By Travis Politakis
Football fans have focused their attention on one thing this spring: NFL Free Agency. With the free agency period beginning March 12, players who are unrestricted free agents are able to meet with NFL teams and find a destination where they can begin their professional careers.
The 2019 NFL free agency period was one of the more active periods in recent memory. With players such as three time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell and former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles finding new homes. Teams almost made blockbuster trades sending superstars such as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to new teams.
One of the biggest names in free agency was Bell, who signed a four year, $53.5 million contract with the New York Jets. Bell previously played for the Pittsburgh Steelers where he rushed for over 1,200 yards three out of his five seasons in Pittsburgh. However, Bell ended his time in Pittsburgh on a low note.
Bell sat out the entire 2018 season because of contract disputes with the Steelers front office and ended up losing $14.5 million because of it. With a change in scenery and not having to worry about not getting his money, Bell should help the Jets offense thrive, led by second year quarterback Sam Darnold.
Bell was excited to become a part of the Jets organization. After he signed the deal, he took to Twitter to say, “I’m back in the green baby, let’s get it.”
Another big name in free agency found a new home. Nick Foles signed a four year, $88 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Foles is a proven quarterback and finally gets a shot to lead a team as a starter.
Foles surprised everyone in 2017 as he came in after the injury to Carson Wentz and led the Philadelphia Eagles to three playoff wins. He would also go on to bring the franchise to its first Super Bowl championship. Foles put up huge numbers in the playoffs, throwing for 971 yards and six touchdowns. Foles even outdueled Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII, which earned him the title of Super Bowl MVP.
In the 2018 season, Philadelphia chose Carson Wentz as the starter. Wentz then proceeded to get hurt and Foles came in and saved Philadelphia’s season. Foles came in as a starter at week 14, with Philadelphia’s playoff hopes pretty much gone. Foles led them to three straight wins and got the Eagles into the playoffs. Foles even helped them beat the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card round, before losing to the New Orleans Saints. Many fans are excited to see what he can do with Jacksonville.
“He doesn’t get rattled,” said Doug Marrone, head coach of the Jaguars. “He knows where he’s going with the football. He’s great in the locker room. His teammates love him. Those were the constant things.”
Not only did signing free agents alter some franchises, but some trades also shook up the league. On March 12, the Cleveland Browns acquired superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the New York Giants in exchange for draft picks and safety Jabrill Peppers.
Beckham changes the Browns organization drastically. The Browns have finally found their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, who had a successful rookie season throwing for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns, helping the Browns to seven wins. Before Mayfield, the Browns went 0-16.
The Browns also have versatile weapons on offense such as wide receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end David Njoku and running backs Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. The Browns also have a tough defense with linemen Myles Garret, linebacker Olivier Vernon and defensive back Denzel Ward. Beckham gives the Browns two wide receivers that need to be doubled, leaving someone to be open for Mayfield to throw to.
Beckham has established himself as a superstar, as he has finished four of his first five seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving and 44 total touchdowns. Beckham has made highlight reel catches and has made himself one of the most recognized athletes in the country.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Cleveland,” said Mayfield. “We have a lot of talent in this locker room and we just have to let everyone be themselves and we will succeed.”
Cleveland is now the oddsmakers pick to win the AFC North, which is a huge improvement after having lost 31 games in two years. The Browns have not won the AFC North since 1989 and there is now reason to believe they can end their 30 year drought.
Travis Politakis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org