The Schein Nine  

 

2019 NFL free agency/trade season: What I love, like, loathe

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The NFL is the world's greatest reality show. And this offseason has been no exception.

The new league year officially began last week, and what a week it was! Blockbuster free-agent signings, Twitter-detonating trades and the team of the moment suddenly becoming ... the Cleveland Browns? It was a wild week indeed.

In the wake of such head-spinning activity, it's time for another edition of LOVE/LIKE/LOATHE, Schein Nine style.

LOVE

1) Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are the team to beat in the AFC North. The Cleveland Browns are in the Super Bowl conversation.

Take a bow, John Dorsey.

Odell Beckham Jr. for a first-rounder, third-rounder and a solid (not game-changing) safety? This is highway robbery. And teaming Odell up at receiver with his good friend (and former LSU teammate) Jarvis Landry gives OBJ a chance to breathe and let his play do the talking. Beckham can be a handful, but make no mistake: He's a star. And Beckham-Landry instantly becomes the top receiver tandem in the game (sorry, Vikings fans). Cleveland also added Kareem Hunt. The former Chiefs running back will spend the first half of the season on suspension for violating the NFL personal-conduct policy, but upon return, he'll form quite the backfield duo with Nick Chubb. And both guys are just 23 years old -- the same age as star quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Long story short: The Browns are loaded with skill players who'll keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night. Mayfield is in line for huge things in his sophomore campaign. I won't be the least bit surprised if he's in the MVP discussion.

On defense, the Browns added DT Sheldon Richardson and DE Olivier Vernon to a front that already features Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi. That's a frightening foursome for opposing quarterbacks -- and when they are able to get rid of the football, they had better not throw it in the direction of emerging lockdown CB Denzel Ward. The unit as a whole still has some soft spots, but there's no denying the enticing talent.

The Browns are going to be must-see TV this fall. The rightful expectation is hosting -- and winning -- a playoff game. That's how great this offseason has been in Cleveland.

2) Oakland Raiders

Antonio Brown's introductory press conference was perfect. After a few months of a non-stop clown show featuring a dopey blonde mustache, threats to not play football and a bunch of social-media nonsense, Brown sat down between Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock and reminded you why he became an ultimate Horatio Alger story after entering the NFL as a sixth-round pick out of Central Michigan. It was all about hard work and being a leader and making magic with "Mr. Gruden" and Derek Carr. I'm in! It's such a win for Brown, Gruden and Mayock, who brilliantly acquired a top-two wideout for the price of two mid-round picks, somehow keeping all four of Oakland's top-35 selections in next month's draft. What a win for the franchise -- and, with Brown under contract through 2021, what a win for Las Vegas.

I also liked the signing of Tyrell Williams, a field stretcher who'll open up more space for Brown to operate. And you can question the amount of money Oakland gave Trent Brown, but you can't question the upgrade at tackle he represents. Lastly, Lamarcus Joyner fills a major void at safety.

Now, I'm not talking playoffs. After all, the Raiders are fresh off a 4-12 disaster, and they're still playing in a division with the Chargers and Chiefs. But this team is going to be fun and exciting -- these Raiders will win games you don't expect them to. Not to mention, Mayock and Gruden are in great position to really beef up that defense in the draft.

3) Buffalo Bills

Nobody's going crazy over the Bills' active week, but I'm obsessed with what Brandon Beane has done. The Bills needed major help at receiver and offensive line, so Beane went out and made a pair of savvy pickups in each area: John Brown and Cole Beasley at WR, Mitch Morse and Ty Nsekhe on the O-line. Furthermore, Frank Gore is the ultimate leader, while Andre Roberts helps special teams.

Maybe Buffalo didn't land the star power of some other teams, but I believe Josh Allen is going to become a star himself -- and these are the kinds of overlooked moves that will help foster the gifted quarterback's immense potential.

LIKE

4) Miami Dolphins

You cannot tank in the NFL. It isn't a 5-on-5 game like the NBA. Even when the Jets put a 38-year-old Josh McCown at quarterback back in 2017, which was akin to Larry David starring on Broadway in "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Gang Green still finished with five wins and just the sixth pick (before trading up to pluck Sam Darnold).

But you can rebuild -- and the Dolphins are doing it brilliantly.

The Fins, who have played in just two postseason games (a pair of wild-card losses) over the past 17 seasons, have been stuck in the middle forever. Despite having six head coaches (OK, nine, if you count interims) and a whole bunch of expensive free-agent additions during this span, Miami just always seems to end up around 7-9. Finally, though, it feels like this franchise is aiming to break the spell.

