Photo By: Adrian Curiel from Unsplash
Much of the NFL’s free agency period is now in the rearview mirror, and what a flurry of activity it was. With only the NFL draft to look forward to, the buzz around the league will inevitably settle down for the summer now until August’s training camps begin.
But before the hush falls over the league, let’s go ahead and try to make sense of the recent moves that were made:
It’s fitting that the most high-profile moves of the offseason have been those involving the sport’s most high-profile position. I wrote an article before the offseason predicting each team’s starting QB for next year. This article of course aged like milk, but feel free to check it out here to see how wrong I was.
Maybe the most impactful move of free agency was not a signing or a trade, but rather an un-retirement. In a not-so-shocking move, Tom Brady announced that he’d be returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after a brief semi-retirement following an early playoff exit. Brady remains the far-and-away best quarterback in the NFC South, and the exodus from the NFC to the AFC overall leaves the door open for the soon-to-be 45 year-old to trump time once again in the quest for Super Bowl ring number eight.
Two high profile trades went down in the last month as well, further strengthening the crop of AFC signal callers. The declining Seattle Seahawks kicked off the offseason by dealing Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, while the lowly Houston Texans shipped Deshaun Watson off to the Cleveland Browns.
On a lower profile, the Indianapolis Colts moved on from Carson Wentz after just one season, dealing him to the Washington Commanders and replacing him with 37-year-old Matt Ryan, who they received from the grisly-looking Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons went ahead and took a flier on former Titans starter and Raiders backup Marcus Mariota, while the Pittsburgh Steelers took a similar flier on former Bears starter and Bills backup Mitchell Trubisky.
Wide Receiver Roulette
While Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers made the decision to stay put in Wisconsin, it came at the cost of his No. 1 receiving option and top-flight WR in the league, Davante Adams. After expressing the fact that he didn’t want to play under the franchise tag, it became clear that a trade would be the only option for Adams, who would surely demand a lucrative contract extension if he were to stay put. The Packers dealt their top receiver to the Las Vegas Raiders, where he joins a dynamic offense of Derek Carr, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, and Josh Jacobs. The Packers are now left with major holes to fill on offense, as their top returning receiver is now Allen Lazard, who totalled less than a third of Adams’ total 2021 yardage numbers.
A similar situation panned out in Kansas City, where fellow top receiver Tyreek Hill was shipped off to the Miami Dolphins. Hill was also angling for an extension, but with so much of the Chiefs’ cap space tied up in the contract of Patrick Mahomes, the two sides agreed to seek a new home for Hill. Hill joins a young Miami team featuring third-year QB Tua Tagovailoa, and second-year WR Jaylen Waddle, who trailed only Ja’Marr Chase in total rookie yardage last season. The Chiefs have replaced Hill so far with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, but neither can fill the hole that the lightning quick Hill left.
Other receivers switching teams this offseason included Amari Cooper, who joins Deshaun Watson in Cleveland after Dallas made the decision to go forward with CeeDee Lamb as their no. 1 option. Former Bears WR Allen Robinson joined the Super Bowl-winning Rams in Los Angeles, who also shipped out their No. 2 receiver Robert Woods to Tennessee. A number of high profile targets still remain on the market, including Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry and Julio Jones. Also, the Jaguars gave Christian Kirk a 4-year, $72 million deal. Nobody can figure out why.
Best of the Rest
Some of the other standout moves from the offseason feature top-level players on the front seven of defenses. All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack was shipped from Chicago to the Los Angeles Chargers, who bolstered their defensive unit around Joey Bosa even further by signing All-Pro cornerback J.C. Jackson away from the New England Patriots.
After winning a Super Bowl with the Rams, linebacker Von Miller joined the Bills Mafia in Buffalo for a shot at a third championship. The Bills gave Miller a six-year $120 million deal, a massive commitment for a 33-year-old but one that should have great effects in the short term. And who did the Rams replace Miller with, you ask? Oh nobody important, just six-time All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. Las Vegas also added Pro Bowler Chandler Jones to their defensive line, where he and Maxx Crosby will be wreaking havoc on opposing lines.
Lastly, the Cincinnati Bengals made a $75 million commitment to protecting franchise quarterback Joe Burrow after their exciting playoff run. Burrow was let down by his offensive line throughout the playoffs, including a nine sack game in Tennessee. The Bengals added three new starters to their five-man o-line: Ted Karras, Alex Cappa, and La’El Collins.