Las Vegas – Although the new league year in the NFL doesn’t officially begin until March 13th, Monday saw a dizzying amount of personnel moves, trades, and contract renegotiations. TJ Turkson takes a look at some of the more significant moves among star skill players moving to new ball clubs that were reportedly brokered on a day that saw a ridiculous amount of moves.
In perhaps the worst kept secret of the young NFL offseason, the mercurial Brown, appeared to have gotten what he wanted all along, in not only forcing his way out of western Pennsylvania, but also ensuring the he would indeed “secure the bag,” in the popular parlance by getting his new club the Oakland (soon to be Vegas) Raiders to agree to a three-year contract extension with upwards of $30 million in guarantees. The price tag of a third round compensatory pick and a fifth round pick in this year’s draft were seen by many as proof that Steelers GM Kevin Colbert was fleeced by the newly-appointed Mike Mayock, his counterpart in Oakland. While the addition of AB certainly gives Jon Gruden the type of dynamic playmaker that could help ease some of incumbent QB Derek Carr’s struggles, the soon-to-be Vegas Raiders still would be wise to be leery of the 30-year-old Brown’s notoriously quirky personality, and also remain mindful of the numerous holes throughout their line, and on the defensive side of the ball as they continue their preparation for next month’s draft.
Nick Foles, QB
In another move that is yet to be made official, but has been widely speculated on for the past couple of weeks, Foles the MVP of Super Bowl LII agreed to a free agent deal with Tom Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags were able to ink the 30-year-old former backup in Philly for 4 years, and $88 million, with a whopping $50.1 in guarantees, unconfirmed reports also have Foles potentially being paid up to $101 million if certain performance benchmarks are reached. With the signing, it seems that Coughlin and co. are finally ready to admit what has been painfully obvious to any objective viewer for years: Blake Bortles is simply not a viable long-term option at QB for a team with s Super Bowl-ready D. For Philly fans, meanwhile, they can only hope that starter Carson Wentz’ durability issues are a thing of the past.
Landon Collins, S
With the exception of the Antonio Brown deal discussed above, the Giants, and more specifically GM Dave Gettleman appeared to have already made one of the most egregious errors in recent memory -and this is even before knowing if they are seriously considering parting ways with the electric Odell Beckham, Jr. via trade this offseason- by declining their option to franchise the 25 year-old safety and retain his services for at least another year. In allowing Collins to walk, the New York Football Giants not only lost a player just entering his prime that is by all accounts a positive presence in the community and lockerroom, but also one of, if not the best “box safety” in the game. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the “Blue Bloods” of professional football in Gotham compounded their blunder by allowing him the freedom to sign with a NFC East Division Rival. While the terms of Collins’ new deal with Dan Snyder’s Washington based football club (6 years, $84 million, with $45 million fully guaranteed) certainly raised some eyebrows for a player that while not one-dimensional, does have certain deficiencies, namely his struggles in covering offensive players in space, this is without a doubt a coup for Jay Gruden’s team, as they finally may have found a suitable replacement for the irrepressible Sean Taylor who’s tragic and senseless murder over 10 years ago has left a void in Washington’s secondary as big as some of the hits the former University of Miami Hurricane used to dish out whilst patrolling the defensive backfield in the Nation’s capital. For Collins, the move had extra appeal in that it will also allow him to show his now former team in New York, and Gettleman in particular, what they are missing out on by letting the Alabama product (by way of N’awlins) walk, for nothing.
