The past several days around the NFL has shaken up the league big time. We’ve seen some of the game’s biggest-named players switch teams at a rather crazy clip.
This has left the New England Patriots on the verge of complete irrelevance after Tom Brady departed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Meanwhile, Tampa now has to be seen as a legit Super Bowl contender.
On the other side of the ledger, the Houston Texans were shafted big time by the Arizona Cardinals in the now-infamous DeAndre Hopkins trade. Head coach Bill O’Brien and Co. have regressed.
These are among the biggest winners and losers from the NFL offseason.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
The acquisition of star wide receiver Stefon Diggs in a blockbuster trade can’t be overstated. The multiple time 1,000-yard receiver will strengthen a Bills skill-position group already headed by wide receiver John Brown and running back Devin Singletary. Already an elite force on the defensive side of the ball, this move will generate even more success for young quarterback Josh Allen and Co. on offense.
Defensively, Buffalo did well to add to its front seven by signing defensive linemen Mario Addison, Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler. While under the radar, moves of that ilk will help the Bills’ defense improve after a tremendous 2019 season under head coach Sean McDermott.
Loser: Los Angeles Rams
We previously focused on all the departures for the Rams this offseason. Losing the likes of All-Pro running back Todd Gurley as well as defenders Michael Brockers, Cory Littleton and Clay Matthews won’t help matters. Safety Eric Weddle’s decision to retire adds even more fuel to the fire here.
Los Angeles was already struggling to keep pace with the defending conference champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. Now with an overpaid Jared Goff leading the charge, these Rams might have now fallen behind both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. That’s the harsh reality for a team that ignored the salary cap while sending off multiple valuable draft picks for overrated players.
Winner: Defensive linemen
The Chicago Bears’ decision to sign 29-year-old Robert Quinn to a five-year, $70 million contract threw a lot of people for a loop. Sure Quinn put up 11.5 sacks for the Dallas Cowboys last season, but he’s years removed from being a Pro Bowl-caliber player. It was just a sign of things to come for defensive linemen in free agency.
Nose tackles D.J. Reader and Javon Hargrave got big-ticket deals with new teams. Reader inked an absurd four-year, $53 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals while Hargrave got $39 million over three seasons from the Philadelphia Eagles. The two combined for 6.5 sacks last season. It just goes to show us that teams are valuing run-stuffing defensive tackles at a near all-time high clip. That’s good news for these guys.
Loser: Jacksonville Jaguars
Just a few years removed from an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, the current iteration of these Jacksonville Jaguars is nearly unrecognizable. Jacksonville dealt away big-name players in that of quarterback Nick Foles, defensive lineman Calais Campbell and Pro Bowl cornerback A.J. Bouye.
The Jags then decided to dole out a ridiculous sum of cash to average linebacker Joe Schobert for some reason. Despite Gardner Minshew giving this squad some hope, the Jags are closer to last place than the top of the AFC South. Thus far this offseason, the team has done nothing to dispel that notion.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
The acquisition of star receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans in a lopsided trade earlier this week shocked the NFL world. One of the game’s most-dynamic receiving threats, the 27-year-old Hopkins has put up 1,000-plus yards in five of the past six seasons and is averaging nearly 1,400 yards since the start of the 2017 campaign. He will team up with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk to form an elite trio for young quarterback Kyler Murray.
Arizona wasn’t done there. It addressed the defensive front seven with the likes of Jordan Phillips, Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell. These three veterans combined for 18.5 sacks a season ago. Add in the presence of Pro Bowler Chandler Jones, and Arizona’s defense seems stacked. General manager Steve Keim and Co. have done work this offseason.
Loser: New England Pariots
Not too often can we claim with a straight face that Bill Belichick and Co. are losers. But that’s where we are right now. Obviously, the departure of six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady changes the dynamic big time in New England. With a dwindling market of quarterbacks, these Pats are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Almost as important, New England lost other key contributors without bringing back much in return. That list includes defensive starters Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton. At this point, these Patriots are likely headed more for a rebuild than another spot in the playoffs. That’s the reality of the situation in New England.
Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
On the other side of the ledger, Tampa Bay finds itself a winner simply by replacing Jameis Winston with Tom Brady. Despite Brady’s recent regression, I could not envision a more drastic upgrade. After all, Winston threw 30 interceptions as season ago. Brady has tossed a combined 29 picks over the past four seasons. He’ll team up with star receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to form an elite skill-position trio in Tampa.
Though, it’s not all about Brady. Tampa Bay retained free-agent pass rushers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. The two combined for 28 sacks a season ago. These Buccaneers now have to be considered potential conference title contenders.
Loser: New York Giants
I am not too sure what general manager Dave Gettleman is thinking. New York should be focused on a widespread rebuild under dynamic young quarterback Daniel Jones. Instead, the team has some sort of false sense that adding marginal players on big-money contracts can help it contend.
The Giants doled out a combined $74-plus million to linebacker Blake Martinez and cornerback James Bradberry. While the latter played well in Carolina, he was vastly overpaid. Meanwhile, Martinez was a replacement level starter during his time with the Green Bay Packers. New York will soon find out that overspending for other teams’ castoffs in free agency is not a winning strategy.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
Despite losing Philip Rivers in free agency, an argument can be made that Los Angeles is among the most vastly improved teams in the NFL. Rivers was not great last season. He will be replaced by a former Pro Bowler in that of Tyrod Taylor next season. Los Angeles is also sitting pretty as it relates to adding a top-end quarterback of the future in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Equally as important, the Chargers found upgrades up and down the roster in free agency. The acquisition of five-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner in a trade for Russell Okung was absolutely brilliant. Adding veteran tackle Bryan Bulaga on a below-market deal was among the best moves of the past week. Heck, Los Angeles picked up Pro Bowl corner Chris Harris on a two-year, $17 million contract. Look for this squad to be a legit contender in the AFC West next season.
Loser: Houston Texans
Where to start with this team? Already under scrutiny for his performance as the Texans’ head coach, Bill O’Brien has struggled big time in his new role as general manager. The trade of star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for injury-plagued running back David Johnson and change has to be seen as one of the worst deals in recent NFL history.
Not to be outdone with his own futility, O’Brien then signed washed wide receiver Randall Cobb to a three-year $27 million contract. He also thought it made sense to ink an average starting safety in that of Eric Murray to a three-year, $20.25 million contract. A whole lot of head-scratching moves in Houston thus far this offseason. That’s for sure.