Welcome to the Free Agency & Trade recap article for the 2020 season.
In the wake of the Free Agency period, a number of high-profile, franchise players have shifted the power balance of the league. This is the first season in recent memory to feature such a wide array of franchise-level quarterbacks moving to other teams. There has also been a highly active scene with trades in the NFL. There’s been so much action, this will be article 1 in a 2 part series.
The Big Moves
Tom Brady – Tampa Bay (2 years/50 million total)
Tom Brady isn’t the same player he was ten years ago. In fact, he’s not the same player he was two years ago. There’s a growing contingent of people out there who are under the belief that Brady still has good years left in him. That’s actually still the narrative because people are focusing on a few of his stats and ignore the more advanced stats.
You’ll hear people mention the fact he “had no weapons” and still managed to throw 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. You also may hear he was the ninth-ranked passer on deep balls. The numbers you aren’t hearing are cause for more alarm. His deepest pass was 59 yards last season (shortest since 2004). His 24 touchdowns were his lowest since 2006 (13th in the NFL). His adjusted yards per attempt was just 6.5 yards, which was 20th in the NFL and his lowest since 2006.
The more advanced stuff is even more of a worry to me. Brady’s true passer rating is 17th, true completion percentage is 30th, play-action completion percentage is 28th, Red Zone completion percentage is 17th, Red Zone attempts is 1st, pressured completion percentage is 28th, and clean pocket completion percentage is 32nd.
Tom Brady, who turns 43 before the season starts, is not the guy a team should be pursuing, unless that team is ready to win now, has a good O-line, and has a run-first offense in place. The key to Brady’s success at this stage in his career will not be moving to a pass-happy attack, especially considering those advanced stats from 2019.
He should be on a team with a potent run game and a solid O-line. I like the Bucs run defense and their pass protection ability is only two spots below New England, but this team is not a great landing spot for a soon-to-be 43-year old quarterback. Brady’s contract is two years, 50 million.
I don’t have an issue with the contract, but the Bucs have to commit to getting him more protection at the line, a better running game, and a secondary that doesn’t average a league-leading 302 yards per game.
Teddy Bridgewater – Carolina (3 years/63 million total)
Teddy Bridgewater was left for dead following his massive ACL tear a few years back. When the Saints scooped him up off the scrap heap, they plugged him into their system with the long-term prospect of having Teddy take over for Drew Brees when Brees decides to hang it up.
Unfortunately, Brees decided to keep playing, and the Saints couldn’t afford to allocate such heavy funds for a backup. In the nine games Teddy played in 2019, Bridgewater had a solid go of things. He finished the year with nine touchdowns to just two interceptions, but he managed those games well, going 5-0 in all five starts.
The issue I have with this signing is focused on both the amount on the deal (3 years at 63 million) and the Panthers’ perception of the kind of player they’re getting. Bridgewater had the sixth-best protection rate, but he has three seasons of at least nine games and his touchdowns were just 14, 14, and 9. Meanwhile, his interceptions in those seasons were 12, 9, and 2.
Last season, he averaged 153 yards passing per game. I simply don’t see the upside here. He’s one of the safer options at quarterback and lacking both field-stretching ability and athleticism. He should fit well alongside Christian McCaffrey, as I expect there to be plenty of check downs for McCaffrey again this year.
I am just pessimistic about a team signing a guy who’s never been the type to have big passing games. For the current market value of quality quarterbacks, I think the deal is somewhat team-friendly, but the ceiling just isn’t very high for the Panthers.
Trade: Texans get David Johnson and a second-round pick while Cardinals get DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick
This may be the worst trade I’ve seen in quite some time. I knew having a head coach serve as the GM probably was a bad idea, but this trade should be exhibit 1-A as to why it should not be repeated in the future.
I don’t know if the Texans don’t have access to the internet or they got David Johnson confused with Kenyan Drake. Had they watched any film on Johnson in 2019, they’d realize he washed. Regardless of whether the Texans were planning on letting Hopkins walk in a year, Hopkins is a perennial top-five receiver and one who is still young enough to garner serious trade attention.
Even if the demand was low now, why pull the trigger at this point? The entire offseason was remaining and I’m sure the Texans could’ve at least gotten a late first or multiple picks from rounds two through five. Instead, they get a large (widely considered untradeable) contract with David Johnson and a second-round pick but surrendered a fourth-round pick in the process.
David Johnson is set to make $11.1 million this season and $9 million next season — and it’s guaranteed. The funny part is, the Rams outright released Todd Gurley and he signs with the Falcons for one year at only five million.
