By Ryan Hack
The NFL free agency period began on 14 March 2018, and many teams immediately jumped on players to bring onto their team. Players received contracts larger than ever before, and some players even changed the entire course of NFL free agency with their signings. The extremely active free agency this season has led to many teams changing their draft board and needs as a result.
With the NFL draft less than a month away and college pro days taking place, teams are beginning to finalize their signings until after the draft. Some teams have even completely stopped contract negotiations with their current players to focus on the draft. Some teams began trading their picks around to move up or down in the draft to better their strategy. As a result of the crazy free agency, the NFL draft will be very different than expected.
One major signing of the offseason was wide receiver Allen Robinson going to the Chicago Bears. Last year, in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears traded up to the second overall pick to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and now, they went ahead and signed an arguably, top-20 receiver in the league for Trubisky to throw to. With wide receiver Kevin White, a former first round pick, so far busting out as he can not stay healthy, Allen Robinson will be a huge addition for a Bears team who struggled in the passing game last year. Now, the Bears, picking eighth in the draft, have the option of going defense in the top-10.
Also, the Buffalo Bills have been making trades to move up in the draft. With the departure of quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the improving Cleveland Browns, the Bills currently do not have a quality starting quarterback. The Bills traded with the Cincinnati Bengals to swap the 21st overall pick with the 12th overall pick in the draft, in a trade involving tackle Cordy Glenn. Even with this trade, the Bills would like to move up to the number two overall pick in the draft. Currently, in the first round, the Bills hold the 12th and 22nd overall picks, after acquiring the 22nd pick in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2017 draft. Cole Hufman, a Junior, thinks that “the Bills are trying to get their franchise quarterback for the next decade by continuing to trade up.” With there being six different quarterbacks that have been projected to go in the first round this year, the Bills do have a good chance of getting their quarterback of the future.
The Baltimore Ravens were quick to bring in two wide receivers, and continued to have others visit Baltimore too. With the additions of Michael Crabtree and John Brown, the Ravens receiving depth chart has much improved over last year’s corps that rated in the bottom five in the league, and is arguably the reason the Ravens did not make the playoffs. Since last season, the Ravens only have two receivers still on their roster, Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman, who have both been only at most mediocre in their time in the NFL. Before free agency, it was said that it was no question that the Ravens take a receiver at pick sixteen, but after the additions and the continual visits with other free agents, it is in question whether the Ravens actually go that route, or if they wait until the second or third round to take a wide receiver.
Lastly, the New England Patriots traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams for draft picks. The New England Patriots lost in Super Bowl LII just a few months ago, but with making it to the Super Bowl comes a late round draft pick instead. The Patriots, knowing their needs and knowing that Brandin Cooks would be a free agent after this year, decided to go ahead and make the trade, picking up the 23rd overall pick in the draft in addition to holding the 32nd overall pick. According to Junior Taylor Nguyen, the Patriots “receiving depth has taken a huge hit, losing both Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks. However, the Patriots could add much needed young talent with another 1st round draft pick to potentially fill in the gaps that were created in the offseason.” Some first round options for the Patriots would be Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and Maryland wide receiver DJ Moore.
Overall, the free agency period has been extremely busy, and has changed the entire layout of the draft. The NFL Draft, one of the most exciting moments in sports, begins on April 26th with the first round, where nobody knows what will happen. Each team will try to address their biggest needs, hoping to get to the playoffs, and when they cannot with the players available, they will trade around to better the result of their draft class. The draft will continue the next two days with rounds two and three day two, and rounds four through seven day three. NFL fans will just have to wait and see what their team will do in 2018 in addition to the free agents that were signed.