Every NFL Team's Smartest Move of the 2019 Offseason
The heart of the NFL offseason is behind us. More than 300 free agents were signed, 254 players were drafted, more than a dozen head coaches were either hired or fired, and dozens of veteran players were released.
Which of those moves were the smartest?
As we say goodbye to May, here's a look at the most astute move from every NFL team in what's been a wild 2019 offseason.
Arizona Cardinals: Acquired Marcus Gilbert
The Arizona Cardinals will likely be rolling with another rookie quarterback in 2019, and that rook—top pick Kyler Murray—has just one year of college starting experience under his belt. Arizona has to give Murray more support than it gave Josh Rosen, who was victimized by a bad offensive line in 2018.
Bringing in Marcus Gilbert should help a line that ranked last by Pro Football Focus in pass-blocking efficiency last season.
Injuries and a suspension caused the longtime Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle to miss all but 12 games the last two seasons, but he's still only 31 years old, he's owed only $4.9 million in 2019, and if he can stay healthy, he'll undoubtedly bring more stability to the right tackle position in Arizona.
The jury remains out on Murray and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, both of whom are wild cards coming from the NCAA ranks, but Gilbert should make it easier on both of them.
Atlanta Falcons: Fired Steve Sarkisian
The cap-strapped Atlanta Falcons smartly bolstered the offensive line in free agency and the draft, but the team's decision to move on from offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian after two poor seasons on the job is likely to make the biggest positive difference in Atlanta.
Personnel-wise, not much changed offensively for the Falcons between 2016, 2017 and 2018. And yet after leading the NFL in scoring in that Super Bowl season under Kyle Shanahan, the Sarkisian-led Atlanta offense barely ranked in the top 10 with a 23.9 points-per-game average in 2017 and 2018.
The talented Falcons famously struggled to finish drives in the red zone the last couple seasons, and their inconsistent results from week to week were remarkable. They were the only team in the NFL to score 30-plus points and 20 or fewer points on more than 10 occasions each over that two-year stretch, signaling that a change was necessary.
There's no telling what new OC Dirk Koetter will do with an offense he helped mold earlier this decade, but the key is that the Falcons didn't let the Sarkisian era linger.
Baltimore Ravens: Traded Joe Flacco
Sure, it hurts that the Baltimore Ravens are still on the hook for a $16 million cap hit for quarterback Joe Flacco, but the key is that one of the most overrated players of this era is no longer dragging the franchise down.
One hot playoff run and an albatross contract are the only reasons Flacco remains in the NFL. The 34-year-old has never been elected to a Pro Bowl and is the second-lowest-rated qualified passer in the league since 2013. He's not consistent, he's not accurate and he's just not good.
The Denver Broncos will soon realize that, and at the same time the Ravens can focus on the Lamar Jackson era without any distractions now that Flacco has been traded to Denver in exchange for the fourth-round pick that was used on running back Justice Hill.
Buffalo Bills: Drafted Ed Oliver
There were plenty of options here for a Buffalo Bills team that has experienced a tremendous offseason. New receivers Cole Beasley, John Brown and Tyler Kroft should help young quarterback Josh Allen, as should new offensive linemen Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe and Cody Ford.
But the smartest thing the Bills did this offseason was not overthink it when Ed Oliver dropped into their laps in the No. 9 spot of the draft.
The Bills might have had bigger positional holes to fill, and they might have figured they invested enough in the interior defensive line when they signed Star Lotulelei to a five-year, $50 million deal and used a third-round pick on Harrison Phillips last offseason. But no, Buffalo stood pat and took the best player available—a prospect who might truly have an Aaron Donald-level ceiling and has drawn Donald comparisons.
Buffalo passed on Donald as well as Khalil Mack five years ago, likely because Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams were already on the roster. This regime refused to risk making the same mistake.
Carolina Panthers: Signed Matt Paradis
It's also been a promising offseason for the Carolina Panthers, who replaced the retired Julius Peppers with intriguing first-round pass-rusher Brian Burns, upgraded the increasingly important backup quarterback spot by drafting exciting West Virginia product Will Grier and smartly brought back offensive tackle Daryl Williams on a one-year prove-it deal.
But that all might be trumped by the team's decision to sign center Matt Paradis to replace the retired Ryan Kalil.
