Shield Talk: The best and worse of free agency


Tribune News Service

Brent Jansen, Columnist

The beginning of free agency is always the most chaotic. Teams begin to pounce on the top players and try to prevent their top talent from seeking a bigger payout elsewhere. So which teams have made the best, worst, and smartest moves of the offseason thus far?

The Best

Philadelphia Eagles:

Last season was promising for the Eagles. They found what looks to be a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz. The only issue was that Wentz had little to no talent at the wide receiver position. Addressing that issue, they have signed the number one wide receiver free agent, Alshon Jeffrey. On top of that, they also grabbed the speedy Torrey Smith from San Francisco. While Jeffrey might seem overrated and Smith out of his early prime with Baltimore, there is talent and potential — two things the Eagles lacked at that position last year.

Tennessee Titans:

The Titans are an interesting case. Last year, the Titans stood up to some of the bullies in the NFL over the past few seasons, including the Packers and Chiefs. But most of these teams are pass heavy teams and the Titans had the third worst passing defense last year. To adjust, the Titans signed CB Logan Ryan from New England and SS Johnathon Cyprien from Jacksonville. If these two can make an immediate impact, the Titans are on track to be the undisputed AFC South champions.

The Worst

Houston Texans:

The Texans made one the riskiest moves last season signing Brock Osweiler to a hefty contract. It was a huge mistake. The Texans had to desperately trade Osweiler away to the Browns to save cap space and ultimately they made no major acquisitions and they have no real answer at quarterback. By the way, star cornerback A.J. Bouye left.

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals were a disappointing team last year. They usually are tough competition in the AFC North with the Steelers and Ravens, but the team fell to mediocrity last season after A.J. Green was lost to injury. So far this offseason, the Bengals succeeded in re-signing the average CB Dre Kirkpatrick and WR Brandon LaFell. At the same time, they lost two top notch offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. The issue is that the Bengals have yet to really make move towards improvement. Even Bengals linebacker Carlos Dunlap went to Twitter claiming that he doesn’t “see the plan.”

The Smartest

Cleveland Browns:

One of the biggest and somewhat unprecedented trades this offseason was the Browns’ acquisition of Brock Osweiler from the Houston Texans. The trade, at face value, includes the Browns receiving Osweiler as well as a sixth-round pick this year and a second round pick next year. The Texans only received a fourth-round pick from the Browns. The trade itself doesn’t make much sense, seeing that the Browns acquired a player and two draft picks for only one draft pick, but the real reason for this trade was the money.

Osweiler’s over-luxurious contract had the Texans paying him $16 million this year. Even if he were to be dropped, the cap space does not open up. So in order to free that space, the Texans essentially asked the Browns (who started the offseason with the most cap space) to buy Osweiler’s contract, not the player himself.

The Texans’ motivation in all of this is clear: leave Osweiler in the past and move on. But the Browns’ motivation is a lot more intuitive: hoard draft picks.

The average team only has seven draft picks in each draft, one pick for each of the seven rounds (give or take compensatory picks). In the upcoming draft, the Browns hold ten total picks, including two first-round picks and two second round picks. In the 2018 draft, the Browns currently hold 11 draft picks, including one in the first round and three in the second.

After being the laughing stock of the NFL for the past decade and a half, this is a sign of promise for the Browns. Since the Browns released Robert Griffin III, the Browns have an opportunity to build their franchise around either the young and reassuring Cody Kessler or draft prospect Mitch Trubisky.

Who knows? Maybe the Browns will end up disappointing fans yet again for another sub .500 season. But maybe, just maybe, they emerge as a contender for the 2017 season.