Marc Lillibridge’s winners of the 2020 NFL offseason

  • arizona cardinals
  • baltimore ravens
  • Miami Dolphins
  • nfl free agency
By Marc Lillibridge March 23, 2020 0 Comment
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Big trades, massive contracts, and quarterback musical chairs are not always what makes a successful offseason. Here are Marc Lillibirdige’s 2020 winners.

To be honest, there is no real way to judge free agency winners or draft winners until three to four years after the fact.  Every NFL team feels as if they won free agency, and they ALL think their draft class is the best of the bunch. I am going to focus on a few teams that went into the 2020 free agency with a plan and executed their plan well.

Miami Dolphins

Eight months ago, football fans alike watched the Dolphins cut and trade valuable assets away from the team.  The motto ‘Tank for Tua’ was slapped across every headline and social media post. Head Coach Brian Flores and General Manager Chris Grier had other ideas.  Not only did they stock up on draft capital in 2020, but they have multiple picks in 2021 and beyond.

Flores and Grier also worked to turn the culture around in Miami and went on to play solid football down the stretch in 2019.  Entering free agency in 2020, the Dolphins signed high character, leadership type players to continue the locker room rebuild in Davie.  Flores is a no-hold-barred coach who demands the best out of his players and now has players in the locker room who can relay that message.

Cornerback Byron Jones, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, defensive end Shaq Lawson, and offensive guard Ereck Flowers are all former first-round selections.  None of them have off the field issues, and all lead by example. Those players will all be starters and will leave their mark on the club.  But Grier went out and grabbed quality depth special teams’ players like Clayton Fejedelem (Bengals), Elandon Roberts (Patriots), and Kamu Grugier-Hill (Eagles). Willing in all three phases is critical in the NFL, and the plan the Dolphins used to execute this free agency period shows that path.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens didn’t win in free agency by going out and buying up a bunch of big-time players.  They added Michael Brockers, defensive tackle, from the Los Angeles Rams and traded for defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars.  The Ravens added two veteran, quality players, to a stacked roster without many holes.

Campbell is 33 years old but has produced 31.5 sacks over the past three seasons in Jacksonville.  He brings a Man of the Year presence to an already strong locker room and now is playing with a chip on his shoulder.  Brockers, a former 1st rounder with the Rams, never got the exposure of former teammate Aaron Donald, but his play allowed Donald to thrive.  Adding these two players to an already solid Ravens’ defense is a win in any offseason.

Arizona Cardinals

General Manager Steve Keim won the offseason simply by trading for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.  One of the best receivers currently in the NFL will be playing along one of the best of all-time (Larry Fitzgerald) in an explosive, high-powered offense.  Hopkins gives quarterback Kyler Murray another weapon and changes the dynamics of the NFC West.

But Keim didn’t stop there this March.  The GM put the transition tag on current Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake. The former Dolphins had a career year in just eight games for Arizona in 2019, and keeping the former Alabama RB under wraps helps the continuity of the offense.  Keim signed left tackle DJ Humphries to a long-term extension, betting on the continued health and growth of the young former first-rounder.

Keim added legitimate pieces to the defense.  Signing interior defensive tackle Jordan Phillips locks down the middle of the Cardinals defense.  Phillips is powerful, can hold the point of attack, and is sneaky quick in pass-rush situations.  Linebackers Devon Kennard and De’Vondre Campbell are both young and versatile. While Kennard is more a pass rush threat off the edge, the former Lion is solid versus the run game.  Campbell, the former Falcon, is a tackling machine who is consistent and physical.

These trades and signings should help the Cardinals compete for the NFC West crown in 2020.

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Marc Lillibridge has over 25 years in and around the NFL as a linebacker, scout, agent and media member. President of The Brawl Network.

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