3 Losers through 2 Weeks of NFL Free Agency

by | Mar 30, 2020 | General | 0 comments

Every offseason, no matter the sport, has teams that improve and fill the holes they need to, and there are others that just sit back and trust their process, and those are teams we generally call losers. However, this offseason, we have seen certain teams, talented ones too, purge assets like never before, for what reasons I don’t know. It seems like nobody is safe anymore in today’s NFL, no matter how talented of a player or a team one is. These 3 teams definitely fell onto that list. Here are my 3 offseason losers so far.

Minnesota Vikings

So you extended Kirk Cousins for 2 more years? After the kind of year he had in 2019, itmakes sense. However, I will ask the Vikings the same question Gamora asked Thanos inAvengers: Infinity War, and that is “what did it cost?” And Thanos’ answer is similar to minewhen judging the Vikings offseason, and that is “everything.” While I may be exaggerating a bit,they did lose a lot, especially on defense. Their defensive line has been formidable for a longtime, but now it took a hit. 3 years after losing talented defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd to amicrofracture surgery that paralyzed a nerve in his knee and hence ending his football career,now they lose both Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen. Joseph was already set to be a freeagent, and at age 31, they replaced him fine with the younger and at this point, better version ofhim in Michael Pierce, who’s 27. However, Everson Griffen, who has been a very consistent anddominant pass rusher for a long time with the Vikings, having 3 double digit sack seasons and 3others with 8 sacks, will be more difficult to replace. While they do save the $13 million in thecap space, the production of Griffen may be lost, and while Danielle Hunter is a dynamic passrusher in his own right, with 3 double digit sack seasons of his own, a lot of his production alsocame as a result of Griffen being very good on the right side of the line, and vice versa. Now,Hunter will see more double teams, which could make it harder for a smaller pass rusher, withHunter standing at 6’5” but just 252 pounds. Can you trust Ifeadi Odenigbo and StevenWeatherly to match the production Griffen did to give Hunter those opportunities in one-on-onesituations? Not going to trust it. While they did well saving the money, it doesn’t seem evidentthe Vikings have spent it well either, and it will be tough to find a player as good as Griffen infree agency for that price.

However, it wasn’t just their defensive line that took a hit. That secondary does not lookgood either. Outside of Mike Hughes, they have lost many of the cornerbacks that have beenmainstays on that defense for the last 6 years. They cut Trae Waynes, Mackenzie Alexander,and Xavier Rhodes, and strangely put the franchise tag on safety Anthony Harris for $15 millionafter only one good season. Even though much of those corners didn’t live up to their first roundprojections, Waynes has still been a decent rotational guy between the #2 cornerback spot andthe slot corner spot, and Alexander got better year-to-year despite underwhelming. Waynes wasa little penalty-prone for my liking, but is balanced besides that, with decent speed and goodphysicality for his size, and was a decent #2 corner. Again, he wasn’t great, but he wasn’t aliability either. As for Rhodes, he was one of the best corners in football from 2015-17, when hewas as physical and lockdown as it gets. He had a down year this year, fine, but that shouldn’tmean you should just cut him. In a pass-happy and offensive league, cornerbacks have become more of a premium, and a lot harder to find, especially physical corners like Rhodes at 6’ 1” and218 pounds. With already having offensive line issues and now pass rush issues, creating moreholes is never a good thing for an already talented team. Now, you leave an alreadyinjury-prone Mike Hughes as your best option with nothing beyond that that’s trustworthy. Yikes.

Finally, there was them trading Stefon Diggs. I didn’t like this, but also didn’t hate it asmuch as the previous cuts the Vikings made on defense, because at least they got decent valueback for him. Normally when players make it public they want out, that will drop the value.However, the Vikings still received a first round pick from the Bills, along with a 5th and 6throunder this year, and a 4th in 2021. However, what it does is, similarly to what I was sayingwith Danielle Hunter, will put more double teams on Adam Theilen. Unless they take a receiverwith one of those picks and he has instant impact, that will put a lot more pressure on Theilen toget open looks on more intermediate routes, especially if Dalvin Cook doesn’t stay healthy. Sooverall, I trust the Vikings as one of the better player development franchises in the NFL, butthem purging that many assets just to save money will make it very hard to replenish those andkeep the team towards the top talent wise in the 3-year window they have to win with KirkCousins under center.

