Tom Brady is still a presumptive Tampa Bay Buc, but nothing official has emerged yet. Meanwhile, other major players are on the move, with the Rams releasing Todd Gurley and Darius Slay headed to Philadelphia. Here's all the moves from the first Thursday in NFL free agency.
RAMS RELEASE RB TODD GURLEY
Two years ago, Todd Gurley was considered (arguably) the most versatile and dangerous rusher in the league. Now he's free for anyone to sign, after the Rams released him less than two full years following his megacontract.
FINANCIAL IMPACT: Gurley was released a day before a $10 million roster bonus was due, cutting off his four-year, $57.5 million deal after two seasons. The move saves the Rams $13 million+ in real cash but the team still faces an $11.75 million cap hit. The Rams plan to designate Gurley's release to hit on June 1, which will allow the team to split that cap hit across the 2020 and 2021 season. Still, that's a lot of money to eat for a player who will be playing somewhere else.
QUALITY STATS IMPACT: Gurley may not have been himself in 2019, but even a veneer of Gurley and a supporting cast were enough to launch the Rams to fourth in the Offensive Rusher Rating standings. Expect that to take a dip in 2020 even if another running back of stature emerges on the scene in L.A.
BRONCOS RELEASE QB JOE FLACCO
Well, that was quick. The latest one-and-done veteran quarterback under John Elway's watch is Joe Flacco, who was also added the indignity of being released with a failed physical designation.
FINANCIAL IMPACT: The Broncos save real cash but will still have to absorb a $13.5 million salary cap hit related to Flacco's signing bonus, a huge hit that matches what the Patriots face with Tom Brady's expiring contract.
QUALITY STATS IMPACT: Minimal, if even existent. The Broncos offense took notable steps forward under rookie Drew Lock during the final five weeks, when the Broncos went 4-1. Lock is clearly QB1 going forward, which means Flacco would have served as a very expensive — and discontented — backup had he stayed in Colorado. Instead, he's now free to go find another team where he can serve as a potential mentor and backup for an emerging young quarterback.
LIONS TRADE CB DARIUS SLAY TO EAGLES, WHO SIGN HIM TO THREE-YEAR EXTENSION
Darius Slay got his wish and is finally out of Detroit. And he would be hard to find a better, softer landing than the one he gets in Philly, where he also gets a cushy new contract.
FINANCIAL IMPACT: Slay's new deal calls for $50 million across three years, with $30 million guaranteed, and therefore $30 million in total dead cap hits even if the Eagles eventually release Slay.
QUALITY STATS IMPACT: This may be a wash in the Philly defensive backfield. The Eagles gave up veteran superstar safety Malcolm Jenkins but add Slay, where they had less depth and were in need of a playmaker. If Slay can play a more active role in limiting opposing completion percentages and forcing turnovers — the Eagles had 11 in 2019 en route to a 19th place finish in Defensive Passer Rating — this could be a talent swap that works out well for the Fly Eagles Fly crowd.
49ERS RELEASE OG MIKE PERSON
Just more than a month ago, Mike Person was playing in a Super Bowl. Now he's on the street looking for a new team.
FINANCIAL IMPACT: Dropping Person now saves San Francisco some $3 million off a tight salary cap bill. That may not seem like much for a starting offensive lineman, but the team may feel comfortable enough with their depth along the line that Person was made expendable as a means to get the team under the cap.
QUALITY STATS IMPACT: The offensive line in San Francisco ranked among the league's top-10 in Offensive Hog Index, so any change is a means for concern, but offensive line coach John Benton and Kyle Shanahan are as strong a duo as any to mitigate the risk of changes. Yes, this is an overall risk for a team aimed squarely at a Super Bowl return, but we're betting it won't be a move that cripples the 49ers.
BUCCANEERS RE-SIGN WR BRYANT MITCHELL TO ONE-YEAR DEAL
Let the record show that the first offensive player the Bucs signed after it was announced Tom Brady was en route was a Bucs wide receiver who spent the 2019 season on injured reserve.
FINANCIAL IMPACT: Mitchell's contract terms remain unknown, but he stands to earn a relatively insignificant sum, particularly related to the team's salary cap because of a lack of signing bonus.
QUALITY STATS IMPACT: Mitchell is a true x-factor. It's likely that his addition won't be a harbinger of an offensive shift, but if the CFL veteran proves adept at getting open in the slot he's precisely the kind of player Brady transformed into a key contributor during his early years in New England. That might help lift the Bucs above their 22nd slot in the 2019 Offensive Passer Ratings, even if the arrival of a certain passer with the initials "TB" will probably have much more to do with it.
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