That should be huge for quarterback Cam Newton as he attempts to come back from offseason surgery on his throwing shoulder. Kalil had been Newton's regular center since the star quarterback entered the league in 2011, and it was important that Carolina replace him with someone reliable.
Not only is Paradis reliable, but the 29-year-old has been one of the top centers in football since becoming a starter with the Broncos in 2015. In fact, per PFF, his four-year grade of 86.7 ranks fourth among 29 centers with 2,000-plus snaps during that span.
If he can stay healthy, Paradis should be worth every penny of his three-year, $29 million contract.
Chicago Bears: Drafted David Montgomery
It wasn't an easy offseason for the Chicago Bears, who lost a pair of key in-house free agents in Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan and didn't have picks in either of the first two rounds of the draft. But their third-round selection might be a steal.
Weeks after the team smartly traded away running back Jordan Howard following a poor season, the Bears replaced Howard with enticing Iowa State product David Montgomery.
Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller notes that Montgomery is "built like a starting running back with thick thighs and big shoulders," adding that he's a "fantastic, natural receiver out of the backfield with soft hands." He lacks elite speed—he ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine before improving that number to a 4.57 at his pro day—but Miller still sees the 21-year-old as "an immediate NFL starter" after he accumulated over 2,800 scrimmage yards while scoring 24 touchdowns the last two seasons in the Big 12.
Don't be surprised if Montgomery immediately becomes this year's Day 2 star at the running back position.
Cincinnati Bengals: Fired Marvin Lewis?
We don't yet know if new Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor was a good hire or if he was in the right place at the right time thanks to his relationship with Sean McVay. It's possible Cincinnati nailed it with top pick Jonah Williams and made good calls in keeping Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Bobby Hart, Darqueze Dennard and Preston Brown.
There again weren't any big Bengals splashes this offseason, at least in terms of player personnel. But there's little doubt that the organization was right to part ways with head coach Marvin Lewis.
It had become a sick joke that Lewis remained in charge of the Bengals despite going 16 seasons without a playoff victory. Lewis hilariously went 0-4 in home wild-card games as a division champion in Cincinnati, yet he somehow held on to his job for three final losing seasons before even the famously patient Mike Brown had to make a change.
Kudos to the Bengals for finally pulling the trigger. They were in desperate need of a fresh start.
Cleveland Browns: Hired Freddie Kitchens
A move can be both smart and risky, and that applies to the two most substantial moves the Cleveland Browns made this offseason.
They took a risk promoting Freddie Kitchens into a head-coaching role despite the fact he had just eight games' experience as an offensive coordinator, but the Browns offense experienced so much success under Kitchens' tutelage that they were smart to roll those dice and maintain some continuity for a young offensive core.
They also risked potentially disrupting that continuity by acquiring superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but OBJ's on-field track record made it impossible to pass on a trade that only cost the team a mid-first-round pick, a late-third-round pick and yet-to-emerge safety Jabrill Peppers.
Which move was smarter? We'll go with Kitchens because it was less of a no-brainer. The Browns coaching job probably looked mighty attractive, and they could have tried to reel in a big-name retread, but instead they went the conservative route and rolled with a guy who got the best out of Baker Mayfield and the offense down the stretch in 2018.
Under Kitchens, the Browns amazingly averaged more yards per play than any other offense in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys: Signed Randall Cobb
The smartest thing the Dallas Cowboys did this offseason was resist temptation. Resist temptation to trade back into Round 1 of the draft, resist temptation to make a splashy signing, resist temptation to risk a franchise-tag battle with Demarcus Lawrence that could have become an untenable distraction.
The Cowboys will soon have to deal with potential extensions for key players Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and Jaylon Smith, and they've admitted that keeping that group together will require creativity. They couldn't afford to sacrifice a lot of capital this offseason, and they remained disciplined.
And if there's one move that epitomizes that approach, it's the Randall Cobb signing. The former Green Bay Packers receiver will likely play a major role as Cole Beasley's replacement in the slot, and yet he's costing the Cowboys far less than Beasley is costing the Bills.
The 28-year-old Cobb is also two years younger than Beasley, and he has a Pro Bowl season under his belt. His stats took a dive the last few years, but that could stem from injuries and issues with Green Bay's offense more so than Cobb's abilities. Now he'll have a chance to prove himself again on a low-risk, one-year deal worth just $5 million.
