This article is part of our The Reddit Madden League series.
While we have advanced into the early portions of the 2021 RML season, I would be remiss to ignore what was, again, another chaotic offseason. While free agency didn’t yield anything more than plug-and-shrug starters – similar to what the real life Bears add each year in free agency – there was still a bevy of trades that were processed this offseason that could impact RML for years to come.
Perhaps most surprisingly was the lack of head-scratching deals that took place. While I already went into length about one mind-numbingly bad trade, the rest of the 28 deals processed were rather even for both sides.
The Tangibles of the Trade
Some things stayed the same from one offseason to another. Prior to the 2019 NFL RML Draft, 49 picks changed hands, whereas 2020 saw 44 picks go their separate ways, and that’s not including two separate instances where an owner was forced to trade all of their remaining picks for an upcoming season, by virtue of being unable to attend the Draft. A strong draft class resulted in most of the top-10 picks staying the same, as teams within the top-10 simply switched with one another in order to save on potential cap hits or to stop anyone from potentially jumping up to grab a desired player.
However, it was a dramatic decrease in player movement – from 57 players in 2019 to 42 the following season, which ended up being the biggest change. That could be pivotal for the entire hierarchy of the league.
Veterans of Madden re-drafts should be well aware, but the fourth and fifth seasons are critical for consistent team-building. Players drafted in the first few rounds of a Madden fantasy draft are given generic four and five-year contracts, depending on how early a player is taken. Meaning the best players in a given franchise generally tend to become available all around the same, creating a glut in available talent. And that doesn’t include players drafted in the first actual draft of a given franchise, as unlike real life, Madden only gives four-year contracts to first-round picks. As a result, there will be an influx in talent to hit the open market, either by trade or free agency, in seasons to come. Already, this past offseason saw an example of that phenomenon, as a flood of offensive lineman hit the trade block, and barely a whimper of movement came from the prospective owners, likely thanks to other owners intent on developing young offensive lineman.
With a pivotal re-signing period coming during the 2021 season, I suspect many owners will be kicking themselves for not being more aggressive in swapping players. As teams become more mindful of cap space, plenty of 27-to-29-year-old players will trickle into the trade block, and then into free agency, thanks to a lack of trade aggression. Owners rightfully concerned about the dreaded Madden regression machine should be hesitant to sign players near that mark to long-term deals, as their once valued players could become albatross contracts within a year. But they’ll have missed out on getting anything of value for their departing players. Teams such as the Panthers, Raiders, Saints, Texans, Falcons and Titans could be the main beneficiaries, as each could be sitting with close to $50 million in cap space and few core players needed to be re-signed in the next two seasons. For a handful of those teams, a couple of forward-thinking moves could vault them from playoff hopefuls to divisional stalwarts depending on how they play their cards in the upcoming weeks.
Birds of Prey?
All that being said, it was tough for me to identify an “offseason loser.” There were two obvious “winners,” however
Ravens give up:
Always one of the most active teams in RML, the Ravens will seemingly have multiple top-10 picks for all of eternity. In fact “death, taxes and Ravens will have the No. 1 overall pick” could very well become an old adage in the near future. For the most part, Baltimore flotsam was once again exchanged for quality players. Reynolds almost was the reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Year with the Falcons, whereas the former Chiefs player, Carpenter, was one of the better defensive ends in the AFC, and is currently tied for the seventh-best DT in all of RML.
The league should probably be thankful the Ravens didn’t “hit” on many of their picks – in fact talking with the owner afterwards it seems clear he may have been “duped” in his trade with the Lions, as multiple players he planned on taking were scooped up in those very spots. But a likely top-10 pick next year and a new pile of developed bench scum should mean the Ravens will repeat the process once more in 2021. This paragraph might sound like it’s filled with disdain, but it’s quite the contrary actually, as I admire the approach. Unable or uninterested in re-signing the majority of the players sent out, the “Ravens Way” has actually helped provide talent to needy teams, while creating a consistent factory of player movement for years to come. If only the process could yield a spot in the Super Bowl….
Eagles give up:
While I’m sure the Eagles would have loved to select any of the players taken in the picks they had occupied previously, that discounts who they drafted in the “non” traded rounds. Frank Greene, who went with the aforementioned No. 6 pick, is an 81 overall MLB with SS development and 88 acceleration. And the Eagles third-round pick, RT Shawn Flemister, was one of four players selected with a 75 overall or higher AND taken in the third-round or later. While a couple of teams made magic with mincemeat (here’s looking at the Giants) no team did a better job of drafting talent repeatedly over the course of the 2020 NFL Draft than the Eagles.