The NFL has always been a “copycat” league. What I mean is when a team storms to a Super Bowl triumph like the Philadelphia Eagles, every team studies the blueprint and follows accordingly.
The explosion of wheeling and dealing and free-agent signings this winter was a direct lesson learned from Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. Of the champ’s 22 Super Bowl starters, 12 came from trades or free agency as did 20 other players on the 53-man roster. Half these changes were made since Roseman came out of exile in 2016.
Perhaps Roseman's No. 1 move and one that is extremely difficult to copy is the acquisition of backup quarterback Nick Foles. It was exactly one year ago when they agreed to a two-year, $11 million free-agent contract that brought Foles back to Philadelphia.
For the most part teams in the NFL are searching for a quality starting quarterback leave alone a solid backup who can step in and lead you to a Super Bowl as Foles did last season. Look at all the changes:
The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson, and the Packers got DeShone Kizer as a backup for Aaron Rodgers.
Mr. (Alex) Smith goes to Washington. Philadelphia still has Carson Wentz coming back from injury.
The Cardinals acquired Sam Bradford from the Vikings, and the 49ers are about to have their first full season with Jimmy Garoppolo.
Cleveland traded for Tyrod Taylor.
The Jets acquired Teddy Bridgewater, and Buffalo got A.J. McCarron.
No changes, but who knows what is really going on with the Colts and Andrew Luck?
Denver turned to Case Keenum, and the Chiefs are all in on Patrick Mahomes.
Looking at the rest of the rosters, no divisions remade themselves more than the two in the West.
Start with the NFC and Seattle’s Legion of Doom. After trading Michael Bennett and releasing Richard Sherman, the Seahawks are now the Legion of Doomed. By getting Aqib Talib from Denver and Marcus Peters from Kansas City, the Rams have remade their secondary. The 49ers signed Sherman, who will look for revenge against his former employer twice. And the Cardinals gave themselves some cap room by shedding the Honey Badger – Tyrann Mathieu – from a strong defensive backfield.
What a difference a year makes. Wasn’t it just a year ago when we thought Seattle was a lock to win the West? Don’t expect to see a double-digit win total here in Las Vegas this year for the Seahawks.
“You’re going to certainly see the Seahawks go down this year,” said Chris Andrews, who runs the sports book at the South Point. “The Niners will go way up. I didn’t think much of the Cardinals last year; they might be down a little bit but not too dramatically. We expected the Rams to have a very good off-season this year. They had a lot of cap room, and they’re still on a very favorable, rookie quarterback contract. The Rams will be favored. It might be nine. It might be 10. They’ll be right around the 9½ mark.”
The remake of the AFC West begins with the division champion. Kansas City turned Smith loose, elevated Mahomes and got a deep threat with Sammy Watkins. The Broncos responded with the signing of Keenum and got rid of Talib. The Raiders picked up Jordy Nelson and dumped Michael Crabtree. Only the Chargers stood pat – so far.
“We kind of know what the Chargers will be,” Andrews said. “I really like Denver’s lineup, and I think they’ll be a contender, but which Keenum are you going to get? With the Raiders, again, are we going to see the Raiders from two years ago or the Raiders from last year? I think they’re going to be a little better. The Chiefs have given Mahomes a really strong hand, but quarterbacks who are untested can go either way. I happen to think the kid’s pretty good, so I’m probably a little higher on Kansas City than others will be.”
So after the dozens of signings and trades and changes the past few weeks, we look forward now to the draft. Will the Browns take Saquon Barkley first? Will the high profile class of young quarterbacks go early?
The best news here in the desert is that we will get to have fun betting on it again. It’s less than six weeks away, and we can’t wait.