Ajayi, Garoppolo, Brown, and Benjamin all on the move
Well, that was fun.
Every year in Week 8 of the NFL season, owners must cease all trade talks with all teams in the league. Typically, the trade deadline carries a hint of excitement to it as we wonder if any prominent players will find themselves on the trading block. In general, not really. Some starters and backups get swapped and teams invest in picks; it’s pretty business as usual. But in a year that has been heightened by high profile protests, insane dark horses rising to prominence, and preceded by a bonkers offseason, you knew something had to be cooking around the trade deadline. And boy was there some good eating. Let’s dive into a wild 24 hours of trades and the possible implications now that they’ve gone down. Not just for the season, but for the future.
Miami Dolphins trade RB Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia Eagles
- The Trade: Eagles receive Jay Ajayi, Dolphins receive Eagles 2018 4th round pick.
At a time where the league is entering a golden age of parity and a large chunk of teams believe they have the ability to make a playoff run and sooner rather than later, Miami seems to feel the exact opposite. Ajayi nearly single-handedly got Miami into the playoffs last year with an insane rushing season. 2017 being stacked against a more difficult schedule, Ajayi has admittedly come up short. Averaging three yards per carry and not even yet hitting 500 yards at the halfway point of the season are causes for alarm to be sure. With that said, consider that the Dolphins have arguably one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
Defenses are eating the run alive, pressuring the quarterbacks like there’s no tomorrow. It’s only natural that the Jay Train lost some explosiveness, but managing to pull off two 100 yard rushing games behind that line is to be admired. Unless you’re Adam Gase. Not only do you not admire it, but you resent it and jettesen your best back to a team where he has an actual chance at a successful career.
As an Eagle, Ajayi seems to be poised to be sharing the backfield with former Patriot Legarrete Blount. Blount is a power back runner who is good for picking up needed yardage; he doesn’t have Ajayi’s trucking ability, though. On a team that has had to lean quite a bit on Carson Wentz, adding a new running threat to the backfield can only indicate how serious Philadelphia is about winning and winning now. Sitting at 7–1 with Wentz having an MVP caliber season, Jay will not only relieve a high octane Eagle offense, but thrive in it. He’s behind a stronger line with a competent quarterback.
Defenses beware: Philadelphia can beat you with a whole other layer of game now. And they only had to give a 4th rounder to do it. That’s the craziest part of this trade. Philadelphia turned a 4th round pick into a legitimate running attack and crippled Miami in one fell swoop.
Houston Texans trade T Duane Brown to Seattle Seahawks
- The Trade: Seahawks receive Duane Brown/Texans 5th round pick, Texans receive Seahawks 2018 3rd and 2019 2nd round picks
In the original deal, the Texans addressed their secondary needs by getting Jeremy Lane. Lane, however, failed his physical and reverted back to Seattle. As a result, the Texans get a higher draft pick in 2018. Which, honestly, they could probably use to land a more reliable corner back. There had been hints that Brown would be leaving Houston after a very successful time there and being viewed as one of the league’s premier tackles.
On Seattle, he will provide a wealth of relief to Russel Wilson. Wilson has been sacked 16 times, a number that would be hire if he weren’t as elusive as he is out of the pocket. Wilson, however, seems to be under eternal pressure to get the ball out. Dealing with an increasingly less effective run game in his backfield makes things significantly worse. Brown does not solve all of Seattle’s problem, but he will be an essential piece on a team that finds ways to win despite their present issues in every position apart from quarterback.
Where the Texans really come out on top, on the other hand, is with some juicy draft picks. We’ve already mentioned that they could use either draft pick to get a better cornerback than Jeremy Lane. What they have to work with now gets even more impressive when you consider who their starting quarterback is and what holes they have to fill in the near future. Watson is performing exceptionally in his starting roll in Houston, and the Texans are looking to get even younger as some of their older players start retiring. An additional 2nd rounder in 2019 is appealing because Houston looks to reinforce their defense as well as the offensive line with more youth. Houston is building an insanely strong, young, deep team. Keep a close eye on them as the years go on.
