Weekly Five – NFL Free Agency Frenzy
After a week off among the craziness of the world and of course, free agency, I’m back with a special edition of the Weekly Five! This time, I’ll be going through not five, but TEN of my favorite talking points from this wild period of player movement in the NFL.
1. TB to TB
As if 2020 wasn’t already weird enough, Tom Brady is now… a Buccaneer? I am on record saying I didn’t think Brady would be on the way out, but of all the potential landing spots, Tampa was perhaps the fit I liked the most. We aren’t sure how he will continue to regress, but with Bruce Arians at the helm and a host of weapons at his disposal, he’s sure set up to continue succeeding.
The defense will be under pressure to take the next step, but bringing back Shaq Barrett and JPP to a stout front seven with Vita Vea, Lavonte David, and Devin White makes it a formidable unit. The likes of Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting will be expected to build upon their flashes in year one. If the Bucs can reinforce their offensive line and add to their depth defensively through the draft, TB12 could be bringing a ring back to TB.
2. Nuk/DJ Swap
WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE BILL? Sorry, I’ll try and keep this as professional as possible. While it’s fun to compare this move to others involving top-end wideouts, it’s important to look at the context on its own here. From what we understand, DeAndre Hopkins had largely fallen out of favor with Bill O’Brien. Whether that was due to money or personal gripes, we may never know. But Bill had no leverage in making this deal to ship his star WR out of town.
Steve Keim jumped on this, sending his aged, overvalued running back David Johnson and a mere second round pick to Houston. While Kyler Murray has as good a weapon as a second year QB can have, Houston is set up to be BAD within just a couple years. There is almost no draft capital left from this, the Tunsil trade, and other moves, and no sense of direction with the head coach also serving as GM. You can rule out CeeDee Lamb or another wideout at 8 for the Cards, and they’ve got tremendous flexibility moving forward.
3. Diggs to Buffalo
Again, I’ll be looking at this deal in its own realm. The writing was on the wall for Stefon Diggs, and Minnesota was able to recoup a first round pick as well as several mid rounders in shipping him off to Buffalo. The Bills now have three of the better separators at the position in Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley. Josh Allen now has all the help he needs, and there are no more excuses heading into year three. Crazy that we’re talking about Buffalo as the likely AFC East favorites in the offseason, by the way.
As for the Vikings, there is now a competition for the WR2 spot, led by Bisi Johnson. Expect them to hit receiver early and take advantage of their extra picks to fill out their depth and maximize Kirk Cousins’ new extension. Hopefully Diggs keeps his head on straight for Bills Mafia, because this could be fun.
4. Buckner to Indy
Chris Ballard continues to be one of my favorite GMs in the business. With Philip Rivers now in town, it’s time to go all in with this talented roster that just got richer. Moving a top-15 pick in a straight swap shows your confidence that a player will help push your team over the hump, and DeForest Buckner is a perfect fit. He’ll generate plenty of interior pressure and now gives Indy a stud at all three levels down the spine of the defense (Leonard and Hooker). Indy are pros at moving around the draft, so they’ll be able to make it work not having a 1.
As for San Fran, they had to make a decision with the defensive line. It’s a big testament to their belief in Arik Armstead after his huge 2019. Now that he’s been awarded an extension, he’ll be asked to be the focal point up front. The Niners now have picks 13 and 31 before a long wait until the fifth round, so look for potential moves down and targets at d-line and wide receiver.
5. More QB Movement
It’s Teddy Two Gloves time in Carolina! With Cam Newton being pushed out the door, Teddy Bridgewater finally has his chance at another starting job. Teddy is a good quarterback… but for the Panthers’ situation, is he too good? He is familiar with Joe Brady and an ideal fit for his system, but with McCaffrey, Moore, Samuel, and now Robby Anderson, Carolina could see themselves out of contention to grab the face of the franchise in 2021.
As I alluded to earlier, Philip Rivers is a Colt, which means it’s all in for Indy, and if he can limit the turnovers, they could be in business this year. Mitch Trubisky finally has some competition and it’s… Nick Foles? I get the leadership presence and the system fit, but giving up draft capital to take on Foles’ contract wasn’t the most practical decision, given other options (ahem, Cam Newton). However, I do expect that this will be Foles’ job by Week 1.
