- The 2019 NFL offseason started with some big moves.
- The Raiders brought in wide receiver Antonio Brown and appeared ready to add even more talent.
- The Steelers have watched as two of the most talented players in the league left for greener pastures.
The 2019 NFL offseason is well under way, with teams now free to negotiate to bring new players in and superstars are maneuvering their ways across the league to what they hope will be greener pastures.
Teams and free agents were allowed to begin negotiations on Monday, and signings will go official on March 13, but in just a few hours that the market has been open, there’s already been plenty of action that will reshape the NFL heading into 2019.
From some of the biggest stars in the league joining new teams to some of the strangest decisions you’ll ever see a franchise make, take a look below at the winners and losers of the opening days of the 2019 NFL offseason.
Winner: Antonio Brown
It took a while to get there, but Antonio Brown got exactly what he wanted.
After a messy breakup with the Pittsburgh Steelers that included tense arguments and some awkward posts to social media, Brown has left the team to join the Raiders in Oakland and earned himself a solid raise that will pay him $50.1 million over the next three seasons.
Loser: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are set to lose two of the most talented offensive weapons in the NFL, with Antonio Brown joining the Raiders and Le’Veon Bell leaving for the New York Jets.
While Pittsburgh still has plenty of firepower – Ju Ju Smith-Schuster and James Conner both had extremely productive years – it’s tough to believe that losing two of the most feared players in the league is a positive.
Making matters worse is the paltry return the Steelers got for their departing superstars – nothing for Bell, and a mere third- and fifth-round pick from the Raiders for Brown. Hardly a king’s ransom.
Winner: Nick Foles
After a career spent as a nominal backup, Nick Foles getting a huge payday to take over the starting role in Jacksonville, reportedly set to sign a four-year, $88 million deal that includes more than $50 million guaranteed.
While the Jaguars had a rough 2018 campaign, they’re only a season removed from an appearance in the AFC Championship, and have a solid defense and set of skill position players that could make some noise if Foles comes through as he did for the Eagles over the past two years.
Add the fact that the Eagles could have used the franchise tag to keep Foles and then trade him away to the destination of their choosing – Washington, Miami, or worse – it’s obvious that Foles is one biggest winners of free agency thus far.
Loser: Washington Redskins
Washington’s plan to replace starting quarterback Alex Smith, who is still recovering from one of the scariest injuries of the 2018 season, was to bring in Case Keenum after his decidedly underwhelming season with the Denver Broncos.
This is a move that might make a bit more sense if the team was deciding to essentially punt on 2019 and go after one of the talented quarterbacks – most notably Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa – in next year’s draft.
Instead, they completely reset the market for safeties, giving Landon Collins a six-year deal worth $84 million. Collins is a solid player, but making him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league was an odd move for a team that doesn’t look close to competing for a division title.
What is the plan in Washington?
While some questioned the logic of Washington’s decision to give Landon Collins his massive deal, safeties around the league were thrilled with the news.
Collins benefits most directly from his contract, but 2018 saw talented safeties go unsigned well into the season, Collins’ contract helped set a new high mark that is seeing plenty of players getting paid.
Tyrann Mathieu signed with the Chiefs for three years and $42 million, and Earl Thomas signed a four-year, $55 million contract with the Ravens that included $32 million fully guaranteed at signing, despite coming off of a broken leg.
It’s a good year to be a quality safety.
Loser: New York Giants
The Giants offseason would have been bad enough had they just lost Landon Collins – an understandable move for a franchise looking to frugally rebuild, but the decision to trade Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland infuriated fans of Big Blue, most notably “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin.
The Giants return for Odell – Jabrill Peppers, and the Browns first- and third-round picks in 2019 – isn’t completely useless, but it’s going to be impossible for the franchise to replace one of the most exhilirating players to watch in the NFL.
Making the decision to dump Odell even stranger is the fact that the Giants still seem committed to Eli Manning as their quarterback in 2019.
If the franchise is standing behind Manning as their guy, why trade away so many talented pieces that could make you a contender?
Winner: New York Jets
The Jets were already a team to watch heading into 2019, with quarterback Sam Darnold heading into his second year under center and New York sporting a ton of cap space to help surround him with talent.
One investment the team made was to bring in Le’Veon Bell, one of the most dynamic players in football when he was last seen on the field. Bell sat out the entirety of the 2018 season in order to stay healthy for his next contract, and as a result, the Jets were able to sign him on a relatively affordable deal.
While some eschew paying running backs, Bell is the type of game-changing player that can alter the course of a franchise, and the Jets were able to land him at a reasonable rate.
Loser: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions entered the 2019 offseason with plenty of holes to fill.
As talented players across the league signed with their new teams, the Matt Patricia and the Lions seemed content to fill out their roster with ex-Patriots.
Danny Amendola, Justin Coleman, and Trey Flowers might be familiar to Patricia due to their time together in New England, but it’s hardly the ideal trio of players you would pick if you were charged with bringing the dynastic powers of the Patriots to Detroit.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
After a rough 2018 season, the Oakland Raiders are having a phenomenal offseason so far, and are set to make even bigger moves through the NFL draft.
The Raiders brought in Antonio Brown, the most dominant receiver in the NFL for years, and only had to trade away third- and fifth-round draft picks to do it. Oakland also beefed up its offensive line, bringing in Trent Brown to help protect Derek Carr, and safety Lamarcus Joyner to help improve a defense that gave up the most points in the league in 2018.
With three first-round draft picks still to play with, Jon Gruden and the Raiders can still bring in plenty of more talent before the 2019 season kicks off.
Loser: Houston Texans
The Houston Texans let two key pieces of their secondary – Tyrann Mathieu and Kareem Jackson – walk away.
Their defense will still be anchored by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, but two players don’t make a defense, and Houston will need to invest in their defensive backs if they hope to compete.
Winner: Cleveland Browns
The Browns made the blockbuster move of the offseason so far by trading for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who will join Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and David Njoku to form one of the most fascinating offenses in the NFL.
Cleveland also picked up Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a three-year, $39 million deal that will give the Browns quite a formidable pass rush.
As things stand, the defensive front will be defensive ends Olivier Vernon and Myles Garrett, defensive tackles Larry Ogunjobi and Richardson.
With the AFC North feeling wide open this year, Cleveland is in position to potentially make the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Loser: Minnesota Vikings
While most teams competing for a Super Bowl in 2019 were adding talent to their rosters, Minnesota’s biggest free agency move was the departure of Richardson at defensive tackle.
After a middling 2018 campaign fell short of a playoff spot, you might think the Vikings would be one of the big spenders of the offseason, but so far that hasn’t been the case.
Winner: Aaron Rodgers
The Green Bay Packers seem aware that there are only so many years of Aaron Rodgers’ peak left, and willing to spend in free agency to make the most of them.
The Packers beefed up their defense with edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith, as well as former Bears safety Adrian Amos.
Rodgers has been a safety valve for the Packers for years now, always able to secure another touchdown when needed, but with a better defense in Green Bay, he might finally be able to get a win without the game going to a shootout.
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