The NFL kicked off the 2019-2020 NFL Season earlier this week and already huge things have happened. Two teams rocked it while a couple of other teams took a few backward steps. Check out which teams did well, which teams didn’t do well, and which teams got the most value in the first few days of NFL Free Agency.
Browns and Raiders Step Towards the Playoffs, Giants Take Backward Steps
Cleveland Browns Became Instant Playoff Contenders
The Cleveland Browns might have made the biggest splash this week when they traded safety Jabril Peppers, and 2019 first and third round picks for arguably the best skill player in the league, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. At first, it looked like the Giants made out. Odell heads into 2019 off another disappointing season.
But a closer look reveals that no player in this year’s draft has the skill set that Beckham Jr. possesses. He immediately makes quarterback Baker Mayfield better and turns the Browns’ offense into a top 5 unit. Although Cleveland must wait half the season before playing one of their other big time free agent pickups, RB Kareem Hunt, it won’t matter that much.
Former Georgia standout Nick Chubb heads into his second season while the offensive line, led by former Rams first round pick Greg Robinson, helped the rushing attack average 118.3 yards per last season.
Not only that, but on defense, the Browns signed DT Sheldon Richardson. Richardson will bolster an already formidable defensive line that includes Myles Garrett at end. Because both Pittsburgh and the Baltimore Ravens lost some players, Cleveland should enter training camp the favorite to win the AFC North. Sounds nuts, right? What’s even more nuts are the Browns odds to make to the NFL Playoffs, which currently stands at +150 for Yes and -200 for No.
Oakland Builds in a Hurry
Many of us wondered what the heck the Oakland Raiders were doing when they traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears and Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys during the regular season. It made no sense because we didn’t think the Raiders would find any players comparable in this year’s draft.
Well, it turns out that Jon Gruden might be smarter than us naysayers. The Raiders took steps this week to replace both Cooper and Mack. That means, they can do whatever they want with those 3 Round 1 picks in the NFL Draft in April.
What were the steps the Raiders took? They traded third and fifth round picks for Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown. Are you kidding me? Oakland didn’t even have to part with one of their first round picks for one of the best wide receivers in the history of the NFL?
That’s a major coup on the part of Gruden. He just acquired the only sure-fire hall of fame wide receiver playing today for what amounts to a night out for sushi. Amazing.
But, Genius Gruden (yep, the genius label applies again!) also signed LT Trent Brown and WR Tyrell Williams. Williams and Brown might already be the best wide receiver duo in the league while Brown helped the Patriots win a Super Bowl last season.
In one fell swoop, Gruden and the Raiders fixed their WR problem and offensive line problem before the NFL Draft. Now, Chucky can concentrate on the defense with those 3 round 1 picks. Oh, forgot to mention that he also signed S LeMarcus Joyner, a safety starter away from the L.A. Rams. So, yeah, the Raiders are back!
What are the Giants Doing?
Here’s the thing, if you wanted to start the rebuild, why not start it last season when you possibly could have traded Eli to a contender for something, or, if anything, unloaded Landon Collins and Odell Beckham Jr.? Trading Beckham Jr. makes some sense, maybe, a little? But, not trading Collins makes no sense.
Collins, the New York Giants best defensive player last season, signed with a division rival, the Washington Redskins. That had to hurt. NYG was a mess last season. They’ll be more of a mess this season and might have to package the two round 1 picks to move up and draft a quarterback because Eli should be done after this season.
The New York Giants probably should have worked to get either Greg Robinson or Desmond Harrison from the Browns in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. Either can play right tackle or left tackle while the Giants offensive line is a bit of a mess.
Not getting either, and instead settling for a pick, could bite the Giants because this year’s draft lacks true offensive line talent. Again, we must ask, “What are the Giants doing?”
Great NFL Free Agent Moves
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater decided to remain with the New Orleans Saints instead of starting for the Miami Dolphins. Stupid? Not really. The Saints must have told Teddy that when Drew Brees retires, he’s their starter. More importantly, Bridgewater will play for one of the classiest organizations in the NFL while at Miami he most definitely wouldn’t have.
Running back Le’Veon Bell signed to play for the New York Jets. Bad move? Not on NYJ’s part, who get a running back that should still have some tread on the tires, but it’s a terrible move on Bell’s part. He signed for much less, $13.5 million per year, than what Pittsburgh had offered him, $16 million per year.
Not only that, he won’t benefit by playing with Ben Roethlisberger and behind one of the top offensive lines in the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens got better by signing former Saints’ RB Mark Ingram and former Seattle free safety Earl Thomas. Baltimore got Ingram for a bargain at only $5 million per year. Ingram is not only a great between the tackles runner that can get the edge, he’s also an excellent pass catcher. Quarterback Lamar Jackson just got a whole lot better with Ingram at running back.
Although Baltimore lost linebackers C.J. Moseley and Za’Darius Smith, they gained a ton by signing Thomas. It’s easier to fill the linebacker position than finding a do everything safety like Earl. Besides, this is Baltimore where coach John Harbaugh creates shutdown defenses out of thin air.
Baltimore will be okay. They might not challenge the Patriots for AFC supremacy, though. Based on what’s happened so far in NFL Free Agency, the Browns and Raiders are on the fast track from to take down New England.