As the NFL officially turned its calendar to the 2019 season Wednesday, football in New York found itself dramatically revamped. Odell Beckham Jr., the outrageous wide receiver, was no longer with the Giants, and Le’Veon Bell, the ultra-versatile running back, had agreed to a deal with the Jets.
Those moves qualified as the headliners of the league’s offseason movement so far, but a number of teams have already made grand attempts to rework their rosters.
— Cleveland Browns
Coming off a two-year stretch in which the Browns went 1-31, they improved to 7-8-1 in 2018, and the team blossomed in the second half. Trying to keep that momentum, Cleveland traded for Beckham, a player who is arguably the most talented wide receiver in the NFL. He and his college teammate Jarvis Landry will most likely become one of the most productive wide receiver duos in the NFL, helping to unlock the enormous potential of quarterback Baker Mayfield in an offense designed by Freddie Kitchens, the team’s first-year head coach.
The Browns, not content to improve on offense, added two impressive players on the defensive line in Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon. Richardson, who has reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with $21.5 million in guaranteed money, will solidify the interior of the line, while Vernon, who was acquired in a trade with the Giants for guard Kevin Zeitler, will provide an edge rusher to complement Myles Garrett.
Giving up Zeitler, a talented but expensive lineman, to acquire Vernon was a significant cost, but the Browns still seem greatly improved.
— New York Jets
Bell has a chance to be something truly special for the Jets. He is a dynamic back unlike anyone the team has seen since Curtis Martin, and he comes over on a deal that is nowhere near as rich as Bell, a 27-year-old running back, had hoped when his salary stalemate with Pittsburgh began last year.
If the team had just added Bell — and relied on improvement from quarterback Sam Darnold in his second year — the Jets could have expected a bump up from last year’s 4-12 record. But in addition, the Jets apparently have traded for Kelechi Osemele, a Pro Bowl guard, and agreed to contract terms with C.J. Mosley, a Pro Bowl linebacker, and Jamison Crowder, a reliable young wide receiver who will probably play out of the slot. The transactions have been reported by multiple news outlets but not yet announced by the team.
The team had a long way to go to get back to respectability, but its new coach, Adam Gase, is about to have a lot more talent on his roster than he did a week ago. And after gaining Bell in what should still be his prime, the Jets have an opportunity to be a contender in the near future if they keep building.
— Oakland Raiders
Last year the Raiders denied repeatedly that they were tanking for draft position, even as they traded the outstanding Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper for draft picks. Regardless of their motivation in those moves, they are clearly trying to build now. The team fleeced Pittsburgh in a deal for Antonio Brown, the star wide receiver, in which the Raiders gave up just two mid-round picks. In moves the team has yet to officially announce, it has reportedly invested a great deal of money in free agents Trent Brown, Tyrell Williams and Lamarcus Joyner.
Whether or not these moves, beyond the trade for Brown, make the Raiders appreciably better is an open question.
Trent Brown, who just won a Super Bowl with New England, is a mammoth left tackle (6 feet 8 inches, 380 pounds). He reportedly got $36.8 million in guaranteed money from Oakland, but other than last season he had been considered mostly a disappointment. Joyner, who was reportedly guaranteed $16.7 million, blossomed under Wade Phillips’ direction last year with the Los Angeles Rams but has had an uneven career. And Williams, who was a good vertical threat as the No. 2 wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, will need to up his production if he wants to serve as a proper complement to Brown.
— Buffalo Bills
The Bills did a lot. Some of the team’s acquisitions are fairly minor — running back Frank Gore, who turns 36 in May and is coming back for a 15th NFL season, is inspiring but unlikely to cause a huge impact. But it will be worth watching how the addition of free agent wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley affects second-year quarterback Josh Allen.
Allen, as has been well-documented, loves to throw deep, and Brown, who was comically wasted in Baltimore once Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback, is one of the fleetest vertical threats in the game. With Brown as the No. 1 receiver, and Beasley in the slot, all Buffalo needs is for Zay Jones or Robert Foster to develop into a reliable No. 2 receiver, and Allen, who creates more disruption with his running than some might assume, will be able to truly chuck the ball down the field.
— Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville has moved on from Blake Bortles, a quarterback who occasionally shined on the team’s path to the AFC championship game two years ago but struggled last season. In his place will be the far more reliable Nick Foles, who went from contemplating retirement in 2015 to winning a Super Bowl two years later.
Foles is hardly a sure thing to live up to a contract that includes more than $50 million in guarantees. He has had periods of dramatic ebb and flow and has never started more than 11 games during a seven-season career.
Of more concern for Jacksonville is the loss of Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson on defense. The team released the veterans for salary cap reasons, and with Foles now on the books, it is questionable if the Jaguars would be able to afford contract extensions for other defensive stars like Jalen Ramsey and Yannick Ngakoue.