NFL free agency is underway and there has already been some major moves. We’ve had blockbuster trades as well as record breaking deals.
The two biggest moves of the offseason so far have not come through free agency, but rather through trades. The Pittsburgh Steelers sent WR Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a 3rd and a 5th round pick, while the Cleveland Browns acquired WR Odell Beckham Jr. for a first round pick (17th overall), a third-round pick, and 2017 first round pick S Jabrill Peppers.
The Antonio Brown trade is a win for the Raiders. They were in need of a new #1 receiver after trading Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys. Derek Carr now has a deep threat and the Raiders did not have to use one of their three first round picks to acquire an impact player at wide receiver.
Cleveland now has a high-powered offense with a receiver corps of OBJ, Jarvis Landry, and Antonio Calloway, a backfield of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and 2018 first overall pick Baker Mayfield leading the offense at QB. They certainly have the talent to be a frontrunner in the AFC this year.
Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. are both #1 receivers with similar talent, but the Browns had to give up significantly more to get their guy. This goes to show that the Steelers lost control of Antonio Brown and let him control the situation. The Steelers had no choice to trade away Brown. He did not want to be there, and the Steelers could not put up with him.
The Steelers had a deal in place with the Buffalo Bills, but Brown nixed the trade. Buffalo realized that Brown did not want to be there either, so he would not be a good fit. This let everyone know that the Steelers were letting Brown control his destiny, which drove his price down.
The Giants did not have to trade Odell, which is the reason why they got so much in return for him. They held all the leverage where in the Steelers case, Antonio Brown held all the leverage. The Giants did get a sizable return for Odell, but it was still a bad trade on their part. If they wanted to trade him, they should have done it last season.
The Giants will need to rely heavily on Saquon Barkley the next few years. The recent signing of Golden Tate will not completely replace OBJ, but it will give the Giants more depth. After the Odell trade, the Giants only had Sterling Shepard at wide receiver, which would have made things difficult for 38-year old QB Eli Manning.
The biggest name in free agency in this offseason was former Steelers’ RB Le’Veon Bell. Pittsburgh placed the franchise tag on Bell for the second straight season in 2018, but Bell refused to play on the one-year deal. He wanted to hit free agency where he thought he could command a high paying contract.
It is fitting that Le’Veon Bell would title his mixtape “Life’s a Gamble” because he gambled on himself and the market he could command but it did not pay off. He laughed last year saying $60 million would not be enough to get him to play for the Jets, but everyone is laughing at Bell because he signed with the Jets for only 4 years/$52.5 million. It seems like the Jets were the highest bidders for Bell’s services and the price was not what Bell expected.
It is being reported that the Steelers offered Bell a 5 year/$70 million deal with $33 million guaranteed last offseason. Bell thought he was worth way more than that, but he was wrong. He left $14.5 million on the table by not playing under the franchise tag and walked away from $70 million, which was his best offer. Antonio Brown played his cards right as he got a trade to a team he wanted to go to, while also getting a pay raise from his new team. Bell should have sought advice from Brown on how to handle contract negotiations rather than taking his ball and going home.
Players have signed record breaking deals in this year’s free agency. Former New England Patriots OT Trent Brown signed a record setting 4 year/$66 million deal with the Oakland Raiders. He is now the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Meanwhile, former Giants S Landon Collins signed a record breaking 6 year/$84 million deal with the Washington Redskins. Collins is the highest paid safety in the NFL and will get to face his former team twice a year. This is a sizable deal on its own, but especially when you consider that Collins is primarily a box safety and not a coverage guy. Someone like CB Jalen Ramsey could break the bank when he hits free agency following Landon Collins’ contract.
The total cap for the 2019 season did increase, but these massive contracts are still a surprise. Guys who are not the best at their positions are signing record breaking deals. Most of the big names are off the market, so the next eventful moves may not come until draft night. The 2019 NFL Draft could be electric depending on where Kyler Murray goes. We could see several trades that would shake up where some of the best prospects will go.