Skip to main content

Five Inevitable Storylines Born Out of This Year's NFL Free Agency Frenzy

From frantic comparisons of Antonio Brown and Amari Cooper to the leadership of Ben Roethlisberger and Odell Beckham, the fallout from this year's free agency moves will reverberate every week of the NFL season.

Now that the NFL has found a way to extract the zest of Major League Baseball’s Hot Stove and purify it into it’s most potent form, they’ve also ensured a way to make long-deflating storylines bleed into the regular season when the games actually count.

This winter and early spring has been especially consequential, with some of the league’s biggest stars changing teams. It ensures that every week this fall, there will be some type of callback to this moment. We’ll be trapped in a bad, recurring episode of True Detective (the year it wasn’t good), forced to remember milquetoast details of the past.

Though there is still plenty of meat left on the free agency bone, here’s a quick peek at the inevitable future this year’s frenzy has created. Hopefully, you’re all wearing protective eyewear.

1. Frantic comparisons of Antonio Brown, Amari Coopers’ stat lines:

Jon Gruden’s gruff response to a perfectly fine Amari Cooper question at Antonio Brown’s introductory press conference ensures that people will absolutely be charting the two in comparison throughout the season. While the move is typical Gruden — opting for the microwaved veteran presence over forging a path for the moldable young player — times have changed since his last hurrah in 2008 with the Buccaneers. The Brown trade, while widely praised, certainly challenges the idea that this was a sustainable rebuild.

2. Ben Roethlisberger leadership watch:

As it turns out, the Killer B era in Pittsburgh spared no one. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown all took a reputation dent, deserved or not. Tearing the roof off the Steelers revealed dysfunction that was simmering underneath the surface, and now the onus is on Roethlisberger to steer the ship on his own. Though general manager Kevin Colbert clarified his comments about Roethlisberger being the unquestioned leader of the team, the truth is this: It’s the first time in his career that he’s been absent a strong veteran counterweight. If he flourishes, the Steelers will not be burdened by the meager return they received for Brown. If they struggle, look out.

3. Perpetual surprise that Odell Beckham is not a problem

It’s Week 3. The 1-1 Browns are leading the Bengals by six points in the second quarter when Odell Beckham takes a quick slant over the middle 55 yards for a touchdown. He punctuates the score by organizing his entire offensive line to enact the “Mambo” gym dance scene from West Side Story. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman diagram the play on the telestrator without a passing mention of the superb choreography.

“You know Troy,” Buck says coming back from break, “the Browns love this guy. They told us in meetings this week, he’s been nothing but positive in meetings, in practice, the whole deal.”

 As it turns out, when everyone else around you is also having fun, it’s not a slight against the football gods.

Once Beckham is juxtaposed with Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry andother young talent, his “antics” will be placed into proper context. Turns out it’s just a bunch of talented young people having a good time, or expressing their frustration when they lose.  

4. References to Le’Veon Bell “getting back into football shape”

For the first month of the season, a negative play or instance where Bell gets caught from behind will almost certainly be followed by the idea that skipping last season has somehow impacted his conditioning for 2019.

Bell’s stance, which may not have succeeded monetarily but was better for him in the long run, was not for everyone. It’s probably hard for some to fathom that he could work out and condition during his time away (probably with better individual attention than he’d get from an NFL team, anyway).

Bell’s migration to the New York market will certainly help some of his off-field aspirations, though ultimately he’ll have to wade through knee deep nonsense for the considerable future.  

5. Suggestions that the “Jaguars should just run more RPOs” when Nick Foles has a bad game

Here’s a dark horse candidate heading into 2019. Because Foles is paired with a former coach – one-time Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo – the assumption is that they’ll just run a bunch of 2017 Eagles plays and hoist the Jaguars into playoff contention. The assumption is also that the Eagles almost exclusively ran RPO plays during that Super Bowl run. 

While coaches try and maintain an arm's length from what is said about their team, I could see this being one of the most singularly grating aspects of 2019 should Jacksonville's offense struggle -- like the four years Giants fans spent asking Tom Coughlin to run a hurry-up offense, or {insert any fan base} clamoring for their team to "establish the run" sooner.