Offseason – Part 2

Free agency has begun. After a flurry of trades to open the offseason, the time has finally come for teams to start using their free agency money. Funnily enough, the two teams with the most cap room – the Colts and Browns – have barely spent in free agency thus far. The Browns made some big trades in the weeks prior, though, which makes their lack of involvement understandable. In the meantime, the Jets decided to take action with the 3rd most cap space, signing multiple big name free agents such as Avery Williamson, Isaiah Crowell, and Trumaine Johnson.

Big News

Kirk Cousins Contract

Those expecting Cousins to set the quarterback market were right, but the way he did so was unexpected. His 3 year $86 million contract leads the NFL in yearly average by a small margin, but it is the fully guaranteed nature of the contract that is unprecedented. Instead of potentially signing for over $30 million a year with the Jets, Cousins opted for a smaller sum and the chance to win a championship. The Vikings have one of the best rosters in the league and are Super Bowl or bust, so there is a lot of pressure on Cousins to succeed. This team will have bunch of young players to pay in the near future, something that could be a problem with Cousins’ astronomical cap number. Of course, the Vikings will care a lot less about these problems if they win a Super Bowl.

Chiefs Sign Watkins

In a stunning move, the Chiefs have signed Sammy Watkins to a 3 year deal for $16 million each year. The Chiefs were not expected to be in the market for either a wideout or big money player, but they acquired both in Watkins. While the intention to surround a young big play quarterback with young big play receivers was good, it is doubtful that the reality will end up as good as the theory. As a player, Watkins has struggled with injuries and hasn’t lived up to his potential on either of his two former teams. Even if he emerges as a true number one receiver, it’s a lot of money to pay by a team that is already flush with playmakers on offense. The defense, not so much. Perhaps the Chiefs are thinking long term, trying to develop Mahomes before competing for a championship. If defense wins championships, this move won’t get the Chiefs any closer.

Robinson to Chicago

Although pegged by many to go to the 49ers, the Bears struck first, signing Robinson to a 3 year contract worth $42 million. An excellent deal, the Bears signed a proven number one receiver to a below average deal for such players. It seems the Bears are trying to imitate what the Eagles and Rams each did last year by surrounding their second year quarterback with weapons to help him. The Bears are quietly building an extremely talented offense to go with an underrated defense, although Trubisky’s improvement will most likely mean more to the team than a few extra wins. However, improvement similar to that of Goff and Wentz is not imminent, as both of them were much more talented than Trubisky. The Bears are doing an excellent job building around their quarterback for his development, but for that to work, the quarterback needs to have the tools in the first place.

Aaron Rodgers’ Weapons Exchange

In an attempt to give Rodgers some help, the Packers released Jordy Nelson. This is not as crazy as it sounds, as the move freed up cap space that allowed the Packers to sign Jimmy Graham. However, it was still a questionable move for a variety of reasons. Releasing a player this close to the start of free agency is generally seen as a dirty move, especially when the player has been such an integral part of the organization for as long as Nelson has. Additionally, swapping out one aging veteran for another with a more limited skill set does not seem like a particularly smart move, even when the large sum of $2 million in cap space is saved. While former Packers GM Ted Thompson was a proponent of promoting internally, new GM Brian Gutekunst seems to be a proponent of making splashy moves to please the fans.

Vikings Ex-Quarterbacks

On the same day that the Vikings won the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, all three of their former quarterbacks were scooped up. Teddy Bridgewater signed a one year prove-it deal with the Jets for $15 million, putting them in a very weird position. Although career backup Josh McCown is the presumed starter, Bridgewater is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback coming off an injury, and the Jets still have the chance to draft a rookie quarterback. Josh McCown is known to be a good teacher, so the Jets seem to be banking on his helping develop at least one future starter for them. Meanwhile, the Broncos acquired Case Keenum for a sub-$20 million deal, putting them in a position to make a playoff run. Interestingly enough, Keenum’s low price tag and the Broncos early pick still makes them a candidate to draft a raw quarterback with a huge arm and experience in a pro-style offense. Unlike the intelligent moves made by the Broncos and Jets, the Cardinals did a bit of desperation shopping, signing Sam Bradford to a one year $20 million deal with an option the following year for the same price. While Bradford is a capable starter, he is not the future of the franchise.

Patriot Reunion in Tennessee

Months after hiring former Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel as Head Coach, the Titans signed Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler. Cornerback was a need for the Titans, and signing a proven number one cornerback to a five year $61 million contract is a smart move. He is a good fit in their aggressive man to man defense, and will be playing across from former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan. While I am not sold on Butler as a top ten corner, teams always overpay in free agency. Speaking of overpaying, the 49ers signed Jerrick McKinnon for $7.5 million a year while the Titans got Dion Lewis for only around $6 million per year. While the McKinnon deal was horrible for a multitude of reasons, Lewis fits perfectly with the Titans offense as a lightning to Henry’s thunder, giving them a much more cost efficient backfield than in the past. Although they are in a loaded AFC South division, the Titans are making the right moves on both sides of the ball to spark a playoff run.

