Here are the 12 most important offseason moves which took place during the 2018 NFL offseason.
12. Packers sign TE Jimmy Graham
Graham may be beyond his peak. He may be joining an offense that has been unkind to tight ends in the past. But he’s also still a top-five tight end who will be catching passes from a top-two quarterback. Graham, who caught 10 touchdown passes in 2017, should be an enormous boon to Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps the Packers’ tight end quandary will end with Graham.
11. Dolphins trade WR Jarvis Landry to Browns
After joining the Browns, he quickly signed a five-year, $75 million contract. That’s why Landry yielded just a fourth- and seventh-round selection in the trade. He wanted to get paid big despite spending almost all of his time in the slot. And he certainly reset the market for slot receivers. After catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns, Landry figures to be Baker Mayfield’s favorite target as he begins his NFL career.
10. Giants sign LT Nate Solder
After a miserable season for Eli Manning and the New York Giants, they committed to Manning, and thus needed to find a way to keep the old man upright. Solder was the best tackle available in free agency and the NFL draft. With the Giants’ offensive line needs as bad as they were, this move is enormous in helping their passing attack. Solder should solidify Manning’s blindside, which would go a long way in helping the Giants win more games in the upcoming season.
9. Patriots trade WR Brandin Cooks to the Rams
New England decided to part ways after just one season with Cooks, who joined an explosive Los Angeles offense. Cooks seems to have his limitations as a pass-catcher and route-runner. But in the Sammy Watkins role with the Rams, Cooks will excel stretching the field. Jared Goff has the arm strength and accuracy to make full use of Cooks. With the diminutive but speedy pass-catcher, you can pretty much bank on an 1,000-yard season. He’s eclipsed that sum for the last three seasons.
In return, the Patriots got the 23rd-overall selection (as a part of the deal), where they took offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn. He appears to be in the mix to start at left guard or left tackle for New England.
8. Chiefs sign WR Sammy Watkins
While Watkins has his limitations — just like Cooks — he signed for a landscape-changing contract at three years, $48 million. He is suddenly the fourth highest paid receiver. While there’s a lot not to love about the deal, Watkins will be an asset to the Chiefs as they transition to youngster Patrick Mahomes. His powerful arm should be well-used with Tyreek Hill and Watkins in the same offense.
7. Jets trade up and pick Sam Darnold
When the Jets moved up to No. 3 overall, they looked foolish, especially after they told the world they didn’t know who they intended to take. But then a dream scenario ensued: They got Darnold, considered by many (and perhaps most) to be this draft’s top quarterback.
Baker Mayfield may have been picked higher and Josh Rosen may be a more pro-ready quarterback. But Darnold could give the Jets a chance to take over the AFC East at a time when Tom Brady and Bill Belichick both seem to be on the verge of retirement.
6. Rams sign DT Ndamukong Suh
He didn’t come cheap. The Rams signed Suh for one year at $14 million. But Suh was one of the many defensive acquisitions which have turned Los Angeles’ already solid defense into one of the league’s most talented. Combining Suh with Aaron Donald is a cheat code to the NFL. Suh’s nasty approach to the game is hated by his opponents, so the Rams made him a member of their team.
5. Chiefs trade CB Marcus Peters to Rams
The Rams had to figure out how to combat the departure of Trumaine Johnson. They did that — and then some. Los Angeles landed a stud cornerback in Peters, who admittedly comes with some off-field baggage. They also acquired Aqib Talib, a transaction not included on this list. And they retained Nickell Robey-Coleman. Peters will take charge of a dangerous group of defensive backs. Again, the Rams are stacked with top-end talent at one of the NFL’s most important positions.
4. Chiefs trade Alex Smith to Redskins
The Redskins decided to save money by acquiring Smith (instead of paying to retain Kirk Cousins) and signing Smith to a four-year contract extension worth $94 million with $71 million guaranteed. Why they never committed to Cousins is a mystery. But at least they landed a solid quarterback in Smith, coming the best year of his career with 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 67.5 percent of his passes.
In the deal, the Chiefs acquired Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round draft pick (which they used to select Louisville tackle Geron Christian). Fuller figures to be one of the Chiefs’ top options at cornerback. Christian played left and right tackle in college, and could be in the mix at either position in the future for the Chiefs. Most important, however, Pat Mahomes will take over in Kansas City. Smith’s departure marks the beginning of the Mahomes era for the Chiefs.
3. Broncos sign QB Case Keenum
Not long after Keenum penned a love letter to Minnesota for committing to him as their starting quarterback, the Vikings committed to Cousins by giving him a contract with massive guaranteed money. Keenum was left to pick at what was left after Cousins’ selection. His decision to pick the Broncos made a great deal of sense, and while Denver seemed to be circling around the 2017 draft class of quarterbacks, they didn’t pick one. For now, Keenum’s job is safe in Denver, where he can help the Broncos become relevant immediately.
2. Vikings sign QB Kirk Cousins
The Vikings were probably the third best team in the NFL in 2017 (after losing in the NFC Championship Game). And yet they made a change at quarterback. That’s like making a change at head coach in a similar situation. Still, it’s fair to like how the Vikings managed to come away with Cousins, who should quickly change the perception that he’s a “loser.” Cousins is maybe the best quarterback to hit free agency since Peyton Manning. Cousins isn’t in Manning’s league, but that doesn’t diminish just how significant it was for Minnesota.
People are sleeping on them: they should have one of the NFL’s best offenses. And we already know they have one of the best defenses.
1. Saints re-sign Drew Brees
This contract didn’t get much buzz, because he returned to his team. But Brees’ decision to stay with the Saints was the most important move of this offseason. Brees did what everyone expected him to do by staying with the Saints. However, he was the best pending free agent at the most important position in the NFL. His decision was enormous. Had he moved on from the Saints, they would have been left to rebuild. Had he left, he would’ve made the team he joined an instant contender.