Let the games begin

Yesterday was the official start of the 2015 NFL calendar. With that, trades can be officially consummated, and of course, free agency begins. While there were some big free agent deals done, they took backseat to some of the surprising trades that were made. Baltimore trades Haloti Ngata to Detroit The first surprise move was the Baltimore Ravens sending perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and a 7th round pick to Detroit for the Lions 4th and 5th round picks in this year’s draft. That trade took many off guard. Who even knew that Ngata was available? Baltimore has been getting old on defense and good aging players cost a lot of money to keep. Taking a page out of Bill Belichick’s book, they moved Ngata a year or so earlier than expected. They have been trying to get a deal done for quite some time, and when they couldn't they moved on and will use that money elsewhere. Getting only a 4th and 5th round pick in return doesn’t sound like much, but they also have the extra cap room in which to either acquire other players or take care of some of their own younger guys. Detroit decided they weren’t going to pay Ndamukong Suh what he wanted and got the 31 year old Ngata to replace him. Suh and Ngata are two very different types of players. With Ngata, the Lions won’t be that feared pass rushing team but will be very difficult to run against. Ngata did not come cheap and has only one year left on his contract. Going forward, that gives him a lot of leverage in future contract negotiations with Detroit. At 31, Ngata is three years older than Suh, and while he still has a few good years left, would the Lions have been better off just paying Suh in the first place? The Rams and the Eagles swap quarterbacks and draft picks The St. Louis Rams sent quarterback Sam Bradford and a 5th round pick in this year’s draft to Philadelphia for quarterback Nick Foles, a 4th round pick this year and a 2nd round pick next year. Every time I look at this deal, I can’t help but think that the Rams made out like bandits. St. Louis is getting a young quarterback who is only in his fourth year in the league and is still an ascending player. As a starter, Foles has a 14 – 4 record and just two years ago, was in the Pro Bowl after throwing 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions. No matter how you look at it, he is an ascending player with his best football in front of him. Granted, he didn’t play as well in 2014 as he did in 2013, but the Eagles offensive line was also in total disrepair because of injuries. Foles also comes with a salary of only $1.5 million being in the final year of his rookie deal. Bradford, on the other hand, has been a disappointment since his very strong rookie year. He also has only played seven games in the last two seasons and has suffered 2 ACL injuries. On the bright side, Bradford played his best when his offensive coordinator was Pat Shurmur who just happens to be the OC in Philly. The difference is, Philly doesn’t play Shurmur’s offense, they play Chip Kelly’s offense, and they aren’t the same. Philly also picks up the final year of Bradford rookie contract at a salary of nearly 13 million. Bradford has to totally turn his game around for this deal to become successful for the Eagles. If not they could look foolish. New Orleans trades Jimmy Graham to Seattle The last surprise trade of the day was New Orleans sending Pro Bowl Tight End Jimmy Graham and a 4th round pick to Seattle for center Max Unger and a 1st round pick in this year’s draft. This was shocking considering Graham, along with Drew Brees, were the face of the New Orleans offense. The mismatches that Graham created helped the rest of the offensive flow. Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, in interviews following the trade, said that the Saints have to get better on defense and the first round pick they acquired in a strong defensive draft will help them achieve that goal. Max Unger is no throw in. He was the leader and heart and soul of the Seattle offensive line. His presence in the locker room will be difficult to replace. As a player, he is one of the better interior offensive linemen in the NFL, so he will greatly help the Saints. Graham immediately becomes Russell Wilson’s #1 target. His size and athleticism give Seattle something they have never had and will make the wide receivers better players because of the coverage that Graham will get. While Unger’s leaves a big hole behind, the Seahawks will be able to get a quality interior offensive linemen in the second or third round of the draft. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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