The past few days have been wild, most notably due to the Browns going from an 0-16 record in 2017 to the predicted Super Bowl LIII Champions. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but this week has been full of big time trades that will have major impacts on the 2018 season. General Managers Les Snead and Not to be overdone, there were also a few key contract extensions that turned some heads. With the NFL Draft fast approaching, look for these moves and more to have big implications for the following season.
Rams CB Acquisitions
It seems like the Eagles have a challenger. After a terrific coming out season for Sean McVay and the Rams offense, General Manager Les Snead has decided to work on improving an already scary defense. The additions of Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib through trade for below market value were great decisions, especially as they can help save the Rams money in the long run. Although Talib is old, he is still a very good player, and Peters is a ballhawk who remains on his rookie contract. The Rams even obtained Sam Shields, an older but solid corner who can be their third corner. Going into the draft and free agency, the Rams are expected to have close to $50 million in cap space, giving them the leeway to sign Aaron Donald to a mega-contract. Additionally, the cap flexibility puts them in prime position to resign any other important players in the coming years, such as Todd Gurley and Jared Goff. With a loaded roster that seems locked in for awhile, the Rams are in prime position to make a series of Super Bowl runs over the next few years.
Tyrod Taylor Trade
Tyrod is finally free. After a career in Buffalo in which he was greatly under-appreciated, Tyrod is now a member of the Cleveland Browns. Kudos to the Bills for getting a 3rd round pick for him, although it remains quite curious as to why they were so opposed to him as their franchise quarterback. Meanwhile, the Browns have acquired a quarterback who can at worst be a bridge quarterback or at best break a team’s playoff drought (again). This trade should shake up the draft the most, setting up the Browns to draft Saquon Barkley and the Bills to trade up for a quarterback. Although the Browns are likely a lock to select a quarterback in the first round, it is still entirely plausible that Tyrod runs away with the job in the preseason. Although he isn’t elite, he definitely has the talent to improve an offense rather than just be a fill-in.
Landry to the Browns
Contrary to popular fantasy football belief, Landry is not a top tier wide receiver and does not deserve to be compensated as such. Franchise tagging Landry and then getting value for him was the perfect move for the Dolphins, as it gave them draft picks and kept them from overpaying. That being said, the trade was good for the Browns as well. Although he is likely to be overpaid in Cleveland as well, they have the cap space to accommodate accordingly. He is a tremendous fit, and the Browns already have a true WR1 in Josh Gordon. While I am against paying Landry like a top flight receiver, he is arguably the best slot and secondary receiver in the game. In Miami, he would have been payed to be the top receiver, a position he is not suited for. With the extra cap space that the Browns have, paying him to be an elite complementary piece makes a lot of sense.
Blake Bortles Extension
To the surprise of all, it appears that the Jaguars have found a franchise quarterback. The problem is, the rest of the world doesn’t know how. After signing Bortles to a 3 year, $54 million contract, the Jaguars seem confident in him as their quarterback. However, it’s important to note that his cap hit is lowered from $19 million to $10 million next year and his third year is basically a team option. The Jaguars are still likely to draft a quarterback to try to develop behind Bortles, because it is obvious that he is not good enough to carry the team alone. As with most elite defenses, each player will eventually want to get payed, and Bortles contract should be able to help with some of that. However, defensive powered teams generally do not win more than one Super Bowl, as evidenced by the 2013 Seahawks and 2015 Broncos. The Jaguars have to take advantage of their window, and it would be a shame if it is wasted because they failed to upgrade at quarterback.
The Legion of Boom has come to a close. After a run as one of the best defenses in history, the Seahawks have announced that they will enter a rebuilding phase centered around Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. Richard Sherman has been cut, and the status’ of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are up in the air. The decision to rebuild is a bold move by John Schneider and Pete Carroll, and it practically acknowledges that winning regular season games is not enough. By recognizing that Wilson has finally cemented his status as an elite quarterback, the Seahawks have decided to make the most out of his career. Instead of waiting out the years until the Legion of Boom officially fell apart, they accelerated its demise in hopes of maximizing their Super Bowl window with Russell Wilson. With Russell Wilson’s big contract in the books, the Seahawks had no choice but to try to build a playoff team around him. The move is even more logical when considering Schneider’s ability to find late round gems, but that doesn’t make it any less bold.
Richard Sherman Returns
It seems we barely had to wait. Mere days after being released by the Seahawks, Sherman signed with the San Francisco 49ers, who are in the same division as his former team. It is rather ironic for those who remember Sherman at the height of his career, feuding with Michael Crabtree after ending the 49ers’ season. However, it is a great signing for the 49ers. Although coming off of a major injury, Sherman still projects to be a top tier corner, especially in a 49ers scheme that is similar to what he played in Seattle. This 49ers team is very young, and Sherman can serve as a great mentor to the younger players. It is interesting to note that Sherman had stated that he wanted to sign with a contender prior to signing with the 49ers. Did he?
Under the Radar Moves
Ogletree to the Giants
A key piece of the Rams defense in 2017, Ogletree’s trade to the Giants was unexpected. Ogletree is an athletic playmaker who brings much needed versatility and leadership to a vastly underwhelming Giants linebacker core. While he wasn’t a perfect fit in Wade Phillips one gap 3-4 defense, he should fit well in the Giants system as a do everything type player. However, he is among the more expensive inside linebackers in the league, something that could be a signal for the direction that the Giants will take this offseason. As Ogletree was pretty young, this suggests that the Rams like the LB class in this year’s draft and were just looking to clear cap space.
Goodwin Staying in San Fran
Not really a surprise, but Marquise Goodwin signed an extension with the 49ers for 3 years and $20 million. Goodwin is an emerging young receiver who has developed from an amazing deep threat to a more well rounded possession receiver. He is still young and has a good degree of upside, as well as a decent floor due to his rapport with Garoppolo. This is a great deal by the 49ers, as they lock up their quarterback’s favorite target for average WR2 money. With a good number of top wideouts on the free agent market (Allen Robinson), the 49ers passing attack looks to be in good position.
Kizer for Randall
From the outside, it seemed a shocker that the Packers would trade their top cornerback for a Browns quarterback that would inevitably be forgotten after this year’s draft. However, the picture becomes much clearer when considering that the Packers liked Kizer in last years draft and that Randall had become a problem in the locker room. This likely doesn’t change much for both teams in the draft, but both players could end up contributing in the long run. Randall is young and talented, and will likely earn a starting spot for the Browns. Meanwhile, Kizer is a good developmental player who was seriously mishandled by Browns Coach Hue Jackson, and learning under Aaron Rodgers could help him emerge. Hundley is now expendable.