Denver Broncos: Drafted Drew Lock in Round 2
The key here? Round 2. Had the Denver Broncos drafted quarterback Drew Lock with their original No. 10 overall selection in Round 1, it wouldn't have been the smartest move of an offseason that has also contained a smart firing (sayonara, Vance Joseph!) and a top-notch signing (welcome aboard, Bryce Callahan!).
But Denver smartly sold that No. 10 pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for Pittsburgh's first- and second-round selections (as well as a third-rounder in 2020), took blue-chip tight end Noah Fant later in Round 1, drafted first-round-caliber offensive tackle Dalton Risner with their own second-round pick and then—only after collecting two other awesome prospects and raising oodles of draft capital—traded up to take Lock 42nd overall.
It was deft navigation from general manager John Elway, who got tremendous value for Lock—a prospect who is far from being a sure thing but was a four-year starter in the SEC. He has work to do mechanically, but the 6'4", 228-pound Missouri product has a cannon arm that can make every throw, and his accuracy appeared to improve immensely over the course of his college career. He looks the part.
Critically, the pressure won't be as high on Lock (or Elway) coming out of the middle of the second round. Props to the Broncos for waiting to enhance his value. Fortune was on their side, but it was also brilliant draft strategy.
Detroit Lions: Signed Trey Flowers
New Detroit Lions tight end T. J. Hockenson might become a superstar, but tight ends often require time to get acclimated and it's too early to draw conclusions about a top-10 pick at that position. So instead we'll give the Lions credit for moving on from the tired, inconsistent and unreliable Ezekiel Ansah and replacing him with a versatile emerging star in Trey Flowers on the edge.
You won't often find me praising a team for handing a free agent a $90 million contract, but Flowers is a rare exception. Yours truly saw him as the top free agent on this year's market—a player ascending at a premium position coming from The School of Belichick. He only hit free agency because the New England Patriots couldn't afford to keep him, and now he could be on the verge of stardom at age 25.
Flowers can cause havoc as a rusher from multiple spots, but he's also one of the best run-defending edge players in the NFL. He finished strong with seven sacks in eight games leading to Super Bowl LIII, and he had 2.5 sacks in New England's Super Bowl LI victory over Atlanta. In other words, he's a big-game player with momentum on his side, and his workload was lighter than usual as part of New England's rotation.
Flowers might be the best free-agent investment in franchise history. He can become a game-changer in Detroit.
Green Bay Packers: Signed Adrian Amos
The Green Bay Packers you saw this offseason? Not your father's. Firing coaches, making it rain for multiple high-priced free-agent defenders on the open market, trading up in the draft. It was all very un-Packer-like.
I for one approved of it all, especially the team's uncharacteristic spending spree six weeks prior to the draft.
Sure, we still have to see how new head coach Matt LaFleur will mesh with Aaron Rodgers, and top pick Rashan Gary will require some time before we cast judgment. But it was about time Green Bay did something dramatic. The franchise was spinning its wheels and wasting what was left of Aaron Rodgers' prime before getting serious this offseason.
New edge-rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith are big-bodied potential game-changers on the rise at age 26, but the victory goes to new safety Adrian Amos. That signing looks like a coup for Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, who landed a guy Pro Football Focus calls "one of the most consistent safeties in the NFL" at a surprisingly reasonable rate of $9 million per year.
Amos is a coverage whiz, and that's the area in which the Packers needed the most help. They won't regret this one.
Houston Texans: Doubled Down on Offensive Linemen Early in the Draft
A two-part move takes the cake here for the Houston Texans, who appear to be getting serious about improving the pass protection for franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson. He was sacked a league-high 62 times last season, and the Texans took several steps this spring in an effort to reduce that number in 2019.
Problem is free agency is a tough spot to upgrade the offensive line. Few strong tackles make it to the open market, and Houston had to settle for a flier on bust Matt Kalil after a failed run from the 2012 No. 4 overall pick in Carolina.
In a perfect world Houston wouldn't have been leapfrogged by the Philadelphia Eagles for highly touted offensive tackle Andre Dillard in the first round of the draft, but they still rolled some dice in the draft crapshoot by taking Tytus Howard in Round 1 and then doubling down with Max Scharping in Round 2.
Both might need time to develop, but Texans head coach Bill O'Brien has already stated both can play guard, possibly sooner than later. The key is Houston is swinging the bat, and there are now plenty of talented players competing for jobs in front of Watson.