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Tyrann Mathieu, S
Keeping with the theme of teams allowing their defensive center fielders inexplicably walk for next to nothing, we have Bill O’Brien’s Texans allowing the curly golden coiffed “Honey Badger” to take his considerable and dynamic skillset to Kansas City, where a new three-year deal worth $42 million. While Texans’ defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel is more than qualified to find and train a suitable replacement in the Chiefs’ lineup, the 26 year-old Mathieu is the kind of guy with that certain je ne sais quoi and savoir faire- with that rare combination of being an especially gifted physical talent that excels in multiple phases, can be plugged in at various spots to fill a number of different needs; and is also a natural-born leader with a knack for galvanizing his teammates in practice and the lockerroom. Mathieu’s durability has been called into question in the past, but he played a full 16 games last year while making 89 tackles. For proof of Mathieu’s versatility, he also recorded 3 quarterback sacks, 2 interceptions, and a fumble recovery to go along with a forced fumble last year. Mathieu is the rare safety that can make plays in the run game if you play him in the box that also has the range to play deep safety, and can also matchup favorable with slot receivers, running backs, and yes even the hybrid H-Back/ Y receiver /Tight end freaks that are all the rage in the NFL of 2019. For a reference point for Mathieu’s invaluable skillset, think Earl Thomas III (more on him later), or the recently retired duo of Edward Reed and Troy Polamalu.
LaMarcus Joyner, CB/S
Similar to Mathieu, the diminutive (comparatively speaking) Joyner is viewed as an invaluable commodity by any intelligent defensive coordinator because of the versatility of his skillset, which allows for more creativity in designing complex and or covert defensive schemes. Joyner has played three positions in the defensive secondary (outside corner, slot corner, free safety) for DC Wade Phillips at a remarkably high level, who’s affinity for players of Joyner’s caliber is well documented, which is why it was so surprising that Sean McVay’s club would let him sign with the Raiders for the terms reported. Depending on the scheme employed going forward in Oakland/Vegas, Joyner even has potential to slide up to strong safety, and contribute regularly on special teams well. The former Florida State Seminole is but the latest in a long line of legendary ball players from Broward County to come through the renowned St. Thomas Aquinas program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Justin Coleman, NB
Matt Patricia’s Lions continued to go all in on free agency, and their signing of Coleman, a key nickelback for the Seahawks the past few seasons, was interesting for a number of reasons. Perhaps noteworthy for NFL observers is the fact that Coleman’s four-year deal worth up to $36 million has now set the market for slot corners in the National Football League. The new contract is a coup for Coleman, who was acquired by coach Pete Carroll back in 2017 from New England in exchange for a 2018 seventh-round pick. Coleman excelled in Seattle’s aggressive cover 3 scheme employed by Kris Richard and others, making 19 pass breakups over his time with the Seahawks, in which he technically was only listed in the starting lineup in 5 instances. Coleman made a relatively modest $2.19 million in base salary during his two seasons in the Pacific Northwest. The move will also reunite Coleman with his former DC in New England, where he previously spent 2 years under the tutelage of Patricia and new Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.
DeSean Jackson, WR
The oldest player on this list, the 32 year-old Jackson heads back to the city where he began his NFL career back in 2008, and returns to one of the League’s glamour divisions, the NFC East. While the specifics of the new deal are not able to be officially announced yet, it is reported that the former Long Beach Poly Jackrabbit product will sign a three year deal worth $27 million. Since being unceremoniously dumped by former Eagles coach Chip Kelly following a career year with the Eagles, Jackson has had some uneven years in Washington and Tampa, but could provide some much needed pizzazz and flair to Doug Pedersen’s offense.
Devin Funchess, WR
Funchess is another veteran wideout that his old team decided to let walk. In Funchess’ case, he made the bold move of agreeing to a one-year tender, for a reported $13 million. The move, while risky, could prove to pay off for Funchess, as he is essentially “betting on himself,” meaning that if his production is still at a high rate commensurate with what he did over his last season-and-a-half in Charlotte, a nice lucrative long-term deal- which is what all players, regardless of position are seeking in the fickle world of pro football-should be awaiting him next offseason, when the Detroit native will still somehow only be 25-years-old. For Carolina meanwhile, this move seems to indicate that Riverboat Ron Rivera’s team has either a: determined that Christian McAffrey can pick up the slack for the productivity that the departed Funchess takes with him, or b: decided that quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulder issues will pre-emptively tank the team’s playoff viability for the 2019 season, before it even begins.
Jamison Crowder, WR
The New York Jets and Adam Gase made an early splash in free agency, agreeing to terms with the 25-year-old Duke University product. For the former Washington receiver, the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets agreed to ante up nearly $30 million over three years, with $17 million guaranteed.