Five N.F.L. Teams That Have Already Shaken Up Their Rosters Express News
As the N.F.L. officially turned its calendar to the 2019 season on Wednesday, football in New York found itself dramatically revamped. Odell Beckham Jr., the outrageous wide receiver, was no longer with the Giants, and Le’Veon Bell, the ultra-versatile running back, had agreed to a deal with the Jets.
Those moves qualified as the headliners of the league’s off-season movement so far, but a number of teams have already made grand attempts to rework their rosters.
Coming off a two-year stretch in which the Browns went 1-31, they improved to 7-8-1 in 2018 and the team blossomed in the second half. Trying to keep that momentum, Cleveland traded for Beckham, who is arguably the league’s most talented wide receiver. He and his former Lousiana State University teammate Jarvis Landry will most likely become one of the most productive wide receiver duos in the N.F.L., helping to unlock the enormous potential of quarterback Baker Mayfield in an offense designed by Freddie Kitchens, the team’s first-year head coach.
The Browns, not content to improve just on offense, added two impressive players on the defensive line in Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon. Richardson, who has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with $21.5 million in guaranteed money, will solidify the interior of the line, while Vernon, who was acquired in a trade with the Giants for guard Kevin Zeitler, will provide an edge rusher to complement Myles Garrett.
Giving up Zeitler, a talented but expensive lineman, to acquire Vernon was a significant cost, but the Browns still seem greatly improved.
Bell has a chance to be something truly special for the Jets. He is a dynamic back unlike any the team has seen since Curtis Martin, and Bell comes over on a deal that is nowhere near as rich as what the 27-year-old running back had hoped for when his salary stalemate with Pittsburgh began last year.
If the team had just added Bell — and relied on improvement from quarterback Sam Darnold in his second year — the Jets could have expected a bump up from last year’s 4-12 record. But the Jets apparently have also traded for Kelechi Osemele, a Pro Bowl guard, and agreed to contract terms with the Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley and the reliable young receiver Jamison Crowder, who will probably play out of the slot. The transactions have been reported by multiple news outlets but not yet announced by the team.
The Jets had a long way to go to get back to respectability, but their new coach, Adam Gase, is about to have a lot more talent on his roster than he did a week ago. And after gaining Bell in what should still be his prime, the Jets have an opportunity to be a contender in the near future if they keep building.
Last year the Raiders repeatedly denied that they were tanking for draft position, even as they traded the outstanding Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper for draft picks. Regardless of their motivation in those moves, they are clearly trying to build now. The team fleeced Pittsburgh in a deal for Antonio Brown, the star wide receiver, in which the Raiders gave up just two mid-round picks. In moves the team has yet to officially announce, they have reportedly invested a great deal of money in the free agents Trent Brown, Tyrell Williams and Lamarcus Joyner.
Whether or not these other moves make the Raiders appreciably better is an open question.
Trent Brown, who just won a Super Bowl with New England, is a mammoth left tackle (6 feet 8 inches, 380 pounds). He reportedly got $36.8 million in guaranteed money from Oakland, but other than last season, he had been considered mostly a disappointment. Joyner, who was reportedly guaranteed $16.7 million, blossomed under Wade Phillips’s direction last year with the Rams but has had an uneven career. And Williams, who was a good vertical threat as the No. 2 wide receiver for the Chargers, will need to up his production if he wants to serve as a proper complement to Brown.
The Bills did a lot. Some of the team’s acquisitions are fairly minor — running back Frank Gore, 36 in May and entering his 15th season, is inspiring but unlikely to cause a huge impact. But it will be worth watching how the addition of the free agent wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley affects second-year quarterback Josh Allen.
Allen, as has been well documented, loves to throw deep, and Brown, who was comically underutilized in Baltimore once Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback, is one of the fleetest vertical threats in the game. With Brown as the No. 1 receiver and Beasley in the slot, all Buffalo needs is for Zay Jones or Robert Foster to develop into a reliable No. 2 receiver and Allen, who creates more disruption with his running than some might assume, will be able to truly chuck the ball.
In terrible news for the writing room of NBC’s “The Good Place,” Jacksonville moved on from Blake Bortles, a quarterback who occasionally shined on the team’s path to the A.F.C. championship game two years ago but struggled last season. In his place, the Jaguars added the far more reliable Nick Foles, who went from contemplating retirement during the 2015 season to winning a Super Bowl two years later.
Foles, whose deal includes more than $50 million in guarantees, is hardly a sure thing to live up to his contract. He has had periods of dramatic ebb and flow and has not started more than 11 games in a season at any point in his seven-season career.
Of more concern for Jacksonville is the loss of both Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson on defense. The team released both veterans for salary cap reasons, and with Foles now on the books, it is questionable if the Jaguars will be able to afford contract extensions for other defensive stars like Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue.