One of the most entertaining NFL free agency periods just ended, and there are still plenty of names out there that will be signed in the coming months. It had everything that you could ever want; big-name players being shipped off to other teams, quarterbacks on the move, and truly puzzling decisions made by general managers, we’re looking at you, Bill O’Brien. With the moves and chaos, especially in the non-NFL world right now, it’s important to take a step back and really evaluate the winners and losers of free agency.
New England Patriots:
This is not a drill! I repeat, this is not a drill!
It finally seems like the Pats chokehold on the AFC, and even the NFL has ended this year. The Pats lost a home playoff game for the first time since a 2013 loss to the Super Bowl XLVII champion Raven squad. This loss did not hold as much weight, as they lost to the 9-7 Tennessee Titans, led by Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. Adding insult to injury, the Patriots also lost Quarterback Tom Brady, who many are calling the Greatest of All-Time; along with Linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, Defensive lineman Danny Shelton, and Safety Duron Harmon. The Patriot dynasty has finally come to an end, and it only took twenty years. Then again, Belichick will sign Cam Newton or trade for Derek Carr, or maybe even draft a guy like Jake Fromm from the University of Georgia and start this whole clock over again.
The Houston Texans
The first mistake the Texans made was hiring Bill O’Brien as head coach, as he is, in a word, average. He is 52-44 in the regular season and 2-4 in the playoffs. He is good enough to win regular-season games, but can’t quite hack it in the postseason. The Texans second mistake was giving the average coach more power. Bill O’Brien is also the General Manager of the Texans, meaning he has full control of the roster. O’Brien made the stunning decision to trade one of the top three wide receivers in the whole league, DeAndre Hopkins, to the Arizona Cardinals for halfback David Johnson, a 2nd and a 4th round pick. A storyline that needs to be addressed is that he made this trade to free up cap space; this is simply false. If it was true, it would make sense, as signal-caller Deshaun Watson is set to make around $200 million dollars in one of the next two off-seasons. However, Hopkin’s cap hit is $12 million dollars for the 2020 season, and Johnson’s is $10.5 million. Trading away your QB’s number one option for $1.5 million dollars definitely does not feel like the right move here. This is especially true due to two factors: the first being that O’Brian failed to get a 1st round pick for Nuke. Odell Beckham, Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs were all traded for 1st round picks, Nuke is better than all of them yet O’Brian failed to get a 1st round pick. Second, you still need Deshaun Watson to sign that extension. Trading Nuke away is not how you get that done.
The NFL continues down the path of using running backs and then discarding them. Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry quite literally put his team on his shoulders and ran them to the AFC title game. He dominated the end of the season, which is the main reason the Titans finished 7-3, including two wins in the postseason. Henry went on to get franchise tagged, while Tannehill got the long term extension that Henry deserved. The situation gets worse when former Rams running back Todd Gurley was cut this offseason, only two years removed from signing a massive extension with the Rams. The Rams ate more than seventeen million in dead cap to Gurley. Backs coming up the pipeline like Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey, and Saquan Barkley, may or may not get their money.
Are you done being shocked? Can you pick your jaw up off the ground and proceed with the article? Okay, let’s think logically for a second. Brady is leaving the most successful team of the century for the Bucs. The 42-year-old leaves the easiest division in football and goes to one of the hardest. The Saints have the best record in all of football over the last three seasons, at 37-11. The Falcons are always poised to upset a team because they have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, and added Gurley. Also, Matt Ryan isn’t spectacular, but he is consistent. The Panthers will improve with Teddy Bridgewater at QB. Brady will actually have to play meaningful divisional games for once. Something that no one mentions is the fact the Patriots had a Super Bowl drought from 2004 to 2014. During this time, the Patriots went to the Super Bowl and lost twice. And were one and done twice. The reason? The New York Jets were legitimate contenders from 2006 to 2010, including two trips to the Conference finals. The Saints are much better than the Jets. Not to mention the 49ers, Seahawks, Cowboys, Eagles, Packers, and Cardinals who all look poised to compete for playoff spots this year. Brady no longer has a cakewalk to the playoffs, or even the Super Bowl like most years in New England.
Murray is one of the biggest winners of this free agency period. Murray not only gains a top-three receiver to add to a growing list of weapons out in Arizona; he also knows he has the full support of the front office, as if he didn’t know that. Murray was selected first overall in last year’s draft, and the Cards traded the tenth pick in last year’s draft, Josh Rosen, to Miami. The Cardinals were desperate for a number one receiver to replace the 36-year-old Larry Fitzgerald, who is returning for his 18th season this year. After this trade, the Cards won’t have to use a pick on a receiver, they instead can take an offensive lineman so Murray isn’t sacked a league-worst 48 times again this year.
Stefon Diggs clearly wanted to be anywhere in the world that wasn’t playing football for the Vikings. Whether it was his antics on the sidelines when he wasn’t getting the ball, or his cryptic tweets and Instagram likes seemingly every other day, Diggs clearly did not want to be playing for the Vikings. When a player so clearly wants nothing to do with an organization, trading that player yields positive results for the locker room. The first-round pick doesn’t hurt either.
Las Vegas Raiders
That’s gonna take some getting used to, the Las Vegas Raiders. Anyway, the Raiders had a plan this off-season to rebuild the defense from the ground up, as they brought in Defensive Tackle Maliek Collins from the Cowboys, and then OLB Nick Kwiatkoski from Chicago, MLB Cory Littleton from the Rams, DE Carl Nassib, DB Jeff Heath and CB Eli Apple. The defense has been improved in just about every category. On offense, Marcus Mariota was signed; this deal is kind of an ego move by Gruden. Gruden believes that he can make Mariota work in his system, and thus a Derek Carr trade seems inevitable. Vegas also brought in Jason Witten to help bring Darren Waller along.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Congratulations Tampa. you’re relevant again! For the first time in years, people are talking about you for something that isn’t Jameis Winston throwing 30 interceptions! That is really all that it boils down to for Tampa, they get to put Tom Brady on billboards and on the tickets. Whether this deal is successful for Tampa Bay or not, they get to be in the spotlight this season.