The new NFL league year officially began at 4:00 pm EST on March 13, meaning that the Draft and new season is inching ever so closer. But first thing’s first: It is currently the peak of free agency, the wonderful game of chance where teams either fold their bets or go all-in for the pursuit of a Super Bowl. For better or for worse, NFL general managers made some franchise-altering decisions in the past year. Let’s take a closer look at a few of them.
Following his magical run to Super Bowl LII in 2018 and his late-season success as the Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller in 2019, Nick Foles finally has the chance lead his own team after signing a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After barely falling to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game in 2017, the Jags regressed to a 5-11 record, the last straw for previous starting quarterback Blake Bortles. Even with a horrible 2015 season on his resume, Foles still sports a career record of 26-18 and also has a Pro Bowl selection to his name in 2013. With an elite defense and a power running game, the Jags believe they have the pieces to replicate Foles’ success in Philly.
The new league year was not kind to Pittsburgh Steelers fans, as two of the three infamous “Killer B’s” are no longer a part of the team. Superstar wideout Antonio Brown was traded away to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a 3rd and a 5th round draft pick. Although the compensation leaves much to be desired, the situation between Brown and the remaining
“Killer B” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was irreconcilable.
Also, the Le’Veon Bell (the final “Killer B”) franchise tag saga finally came to a close this offseason. The running back signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the New York Jets, leaving the Steeler with only a compensatory 3rd round pick in the draft to show for it. Losing two top-five players at their position in one offseason is never a good thing, especially with the compensation as the Steelers received. However, both JuJu Smith Schuster and James Conner are promising young players and Mike Tomlin remains one of the finest coaches in the game. Expect the Steelers to bounce back in the next few years.
As for the Raiders, the addition of Brown suddenly casts a shinier light on the decision to trade Amari Cooper to the Cowboys in exchange for a first round pick. Although Cooper is younger, Brown is clearly the superior player and the team gained a first round pick in the process.
After years of speculation, the New York Giants traded star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pass rusher Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for safety Jabrill Peppers, Guard Kevin Zeitler and two draft picks. This deal is a homerun for the Browns who suddenly boast one of the most fearsome offensive units in the NFL with Baker Mayfield at quarterback, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb at running back and former-LSU teammates Jarvis Landry and Beckham at receiver. Players as talented and young as Beckham do not become available often and the Browns acted quickly enough to snag the wideout. Cleveland now emerges as the early favorites to win the AFC North merely two years after their infamous winless season.
As for the Giants, the trade signals that they are waving the white flag and beginning a full-on rebuild around running back SaQuon Barkley. Peppers is a promising young safety and Zeitler is one of the better players at his position. However, the team’s plans at quarterback remain unclear. Eli Manning is aging and playing under the final year of his deal, and the Giants do not have imminent successor. Due to the excess of the draft picks that the team now has, they are a likely candidate to move up in the draft and select either Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins.