Well that was a day. Just when it looked like things might go quietly into the new league year, we got a six-hour stretch where Dee Ford being traded to the 49ers wouldn’t even qualify as back page news. OBJ got dealt, Lev Bell signed and things generally hit the fan.
Each day in this spot we’ll break down winners and losers and we’ll do the same on the Pick Six Podcast, our daily NFL show, which has full analysis of every deal built in. Make sure and subscribe to get it delivered to your inbox every single morning. It’s late (early?) in the morning, so let’s get to the people who won and lost on Tuesday.
Who else could top this column on the night where the Browns GM, a man who developed his own unique style of swag, managed toto land Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants?
The cost of the deal was relatively minimal too — Cleveland gave up just a first-round pick in 2019 (No. 17), a third-round pick in 2019 (No. 95, not even the Browns’ early third-round pick) and safety Jabrill Peppers. We can haggle about whether the compensation was enough for New York all day, but the Browns didn’t destroy their season by giving up a pair of picks and a safety, they didn’t mortgage a cent of their future and they landed a game-changing, potential Hall of Fame wide receiver.
Say whatever you want about OBJ, but the reality is he’s one of the best receivers in the game and he is just 26 years old. Cleveland’s skill position guys surrounding Baker Mayfield (23) include: Nick Chubb (23), Kareem Hunt (23), Duke Johnson (25), Odell Beckham (26), Jarvis Landry (26), Antonio Callaway (22) and David Njoku (22). The window is wide open for Cleveland to try and make noise in the AFC North … and beyond.
Quietly, Buffalo is putting together a very nice offseason. It’s impossible to just go out and make massive splashes when you’re in a position like the Bills. Instead, they’ve done a very good job assembling some cheaper talent to put around Josh Allen.
Notably,with Cole Beasley — an excellent slot weapon to help ease the burden on Allen in terms of short-yardage throws — and John Brown, who can take the top off any defense and pairs well with Allen’s monster arm. Mitch Morse is expensive, but he’s a young (26 years old) center to grow with Allen and help protect the young quarterback up front. Tyler Kroft was also an overpriced tight end weapon, but he’s young, he flashed for the Bengals and, again, it can’t be overstated how important it is for Allen to have some decent weapons.
The Bills also added Kevin Johnson as a young, upside-filled cornerback, picked up Jon Feliciano and Ty Nsekhe as potential starters/depth on the offensive line and even managed to add Frank Gore. Yes, the running back group is 95 years old combined, but there’s some reliable skill guys there.
San Francisco 49ers
They have now spent a pile of money in free agency, which makes it very easy to get excited about their prospects. But I think the 49ers have some legit win-now opportunity here after what they’ve done. Landing Dee Ford in a trade with the Chiefs and thenmight be considered a risky move, but the deal ultimately wasn’t that expensive, as it only cost the 49ers a 2020 second-round pick. If John Lynch can somehow snag Nick Bosa with the second overall pick in the upcoming draft, the 49ers defense could be potent in 2018.
Get a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo under center, develop a few more weapons for Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and it’s easy to imagine this team challenging the Rams in the NFC West. They might overpay every year for at least one free agent, but there’s a little bit of mojo working here and it does feel like the 49ers will fly under the radar this year, which is something they certainly did not do last offseason.
New York Giants
Is it too easy to sit here and rip the Giants for the Beckham deal? Yeah, it is. Because it’s insane. They signed Beckham to the biggest wide receiver deal on the market last offseason after flirting with the idea of trading him for several months. The goal? To reboot around Eli Manning. The result? Complete and total limbo.
The Giants will have more dead cap money next year than any other NFL team as of right now, having just paid Odell almost $21.5 million in cash for one lost 2018 season. Now they will have a $16 million dead cap hit for Beckham. I think I see what they’re doing, pivoting to make Saquon Barkley the face of the franchise and building an offensive line to let Barkley go wild. Maybe they’ll stink this year and they’ll end up landing a high pick for the third straight season to draft a quarterback in 2019. Maybe they’ll just go ahead and draft a quarterback this year. Who knows? It sure doesn’t seem like the Giants do.
I think Bell, but he also landed in the only spot he was ever going to find in free agency. Any buzz about him going somewhere else was nonsense, as this was a one-horse race from the start, with just the Jets negotiating against Bell. Maybe in a different year with different teams he sees more money? Or maybe it’s just the nature of the business that any free agent running back is going to struggle to really pull in a huge amount of money.
Bell got $13 million-plus per year and now has enough money on his contract with the Jets where he will never have to worry about working ever again once he retires. But it sure does seem like he would have been better off, at least from the perspective of earning the most amount of money as early as possible, taking the contract the Steelers offered him. We’ll see how it works out once we get actual numbers on Bell’s deal and once we see him actually end up playing for the Jets. But he needed $55 million guaranteed to make the holdout worth it and he didn’t get there.
The former Packers general manager has largely been dragged the last few days because new GM Brian Guntekunst is willing to get aggressive and go out and sign multiple free agents in every offseason. This year it was pass rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darious Smith as well as safety Adrian Amos. That’s bold, man. We never saw Thompson do that, and it’s drawing rave reviews from Packers fans who have always wanted their team spend money aggressively in free agency.
The Packers did this last year too, by the way, spending big on Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson. It didn’t work out, but no one really seemed to care when the Packers started spending again this year. I like how the Smiths and Amos fit within Mike Pettine’s defense, and with the loss of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry (the latter was cut this week), the Packers badly needed to add some edge pressure. Amos is a young, talented player and the Packers stole him from a division rival. That’s always a bonus. If the Packers bounce back quickly this year, the new regime in Green Bay will get tons of credit for its ability to add players via free agency.