Indianapolis Colts: Signed Justin Houston
The Indianapolis Colts took a classically conservative approach to free agency and traded out of the first round of the draft in a relatively quiet offseason, but they smartly waited out the pass-rusher market and landed four-time Pro Bowler Justin Houston at a bargain price.
Houston might no longer be the player he was in his prime, but the longtime Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker only just turned 30 in January, and he has the talent and experience to make a huge impact as part of a rotation on the edge in Indianapolis.
Houston has recorded 18.5 sacks in 27 games since the start of 2017, and his 2018 PFF win rate of 19.3 percent ranked fifth among qualified edge-defenders. Per PFF's Michael Renner, he had a higher pass-rushing grade in 2018 than Flowers, but he's slated to cost the Colts just $24 million over the next two years.
Another work of art from Indy general manager Chris Ballard.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Dropped Blake Bortles, Signed Nick Foles
The Jacksonville Jaguars clung to Blake Bortles for far too long, but they at least opted to move on from their latest quarterback bust just in time to capitalize on a barren market for the more accomplished Nick Foles.
During his five years in Jacksonville, Bortles ranked last among 32 qualified passers with a completion percentage of 59.3 and second-to-last with a passer rating of 80.6. And his numbers in his fifth year were hardly better than those he posted as a rookie in 2014.
Meanwhile, Foles has been a Super Bowl MVP as well as a Pro Bowler, and he owns the third-highest qualified single-season passer rating in league history. He hasn't been consistently awesome since coming into the league as a third-round pick in 2012, but he's a big-game player who rises to significant occasions.
But because the Jags didn't encounter much if any competition for Foles on the free-agent market, they're actually paying Bortles more dead money ($15.5 million) than they owe Foles in 2019 ($12 million). His $22 million average annual salary makes him just the 13th-highest-paid quarterback in football, which makes him a steal as a fresh signing.
Kansas City Chiefs: Drafted Mecole Hardman
Just prior to the NFL draft, the Kansas City Chiefs indefinitely suspended superstar wide receiver Tyreek Hill following the release of audio in which Hill’s fiancee, Crystal Espinal, asks Hill why their three-year-old son said Hill broke his arm. In the recording, Hill also told Espinal that she needs to be afraid of him. There’s an ongoing police investigation, and while Hill has yet to be charged by police or disciplined by the league, the Chiefs have been smart enough to realize Hill might never play football for them again.
It's not a coincidence they used a second-round pick on wide receiver Mecole Hardman, who may need some time to develop after catching just 60 passes the last two years at Georgia but closely resembles Hill on the field. The speedster runs a 4.33 40-yard dash, and he can be used in multiple ways. He also experienced plenty of success in the SEC as a runner and a return man (finishing with 689 rushing and return yards over his last two seasons).
"Every day he got a little better," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Hardman at the conclusion of the team's rookie minicamp, per Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star. "These are all new. These routes are new to him. He did a nice job in the red zone, which normally is the toughest place to work, but he did extremely well there. He had a good finish."
With the reigning MVP throwing passes his way in Reid's creative offense, Hardman could make a major impact early in his career. Not bad for a late-second-round pick.
Los Angeles Chargers: Drafted Jerry Tillery
You didn't need to be the football version of a rocket scientist to connect defensive tackle Jerry Tillery to the Los Angeles Chargers at the bottom of the first round, but in a quiet offseason the Bolts get credit for doing the right thing and taking the Notre Dame product in the No. 28 spot.
The Chargers entered the draft in need of a talent boost in the interior defensive line, and Tillery is an aggressive interior rusher who should have plenty of opportunities to make an early impact with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram causing trouble on the edges.
Los Angeles entered the offseason with Super Bowl-level talent, and that hasn't changed. The Chargers were smart not to mess with what ain't broken if they believe they already have what it takes, but adding Tillery at basically no cost is ideal.
Los Angeles Rams: Signed Dante Fowler Jr. and Let Ndamukong Suh Walk
With limited salary-cap space and no premium draft picks following a first-round trade down, the Los Angeles Rams weren't able to make many splashes this offseason. But they still did a lot of things right. In fact, let's make a list.
- They brought in Bortles, who has the ability to be one of the league's best backup quarterbacks, for just $1 million on a one-year deal.
