Analyzing the league’s off-season moves

August 17, 2020
By Andrew McKay

Normally around this time, we are anticipating the start of the NFL season. This year, there is a question of if there will be a season. Who will be playing and who will be opting out? Where will teams be playing? Questions that would be completely ridiculous any other year than 2020. It seems like we have been in this pandemic a lot longer than five months. The free agent frenzy of the off-season was that long ago, but we remember our team’s transactions for better or for worse. Let’s take a look back at the biggest moves made by each team.

Chicago Bears – Robert Quinn

The Bears addition of Robert Quinn was a bit of a head-scratcher, but it was a move that most fans were not unhappy with. Once Akiem Hicks went down with a season-ending injury, the pass rush went down with it. Khalil Mack was being doubled, sometimes triple-teamed, and not any other defensive linemen or linebacker found much success either. Adding Quinn will give the defense another pass rusher for offenses to deal with, as the team builds around their defensive centerpiece in Mack.

Cincinnati Bengals – Trae Waynes

Trae Waynes was a bit of a letdown during his tenure with the Vikings. He played well but did not live up to expectations. It’s not that he did a horrible job in Minnesota, just not good enough to stand out. The Bengals were absolutely hurting at defensive back and Waynes projected as a player who could be better and live up to the expectations set for him as a first-round pick (11th overall) in 2015. Unfortunately, he won’t get the chance to redeem himself this year as ESPN reported that Waynes suffered a torn pectoral a few days ago and could miss significant time.

*Editors note: Waynes is expected to miss the majority of the season after having pectoral surgery.

Buffalo Bills – Stefon Diggs

Stefon Diggs found his way over to Buffalo via trade from the Minnesota Vikings. It was a move that left Vikings fans at a bit of a loss, but Bills fans couldn’t be happier. The Vikings got quite a few picks out of the deal, including a first-rounder. However, this trade gives Josh Allen another weapon to throw to and puts the Bills in a perfect position to compete and take home an AFC East title.

Denver Broncos – Melvin Gordon III

The addition of MGIII gives the Broncos another weapon to help their young quarterback, Drew Lock, to succeed. Gordon and Phil Lindsay will be competing for the number one role in the backfield, but the combination of these two backs couldn’t possibly be more dynamic. The hard-nosed running style of Lindsay coupled with the elusive pass-catching skills of Gordon creates a dangerous backfield for Denver. Suddenly, the AFC West becomes that much more cut-throat.

Cleveland Browns – Austin Hooper

Hooper entered free agency as the top tight end and the Browns quickly scooped him up. Hooper was an exceptional outlet for Matt Ryan in Atlanta, posting career-high numbers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Baker Mayfield now has a very reliable tight end at his disposal and the Browns offense is poised to take the AFC North with a very solid offense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tom Brady

Is there even a question as to why this is the best free-agent signing for the Bucs? Obviously, coming in to replace ‘Famous Jameis’ as the starting QB. As if that was even a question. This is arguably the best signing throughout the entire league. Why? Because Tom Brady is playing with another chip on his shoulder and he’s been gifted Chris Godwin and Mike Evans as his wideouts. We’ve all seen what he’s capable of when being counted out – 28-3 *cough,* and now he gets to remind Atlanta twice a year of their Super Bowl slip up.

Arizona Cardinals – DeAndre Hopkins

The Arizona Cardinals may have pulled off the greatest heist we have ever seen. The Cardinals sent an injury-plagued David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick for Hopkins. It doesn’t matter how unhappy you are with a player, you have to know his worth, and Bill O’Brien was clearly desperate to get rid of his best guy. After this trade, the Cardinals went from competing with the Rams for last place in the NFC West to competing with the 49ers and Seahawks for not only a playoff spot, but first place in the division.

Los Angeles Chargers – Hunter Henry

Getting Hunter Henry to return was a huge win for the Chargers. Losing Philip Rivers and Melvin Gordon were massive blows this team had to take, and losing Henry would have completed the knockout. Henry has the knack of finding the middle of the field and, ultimately is a pest for defenses. He rounds out a decent offensive lineup for the Chargers, along with receivers Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and running back Austin Ekeler.

Chiefs’ Andy Reid recently praised QB Jordan Ta’amu’s work ethic. Credit: USA Today

Kansas City Chiefs – Jordan Ta’amu

Who is Jordan Ta’amu? If you watched any of the XFL during its short lifespan (hopefully to be resurrected by The Rock) you would have heard of Ta’amu. Jordan played quarterback for the St. Louis Battlehawks (KA-KAW!!), but his playing style matches that of Patrick Mahomes II. That is what the Chiefs needed. If Mahomes were to ever go down, they’d have someone with a similar skillset who can step in and run the offense.

