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NFL experts debate 2020 free agency – Answering the biggest questions on signings and trades
Mar 17, 2020
  • ESPN NFL Experts

NFL free agency is underway, with the negotiation period kicking off on Monday. That means news of pending free-agent deals and trades, including DeAndre Hopkins off to Arizona, Ryan Tannehill heading back to Tennessee, Drew Brees returning to New Orleans, Tom Brady signing with Tampa Bay, franchise tags being doled out and more.

Our panel of NFL experts will answer several questions this week, from big moves in free agency to trade rumblings and more. Jump to their favorite moves, least-favorite moves, most underrated moves and best fits. Or check out some other topics covered so far:


What is your favorite move so far?

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: The Ravens trading for defensive end Calais Campbell. Getting Campbell for a fifth-round pick is excellent value for Baltimore. The veteran edge rusher is a great fit with his physical playing style in the Ravens’ 3-4 front, and his versatility will show up in sub-package situations as an interior pass-rusher.

Mike Clay, fantasy writer: Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has made some head-scratching moves in recent years, but filling two huge spots via cornerback James Bradberry at three years, $45 million and linebacker Blake Martinez at three years, $30 million was savvy work. Bradberry particularly stands out, as he played well during four seasons in Carolina despite often being tasked with shadowing Mike Evans, Julio Jones and Michael Thomas.

Jeremy Fowler, national NFL writer: The Stefon Diggs trade to Buffalo. The Bills gave up a steep price but added the missing piece to their offense. Diggs will make Josh Allen look great even when the ball is not on target. And the Vikings loaded up on draft capital, saved precious salary-cap space and shed a disgruntled player. Not every deal is a win-win, but this one is.

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Matthew Berry breaks down how Buffalo’s new deep threat in Stefon Diggs can only boost Josh Allen’s fantasy value in 2020.

Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Arizona trading for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. I don’t go full fanboy very often, but depending on what time of year it is, if you ask me who my favorite player in the league is, I’m liable to say it’s Hopkins. I just think he’s so consistently spectacular to watch. And the Cardinals got him for a second-round pick and an expensive running back they weren’t using anymore. It’s a monster add for quarterback Kyler Murray.

Jason Reid, senior writer, The Undefeated: The Cardinals’ deal for Hopkins. What a super move for Arizona. Murray is a fast-rising superstar, and now he gets to team up with a rock-star wide receiver as his No. 1 target. No offense to David Johnson, but the Cardinals won big here.

Aaron Schatz, editor of Football Outsiders: How can it be anything other than Arizona flipping a second-round pick and a relatively unused running back with a huge contract for one of the top 10 receivers in the league?

Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: The Vikings trading Diggs to the Bills. Diggs could not have made his displeasure more obvious in Minnesota, where he played in a run-based offense with a quarterback (Kirk Cousins) with whom he did not always seem happy. So the Vikings sent him to the Bills — who use a run-based offense and have a quarterback who is far less accurate than Cousins. Giddy up!


What is your least favorite move so far?

Bowen: The Bears signing tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham’s declining play speed and overall slide in production make this a curious move from general manager Ryan Pace. Even with an obvious need at the position, Graham brings little to the running game as a blocker and will have to be schemed open in Matt Nagy’s offense.

Clay: The Panthers signing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for three years, $63 million. Carolina is in clear rebuild mode with a new coaching staff and roughly 65% of its 2019 defense currently no longer on the roster. Enter Bridgewater, who hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2015 and was average (and extremely conservative), at best, in a terrific situation in place of Drew Brees last season. I would’ve liked to see the Panthers go younger or aim for a higher ceiling.

Fowler: Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s five-year, $50-million deal with Detroit. He’s a nice player, but $10 million per year for a swing tackle with 20 career starts over four seasons is hard to justify. The Hopkins trade easily could slide into this spot, along with Graham taking his creaky knees to Chicago for $8 million a year.

Graziano: The Texans trading away Hopkins. Yeah, it’s the flip side of my favorite move, but that makes sense, no? Houston got smoked here, and obviously something was at work other than football reasons. Even so, in a climate where no one is rushing to pay running backs, you’re taking on David Johnson’s contract. The 40th pick in the draft doesn’t seem like enough for a player like Hopkins, and Johnson is going to have to return to his briefly dominant form in order to even come close to justifying this.

Reid: What were the Texans thinking in trading Hopkins for Johnson? From a football standpoint, there’s just no way to justify this. I get that Johnson had a monster season both rushing and receiving in 2016 — but it was only one season.

Schatz: If trading for Hopkins is the best move, trading him away is the worst. But I’m also not a fan of the Bengals giving a three-year, $42 million contract to Trae Waynes, whose charting stats over the past couple of seasons are not as impressive as those of other free-agent cornerbacks such as Byron Jones and James Bradberry.

Seifert: The Lions giving linebacker Jamie Collins $18 million fully guaranteed. Collins’ effort took a big dive the last time he signed a big free-agent contract, in 2017 with the Browns. He returned last season to the Patriots on a prove-it deal, and now suddenly we’re supposed to think he’ll be a high-energy player after getting paid again in Detroit?


What is the most underrated move so far?

Bowen: The Raiders signing linebacker Cory Littleton. The Raiders signed both Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski to upgrade the linebacker position in Las Vegas. However, I’m more focused on Littleton here because of the run-and-hit traits I see on film to go along with the coverage skills. The speed is there to track the ball at the second level, and Littleton tackles in space.

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