- They replaced highly paid free-agent departure Lamarcus Joyner with the more accomplished (and arguably still better) Eric Weddle at a significantly cheaper rate.
- They got good value for experienced depth linebacker Clay Matthews.
But the smartest move the Rams made was opting to invest in rising pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. instead of paying fading defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
It always felt like an either/or with those two, and while Suh didn't quite live up to big expectations and a big salary in Los Angeles, Fowler was probably the team's best edge-rusher down the stretch in a Super Bowl season. It looks like he's about to take off, and he's eight years younger than the 32-year-old Suh.
That couldn't have been an easy decision for the Rams, but it was the right one.
Miami Dolphins: Acquired Josh Rosen
The Miami Dolphins' trade for quarterback Josh Rosen really was the coup of the 2019 NFL offseason. Dude was a top-10 draft pick last April, but because the Cardinals drafted Murray and the quarterback market was slow, the Dolphins landed a high-potential 22-year-old former Pac-12 star in exchange for just a second-round pick in 2019 and a fifth-rounder next offseason.
But that's not all. Because the Cards have already paid Rosen his signing bonus, the Dolphins owe him just $6.2 million over the course of the next three years.
Rosen is a smart, strong-armed, polished, prototypical NFL passer who could become special in the right environment, and the Dolphins are now in a position in which they have almost nothing to lose with him on the roster. Low risk, high potential reward.
Minnesota Vikings: Drafted Garrett Bradbury
The Minnesota Vikings offensive line was a major liability last season, particularly in the interior where Tom Compton, Mike Remmers and Pat Elflein all struggled to consistently protect quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Compton and Remmers are gone, and they got a good deal for free-agent addition Josh Kline, who appears to be a good schematic fit for the line. But the Vikes deserve credit for not stopping there and using a first-round pick on center Garrett Bradbury, even though Elflein manned that position as a second-year third-round pick in 2018.
The Vikings are proactively kicking Elflein to guard to make room for Bradbury, who Miller believes has the ability to make an immediate impact while possessing "Pro Bowl potential."
"He is a smart kid," Cousins said of Bradbury this week, per Dane Mizutani of the the Pioneer Press. "I look forward to him being here a long time."
New England Patriots: Let Trent Brown Go
It's not as though Trent Brown didn't help the New England Patriots on their run to Super Bowl LIII, but the left tackle benefited greatly from quarterback Tom Brady's quick delivery as well as the support he had from the personnel and coaching staff in New England.
Brown didn't perform consistently well before getting hot along with his teammates in the playoffs. Renner noted for PFF that he "was average by pretty much all of our metrics," adding that he "earned a 66.9 overall grade and ranked 30th out of 57 qualifying tackles in pass-blocking efficiency." And the 2015 seventh-round pick failed to make a positive impact with the San Francisco 49ers during his first three seasons in the NFL, so it's not as though there's pedigree there.
Yet the Oakland Raiders made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history.
Considering that New England used a first-round pick on potential left tackle of the future Isaiah Wynn last season, the Pats made a smart decision letting Brown walk back to the West Coast in free agency.
New Orleans Saints: Signed Jared Cook
The New Orleans Saints didn't make a lot of headlines this offseason, but they smartly continued to bolster support for aging but fabulous quarterback Drew Brees. Brees should benefit from the addition of new interior offensive linemen Nick Easton and Erik McCoy, and he and the offense can feel a little more secure knowing that backup/potential successor Teddy Bridgewater will be around another year.
But the winning move in New Orleans this offseason was the two-year, $15 million contract the team handed to veteran tight end Jared Cook, who somewhat quietly was one of just four tight ends to accumulate more than 800 receiving yards last season with the Raiders.
The 10-year veteran is 32 now, but tight ends often have long shelf lives, and he should benefit greatly in the hyper-efficient Saints offense. He'll provide an obvious upgrade for the Saints at tight end—and at superb value.
New York Giants: Traded Olivier Vernon
The New York Giants made several heavily scrutinized moves this offseason that they might eventually regret, but getting rid of Olivier Vernon wasn't one of them.
The team's swap with the Browns for guard Kevin Zeitler was ultimately combined with the high-profile Odell Beckham Jr. deal, but it was originally just Vernon for Zeitler, and that's a good deal for the rebuilding G-Men.
