NFL free agency 2020: Winners and losers on the beginning of a new league year

The official new league year began at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and while the day wasn’t as action-packed as Monday and Tuesday, there were still some important moves that went down in the NFL. The Chicago Bears have a new quarterback, the Jacksonville Jaguars have unofficially named a new starting signal-caller and the Houston Texans were again in the news for all the wrong reasons. 

There are still many more players looking for new homes, such as quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Cam Newton and running backs Melvin Gordon and Devonta Freeman. Players are now allowed to legally sign their new contracts, but free agency is just getting started. Let’s take a look at who won and who lost as the new league year began:

Winner: Los Angeles Chargers

Some may have expected the Chargers to show up in the loss column today because of their reported decision to roll with Tyrod Taylor in 2020 instead of making a move for Winston or Newton after losing the Tom Brady sweepstakes. I don’t necessarily think that’s a horrible decision, but they show up in the win column because of the work they did on the defensive side of the ball. They agreed to terms with two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who is one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL, and then stole cornerback Chris Harris Jr. away from the rival Denver Broncos. Harris has been one of the league’s most successful nickelbacks in recent years, and now has the opportunity to aid a talented group in Los Angeles. The Chargers were already stocked with Derwin James, Desmond King, Casey Hayward and last year’s second-round selection, Nasir Adderley. Injuries derailed the Chargers’ 2019 campaign. If they can stay healthy, they may just surprise some people in 2020. 

The Jaguars traded Nick Foles to the Bears, and there’s a lot to break down. Fortunately, Will Brinson and the Pick Six Podcast Superfriends are here to declare who won, who lost and more. Listen below and be sure to subscribe for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.

Loser: Philadelphia Eagles

Poor Eagles, they absolutely need a star cornerback and they have struck out on three of them now. The aforementioned Harris is heading to Los Angeles, former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones is headed to the Miami Dolphins and former Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry is headed to the NFC East rival New York Giants. Even Eli Apple got a contract from the Las Vegas Raiders. Philly needs to quickly turn its attention to Trumaine Johnson, Desmond Trufant, Xavier Rhodes, or Logan Ryan. I know this group isn’t exactly the cream of the crop, but they are veterans who should be able to come in and immediately make an impact in the secondary. That’s fine if you want to address the secondary in the draft, I just also would like to sign a veteran to help out. 

Winner: Gardner Minshew

We didn’t even get a chance to reach the new league year before the Jaguars named Minshew the winner of their quarterback battle. On Wednesday, the Jaguars sent quarterback Nick Foles to the Bears in exchange for a fourth-round draft selection — No. 140 overall. Foles parlayed a Super Bowl run with the Eagles into a lucrative contract offer in Jacksonville last offseason — a deal worth $88 million over four years. After suffering an injury in the season opener, he essentially lost his starting job to Minshew. Foles was named the starter when he returned to the field, but eventually lost that right in three weeks. The Jaguars paid $30.5 million for four starts from Foles, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero. He won none of those games and now leaves behind an $18.75 million dead cap hit. A load has been lifted from Minshew’s shoulders, and he can now prepare for the 2020 season knowing that he’s the starter. 

Loser: Mitchell Trubisky

While Minshew wins, Trubisky loses. Bears general manager Ryan Pace told reporters following the 2019 season that they felt confident moving forward with Trubisky as their starter in 2020, but that didn’t mean the Bears weren’t looking to add another quarterback. The Bears are employing the Tennessee Titans’ strategy, where they will sign a proven veteran to put pressure on a young developing quarterback. If Trubisky can’t play up to expectations — in comes Foles, who has experience taking a team to the Super Bowl in the same capacity. What’s even more troubling for Trubisky is that we can now officially question if he will be the starter come the regular season. If he underperforms in camp or in the preseason, Matt Nagy may hand the reigns over to Foles by the season opener. The pressure is on in Chicago, let’s see if Trubisky can rise to the occasion.

Winner: Denver Broncos

Jurrell Casey has been a key cog in the Titans’ defensive line for the past nine seasons, but Tennessee was looking to dump him in order to free up some cap space. The Broncos volunteered, and only had to give up a seventh-round draft choice for his services. Casey may be 30-years old, but the Broncos immediately got better up front. In 139 career games he has recorded 493 combined tackles and 51 sacks. Casey also sacked Lamar Jackson twice in the Titans’ shocking 28-12 divisional-round win over the Baltimore Ravens this postseason. 

Loser: Houston Texans

The Texans were a clear loser earlier this week when they traded away superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins for running back David Johnson, but they found another way to dominate headlines even on a day where they weren’t very active in free agency. During an appearance on ESPN, Hall of Fame wideout Michael Irvin brought to light some disturbing claims concerning Bill O’Brien and Hopkins.

“[Hopkins] told me, ‘Michael, it was a bit of a power struggle there because Bill O’Brien thought he had too much influence in the locker room,'” Irvin said. “He called DeAndre Hopkins in a meeting to talk about this — kind of hash it out. In that meeting, he started the meeting with telling DeAndre Hopkins this — that blew my mind when DeAndre told me this — he told DeAndre Hopkins, ‘Hey, uh, the last time I had to have a meeting like this, it was with Aaron Hernandez. I was like, ‘What?! He [brought up] Aaron Hernandez in this meeting?’

“[Hopkins] said, ‘Yes, and Michael, that blew my mind that he would even bring that up. I’ve never been in any trouble. I don’t know why he would even equate me to Aaron Hernandez.’ 

“And from there, the meeting just deteriorated. He got into talking about DeAndre Hopkins, because DeAndre Hopkins has a few kids from different women, and he told DeAndre that he doesn’t like that he has his baby mamas around sometimes. And from there, I think the relationship just went bad, and thus we got a trade of DeAndre Hopkins from Houston for basically, like I said earlier, a ham sandwich.”

Hopkins responded to Irvin’s claims saying that they were blown out of proportion, but it was too late. The entire sports world was already revisiting O’Brien as a general manager, coach and now, a person. 

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