While just about everything else in the sports world is on hold, the NFL is giving us all sorts of things to talk about. Trades, free agent signings, and earth-shattering announcements have all been part of a whirlwind 24 hours that has generated a lot of buzz and a lot of betting odds movement.
As we discussed yesterday, there has been a lot of speculation as to the team that Tom Brady will play for in 2020. At the time our article was posted, the New England Patriots were the second team listed in the BetOnline odds at +110. On Tuesday morning, Brady officially announced that he would not be returning to the Patriots and that his football career was going to be completed elsewhere. That basically left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Chargers.
The reason why those two teams were left standing is because the Las Vegas Raiders signed Marcus Mariota to compete against Derek Carr for the Week 1 gig at brand-new Allegiant Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers gave a vote of confidence to Jimmy Garoppolo when asked about Brady, so they seem to be a true long shot. The Indianapolis Colts still seem to be in the running, but they’ve been linked to Philip Rivers more than Brady.
The harsh reality is that the Brady domino is one of the more insignificant ones of the last 24 hours. The 42-year-old Brady isn’t what he once was. We’ve seen that the last two years at various points. There will be an overreaction in the markets because of his name recognition wherever he ends up landing, but there are way more interesting names and players in their primes on the move.
A Day of Pass Catchers
The Cleveland Browns were a big winner of the first day of the new NFL calendar year. They signed tight end Austin Hooper, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons, to give the new Kevin Stefanski offense yet another weapon. The Browns now have Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, and even David Njoku, who could be utilized in a better way with an offensive coordinator that actually understands what he is doing.
That wasn’t the only move for the Browns offense. Cleveland also picked up right tackle Jack Conklin to go from a parking cone to a legit offensive lineman. Say what you will about Baker Mayfield, but the offensive line play was not good last season.
Finally, Cleveland also picked up Case Keenum for some QB insurance. Keenum is plenty familiar with Stefanski from their days together in Minnesota and gives the Browns a bona fide backup and maybe even somebody that can push Baker to stay in shape and make some improvements heading into 2020.
Interestingly, while odds were moving around for teams like the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, and Houston Texans, the Super Bowl LV odds for the Cleveland Browns didn’t move a whole lot. That seems like a mistake, even if the Browns are likely to play second fiddle to the loaded Baltimore Ravens.
Speaking of the Arizona Cardinals, they became the latest team to fleece the Houston Texans. Bill O’Brien has a real knack for making head-scratching moves and he did that on Monday when he traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for David Johnson. Draft picks were included, with a second-rounder going to Houston, but you don’t trade an elite wide receiver for a running back in today’s NFL environment.
The Texans were concerned about their ability to give Hopkins the deal that he wanted and now they have replaced him with Randall Cobb. Maybe Johnson can get back to his form from three years ago, but that still isn’t a reasonable trade-off.
The Texans fell from +3500 to +4000 at Bovada to win the Super Bowl and it will drop even further as people start to make their plays on the Tennessee Titans and quite possibly the Indianapolis Colts as the offseason continues.
The Cardinals went from +8000 to +5000 at Bovada with the Hopkins acquisition. We’ll see what the Cardinals do on defense in the draft and in free agency, but they’ve certainly given Kyler Murray some weapons to work with now that they’ve added Hopkins and Kenyan Drake with Larry Fitzgerald and some of their homegrown talents like Christian Kirk.
The Buffalo Bills picked up Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings. They paid a hefty price, but this is a terrific defensive team that needed some more offensive weapons. It remains to be seen whether or not Josh Allen is the guy, but the Bills traded a first-round pick, a fifth-round pick, and a sixth-round pick this year plus a fourth-round pick next year to get Diggs.
The Bills moved from +4000 to +2000 at Bovada. Given that the AFC East looks more open than ever before with Brady moving on and what seems to be the end of the reign of dominance for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, the move, while a little over the top, does seem to make a lot of sense.
It would go a long way if Diggs could stay healthy, but it is fascinating that the Vikings got so much more for Diggs than the Texans got for Hopkins. Buffalo’s first-round pick is 22nd overall, so the Vikings have two first-round picks with which they can grab any one or two of the talented receivers that are out there. This is one of the deepest WR drafts we have ever seen.
There is a good chance that this deal, while shocking on the surface, makes Minnesota a better team. They can replace Diggs with a younger version and have created much more flexibility in free agency. Their odds also haven’t moved a lot, but maybe they should have.
As always, shop around for the best prices that are out there. You can get Minnesota at +4000 at BetOnline as opposed to +2200 at Bovada. Buffalo, for comparison’s sake, is +3300 at BOL and +2000 at Bovada.
Lastly, on the WR front, the Dallas Cowboys did retain Amari Cooper, who is such a huge part of what they do offensively. Let’s see if they can find some acceptable terms with Dak Prescott. They are creeping up the futures board as one of the teams right below the top tier of Kansas City, Baltimore, San Francisco, and New Orleans.
Other Free Agents
Wide receivers weren’t the only guys on the move. We also saw linemen, defensive backs, linebackers, and other positions inking some big deals.
Baltimore Ravens – The strong got stronger, as the Ravens picked up Michael Brockers in free agency and also came to terms with recently-acquired Calais Campbell on a new deal. They remain among the favorites to win Super Bowl LV.
Chicago Bears – The Bears are in such a tough spot. They have a good roster, but a bad quarterback that they seem unwilling to move away from. They extended linebacker Danny Trevathan and signed Jimmy Graham, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of flexibility for Daaaaaa Bears right now. Bill Swerski is rolling over in his grave. They are 50/1 to win the Super Bowl at BetOnline, which puts them well into the bottom half of the league.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts and San Francisco 49ers pulled off a big deal that sent DeForest Buckner to Indy for the 13th overall pick. The 49ers traded from a position of strength on the defensive line and now can draft for a position of weakness. It is basically a trade-and-sign for the Colts, who got a really good player, but you have to like the additional flexibility for the 49ers as they look to surround Jimmy G with as many weapons as possible.
Miami Dolphins – The Miami Dolphins were busy. They signed Ereck Flowers, which…we’ll see how that goes. But they did grab Byron Jones, Shaq Lawson, and Kyle Van Noy to really increase the potency of the defense. Those are three very solid players and the Dolphins are likely to take a QB early in the NFL Draft. Miami is starting to build something and now that the AFC East is a little more open, we could see some Dolphins futures investment this year and next.
What Happens Now?
Things have already been crazy on the free agency and trade fronts, but more signings are still to come. We also have to see how things work out with the Los Angeles Chargers, as we discussed on Monday. Philip Rivers is gone. Will it be Tom Brady or will it be somebody else?
Once the Brady domino falls, we have some other QB questions to answer. Will the New England Patriots actually go with Jarrett Stidham? Is that the landing spot for Teddy Bridgewater? How about the Red Rifle Andy Dalton? Any chance that Belichick would give Jameis Winston a try? Could the Raiders trade Derek Carr?
Now that the Patriots have gotten their answer, they could move quickly. Their futures odds have certainly moved quickly, as they have fallen to +2500 at BetOnline. They are still the favorite to win the AFC East at present, but it seems unlikely that they will be in that spot going forward.
At least the NFL has given us a lot to consider this week.