New England Patriots trade QB Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco 49ers
- The Trade: 49ers receive Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots receive 49ers 2018 2nd round pick
New England has shifted the fates of the entirety of the league with one simple trade that landed them a bonus 2nd rounder, possibly the 33rd or 34th pick in the draft. For those who are worried that the Patriots sold their future for a high pick, you’re partially right. But it shows us how highly New England brass feels about Brady’s future as a Patriot. Maybe he really can play until 45, who knows! But even if they don’t know how much longer Brady is going to last, they landed a high second rounder in a draft that is swarming with potential starting quarterbacks. New England will most likely be fine, as potentially infuriating as that can be.
What really gets interesting is the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo is in San Francisco of all places. San Francisco looked like they were starting to make real progress with rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has hinted that Garoppolo might not be starting immediately or at all; however, he’s clearly an investment in the future that rules the 49ers out of diving into the quarterback draft pool. Jimmy G and Beathard will likely be competing for the starting spot, which is terrifying considering how neither are a fully proven commodity. Granted, Garoppolo had a pretty good run in Brady’s absence last season before his injury but two games does not a starter prove.
Furthermore, it leaves the fate of Kirk Cousins hanging in the balance in this offseason. The Redskins QB has been toyed around with by Washington for two seasons now as the team seems increasingly non-committal to him. The 49ers seemed an ideal landing spot. Espeically since Shanahan has expressed desires in landing the big-armed signal caller. But with Jimmy G looming as the future of the Niners, one has to wonder if Kirk will finally be tied to Washington or if another QB needy team will starting eyeballing him. Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York Jets, and Arizona could (and should) all be in the quarterback market next year. And if Kirk wants to land in a system that works for him on a team that’s brimming with potential, Jacksonville could be a great spot to end up — ya know, if they don’t trade for Eli Manning.
Carolina Panthers trade WR Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo Bills
- The Trade: Bills receive WR Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers receive Bills 2018 3rd and 7th round picks
At the last possible second, the Bills invested in their offense. Which tells us one big thing: the Bills are feeling themselves. And why not? The Bills are surpringsly sitting on a 5–2 record under the power of LeSean McCoy, a great defense, and a wonderful special teams addition in kicker Stephen Hauska. Where they find themselves lacking is the passing attack. Tyrod Taylor has eight touchdowns 1,350 yards with his top receiver being tight end Charles Clay, who has hauled in only 258 yards. In fact, in terms of yardage, Clay and McCoy are the teams top two receivers. Their best wide receiver has been Jordan Matthews who has yet to hit 200 yards.
Adding Benjamin to the Bills changes everything for their upcoming playoff stretch. Adding a deep threat will help Tyrod make a few more gutsy throws but it also bodes well for their remaining schedule. The Bills needed to figure out their passing identity as they head into the back nine of the season. Five of their remaining nine games are against division foes (including facing New England twice) with stout defenses of New Orleans and Kansas City still in the wings. The Chargers and Colts also stand in their way, both having a passing weakness. The Bills can see the end of the tunnel, they could finally end their playoff drought, and Benjamin could be a crucial piece in that final push.
The Panthers on the other hand are looking for “speed.” The team explained that they want to invest in younger, faster players, which is puzzling considering Benjamin is both young and fast. It’s odd to send a player that has great report with your franchise quarterback away so suddenly, but here we are. Now granted, Benjamin has had a noticeable slip this year. Two touchdowns, under 500 yards, and only one 100 yard performance thus far. It was pretty evident that Benjamin wasn’t up to his usual standards. Perhaps Carolina saw the writing on the wall and decided to invest in some picks that result in speedier players further down the line. Whatever the cause, Carolina is down a receiver and devoid of a rushing attack. If Buffalo chose to invest in the playoff push, Carolina seems to be hesitantly approaching the remainder of their season.