We are still about a half day away from the official start of the league year in the NFL, and, by and large, the first wave of trades and notable free-agent moves is already over. It’s going to be impossible to top the flurry of activity that began on Monday, and by tonight teams will already be bargain shopping, for the most part.

Be quick or be dead when it comes to diving into the deep end of free-agency in this league (not that I would ever recommend that as a primary tenant of team-building in this sport). There is already a lot to digest, but here are my thoughts on what occurred and where we stand:

Beckham decisions a blight on Giants

As reported back at the combine, the Giants were doing more than simply listening for trades on Odell Beckham. They were fairly motivated sellers and they were doing plenty of talking about the star receiver. It was clear the coaching staff was done with him and the owner publicly mulled trading him a year ago. All of this is a blight on the Giants – paying Beckham $21M to play with a broken-down QB who can’t complete simple slants and screens without putting his pass catchers in peril in another lost season. The fact they made the trade so soon in the offseason, and did not hold out for two first-round picks at a time when there are so few options for outside receivers in free agency or the draft or the trade market, strikes the rest of the league as baffling.

Precedent has been set for superstars

The first thought going through the minds of many close to Beckham after being notified of the trade was the contract. As it should be. In a new NFL world where Khalil Mack willed his way out of Oakland and Antonio Brown could talk his way out of Pittsburgh and into new riches in Oakland, trust me, every true superstar player in this league is aware of the power of ‘no’ and the leverage they carry. They should seek/demand more guaranteed money on their deals in situations like these. The precedent has been set.

Le’Veon’s market never what he sought

Le’Veon Bell never had a market anywhere close to what he was seeking or what he turned down in Pittsburgh. As we talked about on CBS HQ all day Monday and Tuesday, his camp had to negotiate through the media and create a climate where teams with zero interest – like the Ravens – were suddenly the focal point of intense national “reporting” and speculation that they were the team to beat. It began at the combine, where I heard a lot of it, checked it out, and was told repeatedly by trusted sources it was fake. Word from everyone I spoke to was $13M a year – and nowhere close to $16M a year – was where the Jets valued Bell, and they never budged and the Ravens never made an offer. The Raiders and others sniffed around, but never jumped into the deep end, either.

Jaguars continue to fool themselves

Howie Roseman, one of the best wheeler-dealers in the NFL when it comes to trades, couldn’t get anything for Nick Foles on the franchise tag, yet the Jaguars are going to sign him to what amounts to two years guaranteed at the 2018 QB franchise tag ($25M) at a time when they have next to nothing at their skill positions and need help all over. Okay. No one else was looking for a 30-year-old starter, there was no one to bid against and no need to pay that much. That additional $8-$10M a year could’ve been spent addressing other needs. The Jags continue to baffle me. The Jaguars, Giants and Broncos have been fooling themselves about who they really are – and where they are really going – for years now.

More free-agency observations

  • Lots of teams are scratching their head about the Skins, too, but then again they always do when Bruce Allen runs the show. They reset the safety market for Landon Collins – who won’t help them much downfield, where they need it – at a time when vital pass rush is walking out the door and more pressing holes are on the roster. If I am that team, and I making one big-ticket signing, a guy who is primarily a box safety ain’t it.  
  • The Browns are not done shopping. They are in on Earl Thomas – whose health appears to have scared off some teams and whose market did not immediately form the way many expected it would – and they have the money to continue to add judiciously the rest of the way after that.
  • The Bills made a concerted effort to rebuild the protection in front of second-year QB Josh Allen and surround the big-armed, athletic passer with a bevy of speed options. The cast around him is significantly upgraded from a year ago. The Bills and Jets will take a step forward next season in the AFC East.
  • The Patriots and Ravens are currently in line for multiple third-round comp picks in 2020 – and no franchises do a better job of compiling and utilizing them than those two. Kudos to Baltimore rookie GM Eric DeCosta for being prudent with his spending and not jeopardizing the future to overpay players now. The Ravens were due for a reset and the money they have saved thus far is earmarked for an emerging core of Michael Pierce, Mathew Judon and Patrick Onwuasor.
  • Some teams are keeping a close eye on what the Packers do with restricted free-agent receiver Geronimo Allison. He had not yet received a tender from the team as of this morning, and anything short of a second-round tender on him would basically hasten his departure. He has flashed explosiveness and there is tremendous receiver need and as I mentioned, very little impact available in the UFA market and the draft.
  • At this point there is a pretty strong assumption around the league that Tyrod Taylor will head to the Dolphins. Seems to make plenty of sense for the Vikings to re-sign Trevor Siemian as their backup and for the Ravens to do the same with RGIII.

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