The Legal Tampering Window opened in the NFL yesterday and a ton of moves have been made in the hours that followed. After almost 2 days of frenzied activity, who are the winners and losers so far?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winners
File this under things you never heard. “The Tampa Bay Bucs have the eyes of the world on them this week.” Maybe even more so than when they won the Super Bowl 17 years ago.
This is due to the major turn of events that somehow found the most storied active NFL player leaving his team of two decades to go play for Tampa Bay.
Honestly, just writing those words feels wrong.
I personally did not think that the Pats could do enough to make Tom Brady want to leave but I was proven wrong on Monday when Brady announced his intentions to leave Foxboro. But I can say that my mind was even more blown by his call to take the reins of a team that went 7-9 last year and finished third in the NFC South.
I guess he feels like he needs a challenge?
I have no curiosity as to why the Bucs would pull the trigger on him. Even at the hefty price of $30M. To be honest, they will make most of that back just selling Brady schwag over the next 12 months. They have put themselves on a clock now to make a run at a title, with Brady likely a viable started for another two years at most.
Upon inspection, they might just have the pieces in place to actually do it too.
Brady now has two wide receivers who have each caught 1000 yards in every one of their six seasons in the NFL. Those guys are Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and will be the best receivers Brady has had since Randy Moss was running routes in New England.
Big ups to coach Bruce Arians for knowing what he wanted and figuring out how to get it. I think Tom Brady with a new team, new challenges, and new opponents will be a boon for his performance in 2020. It seems clear now that Brady’s recent struggles were less physical but more mental. I think he was just bored. Playing under the same coach for 20 years, winning the division 16 years in a row and being generally hated fans outside of NE finally got to him.
Seems he is ready to enjoy some nice weather, a new team and most importantly, a new coach. Brady and Belichick have butted heads more and more the last few years and TB just seems over it.
It will be an exciting transition to watch as Tom Brady tries to find motivation and marches a new team to the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Indianapolis Colts: Winners
The Colts made a big move to finally replace Andrew Luck with another world-class quarterback. You can’t really blame them for failing to do so last year considering Luck pretty much up and retired with no warning just weeks before the season started. A real jerk move in my opinion.
But Indy finally found their quarterback in long time star, Philip Rivers.
Rivers fell out of favor after being the guy in Los Angeles for the last 15 seasons. Despite never bringing his team to a Super Bowl, Rivers was long considered at Top-5 QB and was never considered the reason why the Chargers could make a championship run.
All that changed in 2019 when the 38-year-old QB finished 3rd worst in the NFL with 20 interceptions and finished the year with an 88.5 passer rating. He posted a TD percentage of just 3.9 which was his lowest since becoming a starter in 2006 while his net yards per attempt of 7.1 was his worst since 2012. It is unusual for 38-year-old athletes to bounce back after seasons like that and I think that most teams made the right call here.
Much like the Bucs, the Colts are banking that Rivers can get them into contention for a championship in the next couple of years.
Rivers will reunite with Nick Sirianni, who served as OC for the Colts who spent five years working with Rivers in LA along with HC Frank Reich, who was the OC for two years for the Chargers.
While they aren’t quite a legit Super Bowl threat as it stands, they still have time and money to make some move and a run at the playoffs.
Carolina Panthers: Losers
#ThoughtsAndPrayers to all the loyal Carolina Panthers fans who got saw the team they love be dismantled in a matter of hours. Cam Newton has been shown the door with Greg Olson already in Seattle and Luke Kuechly retiring. Obviously, the latter isn’t their fault but the loss of Newton and Olson are already pissing over everyone involved.
The thing is, losing Cam as a player is not the worst news for the Panthers, but the way they handled it reads like a guidebook in how not to handle letting your star player go. The team announced on social media that they were allowing for Newton to explore trade possibilities AFTER signing Teddy Bridgewater. The way it was worded implied that Newton had requested out of Carolina and the Panthers were begrudgingly allowing him to seek work elsewhere. Newton immediately shot back at his “former team” accusing them of wordplay which misinformed the public as to what was really going on. In fact, Cam Newton had never asked to leave his team. He expressed love for the city, but not so much for the organization. He even said verbatim “You forced me into this!”
Current Seahawk and former Panther tight end, Greg Olsen, chimed in saying that it “sounds familiar.” More than insinuating that he did not want to leave his team either.
Now, this becomes a team with a lack of star power and a disgruntled fan base who have good reason to be mad. They just lost their three best players, all of whom had to spend most or all of their Careers in Carolina and had become family to them. Not only are they gone, but two were unceremoniously shown the door.
Needless to say, the rebuild in Carolina is off to a rocky start.
Arizona Cardinals: Winners
The Cardinals just made the NFC West even more of a stacked division by acquiring DeAndre Hopkins from the Texans to give Kyler Murray yet another weapon on offense. They had to send David Johnson to Houston, but this is still a huge net win for Arizona. In fact, Bill O’Brien needs to submit to drug testing immediately after accepting Johnson, a second-round pick and a swap of fourth rounders for one of the best players in the league.