Atlanta Falcons

A team that I thought had Top 5 talent might not have it anymore. Like the Vikings, theFalcons were extremely cash strapped ($6.1 million in cap space entering free agency), andthey overreacted badly to it. Outside of pass rush, the Falcons didn’t really need much, with atalented offensive team that got younger on the offensive line last draft, and a still dynamic corein Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones. Defensively, they were talented and stillyoung too, with them having talented linebackers and safeties and a very underrated defensivetackle in Grady Jarrett. Really, the only thing they were lacking was pass rush, which theycould’ve solved in the draft or some of the money they got back by letting their projected freeagents go. Instead, they did the opposite, and cut too many players again. Starting with thedefense, they cut Desmond Trufant, De’Vondre Campbell, and Vic Beasley. I am fine with themgetting rid of Beasley, being he has really struggled the last 2 years, is exclusively a speedrusher, and never has been a great run stopper. Yet they replaced him with Dante Fowler, whois essentially the same type of player, and is more injury prone and was almost double the pricein terms of average annual value. Fowler did have a much better season last year than Beasley,but can you really trust that to duplicate for somebody who’s been notoriously inconsistent andinjury prone, and isn’t a good run stopper or power rusher? Not for $16 million per year. Whenthe Falcons got rid of Beasley, I was expecting them to go all in on a Yannick Ngakoue or aJadeveon Clowney, or even take a value pick on an older but still more talented EversonGriffen. Instead, they gambled on somebody that was better recently than Beasley, but is thesame type of player, and likely will lead to the same types of pass rush problems for theFalcons.

As for Desmond Trufant, that will be a difficult loss, similarly to Rhodes, becausecornerbacks are a premium now, especially #1 corners and physical corners. While Trufant’sbest years weren’t as good as Rhodes’, he still provided the same kind of role, especially whenDan Quinn came over and brought the physical Seahawks cornerback scheme to Atlanta. He had some down stretches from 2017-19 after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in Week9 of the 2016 season, an injury that was one of many differences that prevented the Falconsfrom beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but in my opinion was the biggest one, as BrianPoole kept getting roasted that entire game. Having lost Robert Alford last year and IsaiahOliver having trouble with injuries throughout his short career so far, the Falcons are creating amajor hole with themselves at corner, and one that you wouldn’t want to solve already havingpass rush issues.

Another thing that can help questionable cornerback play is good coverage linebackerplay. Teams like the Panthers, Steelers, and 49ers over the years have proven that. TheFalcons had a chance to do that too by re-signing outside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, whosigned for just $8.1 million with the Cardinals. Campbell along with Deion Jones created a veryyoung and fast linebacker tandem that is very good in both man and zone coverage. Obviously,Deion Jones is the much better player of the two, and is arguably now a Top 3 middlelinebacker in football with Luke Kuechly retiring. However, Campbell served his purpose for awhile, and played especially well in 2018 when it seemed like half the defense was hurt.Campbell was a bit down last year, but I also think was misused by Dan Quinn, being usedmore in pass rush situations, which isn’t his strength being a faster but smaller linebacker. Now,they will have to trust several day 3 picks to rotate alongside Deion Jones, which will be tough totrust when it comes to guarding slot areas and outside routes, especially with iffy corner play.Deion Jones is a great player, but he is only one player, he won’t be able to guard every yard onthe field. This will allow offenses to decoy away from him if they want to do middle of the field orslot area routes, and will make it difficult for them to have a formidable pass defense especiallywith iffy corners. Especially for $8.1 million, even if it meant giving a little more to keep him,keeping Campbell could’ve been a very easy move to keep that linebacking core strong. Whythey let go of him for a convenient price made no sense.

