Free Agency Mayhem: Call it the No Figurin’ League


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By Lenn Robbins

Now that the National Football League Players Association agreed to a deal put forth by the owners, this is the perfect time to consider a new definition for the NFL acronym.

Based on what has happened immediately after the deal was announced, how about No Figurin’ League.

Consider these transactions:

The first reaction to the DeAndre Hopkins deal was this was a scam designed to get one to read one of those “20 Worst Trades in NFL History,” which this now qualifies. 

The Texans sent DeAndre Hopkins, one of the top three wide receivers (Hopkins, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones) and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick.

Hopkins, 25, is in the prime of his career. His deal has (interrogate his agent on this one), three years and about $42 million left (about $14 million per season), which is a bargain.

Consider Amari Cooper, a fine WR but not in Hopkins’ class, signed a  five-year,  $100-million deal to remain a Cowboy on Monday. Odell Beckham Jr. earns about $18 million per season. The Giants got a 1st-round pick, a third-round pick, and Jabrill Peppers for OBJ so Dave Gettleman padded his resume on this one.

Hopkins is Deshaun Watson’s favorite target, a player who dictates defensive coverages, and has missed just one game due to injury. The man’s a warrior.

Johnson was a great all-round back – in 2016. He amassed 2,118 all-purpose yards and scored 20 touchdowns. Over the next three seasons he tallied 2,191 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns.

He missed almost all of 2017 with a wrist injury and has had knee injuries. He’s 28, close to the outer edge for running backs, and carries cap hits of $10.2 million in 2020 and $7.9 million in 2021.

 The Cardinals had essentially moved on from him after placing the franchise tag on RB Kalen Ballage. Johnson was there for the taking at maybe a conditional fifth-round pick, probably lower.

So why would Houston coach and de facto GM Bill O’Brien make such a move?

Is it that he had already traded away first round picks in 2020 and 2021 and desperately wanted to get back into the top of the draft? He craves a bell cow back in the era of quarterbacks? In a draft loaded with WRs there might be a good one available in the second round?

The Cardinals now have an elite WR for young QB Kyle Murray. They have a valuable, extra fourth-round pick. This also makes the one-year $11 million deal for Larry Fitzgerald more beneficial. The combination of Murray, Hopkins and Fitzgerald is reason to purchase Red Zone.

This deal might be remembered as O’Brien’s Alamo.

TRICK QUESTION: Yep. Ryan Tannehill, the 31-year-old, one-year wonder never posted a rating of higher than 93.5. The Dolphins had to pay $5 million of the $7 million they owed Tannehill to get the Titans to take him off their hands.

The Titans are built around the human battering ram known as Derrick Henry, which means Tannehill isn’t asked to win games, just not lose them. He did that very well for the majority of one season after replacing Marcus Mariota.

But riddle me this. Tannehill is guaranteed $62 over three years, more than some guy named Russell Wilson, who is the focal point of Seattle’s attack.

Tannehill or Wilson? Umm.

DEXTER LEONARD INTERIORS – The Giants are expected to tag DT Leonard Williams, who they acquired from the Jets for a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 conditional fifth-round pick.

The feeling here has always been that Williams is a very good interior lineup who never fulfilled the expectations that come with being the No.6 pick in 2015. We also feel compiling dominant DL depth is paramount.

The Giants now have the 25-year-old Williams alongside the 22-year-old Dexter Lawrence. It will cost $15.5 million to see if Dexter Leonard Interiors pays off.

BRADBERRY THEATER – After the Hopkins theft, no deal was going to move the needle much but the Giants signing of Carolina cornerback James Bradberry to a three-year, $45-million deal was smart. Really smart. Gettleman knows the 26-year-old from his Carolina days, where he was the Panthers best defender last season. Like this move a lot.

EXPENSIVE FLOWERS: Ereck Flowers didn’t block a daffodil with the Giants as a tackle. As a guard, he was solid for the Jaguars. This landed him a three-year, $30 million deal ($20 million guaranteed) with the Redskins, who rarely gets it right. Would have been more optimistic about this working out if offensive line coach Bill Callahan, hadn’t left Washington for Cleveland.

THE CALLAHAN EFFECT: The Browns, roommates with the Redskins in mismanagement, are taking a chance on Titans OT Jack Conklin, one of the best in the game – if healthy. He’ll benefit from Callahan and possibly by having a mobile QB in Baker Minefield, uh, Mayfield.

WINNERS – Every franchise not named Texans.

Tight end Austin Hooper leaves the downward trending Falcons for the possibly ascending Browns and gets $44 million over four years, making the third or fourth best tight end (maybe) the highest paid at his position.

The Baltimore Ravens, who just keep getting it right. They signed Mark Ingram last season. This year they acquired Jacksonville DE Calais Campbell, who we have loved since he played for The “U.” The Ravens gave up a fifth rounder for the 33-year-old Campbell, who’s coming off a 75-tackle. 6.5-sack season. They got that fifth rounder by trading backup kicker Kaare Vedvik (they felt comfortable with that Justin Tucker guy) to the Vikings. Vedik became Campbell.

Kirk Cousins gets another two years and at least $56 million to get the Vikings to the Super Bowl. He has topped the $100 million mark. It’s good to be the Kirk.

Ravens II – Baltimore traded backup TE Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round pick to Atlanta for a 2020 second and fifth-round pick. With the emergence of Mark Andrews and backup Nick Boyle, the Ravens could afford to lose Hurst. It remains to be seen what the Ravens turn those two picks into but we’re betting in their track record.

LOSERS – Bill O’Brien. With every deal he has more people wondering if he has pictures of Houston owner Janice McNair.

Janice McNair – see above.

Deshaun Watson – see above.

Jacksonville Jaguars defense – Oh how the mighty have fallen, been traded or released.

The Chicago Bears keep throwing good money after bad. The blundered horrifically by taking QB Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd pick in the 2017. Since then they’ve been throwing money at the problem, such as signing TE Jimmy Graham to a two-year deal with $9 million guaranteed.

WINNER OR LOSER? Byron Jones – In 1996 the Cowboys lost CB Larry Jones, the Super Bowl MVP, to free agency when he signed a five-year, $12.5 deal with the Raiders. He never lived up to the deal. Jones, with just two interceptions in 79 games, got a five-year $82.5 million deal from the Dolphins. The 27-year-old wins. Do the Dolphins?

J-E-T-S – anyone heard from them?

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