Free Agency - Winners & Losers
As Free Agency draws to a close, it’s time to evaluate who were the winners and who were the losers. A lot of teams made moves during the “Legal Tampering” phase and there are now a lot of players making a lot more money than they were before. I’ve selected five winners and five losers from the free agency period and evaluated them below - drop a comment and let me know your thoughts on the winners and losers from this free agency period.
1) Antonio Brown/Oakland Raiders
After trading away Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, many wondered if the Oakland Raiders had a plan at all but they seem to proven the doubters wrong this offseason making several big signings to strengthen the roster. The most notable of these was star Wide Receiver Antonio Brown. As much as this move was a win for the Raiders, it is also a win for AB - how many players can have a public fallout with their team and miss the final game of the season, get a trade to one of their preferred teams, and get a pay rise to boot? That’s before you consider that when the Raiders move to Las Vegas next season, Brown won’t be paying any income tax!
2) Cleveland Browns
Three words - Odell Beckham Junior. Baker Mayfield surprised a lot of people with just how well he performed in his rookie season - he was easily the best of the five QBs taken in the first round. But imagine how much better he will be with OBJ out there catching his throws - Beckham has had his share of issues on and off the field and is often labelled as a distraction but there is no denying he is one of the top 3 Wide Receivers in the league. Add to that the Kareem Hunt signing, the Sheldon Richardson signing, and the addition of Olivier Vernon (through trade) - I reckon the Cleveland Browns will win the AFC North.
3) Washington Redskins
Washington had dreadful luck last year - they lost QB Alex Smith to a horrific leg injury and then his replacement, Colt McCoy, also suffered a broken leg leaving them with Mark Sanchez who was so awful they benched him in the third quarter of a game in favour of Josh Johnson who hadn’t played an NFL snap since 2013. Thankfully, the Redskins have addressed their QB need with a trade for journeyman Case Keenum. The ‘skins didn’t stop there and went on to sign free agent all-pro safety Landon Collins from the New York Giants - a division rival (see Losers section).
4) Sam Darnold
The Jets have made it clear that Sam Darnold is their guy and more importantly have made moves in free agency to strengthen the team around him. This includes adding linebacker C.J. Mosley on the defensive side of the ball and wide receiver Jamison Crowder on the offence. But these moves pale in comparison to the signing of star running back Le’Veon Bell. This is a massive weapon for Sam Darnold in terms of throwing target but, more than that, the addition of a viable running game to the Jets offence takes a lot of pressure off of him.
5) Nick Foles
Despite leading the Philadelphia Eagles to their first Super Bowl after coming off the bench, many do not consider Nick Foles to be one of the best QBs in the league. At the end of the 2018 season, the Eagles chose not to franchise tag Foles or sign him to a deal and instead stuck all their eggs in a Carson Wentz shaped basket - not a bad decision by any means, Wentz is an awesome talent. This left Foles to test free agency and the results were great - Foles will take over as starting QB for the Jacksonville Jaguars on a four-year, $88 million deal. Not bad for a career backup!
1) New York Giants
There is no other way to paint this. The Giants are big losers this offseason. They traded away Olivier Vernon and allowed talented young safety Landon Collins to become a free agent and sign for the divisional rival Washington Redskins. That would be bad enough but the giants did not stop there. The Giants proceeded to trade away arguably the best wide receiver, and certainly the biggest superstar, in the NFL - Odell Beckham Jr. It is hard to see how this can be spun as anything other than a bad deal for the Giants.
2) Pittsburgh Steelers
It has been a bad offseason for the Steelers. They traded Antonio Brown to Oakland and lost Le’Veon Bell through free agency to the Jets. That is not only the two biggest stars on the team but also two players who are top three at their respective positions. They also lost tight end Jesse James during free agency and to top it off, division rivals the Cleveland Browns have signed superstar WR OBJ.
3) Miami Dolphins
Coming into this offseason it was clear that the Dolphins had a lot of work to do including finding a new QB. It seems likely that they will attempt to find their quarterback of the future in the NFL draft. That said, it feels like they have not achieved much in free agency and I do not believe that QB was their only weakness. There were a lot of talented players available in this FA period and it seems like the Dolphins have missed out.
4) Houston Texans
Getting into the playoffs last season was a massive boost for the Texans and is mostly attributed to talented young QB Deshaun Watson, but the truth is the Texans had a really good star-studded defence which helped them massively. It is shocking to see, then, that the Texans have lost Kareem Jackson and the Honey Badger - Tyrann Mathieu. They retain J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney but are in real need of some upgrades all over the field.
5) Blake Bortles
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As emphatically as this free agency period was a win for Nick Foles, it is a loss for Blake Bortles. Bortles was released shortly after the signing of Nick Foles and was picked up by the Rams five days later as a backup for Jared Goff. With Goff’s play getting better all the time, there is little hope that Bortles will play a single snap for the Rams.
The 2019 NFL Draft begins on 25th April. All action will be available live on NFL Network.