Chris Grier is getting this right as the new man in charge of football operations. Brian Flores was a great choice at head coach. The former Patriots defensive play caller will establish accountability. And Grier's creating the necessary cap room to truly set the table for a turnaround. Ryan Tannehill had to go. Not the answer. Ryan Fitzpatrick buys time for a 2020 draft class that currently looks quite enticing at the QB position.

It just makes sense. When was the last time you said that about the Miami Dolphins?

5) Jacksonville Jaguars

Talking to Doug Marrone last Friday morning on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," the Jaguars head coach is very excited to have Nick Foles as his quarterback. Foles brings quite a repertoire -- in terms of tangibles and intangibles -- to the quarterback position. Blake Bortles struggled with the forward pass. This is what you call an upgrade. And Foles offers the kind of experienced leadership that can help rein in some of the younger guys' volatility (looking at you, Leonard Fournette and Jalen Ramsey).

The Jaguars might have been the most disappointing team in the NFL last season, going from the AFC title game to a 5-11 flare-out. But the defense remains loaded. And with Foles now leading the offense, the Jaguars are back in business.

6) Green Bay Packers

For all the Packers fans who got used to taking long naps in March during the Ted Thompson regime, this is called free agency. Welcome!

Green Bay came into this offseason needing help along the offensive line, in the secondary and with the pass rush. Check, check and double-check. Billy Turner is a versatile O-lineman who can play guard or tackle. Adrian Amos is a stout safety -- and a Pro Football Focus darling -- who simply doesn't make mistakes. (Isn't that kind of the point of safety? To avoid screw-ups? I mean, it's right there in the position's name.) Lastly, Za'Darius Smith (age 27) and Preston Smith (26) are two talented edge rushers who could just be hitting their prime. Bravo, Brian Gutekunst.

Aaron Rodgers will start the coming season with a clean bill of health at age 35. After two straight Packers seasons that ended in December, Gutekunst is doing his part to start a new playoff streak.

LOATHE

7) Pittsburgh Steelers

Losing Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell in the same offseason should be considered among the biggest talent drains in league history. You can easily argue that AB is the game's best receiver and Bell the No. 1 back. Worst case, they're both top-three. Granted, Bell sat out the entire 2018 campaign, while Brown appeared to quit on his team in Week 17 before acting like a knucklehead for the first couple months of this year. But if anyone thinks this attrition will put an end to all the drama in The 'Burgh, remember that Ben Roethlisberger still quarterbacks this team. And Mike Tomlin, who has a knack for dropping head-scratching games on an annual basis, is still the head coach.

Jesse James told the Detroit press he was "glad to get away" from all the Steelers drama. Let that sink in. Jesse James couldn't wait to become a Lion over a Steeler! That's how insane it's become in Pittsburgh.

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Kevin Colbert reiterated that the Steelers would never sell low on Brown. Just a couple weeks later, Colbert did just that. A third-round pick and a fifth-rounder for a bona fide superstar? Unacceptable.

8) New York Giants

Every single time Dave Gettleman says there's a plan, I fall over with laughter. The Giants are all over the map. It seems like the organization's only plan is to protect the feelings of Eli Manning, who should've been jettisoned years ago. Last offseason, New York should've picked a quarterback (Sam Darnold) in a potentially legendary quarterback class. If Big Blue wanted to trade Odell Beckham Jr., then last year made sense -- as opposed to signing him to a megadeal in August (a move I never agreed with), giving him a major bonus and then trading him to Cleveland with $16 million in dead money still on the books. All while keeping Manning, who has been one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL over the last couple years.

And while Odell's antics make him far from perfect, the Giants sold low on an extraordinary talent who's still just 26. A first-rounder, third-rounder and Jabrill Peppers, who has been solid (at best) in his first two NFL seasons? That is NOT enough. But I guess it is something. Gettleman let Landon Collins walk for nothing.

Look back at Gettleman's quotes from last year, right after the 2018 NFL Draft. He inexplicably thought the Giants were making the playoffs. That was absurd. They needed surgery. He applied a Band-Aid. And what's the plan now? Big Blue replaced Beckham at receiver with Golden Tate, guaranteeing the soon-to-be 31-year-old $23 million on his four-year, $37.5 million pact.

The Giants aren't rebuilding. Gettleman is still hellbent on giving Eli a chance of winning. Which is why they drafted Saquon Barkley in the first place. And it's all backward logic.

9) Denver Broncos

John Elway, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, keeps getting it wrong at ... quarterback. What in the name of Paxton Lynch is going on here?

NFL Network's James Palmer reported last week that he asked Elway the question on everyone's mind: Why Joe Flacco? Elway's response: At 34 years old, Flacco's just getting into his prime. What?!! This is delusional. But hey, in the immortal words of George Costanza ...

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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