Odell Beckham, Le'Veon Bell, Nick Foles

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The 10 Biggest Moves of the NFL Free Agency Frenzy

The Super Bowl champions are quiet; the perennial punchline is suddenly the hottest team in the league. 

March 15, 2019 - 2:38 pm
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By some counts there is a billion dollars on the table this free agency season in the NFL. And the roster cuts, trades and eye popping contracts are just beginning to roll out. 

It was a whirlwind week in the league, but now that the football world can stop to catch its collective breath, here is a look at the 10 swaps, signings and surprises that made the biggest impressions:

1. Odell Beckham heads to the Browns 

The New York Giants dealt the superstar wide receiver to Cleveland on Tuesday night, at the cost of a first-round pick plus some extras. Expectations are soaring around the Dawg Pound -- "Super Bowl" and "Browns" are being used in the same sentence, unironically -- though GM John Dorsey has urged caution. Meanwhile, the mood in New York is bitter, though some say the Giants are better off without the headache

2. Antonio Brown goes to the Raiders

We promise this list isn't just for trades of uber-talented, mercurial wideouts; there were some actual free agent signings. But other than Beckham, the Raiders' pickup of Antonio Brown was the biggest news of the season so far. The trade, which went down late Saturday night, was every bit as expected as the Beckham trade was unexpected and ended Brown's months-long, slow motion divorce from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, Brown gets a fresh start and a fresh contract, and Jon Gruden's migratory Raiders get that much more interesting. 

3. Le'Veon Bell is back ... with the Jets

There was -- and will continue to be -- plenty of hand-wringing over whether Bell's decision to sit out the 2018 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers ended up costing him money. The bottom line: The Jets used their ample salary-cap space on a game-breaking running back (albeit one with an extra bit of rust to work off) to pair with Sam Darnold and they were the football team in town to grab the positive headlines, for a change.

4. A superstar safety shuffle

Landon Collins is headed to the Washington Redskins for $84 million over six years and one signed Sean Taylor jersey. Earl Thomas is off to the Baltimore Ravens for $55 million over four years. Tyrann Mathieu aka Honey Badger is going to the Kansas City Chiefs for $42 million over three years (a better offer than the Houston Texans mustered). Three of the biggest names in the defensive backfield, all off to new places.

5. Patriots departures

Defensive end Trey Flowers left for a fat deal with the Detroit Lions and a reunion with Matt Patricia. Left tackle Trent Brown switched coasts to join the Raiders. That's key players at two cornerstone positions whom the defending champs need to replace (Michael Bennett will probably help). But it's the Patriots, so the default assumption is that they'll win 12 games and another Lombardi Trophy.

6. Nick Foles signs with the Jaguars

The Philadelphia Eagles decided to roll with Carson Wentz, so their Super Bowl-winning backup quarterback decamped for a starting job (and $88 million) with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Blake Bortles, we hardly knew ye.  

7. Dee Ford traded to the 49ers

Ah, the forgotten megatrade. In the wake of the Beckham deal, the Chiefs shipped off Ford -- better known in New England as the guy whose offsides penalty tilted the AFC title game -- to the San Francisco 49ers, who promptly gave him a new $87.5 million pact

8. Anthony Barr changes his mind

You didn't think the Jets would make it out of this list without one facepalm moment, did you? The Vikings' standout linebacker had a free-agent agreement in place with the Jets before saying, "uh, never mind," and electing to remain with Minnesota on a five-year, $67.5 million deal. Typical Jets, if you ask Jets fans

9. Packers crack open the checkbook

In the first week of free agency, the Packers, under the new leadership of GM Brian Gutekunst, brought in edge rushers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos and offensive lineman Billy Turner. This is basically the most active the Packers have been in the early spring since the Clinton administration. 

10. DeSean Jackson returns to Philly

The aging speedster, fed up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was thrilled to be traded "home" to the Eagles, the team that drafted him and helped make him one of the best receivers in the league. The move garnered Bryce Harper-level fanfare in the City of Brotherly Love.