The new NFL league year is officially here and while it feels a little different in 2020 with teams needing to make unusual announcements due to a coronavirus-inspired policy, we still saw plenty of action on Wednesday. While many of the big names came off the market on Monday and Tuesday, NFL teams made a flurry of moves to kick off the league year.
The Chicago Bears backed Mitchell Trubisky publicly heading into the offseason, but their real feelings became evident after pulling off a trade that put Trubisky on notice. It wasn’t the only blockbuster deal we saw on Wednesday with a five-time Pro Bowler traded away for a seventh-round pick.
Of course, there were plenty of free-agent additions as well. It proved to be quite the fruitful day on the defensive side with a plethora of multi-year deals and big signing bonuses given out to playmakers on that side of the line.
Here are the best and worst moves by NFL teams from the first day of the league’s new year.
Best: Chargers build unbeatable secondary with Chris Harris Jr. addition
The Chargers already boasted an exciting duo at cornerback with Casey Hayward and Desmond King. That wasn’t enough for them, so they went out and signed Harris Jr. to a two-year, $20 million deal. While the 30-year-old cornerback has taken a slight step back with age, he remains an outstanding force in coverage.
When opposing teams send their offense out on to the field, they will be in serious trouble. The Chargers now boast a trio of cornerbacks who can erase three receivers, completely neutralizing them for the opposing quarterback. Meanwhile, All-Pro safety Derwin James will be healthy next season and free to make plays. We haven’t even mentioned the duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram creating havoc on the edge. Best of luck to quarterbacks facing this team in 2020. It’s going to be nearly impossible to put up big numbers against them.
Worst: Bears waste their chips on Nick Foles
In an offseason with Cam Newton available, the Bears opted to take a bigger gamble with Foles. Everyone remembers his magical run to become a Super Bowl MVP. He has also tied for the NFL’s single-game record in touchdowns (seven) and consecutive completions (25). But there have also been long stretches in his career where he looks like he belongs on the bench, a decision that multiple teams seemed to find out.
The Bears got a quarterback who will challenge Trubisky and could beat him, but it’s not enough of an upgrade to where it feels like this team can instantly win the NFC North. Chicago also agreed to take on a contract that no one in the NFL wanted. While the Bears did restructure his deal, Foles is still owed $21 million guaranteed. The Bears should have received a fourth-round pick for taking this contract, not given one up.
Best: Cowboys bolster defensive line with Gerald McCoy
Dallas kept Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott this offseason, but it also lost plenty of its talent on the defensive side. It started to feel like the front office would ignore the importance of filling the holes on their defense, but they came through with a surprise in the first hour of Wednesday morning.
McCoy is no longer the Pro Bowl star who dominated in the trenches for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s now 32 and age has taken away some of his burst and athleticism. He still knows how to make an impact, though, demonstrated by 13 quarterback hits and five sacks this past season. He can be moved around on the defensive line and will provide some desperately needed interior pressure for this defense, all at an affordable cost.
Worst: Raiders make another baffling move
The Raiders wanted to spend big money to land a top cornerback this offseason. They struck out on Byron Jones and seemingly watched as Chris Harris Jr. joined a division rival. Instead of landing a top corner, Las Vegas will be welcoming Eli Apple to its secondary this season.
It’s hard to understand what the Raiders see in the 24-year-old cornerback. He’s a top-10 bust from the 2016 NFL Draft who two teams have now moved on from. This is a team that badly needs help covering receivers and that’s one thing Apple struggles to do. The Raiders have made some nice moves in free agency, but this their second move that seems questionable, at best.
Best: Broncos take advantage of desperate Titans
The Titans came into the offseason determined to keep Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. They accomplished both of their goals. Because of their limited cap space, though, tough decisions needed to be made and that meant trading Jurrell Casey. John Elway saw an opportunity and came away with an absolute steal, landing an outstanding defensive lineman for a seventh-round pick.
Casey recorded five sacks in 2019 and has put up five-plus sacks in each of his past seven seasons. The veteran defensive lineman also brings versatility and stability to a defense that needs it. Casey is going to be an incredible force on the interior defensive line for Denver, making life even easier for Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Moves like this are making the Broncos a sleeper team in 2020.
Worst: Rams make weird history with surprising deal
The decision to bring Andrew Whitworth back isn’t surprising. The 38-year-old remains a reliable left tackle and his leadership in the locker room is incredibly valuable. It’s the decision to give him a three-year, $30 million deal, the highest-paying contract ever for a non-quarterback over the age of 35, that seems baffling. Whitworth wanted to return to the Rams, so the team was only bidding with itself to sign him. It’s also a significant chunk of change for a team that can’t make many moves because they are in a horrific cap situation.
Best: Saints improve secondary, reunite with Malcolm Jenkins
Sean Payton said in 2019 that one of the team’s biggest mistakes during his tenure was letting Malcolm Jenkins depart via free agency in 2014. While it took a few years to correct, the Saints fixed their mistake on Wednesday and welcomed Jenkins back.
The 32-year-old safety brings incredible versatility. He covers tight ends. He can be sent on the blitz and he can roam deep and make plays. While he might not be quite the playmaker he used to be, Jenkins makes up for that with his leadership and instincts. The Saints are determined to win a Super Bowl next season and Jenkins is the player who could help them do it.