Although Pro Bowl players such as Ndamukong Suh, DeMarco Murray and Darrelle Revis commanded a lot of the headlines in free agency, one NFL Network analyst thinks a former Raven might have been one of the best free agency signings of all.
NFL Network's Michael Robinson tabbed linebacker Pernell McPhee as "the steal of free agency this year" after he left the Ravens and signed a five-year, roughly $39 million deal with the Bears.
“You talk about what (Bears defensive coordinator) Vic Fangio can do with this guy,” Robinson said. "In nickel situations when they have three down linemen, this guy walks around in the box. He confuses running backs. He confuses offensive linemen.
“Vic Fangio will find the mismatches he needs to make this guy a Pro Bowl player this year.”
McPhee finished the 2014 season with 27 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks for the Ravens, seeing action all over the Ravens front seven. He also had four tackles and a half-sack in the postseason.
His versatility and ability to play along the line of scrimmage and as an edge rusher added to his value, and he joined a long line of players who developed with the Ravens and then cashed in big on free agency elsewhere.
The Ravens certainly would have liked to keep McPhee, but they were resigned all winter to the fact that he would fetch more on the open market than the cash-strapped Ravens could pay. He signed with the Bears shortly after free agency opened. McPhee was primarily a pass-rush specialist with the Ravens, playing roughly half the defensive snaps last season, and it will be interesting to see if he becomes more of a three-down player for the Bears.
A former fifth-round, compensatory draft pick out of Mississippi State, McPhee totaled 92 tackles and 17 sacks in four years with the Ravens.
The Ravens sought to help fill the void left by McPhee by drafting Kentucky linebacker Za'Darius Smith.