By: Robert Bishop
Back again, and the Colts made headlines on the opening day of the NFL off-season with a move to acquire defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, and Indianapolis remained in the headline-generating business with the signing of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. Though he is coming off a rough year, Rivers remains a productive passer when given quality protection. With the Colts, he’ll have the benefit of one of football’s best offensive lines, setting up Rivers for a bounce-back season. Rivers represents a tremendous upgrade at quarterback for the Colts.
While the Titans have generated plenty of notice—and some criticism—for re-signing of Ryan Tannehill and franchise tagging Derrick Henry, a smaller move by Tennessee deserves some scrutiny. The Titans traded defensive lineman Jurrell Casey to the Denver Broncos, receiving a mere seventh-round pick in return. Casey is coming off a season that ranks as disappointing given his lofty standard, but the veteran interior lineman remains among the better players at his position in the NFL. The thought process for Tennessee to gift Casey to the Broncos is a move that is difficult to find.
In another trade, the Philadelphia Eagles managed to acquire a massive upgrade to its talent-starved secondary, landing cornerback Darius Slay from the Lions for a pair of mid-round picks. Slay has been among the best cornerbacks in football the past few seasons before a down year in 2019. The Eagles have entered practically every season in a decade in need of help at cornerback, and with Slay, the team finally has one capable of shutting down the best receivers in the league. This was a massive move for the Eagles.
Philadelphia wasn’t done making power moves, as the Eagles also locked up Javon Hargrave to a three-year deal. Operating as part of a rotation along the interior of Pittsburgh’s defensive line during the past few seasons, Hargraves has exhibited steady improvement, cresting with an elite 2019 season. Now, he’ll look to form the NFL’s most formidable defensive interiors alongside Fletcher Cox. Few teams can boast a single interior lineman capable of generating consistent pressure on the quarterback. The Eagles now have a pair.
Cornerback Chris Harris signed with the Los Angeles Chargers on a two-year deal worth $20 million. Paired with Desmond King and Casey Hayward, Harris gives the Chargers a trio of reliable and versatile cornerbacks. With three stars at corner, along with superstar safety Derwin James and pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers are absolutely loaded on defense. Los Angeles may be entering the season with an unclear quarterback situation, but the team’s defense is poised to be a legitimate force.
Elsewhere in the AFC West, the Las Vegas Raiders landed linebacker Cory Littleton via a three-year deal. Littleton has his flaws, but he ranks among the NFL’s best coverage linebackers. The Raiders also signed Nick Kwiatkoski to a three-year deal, adding the franchise a pair of building blocks to a position group in desperate need of a talent infusion. Both linebackers shine as tacklers, offering a major impact on the team’s run defense. Littleton’s presence will be a huge boost to the team’s pass defense. The Raiders are quietly have a solid start to free agency, setting aside the questionable contract handed to edge rusher Carl Nassib.
Less than two years into a massive four-year deal, the Rams have opted to move on from running back Todd Gurley. Ankle and knee injuries have ruined Gurley’s career. At his best, he was an MVP-caliber running back that helped sparked the franchise back to relevancy. Now, despite only being 25, it is tough to foresee the next step in his career. Given his youth, a season off rehabbing and getting as close to fully healthy as his chronic ailments allow may be the best choice. There are far too many options available at running back on the open market to see Gurley getting anything more than a bargain-basement contract offer.