Indianapolis Colts – DeForest Buckner

The Colts needed help at the defensive line and they went out and got it. Albeit they had to give up their first-round pick for Buckner, that is a small price to pay for an established pass rush veteran who is only a few years into an NFL career. Coming over from San Francisco, Buckner recorded 62 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks, and even found the end zone. This will only be Buckner’s fifth year in the NFL, and he is sure to be a great addition to a defensive front that also contains Justin Houston.

Dallas Cowboys – Gerald McCoy

Despite this being his 11th season, Gerald McCoy has consistently put up solid numbers on the defensive side of the ball. Last season with Carolina, McCoy combined for 37 tackles with 5 sacks. Interestingly enough, the Cowboys also signed Dontari Poe, who played with McCoy in Carolina last season. Poe’s numbers are less modest than McCoy’s but nonetheless will help Demarcus Lawrence and the Dallas defense.

Miami Dolphins – Jordan Howard

Very similar to a fish out of water, Miami needed help at a variety of positions. They helped their running back situation out a little by trading for Jordan Howard, but the question is can he find success? Howard may have seen his days of glory long gone, but Miami is essentially the ultimate proving ground. A struggling team the past few seasons, this is as good as it gets at the bottom of the barrel.

Philadelphia Eagles – Darius Slay

Darius Slay is a solid corner whose mere presence makes quarterbacks think twice about throwing his way. Defending no less than 13 passes in a season since his rookie year in 2013, Slay has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of his last three seasons. What’s better? The Eagles only gave up a 2020 third and fifth-round pick to get him.

Atlanta Falcons – Todd Gurley

Coming in from LA, Todd Gurley is back home in Georgia. Gurley will take over as the lead back in Atlanta and be a combination back that Matt Ryan has not had since the Tevin Coleman/Devonta Freeman one-two-punch. Gurley has shown success both as a between the tackles runner and pass-catching back. The running game for Atlanta last season was virtually non-existent. That changes this year.

San Francisco 49ers – Arik Armstead

With the departure of DeForest Buckner to the Colts, the 49ers had a hole to fill in their defensive line. Prior to last season, Arik Armstead may not have been a good answer. Arik exploded in 2019 putting up career highs across the board and reaching double digits in sacks for his first time. Even though Buckner has departed, the San Fran defensive line is still downright scary.

New York Giants – Leonard Williams

Not necessarily a free agent signing, but the Giants slapped the franchise tag on Leonard Williams. Coming over in a trade from the Jets during the 2019 season, Williams will look to start fresh in 2020. He’s a defensive tackle that gets into backfields and makes plays. He’s not known for sacking quarterbacks too much, but a change of scenery can sometimes help with that.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Tyler Eifert

It was truly a spring cleaning for the Jaguars in March, shipping several key players from the 2019 season off to new teams. Players including Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye, and Nick Foles. However, the Jaguars needed a tight end and they got one. Eifert, when healthy, put up respectable numbers for the Bengals. Hopefully, the Jaguars knew what they are doing.

New York Jets – Patrick Onwuasor

The Jets plucked another linebacker from the Baltimore Ravens. Last season it was CJ Mosely and now Onwuasor in 2020. Patrick was a bright spot on a crazy good Baltimore team and his presence is sure to be missed. With 64 combined tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble to boot, he will look to bump those numbers up as a starting linebacker in New York.

Detroit Lions – Jamie Collins

Having great success in New England and little to none elsewhere, Collins is a questionable signing. Or it would be if the head coach was not the former Patriots defensive coordinator. Matt Patricia may be the key to Collins finding success outside of New England. Collins looks to be another addition to the Detroit defense that also brought in Reggie Ragland and Desmond Trufant.

Green Bay Packers – Christian Kirksey

Kirksey joins an already impressive Packer defense led by Za’Darius Smith. Injuries the last two seasons has stunted his production. Before 2018, Kirksey posted over 130 tackles in back to back seasons in 2016 and 2017. That is the linebacker the Packers hope they signed this off-season that can contribute to another NFC North title and championship run.

Carolina Panthers – Teddy Bridgewater

The signing of Teddy Bridgewater came as little to no surprise, especially with how Carolina likes to run their offense. Bridgewater is a great game manager that can flow well with the speed-oriented style the Panthers want to have. The question, though, is can Bridgewater live up to the expectations the organization has for him? Bridgewater performed exceptionally well during the 2019 season for the Saints while Drew Brees was sidelined with an injury. However, was that just a one-off fluke or was it shades of what everyone hoped he would be when he came out of college and into the NFL draft?

