to be partnered with Butch Mennor, another guard on an increasingly talented line. Mennor especially has brought some star power with a nice contract of above 65. Queen City’s third and final signing to date came in the form of former Tulsa safety, Jorge Torres. Torres looks like he will be filling the gap left by Kappa Jones. It’s very much a like for like replacement.
San Diego Mavericks
In what has been a trend for San Diego over the past couple of seasons, player turnover is high, which brings with it the need to be active in the free agent market. San Diego have done just that. They began by signing second season linebacker, Axel Raven, from Sioux Falls, pairing him with Leon Thunderman and Pete Mitchell. San Diego now have the #1 and #2 picks from last season’s draft in their defense. Joining Raven on the defense are Zak Ley and Wolf Justice, both commanding Gold values. Ley in particular comes at an expensive price, bringing a value of 93.55 to the cornerback room. San Diego finished off their business by signing Derek Genco, Bill Cherry as a tight end and Nana Leahy in the eleventh hour.
St. Louis Gladiators
As a team most known for their defense, it is no surprise to see St. Louis add to that side of the ball will tried and tested players. Max Night travels across to the Gladiators from his home in Arizona to be the main force on the D-Line, his Gold contract a sizeable chunk of the budget. Joining Night in STL is David Leathers, who looks to hold the nickel corner position behind Ralgar Lawe and Colin Douglas. One notable omission from the Glad’s roster is Freeman Peltier, the veteran appearing to retire – at least for now.
Sioux Falls Sparrows
Unless something dramatic prior to the draft, Sioux Falls look to be a team that needs to fill the most holes in the SFL. There was no positive activity in Free Agency for the Sparrows (well up to this point at least) and they have lost some players on both sides of the ball. Long-time quarterback Julian Tyree earns the mot value, whilst cornerbacks John Barnhardt and Terrell Davis look like they are the highest paid duo across the entire SFL. I guess the Sparrows have the cap space in hand to afford such values.
The huge contracts afforded to Gabriel Manning (whom it must be noted doesn’t hold the largest contract this season) and Jay Cue potentially limited Tulsa’s options when it came to free agency, however they did manage to pick up one player over the past couple of days. Tight End, Jim Copeland Jr, moves over to the Desperados, joining Jason France in the TE room to seemingly act as more of a blocking player than a receiver. Copeland’s bronze contract meant he was cheap and a developmental get for Tulsa
Before we get into any free agent talks – Vancouver still don’t have a quarterback. It remains to be seen whether this is deliberate and Tom Pepper is not returning, or whether it is a simple case of still getting the contract across the wire. Either way, we have activity in free agency on the Legion’s part to report, including one of the highlights so far – Vancouver signed a kicker. Chance Touwin comes in as, I think, the Legion’s first ever star kicker. He is joined in Vancouver by new players, Caibren Womack and Julian Vallierre, both on the defensive side of the ball. Womack and Valliere are both bronze level players who look like they are slotting in as #2 in their respective positions at defensive end and cornerback.
And that IS IT! Free Agency is still going ahead, however the main rush has subsided and this reporter has typed enough about the on-goings of the SFL FA market this week. Following this article, we will get back to the ‘Talent Factories of the SFL’ series, starting with Madison.