Musings on Free Agency
We find ourselves in a strange old world indeed. The corona virus has changed our daily lives in a way no one saw coming. Its against this background that the ‘normalcy’ of the free agency period has given all of us NFL fans a wonderful distraction from everything going on in the world. The NFL free agency period has been a godsend for American sports fans who have seen almost all other sports cease competing. After a week of transactions and trades, the dust is beginning to settle and we are beginning to see a picture of what the NFL landscape is going to look like for the next season. Here are some general musings on the big headlines from this Free Agency Period.
San Francisco 49ers & Indianapolis Colts
The San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts completed one of those rare trade where it appears everybody wins. The 49ers sent Deforest Buckner to the Colts for the 13th pick in the 2020 draft. One of the issues with the 49ers is that having collected a stellar collection of talent across their defensive line, it would be difficult to retain all those players without negatively impacting the rest of the roster. Something had to give especially after they resigned Arik Armstead. However, despite having to trade a super talented player they were adequately compensated by their trade partner. A first round pick for Buckner will do nicely allowing the 49ers to pick twice in the first round to stack an already stacked roster with even more talent.
For the Colts, they are getting a quality defensive tackle and he should be considering how much they are going to pay him. Buckner was a key cog on a defensive line which propelled the 49ers to the superbowl. He’s only 26 and fill a huge void in the Colts defensive line as they look to bolster a good young part of their team. There are some concerns for all parties. We’ve touched on the fact that the 49ers are losing part of what got them to the superbowl. For the Colts they are investing, not only a very high draft pick but a huge contract. Buckner is set to become the second highest paid defensive lineman in the league behind only Aaron Donald. So, there is risk and reward to both side in this transaction as there is with any transaction of this type. However, on balance it appears that both teams got a good deal.
Being a head coach is a difficult job. Being a GM is also a difficult job. Both of these jobs have different goals. A head coach’s job is to win now, this year. A GM’s jo is to make sure the team is ready to win in future years. These two jobs are often at odds with each other but both are critical to the success of the team. When a single person has the same job either the long term or short-term success of the team is likely to suffer, even worse if the same person isn’t very good at one of the roles they do. Bill O’Brian appears to be a good NFL coach, but also appears to have no idea what he’s doing as a GM.
If reports are to be believed then the reason that O’Brian wanted to move on from De’Andre Hopkins was a clash of personalities. Fine, it’s not the best reason to move on from one of the best receivers in the NFL but it certainly an understandable one if you think he’s going to become a locker room problem.
However, where O’Brien has fallen over is in the compensation, he received for his superstar wideout. In the same period the Minnesota Vikings have had a similar conundrum. They have a super talented wideout that they saw as a problem for their organizations locker room and wanted to move him on. In compensation from the Buffalo Bills they received the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 draft as well as a 5th and 6th round pick in the same draft. That’s not all, they also got a 4th round pick in the 2021 draft. Ample compensation for one of the best wide receivers in the game.
So, what did Bill O’Brien get for one of the best receivers in the league? A running back who has a dead weight of a contract and hasn’t performed well for almost 2 seasons and a second-round pick. That’s it. The Arizona Cardianals who traded with the Texans have made out like bandits in this trade. This is where not having a GM is really hurting the Texans as no one appears to have the long-term interests of the team in mind. A final thought on this, in the last calendar year Bill O’Brian has traded away Clowney and Hopkins and received only a 2nd and 3rd round picks as well as 3 players unlikely to make many NFL rosters.
Brady retires to Florida
I need to lay my cards out on the table here before talking about Tom Brady joining the Buccaneers. I’m a die-hard Bucs fan so it’s difficult for me to view this objectively however I’m going to try my best.
We’re going to the superbowl boys!
More realistically it’s a strange time in the NFL. For the past 20 years Tom Brady has been the best quarterback in the league and has plied his trade exclusively in New England. Now, for whatever reason, he has decided he needed another challenge. Fortunately for Bucs fans he decided to do what most old people in America and see out his twilight years on Florida. You can’t blame the Bucs for wanting to move on from the Jameis Winston experience. It’s had very high highs and very low lows but overall, the lows outweighed the highs for Winston. So in steps the greatest quarterback of the last 20 years to fill the void.
There has been debate about whether Brady is an upgrade and whether or not he can still quarterback at a high level. Even if he is just a league average quarterback, I still think he will elevate both the Buccaneers offense and defence. If Brady can simply limit the number of turnovers and get the ball into the hands of the Buccaneers talented playmakers then it can only improve the team. Also, not having to defend a lot of short fields and chasing games from behind after yet another pick six will also boost the Buccaneers team overall.
However there is some risk here as well. One of the oft overlooked parts of Jameis Winstons game was his ability to navigate the pocket. Last season Jameis did a great job of buying time for himself, extending plays and changing the launch point of a throw based on the offensive line. Jameis covered up a number of talent deficiencies especially in the tackle department. Brady is not the same athlete Jameis is and will not be able to cover up the cracks in the pass protection. Also Brady will be 44 entering week one and we are in uncharted waters here as far as heath goes and with a sub-standard oline we could see whomever is backing Brady up before too long. Its going to be feast of famine with this signing but I personally cannot wait to see it.
The Baltimore Ravens appear to have a massively unfair advantage going into the 2020 season. Their front office appears to be able to trick and swindle their way into amazing players left right and center. Its not fair. To get Calais Campbell from the Jaguars for a fith round pick appears to be daylight robbery. Managing to convince the Atlanta falcons to part ways with a second-round pick for Hayden Hurst seems inspired. Signing Michael Brokers to a 3-year deal for not much money is fantastic. Re-signing Chuck Clarke to a team friendly deal seem like a savvy move. It doesn’t seem fair that they can be making such great moves to bolster an already talented team while giving up so little.
The opposite side of the Ravens coin are the Chicago Bears. They have traded for Nick Foals who looked just woeful in his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fourth round pick when just a few days later Cam Newton became a free agent. They gave Robert Quinn a lot of guaranteed money to replace Leonard Floyd who they are releasing despite Quinn having a patchy career record at best. The Bears also appear to not have been paying attention to Green Bay in any way last season as they signed Jimmy Graham to a 2 year contract despite the tight end having the worst seasons of his career, being a shell of his former self. Not every move they have made has been awful as they have managed to resign star safty Eddie Jackson. However from the look of it they don’t appear to get making their team better with the moves they have made.
Travis Fredrick Retires
Travis Fredrick has announced his retirement. Pour one out fellas for one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the game. His ability to block defensive linemen a gap and a half over on an stretch play was unrivalled in the game. He was a massive part of the success of the Dallas offensive line and personally I’m going to miss him. Enjoy your retirement Travis.