The NFL’s shopping season is underway and a flurry of trades and free agents signings have already taken place that hold the promise of altering the fortunes of many teams in 2019.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the signings that have caught our eye through the end of Monday’s business day.
Dante Fowler, Jr. DE/LB
Los Angeles Rams
Although their offense faltered during the last quarter of the 2018 season, particularly in their Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, the Rams need to fortify their defense if they want to remain on top of the NFC.
By retaining Fowler (one year, $12 million) they have taken a step in the right direction. He’s a gifted pass rusher – although his numbers don’t show it – and he helped improve the unit after his acquisition from Jacksonville last season. He has 16 sacks in his first four seasons, but he’s just 24 years old.
It was Fowler whose hit on Drew Brees led to the critical interception in the Rams overtime win over New Orleans in the NFC Championship game. If he develops, Fowler can be a big star in the league.
Devin Funchess, WR
When Andrew Luck at quarterback, it’s crucial to provide as many weapons as you can. And that’s what the Colts have done in signing Funchess to a one-year deal for $10 million.
He’s not Antonio Brown, but he’s good enough to provide the Colts some depth at the position. He caught 44 passes for four touchdowns in Carolina last season, but it really wasn’t a good year for him. Call this a speculative move with a huge upside.
Mitch Morse, C
Buffalo has an important asset to protect in QB Josh Allen and center was one of the positions that gave the Bills the most trouble in 2018. They add Morse (four years, $44.5 million) to Spencer Long, signed earlier the offseason. Now they have quality depth at the position.
Morse, like Long, is very versatile and could play guard or tackle, if needed. In fact, Morse was a tackle in college. If he can stay healthy (he has missed 12 games in the last two seasons), Buffalo has added a significant building block to its offense.
Nick Foles, QB
That the Jags were interested in Foles (four years, $88 million, $50.1 guaranteed) was the worst kept secret in the NFL. Truth is, they never really warmed to Blake Bortles and their miserable 2018 season was largely the fault of their anemic offense. Once the Broncos traded for Joe Flacco, there really wasn’t another situation better suited for Foles’ skill.
One thing that should help his indoctrination is the presence of his former quarterback coach in Philadelphia, John DeFilippo, as the Jags new offensive coordinator. But one thing Foles is going to need to do is cut down on his turnovers because Jags president, Tom Coughlin, hates them more than anything else.
Foles, 30, doesn’t throw many interceptions, but he does fumble. He dropped the ball once in every 33 touches in his two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tyrann Mathieu, S
Kansas City Chiefs
If ever a player was perfectly matched with a team’s deficiency, it’s Mathieu and the Chiefs. Kansas City had a lot trouble defensively in 2018, particularly in the secondary. And Mathieu, 26, is one of the league’s best safeties.
For three years and $42 million, the “Honey Badger” will be asked to stabilize the unit. He had a pretty good season in Houston in 2018 after signing a one-year pact with them. Even though he has slowed down some because of two ACL injuries, the dude is a great athlete, even though he’s never played all 16 games in any of his first four seasons.
Image how improved the Chiefs will be with both Mathieu and Eric Berry at safety.
Frank Gore, RB
Now that they have Morse to block, the Bills will also have the finest veteran running back in the league in Gore, who now 35. It’s just a one-year flyer for $2 million, but the signing has a massive upside if it all works out.
At the very least, Gore will provide a competent backup for LeSean McCoy.
Jamison Crowder, WR
New York Jets
The Jets entered free agency with the second largest bundle of cash in the league and one of their priorities was to build around QB Sam Darnold, who had a nice, if not spectacular, rookie season. We will see if Le’Veon Bell is in their future.
Crowder (three years, $28.5 million) will line up nicely next to receivers Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa and give the Jets their own version of Julian Edelman, the Patriots great slot receiver. Crowder’s time in Washington with Kirk Cousins showed what he might be able to do in New York.
Trey Flowers, DE
We figured it wouldn’t be until his second year as coach before Matt Patricia began to bring in the type of players he liked to coach as defensive coordinator of the Patriots.
Flowers (five years, $80 million) has the potential to be one of those guys. He’s a very strong pass rusher and he’s only 25. He had 21 sacks from 2016 to 2018 and has dropped quarterbacks 59 times, the same as DeMarcus Lawrence in Dallas.
Landon Collins, S
New York Giants fans are seething over the way they dealt with Collins, perhaps the best young safety in the game. They didn’t want to franchise tag him (or pay him $11.2 million), and now he has signed a six-year, $84 million ($45 million guaranteed) deal with their hated divisional rival. Collins’ annual $14 million salary is now the highest for any safety in football.
Collins has already played in three Pro Bowls and has been first-team All-Pro once in his four seasons. He’s a freakishly great athlete and at 218 pounds quite capable of handling himself physically.
Trent Brown, OT
Few quarterbacks have taken more of a beating in their careers than Derek Carr. And Jon Gruden knows enough to understand the only way to totally unleash Carr’s talent is to keep him upright and healthy.
Enter Brown (6-8, 380 pounds) at four years and $66.8 million ($36.8 guaranteed). He comes over from the Patriots after helping them to another Super Bowl championship by filling the hole Isaiah Wynn left open after injuring his Achilles. Brown, who will play left tackle, has the highest average annual salary for an offensive lineman in NFL history at $16.7 million.
Danny Amendola, WR
In his prime with the Patriots, Amendola was one of the top slot receivers in the league and Patricia certainly remembers that. Once the Miami Dolphins cut him, it was only a matter of time before the Lions swooped in.
For one year and $4.5 million, the Lions get a savvy and durable option for Matthew Stafford. And after they traded Golden Tate to the Eagles, it was they needed someone to fill the gap to team with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones.
Eric Weddle, S
Los Angeles Rams
There is no more experienced free safety in the game than Weddle, 34, and at two years, $12.5 million ($5.25 guaranteed) the Rams are getting a certified bargain.
The Ravens could have kept him for $6.5 million this season, but decided against it, allowing one of their most popular players to leave. But Weddle is also a six-time Pro Bowler.