Free Agent Madness
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With Week Nine behind us, NFL fans have conquered the halfway point of the newly extended 18-week NFL season. Yet, the free agent market continues to keep fans on the edges of their seats. Typically, blockbuster signings don’t occur in the middle of the season, but this season is proving itself to be an outlier.
The major signings began with the Los Angeles Rams’ move to acquire Super Bowl 50 MVP and future Hall of Famer Von Miller. In exchange for only a 2022 second and third-round draft pick, the Denver Broncos gave up their franchise sack leader and 2012 Rookie of the Year. The Rams, already a defensive powerhouse with the likes of Jalen Ramsey and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, are rising as a nightmare to offenses across the league. This new pass-rush duo in between Donald and Miller sets the Rams as NFC favorites, throwing them into the emerging Super Bowl Championship conversation, a prospect they have been chasing since their Super Bowl LIII loss to the New England Patriots. It seems that the Rams are planning to give it their all for the 2022 ring. They currently stand at four total draft picks in the upcoming 2022 draft and won’t have another first-round pick until 2024, as they traded two first-rounders and their own 2016 first overall pick, Jared Goff, to the Detroit Lions for superstar quarterback Mathew Stafford. On top of this, the Rams have now signed former Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckam Jr. (OBJ).
OBJ was the 12th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft as a receiver out of Louisiana State University. He quickly emerged as a star, winning offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015. In 2014, he became a household name after a viral one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys. Since getting traded to the Browns in 2019, OBJ has not been nearly as productive, especially since tearing his ACL in the 2020 season. Aside from reports of being a locker room poison, he has stirred conflict with many teammates including Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield. The tensions escalated when OBJ’s father posted an eleven-minute video on Instagram of Mayfield completely missing an open OBJ on multiple occasions. The Browns promptly chose to cut OBJ, a mutual parting of ways. As soon as he was off waiver wires, the Rams made an aggressive push for OBJ, to which he folded. Now, with OBJ in tow, the Rams have another star receiver to accompany breakout wideout Cooper Kupp, who is on pace to break both the single-season touchdown and receiving yardage record.
Most recently, nine-year ex-Panthers quarterback Cam Newton signed with the Carolina Panthers yet again. The Panthers with a 4-5 record had abruptly lost quarterback Sam Darnold to injury, potentially for the season. What better replacement than Newton, who had been cut in the 2020 season due to injury and change in Panthers staff. Lacking a strong quarterback deep into the season, for the Panthers, Supercam’s reentry was a heartwarming sight for all NFL fans. Following his Super Bowl loss to the Peyton Manning-led Broncos after a 15-1 season in which he was awarded 2015 League MVP, Newton and the Panthers had been on a consistent decline with Newton battling injuries. Newton’s return may turn the tide for the Panthers this season after Darnold’s injury.
The second half of the NFL season is shaping up to be very promising. With such major transactions taking place left and right, the following weeks will be crucial for the postseason. Which teams will come out on top, and which trades will fail to actualize their potential?