"The Stack" 3-17-20

Two big name wide receivers got traded Monday night plus another wide receiver inked a big deal. It all was part of a wild "legal tampering" Monday in the NFL as free agency is about to begin.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that the NFL doesn’t understand what the world is currently going through with the coronavirus (COVID-19) because in a world where there are no sports going on, the NFL has supplied us with plenty of juicy news and headlines. The Stack is here with reaction to all of the free agent signings and trades plus we play some tag in “the stack” for today, Tuesday, March 17th:

NFL free agency (legal tampering) begins with a bang

So the NFL certainly knows how to make headlines. Even though free agency shouldn’t have begun (and technically it doesn’t for another couple of days) legal tampering is alive and well and a lot of players struck it rich yesterday with several players headed to new teams in some blockbuster trades.

Blockbuster trades highlight Monday

Oh man! We had some star players leaving their teams on Monday and not through free agency, but via trade. And if you’re a fan of the Houston Texans, you may be looking for a new team or asking for head coach/GM Bill O’Brien to get canned. If you’re a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, you’re saying so long to player who was at the center of perhaps the greatest moment in franchise history, but was becoming a big headache.

We start with the Houston Texans who traded star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals. Hopkins is arguably one of the top two or three wide receivers in the NFL. Surely the Texans got at least one first round pick for him, right? Nope. Okay, this doesn’t sound good. It almost sounds like the Jadaveon Clowney trade from last year. What did they get? The Texans received running back David Johnson from the Cardinals a 2020 second round pick and a 2021 fourth round pick for Hopkins and a 2020 fourth round pick. Wait, so the net was really a second round pick this year? Bad trade! Don’t get me wrong, I think Johnson is a good running back, but he has struggled the last couple of years with injuries and subpar play. He is not as good at his position as Hopkins is at his. To only get a second round pick for one of the best wide receivers in the NFL is absolutely stunning. O’Brien and the Texans got absolutely fleeced. Maybe this is karma for Houston fans because of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal. I feel sorry for Texans fans in general. This is a great move for the Cardinals. They have Hopkins to go along with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Those are some great weapons for quarterback Kyler Murray. I sense big things coming up for the Texans this year.

The Atlanta Falcons saw tight end Austin Hooper leave in free agency (more on that in a moment) so they had to make a move to upgrade at the position. The traded a 2020 second round and 2020 fifth round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for tight end Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth round pick. Hurst is a good tight end and the Ravens are fairly deep at the position. The Ravens love to accumulate draft picks and are good at using them. I don’t know if Hurst is better than Hooper, but the Falcons did get quarterback Matt Ryan a good tight end. I just don’t know if it was worth a 2020 second round draft pick.

The Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers pulled off a rather stunning trade as the 49ers sent defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Colts for Indy’s 2020 first round draft pick (number 13 overall). Buckner has agreed to a contract extension with the Colts paying him somewhere in the neighborhood of $21 million per year. Yowza! I don’t know if Buckner was worth a first round pick, but the move now gives the 49ers two first round picks in this year’s draft. They have no second or third round picks so this will give them some flexibility in moving around and accumulating more picks if they so desire and I think they will. Buckner was likely to be a casualty as the 49ers couldn’t pay everyone so to get a first round pick for him is big. We’ll see if it is worth the investment for the Colts, but their defense should be very good this year.

If the Hopkins to Arizona trade wasn’t enough to knock your socks off, the Minnesota Vikings traded a star wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, to the Buffalo Bills late Monday night. Diggs is a very good wide receiver, and co-star of the Minneapolis Miracle, the greatest moment in Minnesota Vikings history, but he is not nearly as good as Deandre Hopkins. Yet somehow, the Vikings got a first round pick from the Bills plus a 2020 fifth round pick, a 2020 6th round pick and a 2021 fourth round pick for Diggs and a 2020 7th round pick. Diggs and Adam Thielen were arguably the best one-two wide receiver combo in the NFL, but Diggs’ antics were getting old. The Vikings save some cap space with Diggs and now they need to add some depth at the wide receiver position. Between wide receiver and cornerback, the Vikings have a lot of work to do to get some depth at both positions. They also need to upgrade the offensive line too. And get Dalvin Cooks under a new contract. Lots of work to do in Minnesota. Buffalo clearly sees themselves as a contender and rightfully so. They have a young quarterback and a great defense. If Tom Brady leaves New England/when Tom Brady retires, the Bills are in line to win the division. Giving Josh Allen a speedy weapon is going to really help the Bills offense. They gave up a lot for Diggs, but he’s worth it. Take note O’Brien and Texans management.

