By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and after must speculation and conjecture, Tom Brady finally made a decision regarding his future on Tuesday evening. The six-time Super Bowl champion will be joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Though Brady leaving New England has long been rumored, it is still a bit jarring and surreal to have it confirmed. The 42-year old will be leaving behind a talent-starved offense to join Tampa Bay’s play-maker heavy receiving corps. Coming off a sub-par season, Brady will relish throwing to the duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. New England’s short-term plans to replace Brady at quarterback remain a mystery.
In one of the more shocking—and lopsided—trades in recent years, the Houston Texans dealt receiver DeAndre Hopkins and draft picks to the Arizona Cardinals for a package built around draft picks and running back David Johnson. The represents an absolute steal for the Cardinals, as the team adds an elite pass catcher for quarterback Kyler Murray. For the Texans, the move makes little sense. Ridding quarterback DeShaun Watson of his favorite target without getting a first-round draft pick or freeing up salary is mind-boggling.
Another star receiver on the move via trade was Stefon Diggs, who was sent to Buffalo by the Vikings. Minnesota netted Buffalo’s first-round pick this season and three additional mid-round picks. Adding Diggs to the already solid stable of receivers gives the Bills arguably football’s best collection of pass catchers. For the Vikings, Minnesota now boasts an impressive collection of draft capital to build around re-signed quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Vikings will have the benefit of needing talent at receiver and cornerback, two positions with a wealth of talent in this year’s draft class.
Miami didn’t wait for the draft to bolster its secondary, opting to make Byron Jones the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. Jones has evolved into an elite cover man during the past two seasons, and he’ll prove to be an extra complement to Xavien Howard. Jones and Howard will enter next season as one of the NFL’s elite cornerback duos. The Dolphins made a few other moves—signing edge defenders Shaq Lawson and Kyle Van Noy, among others—but it is the Jones signing that will substantially move Miami back toward contention.
San Francisco made a pair of moves along the defensive line, locking up edge rusher Arik Armstead to a massive five-year, $85 million deal while dealing away DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft. Armstead and Nick Bosa are two of the game’s best edge rushers, and the defending NFC champions will again be a force on defense. Dealing Buckner for such a lucrative haul also made sense considering he likely would have been too expensive to retain long-term. Upon acquiring Buckner, the Colts quickly signed him to a deal that makes him the NFL’s second-highest paid interior defender.
While Cleveland made a questionable move to make Austin Hooper the league’s highest-paid tight end, the Browns at least managed to make a pair of solid moves, landing Case Keenum on a team-friendly deal to serve as back-up quarterback, and signing Jack Conklin—the best available tackle—to a reasonable three-year deal. Conklin is an elite run blocker, and though he is closer to average as a pass blocker, average represents a huge upgrade for Cleveland’s offensive line.
Carolina made its intentions to end Cam Newton’s tenure with the franchise evident by signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal. For a team with question marks at pretty much every position aside from running back, Carolina’s move to sign a veteran quarterback is mind-boggling. Newton is all but certain to be traded in the near future, while Bridgewater’s removal from the quarterback market strikes another name off the list for the contenders looking to upgrade under center. As of Wednesday morning, the only known suitor for Newton is the Washington Redskins, though more will emerge as teams miss out on other targets.
One team that could emerge as a possible landing spot for Newton is the Los Angeles Chargers. The two teams made a trade earlier this off-season, and on Tuesday the Charges added a massive upgrade along its offensive line by landing tackle Bryan Bulaga on a three-year deal. Bulaga is one of the best pass-blocking right tackles in football. Health will always be an issue, but as long as Bulaga is on the field he is a force in the trenches. This is a win-now move for L.A., hinting that the franchise won’t settle for entering next season with Tyrod Taylor as the clear-cut starter at quarterback.