Top takeaways from first two days of NFL free agency

The two day NFL legal tampering period was filled with shocking move after shocking move. From teams massively overpaying for average talent to a couple blockbuster trades, onlookers were thrown for a loop.

Now that the new league year is set to open Wednesday, we look back at what was an extremely active past two days.

Are the Cleveland Browns now AFC favorites after landing star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in a trade? What is the plan for the New York Giants following the OBJ deal? Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers continue to be extremely active.

Here are the 10 biggest takeaways from the first two days of NFL free agency.

Browns are now clear favorites in the AFC North

From zero wins to title contention in the matter of a few years. That’s what Browns general manager John Dorsey has built in Cleveland. Tuesday started off with the Browns adding former Pro Bowl defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson to team up with Myles Garrett up front. Those two are going to be absolute monsters.

Though, it was the shocking blockbuster trade that sent star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to Ohio that sets this team apart in the AFC North. Cleveland gave up just a first and third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft as well as a mediocre young defender. Teaming OBJ up with youngsters Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry makes this offense absolutely legit. And with what we’re seeing in Pittsburgh, Cleveland is now odds-on favorites to win the AFC North. It’s not even that close.

Market inflation leads to massive contracts

Fans and the media in general are paying too much attention to overall contract values in free agency. It’s more about guaranteed money and how said contracts are structured. Even then, we’re seeing a robust market for free agents. It’s not really a surprise given the increase in the NFL’s salary cap — leading to market inflation. Just think about it in basic economic terms. Supply and demand.

Entering the official start of free agency on Wednesday, 11 players have collected pay days of $50-plus million. The likes of C.J. Mosley, Landon Collins, Trent Brown, Kwon Alexander and Ja’Wuan James have reset the market at their specific positions. Expect much of the same as other high-profile free agents come off the board. It’s the NFL’s new normal.

Teddy Bridgewater tells us what he thinks of the Dolphins

Bridgewater had an opportunity to sign with Miami and compete for a starting job as he continues his dramatic climb from a life-threatening leg injury the quarterback suffered back in 2016. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, he didn’t want the next stop in his career to be in South Beach.

Instead, Bridgewater decided to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints and remain Drew Brees’ primary backup. That’s certainly not a good sign for a fledgling Dolphins organization. Now the team must decide whether to keep Ryan Tannehill, find another veteran in a watered-down market or go the draft route. Such is the nature of the beast in quarterback purgatory.

Jaguars’ Nick Foles signing latest example of quarterback issues

It’s not only the Jags that are dealing with quarterback problems and have been for some time. This has been a continuing theme around the NFL over the past two-plus decades. There’s simply a lack of elite-level quarterbacks available. But paying Foles $22 million per season with an overall value of potentially $102 million over four years magnifies these issues even more.

Slated to pick seventh overall in April’s draft, the Jags decided to go with a relatively short-term option rather than selecting a potential franchise-altering quarterback. It should help the team improve off a disastrous 2018 campaign. But does this move really make Jacksonville legit Super Bowl contenders? Short-sighted plan from Tom Coughlin and Co.

New England Patriots win without doing anything

History suggests that the Patriots will sign a couple players once the new league year officially opens Wednesday afternoon. The team rarely gets involved in the NFL’s legal tampering period. Even then, New England won big time by simply remaining inactive over the past two days.

It decided against matching what were ridiculous offers to offensive tackle Trent Brown and pass rusher Trey Flowers. The Oakland Raiders shockingly made Brown the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Meanwhile, Flowers got $90 million over five seasons from Detroit. In turn, the Pats will likely gain two third-round compensatory selections in the 2020 NFL Draft. To make matters even better, the team acquired Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett from Philadelphia for a swap of late-round picks in April. That’s how you get it done.

San Francisco 49ers address major needs

Flush with nearly $70 million in cap room, San Francisco made the second significant signing during the tampering period. The team signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pro Bowl linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract. It was a high price to pay for a linebacker coming off a torn ACL. But the 49ers more than had the money.

After failing to land some of the top free-agent edge defenders, San Francisco swooped in Tuesday evening and picked up Pro Bowler Dee Ford in a trade with Kansas City. Said deal sends only a 2020 second-round pick back to the Chiefs. While the 49ers did ultimately sign Ford to a huge contract, he’s more than worth it. The former first-round pick led all NFL edge rushers in quarterback pressures and forced fumbles last season.

Anthony Barr’s turnabout raises issues with tampering period

The NFL’s legal tampering period is about as absurd as it gets. Within minutes of it opening, the Raiders had already reportedly inked Trent Brown to a massive deal. You can’t really tell us that this came together within the first eight minutes of the tampering period opening.

Later on Monday, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr backed out of a lucrative deal with the New York Jets — only to see him return to the Vikings. What seemed like a good decision from Barr set the Jets back in their attempt to improve a talent-stricken roster. It’s now high time the NFL simply does away with legal tampering and let the moves become official.

Green Bay Packers continue to be active in free agency

We all pretty much new that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst would be active in free agency. His first offseason in that role last year proved this to a T. It’s a complete change of philosophy for Green Bay after former general manager Ted Thompson largely avoided free agency.

Like clockwork, Gutekunst  dug deep into the defensive market on Tuesday. He added top-end edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith on team-friendly deals — averaging a combined $29 million against the cap. The two defenders are both 26 years old. They upgrade Green Bay’s pass rush in a big way. The Packers then swiped in and stole play-making safety Adrian Amos away from the division rival Chicago Bears. Yeah, Tuesday was a good day in Wisconsin.

Oakland Raiders active with mixed results

As we opined on Monday, Oakland’s record-setting deal with offensive tackle Trent Brown seemed to be a panic move and a massive overpay. It was just this time last year that Brown was jettisoned from San Francisco in a trade with the New England Patriots. Said deal involved a mere swap of mid-round picks. We’re not sold on Brown being the answer at left tackle in front of Derek Carr.

Fortunately for Raiders fans, it does look like the other moves they made were solid. It obviously starts with sending two mid-round picks to the Pittsburgh Steelers for seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown. He’s going to be an absolute boon for Carr. Monday evening also saw Oakland add former Los Angeles Rams free safety Lamarcus Joyner to the mix on a team-friendly deal. Joyner is a true center fielder from the single-high slot and is a massive upgrade. Not too shabby, Mr. Jon Gruden.

What in the world, Giants?

These New York Giants are now officially the worst-run organization in the NFL. How can general manager David Gettleman justify sending stud receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns for a first and third-round pick as well as an average young defender? How does this make the Giants better? What an absolutely atrocious trade.

But it’s not like the Giants were well run in the first place. By virtue of moving OBJ and Olivier Vernon in separate deals with the Browns, New York is paying a combined $24 million in dead cap space. It that wasn’t bad enough, the team appears to be stuck with Eli Manning as its starter for another season. Ouch!