Under the Radar Moves

Brees Stays

Drew Brees will remain in New Orleans. Although everyone involved was certain that a deal would get done, it still comes as a relief to know that it’s official. This move was necessary for a Saints team with Super Bowl aspirations, particularly as they lack a successor to Brees. The deal itself was pretty straightforward, with $50 million over two years and $27 million guaranteed. While Brees is now among the highest paid quarterbacks in the league, it is obvious that he took a discount to stay with the Saints. In reality, the contract is only guaranteed the first year, signaling that both parties intend to take it year by year. Even with Brees playing at such a high level, drafting a quarterback in this year’s draft has to be a priority for the Saints, particularly with such a young and talented roster.

Bills Move Up

While the Tyrod Taylor trade confirmed that the Bills would be in the market for a quarterback, this trade shows how serious they are. In exchange for the 12th overall pick, the Bengals received the 21st overall pick and Bills’ starting left tackle Cordy Glenn. Late round picks were also swapped. The Bills have put themselves in a precarious position, as they are just outside the sweet spot to nab one of the top quarterbacks. There is definitely a chance that one of the top quarterbacks will fall to them, but with so many teams in the market for a young quarterback it is unlikely to happen. It is assumed that the Bills are looking to trade up again, but I doubt they will be able to do so until draft night. There is a clear drop-off in talent after the elite prospects, and not many teams would be willing to trade down from the top ten without more compensation than the Bills are willing to part with.

Solder to Giants

After trading for linebacker Alec Ogletree, the Giants have shored up another hole by signing former Patriot left tackle Nate Solder to a 4 year $62 million contract. Offensive line has been a major issue for the Giants for quite some time, even with the amount of draft capital spent on the position. After the Giants brass affirmed their belief in Eli Manning, it looks like their best option with the second overall pick is Saquon Barkley. The Solder signing is mostly important for Eli, and it looks like the Giants are going to push for a playoff spot rather than rebuild.

Offseason – Part 1

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.

Big News

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.

Seahawks Rebuild

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.


Weekly Preview – Week 14

Matchup of the Week:

Eagles at Rams

Largely due to their loss in Seattle, the Eagles playoff credibility hangs in the balance. Whether or not they can bounce back and compete with the high-flying Rams will be key if they hope to make a playoff run. This game has been hyped as a showdown between Wentz and Goff, the first two overall picks in last year’s draft. Based on how strong both rosters are, Wentz and Goff could end up being the deciding factors in this game. However, both supporting casts will need to step up to help out their star quarterbacks. In particular, Gurley versus the Eagles run defense will be key, as it will either open up the offense for the Rams or force them to become overdependent on Goff to beat the Eagles. This game is a preview of the future of the NFC, as both teams should be regular playoff visitors starting this year.

Key Matchups:

Seahawks at Jaguars

There hasn’t been a defense that could completely stop Russell Wilson this season, but the Jaguars have as good a chance as any. Seattle’s defense also took it up a notch last week against the Eagles, and should be enough to quench a Blake Bortles led passing attack. Rookie RB Leonard Fournette could be a problem for the Seahawks defense, however, which could be enough to power the Jaguars’ offense and keep the game close. While the Seahawks are the favorites to win, the Jaguars’ elite defense and running game will put up enough of a fight to at least keep the game interesting.

Vikings at Panthers

Are the Vikings legitimate Super Bowl contenders? After knocking off the Falcons last week, the Vikings are definitely convincing. Meanwhile, the Panthers are looking to legitimize their playoff aspirations after losing 31-21 to the Saints in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. Similar to last week, I don’t see the Panthers coming close in this game unless Cam Newton plays the way he did in 2015. The Vikings have a better roster, and have out-coached most of the teams they have played. This would be a statement win by the Vikings, showing that they can perform in a potential trap game.

Bonus Matchup:

Saints at Falcons

Vying for a first-round bye, the Saints have created a culture that is conducive to a Super Bowl run. With a healthy defense, they match up surprisingly well against this explosive Falcons offense. This is the Saints game to lose, but the Falcons are desperate for a win over their division rivals. Look for the Falcons to be creative in getting Julio Jones involved, especially if Marshon Lattimore can do what Xavier Rhodes did last week and shut Jones down. Even in a game featuring both last year’s MVP and a future Hall of Famer at quarterback, the running battle will be crucial. Kamara and Ingram, and Freeman and Coleman, make up two of the best RB tandems in the league. It should be a huge game for both groups of RBs.