6. Miami Making Moves
This Dolphins rebuild is fascinating, and the bold moves of Chris Grier and Brian Flores during free agency are just another piece of that. Resetting the cornerback market by bringing in Byron Jones now gives the Phins two shutdown corners between he and Xavien Howard. Kyle Van Noy is one of Flores’ guys from New England, so he’ll no doubt be a productive and versatile piece on defense. Shaq Lawson comes from Buffalo as an edge defender who is best as a run stopper on the edge and pass rusher through the B gap, making him a great fit for Flores as well. Emmanuel Ogbah provides more edge depth.
I don’t love the Ereck Flowers signing at all (another 3 for $30 mil signing), but he wasn’t completely terrible at guard for Washington. I can’t wait to see how Miami fares in the draft, as the speculation continues. For right now, they’re right on schedule.
7. Elway’s Aggression
As a Denver Broncos fan I’ve seen the best and worst of John Elway as a GM, which is why I wanted to mention his 2020 offseason here. First of all, losing Chris Harris does hurt, but was expected… but his signs of regression and increased contract demands soften the blow. Elway countered that by acquiring former Jaguar AJ Bouye for a fourth round pick. Picking up veterans for mid round picks remains a cheat code, and Bouye is a solid stopgap.
Speaking of cheap trades for vets… a seventh round pick for Jurrell Casey is absolutely massive. He fills an interior need and gives Fangio yet another weapon up front. Graham Glasgow is a solid upgrade and will likely play center for Mike Munchak’s offensive line, and the Melvin Gordon deal is more team-friendly than I would have expected, so we’ll see an exciting one-two punch with Philip Lindsay. If the Broncos stay healthy, this could be the start of the push back to relevance.
8. Best and Worst (Offense)
For these next two, I’ll just list off three each of my favorite and least favorite signings that I haven’t mentioned on both sides of the ball, factoring in age, money, and team fit.
WR Emmanuel Sanders to New Orleans (2 years, $16 million): I love the fit in this offense, he’s still got juice and will be a good complement to Michael Thomas.
OT Jack Conklin to Cleveland (3 years, $42 million): Cleveland finally gains some protection for Baker, but they still need another tackle.
RB Todd Gurley to Atlanta (1 year, $6 million): This is a team friendly deal that keeps this a prolific offense.
TE Austin Hooper to Cleveland (4 years, $42 million): I thought this was a super rich contract for a decent player. What does this mean for David Njoku?
OT Andrew Whitworth stays with LA Rams (3 years, $30 million): A multi-year deal for an aging tackle… they need a stopgap, but this is far from ideal.
OT Hal Vaitai to Detroit (5 years, $50 million): Seems incredibly rich for someone who was in and out of the lineup in Philly, but positional value=inflation.
9. Best and Worst (Defense)
LB Cory Littleton to Vegas (3 years, $36 million). I’ve always been a fan of Littleton’s ability in coverage and on special teams, something needed in Vegas.
IDL Javon Hargrave to Philadelphia (3 years, $39 million). Hargrave has developed as a pass rusher… will be scary next to Fletcher Cox.
IDL DJ Reader to Cincinnati (4 years, $53 million). This is a huge contract, but it should be worth it for one of the best run stuffers in the league.
LB Blake Martinez to NY Giants (3 years, $30 million). Martinez is a tackling machine that does nothing else at a high level… NYG woes continue at LB.
CB Trae Waynes to Cincinnati (3 years, $42 million). Seems like a HUGE yearly bill for an up and down player in Waynes… desperation move?
EDGE Robert Quinn to Chicago (5 years, $70 million). Quinn could be good in Chicago, but this is a huge risk for a veteran who only just put it together.
10. Where Will Cam and Jameis Land?
This one will be short, since it’s subject to change overnight. Cam Newton and Jameis Winston are both unsigned in a dwindling QB market. New England is likely the only job available, but will Bill go for the oft-injured Cam or oft-intercepted Jameis? We may have to accept the reality that one – if not both – of these polarizing figures could be backups next year. Seeing one of them in New England colors would certainly be weird, anyway.