American Football Expert & Columnist
Pick Six: Tom Brady's Bucs, the improved Broncos & Bill O'Brien's Hopkins head-scratcher
Last Updated: 26/03/20 5:16pm
The NFL's free agency frenzy has died down to a trickle of signings here and there so now seems like a good time to reflect on the winners and losers from a historic week in American football.
Of course, only time will tell if the moves made last week turn out to be good or bad. But here are my initial thoughts.
NFL Free Agency LIVE!
Stay up-to-date with the latest free agency, draft and injury news throughout the NFL offseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers only really made one signing of note (apologies to offensive lineman Joe Haeg, who joined from Indianapolis) but it was a move that could significantly change their franchise for the next two years - on and off the field.
Despite his relatively poor form in 2019, six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady upgrades a Tampa Bay offense that ranked third in the NFL a year ago even with Jameis Winston setting regular dynamite underneath it with a league-high 30 interceptions and at least another 20 that were dropped.
Brady: The inside story
NBC Sports Insider Tom Curran gives us the story behind Tom Brady's departure from the New England Patriots after 20 years with the organisation.
I think Brady can turn the Bucs into a playoff team and remind us of his greatness with weapons at his disposal that were just not there in New England last term. His more cautious and thoughtful approach is going to pay dividends. Off the field, Brady will ignite ticket and jersey sales, meaning Tampa will more than get their money back on this deal.
Like the Bucs, the Colts went for quality over quantity when it came to their free-agent signings and trades. They added a significant player on both sides of the ball in quarterback Philip Rivers and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.
Rivers is getting long in the NFL tooth and his lack of movement in the pocket points to a generation of pocket passers who could soon become the rarity in the league. But he can survive - and thrive - behind what is considered to be the NFL's best offensive line.
49ers trade Buckner to Colts
The San Francisco 49ers have traded defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick.
I think Rivers can enjoy a bounce-back season in Indy and that should force the Colts back into playoff contention.
Buckner is a gem of an addition and one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers couldn't afford to keep him but there was no doubt he was a key member of their outstanding defense. Buckner recorded 19.5 sacks in the last two seasons and he is reliable, starting 63 of a possible 64 games in his NFL career to date.
Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos
I couldn't split these two teams and think both have done very well in what they have added during this offseason signing and trading period.
Cleveland addressed their offensive line with the signing of right tackle Jack Conklin from Tennessee and added a couple of intriguing safeties in Karl Joseph (Las Vegas) and Andrew Sendejo (Minnesota).
Austin Hooper should form a productive tandem at tight end alongside David Njoku and Case Keenum will be a steadying veteran hand at quarterback behind Baker Mayfield.
Panthers to sign XFL star Walker
XFL star quarterback P.J. Walker is reportedly signing with the Carolina Panthers.
Denver are also a much better team this week than they were last. A.J. Bouye replaces the departed Chris Harris Jr. at cornerback and Jurrell Casey can still play at defensive tackle after being traded from Tennessee.
Melvin Gordon wanted to stay in the division and stick it to the Los Angeles Chargers and he should team very nicely with Philip Lindsay. Graham Glasgow upgrades an offensive line that needed help.
I still cannot get my head around head coach (and general manager) Bill O'Brien trading superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals for what amounts to a second-round draft choice and running back David Johnson.
The free-agent signing of wide receiver Randall Cobb does nothing to salve that particular wound. O'Brien should have been doing everything in his power to surround superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson with firepower. Instead, he has pulled the rug from underneath his team's most important player.
O'Brien's job depends on this move proving to be a success.
The Vikings got a good bit of business done when extending the contract of Pro Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins, but they have lost a tremendous amount of veteran talent in the last few days.
Gone are defensive end Everson Griffen, defensive tackle Linval Joseph, cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander; and safety Andrew Sendejo. Those are not just starters for the Vikings - the likes of Griffen, Rhodes and Sendejo have been core players for Mike Zimmer's defense in recent years.
Vikings trade WR Diggs to Bills
The Buffalo Bills have acquired wide receiver Stefon Diggs in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings.
That is a lot of talent to lose in one offseason with very few signings (just Michael Pierce on the defensive line from Baltimore) coming through the door in the other direction.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams really didn't have much choice when it came to the release of running back Todd Gurley, whose ongoing knee issues combined with his high salary meant his time in LA had to come to an end. But the Rams have lost much more than a Pro Bowl running back during this offseason.
The Rams had already moved on from defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and now the unit he once led has been decimated.
The robbing of talent from this defense has covered all three levels. Defensive lineman Michael Brockers left for Baltimore and following him out of the door were linebackers Cory Littleton (Las Vegas), Dante Fowler Jr. (Atlanta) and Clay Matthews; cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety Eric Weddle (retired).
It's hard not to imagine the Rams falling behind the rest of the NFC West with all of these departures.