New England Patriots – Cam Newton

It remains to be seen what will be more fascinating in New England. Will it be Cam Newton taking over the duties Tom Brady held for nearly the last two decades and continuing the Patriot dynasty or the much more fun thought of the cohesion between Newton and head coach Bill Belichick. Can Cam up his new coach’s fashion sense? Can coach Bill bring back the Cam of 2015 when he was NFL MVP? The Patriots will be nothing short of interesting this season.

Las Vegas Raiders – Nick Kwiatkoski

Kwiatkoski comes to Oakland after serving the past few seasons as a Chicago Bears backup and fill-in linebacker. Nick stepped up and was a solid part of what was a Bears lackluster defense in comparison to their 2018 performance. Kwiatkoski will look to show he can be an every Sunday starting linebacker and a force to be reckoned with. He can assure good tackles and, at the very least, slow down opposing ball carriers. For a team who just lost Tahir Whitehead, linebacker was a must-fill spot.

Los Angeles Rams – Released Todd Gurley

The Rams did little to nothing through free agency but get rid of some players who were costing a decent chunk of change on their payroll. Releasing both Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews, along with trading Brandin Cooks to the Texans, freed up some cap space for the future. This will be more of a rebuilding year for the Rams as they look to take the NFC West division back with a younger squad.

Baltimore Ravens – Calais Campbell

The Ravens pulled off one of the better moves in the world of trading players by securing Calais Campbell for a fifth-round pick. Campbell is probably only going to be around another year or two before he retires, but this gives the Ravens a man on the defensive line that can cause a significant disruption, allowing their linebackers to wreak havoc on opposing ball carriers. Look out for the Ravens defense to be at the top of the league this season.

Washington Football Team – Kendall Fuller

The addition of Kendall Fuller will help a lacking Washington secondary. Josh Norman has been irrelevant since his feud with OBJ.

New Orleans Saints – Andrus Peat

The Saints re-signed Peat, who has been a part of the offensive line since being drafted by the team in 2015. This is the line that has been protecting Drew Brees and gifted the Saints multiple playoff appearances within that time frame. The offensive line definitely gets overlooked, but with a potent offense like New Orleans’, you need a solid core group of guys who can get the job done.

Seattle Seahawks – Phillip Dorsett II

Definitely an underrated signing, the Seahawks picked up a speedy deep threat. The former New England Patriot spent the first two years of his career with the Colts, before getting a more active role with the Pats. Coming off a year where he topped his career in almost every stat category, Dorsett figures to be the guy Wilson can throw it to downfield and let him outrun defensive coverages. With already two great receivers on the outside in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, look for the Seahawks to gain control of the NFC West.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Eric Ebron

Eric Ebron came into the league with Detroit with high expectations and failed nearly all of them. He dropped passes, ran bad routes, and did not block well; things a tight end should be somewhat good at in one category or another. Ebron was a bust. He was able to turn his career around with the Colts as he put up numbers the Lions wanted him to during his tenure with them. In 2018, he caught 66 passes for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns. Eric was on pace for another prolific season before being sidelined by an injury. If Ebron can pick up where he left off, the Steelers may have found the tight end they’ve been looking for.

Houston Texans – Brandin Cooks

The Houston Texans traded for Brandin Cooks to replace the giant gap in the receiving game where D-Hop used to be. Cooks is definitely not on the same level as Hopkins, but their games differ a bit. Cooks is more of the speedy quick receiver, whereas Hopkins is the guy who can go up and fight for the 50/50 balls. Plus, they gave up a second round pick in the 2020 draft for Cooks. You have to wonder with all the crazy bonehead moves Bill O’Brien has been making, is he trying to get himself fired?

Tennessee Titans – Derrick Henry

Re-signing Derrick Henry was an absolute must. Finally seeing the Henry we all hoped he could be, this is the Titans’ franchise running back. The Titans came out of nowhere last season once Ryan Tannehill took the reigns. Rookie AJ Brown stepped up in the receiving game and Henry absolutely flourished in their ground and pound running style. And if there are any questions about him, maybe you should ask Earl Thomas of the Baltimore Ravens about how he was stiff-armed by Henry and then used as a personal body shield against his own team in the AFC Divisional Playoffs last season.

Minnesota Vikings – Michael Pierce

Pierce signed with the Vikings during free agency this past spring after having a decent year in Baltimore. Not really known for getting to the quarterback, Pierce stands at 6 ft tall and 340 lbs. He takes up space in the middle, much like a Vince Wilfork, and disrupts the offensive line from creating holes for their running backs. Pierce will plug up the middle and give fellow Vikings Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin all the more opportunity to get to the QB, or at the very least, contain the running backs they face.