Vernon was the team's top sack man last season, but the 28-year-old failed to record 10 sacks in each of his three seasons with the Giants, and his bloated contract was problematic for a team that isn't competitive.
Zeitler will cost just $5 million and can be released at a reasonable cost next offseason, but in the meantime the veteran can provide a steady presence alongside 2018 second-round pick Will Hernandez at the guard position. That's good news for running back Saquon Barkley and whoever is under center this season for Big Blue.
New York Jets: Acquired Kelechi Osemele for Almost Nothing
The New York Jets took a lot of bad turns in an embarrassing offseason, and it seems like a stretch to give them credit for selecting arguably the best player in the draft when they took Quinnen Williams third overall. So instead let's praise the trade Gang Green made with the Raiders for veteran guard Kelechi Osemele.
The Jets inherited Osemele's big salary, but the deal made a lot of sense for a team that was flush with cap space and is trying to protect emerging franchise quarterback Sam Darnold while also squeezing the most out of big-name free-agent addition Le'Veon Bell in the offensive backfield.
Osemele is coming off a tough season in which he was impacted by a lingering knee injury, but he's still only 29 and a year removed from a second consecutive Pro Bowl campaign. He and veteran Brian Winters should form a hell of a guard duo, and the Jets merely had to swap a fifth-round pick for a sixth-rounder to make that happen.
Oakland Raiders: Kept Derek Carr
Finding the silver lining for the Silver and Black wasn't easy. The Oakland Raiders overpaid Trent Brown, Lamarcus Joyner and Tyrell Williams, inexplicably let Jared Cook walk and took huge risks on Antonio Brown, Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict. And in the draft they reached for Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram in the first round.
But at least Oakland opted not to give up on quarterback Derek Carr.
The Raiders had the draft capital to land Dwayne Haskins, maybe even Kyler Murray. But obviously Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock came to their senses and realized they have a 28-year-old franchise quarterback in his prime who is just a couple years removed from a Pro Bowl season in which he earned a half-dozen MVP votes.
Carr quietly posted the highest completion percentage (68.9) and yards-per-attempt average (7.3) of his career in 2018, and that was despite the fact that he was adjusting to Gruden's offense on the fly. With more support, he could be in for a career year in 2019. So it's a good thing the Raiders weren't serious about Murray, Haskins or any of the other top quarterbacks in this draft class.
Philadelphia Eagles: Drafted Miles Sanders in Round 2
The Philadelphia Eagles might have been smart in essentially swapping out Michael Bennett for the younger Malik Jackson along the defensive line, but Bennett is still a playmaker and Jackson slipped up a bit last season in Jacksonville. So we'll wait on that one and instead focus on what Philly did early in the 2019 draft.
Trading up to take offensive tackle Andre Dillard in Round 1 could be viewed as a stroke of genius when the 37-year-old Jason Peters runs out of gas, but is that going to happen anytime soon? Regardless, Dillard isn't likely to make much of an impact in 2018 for a contending team. Second-round running back Miles Sanders, on the other hand, could play a pivotal role right off the bat in Philly.
The Penn State product has the size (5'11", 211 lbs) and speed (4.49-second 40-yard dash) you want in a lead dog, and he should have plenty of tread on his tires after just one season as a starter—previously working in relief of Saquon Barkley with the Nittany Lions.
The Eagles acquired veteran back Jordan Howard earlier in the offseason, but Sanders has more upside than any back on the Philly roster, and this league rarely waits for running backs. Provided he can get on the practice field, expect him to chip in right away at practically no cost to the Eagles.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Signed Steven Nelson
The Pittsburgh Steelers might have felt as tough they had little choice but to move on from Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but both became unnecessary distractions partly as a result of the way Pittsburgh handled them. And the Brown trade had to be pretty embarrassing for a proud team that got just two middle-round draft picks back and is still paying the diva wide receiver more than $20 million.
So we're not going to associate those developments with smartness, nor are we going to jump to conclusions about Pittsburgh sacrificing first- and second-round picks in 2019 and a third-rounder in 2020 to land off-ball linebacker Devin Bush in April's draft.
What does that leave us with? Well, the Steelers got a pretty good deal on free-agent cornerback Steven Nelson, whose PFF grade rose for the fourth straight year as he intercepted a career-high four passes with the Chiefs in 2018.
