NFL offseason dominated by marquee moves

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Longtime Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (right) is now a member of the Denver Broncos.

Brentaro Yamane | Layout Editor

March 31, 2022

Change can allow people to move forward in life and experience new things.

This National Football League offseason, a lot of players have changed teams, either by trade or through free agency. With big-name moves happening left and right, fans will have to get used to seeing some of the game’s top players in different jerseys.

For the first time since 2003, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a full-time starting quarterback that isn’t Ben Roethlisberger. The two-time Super Bowl champion announced his retirement at the conclusion of the 2021 season.

To fill that hole, the team signed Mitch Trubisky, who was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Trubisky spent four years with the Chicago Bears, guiding the team to playoff appearances in 2018 and 2020. After Chicago moved on from him and drafted Justin Fields, Trubisky spent the 2021 season as Josh Allen’s backup with the Buffalo Bills.

He used last year as a “learning season” to study and develop under the same coaching staff that turned Allen into an MVP candidate. Fans will see if Trubisky’s learning season can help him beat out Mason Rudolph and Dwyane Haskins to win the starting job in Pittsburgh.

This was just one of many moves in the offseason’s quarterback carousel.

After guiding the Seattle Seahawks to eight playoff appearances in 10 seasons, two Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl title, Russell Wilson was dealt to the Denver Broncos. Denver — looking to return to the postseason for the first time since winning Super Bowl 50 in 2016 — now has a seasoned veteran to guide the ship.

Although he’s entrenched in legal troubles following a handful of sexual assault allegations, the Cleveland Browns decided to acquire DeShaun Watson from the Houston Texans. In spite of his accompanying controversy, Cleveland is choosing to take a chance on Watson, who led Houston to AFC South titles in two of his four active seasons, but was kept off the field for the entire 2021 season.

The Browns haven’t won a division title since capturing the AFC Central crown in 1989.

With Watson now set to lead the way in Cleveland, Baker Mayfield — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft — is all but guaranteed to be playing elsewhere in 2022.

Following one season with the Indianapolis Colts, Carson Wentz was sent packing again when he was dealt to the Washington Commanders. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft spent his first five NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before being shipped to the Colts prior to the 2021 season.

While being reunited with Indianapolis Head Coach Frank Reich (Wentz’s offensive coordinator from 2016-17 in Philadelphia) in 2021, Wentz was good, but not great. He had a lackluster performance in a Week 18 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that — coupled with a Steelers victory — eliminated Indianapolis from postseason contention.

Now, Wentz will head to Washington and return to the NFC East, where he’ll face Philadelphia two times per season.

Wentz will also look to become the first quarterback to lead the Washington franchise to a postseason win since 2005.

In choosing to move on from Wentz, the Colts picked up Matt Ryan in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan — the 2016 NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year — led Atlanta to an appearance in Super Bowl 51 that same season. Indianapolis — looking to win a Super Bowl for the first time since 2007 — picked up one of the league’s more-experienced quarterbacks.

Despite all the moves at the quarterback position so far, arguably the biggest one came when one of the sport’s most-prolific players decided to come out of retirement.

Following a decision to hang up the cleats that lasted less than two months, Tom Brady announced on March 13 that he’d be returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With Brady returning to Tampa Bay and Aaron Rodgers staying with the Green Bay Packers, despite a flurry of speculation that he’d be playing elsewhere, two of the NFC’s stalwarts should remain competitive for at least the immediate future.

While a lot of NFL fans might be shocked at all of the movement among the league’s quarterbacks, a plethora of standout wide receivers have also found new homes.

Davante Adams, who’s been selected to every NFL Pro Bowl since 2017, was traded from the Packers to the Las Vegas Raiders. Under the bright lights of Las Vegas, Adams will reunite with Derek Carr. Adams and Carr formed a dynamic quarterback/wide receiver duo during their collegiate careers at Fresno State University.

A Las Vegas team that went 10-7 a season ago without a star receiver now has one of the game’s best pass-catchers. They’ll look to heavily involve Adams to win games in an ultra-competitive AFC West division.

The Kansas City Chiefs — one of the Raiders’ division rivals — moved on from five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection Tyreek Hill when they dealt him to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for five future draft picks. Hill joins a loaded receiving core that features DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson Jr. and Mike Gesicki.

If third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa can take the next step in his growing process and the Dolphins don’t start 1-7 (like they did in 2021), they could be a legitimate contender in the AFC East.

Although it might seem like a big loss for Kansas City, it’ll be an ultimate test of quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ capabilities without an elite receiver. He will still have capable pass-catchers, however. The team recently signed JuJu Smith-Schuster (previously with the Steelers) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (previously with the Packers) to complement dangerous weapons like Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Byron Pringle.

Another star receiver on the move was Amari Cooper, who was traded from the Dallas Cowboys to the Browns. After four productive seasons with Dallas in which he caught 292 passes for 3,893 yards and 27 touchdowns, Cooper will look to become Watson’s top target in Cleveland.

Other notable pass-catchers that had down years in 2021 but will look to bounce back in their new homes include: the Los Angeles Rams’ Allen Robinson (previously with the Bears), the Detroit Lions’ D.J. Chark (previously with the Jaguars), the Tennessee Titans’ Austin Hooper (previously with the Browns) and the Bills’ O.J. Howard (previously with the Buccaneers).

A handful of notable names on the defensive side of the ball also switched teams. Veteran cornerback Casey Hayward left the Raiders to sign with the Falcons, while former New England Patriots standout J.C. Jackson agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Marquee linebackers were also on the move. Von Miller — a two-time Super Bowl champion — left the Rams to join the Bills, while Myles Jack signed with the Steelers following an extended tenure with the Jaguars. The Chargers also acquired six-time Pro Bowler Khalil Mack from the Bears.

With the NFL’s offseason having been underway for less than a month, there are many moves yet to be made between now and the start of the 2022 season in mid-September.

While some moves signal that teams are looking to enter rebuilding windows (like the Seahawks did when they traded Wilson, or the Falcons did when they dealt Ryan), a majority of the transactions suggest that the league will be a lot more competitive than it has in recent years.

Teams like the Dolphins and Raiders have struggled to find postseason success since the turn of the century, but they’ve each added a marquee receiver to help them take the next step forward in pursuit of a Super Bowl title.

Some teams, such as the Browns, have yet to take the next step despite years of hype surrounding them. But, Cleveland now has an elite quarterback and wide receiver connection that could help the franchise get over the hump.

From 2001 to 2015, there were nine different Super Bowl champions. Since 2016, the league has seen six different teams hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Teams like the Patriots, Steelers and Ravens no longer have a stranglehold on the league. The NFL’s balance of power is becoming more evenly distributed, even prior to this current offseason.

Now, with such a flurry of moves taking place, more and more teams will have a legitimate shot at winning future Super Bowls.