The new league year begins Wednesday, March 14 at 4:00 pm Eastern Time. This is when all of the reported trades we’ve been hearing about can be made official. It is also the time when free agents can sign new contracts with the team of their choice.
For years, teams and players would agree to massive contracts just minutes after the arrival of the new league year. It was obvious that some form of under the table dealing was taking place, so the league’s fix was to simply make this once hidden communication legal.
Now, two days before the new league year are declared a “legal tampering” period, allowing the teams, players, and their representatives to converse and partake in contract negotiations, with deals becoming official two days later.
In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in NFL off-season activity, including a major uptick in trades being agreed to, which makes things more exciting for fans and fantasy players. This off-season was already one that had fans eager thanks to the stacked free agent class, but the continued increase of trades and other transactions prior to the beginning of the new league year has been sweet icing on the free agency cake.
Let’s take a look at a summary of the moves that have already taken place this off-season. Remember, any trades reported here or elsewhere are not final until this Wednesday.
Alex Smith, QB WAS
Even before the NFL season concluded with the Super Bowl, the off-season was underway for others. The Chiefs agreed to send long-time starting quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins, which had wide-ranging effects on other players for both teams. The move signaled the end of Kirk Cousins’ Redskins career, locking in his status as the top free agent available this off-season. It also gave a huge boost to second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who now assumes the starting role for the Chiefs. The Redskins then gave Smith a four-year, $94 million extension. This was the beginning of a wild off-season.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB SF
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The 49ers acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots in mid-season and he then went on a major run, leading the Niners to five consecutive wins to end the season. The team had to be slightly nervous though as Jimmy G was set to enter the open market. They made sure that wouldn’t happen, making him the highest-paid player in NFL history with a five-year, $137.5 million contract. Garoppolo is now considered a top ten dynasty quarterback, with some pushing him into the top five.
AJ McCarron, QB FA
Bengals backup quarterback, a long-rumored target of the Cleveland Browns, won his grievance against the Bengals and became an unrestricted free agent. With Andy Dalton locked in as the Cincinnati starting quarterback, McCarron will be moving on, with multiple reported suitors.
Doug Martin, RB FA
The Buccaneers released veteran running back Doug Martin. It was not a surprising move after his struggles over the past two seasons. Martin’s time in the NFL could be coming to an end, although he did get a visit with the Raiders, who are now coached by former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden.
Blake Bortles, QB JAX
The Jaguars and their starting quarterback Blake Bortles agreed to a new three-year contract for $54 million. Although it looks like a massive payday for Bortles, who some expected to lose his job, there is limited “new money” in the deal and the team can still get out of the deal following the season.
Jonathan Stewart, RB FA
The Panthers released their long-time starting running back Jonathan Stewart. We can safely assume they want to get second-year back Christian McCaffrey more involved, but they will also need to add another ball-carrier to the backfield.
Matt Forte, RB FA
Veteran running back Matt Forte, one of the top backs in the league and a valuable asset to fantasy players throughout his career, retired from the league. His retirement leaves the Jets with Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire as primary backs entering the new league year.
Chris Ivory, RB BUF
After being released by the Jaguars, veteran running back Chris Ivory signed a two-year contract with the Buffalo Bills. He’ll play behind starter LeSean McCoy and gives the team some much-needed depth at the position.
Allen Robinson, WR FA
The Jacksonville Jaguars chose not to use their Franchise Tag on receiver Allen Robinson, who missed most of 2017 after suffering a torn ACL in week one of the season. Robinson will be considered the top free agent receiver available and is all but certain to leave the Jaguars.
Sammy Watkins, WR FA
In somewhat of a surprise, the Rams opted not to use their Franchise Tag on receiver Sammy Watkins, who will not hit the open market. Watkins was a disappointment in 2017 after the Rams traded for him during the pre-season. Instead, the Rams used the tag on safety Lamarcus Joyner.
Le’Veon Bell, RB PIT
The Steelers assigned the Franchise Tag to veteran running back Le’Veon Bell. This was expected and the two sides will reportedly continue to work on a long-term deal. Bell has said he will play in 2018 regardless of the contract situation.
Michael Bennett, DL PHI
The Seahawks dealt veteran lineman Michael Bennett to the Super Bowl champion Eagles for a backup receiver and a pick upgrade. This was just one of many moves pulled off by the Seahawks as they try to quickly turn things around after a disappointing 2017 season.
Alec Ogletree, LB NYG
In a surprise move, the Rams dealt veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree to the Giants, who were desperate for help at the position. The Rams received a fourth and sixth rounder in exchange for the player they signed to a four-year extension just six months ago.
Martellus Bennett, TE FA
The Patriots released veteran tight end, Martellus Bennett. After signing with the Packers last off-season, Bennett entered the season with high expectations placed on him by fantasy owners, but he has essentially a non-factor for the Pack and the Pats. His best days are clearly behind him.
Marquise Goodwin, WR SF
The 49ers rewarded their big-play wideout Marquise Goodwin with a new three-year, $20.3 million extension. The team will welcome veteran Pierre Garcon back and are expected to pursue top free agent receivers, but this shows their trust in Goodwin.
DeMarco Murray, RB FA
The Titans released veteran running back DeMarco Murray, paving the way for Derrick Henry to hold down the starting job moving forward. The Titans will clearly need to add some depth behind, or alongside Henry, which could threaten his rising dynasty value.
Torrey Smith, WR CAR
Veteran receiver Torrey Smith, a member of the Super Bowl champion Eagles, was traded to the receiver-needy Panthers. Smith was in danger of being cut by the Eagles anyway, so getting anything was a win. The Panthers sorely missed deep threat Ted Ginn last season and likely see Smith manning that role, but he’s not enough to fix their issues at the position.
Mike Evans, WR TB
Although he was not scheduled to be a free agent, the Buccaneers and receiver Mike Evans agreed to a long-term contract extension which will make Evans the league’s second-highest paid receiver and keep him in Tampa Bay until 2023.
Jarvis Landry, WR CLE
Even after being slapped with the Franchise Tag by the Miami Dolphins, it was clear that wideout Jarvis Landry would not be returning to the team that drafted him. The Dolphins had reportedly tried to trade Landry during last preseason and again at the trade deadline, with no luck. They finally found a buyer as the Browns flipped a pair of late draft picks for one of the most productive receivers in the league.
Tyrod Taylor, QB CLE
It had been apparent for a while that veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s days in Buffalo were numbered. In fact, it is surprising that he lasted on the roster as long as he did. Last Friday, the Browns acquired Taylor for the first pick in the third round of this year’s draft. Considering they were rumored to target former Bengals backup AJ McCarron, along with a rookie from the draft, this was a shocker.
DeShone Kizer, QB G
Another of the Browns’ stunning moves late last week was shipping their starting quarterback for much of the 2017 season to the Packers. Although DeShone Kizer had some success for the winless team, he was clearly not part of the short or long-term plan, especially after the addition of Taylor. Kizer will now get a chance to sit behind superstar Aaron Rodgers, likely for the remainder of his initial NFL contract. The Browns acquired cornerback Damarious Randall in exchange for Kizer, along with a late round pick swap.
Richard Sherman, DB SF
The veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, a major piece of the Seahawks recent contending teams, was released as one of several moves made by a retooling Seattle team. Sherman wasted little time in finding a new team, visiting the San Francisco 49ers and then agreeing to a three-year contract just one day after parting ways with Seattle.