The Cardinals offense now looks something like this:
Quarterback: Kyler Murray
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
WR2: Larry Fitzgerald
WR3: Andy Isabella
WR4: Christian Kirk
RB: Kenyan Drake
This team has the firepower to make a run a the NFC West, become a Top-5 offense in the NFL and even get a few MVP votes for their third-year Quarterback.
Houston Texans: Losers
Monday’s biggest loser. They traded away their best player, All-Pro receiver Hopkins for an oft-injured running back who ranked 32nd amongst qualified starters last season. There is not much more to say about this. If the Texans consider this the beginning of a rebuild, fans need to brace for some dark days to come.
Buffalo Bills: Winners
The powers that be in Minnesota decided that Kirk Cousins will continue to be the face of their franchise, leaving Stefon Diggs as the odd man out. Diggs and Cousins never got on great and he was therefore sent to Buffalo to work with Josh Allen and company. This looks to be the year that Sean McDermott makes his move to get the Bills back into relevance. It is his third offseason with GM Brandon Beane and the two agreed Buffalo needed to get Allen some help.
They thought Diggs was the answer to boost their young QB.
He is a true all-around talent who allows his coaches to throw all sorts of formations and schemes at opposing defenses. The Bills receiving core now features a true top option to compliment John Brown, Coe Beasley, Dawson Knox, and Devin Singletary. Make no mistake, this will be a dangerous offense that plays at a fast tempo. If Allen can get his accuracy under control, this team might the recently weakened AFC East.
New England Patriots: Losers
Ding Dong, the Patriots are dead. The team to beat for what seems like the last 20 years have parted ways with Tom Brady and is now a rudderless ship. I gotta be honest, I did not see this coming. I am sure we will learn more as the days wear on, but I am really curious as to just how NE pissed Brady off enough to sign with the Buccaneers.
Brady and Belichick had seen increasing stress in their relationship over recent years and that might have been the biggest factor in Brady’s departure. They both shared a ferocious desire to win and they did so in epic fashion. New England is now left with just two quarterbacks on the roster. The first is Jarret Stidham, a rookie last year and a product of Auburn showed promise in the preseason but saw just four attempts in actual games last year. The other is Cody Kessler who was a third-rounder in 2016.
Had Brady given a bit more notice things might have been ok for NE in 2020. But for whatever reason, Brady waited until just last night to tell Robert Kraft his decision and has effectively left the Pats with their dick in hand and little else.
They could have moved on Teddy Bridgewater or Phillip Rivers, but both were scooped up earlier today by the Panthers and Colts respectively. This leaves only two practical options, and one is just barely practical.
With the Bridgewater signing, it’s clear Carolina is moving on from Cam Newton and he has been given the green light to seek a trade. The other option is Jameis Winston, but can you really see a world where Belichick wants to deal with such an inconsistent player with a lot of personality quirks.
The other, and more unlikely option, is to let their young talent duke it out in the preseason and just roll with what they have. Likely losing a lot along the way and lost their way right into a lottery pick for 2021. Trevor Lawrence would look good in blue and red.
Cleveland Browns: Winners
The Browns filled one of their biggest gaps by signing Jack Conklin on Monday afternoon. Conklin was the best offensive tackle in free agency and the Browns were laser-focused on bringing him on board. He is just 26 years old and still has a lot of potentials to grow into a legit superstar on the right side.
That might not have even been their big play of the day either.
Earlier on Monday, the Browns kicked off the day by making Austin Hooper the highest-paid tight end in the NFL with a whopping $44M contract. Hooper is coming off back to back seasons where he made the Pro bowl and snagged 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns in 2019. Much like Conklin, Hooper is just 25 and despite his meteoric rise, still has a lot of room to grow into an all-time great.
This gives Baker Mayfield six quality weapons on offense. His line improved and they are expected to continue signing players to bolster both offensive and defensive lines. If he can’t get this offensive moving in 2020, Mayfield might become one of the biggest busts in draft history.
New York Jets: Losers
No surprise here. Just the Jets continuing to define average. New York was expected to be the favorites in the market to sign Conklin over the last couple of weeks. And boy do they need him. As we know by now, Conklin was scooped up by the Browns and as for the Jets. Well, they thought it best to pivot and sign Georga Fant $30M as a swing tackle. All that money for so little impact.
The Jets will now have to rely on the draft to find their future left tackle.
They entered free agency with $44M in cap space and have done nothing with most of it and squandered the little they did spend.
Las Vegas Raiders: Winners
The Raiders became a good bit better after making a few quiet but effective moves on Monday. They finally addressed their need at the linebacker position and added Nick Kwiatkoski to their roster for 2020. He is a well-rounded defensive talent who made strides last year in Chicago and could be in line for a breakout campaign.
They also made a move and signed quarterback Marcus Mariota to backup, and push, starter Derek Carr. This gives Las Vegas flexibility with two guys who are capable of manning and NFL offense. It also allows them to trade Carr if they find the right partner, but I wouldn’t expect that to happen until 2021.
Those are the biggest moves we’ve broken down so far. But the news will keep on coming so check back for daily updates on NFL Free Agency.