Lastly, we have the running backs. The Falcons terminated the final season of DevontaFreeman’s 3-year contract due to his injury issues, which they should’ve tried to prepare foranyway, but not in the way they did. With an extra second round pick for trading Mohamed Sanuand a deep running back draft this year, the Falcons could’ve used one of those second roundpicks for an insurance policy if Freeman gets hurt, and a guy that could start if they let Freemanwalk in 2021 if he still had his injury issues. But cutting him impulsively when he has beenreliable when healthy made no sense. Then, similarly to Beasley, they contradicted themselvesby signing another injury-prone running back, gambling on Todd Gurley. Now, them only givinghim a 1-year, prove it type deal wasn’t bad, but Gurley has dealt with all kinds of football injuryissues, and in addition has arthritic knees, which is not good long term. They might still draft arunning back anyway, but now they have to have him learn the system and play more rightaway, similarly to the Rams using Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown last year, and theystruggled. Who they draft in this draft, assuming they do it with one of their 2nd or 3rd roundpicks, will likely be better than Henderson or Brown, but that doesn’t mean they will be greatright away either. With Gurley having more significant injury issues than Freeman and also notguaranteeing to be a scheme fit either, I think the Falcons were better off gambling on keepingthe guy they know that works with their offense, even if it is a little more money.

Houston Texans

The team everybody has mocked the most this offseason, and with good reason, roundsout the list here. The Texans, talent wise, have really gone downhill from a roster constructionstandpoint since last August when they fired their general manager and operated since thenwithout a GM. I said, at that time, if they are just going to weather the storm and stick with whatthey had and just try to fill holes with bargain deals or scheme fits, it would be fine. However, theTexans did quite the opposite, trading Jadeveon Clowney for a 3rd round pick and two platoonlinebackers, and then giving up essentially your entire draft of the next 2 years for LaremyTunsil. This offseason, we found the icing on the cake to all this misery, giving up DeAndreHopkins, a 29-year old, super talented, very consistent, and durable wide receiver, and theydidn’t even get a first round pick back? I bashed the Giants last April for trading Odell BeckhamJr. after re-signing him and witnessing a 2018 season where his antics weren’t as bad, not tomention would’ve been a nice player to help a young quarterback, who they drafted thatfollowing draft in Daniel Jones. Their return of a first round pick, third round pick, and JabrillPeppers wasn’t terrible, but also wasn’t great. However, in comparison to the trade the Texansmade sending Hopkins to the Cardinals though, the Giants look like geniuses, especiallyconsidering that price they gave up was only lower because of Odell Beckham’s antics.DeAndre Hopkins has never had those issues in his career, where teams and certain fanswould portray that player as a “diva” or a “cancer.” I was never one of those people with Odell,even though he was troublesome at times, that wanted him off my team because of that.However, I can admit that the discipline level of DeAndre Hopkins is still a lot higher than that ofOdell Beckham. So with that, you’re expecting the trade to be higher than what the Giants gotfor Beckham. Nope. The Texans only got a 2nd round pick, a 4th round pick, and DavidJohnson back, a running back on a bad contract that hasn’t been good in 4 years and only wasreally that good in Bruce Arians’ offense. If the Texans were to gamble on an injury prone, freeagent running back, they definitely could’ve done it without having to trade the best player ontheir team. Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, and even somebody like Jordan Howardwould’ve been better options that were also less expensive. With the Texans having less draftcapital because of previous dumb decisions, they knew they had to nail free agency to fill theholes on their team, and it’s not like they were badly cash-strapped either, as they entered freeagency with $63 million dollars. You sign Melvin Gordon, some interior offensive linemen, andsomebody like Ha-Ha Clinton Dix for slightly more than what they got from their respectiveteams they signed with, the Texans’ lack of draft capital doesn’t seem as worrisome becausethey have a more balanced team. Instead, they trade away the most skilled receiver in footballand don’t even get a first round pick back, still have offensive line problems, question marks inthe running game, question marks in their secondary, and holes on their defensive line outsideof J.J. Watt, who has had trouble staying healthy himself. For years, the Texans have had agood roster and were often times a quarterback away. However, because of this offseasoncoupled with the trades they made last year, DeShaun Watson could very much turn intoAndrew Luck of 2012 and 2013, having to carry a team himself. Watson is talented enough andmore than capable of doing it, but on a long-term basis, that can only take you so far. Now,taking away his top weapon and not helping in other areas to make it easier for him will not help him take any next steps that he can grow into with his development and have this Texans teambe a serious threat rather than just a good or average team like they seem to be every year.

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