Other Things I’m Looking For:

Nathan Peterman is back, which means the Colts will either get gashed by Shady McCoy or have a field day on defense.

The Bears defense has been pretty solid lately, but Giovani Bernard will still thrive in the absence of Joe Mixon and show us why we liked him in the first place.

It took the Browns long enough. With GM Sashi Brown finally gone, maybe Hue Jackson will be able to spark an offense that has underrated talent. Maybe.

With CB Marcus Peters suspended by the Chiefs this week, it’s the perfect time for Amari Cooper to have another breakout game.

After leading the Niners to 5 FGs in the win against the Bears, Jimmy Garoppolo has another matchup against the Texans that he can take advantage of.

The Lions don’t seem to have a good chance at the playoffs this year, and it doesn’t look any better with Stafford hurt. However, the running game will probably decide to show up against the Bucs.

Normally, a matchup pitting the Jets WRs against the Broncos CBs wouldn’t sound exciting. It is.

The Patriots will beat the Dolphins by a considerable amount, even without Gronk in the game taking idiotic cheap shots.

After an expected chippy game at Cincinnati, the Steelers have to face the Ravens in a potential trap game without Ryan Shazier or Juju Smith-Schuster. This game could get chippy as well, particularly with an agressive Ravens defense.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ryan Shazier, and I hope he has a quick recovery.


Weekly Preview – Week 13

Matchup of the Week:

Eagles at Seahawks

Anyone who has followed the Seahawks season knows that it is the Russell Wilson show, which is pretty damn impressive considering the lack of any meaningful supporting cast. The Eagles defense has been outstanding, although being the number one rush defense doesn’t mean much against an all Russell Wilson run game. Carson Wentz should be able to handle Seattle’s injury-depleted secondary, but look to see if Seattle’s defensive front can disrupt the Eagles’ run game. If that happens, the pressure will once more fall on Russell Wilson to make plays. If it doesn’t, this potential shootout could easily become a blowout.

Key Matchups:

Vikings at Falcons

Similar to the game above, this game has major playoff implications. The Vikings defense has been impressive of late, but the Falcons plethora of offensive playmakers always offer a unique challenge. The key matchup here is Xavier Rhodes on Julio Jones, both of whom have been on a tear recently. I feel that Rhodes will be able to do enough to force Matt Ryan to look to his second and third options, however that may not be enough to stop the Falcons, especially with the return of Devonta Freeman. The Vikings offense will need to put up points, however that shouldn’t be a problem the way the Vikings offense has been playing.

Panthers at Saints

Surprisingly, the Saints and Panthers actually have the same record. With the Falcons only one game behind in a packed NFC South race, this game could determine playoff seeding and eligibility. As good as the Panthers’ linebacker centered defense has been this season, I really don’t see them being able to stop the Saints high powered rushing attack. Luke Kuechly is the best MLB in the league, but Kamara and Ingram are virtually unstoppable. With Marcus Williams out and Marshon Lattimore questionable, I expect a big day for the Cam Newton – Devin Funchess connection. These games have been high scoring in the past, and this one should be no different. For the Panthers to have a chance, Kuechly and Newton must make big plays when it counts.

Other Thing I’m Looking For:

Derrick Henry and Corey Davis are both looking for breakout games, and both could get them if Mariota doesn’t continue to squander their opportunities.

With Trevor Siemian back at starting quarterback for the Broncos, Demaryius Thomas is due for a huge game against a Dolphins secondary that fell apart last week.

After somehow losing to the Blaine Gabbert led Cardinals last week, the Jaguars are ready for a rebound game. The Jaguars should easily dominate, but look for Dede Westbrook to lead the passing attack.

Jameis Winston is finally healthy, which could be either a blessing or a curse for the Buccaneers. With how badly they have played this year, it doesn’t really make a difference.

The Packers offense should dominate against a weak Buccaneers defense, as Brett Hundley and Jamaal Williams both found their grooves last week.

Jimmy Garoppolo has arrived! I was never fully sold on the idea of Garoppolo as the 49ers savior, but coupled with Kyle Shanahan’s offensive genius, I’m expecting the offense to put up loads of points.

I’ve always been a fan of Deshone Kizer, and I believe he will have a big day now that his main targets are Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman.

I know everyone is already on the Cooper Kupp hype train, but I’m going to have to join in, even in a potential trap game.

The Steelers/Bengals game is the type of game that the Steelers tend to play down and lose. If they want to legitimize their Super Bowl aspirations, Big Ben can’t take this game off.