Let the trading begin – albeit mostly unofficially.
The NFL’s “legal manipulation period” in free agency began Monday with a flurry of deals, though many teams fired veterans to make room for the salary cap before the league’s fiscal year begins Wednesday.
The worst team in the league was the most aggressive. Jacksonville, which has the first overall pick in the draft for the second straight month next month, got busy early.
According to a person familiar with negotiations, the Jaguars agreed to sign Arizona receiver Christian Kirk, Washington guard Brandon Scherff, Atlanta linebacker Foyesade Oluokun and New York Jets defensive tackle Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi.
Linebacker Haason Reddick, from Carolina to Philadelphia, also agreed to the change; Guard Laken Tomlinson from San Francisco to the New York Jets; Chase Edmonds running back to Miami from Arizona; tackling Rodger Saffold from Tennessee to Buffalo; and quarterback Mitch Trubisky from Buffalo to Pittsburgh — with many more changes.
RB James Conner and QB Colt McCoy remain with the Cardinals; Safes Devin McCourty for the Patriots and Quandre Diggs for the Seahawks, who also retained Will Dissly as tight end; All-Pro kick returner Braxton Berrios with the Jets; defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah with the Dolphins; linebacker Preston Smith with the Packers; center Brian Allen and fight Joseph Noteboom with the Rams; center Mitch Morse with the bills; linebacker Alex Anzalone with the Lions; Center Ben Jones and tight end Geoff Swaim with the Titans.
“We are pleased that Preston is continuing his career with the Packers,” said general manager Brian Gutekunst. “Since he came to Green Bay he has not only contributed to the production on the field but has also been a great presence and leader for this team in the dressing room.”
Noteboom will almost certainly be the Rams’ left starting tackle as NFL Man of the Year Andrew Whitworth, 40, is expected to retire.
Released and signed with another team before Wednesday, Browns receiver Jarvis Landry; Packers linebacker Za’Darius Smith and versatile offensive lineman Billy Turner; and Panthers cornerback AJ Bouye and defensive end Morgan Fox.
Yes, 32 teams are in scramble mode for various reasons. Some desperately need to get below the $208.2 million cap, which has risen by nearly $26 million after two pandemic-hit seasons. These include the Packers, Saints, Rams, 49ers and Chiefs.
Others are cleaning out players with large-cap hits to create more headroom for spending or because they plan to bring in replacements. Such is the case in Cleveland, where Amari Cooper is close to becoming the No. 1 wideout so Landry left despite the many positive qualities he brought to the Browns.
“Jarvis’ performance on the field and his fiery competitiveness speak for themselves, but his leadership skills and team-oriented attitude have impacted our culture in a way that will endure even after his release,” said General Manager Andrew Berry. “These decisions are always difficult, but we wish Jarvis well and look forward to the day when he returns as a legendary Browns graduate.”
Of course, the biggest mess is focused on adding players for needed positions. Trubisky in Pittsburgh makes sense now that Ben Roethlisberger is retired. Philly-area Reddick, and a sack force in recent years, should bolster a defense that needs just what he brings. Miami desperately needs a reliable running back and is getting one in Edmonds that would have been a backup for Conner in Arizona.
And then there’s Jacksonville, which needs it all.
All four newcomers should be starters. Kirk wants to replace DJ Chark as Trevor Lawrence’s main target. Scherff was a reliable blocker in Washington when healthy. Oluokun led the Falcons with 192 tackles last season, and Fatukasi is a force against the run.
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