While the free agency spending frenzy runs wild, the Giants and Browns found a way to overshadow it Tuesday night: a trade of Odell Beckham Jr.
Not to be outdone, however, the Jets got the guy at the top of their free agency list, agreeing with former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell on a deal early Wednesday morning.
The Giants are sending their star receiver to Cleveland for first- and second-round draft picks in April and safety Jabrill Peppers in the second blockbuster trade in four days. On Saturday, Pittsburgh sent unhappy wideout Antonio Brown to Oakland, a deal Brown forced.
Beckham is the NFL’s highest-paid receiver; he got a five-year, $90 million extension last August. He comes off two injury-plagued seasons, but when healthy is a game-breaking target, just like Brown.
The two trades become official Wednesday when the league’s business year begins. People with knowledge of the moves told The Associated Press of the trades, speaking anonymously because the transactions can’t be announced until after 4 p.m. EDT on Wednesday.
Beckham is known for his gravity-defying catches and breakaway skills, but also for being temperamental. He was suspended for one game in 2015 for his on-field battles with cornerback Josh Norman, then with Carolina.
Cleveland suddenly looks like a force in an AFC North in which both Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been weakened in the offseason. With Beckham reunited with receiver Jarvis Landry, a teammate at LSU, it gives quarterback Baker Mayfield two top targets. The Browns, who went 7-8-1 last season after not winning a game in 2017, haven’t made the playoffs since 2002.
The mega-trade came hours after another busy day of dealmaking.
The money flowed out of New Jersey, with the Jets agreeing Tuesday to contracts with three players: wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Bellamy, and linebacker C.J. Mosley. The team also will re-sign cornerback Darryl Roberts and defensive end Henry Anderson.
But the big news came when the Jets and Bell agreed on a deal. ESPN first reported the signing, saying the contract is for four years and $52.5 million.
The deal gives new coach Adam Gase and second-year quarterback Sam Darnold a big-time playmaker, arguably the best player at his position before Bell opted to sit out all of last season rather than sign a franchise tender with Pittsburgh.
Bell has rushed for 5,336 yards and 35 touchdowns, and has 312 catches for 2,660 yards and seven scores as one of the most versatile and dangerous offensive players in the NFL.
“I’m back in the green baby,” the former Michigan State star wrote on Twitter. “Let’s get it.”
It streamed out of Green Bay, with the Packers getting deals with edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, linebacker Preston Smith, safety Adrian Amos and offensive lineman Billy Turner. The Packers also cut veteran linebacker Nick Perry.
And it poured out of Oakland once more when the Raiders kept their vault open and agreed to a four-year contract with safety Lamarcus Joyner . The Raiders previously made big moves on offense by trading for Brown and agreeing to a deal with tackle Trent Brown.
Given the “legal tampering” freedom the league now allows for two days, well, let Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta describe the mayhem.
“Unfortunately for us, the market is irrational at times and we can’t be held responsible for what other teams want to pay,” DeCosta said. “All we can do is try to negotiate in good faith with agents and the players.”
The Jets had more than $82.5 million to spend in free agency, and they are spending it. They thought they also had an agreement with Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, but he opted instead to return to Minnesota.
Not that the Jets fell short in adding talent. The 26-year-old Mosley is a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker who will get a reported five years and $85 million, including a whopping $51 million guaranteed. Mosley has had at least 100 tackles in every season but 2016, when he missed two games with an injury and finished with 92. He will be a centerpiece of new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ unit.
In dire need of receivers for Darnold, New York is adding the 26-year-old Crowder as a playmaking slot receiver. Crowder, whose deal reportedly is for three years and $28.5 million, had 221 catches for 2,628 yards and 14 touchdowns in four seasons with Washington. He was limited to nine games last season because of an ankle injury.
Bellamy has 76 career catches for 999 yards and five touchdowns, and is also a special teams contributor. He spent the last five years with Chicago.
The defensive signings should improve a unit that ranked 18th in the NFL in 2018. Za’Darius Smith is getting the biggest deal: $66 million over four years with $34.5 million in the first two years, according to his agency, SportsTrust Advisors. The 28-year-old Smith led the Ravens with 8½ sacks last season — including three in one game against Tennessee — and has 18½ in his 58-game career.
Preston Smith agreed to a $52 million, four-year contract with $16 million guaranteed. For Amos, it is a $37 million, four-year contract. Amos, 25, started all 16 games for the NFC North rival Chicago Bears last season and had two interceptions.
Turner gets a $28 million, four-year contract.
Joyner becomes the first major addition on defense in Oakland. He played last season on a franchise tag for the Rams, earning $11.3 million. But Los Angeles signed Eric Weddle last week to be Joyner’s replacement.
The 28-year-old Joyner was originally a second-round pick by the Rams in 2014 and played 67 games over five seasons with the franchise. He has four interceptions and 25 passes defensed in his career.
It’s been a difficult two days for the Ravens. Za’Darius Smith, Mosley, Weddle and long-time star Terrell Suggs (Cardinals) all departed from their top-ranked defense.
“We see good young players leave us every year,” DeCosta said. “We’ve tried to adjust over time, but I think now is a great opportunity for us to become financially responsible, to get control over the salary cap to understand the concept of right player, right price.”