It wasn't an exciting move, but at a reasonable $8.5 million a year it was a smart one for a team that often defined Murphy's law this offseason.
San Francisco 49ers: Drafted Nick Bosa
The San Francisco 49ers were smart, I suppose, for not overthinking things when the phenomenal Nick Bosa dropped into their laps in the No. 2 spot in April's draft. They had used a top-three pick on a defensive end just two years ago, and they had just spent big on new pass-rusher Dee Ford, but the 49ers still opted not to pass up on an edge defender who looks destined to become a superstar just like his older brother.
Even if they opt to keep Solomon Thomas, it's not bad to have three quality pass-rushers in this day and age. Regardless, Bosa is the type of player who can transform a defense as a complete package at defensive end, and the 49ers didn't attempt to get cute with that option in front of them.
That might make their cross-region rival eventually look even worse for reaching for Clelin Ferrell two picks later.
Wish we had something better to offer for the 49ers, but it's safe to say I wasn't thrilled with what they did in free agency.
Seattle Seahawks: Traded Frank Clark
It's not just that the Seattle Seahawks traded Frank Clark, because that alone isn't immediately helping a team that is in win-now mode. But it's that Seattle found a way to get something substantial in return for a player whose rookie contract had expired.
The Seahawks hit Clark with the franchise tag and then made quarterback Russell Wilson the highest-paid player in NFL history—and suddenly that $17.1 million tender was daunting for a team that will also soon have to take care of stud linebacker Bobby Wagner. So get this! Seattle flipped Clark along with a 2019 third-round pick to the Chiefs in exchange for first- and third-round selections in 2019 as well as a second-rounder next year.
The defensive end selected with that new first-round pick, L.J. Collier, might never become as good as Clark, and he certainly isn't likely to do so overnight. But the TCU product will cost about one-tenth the price in 2019, which should make it easier for Seattle to keep Wagner and other key players who complement Wilson.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Hired Bruce Arians
It's far too early to come to conclusions about most of the league's eight new head coaches, especially the six who have never served in that role before. But the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have hit the jackpot by somehow luring two-time Coach of the Year Bruce Arians out of retirement.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht must have said something to his former colleague in Arizona, because at one point the straight-shooting Arians said the Browns vacancy would be the only one he'd consider. Instead here he is in Tampa, where he'll try to give quarterback Jameis Winston a boost.
It's worth a shot. After all, Arians is a quarterback guru who helped groom and/or get the most out of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer at earlier points in his career, and he does appear to believe he can get Winston on track in a contract year.
It's hard to think of anyone who would be better for Winston and that young offense right now. The Arians hiring could be brilliant.
Tennessee Titans: Signed Adam Humphries
Defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons might turn out to be a steal in the No. 19 spot for the Tennessee Titans, but Tennessee will be looking to compete in 2019, and the rehabbing Simmons won't likely be much of a factor this season. So it's a tad early to call that a savvy move, even if it could pay off if you're patient.
Instead, watch for top free-agent addition Adam Humphries to deliver immediately for the Titans. Quarterback Marcus Mariota could benefit greatly from a security blanket in the slot, and that's exactly what the former Bucs receiver can be.
Among 48 receivers who have been targeted at least 150 times the last two seasons, the 25-year-old Humphries ranks second with a catch rate of 72.9 percent, and his numbers have steadily improved throughout his four-year NFL career.
Most impressively, Tennessee landed the guy for just $9 million a year.
Washington Redskins: Drafted Dwayne Haskins Without Trading Up
I'm not convinced box safety Landon Collins is worth the six-year, $84 million deal the Washington Redskins handed him in free agency, but to those concerned about such an odd signing, the team might have totally redeemed itself in the first round of the draft.
Washington appeared to get fantastic relative value for pass-rusher Montez Sweat, whose stock dropped him to the Redskins at the bottom of Round 1 because of a heart condition that might have been a misdiagnosis. But the key is that a team in search of its next franchise quarterback didn't even have to move up to land Dwayne Haskins.
Haskins, of course, is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and a 2018 Heisman Trophy finalist. He's big and strong, but he also has the touch of a special quarterback. And while there was predraft chatter that Washington might trade way up to select him, the Redskins smartly waited as Murray and Daniel Jones went off the board and then grabbed the Ohio State product with their original No. 15 overall pick.
It was a smart, prudent move for an organization not known to be particularly smart or prudent.