When discussing the NFL Off-Season hype that comes around every year, some teams use this time to make “splash” signings, while others hope to fill holes in their roster and others just bolster what they already have. These three teams have taken advantage of free agency and the trade-block as best as they could in 2018.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Sometimes, the rich, do indeed get richer. That is the story with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. While some teams are scrambling to sign a free agent quarterback, or positioning themselves in the draft to get one – the Eagles, have both a Super Bowl winning quarterback in Nick Foles, and a quarterback who was (with debate) on his way to winning league MVP in Carson Wentz. Already having one of the more balanced rosters in the league, the Eagles signed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to a one-year deal ($2.6 million), re-signed their own linebacker, the versatile Nigel Bradham and traded with the Seahawks to land defensive end Michael Bennett. All this did was bolster an already strong run defense that in 2017 allowed 4. 5 yards a rush, which was third best in the NFL and it will surely increase their sack number (which last year was at 36 for the season) and will add even more power to the league’s best defense in applying pressure. When you’re already at the top of the mountain, you don’t have to jump any higher, just secure your footing, and that is just what the Eagles did.
2. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings were thought to be the team that would represent the NFC in the Super Bowl until that NFC Championship game where they got thoroughly embarrassed by the Eagles. The Vikings’ one issue was an obvious one. When a team lets all three of their quarterbacks go and test the free agency market – it’s a telling sign. The Vikings had just about every position on the field covered except for quarterback. They did the only logical thing. They went all in on the player who would demand the most money in free agency this year, former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. They were willing to sign Cousins to a three-year deal with $84 million fully guaranteed, the first contract of its kind. This is a gamble worth taking. Cousins was working with a beaten up offensive line, and targets that were more often injured than capable of playing the game of football. Even then, he threw for over 4000 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Playing indoors for at least nine times a year (remember they have that one away game at Detroit which is also played indoors), playing for a smart organization and healthy/good players around him – is only going to make Cousins excel in Minnesota. The offensive system will be something similar to what was run in Washington so the learning curve shouldn’t be a hurdle for him. Aside from this signing, was also the ability to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a one-year deal. This is a low-risk, high reward type of deal for the Vikings who have a strong front and are hoping to get a season out of Richardson in which he can try to prove himself as a force in this league again.
3. Cleveland Browns
For all the excitement the Browns have generated this off-season, in my eyes this is more about the “hype” than actually making a difference. Let’s be serious, after an 0-16 season, the only way to go is up, right? The Browns realized quickly that they had no patience for DeShone Kizer at quarterback so they acquired former Bills signal caller, Tyrod Taylor. Tyrod was used more as a scapegoat than anything else in Buffalo, and at least in Cleveland, everyone knows the problems come way before Tyrod had anything to do with it. For Taylor it’s a fresh start somewhere, where the expectations are low. The Browns also traded for wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Landry can get open, and he can catch. What he does after the catch though, is usually get tackled. Last year Landry racked up 112 receptions and could not get over the 1,000 yard receiving mark. That’s something that is hard to do while even trying to do it. Pairing him up alongside a healthy Corey Coleman should go over well in Cleveland, if Tyrod Taylor gets the ball to them. The Browns went all in on this offense as they signed right tackle Chris Hubbard to a five-year, $37.5 million dollar deal ($18 million guaranteed) to a guy who’s started 14 games in five seasons. . . The Browns also went a little nutty and signed running back Carlos Hyde, who was the 49ers starting running back for the last two seasons and has missed the 1,000 yard rushing mark both times. . . but he was playing for the 49ers so we’ll give him a break on that. It was just a weird signing because they already have Duke Johnson in their backfield and they could have drafted the more explosive, younger and versatile Saquon Barkley in this year’s upcoming draft. If the Browns can follow these moves with a strong draft AND they are able to maximize the potential that is on this team – they can easily be the third best team in the AFC North. . .That’s an improvement at least.