2019 NFL Free Agency: Which Teams Lost the Most Talent?
Every year, a handful of NFL teams are raided for talent during the offseason. They're usually successful franchises that know how to develop players and replace them once their contracts have expired.
Today, we're focusing on the six teams that lost the most talent so far this offseason. They're ranked by plenty of different factors—number of starters lost, quality of departed players and expected difficulty of replacing those who left.
No. 6: New England Patriots
The annual purge of talent from the coaching staff and roster has become a routine event for the New England Patriots.
This year, the team lost linebackers coach Brian Flores to the Miami Dolphins a month before free agency even started. Former cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer, receivers coach Chad O'Shea and assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski migrated to the Dolphins, as well. From a coaching standpoint alone, the Patriots subtracted a ton of talent.
They also lost some on-the-field skill.
On the first day of the legal tampering period, the Oakland Raiders agreed to terms with former Patriots left tackle Trent Brown. Brown started every game last year and played his best football in the playoffs. But since the team selected offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn in the first round of the 2018 draft, his replacement is already on the roster.
New England also lost one of its best defensive players when the Detroit Lions signed Trey Flowers to a five-year, $90 million dollar contract. Since the Patriots took him in 2015's fourth round, Flowers has started 37 games and recorded 21 sacks.
Additionally, the Patriots will go forward without Cordarrelle Patterson, Dwayne Allen, LaAdrian Waddle, Malcom Brown and Eric Rowe. While all of those players were used in complementary roles, their departures create more spots the team must address internally or in the draft.
Unlike most teams in the NFL, the Patriots have a history that makes it tough to doubt their ability to do so.
No. 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have endured a tough offseason.
On the first day of free agency, linebacker Kwon Alexander signed with the San Francisco 49ers. In four years with the Buccaneers, Alexander started 46 games, accumulating 380 total tackles and 31 tackles for loss. At his worst, he was an above-average linebacker who possessed Pro Bowl potential.
But he's not the only significant contributor Tampa Bay lost.
Slot receiver Adam Humphries bolted for the Tennessee Titans after setting career highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. The team also traded away DeSean Jackson, who played two seasons with the Bucs. Together, these two receivers combined to catch 117 passes for 1,590 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018—production and depth that's difficult to replace.
The Buccaneers also lost quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a 94.7 passer rating in his 14 appearances with the team over the last two years. Fitzpatrick was never the team's long-term answer, but he was at least a high-end backup.
The free-agency departures of linebacker Adarius Taylor and defensive back Josh Shaw are notable, as well.
All in all, the first few weeks of the new league year have been rough for the Buccaneers.
No. 4: New York Giants
The New York Giants lost multiple starters this offseason, including two Pro Bowl players at the peaks of their careers: Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins. They also traded away pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, whose seven sacks led the team last season.
But they aren't the only key contributors from the 2018 squad who departed.
Cornerback B.W. Webb, who started 13 games last season, signed a three-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. Offensive guard Jamon Brown, who the team acquired from the Los Angeles Rams via waivers in late October, moved to the Atlanta Falcons on a three-year deal of his own.
The Giants also gained some starters in free agency, including receiver Golden Tate and pass-rusher Markus Golden. However, they overpaid for Tate, and he doesn't even come close to replacing Beckham's production.
It's hard to understand the direction general manager Dave Gettleman is taking the Giants, and the team certainly lost a lot of talent in one offseason.
No. 3: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have to be one of the offseason's biggest losers.
For starters, they traded away four-time All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown for just a small return—third- and fifth-round picks. Brown was still the team's No. 1 receiver, and they moved on while he was still performing at an elite level. His departure alone could cost Pittsburgh a win or two next season.
Additionally, the Steelers let All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell walk in free agency. While James Conner filled in admirably last season, he just isn't as dynamic as Bell, especially in the receiving game. Allowing one of the league's best running backs to leave of his own accord is a tough pill to swallow.
If that weren't enough, Pittsburgh also traded away starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert for a sixth-round pick and lost offensive line coach Mike Munchak to the Denver Broncos. Meanwhile, tight end Jesse James, who has started 36 games since the Steelers drafted him in 2015, signed with the Detroit Lions.
That's a lot of departed offensive talent in just one offseason.
While some incumbent players may be able to make up for a few of the losses, they won't be able to replace the likes of Brown, Bell and Munchak. Look for the Steelers offense to take a step backward next season.
No. 2: Baltimore Ravens
We'll stick in the AFC North, as the Baltimore Ravens also lost a lot of talent this offseason.
Baltimore has historically built around its defensive identity, but it took some big hits on that side of the ball. The team's top two edge-rushers, Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith, signed deals with the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers, respectively. Now, the Ravens will be forced to rely on Matt Judon and Tim Williams to bring pressure from the edges.
At linebacker, they lost C.J. Mosley to the New York Jets. The 2014 first-round pick started 77 games for the Ravens and made four Pro Bowls—including appearances each of the last three years. Kenny Young and Patrick Unwuasor (assuming the restricted free agent doesn't land elsewhere) will have to make up for his absence.
Additionally, the Ravens released veteran safety Eric Weddle but upgraded at the position with the acquisition of Earl Thomas on a four-year, $55 million deal.
On offense, Baltimore will have to operate without two of last year's top three receivers. John Brown joined the Buffalo Bills in free agency, and Michael Crabtree is still available on the open market.
Altogether, the Ravens lost six starters and only signed one replacement (Thomas) projected to start. Baltimore might have a lot of draft capital, but it saw significant talent depart this March.
No. 1: Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are another AFC contender that lost a ton of production this offseason.
To start, they lost their top two edge-rushers in Dee Ford and Justin Houston. They first franchise-tagged Ford before trading him to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2020 second-round pick. Then they released Houston to clear cap space after his eighth year with the team.
But he wasn't the only former All-Pro player Kansas City released.
On the first day of the legal tampering period, the Chiefs cut ties with five-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry. After injuries limited him to just three appearances over the past two seasons, they couldn't afford to continue paying his salary. Additionally, they lost starting cornerback Steven Nelson, starting center Mitch Morse and No. 3 receiver Chris Conley.
While Kansas City was able to add some pieces in free agency (Tyrann Mathieu and Carlos Hyde), the additions don't make up for the many losses suffered this offseason. It'll take a while to replace all of the outgoing talent.