Ranking the 5 Best Moves of the 2020 NFL Offseason

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2020

Ranking the 5 Best Moves of the 2020 NFL Offseason

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    When even the smallest of deals seem to receive mountains of hype, it can be difficult to pick out the best offseason moves in the NFL

    But it isn't about the players who earn the biggest contracts or the teams that create the biggest splashes via trade. Value, team fit, short- and long-term outlooks and how a move amplifies a team's goals place some moves above the rest. 

    These are the top moves of the 2020 offseason prior to April's draft.        

             

5. Raiders Sign Cory Littleton

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Cory Littleton, one of the league's best coverage linebackers, landed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders last month.

    Yet the Raiders smartly structured their pact with the 26-year-old, including a potential out after the 2021 campaign to essentially make it a two-year contract worth $23.5 million. 

    Paying a little under $12 million per year to Littleton is a boon for a team that chased its own tail in 2019 trying to upgrade one of the worst linebacking corps with guys like Brandon Marshall, Vontaze Burfict and Preston Brown. 

    Now, at a reasonable cost, the Raiders get an in-his-prime linebacker who has played at least 94 percent of his team's defensive snaps in each of the last two seasons, allowed just 61 completions on 85 targets last year and received a 78.9 grade at Pro Football Focus. 

    Littleton is a unit-changing upgrade for a squad that allowed 26.2 points per game in 2019 (eighth-most leaguewide) yet still won seven games.           

4. Ravens Trade for Calais Campbell

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    One team's selling spree is another's opportunity.

    The Baltimore Ravens, who won 14 games last year, were more than happy to take Calais Campbell off the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, coughing up just a 2020 fifth-round pick from the Atlanta Falcons.

    Then they agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract extension with the 12-year veteran to make his deal worth $25 million over two years. That's a solid investment in a game-changing presence. 

    Campbell is 33 years old, but he hasn't shown signs of slowing down. He hasn't missed more than three games in a season since he entered the league in 2008. Last year, he recorded 56 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 33 pressures, receiving a grade of 90.3 at Pro Football Focus. That's right in line with his 90-plus grades dating back to 2016. 

    This was a case of the rich getting richer. An already elite defense that allowed the third-fewest points per game (17.6) in 2019 acquired a veteran who commands attention, freeing up pass-rushing lanes for others when he's not wreaking havoc.            

3. Panthers Ink Teddy Bridgewater

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers could've avoided quarterbacks after giving Cam Newton permission to seek a trade. They also could've spent an irresponsible amount of money on a big name. 

    Instead, the front office landed Teddy Bridgewater, who is still only 27 years old. He is also just a few years removed from being the Minnesota Vikings' franchise signal-caller. 

    A career-alternating knee injury ended his time in Minneapolis, but he went 5-0 as a starter in place of an injured Drew Brees last year in New Orleans, completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,384 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions.

    While Bridgewater did agree to $63 million over three years, the Panthers essentially signed him to a two-year deal worth $42 million if they exercise their out after the 2021 campaign. Carolina is giving him a serious shot to be its franchise passer but also left itself wiggle room to draft another signal-caller high over the next few years. 

    Bridgewater could match the monetary investment. He's always taken good care of the football, and in Carolina, he'll have Christian McCaffrey at running back as well as wide receivers DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson.

    He'll also be working in an offense orchestrated by former LSU passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach Joe Brady, who saw quarterback Joe Burrow set an NCAA single-season record 60 touchdowns for the Tigers in 2019.                           

2. Arizona Pulls Off a Heist for DeAndre Hopkins

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Robbery or not, this move would've been in the top five. 

    The Arizona Cardinals probably leaped at the idea of adding Houston Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins (as any team should), but their compensation pushes things over the edge: They shipped running back David Johnson (and his big contract) with a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick to get Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-rounder. 

    Hopkins alone is worth it even if he wants a raise. And if the two sides don't work something out, the Cardinals have him under contract for three more seasons, with his largest cap hit just $13.9 million.

    Again, this move was a silly steal. Nuk turns 28 in June and long ago proved he's a top-10 wideout. He's put up 1,100-plus yards in five of his seven seasons, including two 1,500-yard campaigns. He's recorded 54 touchdowns through the air and 30 100-yard games. 

    Just call him Kyler Murray's new best friend. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick looked good in his rookie year, completing 64.4 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Now he'll have Nuk plus Larry Fitzgerald in head coach Kliff Kingsbury's offense. 

    Hopkins is an investment who guarantees the young passer can properly develop into a franchise quarterback.      

1. TB X TB

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Almost any team who got Tom Brady away from the New England Patriots would rank first in offseason moves. 

    For the paltry cost of $50 million over two years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will got a shot at Lombardi Trophies with one of the greatest to ever play the game. 

    Brady will turn 43 years old in August, and some of his numbers might've dipped. But even so, last year he completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards, 24 touchdowns and just eight picks while earning an 80.4 grade at Pro Football Focus. 

    It's also important to give context to the situation. Bill Belichick is one of the greatest coaches of all time, but New England didn't have anywhere close to the weapons Tampa Bay will have around Brady.

    Mike Evans and Chris Godwin form a top-10 duo at wide receiver. O.J. Howard has the potential to be a top tight end. If Jameis Winston was able to lead the Bucs to seven wins while tossing 33 scores and 30 picks last year, Brady should be able to move the team in a positive direction.

    He'll also be working with head coach Bruce Arians, who developed quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer.

    While things aren't perfect in Tampa Bay, especially on defense and in the offensive trenches, the complexion of the organization changes with Brady's arrival.