Written By Josh Farnsworth
Images By Frank ‘The Franchise’ Wade
The Read Option
Top 5 under-the-radar free agent signings
As the landscape of the SFL settles in for its Season 19 beginnings, a look back on the offseason shows one of the most action-packed handful of weeks in league history. And we should have all known it was coming. Four expansion teams filled with promise and empty roster spots for players to try and build something from the ground floor up, a new start in Motor City to revamp an SFL brand, plus several personnel retirements/coaching changes/etc. all worked to fuel the offseason chaos. With free agency came a slew of big time names changing uniforms. While many grabbed headlines and talking points on some of the content shows, there were a few storylines of players in new locations that quietly seem like moves that will have a tremendous impact on their new teams’ success. For my money, here are five free agent moves (in random, no particular order) we need to be talking about more…
1. Vernard Patterson/DT/Mexico City Aztecs from Portland Fleet
It’s hard to think of someone who stands at 6’6 and 330lbs as “hard to be seen”, but Patterson’s move is no small feat. The former #2 overall pick and defensive stalwart is headed south of the border to an already-talented Aztec squad. Patterson is disruptive up the middle and typically requires two blockers to contain him long enough. What caught my eye about this move is the fact that Patterson will now team up with three-time all-star DL Dan Tritz to form perhaps the most stout defensive interior in all of the SFL. While DLs don’t always get the stats of other positions, this tandem seems primed to allow the rest of the Mexico City defense to make plays.
2. Rickey Thornton/SS/Charleston Predators from Tulsa Desperados
Maybe it’s my defensive bias, but when this acquisition came across the wire, I immediately looked for a reaction. There was certainly some, but for a player I consider working himself into an elite defensive back, I expected more. So, allow me to do the reacting. Thornton is coming off a superb season in Tulsa. He posted a career high in total tackles (110 – fifth amongst safeties), pass deflections (10) and interceptions (8). Thornton seems to be hitting the prime of his career. Good job by the Predators to reel him in as one of the biggest catches of the entire offseason to bolster their secondary.
3. Conner Darian/CB/Canton Classics from Jacksonville Kings
Conner the Corner. Let that nickname breathe a bit. I think it may catch on. Not unlike how Darian caught 11 interceptions last season for Jacksonville – putting him amongst the league leaders in the category. He has been a consistent performer these last couple of seasons and was often tasked with shutting down elite SFL receivers, which he excelled at to help the Kings reach the playoffs in Season 19. Now with a fresh start in Canton’s inaugural campaign, Darian will need to continue to answer the bell and help make plays for the budding expansion team. His name is not always on the marquee, but his play suggests it should be.
4. Kyle Finamore/WR/Atlanta Swarm from Houston Headhunters
Lost on a Fort Worth team that had a down season was a sneaky good campaign by a WR who stood opposite D.R. Sim. Kyle Finamore did very well to acclimate himself and become incredibly consistent in his first three SFL seasons. The result through three seasons? 163 catches, 2,542 yards and 16 TDs while playing on the same team that has perhaps the greatest all-time receiver lined up on the opposite side of the line. Well done, Kyle. On to Atlanta, who now has Finamore to help their passing game reach the next level.
5. Randy Fat III/OT/Portland Fleet from Denver Nightwings
In the SFL, Top 10 picks move around often. Of the top 10 selections in the Season 18 draft, only half remained with the team that selected them. The top offensive lineman from that draft was Randy Fat (sixth overall by Denver). Fat played a key role in helping keep Nightwing quarterback Eric Price upright so he could improve last season. In an otherwise quiet offseason for the Fleet, do not underestimate this signing, as Portland looks to improve on a team that allowed 24 sacks despite a modest amount of passing attempts to help their rookie QB develop.