Nary a ball was snapped the past week, but the NFL still kicked off its new season Wednesday with more big plays than it showcased on its grandest stage 5½ weeks ago in Atlanta.
Nick Foles is going south. Former disgruntled teammates Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are happily heading west and east, respectively. And the AFC North has been turned upside down with the decimation of Baltimore’s top-ranked defense, Pittsburgh’s losses on offense and a full-throttled approach in Cleveland that saw General Manager John Dorsey shock the league by trading for Odell Beckham Jr.
Here’s a quick look at the past week …
Battered in Baltimore: Defensively, the Ravens lost their leader (Eric Weddle), their legend (Terrell Suggs), their sacks leader (Za’Darius Smith) and their leading tackler (C.J. Mosley). Signing an injury-prone, soon-to-be 30-year-old Earl Thomas doesn’t offset the sting.
Factory of Sadness No More?: Dorsey sprinted to the early lead for executive of the year. Adding Sheldon Richardson and trading expendable guard Kevin Zeitler for pass rusher Olivier Vernon was just a warmup for acquiring the 26-year-old OBJ for this year’s 17th and 95th overall picks and safety Jabrill Peppers. Despite popular opinion, that was a lot to pay because OBJ is a risky, albeit worthy, superstar acquisition. People point to his long-term, affordable contract. But, c’mon, we all know that a contract for a player of his stature and volatility ends when he says it ends (see: Brown, Antonio).
Giant mess: Meanwhile, the Giants under General Manager Dave Gettleman look disheveled. For months, he said he didn’t extend OBJ to trade him. Then he did. After paying him $21.5 million. To play 12 games.
No pressure, Derek Carr: Brown got a raise to $30 million guaranteed to be Oakland’s top receiver. Now all he needs is Carr to play like Ben Roethlisberger. Also heading to Oakland is Trent Brown, the former Patriots left tackle, who scored the richest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history. Now all he needs is for Carr to play like Tom Brady. No pressure, Derek. No pressure.
Bell going backward: After refusing $14.54 million to play for Pittsburgh last year, Bell accepted $13.125 million a year to play for the Jets.
Welcome aboard, Packers: So strange to see the Packers awake this time of year. Apparently, GM Brian Gutekunst wants to play a little defense after adding safety Adrian Amos and linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith.
Here come the Lions: Trying to hold up its part in making that dream Browns-Lions Super Bowl a reality, Patriots West (Detroit) signed defensive end Trey Flowers, cornerback Justin Coleman and receiver Danny Amendola. Three players who will help.
DeFilippo Take 2: A year ago, John DeFilippo joined a certain run-oriented team that paid $84 million guaranteed for a new quarterback. He was fired as offensive coordinator 13 games later. This year, he’s with Jacksonville, another run-oriented team that paid $88 million ($50.1 million guaranteed) for a new quarterback. But at least this time, he’s being reunited with Foles two years after they won a Super Bowl together.
Ballard being frugal in Indy: The Colts lead the league in cap room with $94.5 million. But GM Chris Ballard doesn’t believe in building through free agency. So the Colts have made one move. An odd one that handed $13 million for one season to receiver Devin Funchess, who’s never had more than 850 yards receiving.
Best under-the-radar move so far?: Perhaps the best move of the past week was a Donald Trump-loving New England franchise saying it’s OK for Eagles pass rusher Michael Bennett to stay in the locker room during the national anthem. With that bit of business out of the way, the Patriots shipped a 2020 fifth-rounder to Philly for Bennett and a 2020 seventh-rounder. Another huge bargain for which Bill Belichick can use to batter the rest of the league.
Jump, Teddy, Jump!: Teddy Bridgewater visited the Dolphins Wednesday. This comes after reports had him turning down the Dolphins to re-sign with New Orleans as 40-year-old Drew Brees’ heir apparent. C’mon. Teddy’s smarter than that. He has to know that 40 is the new 35 when it comes to future first-ballot Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider.