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Saturday, September 21, 2019

10 best moves from a wild NFL offseason

Nick Foles

The 2019 NFL offseason got off to a fast start and has featured many trades, signings, and players being released. Some of the moves could shift the control of power across the league.

But which teams did best? Which teams positioned themselves for a run at the Super Bowl? Which free agents landed in a location where they can excel or take the next step in their respective careers?

Here’s a look at the 10 best moves, for both player and team, from what has been a wild offseason.

10. Lions sign Trey Flowers

The Lions have suddenly found a niche in developing pass rushers, but perhaps none are as talented as the newly signed Trey Flowers. After years learning under Bill Belichick, Flowers will now reunite with another man who helped develop him, head coach Matt Patricia. And the defensive-minded Patricia appears to have a very specific role in mind for the Flowers, which should allow the edge rusher to improve upon his sack numbers, possibly even leading to double-digit sacks for the first time in his career. Beyond just that, Flowers provides Detroit a top-end edge rusher who will open up opportunities for other defenders, likely increasing pass rush production across the board.

9. Colts re-sign Pierre Desir

There are just some players you know are going to turn into something special, and right now, cornerback Pierre Desir is one of those players. Entering free agency, Desir was expected to be a highly-desired target. The Colts managed to get him back on a three-year deal, essentially cementing their No. 1 corner in place for the foreseeable future. And the best news? Desir is only just getting started. Not only did Desir post a career-high Pro Football Focus grade (77.5) in 2018, but he was also their third-highest graded cornerback against the run and one of the best tackling cornerbacks in football. An all-around player entering his prime, Desir may soon be considered among the best CBs in the NFL.

8. Ravens add Mark Ingram

The Ravens have committed themselves to being a defensive heavy, run-first team by going with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, which is why the addition of Mark Ingram is so critical. After struggling through much of his rookie contract with the Saints, Ingram eventually found his place as a rotational back for New Orleans, splitting time with Alvin Kamara and others. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in both 2016 and 2017 before being limited to just 12 games a season ago. But those numbers, and his near 5.0-yard per carry average in recent seasons, are what Baltimore should expect from Ingram in 2019. He will assume the role of their No. 1 back but will likely be spelled on third down, keeping his legs fresh for the fourth quarter. Coupled with Jackson’s speed and propensity to take off, the presence of Ingram should help make opposing defenses more one-dimensional.

7. Eagles trade for Jordan Howard

The Eagles have cycled through nearly a dozen running backs since 2015, and not one has even sniffed 1,000 yards. It’s been a consistent weakness for the team offensively, allowing defenses to focus heavily on rushing the passer and dropping extra help into coverage. In an effort to combat that, Philadelphia made a bold move, acquiring Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears. Howard fell just shy of 1,000 yards a season ago, which would have been the third consecutive season in which he eclipsed that mark. But even with the down season, Howard would have led the Eagles in rushing, which is precisely what they expect in 2019 and beyond. It adds a piece the team has been desperately missing and will allow some of the pressure to be taken off of Carson Wentz’s shoulders.

6. Redskins sign Landon Collins

The Redskins reset the safety market when they handed a massive deal to Landon Collins shortly after free agency began. While some were quick to criticize the financials, there’s no denying the sort of talent Washington is getting. In 2016, Collins was firmly in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, ultimately losing out to Khalil Mack, and that type of production remains bottled up in the veteran safety. In recent years, he’s been hit with the “box safety” label, but much of that has stemmed from lacking talent around him. With the Redskins, he’ll play and excel as a strong safety, but in the event he’s called upon to step up in coverage, Collins is more than capable. He’s a game-changer, a defensive anchor, and a leader who will help bring Washington’s defense to the next level.

5. Vikings re-sign Anthony Barr

The Vikings very nearly lost linebacker Anthony Barr, who opened free agency having agreed to a deal with the New York Jets. However, Barr reneged on that agreement and instead, opted to return to Minnesota in 2019. That was great news for the Vikings, who now get back the centerpiece of their defense and a player who has gone to the Pro Bowl four consecutive times. An all-around linebacker who can make plays in space, drop into coverage, rush the passer and play the run, Barr is already one of the better defenders in the game and is only ascending. With his financial future now in place, Barr should be able to relax and focus solely on football in 2019, which will mean big things for a Vikings team looking to get back into contention.

4. Raiders trade for Antonio Brown, sign Tyrell Williams

When Raiders coach Jon Gruden made the decision to stick with Derek Carr as his quarterback, it was obvious the team needed to add wide receiver talent to help supplement him. Mission accomplished. Oakland pulled off a quality trade, acquiring Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers for peanuts and then later signed the vastly under-rated Tyrell Williams. Brown, arguably one of the league’s premiere receivers, is a near lock to eclipse 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns, which will only be aided by the presence of Williams. A former 1,000-yard receiver himself, Williams now steps into the No. 2 role and can expect more favorable matchups as defenses gravitate towards Brown.

3. Jets sign Le’Veon Bell

The Jets are gearing up for something big a year after selecting quarterback Sam Darnold in Round 1, and now they’ve provided their young signal caller with one of the most explosive all-around weapons in football by signing Le’Veon Bell. On fresh legs after sitting out a season, Bell will return to the field healthy and with a massive chip on his shoulder. He will immediately become the focal point of New York’s offense, taking a load off Darnold by both serving as a bell cow back and a safety valve out of the backfield. The added level of comfort for Darnold will only serve to improve his game, while Bell will provide an offensive spark, potentially tallying upwards of 2,000 total yards from scrimmage.

2. Browns trade for Odell Beckham Jr., Olivier Vernon

The Browns’ acquisition of Odell Beckham Jr. has been beaten like a dead horse, but the impact he’ll have in their offense can not be overstated. Not only does Beckham given Cleveland a true No. 1, his presence will open up additional opportunities for Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Nick Chubb and, eventually, Kareem Hunt. However, what’s often lost in the excitement of Beckham’s arrival is the presence Olivier Vernon will have on the field. Lining up across from Myles Garrett, Vernon will feast on one-on-one matchups, which he rarely had in New York. So not only did the Browns shore up their offense, they also added a quality book-end to their defensive line.

1. Jaguars sign Nick Foles

It was just a few short years ago that the Jacksonville Jaguars were Super Bowl contenders, but ultimately fell short as the result of sub par quarterback play. And while last year was a campaign they’d like to wipe from their reality, the fact remains: Jacksonville isn’t far off from being back in the thick of things. It’s for that reason the addition of quarterback Nick Foles looms so large. In addition to experience and a Super Bowl pedigree, Foles brings the Jaguars’ locker-room some much-needed leadership and order. Both on and off the field, Foles should be able to rally his troops and help lead the charge toward stability, giving Jacksonville a rock under center for years to come.



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