For every amazing deal that occurs during the NFL free agency frenzy, you can be sure to find one that won’t bear good fruit. This year, there were also some blockbuster trades that left one of the two teams in bad shape.
The first days of the new league year brought plenty of excitement, to be sure. Yet some teams and players will live to regret the events that unfolded.
These were the biggest losers from the first week of NFL free agency.
Saquon Barkley is all alone
It’s not hard to understand why New York Giants fans are so upset after watching Odell Beckham Jr. get shipped off to Cleveland. He’s not only one of the best receivers in the league, but he’s one of the best players the Giants have ever had at the position.
Even worse, now that he’s gone second-year star running back Saquon Barkley is pretty much all alone as the only star player on offense. And as we detailed here, he’s in danger of having the best years of his career wasted in New York.
Indy did almost nothing
The Indianapolis Colts entered free agency with a league-high $101 million in cap space. It’s understandable that general manager Chris Ballard didn’t want to make any foolish moves just because he had cash to burn. Especially because this year’s free agency class did have plenty of inflated contracts.
Yet what Indy didn’t do this first week is pretty glaring.
The first “big” move the Colts made was giving receiver Devin Funchess a one-year deal. The next thing they did occurred two days later, which was re-signing cornerback Pierre Desir. Neither of these deals really tips the scales for the Colts. Ballard should have been more willing to get into the market for at least one or two big-name players.
Jaguars banking on fool’s gold
It’s been days since the Jacksonville Jaguars and Nick Foles agreed to a deal that gives him more than $50 million guaranteed. I’m still shaking my head. I still cannot believe the Jags did that, and that they did it because they reportedly thought bidding against themselves and giving him that pile of cash would help Foles have credibility in the locker room.
Is Foles the best free agent in this year’s class? Yes. Absolutely he is. Is the coming 2019 NFL Draft risky at this position? Surely. Yet the Jaguars would have been smarter to take that risk, rather than overpaying for a quarterback who has had magical moments in the league but who has also been pretty darn mediocre at times.
Bungling Bengals still clueless
First, we’ll touch on something that might be positive for Cincinnati. The Bengals did retain linebacker Preston Brown, who was good in the four years he spent with Buffalo. Last year, however, he struggled before ultimately suffering a season-ending injury. So, the jury is out on that deal. Yet outside of Brown, Cincinnati’s first steps into the new league year were not graceful.
The Bengals re-signed tight end C.J. Uzomah, giving him a three-year, $18 million deal. Uzomah is a below-average tight end who isn’t productive in the pass game. Yet that bad deal pales in comparison to the Bengals giving offensive tackle Bobby Hart — literally one of the worst in the NFL — a three-year $16.15 million deal.
Bucs struggle to replace stars
There was talk about Tampa Bay potentially getting in on the likes of Le’Veon Bell this offseason. Obviously that did not occur. What’s worse for the Bucs is that they ended up losing DeSean Jackson, who forced his way out of town, and were not able to retain star linebacker Kwon Alexander.
After watching those two top players leave, Tampa Bay did make some moves in free agency. Yet signing Deone Bucannon to replace Alexander and Breshad Perriman to replace Jackson are moves that will ultimately fail to make up for the losses.
Jets got Josh McDaniel’d by Anthony Barr
The New York Jets thought they had landed two of the top defenders in free agency this year. They first agreed to terms with linebacker C.J. Mosley, who got paid big time. Then they were reported as having an agreement with Anthony Barr, which would have given that front seven an incredible boost.
Unfortunately, less than a day later Barr spurned the Jets and decided to re-sign with Minnesota, taking less money in the process. Familiarity is important, to a certain degree. Yet it’s impossible not to see this as a setback for a Jets organization that is trying to establish itself as a go-to destination.
Houston fails to land protection for Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times last year — the NFL’s first 60-plus-sack season since 2006. Let that sink in for a moment.
Now realize that Houston hasn’t done a darn thing so far to bolster its offensive line. Granted, the NFL free agency market wasn’t flooded with top talent. But some of the guys Houston had starting up front last year are much worse than players the Texans could have signed.
Worse still, Houston isn’t pressed for cap space, ranking near the top among all NFL teams.
Steelers forced to rid themselves of AB for pennies on the dollar
Barring the bad blood between Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the franchise could have landed a king’s ransom in a trade for the league’s best receiver. Obviously, that bad blood was part of the equation this offseason. And in the end, the Steelers had to let Brown go in a trade with the Oakland Raiders that was so lopsided in terms of talent-to-value that EA Sports’ “Madden 19” wouldn’t even accept the trade.
Obviously, Pittsburgh also said goodbye to Le’Veon Bell this year for good. Now the Steelers are going to see if those guys really were the problem, or if perhaps the blame lies more squarely on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin. Regardless, letting Brown walk away, with a raise to boot and for pennies on the dollar, was brutal.
Dave Gettleman is ruining the Giants
As we mentioned earlier, the Giants head into the draft bereft of offensive talent outside of Saquon Barkley. And in today’s NFL, you cannot succeed if your entire offense revolves around a running back, no matter how electric and talented that back might be.
Yet what’s even more troubling is that the Giants’ haul for Odell Beckham Jr. was shockingly underwhelming. Especially when you consider they didn’t have to trade the still-young receiver, who happens to be one of the best the league has to offer. Then, almost as a visceral reaction to that, Gettleman gave former first-round bust Corey Coleman an original-round tender as a restricted agent. In what universe would that need to happen in order to keep a player who has failed at every turn?
After seeing what Landon Collins got in free agency from Washington, we’ll give Gettleman a tip of the cap for letting the safety walk. But outside of that, all he’s done is put Big Blue in a gigantic tailspin heading into 2019.