The Green Bay Packers aptly stole the day on St. Patrick’s Day, shipping star receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders, who promptly signed Adams to a contract that makes him the NFL’s highest-paid player as the first week of free agency draws to a close.
The Adams move should tighten the odds across the AFC West; we will dive into the details below, but while the Raiders still have work to do on their roster, the trio of Adams, tight end Darren Waller, and slot Hunter Renfrow in new head coach Josh McDaniels’ style of offense is going to cause issues for defenses across the NFL.
With Deshaun Watson’s meetings in progress, there is at least one more major quarterback move to come, and the fallout from those negotiations could lead to another move, as Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has requested a trade in the wake of Cleveland’s failed pursuit of Watson. This article will take a look at the fallout from the week in a more general sense, then dive into the specifics of where value appears to exist on DraftKings’ future odds.
Damage Report: The Professor’s Thoughts on Obvious/Uncertain Moves
Some moves work out in unexpected ways, which is why this column will talk about obvious and uncertain moves rather than great and terrible, but the expectation is that the more obvious fits tend to turn out great and the uncertain fits go the other way.
Tampa Bay reloaded once Tom Brady was back in the fold at quarterback. Center Ryan Jensen, receiver Chris Godwin, and cornerback Carlton Davis, all standout players at their respective positions, agreed to three-year contracts, and guard Shaq Mason was acquired from New England to replace the retired Ali Marpet. At his best, Mason brings freaky traits to the guard position, moving more like a “three-technique” defensive tackle than an offensive lineman, and he has been steady even when lower-body nicks leave him at less than full strength. In other words, the Bucs should be in the mix again, given that Brady has yet to show any dropoff.
The Bills added big-time pass rush with Von Miller after two straight playoff exits against the Chiefs, and if it is the three-year deal some are reporting from the guarantee structure, the numbers make more sense than initial reports, especially if Miller can coach up Gregory Rousseau and Carlos “Boogie” Basham as DeMarcus Ware once mentored Miller. Buffalo got more physical on both lines with road-grading guard Rodger Saffold and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, an under-the-radar player with standout ability to stack at the point of attack and some pass rush wiggle on the interior.
Cincinnati built out the interior offensive line with guard Alex Cappa and center/guard Ted Karras. It was an obvious area of concern entering the offseason, and reports are that tackle La’El Collins, who was cut by the Cowboys, will visit Cincinnati, so the Bengals may not be done. Cincinnati could theoretically be in the mix for tackle Terron Armstead, but they have not gone with top-of-the-market options so far, which could indicate they believe in a competent line and stars at the skill positions.
The Steelers turned down a rebuild, adding quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on a bridge contract, signing veteran guard James Daniels from the Bears, and swapping inside linebacker Myles Jack, who was cut by the Jaguars, for Joe Schobert, who Pittsburgh acquired from the Jaguars during training camp last season, then cut when his old teammate became available. Many thought the Steelers would not go the rebuild route, and these moves validated that.
The Cowboys had to make difficult decisions that stemmed in part from the contract they gave to running back Ezekiel Elliott, which drew a lot of questions at the time. Dallas is still in pole position in the NFC East, but they will have significant turnover on defense, and it’s hard to say they are better than the team that lost in the first round of the NFL Playoffs last year.
The Cleveland Browns got in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, got spurned, and now Baker Mayfield wants a trade. For a franchise that was riding high off a playoff win over the Steelers a year ago, things are unraveling fast. Receiver Amari Cooper can’t be thrilled about how the first days with his new organization have gone.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s recovery timeline is an interesting variable, but it’s hard to see the Rams fitting Beckham under the cap now that Allen Robinson has signed with the Rams on a three-year deal. Robinson is coming off a rough year in all respects but will only be 29 and his professional route-running and body-out ability should mesh well with quarterback Matthew Stafford’s style. There has to be some level of concern after Robinson’s down 2021, especially because he has some significant injuries in his past, but at least the upside is clear here.
New England’s plan in general. Edge rusher Matt Judon was a hit from last year’s free-agent class but was acquiring wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, or cornerback Jalen Mills worth setting the team up to lose guard Shaq Mason and cornerback J.C. Jackson the following offseason?
The Miami Dolphins backfield is on track to be a fantasy wasteland again. Guard Connor Williams, who failed to distinguish himself during his rookie contract with the Cowboys, is the latest mediocre addition to a talent-deficient o-line room, and the additions of running backs Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert from Arizona and San Francisco ensures that even if one of these backs manages to run for a decent average behind this group, he won’t get the touches to be fantasy-relevant. Awesome.
It seems likely that Jacksonville will continue to cut players at the two-year off-ramp they tend to build into their free-agent contracts, a prudent measure given that their acquisitions are almost invariably disasters. That appears likely to be the fate for several players from this year’s overpriced group. Washington could be in the same boat after the Wentz acquisition and the free-agent swap of guards that saw them sign Andrew Norwell from Jacksonville after Brandon Scherff left to join the Jaguars. The Jets also appear to be stuck on a down cycle, as they ended up adding a lot of average players to a roster that desperately needs stars.
