2019 NFL Free Agency: Who Has Improved Their Super Bowl Odds the Most?
The biggest chunks of 2019 NFL free agency flashed by like a speedy receiver getting around a cornerback.
Over just a few days, numerous moves rearranged the league hierarchy. Contenders stocked up, and rebuilders unearthed foundational pieces. While few found the rare "missing piece" required to win a title, many addressed enough needs to open up the draft.
Oddsmakers have adjusted their long-term outlook accordingly. A glance at the ever-shifting Super Bowl lines throws serious weight behind the idea that a few teams dominated the early—and most important—part of free agency.
General manager John Dorsey knows how to map out a plan and follow it.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield blossomed last season once Hue Jackson exited the stage, and the Cleveland Browns started to look like playoff contenders.
Fast-forward to free agency. The Browns swung a trade for Odell Beckham Jr., pairing a top-three wideout with Jarvis Landry. They also acquired Olivier Vernon, a strong edge-rusher who should feast consistently opposite Myles Garrett.
Under-the-radar moves are where the Browns really did work, though. Sheldon Richardson, a first-round pick in 2013, bolsters the interior pass rush. Tight end Demetrius Harris is superb depth behind David Njoku. Ditto for Kendall Lamm, who started 13 games last season at right tackle in Houston. Linebacker Adarius Taylor was a breakout performer in Tampa Bay last season when Kwon Alexander got hurt.
The Browns also have two picks in the top 100, so it isn't hard to see why their odds have jumped from +3000 to +1200 (bet $100 to win $1,200). Performance on the field will still mean more than winning free agency, but the Browns wear this crown.
Historically speaking, the Detroit Lions have quite a bit to overcome before they can start thinking about a Super Bowl.
But free agency this year has pointed the ship in the right direction.
Head coach Matt Patricia and the Lions got a big win by bringing aboard defensive end Trey Flowers, who can boost a 43-sack defense that loses the sporadic contributions of Ezekiel Ansah. Flowers is better than Ansah and more consistent at pressure than former Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
The Lions also added Justin Coleman at cornerback. Paying him $36 million over four seasons to make him the highest-paid nickel corner is a massive gamble, but upping the pass rush and getting Darius Slay a running mate is a smart approach.
With an upgraded defense to complement Matthew Stafford's offense, the Lions have shot from +10000 to +8000 in the Super Bowl odds department. All before they walk to the podium at No. 8.
Hey, don't laugh. The Jacksonville Jaguars fell apart last season, sure. But keep in mind it was the same team that made the AFC title game the year prior.
Quarterback Nick Foles is the biggest get for the Jaguars, of course. He's a big upgrade from Blake Bortles' 60.3 completion percentage with 13 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year, not to mention five games of Cody Kessler that amounted to a pair of touchdowns and picks while taking 22 sacks.
Foles is more of a threat defenses have to respect, which should mean bigger opportunities on the ground for Leonard Fournette.
Granted, the Jaguars still have plenty of needs to address, including in the offensive trenches. But the needle has moved from +5000 to +3300 so far for a reason—quarterback is that important. With the talent on the defensive side of the ball, if the Jaguars can bruise their way to the top of the AFC South or at least the playoffs, Foles' postseason resume speaks for itself.
New York Jets
No, Sam Darnold and the New York Jets probably aren't going to a Super Bowl next year.
But shooting from +10000 to +8000 hints at big moves.
Indeed, the Jets went out and gobbled up Le'Veon Bell to serve as a featured piece on offense. Some risk is baked into signing a running back who's been out of the game for a year, but Bell is still 27 and one of the more potent, versatile weapons in the league. He'll at least take some pressure off Darnold.
Coming off a year in which he suited up for only nine games, Jamison Crowder might have been more of a risk. Even then, the fact he still averaged 13.4 yards per catch validates the idea he could be a missing piece in the passing attack.
On the other side of the ball, paying up for C.J. Mosley as a defensive centerpiece makes sense. One might argue the Jets overpaid, but so it goes for bad teams doing business in free agency.
After these acquisitions, the Jets may not qualify as a bad team much longer. But the plan might be to add pieces now in anticipation of Tom Brady going away in a few years.
This one wasn't hard to see coming.
Wide receiver Antonio Brown wasn't technically a part of free agency, but the deal to acquire him happened around the same time and plays a part in the massive odds shift from +10000 to +6600. Brown changes the dynamic of the Derek Carr-led offense, which will no longer spam underneath hits to Jordy Nelson.
But the Raiders weren't slouches in free agency either. Jon Gruden and the front office went out and got a starting left tackle with Trent Brown. Tyrell Williams, owner of 16 touchdowns over the last three seasons, is an underrated player at wideout. And Lamarcus Joyner is a versatile weapon to put in the defensive backfield next to 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph.
The long-term plan is starting to come together. Oakland has a trio of first-round picks and four in the top 35 to flex its muscle with, starting at No. 4 overall. Free agency produced two players at premium positions and a wideout to complement arguably the game's best receiver. Super Bowl odds naturally shot up.
San Francisco 49ers
Yet again, the San Francisco 49ers weren't afraid to throw around some serious cash in free agency.
A year ago, the front office jumped at the chance to spend and improve the roster, even handing Jerick McKinnon a four-year, $30 million contract. The moves weren't as dramatic this year, but they feature plenty of risk.
Kwon Alexander was one of free agency's bigger signings. The catch is his track record staying on the field, as he's missed 14 games over the past two seasons and is now attempting to return from a torn ACL. Jason Verrett, who's one of the NFL's best cornerbacks when healthy, has a similar story. The 2014 first-round pick has only played in five games over the past two years.
Tevin Coleman, swiped from the Atlanta Falcons on a two-year deal worth $8.5 million, is the notable exception. The 25-year-old running back never got to shine the way he should have and could have a breakout year in 2019, especially if he's forming a sound tandem with McKinnon.
None of this means the 49ers will be competing for a Super Bowl next season, but the odds jumping from +4500 to +2500 at least points to the rebuild going quite well.
The Tennessee Titans keep playing free agency smoother than most, and it's nudging them in the right direction.
Yes, the Titans have questions to answer under center when it comes to Marcus Mariota. Can the offensive staff around Mariota stay consistent? Can his body hold up under the rigors of the game?
But the Titans added cornerback Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis a year ago. They've followed up this offseason with the underrated signing of Adam Humphries, a 25-year-old wideout coming off a strong 816 yards and five touchdowns last year despite miserable surroundings in Tampa Bay.
Humphries' reliability not only helps the quarterbacks along, but it also creates space for elite tight end Delanie Walker and encourages the growth of top-end wideout prospect Corey Davis, who was already starting to show signs of putting it all together.
Ryan Tannehill is now behind Mariota on the depth chart, and Rodger Saffold will bolster the line in front of the quarterback. The Titans have gone from +6000 to +5000 in a little more than a month, which makes sense in an erratic AFC South.