NFL scouts and general managers are in serious vacation mode. Team training camps kick off at the end of July. So between now and then, their OOO notifications are on and they’ve broken out their Tommy Bahama shirts and flip-flops. The 32 team rosters are nearly finalized after the NFL’s busiest time of the year. Some teams took huge leaps forward. But, some head coaches are on the hot seat after their owners decided to slash payroll. Let’s analyze the NFL player movement of 2019 and determine which players will have the most impact for their new teams. The benefit of hindsight makes this even easier.
New Faces in New Places: NFL Player Movement (2019)
Running Back Le’Veon Bell
The New York Jets signed the disgruntled former Pittsburgh Steelers stand out to a four-year, $52.5 million contract. It was one of the last moves of former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan. Gang Green mysteriously fired the Maccagnan after he ran the team’s draft room and free agency period. New Jets head coach Adam Gase hated the signing if you believe the New York media. Why? Le’Veon received $35 million guaranteed, which is more guaranteed money than the Steelers offered him a year ago.
The Jets also added wide receiver Jamison Crowder from the Washington Redskins to bolster their offensive attack. The moves should help quarterback Sam Darnold as he enters his second season in the NFL. But, the Bell signing comes with baggage. He’s 27. Although Bell sat out the 2018-19 season in a contract dispute, he’s had more than 200 carries in a season four times in his five-year career. There’s a lot of tread off his tires.
Prediction: Bell will most likely sustain a significant injury over the next two years. If that doesn’t occur, he’ll become disgruntled with Gase’s demeanor or Darnold’s inexperience.
Running Back Tevin Coleman
The San Francisco 49ers continue to load up their backfield with talented ball carriers. The organization has reunited head coach Kyle Shanahan with one of the key pieces from the 2016 Atlanta Falcons. The Niners signed running back Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal worth $10 million.
Coleman joins Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Jerick McKinnon, who’s coming off of a severe knee injury, in the backfield. Coleman was an exceptional receiving threat in Shanahan’s offense but was not a primary ball carrier. Devonta Freeman got the bulk of the reps and scored most of the rushing touchdowns.
Prediction: The 49ers will have hard decisions to make about their starting backfield before the start of the regular season. But, if Coleman makes the team, he could become a favorite target of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Wide Reciever Odell Beckham Jr.
On paper, the New York Giants trade of their top wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns for a package led by young safety Jabrill Peppers seems like a robbery. Beckham Jr., when healthy and content, is one of the most explosive receivers in the league. Peppers, not so much. But the Giants are hoping the trade is a case of addition by subtraction. Without the Beckham on-field and off-field distractions, the Giants offense will be more cohesive and multi-faceted.
Let’s keep it real. That’s the BS the Giants want fans and opponents to believe. The trade is a huge step back for the organization. But, the OBJ/Browns experiment is risky. The offense already features wide receivers, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and Antonio Callaway, among others. Quarterback Baker Mayfield will need to be a magician to keep all his playmakers happy.
Prediction: Beckham Jr. will have breakout moments during the 2019-20 regular season. But without a more experienced head coach maintaining discipline, there are too many new combustible personalities to turn the Browns into serious Super Bowl contender.
Wide Reciever Antonio Brown
The marriage between the Pittsburgh Steelers and wide receiver Antonio Brown is over. The Steelers were willing to get rid of their top offensive weapon for a draft pick. They even took a $2.1 million cap hit for the move too.
Brown takes his talents and attitude to a team lacking structure, but desperate for a star, the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. Brown will turn 31 in the summer and though he hasn’t slowed down yet, quarterback Derek Carr is not Ben Roethlisberger. Le’Veon Bell is not in the backfield and the Raiders offensive line is not as strong as the Steelers.
Prediction: The Raiders didn’t have a home until reaching an agreement with the City of Oakland in February. Until the team moves to Las Vegas in 2020 and the questions about their quarterback of the future are settled, the team will struggle. Brown will become frustrated with Jon Gruden’s old school West Coast offense and “In Your Face” coaching style.
Quarterback Nick Foles
The Jacksonville Jaguars think they finally have all the pieces in place to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They got rid of incumbent quarterback Blake Bortles and signed former Philadephia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles as a free-agent. But label me skeptical. The Jaguars do not run a quarterback-friendly system under Doug Marrone and Tom Coughlin. In order for the team to contend, they must continue to get all-world production from their running game and defense. The Jaguars have a very small margin for error and can’t expect those two phases of your team to excel year after year.
Prediction: The Jaguars made the right choice. Foles is an upgrade over Bortles, but I believe the Jaguars’ window to wrestle AFC dominance away from the New England Patriots is closed.
Quarterback Joe Flacco
John Elway‘s search for a franchise quarterback goes on. Gone is incumbent Case Keenum and in his place is former Baltimore Ravens signal-caller, Joe Flacco. The 34-year-old quarterback has three years remaining on Ravens deal and he will have an $18.5 million salary cap hit in 2019.
Financials aside, Flacco’s best days are behind him. He lacks mobility and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is no longer a top receiving threat. The Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the first round as an apparent quarterback of the future, but Flacco has already stated publicly an unwillingness to nurture his heir-apparent.
Prediction: The team and players are not on the same page. Elway seems to be trying to rebuild on the fly but has a starting quarterback desperate to remain the starter, young playmakers who lack experience, and a fanbase accustomed to winning. Denver’s search for their next Super Bowl title goes on too.