Who Fed It & Who Ate It: Post-Draft Fallout
There always seems to be some fireworks within the timeframe of the NFL draft, and this year did not disappoint. We'll hit a few of the more notable events over the last few weeks, as well as speculate on another. Let's start with a veteran dilemma solved.
The Seattle Seahawks traded disgruntled franchise tagged defensive end Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs for 2 premium draft picks, then the Chiefs signed Clark to a five year, $105 million contract to settle his tag designation The Seahawks were in a pickle when it came to their best pass rusher in Clark. With limited salary cap space, a deadline initiated by future free agent quarterback in Russell Wilson (which was met with a contract extension that is now the current highest paying pact in NFL history, putting Wilson's average salary at $33.5 million/year), and Clark's desire to test the market, general manager John Schneider needed to find an out. The most sensible escape was by trade; shipping Clark to a new team willing to give him the lucrative new contract a franchise tagged caliber player is worth. The asking price was steep; Seattle would need to pick up a first round draft pick to make it worth their while. Enter KC into the picture. The Chiefs would give up their first round draft pick in this year's draft and a second rounder in 2020 to own Clark's rights, where they're GM Brett Veach would not waste time in securing his new acquisition's future by signing Clark to a new deal that has over $62 million guaranteed. It's hard to tell who got the better end of the deal. Seattle solved their franchise tag problem while netting two high draft picks for a team trying to rebuild on the fly with Wilson as their franchise centerpiece, while Kansas City continues to overhaul their defense, which was rightly condemned as the Achilles heel that ended the Chiefs' magic carpet ride in 2018 short of the Super Bowl. Clark joins other veterans, namely DE Alex Okafor and S Tyrann Mathieu, to completely change the NFL's worst defense. With wunderkind QB Patrick Mahomes as the shooting star of the Chiefs' offense, the defense will be either toiling away in obscurity or operating under scrutiny. The new veterans along with coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be measured not by their own improvement, but how KC finishes at the end of the season.
The Arizona Cardinals predictably selected University of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray as the #1 overall draft pick in 2019, which translated into the departure of the Cards' top selection in 2018, QB Josh Rosen A vast majority of the time, the team holding the top overall pick in a draft are in a nadir, a depth that often points to brighter days ahead for both the organization and their fans. But even the most ardent Cardinals fan had to be left scratching their head on this path to the exciting Murray joining the Birdgang. It was pretty well accepted that Arizona was in the stages of a rebuild, as they drafted Rosen in the first round and signed Sam Bradford to serve as a transitional starter under center. What would transpire was a disastrous 3-13 campaign, the Cards' worst season in 18 years. Head coach Steve Wilks was canned after only one season. So the rebuild is now in full swing. And yet, despite having the chance to pick up Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa to anchor their defense (he was selected by their NFC West rival San Francisco with the #2 overall pick), general manager Steve Keim picked Murray. The raw skills this young man possesses could make him a franchise player, but with so few pieces in place and a rookie head coach in Kliff Kingsbury, Murray's learning curve at the professional level could be uncomfortably steep. With a new franchise future in place, this leaves Rosen out in the cold. Instead of retaining Rosen and inviting a distracting quarterback controversy, Arizona dealt Rosen to the Miami Dolphins for a 2019 second round & 2020 fifth round picks. For the Dolphins, this is an intriguing transaction. For all intents and purposes, Miami was going to endure a brutal 2019 to potentially go after a signal caller in the 2020 draft. Instead, Rosen could be tapped to be the Fins' future QB, with journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as the veteran presence to ostensibly start on opening day with Rosen waiting in the wings once Miami is no longer contending for a postseason bid. Does Arizona take the scenic route to find their franchise quarterback, or did they just deal him away to an AFC team, launching another team's renaissance in the process? We'll see in about three years' time.
In an instant classic WTF moment, the New York Giants drafted Duke quarterback Daniel Jones with the 6th overall pick Every once in a while, a team makes a draft pick that floors everybody: fans, analysts, & commentators alike. In 2019, the Giants took that title with the pick of Jones, a player largely considered a 2nd round selection at best by the most notable draftniks in the business. Even if Jones was a reach, many believed he would still be readily available when the Giants would pick again at #17, their compensation for their trade of WR Odell Beckham Jr. The immediate reaction by the Giants fan base is one of incredulous shock. Any Big Blue fan worth their salt knew an heir apparent to the aging and declining Eli Manning was a need, but for someone that was not making waves anywhere? To put it succinctly, this pick will become the legacy of general manager Dave Gettleman one way or another. If Jones transitions into a franchise player that is the catalyst in returning the Giants to glory, Gettleman will look like an oracle. If Jones crashes and burns, then Gettleman becomes the goat who threw away a top first round draft pick with a roster riddled with holes at many positions. We'll revisit this at the end of the 2021 season.
Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had been suspended from team activities and could face league imposed sanctions for his role in the child abuse case involving his 3 year old son suffering a broken arm For the sake of disclosure, Hill is facing allegations of child abuse as Kansas City law enforcement investigates the complaint against him. That said, this saga has touched off a debate on not only the reprehensible act of intentionally harming a child, but on sports leagues allowing players with felony criminal records to play on such a wide platform while being paid well in the process. In Hill's case, he plead guilty to assault of his pregnant girlfriend while still in college, did all the court told him to do so his record would be cleared, and was given a chance to play in the NFL when Chiefs general manager John Dorsey drafted Hill. While Hill's actions were disturbing, his contrition and willingness to follow all court impositions gave the impression that he learned the lesson of personal responsibility. If these allegations are proven to be true, Hill will become a pariah, shunned by the NFL community... At least for awhile. Football media types, ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio in particular, have called that Hill be released by the Chiefs and be permanently banned from the NFL. Conceptually, the banishment of Hill is understandable. By shutting out one of the NFL's most electrifying players, it would theoretically give other players pause in engaging in criminal activity or behavior. But this, regrettably, is foolishly idealistic and unrealistic. Teams are worth billions of dollars, with the NFL annually earning billions in revenue every year. Fans apply direct pressure onto franchises to win, not just regular season games in bunches, but also contend and win championships. As a result, team executives and coaches are under intense pressure to bring in players to further that goal and secure their future employment. Add to this, the players union will feverishly defend their members in court to ensure that do not lose their ability to play this sport, and given the chasm in the relationship between the NFL and its union, collective bargaining of such troublesome players will not see the light of day any time real soon. And seeing the fact that the NFL will simply place Hill (or any other player behaving badly) on the commissioner's exempt list, which basically suspends a player with pay while freeing up a roster spot for the related team, commissioner Roger Goodell gets to show action while doing nothing of consequence to deter others from committing crimes, which in turn degrades the image of the Shield. After 13 years of backseat leadership, do not hold out hope that Goodell will craft a solution that will cure this ailment. As the Hill affair plays out in front of us, we will see how this once celebrated player is left adrift, either by the criminal justice system and/or the league hegemony. Then, as this becomes a memory, Hill will be given a chance for redemption... And this conversation will start all over again.