The Schein Nine  

 

Rams, Vikings making Super Bowl push; Patriots losing key cogs

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We are two weeks into the 2018 League Year, and it's bursting with activity. Trades! Free agency! And Sam Bradford got paid (again). It's proof for the kids out there: Anything is possible.

Now that the first wave of action is in the books, let's take a step back, take a deep breath and take stock of the happenings. Here's what I love, like and loathe, Schein Nine style:

LOVE

1) Los Angeles Rams going for it all

The Rams are making Super Bowl-caliber moves. They revamped -- and upgraded -- the defensive backfield by trading for a pair of star corners: Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. Yes, both carry baggage -- Peters and Talib each served a one-game suspension last season -- but L.A. is wisely banking on head coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips getting the most out of these talented cover men. Don't forget: Talib earned first-team All-Pro honors while playing under Phillips in Denver.

But wait, there's more!

On Monday, the Rams supplemented these two back-end moves with a mammoth addition (literally and figuratively) up front. I'm obsessed with the fact that the Rams signed Ndamukong Suh. I'm obsessed that it's a one-year deal, to keep Suh highly motivated. And I'm completely obsessed with the thought of Suh playing on the same defensive line as reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. Two defensive tackles with three first-team All-Pros apiece? Good grief -- talk about a dynamic duo. This is going to be special. Offensive lines will be broken.

2) Minnesota Vikings snagging a true franchise quarterback

In February on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," I called the Vikings the odds-on favorites to land Kirk Cousins. A couple weeks later in this space, I doubled down on that prediction. So it certainly didn't surprise me when Minnesota ended up with the crown jewel of free agency. But it confirmed my suspicion all along: The Vikings will enter next season as bona fide Super Bowl contenders.

Cousins is on the second tier of franchise quarterbacks. And that's no slight whatsoever. A second-tier franchise QB carries immense value in this league -- and makes Mike Zimmer's group even scarier. You gotta love a team that doesn't rest on making a run. Minnesota fell one game shy of a home Super Bowl last season. Without Cousins, I think they would've fallen back into the wild-card mix. With him? This is a force to be reckoned with.

The Vikings are in it to win it.

3) Chicago Bears getting Mitch Trubisky much-needed help

Color me intrigued. Very intrigued. On the eve of free agency, Allen Robinson joined me on SiriusXM Radio and raved about the city of Chicago. A day later, he put his pen where his mouth was, signing with the Bears on a three-year, $42 million deal. Huge. Robinson told me he's way ahead of schedule in the rehab of his torn ACL. He's a legit No. 1 receiver, a fantastic teammate and a leader. Most importantly, he's a much-needed addition to what was the worst receiving corps in football last season. And the Bears didn't stop there, either, adding speedster Taylor Gabriel and move tight end Trey Burton. Now, that is how you help a young quarterback. When you factor all this in, plus the hiring of head coach Matt Nagy, Mitch Trubisky is primed for a breakout sophomore campaign.

On the other side of the ball, Chicago made sure former first-round pick Kyle Fuller didn't go anywhere, matching the offer sheet division rival Green Bay laid out for the transition-tagged corner. Fuller took a major step forward in 2017 -- watching the 26-year-old walk out the door this offseason would have been difficult to stomach.

4) Cleveland Browns adding established football talent

Wait! Football players? On a football team? What a concept!

Moneyball is shelved, hopefully forever. Carlos Hyde is a legit No. 1 back. Jarvis Landry is a prolific slot receiver -- and a perfect playmate for outside threat Josh Gordon. And I love Tyrod Taylor. He's the kind of veteran presence the Browns have had too little of for too long. He wins, and he's never had this kind of talent around him at receiver. Oh, and crucially, he won't be fazed when the Browns draft a quarterback in Round 1 next month.

I love Hyde, Landry and especially Taylor as individual signings, but it's what these moves collectively say that excites me the most. Could Cleveland be relevant for the first time in recent memory? That's what I'm thinking.

LIKE

5) Green Bay Packers actually signing players

The Ted Thompson era is dead, which means the Packers are alive. New general manager Brian Gutekunst is active, and it's awesome. Mo Wilkerson can thrive playing in Mike Pettine's defense once again. Since getting paid by the Jets two offseasons ago, Wilkerson has been dreadful. But a change of scenery -- and a reunion with the defensive coordinator who originally developed him -- will serve the 28-year-old defensive end quite well.

"I'm ready to get back to my dominant play," Wilkerson said, via ESPN's Rob Demovsky. "I know what type of player I'm capable of being, and I'm just ready to do it at a new place, a new organization and a new group of guys. I'm just really excited about the things to come this year."

He can indeed play. We've seen it.

I also thought Gutekunst and Co. did very well to get Aaron Rodgers a new toy in Jimmy Graham. In a "down year" for the Seahawks, the tight end had 10 touchdowns!

6) New York Jets aggressively pursuing needs

Gang Green got brilliantly aggressive and moved up to No. 3 in next month's draft, obviously looking to nab a new signal-caller to build around. This trade shook up the first round in many ways, and it was a no-brainer move for GM Mike Maccagnan. It won't be the same old Jets. They are going for the jugular. And it's awesome. I applaud New York for bringing back Josh McCown and signing Teddy Bridgewater, too, as this will allow the first-round QB to ease into a daunting task: providing Gang Green with that ever-elusive franchise cornerstone.

Another strong move worth mentioning: the Jets' signing of cornerback Trumaine Johnson. That's a major upgrade. And this defensive backfield has the potential to be very good.

LOATHE

7) New York Giants signing Jonathan Stewart

The Giants' depth chart at running back was the worst in the NFL last year. The productivity was putrid. And while New York should be commended for pilfering left tackle Nate Solder from the Patriots -- thus improving a line that was lacking -- Stewart has been cooked for years.

Obviously, the Giants might not be done with the position -- they could add a star back from a deep prospect class on Day 1 or 2 of the draft. Big Blue supporters had better hope this is the case. Stewart getting key carries for New York is not a recipe for success.

8) New England Patriots hemorrhaging key parts

Nobody loves and respects the Patriots more than me. Bill Belichick is the best coach in the history of sports, let alone the NFL. But they keep losing key players. Solder was a rock on Tom Brady's blind slide. Dion Lewis was a versatile -- and highly valuable -- back. Danny Amendola was a prolific playoff performer in New England. And while everyone knew Malcolm Butler was done with this franchise after the Super Bowl benching, he was still a really good player who was on the field all year for New England prior to that mysterious development.

It's Belichick. It's Brady. The Super Bowl is always a possibility (probability?). But New England lost a lot of good players and key cogs. Again. Doesn't this have to catch up with them at some point?

9) Detroit Lions hibernating through free agency

I loved the Lions' appointment of Matt Patricia as the new head coach, but he sure could use some players.

I appreciate the familiarity of Patricia and new running back LeGarrette Blount. And I like Blount as a power back to score touchdowns and move the chains. Blount's been a champion in each of the past two years, to boot, with the Patriots and Eagles. But this is not enough. And it doesn't move the meter.

When the three other NFC North teams slot into the positive portion of this piece, and you missed the playoffs last season, and your big-ticket move is Blount ... well, there's a reason the Lions have been rebuilding since 1957. I would've loved to see them sign Carlos Hyde.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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