Stefon Diggs succinctly summed up what had to be on the mind of a lot of NFL fans shortly after news broke that the Kansas City Chiefs were working to trade All-Pro receiver Tyreek Hill. The Buffalo Bills wideout, it seemed, was just as confused as the rest of us.
“The hell going on … ” Diggs tweeted.
A day later, he was even more on the money, tweeting: “I ain’t going lie this is the craziest off-season I ever…”
Hill to Dolphins. Russell Wilson to the Broncos. Deshaun Watson to the Browns. Matt Ryan to the Colts. That’s just a sampling of some of the wild trades that have happened over the last month. Factor in the unexpected turns in free agency — Von Miller to the Bills, Chandler Jones to the Raiders — and it may not be an exaggeration to call this the craziest NFL offseason ever.
Oh, and Tom Brady retired and then unretired, too.
Yeah, it’s probably not hyperbole.
According to the NFL Network, nine players with a combined 39 Pro Bowl selections have been traded in March: Wilson, Ryan, Hill, Watson, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Yannick Ngakoue, Davante Adams and new Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz. Of those, only a few were expected to be moved. Wentz’s ouster from Indianapolis seemed obvious. Cooper’s departure from the Cowboys also was telegraphed ahead of time.
But the rest? Sure, there had been rumors of Wilson wanting out of Seattle — but the Seahawks maintained they weren’t going to trade him, let alone to the Broncos who were thought to be pursuing Aaron Rodgers. The Texans were also going to move on from Watson because of the quarterback’s legal issues — 22 women have accused him of sexual misconduct — but who could have predicted the Browns? Even there, the Browns were apparently out of the running with Atlanta and New Orleans seen as the finalists for the quarterback. Until they weren’t.
The NFL rarely works like this. Yes, player movement happens, especially with cuts and bottom-of-the-roster churn. But this was a league that for so long seemed almost risk-averse, with teams holding onto draft picks like they were guaranteed lottery tickets.
This year, eight teams don’t have a first-round pick and nine of the 32 first-round picks have already changed hands over the past year.
Thanks to the Hill trade, the 29th pick has been rerouted twice: First from San Francisco to Miami (for Trey Lance last year), then now from Miami to Kansas City.
The notion that the NFL is a year-round sport, of course, isn’t new. But these types of deals — trades that send Pro Bowl quarterbacks and wideouts hither and yon — will only reinforce that idea.
“You ain’t never know what to expect in the offseason, man,” Commanders wideout Cam Sims said.
Even smaller moves can produce tons of drama. J.D. McKissic found that out the hard way when he initially committed to the Buffalo Bills on a two-year contract only to back out of the deal at the 11th hour to re-sign with the Commanders. The decision left Bills general manager Brandon Beane steaming, though McKissic said he pulled out of the agreement because he had “unfinished business” with Washington.
Here’s the thing: McKissic wasn’t the only player this offseason to have an abrupt change of heart. Pass rusher Randy Gregory had agreed to re-sign with the Dallas Cowboys — the team even announced it on Twitter — before backing out of that deal to sign with the Broncos.
What’s it like as a player to be part of this wild offseason?
“It’s like we’re playing ‘Madden 22,” McKissic said, referencing the popular video game.
To make sure that Diggs and other diehards weren’t becoming a prisoner of the moment, a quick Google search of “craziest NFL offseason ever” does reveal that every so often this is a topic that gets floated here and there.
A Reddit thread from the 2019 offseason, for instance, noted Antonio Brown’s drama with the Raiders, Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement, the Browns’ trade for Odell Beckham and Patriots owner Robert Kraft implicated in a … well, look it up. A compelling argument, for sure, but it probably doesn’t outdo this year because of the quarterbacks involved.
In terms of surprising quarterback movement, perhaps 2012 provides some competition. That was the year Peyton Manning went to Denver, Tim Tebow was shipped to the Jets and Washington traded up for Robert Griffin III. The 2020 offseason was also pretty unexpected in that regard: Brady to Tampa Bay, Cam Newton to New England, Philip Rivers to Indianapolis and a loaded quarterback draft (Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert).
Still, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to call the movement in 2022 unprecedented.