Free agency (legal tampering deals)

A lot of players got paid on Monday, presuming that their deals stay intact when free agency officially begins and they don’t pull an Anthony Barr and change their minds. Just look at these deals:

· TE Austin Hooper (4-year, $44 million with Cleveland ($23 million guaranteed))

· OL Ereck Flowers (3-year, $30 million with Miami ($19.95 million guaranteed))

· DL Arik Armstead (5-year deal…total deal unknown, re-signing with San Francisco)

· TE Blake Jarwin (4-year, $24.5 million, $9.5 million guaranteed, re-signing with Dallas)

· DE Shaq Lawson (Miami)

· LB Nick Kwiatowski (3-year deal with Las Vegas Raiders)

· DE Jason Pierre-Paul (2-year, $27 million deal, re-signing with Tampa Bay)

· P Britton Colquitt (3-year, $9 million deal, re-signing with Minnesota)

· QB Kirk Cousins (2-year, $66 million extension with Minnesota)

· LB Jon Bostic (2-year, $5 million, $1.75 million guaranteed, re-signing with Washington)

· RT Jack Conklin (3-year, $42 million, $30 million guaranteed with Cleveland)

· OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (5-year, $50 million deal with Detroit)

· QB Case Keenum (3-year, $18 million deal, with Cleveland ($10 million guaranteed))

· OL Graham Glasgow (4-year, $44 million deal with Denver ($26 million guaranteed))

· OT Dennis Kelly (3-year, $21 million, re-signing with Tennessee ($8.75 million guaranteed))

· CB James Bradberry (3-year, $45 million with New York Giants ($32 million guaranteed))

· CB Byron Jones (deal with Miami making Jones highest paid CB in the NFL)

· DE Stephen Weatherly (2-year, $12.5 million deal with Carolina)

· DL Michael Brockers (3-year, $30 million with Baltimore ($21 million guaranteed))

· TE Jimmy Graham (2-year, $16 million with Chicago ($9 million guaranteed))

· NT Javon Hargrave (3-year, $39 million with Philadelphia ($26 million guaranteed))

· LB Kyle Van Noy (4-year deal with Miami)

· S Eric Murray (3-year deal $20.25 million deal with Houston)

· LB Jamie Collins (3-year, $30 million deal with Detroit ($18 million guaranteed))

· QB Marcus Mariota (Signed by Las Vegas)

· OT George Fant (3-year, $30 million deal with New York Jets ($13.7 million guaranteed))

· LB A.J. Klein (3-year, $18 million deal with Buffalo)

· WR Amari Cooper (5-year, $100 million deal, re-signing with Dallas)

· CB Kendall Fuller (4-year deal with Washington)

· DE Mario Addison (3-year deal with Buffalo)

· WR Randall Cobb (3-year, $27 million deal with Houston ($18.75 million guaranteed))

· DT Nick Williams (2-year, $10 million deal with Detroit)

· S Jimmie Ward (3-year, $28.5 million deal, re-signing with San Francisco)

I know I have missed a few signings or “legal tampering” deals that will be signed in the near future. The biggest winners to me in no particular order are the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns. They really improved their teams to kick the new year off. Excited to see what other deals come our way in the coming days.

Tag, you’re it

The following players were tagged (either franchise or transition) by their teams:

· DL Leonard Williams (New York Giants)

· LB Shaq Barrett (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

· DL Chris Jones (Kansas City Chiefs)

· LB Bud Dupree (Pittsburgh Steelers)

· RB Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans)

· WR A.J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals)

· QB Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)…exclusive franchise tag.

· RB Kenyan Drake (Arizona Cardinals)…transition tag

· LG Joe Thuney (New England Patriots)

· S Anthony Harris (Minnesota Vikings)

Those are some pretty dog gone good football players that are off the market…unless you are willing to pony up a bevy of draft picks. We’ll see how many of these players can reach long term deals with their teams.

Coming up Wednesday: Tom Brady and Philip Rivers’ decisions plus other NFL free agent signings