Piece by Jim Green:-
Buy! Buy! Buy! Sell! Sell! Sell!
It was a fascinating trade deadline day in the NFL (some sources have labelled it as the busiest on record) and I wanted to highlight some (not all!) of the deals and non-deals that happened, why they happened and what the potential impact is. I’ve read and listened to a lot of commentary on this over the past day or so and thought we at BBW should give a view as well. It would be rude not to!
So let’s start with what many people are quoting as the biggest trade of the season:
Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for a 2nd round pick
The 49ers are 0-8 and their quarterback play this year has been dire. It’s been pretty painful to watch and as a 49ers fan myself I was overjoyed to read this news when I awoke on Tuesday morning! Hoyer has been turd and whilst CJ Beathard has had his moments, he’s a rookie and hasn’t looked like a rookie superstar at that. Whilst game time for Jimmy G has been limited, he has shown in that time that he can lead a team to a win against what was a good defence (Arizona at the start of the 2016 season). He’s had the opportunity to learn from Brady and Belichick and whilst the pedigree of this combination isn’t great (Mallet, Hoyer, Cassel), Garoppolo has possibly been the highest touted replacement by old Bill. To the extent that it was a wretch to see him go, Belichick labelling the situation as ‘untenable’. If the Pats had kept him either by offering him the contract he’d want or franchise tagging him then he’d likely be getting paid more than Brady. What this does do for the Pats is give them a high second round pick which can be used to fill some of the holes in the team that have become evident so far this year – particularly on the defence.
For the 49ers, they get a highly thought of quarterback for a second-round pick. True, it would likely be a high one but it was worth it if Garoppolo is a franchise calibre quarterback. They get 7-8 games to watch, in live games, what they have and decide whether to offer him a contract, franchise tag him or let him walk – and if it is the latter they’d get a compensatory pick. It gives Shanahan a quarterback that I think he can work with to develop with as a head coach. The 49ers lost five of those eight games by very small margins and with a decent QB not giving the ball away so much, it’s likely that some of those losses might have been wins. Just because of this trade, the second half of the season becomes a lot more interesting in San Francisco.
What this also does is, if it works out of course, gives the 49ers the opportunity to use what will likely be a high draft pick to supplement another part of the team (O-Line for example to protect handsome Jimmy!) or trade with a QB hungry team and pick up more draft picks.
Jay Ajayi to the Eagles for a 4th round pick
This one really did come like a bolt out of the blue. But the more you look at it, the more it made sense.
From a Dolphins point of view, Gase had come out after the debacle against the Ravens last week slating his offence and pointing specifically to the running backs for not doing their jobs. Since Ajayi is the only known RB within that stable then it was an out and out attack on him.
Ajayi, on paper had a great year in 2017. Rushing for 1,272 yards in 15 games and an average of 4.9 yards per rush. Good in anyone’s books. But break that down a little more and it’s maybe not as good as it looks. He had three 200+ yard games (204 yards vs Pittsburgh, 214 & 206 vs Buffalo). If you take those games away then he had 648 yards in 12 games and an average of 3.7 yards per carry. Ajayi likes the big plays, he likes to run to the edge and make serious yards. He’s less a fan of the work horse type yards through the trenches where quality RBs make their careers. This has annoyed Gase where he said about his running backs that they had to “stop trying to hit home runs all the time”. From the comments it sounds like Ajayi may not have been playing to the Gase script and it’s just got too much and they’ve moved him on.
The 4th round pick feels cheap even so. The Eagles have got a good deal from a value point of view but I wonder what it will do for the locker room. Ajayi will need to accept that he’s moving from a poor offence to an electric one and he likely won’t get as many snaps as he did in Miami. Wentz is playing at an MVP level and his wide receivers and tight end are also showing up this year meaning less running plays overall. Couple that with the backfield for the Eagles including Superbowl winning RB Blount. Ajayi probably will get most of the snaps but on goal line situations I would still expect Blount to come in.
Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills for 3rd and 7th round pick
Ok, so we all thought that when Sammy Watkins was traded to the Rams that the Bills were aiming to tank, much like their AFC East cohorts the Jets. This though has proved to be false and the Bills find themselves with a 5-2 record, looking good and with a decent chance of making a run to the playoffs and ending the longest playoff drought in the NFL (and American sports I believe). So now that this fortune has seemingly turned around they’ve pushed some more chips to the middle of the table and bought in a big bodied wide receiver who will instantly go to No.1 on their depth chart.
I’ve always been a fan of Benjamin. He’s what the Panthers needed with Cam who has a good arm but lacks accuracy. Benjamin has a great wing span which enables him to catch passes which aren’t on the numbers. Being so big he also matches up well on the physical side of things, especially against strong safeties if he’s to run deep. This gives Tyrod Taylor a number one target and will complement his and Shady McCoy’s running games. The Bills have looked decent on defence and I think this improves their offence. As a side, the Bills have to play the Pats twice this year and one receiver who’s been on the winning side against the Pats so far this year – Kelvin Benjamin where he had his only 100+ yard receiving game this year (104 yards off four catches).
For the Panthers, it seems a bit odd. Greg Olsen being injured and out for the year deprived Cam of one of his main targets, now another has gone. Marty Hurney the Panthers interim GM has gone on record saying that instead of having two big bodied receivers in Benjamin and Funchess, he wants to add more speed to the game. This will apparently come from rookies Curtis Samuel and ‘running back’ Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers also clear $8m of cap space from the salary
AJ McCarron not going to the Browns
Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for the Browns, this happens. All pre-season Garoppolo had been touted as going to the Browns, they offered a second-round pick plus ‘change’, whatever that means but I presume lower draft picks. Then Garoppolo goes to the 49ers for just a second. I don’t know why the Browns didn’t have a deal with the Pats in place with a “well, if you change your mind please call us first”? Part of me thinks that Belichick is still bitter with the Browns.
Anyway, once it happened I think the Browns front office realised they’d missed out on one highly touted back up and to try and appease their fans they went to their next target that was AJ McCarron of the Bengals. McCarron looked ok when he replaced Dalton a couple of years ago so it’s maybe not a terrible decision to try and get him, especially when you consider that the QB play from the Browns has been on par with that of the 49ers. The touted price for McCarron was a 2nd and a 3rd round pick – which does seem very high in comparison to the Garoppolo deal
So where did it fall down? That’s hard to say and here’s why. To consummate a trade, each party has to individually send the details of the trade to the NFL who check that everything matches and then the trade is confirmed. According to reports I’ve heard, the Browns sent signed trade terms to the Bengals who were then apparently meant to send counter signed terms to the NFL. The Bengals however followed the usual procedure of sending the deal to the NFL head office as per what is standard operating procedure and as the Browns didn’t do likewise, the trade didn’t go through.
Honestly, I don’t know where to start. According to Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk, the Browns ownership went “nuclear” on the front office following this debacle (full story here: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2017/11/01/ownership-went-nuclear-on-browns-front-office-on-wednesday/), and I can’t blame them. The Browns front office has not coveted themselves in glory in the last two years and this is the icing on the cake. I believe the Browns ownership are trying to be patient after clearing house too often in recent years but this last episode might be one too many.
Jarvis Landry going nowhere
Along the lines of Jay Ajayi, there were also rumours that Jarvis Landry was being shopped. Landy is ultimately a talented receiver but he too has likely caught the wrath of Gase in recent weeks who continues to slate his offence.
Before the year started there had been rumblings from Landry’s camp that the receiver wanted his contract sorted. The Dolphins management kept putting it off citing that there were other priorities to deal with before they got to that – like free agent signings, the draft, resigning players, feeding the cat, pre-season training etc etc. He was then told that they’d begin talking in September. Well, it’s November now and as far as I know, no negotiations have started.
So this leaves the Dolphins in the position of offering him a new deal (they have about $17m cap space currently) or letting him walk for nothing. If there’s no contract coming from the Dolphins then, like the Garoppolo trade, it would be wise to get something for him at least. I expect that the asking price for him was too high if he was genuinely on the trade block. With him not going I would expect him to get a new deal or be franchise tagged – he’s too good a player not to be. If he is allowed to walk then I think we have found the most talented free agent for the next pre-season!