Bill O’Brien creates a new form of martial arts
The Texans are one of five teams without a first-round pick. They are also one of one (1) teams to trade Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins in the past six months. Moving Clowney and Hopkins without netting a single first-rounder in return is basically a new form of kung fu. It requires a thousand precise movements all done in the exact right order to be that inept.
It goes without saying that the Texans got worse and the Cardinals got better. Mr. Ian Hartitz has the deep dive, but Hopkins will remain a top-three WR1 in Arizona. Pairing his body control with Kyler Murray’s ball placement should revive Hopkins’ down-field game after Bill O’Brien used him in more of a Michael Thomas-type role in 2019. Hopkins averaged just 11.2 yards per catch after entering the year with a 14.1 career mark.
As for David Johnson, a change of scenery seems unlikely to cure what’s ailed him. Now 28, Johnson looked like he had a piano on his back for much of 2019 as he battled through ankle and back ailments. Never the biggest big-play threat, Johnson has zero career plays of 60 yards or longer and has been sub-replacement level on a per-touch basis since decoupling from Bruce Arians. He’s still a fine pass catcher for the position, but the Texans already had one of those in Duke Johnson. By sheer force of will, Johnson should be a Carlos Hyde-esque RB2 in Houston. In theory, he still has the upside for more if he can get his body right for 2020.
The Panthers grant Cam Newton “permission” to seek a trade. Sound familiar?
It certainly did to Greg Olsen, who commented on Newton’s Instagram post lamenting the team’s decision to “let him” seek a deal with confirmation that they handled his departure the same way. There is nothing wrong with the Panthers rebuilding, but they have tried to have their cake and eat it too all offseason. Whenever Newton said he couldn’t wait to return for 2020, the team responded by acting like it agreed while nevertheless pointing to the fine print. Being more upfront might have assuaged egos — to a point — while also getting fan expectations more in line sooner.
Teddy Bridgewater prepares to manage games in Carolina
Replacing Newton, it appears, will be Bridgewater, who is one of the game’s quintessential game managers. That means even more high-percentage targets for Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore and even more frustration for would-be down-field dynamo Curtis Samuel. Maybe phenom play-caller Joe Brady has a way to unlock Samuel’s potential, but that is simply not the safe Bridgewater’s M.O. Bridgewater will be an actually good Kyle Allen, but it is fair to ask … is that actually good? Now a full-blown numbers franchise, the Panthers will play the efficiency odds. It will be more boring but probably more effective than what an injury-hampered Newton has offered of late. Newton, of course, maintains the vastly superior upside provided he is finally healthy.
Tom Brady announces he won’t return to Patriots
There isn’t much to say on this one until Brady actually finds a new home, but there is a very real chance Brady is playing in a 27,000-seat soccer stadium next season. That’s because the Chargers are one of his primary suitors and the nationwide coronavirus outbreak could delay progress on the Rams/Bolts’ new building. It would be an undignified end for the living legend, but hardly the first for a player of Brady’s stature. This is what happens at the end of careers. The Chargers have some nice pieces, but for a weapons upgrade, the Bucs would be by far Brady’s best bet. Amazingly, Brady will almost certainly be a fantasy downgrade for Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on Jameis Winston. Even in 2019, Brady was better, but Evans and Godwin’s bread was buttered by Winston’s insanity down the field.
Stefon Diggs got what he wanted. Should he have been careful what he wished for?
Diggs forced his way out of Minnesota one melodramatic social media post at a time. He’s now gone from one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league to one of the least. Josh Allen does have the potential to unlock Diggs’ prodigious big-play ability, but the scattershot nature of Allen’s game makes slumps for his pass catchers a fact of life. Already boom-or-bust thanks to Cousins’ Adam Thielen preference, Diggs figures to become even more volatile in 2020, especially since John Brown’s skill-set is not dissimilar. Diggs is someone the fantasy community has wanted unleashed for some time. There are plenty of places that could have happened. Buffalo, sadly, figures to present an even more uneven version of his Vikings status quo.
Browns make Austin Hooper league’s highest-paid tight end
Hooper is a good player. Although a pass catcher first, he is not an embarrassing blocker. He doesn’t have to come off the field very often. Should he be the league’s highest-paid tight end? No. Did he address any of the Browns’ biggest needs? No. Is he another weapon for a team that already had a lot of them? Yes. Is that bad? No. Hooper is essentially a poor man’s Zach Ertz. If that feels like damning with faint praise, well even those are extremely hard to find. Hooper is no stranger to crowded target trees, but he will have a difficult time matching last year’s TE6 finish by overall points in PPR leagues. The Browns are going to pass less than the Falcons while Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Kareem Hunt will vacuum up looks. David Njoku is still on the roster. Even if/when Njoku is shipped out, the TE9-12 range is probably more realistic for 2020.
Bears sign one millionth tight end, give Jimmy Graham $9 million guaranteed
ESPN’s Mike Clay is a numbers man, so he got together a spreadsheet and counted them up for us: The Bears now have nine tight ends under contract. That is 10 percent of their 90-man roster. That they watched dead-legged Graham establish absolutely zero chemistry with Aaron Rodgers and then think it will be possible with Mitchell Trubisky … best of luck. Hanging by a thread for some time now, GM Ryan Pace is just about fully unraveled.