NFL Free Agency Grades
by: David Sun
As the 2018-19 NFL season came to a close with a New England Patriots victory in the Super Bowl, many fans began turning to arguably the most exciting part of the offseason: free agency. With the myriad of teams that disappointed and were planning to shake things up in the market, big free agent names like Earl Thomas and Le’Veon Bell, and teams that just can’t keep all of their players under the salary cap (looking at you, Baltimore Ravens), the 2019 offseason was bound to be one filled with surprises, blockbuster moves, and trades.
So far, it hasn’t disappointed in the least. Though more free agent signings are sure to come, there have already been multiple moves that could send waves throughout the NFL landscape. As of March 12, here are grades for the three largest signings of the offseason currently.
Browns receive: WR Odell Beckham, Jr.
Giants receive: 2019 1st round pick, 2019 3rd round pick, S Jabrill Peppers
The Browns are shaping up to take over the AFC North this year, with the acquisition of debatably the top wide receiver in the game right now to pair with another star receiver in Jarvis Landry for their phenom rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. Add in Nick Chubb, David Njoku, and underrated components of their offense like Antonio Callaway, and Cleveland is ready to dominate the AFC North and look to make their first playoff appearance since 2002. And don’t forget that they also have Kareem Hunt.
Immediately after giving OBJ a big deal in the past season, the Giants decide to deal him to the Browns for mainly picks, and in turn take a dead cap hit. The promising duo of Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham is no more, and with the transition from Eli Manning at quarterback ever imminent for the Giants, they lose a key asset that could help that transition go much, much smoother.
Raiders receive: WR Antonio Brown
Steelers receive: 2019 3rd round pick, 2019 5th round pick
It’s hard to imagine how the Raiders pulled off trading for one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in Antonio Brown without giving up even one first-round pick, considering fellow Raiders receiver Amari Cooper was worth a whole first-rounder to the Cowboys. Of course, the addition of Brown also includes the addition of potential drama and temper tantrums, and there’s no guarantee that he will perform at the same level with Derek Carr as his quarterback. However, the 31-year-old has shown little to no signs of regression, and the Raiders made a worthwhile move in getting the major offensive weapon they had been lacking.
Trading Brown away meant swallowing $21 million in dead cap space this year, but the Steelers were desperate to get rid of the phenomenal talent and headache. It’s a great sign to see them put faith into Juju Smith-Schuster, who has shown he is more than capable of being their number one option, but the Steelers could not even get a first-round pick for Brown. Though the controversial atmosphere surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, Brown himself, and the team was in dire need of clearing, the Steelers will get a C for the low return they managed to receive.
Jets sign: RB Le’Veon Bell
In one of the most anticlimactic moves of the offseason, former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell signs with the New York Jets, as anticipated, after sitting out a full season to pursue a big free agent contract. The Jets have handled the offseason by making statements, now adding Bell to a list of big free agents signings, including C.J. Mosley’s record-setting deal. Ironically, Mosley will make nearly $4 million more than Bell each year. Bell’s presence will give Sam Darnold plenty of relief as a offensive weapon that can take pressure off of the inconsistent quarterback. Adding Bell upgrades both a depleted running offense and a shallow receiving corps. Here’s to hoping that Bell can retain his All-Pro output and continue as the offensive juggernaut that ferociously attacks the season, one patient step at a time.