Gurley, at this point (arthritic knee and all), is a better back than Johnson. Aside from how insanely dumb the Texans look, the Cardinals came of this with a nice return. The Cardinals shed a big contract for a minor pick swap, obtained a true number one receiver, and positioned themselves nicely to open up the offense for Kyler Murray.
Jack Conklin – Cleveland Browns (3 years/42 million total)
Conklin hasn’t quite lived up to the hype for where he was drafted, but he’s certainly above average across the league. Conklin was drafted in 2016, had a superb rookie season as the eighth overall pick, but has struggled since then.
2019 was a good bounce-back season for Jack, as PFF graded him as a 78. He’s just 25 years old and the Titans clearly think they can replicate his production through other means.
For the Browns, he’s going to be a fairly solid addition to their offensive line, which was awful in pass protection in 2019. Baker Mayfield was just 30th in protection rate, according to NFL.com’s player profiler.
Todd Gurley – Atlanta Falcons (1 year/$5 million total)
Speaking of the Rams, the release of Gurley was surprising but definitely not a complete shock. Gurley signed his deal midway through his initial rookie deal, which seemed silly at the time for the Rams and appears to be validated now as downright stupid.
By cutting Gurley, the Rams will be eating over $20 million in dead cap money. Had they simply let his rookie deal run its course, they could’ve opted out of his option and saved themselves a lot of money but hey, you live and you learn, right?
The Falcons swooped in quickly and signed Gurley to a one-year prove-me deal for just five million dollars. I love the move for the Falcons, despite the lingering arthritic knee concerns with Gurley. Gurley gives them an elite-level talent who has no doubt lost a step, but for one year of a regulated snap count, it should be a great signing.
The Big Resignings
Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee (4 years/$118 million total)
Tannehill had the best season of his career last year with the Titans. His 22 touchdowns and six interceptions were pretty amazing for just twelve games, but his passer rating was second in the entire league.
Tannehill was among the best in the league in multiple categories. He was among the top six in true completion percentage, Red Zone completion percentage, pressured completion percentage, clean pocket completion percentage, and accuracy rating. He was the best in the entire league in true passer rating, play action completion percentage, production premium, and adjusted yards per attempt.
Tannehill is 31 and proved he could be a very valuable quarterback in the right setup. The Titans are going to need to replace Jack Conklin with a good tackle so Tannehill is setup to continue to succeed, but getting a solid quarterback with a high ceiling signed to a four-year deal under $30 million per year is pretty good. I love this signing for the Titans.
Andrew Whitworth – LA Rams (3 years/$30 million total)
Look, Andrew Whitworth has had a fantastic career. The sad reality of this signing is he’s currently 38 years old, the deal is for three years, and Whitworth has steadily declined since 2015.
From 2013-2015, Whitworth scored PFF grades of 90 plus. From 2016-2018, Whitworth scored in the low 80’s. In 2019, Whitworth was graded at 72.8. I simply don’t understand this one from a few angles.
For one, he’s a 38-year old tackle. I’m shocked he hasn’t hung them up at this point. The second is the amount. Ten million a year over three years is understandable for an average tackle in his mid to late twenties, but Whitworth has been on a steady decline now for five years.
Lastly, Jared Goff was just 24th in pressured completion percentage last season, so it’s clear the Rams are worried the quality of player they can get in the draft. This seems like a desperation signing.
Impact on NFL futures betting
We take a look at the impact of the off-season through changes to the PlaySugarHouse NFL future odds.
The aforementioned moves have shifted the odds for a number of NFL teams involved. With the loss of Jack Conklin and the re-signing of Tannehill, the Titans have gone from +2700 to +3000. The Browns have gone from +3400 to +3300. The Bucs have gone from +5500 to +1800 following the signing of Tom Brady.
The Panthers odds have remained largely unchanged at +7000 after Teddy Bridgewater signed. The Cardinals went from +7000 to +5000, while the Texans went from +3500 to +5000. The Rams, following the re-signing of Whitworth and releasing Todd Gurley, dropped from +2200 to +2800. The Falcons jumped from +5000 to +4000 following the signing of Todd Gurley.
Next Week, I’ll return in Part 2 with the Stefon Diggs trade, the signings of Phillip Rivers, Chris Harris, Byron Jones, James Bradberry, Brian Bulaga, Austin Hooper, Melvin Gordon, and hopefully the signings of Jadaveon Clowney, Jameis Winston, and Cam Newton.