Beckham, Brown and Bell: A Recap of the NFL Offseason So Far
March 25, 2019
The NFL season just ended less than two months ago, but the league already looks very different from last season. Three of the NFL’s biggest stars will all be playing for new teams this season. Here’s an in depth look at how each player got to where they are now.
Le’Veon Bell signs with the New York Jets
Bell spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, racking up three Pro Bowl selections and being named to the NFL First Team All-Pro twice. After a stellar 2017 season where Bell ran for nine touchdowns and 1,291 yards, the Steelers placed their franchise tag on Bell for the second year in a row, allowing them to prolong their contract negotiations with Bell. However, he refused to sign the tag and contract negotiations between Bell and the Steelers stalled after July 16. Bell ended up sitting out the entire 2018 season, forfeiting his paychecks that season in hopes of receiving a better deal from the Steelers.
Bell’s actions irritated Steelers fans, but backup running back James Conner stepped up for the team while Bell sat out. Conner ran for 12 touchdowns and 973 yards, and while the Steelers missed the playoffs, the team decided to stick with Conner as their running back rather than trying to bring Bell back. Bell was rumored to be negotiating with several teams, including the Oakland Raiders and the Miami Dolphins, before agreeing to a four year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets.
The Jets finished third in the AFC East last season with a 4-12 record, but will look to compete with new head coach Adam Gase, who was just fired by the Dolphins after last season. There may be room for the Jets at the top of the division soon with the Dolphins preparing to rebuild their roster and the Patriots facing the potential retirement of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in the near future.
Antonio Brown traded to the Oakland Raiders after dramatic season
If Bell’s contract holdout was not enough drama for the Steelers, Antonio Brown managed to add on further to the Steelers locker room problems. Brown was rumored to have engaged in numerous arguments with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before skipping multiple practices near the end of the season. Brown was benched in the Steelers regular season finale against the Bengals and requested a trade soon after.
Not long after his request went public, Brown’s request was granted as he was traded to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a third round pick and a fifth round pick in the 2019 NFL draft. The Steelers fan base reacted negatively to the trade, citing the organization could have received significantly more in exchange for Brown, who has been named to six consecutive Pro Bowls and has earned four First Team All-Pro selections. ESPN analysts also lamented how little the Steelers got in return for Brown, with Stephen A. Smith saying the Raiders acquired Brown in exchange for “a bag of chips and a Coke”.
Brown will be joining Derek Carr and Marshawn Lynch on a Raiders team that appeared to be rebuilding before this trade. Raiders head coach Jon Gruden traded away star linebacker Khalil Mack before the 2018 season for multiple draft picks, including two future first round picks. Gruden also traded star wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys in exchange for their first round pick. Despite trading away some of their strongest players, Gruden looks for the Raiders to be aggressive in free agency this offseason and compete for the playoffs next season.
Browns unexpectedly trade for Odell Beckham Jr.
Despite signing a 5 year, $95 million deal with the New York Giants before the 2018 season, trade rumors have surrounded Odell Beckham Jr. for a while now. Considered one of the league’s most talented receivers, it appeared that Beckham was wasting his prime with the Giants, who have only won eight games in the past two seasons. Numerous teams had inquired about Beckham this offseason, including the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams. However, one name barely mentioned as a suitor for Beckham was the Cleveland Browns. Despite not being considered a contender to trade for Beckham, the Browns did exactly that, acquiring Beckham from the Giants in exchange for a first round pick and a third round pick in the 2019 NFL draft along with safety Jabrill Peppers.
The Beckham trade appears to show that they e Browns are serious about contending for the playoffs this season after racking up a 7-8-1 record in 2018, just one year after going 0-16. Before the 2018 season, the Browns acquired wide receiver Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins and selected quarterback Baker Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward and running back Nick Chubb in the 2018 NFL draft. Most of the Browns offseason acquisitions blossomed in their first season with the team, especially Landry and Mayfield. Landry was named to his fourth Pro Bowl while Mayfield threw for 27 touchdowns, the most touchdowns ever thrown by a rookie quarterback.
After going 2-5-1 in their first eight games, the Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson. Following Jackson’s firing, the Browns finished the season with a 5-3 record and were in contention for the playoffs for most of the season. After acquiring Beckham, the Browns will look to compete with the Baltimore Ravens to win the AFC North division and make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
All of these offseason moves will likely change the dynamic of the NFL for years to come. Whether it’s from the perspective of a fantasy football player or a fan watching the game, Bell, Brown and Beckham will surely be watched closely this season to see how they do in their new environments.