Phew. Take a breath everyone, that was a wild week. In just a few days it feels like the landscape of the NFL has been irrevocably shaken, as star players were traded and signed by teams all over the league.
With so much player-movement it can be hard for the casual fan to keep up, so it’s lucky that Sportstips.com is here to break down the top five moves of the NFL free agency period so far:
1. Odell Beckham Jnr traded by the Giants to the Browns on March 12
Hands up if you saw this one coming? We certainly didn’t.
This decision by the Giants sent the Twitterverse in to meltdown, and rightly so. It might just be the biggest NFL offseason trade in years, and comes just six days after Giants GM Dave Gettleman reiterated (for the umpteenth time) that the franchise hadn’t signed OBJ just to trade him.
OBJ is undoubtedly one of the league’s biggest, most marketable stars. He’s one of the few instantly-recognisable non-QBs in the league, has been a Pro-Bowler 3 times and had 1,052 yards receiving last year despite appearing in just 12 games.
In return for trading him the Giants receive pick 17, and a third rounder in this year’s draft and a third-round pick in this year’s draft, and safety Jabrill Peppers.
For Giants fans, this move has been understandably met with a wall of confusion and anger. For the rest of the league, this feels like an unexpected boon. The Browns are everybody’s second team, and with OBJ at WR and Baker Mayfield at QB they may finally have a roster capable of making and/or winning playoff games.
2. Antonio Brown traded by the Steelers to the Raiders on March 10
You could see this one coming from a mile off.
We discussed Brown’s potential landing spots in an article late last week. It was clear that the Oakland Raiders were the team most likely to trade for Brown, and sure enough the Steelers WR will be donning the black and silver next season.
The Raiders reportedly jumped ahead of a pack of teams who were interested in Brown (including the Redskins, Titans and Bills), and ended up giving the Steelers their third and fifth round picks. They’re also reportedly adding money to Brown’s contract, guaranteeing him more than $30 million next year.
This is a huge pick-up for a Raiders roster crying out for star power after trading both Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper last year. Brown is a four-time first-team All-Pro and arguably one of the top 5 wide receivers of all time. He joins a Raiders franchise seeking to rejuvenate (they have three first-round picks in this coming draft), a head coach used to success in Jon Gruden, and a quarterback with boundless potential in Derk Carr.
This just intuitively feels like a decision that will go one of two ways for Oakland; either Brown fits in like a glove, returns to his All-Pro play on the field and leads the Raiders to the promised land; or this all falls in a spiralling heap.
Either way it goes, we can’t wait to watch.
3. Nick Foles signs with Jacksonville on March 11
As we predicted last week, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Nick Foles have agreed to a four-year $88 million contract.
As a result, Jacksonville have now released incumbent, error-prone starting QB Blake Bortles.
Foles is guaranteed $50 million of his contract, and the 2018 Superbowl MVP could potentially earn up to $102 million if he hits his incentives. In a sign of the times, Foles is set to earn more next year than elite-calibre QBs such as Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady.
This looks like a perfect fit for all involved. The Jaguars are in “win-now” mode. Their defense is one of the best in the league, but it’s yet to be seen how long they’ll be hold it together. Foles provides the experienced, Superbowl-winning QB that the defense deserves, and there’s every chance this team can go all the way next year.
4. LeVeon Bell signs with the New York Jets on March 13
One of the longest running sagas in the NFL finally came to a close, as free-agent LeVeon Bell signed with the Jets on Wednesday.
From the outset Bell looked exactly like the sort of high-profile player the Jets would target in an attempt to appease a restless fanbase. The surprise is actually the contract – Bell signed for four years with $35 million guaranteed, LESS annually than what he was in line to make from the Steelers ($14.54 million) before he sat out last year.
To be fair, with the whole Antonio Brown saga also dragging on, something seems to be rotten in the state of Pittsburgh, and this may end up being just the change Bell needs to reignite his career.
In his last season (2017) before sitting out, Bell rushed for 1,291 yards, had 655 yards receiving, 11 total touchdowns and was named an All-Pro for the second time. He is a valuable commodity, but the value of signing running backs to big contracts in free agency is hotly debated.
At face value though, a high-volume running back is also exactly what the Jets need. Sophomore QB Sam Darnold will enjoy the extra attention Bell attracts (both on and off-field), and maybe, just maybe, this is the move that will drag this Jets franchise to the promised land.
5. Golden Tate signed by the Giants on March 14
Tate is exactly the type of player you’d expect the Giants to sign in an attempt to fill the OBJ sized whole in the roster.
He’s reportedly on a four-year contract worth $23 million guaranteed, and incentives pushing that up to potentially as high as $37.5 million
In many ways this is a like-for-like trade for OBJ; Tate is occasionally erratic off the gridiron, excellent in the open field, and capable of catching impossible balls.
Tate is coming off a year where he had little impact in Philadelphia, and at 30 years old is probably reaching the end of this prime. Whether he’ll be able to mesh with an aging Eli Manning is another story; we have our doubts.
This is a move that screams of appeasing a rabid fan base, and we don’t see it ending particularly well.