Winners and Losers of NFL Free Agency 2019

Joseph Frescott, Sports Editor

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NFL Free Agency began on March 1st and made this offseason one of the most eventful in recent NFL history. Some of the NFL’s best players made headlines through various big time trades and signings. Teams such as the Browns made a lot of moves and were clear winners of Free Agency. However, the Patriots, among others made few moves and lost a lot of key players, deeming them “losers” so far this offseason.

Winners

New York Jets

As of now, the New York Jets are the clear winners of the NFL Offseason. The biggest acquisition they made came with the signing of Le’veon Bell, a top 5 running back coming off of one of the most controversial seasons ever. After not receiving a full extension by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell sat out the 2018-19 season and lost $14.5 million by not playing under the Franchise Tag. The reasoning for this is that if Bell would have gotten hurt, he would have had to take a significant pay cut for the next few years. As a running back, Le’veon knew that the guaranteed contract was important to his future in the NFL and the Jets gave him that money. In the end, he signed a four year $52 million deal with more than half guaranteed.

However, this wasn’t the move the Jets made, as they signed one of the best interior linebackers in the league, CJ Mosley to bolster their already quality defense. On the offensive side of the ball, they swapped fifth round picks with the Raiders in exchange for their All-Pro guard, Kelechi Osemele, to protect their young QB. They also got Darnold a few more weapons, adding Jamison Crowder and resigning Robby Anderson. All in all, the Jets had one of the best offseasons and look to turn their franchise around through these moves.

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns have been the joke of the NFL for the past decade and haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. All of this looks to be changing very soon, as in the last two years, the Browns have finally made some quality moves that have turned them into one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the league. After drafting star QB Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb in last years draft, the Browns made a trade for star WR Jarvis Landry this past offseason. All of these moves completely rebuilt their offense and created a great young core to build around. This offseason only built upon this, signing RB Kareem Hunt and trading for one of the best wide receivers in the league, Odell Beckham Jr. In this deal, the Browns traded away their 1st and 3rd round picks along with Jabrill Peppers and Kevin Zeitler to acquire Odell and Olivier Vernon from the NY Giants. This trade immediately made the Browns a top offense in the league while boosting their defense as well. The Browns come out of this offseason as one of the biggest winners and have put themselves in playoff contention for the first time in nearly a decade.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders were one of the most disappointing teams during the 2018 season, finishing 4-12 after trading away two of their best players in LB Khalil Mack and WR Amari Cooper. Getting rid of two of the best at their positions led the Raiders to receiving a lot of hate by the media, but coach Jon Gruden considered these moves necessary as he looks to rebuild his Raiders into a contender within the next few years. This offseason proved to be the start of this rebuilding process, signing OL Trent Brown and WR Tyrell Williams to big deals. However, none of these moves were bigger than the trade for former Steeler receiver Antonio Brown. After one of the most controversial off seasons in recent history, Brown made it clear he wanted out of Pittsburgh. The Raiders capitalized on the Steelers desperation to get rid of him, trading only a 3rd and 5th round picks in exchange for the best WR in the NFL. Although there are concerns over his age (he turned 30 this year), the Raiders signed him to a 3 year $50 million contract extension, making him a Raider until 2022. Through these moves, Oakland rebuilt their horrendous offense and looks to continue to rebuild through the draft with their three 1st round picks.

Losers

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots always seem to be in the mix as the “losers” of free agency, as every year that let big impact players walk and make few quality signings. The biggest moves they made in free agency was resigning WR Phillip Dorsett and CB Jason McCourty, two low cost but quality players. The Patriots never believed in signing players to long and huge contracts, and this remained true this offseason. After letting their starting guard go in Trent Brown, the Pats also lost arguably their best defensive player in DE Trey Flowers who signed with the Lions. To make matters worse, future HOF TE Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL weeks later. Although New England lost Brady’s favorite target, the Patriots always find a way to make a run and it remains to be seen how much this free agency inactivity will impact their franchise as they try to make another championship push in the final few years of Tom Brady’s career.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers essentially lost free agency before the 2018 season even ended. After dealing with the Le’veon Bell controversy for the past two seasons, the Steelers found their guy in RB James Conner and looked to continue to have a lethal offense with Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster. However, after week 17, it became clear that Antonio Brown wanted out of Pittsburgh after not playing that week. It took months for the Steelers to find a home for the aging receiver, but finally settled for a trade with the Raiders which included a 3rd and 5th round pick. After losing a top 5 running back and wide receiver in the matter of a few months, the Steelers went on to sign CB Steven Nelson and LB Mark Baron. Despite a couple of key signings, Pittsburgh lost too many of their core players to not be considered overall losers in free agency.

New York Giants

The New York Giants have had a rough two seasons, with QB controversy and overall terrible consecutive seasons. They were very active so far this offseason, but the trades and signings they made were questionable, to say the least. The first bad move they made was letting go of All-Star safety, Landon Collins. The Giants refused to pay him the money he wanted, so he signed with a division rival in Washington. From there, the Giants made a blockbuster trade with the Browns, trading away top 5 WR Odell Beckham jr. in exchange for OG Kevin Zeitler, SS Jabrill Peppers, and a 1st and 3rd round picks. The assets they got from this exchange were underwhelming, but the Giants believed this move was a step in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether they draft a QB to replace 38 year old Eli Manning in the upcoming draft. If they do so, the Giants could be building a nice young franchise around Saquon and the young QB. Until then, it is safe to say the Giants are clear losers in free agency so far.