The first week of the 2022 NFL league year provides trades, free agency signings, and contract extensions

Sreenidi Bala, Staff Writer

March 16 marked the first day of the new league year and it has already featured a series of blockbuster moves. There have been franchise quarterbacks (QB) traded, numerous professionals have changed their addresses, and a jaw-dropping monster deal involving one of the biggest wideouts in the league. The first week of the National Football League’s (NFL) 2022-2023 season has been filled with historic signings. The first week of the offseason did not disappoint fans and made them excited for the primetime games they’ll be watching.

The league has become a quarterback driven game, and teams now try to find the best talent in order to give their team the best shot at success and a play for the Lombardi Trophy. This offseason has represented the starting of the player empowerment era in the NFL that was pioneered by NBA (National Basketball Association) players to take control of their future and force the hand of their teams rather than having terms dictated to them. Unsatisfied with the state of their rosters and/or financial situations, players have used their leverage to play where they want under terms that they agree to whether that’s through free agency or a trade. 

The Los Angeles Rams, who just won their second Super Bowl, 22 years later capitalized on this culture shift last season, adding high profile veteran players that contributed to this win. Teams have seen the level of success the Rams were able to achieve last season and some have evidently followed a similar game plan, mortgaging the future to acquire big names which make them look like contenders, at least on paper. Short of just two weeks into the new season, seven first round picks have been used to acquire some of the game’s biggest names.

Aaron Rodgers’ re-signs with the Packers

These past two years, Rodgers has left all doors open regarding the future of his football career. There was much uncertainty ahead of the new league year regarding Rodgers’ fate, whether that was in Denver saving the worst team in a stacked division or remaining with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers ended up choosing to stay and signed a 150 million dollar guaranteed, three year contract.  

Russell Wilson to the Broncos

Like Rodgers, following the 2020 season, Wilson publicly questioned where he would be playing football the following year. He would play as a Seattle Seahawk for the 2021 season, but have career low of 3,113 passing yards and 25 touchdowns – his team would finish the season 7-10, last in their division. At the beginning of the legal tampering period, reports emerged from ESPN’s (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) Adam Schefter indicating a mutual interest between the Broncos and Russell. He would go on to waive his no trade clause for the Broncos, while the Seahawks would receive two first round picks, two second round picks, and three players who have a chance to play big roles in 2022: tight end Noah Fant, defensive end Shelby Harris and quarterback Drew Lock. Broncos General Manager (GM) George Paton said in Wilson’s introductory press conference that a “month of negotiations” preceded the agreement on a trade, showing that the Seahawks were open to a trade even as Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said it was not something they intended to do this offseason. Whatever the machinations that went on in Seattle, the end result is that both teams are walking into new eras in 2022.

Deshaun Watson to the Cleveland Browns

Deshaun Watson made it very clear that he would not play with the Houston Texans during the 2020 season following his frustrations with the organization, including trading away key wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and the hiring of GM Nick Caserio. Watson infamously sat out the whole season partly due to his frustrations but also because of ongoing off the field legal matters. Last week, Watson would be cleared of criminal charges by the grand jury which would create a clearer pathway for a trade. Teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, and the Carolina Panthers would very publicly emerge as top landing spots for Watson but another unexpected team also shared its interest: the Cleveland Browns.  In January rumors swirled regarding the Browns’ displeasure with former first overall pick Baker Mayfield. GM Andrew Berry publicly disputed these reports saying “Baker is our quarterback.”  However, this statement of confidence quickly changed when Deshaun Watson became available.

As the Browns tried to pursue Watson, Baker released a Twitter statement, thanking the Cleveland fanbase, and the writing was on the wall – Mayfield’s time with the Browns was over. New reports would come out on March 18 in the early hours that Watson had narrowed down his possible teams to the Saints and Falcons, meaning the Browns were out of the race. However, this would all dramatically change throughout the day as Watson would waive his no trade clause for the Cleveland Browns, largely due to the contract that Cleveland offered, a record setting 230 million dollars guaranteed for five years. Watson has denied this saying “it had nothing to do with the contract, I didn’t know about the contract until I told my agent that I wanted to come and be a Cleveland Brown.” In addition to a hefty financial commitment, Cleveland will also surrender three first-round draft picks, including the number 13 overall pick in next month’s NFL Draft as well as a 2023 third-rounder and a 2024 fourth-rounder. 

What happens to Baker Mayfield now? 

As of March 28, Mayfield remains on the Browns’ roster but that will undoubtedly change as many other teams search for a quarterback, not to mention Baker is still playing at a high level coming off of a season in which he played with a torn labrum. There were reports early on that Mayfield had requested a trade to the Indianapolis Colts, who have acquired Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, instead. 

Von Miller to the Buffalo Bills

The most surprising signing on the defensive front was Von Miller. He was an integral part of the Rams’ championship defense. The Rams made it clear on their intent to bring back Miller to the dynamic defense he created along with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Von Miller, instead went on to sign with the Bills on a six year, 120 million dollar contract. He joins a defense that allowed a mere 17 points per game and only 272.8 yards to opponents last season, both league-leading.

Davante Adams to the Raiders

For the second consecutive year, Davante Adams was franchise tagged by the Packers. He was expected to sign the tag as his franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was set to return to the Packers. In a twist of events, Adams would force his way out of Green Bay to the Raiders and reunite with his former college QB, Derek Carr. It is reported that Adams will receive a 28.5 million dollar salary a year. 

Tyreek Hill

At the conclusion of the 2021 season, no one ever suspected Hill would be playing with another season the following year but, after seeing the amount of money fellow receiver Davante Adams signed for, Hill had to make a business decision to sign with a team that would give him money and that valued his future Hall of Fame skill and talent. Hill, 28, was willing to stay with the Kansas City Chiefs had they offered a similar contract as the record four-year, 120 million dollar deal he signed with Miami Dolphins as part of the trade according to Drew Rosenhaus, his agent. 

The Chiefs, instead stuck to their principle, receiving five draft picks: a 2022 first-round pick (No. 29), second-round pick (No. 50) and fourth-round pick, plus fourth- and sixth-round picks in the 2023 draft. 

Star studded rosters don’t translate into championships. Chemistry, good health, and just a little bit of luck play an equal role in how a team fares through a season but this offseason ensures teams will do anything to put them in a better position to win and as they’ve seen with the last two Super Bowl Champions, that gamble has been well worth it.