Finally, the most uncertain move of the week was New Orleans signing safety Marcus Maye from the Jets to replace Marcus Williams. To start, New Orleans is still in a difficult cap situation; even after restructuring several contracts to get under the cap, they lost Williams and are poised to lose left tackle Terron Armstead. Given that the Saints do not presently have a quarterback, it would seem like a good year to sit back, swallow the cap situation, and collect compensatory picks.
Instead, they added Maye, who decided to hide a DUI from the Jets while trying to negotiate a long-term deal, then tore his Achilles while playing on the franchise tag in 2021. Maye has talent, but it takes a special type of delusion to believe your contract wouldn’t be voided for negotiating in bad faith if the Jets had found out about the DUI after the fact, which they inevitably would have done. Add on the injury situation, and this move seems like a bizarre risk for a team in New Orleans’ situation. The Saints went for it at the end with Drew Brees at quarterback, but unless they are set to acquire Deshaun Watson, they might have done better to sit this year out and clear the balance book for 2022.
The Bills are the current favorite on DraftKings at +650, with the Chiefs close behind at +800. Given the disparity in divisions, the Bills appear to be the better value, as they have the best division setup to get the AFC’s number one seed outside of Tennessee, and the Titans aren’t on the same level as the Bills, who have an MVP candidate at quarterback in Josh Allen and big-time playmakers at all three levels of the defense after the addition of Von Miller.
Tampa Bay and Green Bay are the favorites on the NFC side at +850; Tampa looks good, but a Rams repeat (+1200) seems more likely than the Packers getting over the hump given the uncertainty on offense for Green Bay without Davante Adams. Aaron Rodgers is an outstanding quarterback, but this will cause a dramatic shift in the Green Bay offense and the Packers have consistently fallen flat in the NFL playoffs in recent years.
The Raiders had the longest odds of any AFC West team at +4000 Thursday evening, but that could change after the Adams acquisition. They have questions, particularly in the secondary and on the offensive line, but the pass rush tandem of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones gives them a starting point on defense. The Raiders are the dark horse, but all four AFC West teams should be dangerous this season.
The NFC odds are currently influenced by the Deshaun Watson trade rumors, as the Falcons and Saints’ odds are inflated. Even if one of those teams lands him, it would be difficult to beat the Buccaneers for the division, but if Watson returns in time to rally his new team to a Wild Card spot, he might push his new team in a playoff run. There is enough talent to work with in Atlanta and New Orleans, and the last season he played, Watson was special. He won’t be on a great team, but as a longer shot, it may be worth a roll of the dice and will be monitored closely as his destination and potential suspension terms become clear.
The Bengals at +1000 sticks out in the AFC. Quarterback Joe Burrow and company are fifth in AFC odds, but the Chiefs, Broncos, and Chargers, who are all ahead of Cincinnati, face more difficult schedules because they play in the AFC West. The Bengals are far more likely to get a first-round bye and could have home field when they meet one of these AFC West teams, which makes them an interesting value with the way these odds are stacked.
Tampa is the favorite in the NFC South at -190, but The Professor would wait out the Deshaun Watson trade. The Bucs are likely to hold their position as the favorite, but you will get better odds on them if Watson joins the Falcons, Saints, or Panthers.
Tennessee is living a charmed life in their division; despite the fiasco of 2020 first-round offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, getting nothing for receiver Julio Jones after swapping a second-round pick for him, and 2021 first-round cornerback Caleb Farley’s injury concerns turning real in a matter of weeks, the Titans are in great shape, because the rest of the AFC South seems intent on leaving them unopposed. The Colts have few remaining avenues to a quarterback with no first-round pick, the Jaguars are spending absurd amounts of money on questionable talent trying to get out of the basement, and the Texans appear resigned to standing pat, taking a longer-term approach to getting out of the basement. At +100, Tennessee looks solid in the AFC South.
The AFC West is absurdly loaded at this point. Three of the top nine DraftKings Super Bowl odds belong to teams in this division after Russell Wilson, Davante Adams, Khalil Mack, Chandler Jones, and J.C. Jackson joined the AFC West. The Chargers may have loaded up the most, as they had flexibility around quarterback Justin Herbert’s relatively cheap contract. The long shots, the Chargers (+300), and Raiders (+700) seem like the plays in a division that any team could win.
Cincinnati and Baltimore are both +175 in the AFC North. The Steelers are unlikely to have the juice at quarterback to keep up, and Cleveland seems intent on getting back to their roots as a doormat. Give me quarterback Joe Burrow and a younger Cincinnati team that has far fewer injury questions than Baltimore.
It’s been a crazy week, and with the NFL Draft still to come, there will be plenty more developments in one of the wildest NFL offseasons in history. For more of The Professor’s content, check him out on BeerLife Sports!