It is Black Friday! Time for the season's most zealous shoppers to take their twice-checked list and forge into the trenches of post-Thanksgiving deals.
Because of the commercial holiday, we are talking deals in the NFL — namely, the biggest deals of the 2019 offseason. These could be trades or free-agent signings that have one thing in common: They all rocked the NFL world when the new league year opened in March. These signings get graded and evaluated at the time they occur, but we can always look back with some retrospective curiosity and wonder if the same deals would have been done if both teams knew then what they do now.
If you have another deal you think was a total blockbuster for one team — truly a Black Friday steal — be sure to let me know on Twitter so we can chat about it over a slice of leftover pumpkin pie.
KC trades Dee Ford to SF; gets Frank Clark from SEA
The first deal lumps two trades together as we look at the Kansas City Chiefs. Let's review what each team gave, and what each team got.
Received: EDGE Dee Ford
Sent: 2020 second-round pick (projected 64 overall)
Received: 2019 first-round pick (L.J. Collier), 2019 third-round pick (DK Metcalf), 2020 second-round pick (projected 64 overall)
Sent: EDGE Frank Clark, 2019 third-round pick (Khalen Saunders)
Received: EDGE Frank Clark, 2020 second-round pick (projected 64 overall), 2019 third-round pick (Khalen Saunders)
Sent: EDGE Dee Ford, 2019 first-round pick (L.J. Collier), 2019 third-round pick (DK Metcalf), 2020 second-round pick (projected 64 overall)
At the time, the Chiefs seemed to have gotten the better pass rusher in Clark. He was younger, healthier, more productive and seemed a better fit in Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 front. However, the cost of that improvement was pretty steep. When you cancel out the draft picks across the two trades, Kansas City essentially gave away a first-round player to pay Clark more money than it ended up paying Ford.
It seemed risky then. Now, it is becoming concerning. Ford is not the best defensive end on his own team — Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite Nick Bosa gets that nod — but he has been wildly productive for the league's top pass rush coming off the edge. He has seven sacks across only 228 total snaps this year, compared to Clark's five sacks with more than twice as many opportunities (523 snaps).
We can wonder if paying Ford $85 million over the next five years is warranted if he is only going to play 40 percent of the team's defensive snaps. But for the San Francisco 49ers and pass rushers, you can't have too much of a good thing — especially considering Arik Armstead looking down the barrel of free agency and Solomon Thomas approaching a 2020 contract year. The 49ers’ future at the position is secure in Ford and Bosa.
Clark, meanwhile, has not looked like the dominant player he was for the Seattle Seahawks. They were able to grab his replacement at the cost of Barkevious Mingo, Jacob Martin, and a third-round pick. While Jadeveon Clowney is not the same sack artist that Clark was, he is proving more valuable in the immediate 2019 timeframe.
If Kansas City could have it back, I am sure the Chiefs would rather keep Ford and a first-round player than pay the bill for a worse one. Even if Ford is not the best fit in Spagnuolo's scheme — he is winning in a 4-man front in San Francisco, for what it's worth — Clark is not nearly the worth the cost of his $100 million extension. However, the 49ers and Seahawks have both exceeded their set expectations for these deals. Both pass rushes and teams are better off for it.
CLE and NYG exchange OBJ, Zeitler
Here is another two-for-one as the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns strung together multiple trades in franchise-altering decisions.
Received: WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Olivier Vernon
Received: OG Kevin Zeitler, S Jabrill Peppers, 2019 first-round selection (Dexter Lawrence), 2019 third-round selection (Oshane Ximines)
The OBJ trade was considered a major coup for the Browns. Acquiring a wide receiver of his skill level for one of the most electric young quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield was sure to keep the Browns’ offense as potent as they were in the final weeks of the 2018 season. Sure, it cost them a first-round player, but any receiver drafted there would have been a risk. Beckham was a sure thing, and he was about to enjoy the best QB talent he has had during his young career.
However, Beckham is posting career-low numbers this year. But there is more. Olivier Vernon is having a disappointing season as well (three sacks on 456 snaps), the offensive line is struggling after the departure of Zeitler and the safety position is becoming a pressing need in Peppers' absence.
With a player of Beckham's caliber, you can still justify the trade even if it has not panned out across 11 weeks of the season. The more viable explanations for Beckham's rather unheralded debut in Cleveland focus on the coaching staff and the scheme more so than Beckham's individual talent — we all know he can be much, much more impactful than this.
The Browns would still have made the trade if they knew that Year 1 was going to be rough for Beckham. But would the Giants also do the same?
Maybe … although moving on from Beckham is still an ill-advised proposition in a vacuum. New York did not fare well with the draft picks it added, though Lawrence has had some flashes at a position of strength for the Giants. But Zeitler and Peppers have improved their units while Sterling Shepard has shown growth and late-round rookie Darius Slayton is showing signs of starting-caliber play.
The Giants could very well end up addressing their EDGE and WR needs with the first two picks in the upcoming draft. If that is the case then this trade still feels a bit rash, even with Beckham underperforming and young receivers rising to the challenge. Every young quarterback could use a receiver like Beckham, but with all New York got back for him, it is still looking for that player two drafts later.
PIT sees future in Minkah Fitzpatrick
Received: S Minkah Fitzpatrick, 2020 fourth-round selection, 2021 seventh-round selection
Received: 2020 first-round selection, 2021 fifth-round selection, 2021 sixth-round selection
This trade is tricker. The Miami Dolphins have now watched players like Fitzpatrick, Laremy Tunsil, and Kenyan Drake all thrive in new locations, but they are playing a different game than the rest of us as their front office looked to fire sale all assets in an effort to build a war chest for the inevitable rebuild on the horizon. Is there any caliber of play Fitzpatrick could reach that would make Miami really regret trading him in the long-term?
Well, if there is, it is happening. After nine games in Pittsburgh, Fitzpatrick has five interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), eight passes defended and a forced fumble to boot. Not to mention, the five INTs are tied for the league-best.
Fitzpatrick has arguably been the MVP of the Steelers’ defense this year, and a key addition to keep them in the thick of the wild-card hunt. The playoff race was the lens through which this trade was initially understood when the then-0-2 Steelers acquired Fitzpatrick in the immediate wake of an injury to QB Ben Roethlisberger.
They have now won six of their last eight games, losing in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens and on the road to the Browns. While the consensus view of Pittburgh’s acquisition in Week 3 was one of disbelief and expected buyer's remorse, the Steelers would unquestionably do this trade again. In fact, they would likely send even more for Fitzpatrick if they were asked.
And Miami? Who knows? I think they are fine with the Tunsil and Drake deals, really. It is Fitzpatrick that might hurt the most to watch. He was playing like an All-Pro candidate for the Dolphins in the first two weeks of the season, and he is still doing the in Pittsburgh. I imagine they might think twice about swallowing that pill if given the option to revisit the deal.