The first wave of 2019 NFL free agency has passed, and most of the top available players have been signed. A few trades also shook up the league, including superstar wide receivers added in Cleveland and Oakland. Which teams made out well over the past week? And which teams still face questions?
Our panel of ESPN NFL experts wraps up the free-agent frenzy and answers questions on the biggest topics around the league. Come back each day this week for a new question.
Let’s start with the most improved team, excluding the Browns, who unanimously won the Odell Beckham Jr. trade:
Which team — other than Cleveland — is most improved after the first wave of free agency?
Matt Bowen, NFL writer: New York Jets. The Jets are my pick after they added offensive pieces around second-year quarterback Sam Darnold with running back Le’Veon Bell, wide receiver Jamison Crowder and guard Kelechi Osemele. Plus, New York landed a defensive leader in linebacker C.J. Mosley. And the Jets still hold the No. 3 overall pick, which could put them in a position to draft an impact defensive lineman or edge rusher for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ unit.
Mike Clay, fantasy writer: Green Bay Packers. The Packers were already underrated entering free agency, and they did a nice job filling some obvious voids. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith reinvigorate the pass rush, Adrian Amos is an impact player at safety, and Billy Turner offers an upgrade at guard. With a terrific quarterback, offensive line and defensive front, as well as some intriguing youth in the secondary, Green Bay is primed to jump back into the NFC North race.
Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Oakland Raiders. If Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t the best player to change teams, Antonio Brown would have been. Tyrell Williams is a nice complement to him at receiver. Safety Lamarcus Joyner fits a need on defense, which is the side of the ball I expect them to focus on early in the draft. And Trent Brown should be a helpful left tackle. The Raiders might be gearing up for Las Vegas, but the final year in Oakland has a chance to be a lot better than the past two were.
Mina Kimes, NFL writer: Oakland Raiders. I’ll go with the Raiders, who added one of the best wide receivers in the league (Antonio Brown) and the most talented receiver available in free agency (Tyrell Williams). I’m worried that new left tackle Trent Brown won’t be able to match his success in New England, and there’s a ton of work to be done on that defense, but the Raiders undeniably got significantly better last week.
Could Cleveland really be favorites to make the playoffs? How many touchdowns will OBJ score in 2019? Our experts discuss.
Former top-10 pick Ereck Flowers is headed to Washington in one of the worst moves of free agency. Bill Barnwell evaluates the biggest deals.
Which teams have gotten free-agent bargains, and which teams have overpaid? Pro Football Focus uses its grading to evaluate the frenzy.
Jason Reid, The Undefeated senior writer: New York Jets. In adding Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder and Kelechi Osemele, the Jets bolstered their offense in a big way. On defense, C.J. Mosley makes a whole lot of tackles. Granted, the Jets spent a whole lot of money. But it appears they spent well.
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Oakland Raiders. I’ll take the Raiders over the Browns regardless, because there was more room for improvement (Oakland was 4-12 last season, compared to 7-8-1 for Cleveland). Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, Trent Brown and Lamarcus Joyner will give Oakland a solid boost.
Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s not forget what the Eagles have done, amid outsized concerns that they would be too tight against the salary cap to do much. They signed defensive tackle Malik Jackson to play alongside Fletcher Cox, as potent an interior pairing as there is in the NFL. And they brought back receiver DeSean Jackson, who is still one of the NFL’s top deep threats and is adept at the routes quarterback Carson Wentz throws best.
Field Yates, NFL analyst: Buffalo Bills. I love the approach the Bills have taken this offseason with a blend of significant investments (center Mitch Morse for four years, for example) and one-year fliers to patch up roster holes and evaluate whether a player fits in long term (offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle, for example). General manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott have preached patience and process, and we’re seeing the team make major strides.