2019 Post-Free Agency Offseason Winners and Losers
Updated: May 1, 2019
Now that the allure, Brinks trucks, and jaw-dropping moves of free agency have basically resonated with us sports fanatics, I felt that it was in order to dissect who boosted their chances of emerging victorious next year—as well as the opposite end of the spectrum.
From my Steelers revamping their squad—and locker room—to a myriad of safeties breaking the bank, free agency has arguably become as much of a spectacle as the regular season itself. These are my winners and losers of the offseason thus far; feel free to chime in below.
After what seemed to be eons of losing, the Browns have more than turned the tide and are on the precipice of apparent greatness. Their Odell Beckham Jr. trade was astounding for multiple reasons: Baker Mayfield has acquired another weapon, rumors had swirled but nothing had coalesced prior to the move, and Beckham was reunited with his college running mate Jarvis Landry.
That trade will not shy away from receiving countless media attention, but I also want to turn towards the other feats that GM John Dorsey has pulled off. Turning to the other side of the ball, Cleveland added DE Olivier Vernon to pair alongside burgeoning superstar Myles Garrett along its defensive line. On top of that, they added DT Sheldon Richardson with Vernon and Garrett to convert what was once a weakness into a forte.
If the Browns can stay healthy and avoid personality clashes, they could easily follow the footsteps of the 2017 Rams and 2018 Bears and shock the NFL this season.
Green Bay Packers
Sure, they didn’t sign Le’Veon Bell or trade for Antonio Brown, but the Packers’ defense has revitalized itself despite being a liability last year. GM Brian Gutekunst put good use to the team’s excess of $40 million in cap room by inking OLB Za’Darius Smith, S Adrian Amos (isn’t it interesting how the Bears and Packers essentially swapped safeties?), and LB Preston Smith.
In a division owned by the Monsters of the Midway, Green Bay has made a name for itself—with a prodigious draft, they can challenge Chicago and potentially earn a Wild Card berth.
Yes, the Raiders stole the cornerstone of my favorite franchise for what seemed like pennies on the dollar by trading for Antonio Brown. But Mark Davis has revamped his franchise in several other manners, including signing WR Tyrell Williams—which now gives Derek Carr a premier wide receiver duo—as well as safety Lamarcus Joyner.
However, one move I didn’t comprehend is essentially swapping Trent Brown—who, in most opinions, was overpaid at signing for 4 years, $66 million—for Kelechi Osemele. But with a bevy of draft picks, the Raiders should look to bolster their defensive line, running back corps, and cornerback contingent in order to better compete in the formidable AFC West.
New York Jets
Despite possessing a top-3 pick in this April’s draft, the Jets will certainly improve their 2018 mark—and may very well compete with the Patriots for AFC East supremacy. When New York signed Le’Veon Bell earned a hefty payday—that, albeit, essentially paled in comparison to what the Steelers offered him—and inked ILB C.J. Mosley, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Josh Bellamy, and CB Brian Poole, Gang Green allocated its cap space quite well and has a more electric offense led by second-year QB Sam Darnold.
Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills
Per ESPN, the Ravens had the no. 1 total defense in the NFL last year. And, all things considered, such a maxim wasn’t a surprise—it was chock full of stars in Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Eric Weddle, Za’Darius Smith, Marlon Humphrey, and more. But four of their upper-echelon defenders have departed, leaving the team’s performance likely resting on Lamar Jackson’s passing prowess as he enters his second season as the starting quarterback.
I think the signings of RB Mark Ingram and S Earl Thomas can give the Ravens some momentum and mitigate such integral losses, but in a weaker AFC North, Baltimore seems to be trending in the wrong direction.
I wouldn’t count the Ravens out with Jon Harbaugh at coach, but we could be sitting on the edge of his worst season in some time.
Entering this offseason, the Colts had a ludicrous $122 million in cap space in January alone. Fans of the franchise were hoping for the acquisitions of Pro Bowl players left and right, from Bell to Tyrell Williams to Landon Collins. But the most the Colts have to show for their copious cap room is resigning Pierre Desir, a solid corner, ensuring that K Adam Vinatieri is on next year’s squad, and likely paying too much for inconsistent WR Devin Funchess.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the Colts blew an opportunity—the nucleus of their 2018 squad is quite young and will only improve—but I do think acquiring a true superstar would’ve catapulted their status and enabled them to have become a bonafide AFC contender.
New England Patriots
In ESPN’s iteration of this exercise, Kevin Seifert praised the Pats for remaining patient and not pouncing on the opportunity to retain several of their key free agents. However, I have a different spin on the same concept.
New England, in an AFC that looks much more difficult than last year, has to cope with the loss of DE Trey Flowers—who posted 7.5 sacks—and the aforementioned Trent Brown; throw in Rob Gronkowski mulling retirement and the potential departure of excellent kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and Belichick & Co. likely are not where they would like to be as they attempt to become back-to-back champions.
I will never doubt the Patriots as long as they have Tom Brady and Belichick at their helm—my sentiments have proved moot too many times in the past—but the Patriots now have to be consciously aware of the Jets and the likes of the Chiefs and Browns, both of whom they will encounter in 2019.
New York Giants
Fundamentally, the Giants’ nascent problem is a multi-faceted issue.
First of all, they transformed a fringe playoff team into essentially the 2019 version of the 2018 Oakland Raiders: devoid of all star power. And, like Oakland, the Giants simply ushered away the core of their talent; it is almost impossible to assuage the loss of Beckham, Landon Collins, and Vernon in the same offseason.
The other problem that I prognosticate will plague the Giants is the roster that they have implemented for Eli Manning’s successor. Whether they trade for Josh Rosen—which I think is very coherent—or draft Dwayne Haskins, for whom they have “not done their homework,” their receiver corps consists of, essentially, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard.
It will certainly be a long season for Big Blue faithful as well as Saquon Barkley, but at least they can hope to restock by this time next year.
Honorable Mention: Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks