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The 4 most underrated storylines of the 2019 NFL offseason

From Le’Veon Bell’s salary to the absurdity of more Odell Beckham Jr. trade rumors, these are a few developments we’ll be watching closely.

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Kyler Murray picked football over baseball. The Browns signed Kareem Hunt, who is still awaiting punishment from the NFL. Antonio Brown bid Steelers fans farewell (though he remains on the team). The Ravens traded Joe Flacco to the Broncos. There’s a guy named Poop Johnson in the CFL.

This week served as yet another reminder that there is no offseason in football. That’s even more true this year now that the AAF is here.

We shouldn’t expect that to change, either. There are no shortage of questions we’ll get answers to in next few months. Who will get the franchise tag? Can Brown and the Steelers make up? Will Gronk retire? How small exactly IS Murray? Where will free-agents-to-be like Earl Thomas and Nick Foles end up? Will the NFL tweak its rules to avoid another Saints-like disaster?

We’ll be following all of those situations closely — maybe more closely than we care to admit in public. But there are a few other underrated storylines that we think deserve more attention. Here are our four favorites this offseason:

How much is Le’Veon Bell going to get?

Bell is finally going to be a free agent. It only took four years on a rookie contract, one year on the franchise tag, and a second year on the franchise tag that was negated by Bell sitting on the sideline for an entire season.

But he — probably — made it.

It’ll be interesting to see which team will pay up for Bell. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler who has averaged 86.1 rushing yards and 42.9 receiving yards per game over his career. Even Marshall Faulk — the all-time king of pass-catching running backs — averaged 69.8 rushing yards and 39.1 receiving yards during his Hall of Fame career.

But it’ll be even more interesting to see what Bell gets.

Bell hit uncharted territory in 2018. Plenty of players have held out after the franchise tag took away their chance to see the free agent market. A few have even missed regular season games, but Bell sat out an entire season even when, by rule, it didn’t have a chance at actually landing him a new contract from the Steelers.

Was it all worth it?

It’ll be hard for him to stomach his long saga with the Steelers if he can’t find a deal that comes close to the $15 million per year average that Todd Gurley got last summer. Maybe he’ll eclipse that and get a record-breaking deal for a running back.

In the long term, Bell’s fight may prove to be a helpful battle for all NFL players, regardless of his contract — especially if it helps eliminate the franchise tag. Either way, it’ll be an interesting valuation of a player who put his foot down and strong-armed his way to the open market.

How dumb will the Odell Beckham Jr. trade rumors get?

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, the Patriots won a Super Bowl, and mock drafts started popping up everywhere. Like clockwork, that meant it was time for Beckham Jr. trade rumors.

You didn’t think those rumors would go away after the Giants made him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL last year, did you? Or after he re-established himself as the Giants’ No. 1 receiver, putting up 1,052 receiving yards and six touchdowns — and throwing two more! — in 12 games this past season?

Nope, because here we go again. What got this idea back on everyone’s radar again was Jay Glazer’s mailbag for The Athletic. In the column, Glazer obliged a reader who requested a bold prediction with:

I predict Odell Beckham Jr. gets traded this off-season. I think that’s bold enough.

And OBJ heard about that pretty quickly:

And, judging by Glazer’s followup tweet, it got A LOT of people’s attention:

Well, “fucksticks” is an underappreciated cuss word — let’s all agree on that point.

But yeaaaaah, these Beckham rumors make even less sense now than they ever did before. Beckham, along with Saquon Barkley and whichever quarterback the Giants draft this year, will make for a young, dynamic offensive trio that the team can build around. New York could use more cap space, but trading Beckham wouldn’t free up that much money. If the Giants would want to dump anyone, it should be Eli Manning, which would save the team $17 million.

The Giants probably won’t do that, but at least it’d be more understandable to part with a 38-year-old quarterback on his last legs than with a 26-year-old superstar receiver.

As it should be, the Giants are still the betting favorites for where Beckham will play this fall:

But the NFL world likes drama, so OBJ rumors probably aren’t going away anytime soon. Rather than bemoan it, we should just embrace the absurdity of it all — and hope that we see a few more people use the word “fucksticks.”

What the hell is going on with the Cardinals?

Steve Wilks lasted only one season in the desert giving way to ... deposed Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury. This is a sentence for which a new form of punctuation — some kind of exclamation point, question mark, and cry-laughing emoji, ideally — needs to be invented. This alone would make Arizona amazing to follow, but there’s more.

There’s so much more.

The Cardinals have a budding quarterback, Josh Rosen, who is less than a year removed from being the No. 10 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. He might be hung out to dry because Kingsbury once made some glowing comments about a rival passer from Oklahoma who wasn’t supposed to go to the NFL. Arizona says it’s committed to developing Rosen, but oddsmakers don’t believe that one bit; the Cards have the second-best odds of drafting Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray this spring.

The weirdness isn’t contained solely on the offensive side of the ball. All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson demanded a trade in hopes of removing the red albatross from his neck, then rescinded that trade months later after hitting his tee shot on the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open.

Now he’s working to recruit another disgruntled player, Steelers wideout Antonio Brown, to Glendale.

Then you’ve got David Johnson, who broke into the league as one of the league’s most exciting players and then spent the last two seasons ritualistically sacrificing fantasy teams due to injury and ineffectiveness. Players like Ricky Seals-Jones, Chad Williams, and Trent Sherfield (who was kinda good!) round out the most depressing NFL Blitz roster ever constructed.

And finally, on a heartwarming/breaking ending, there’s Larry Fitzgerald, playing out what what may be the final year of a Hall of Fame career (aw), making $11 million (yay), and playing for what may be a four-win team (boo). Bless this mess that is the entirely non-sensical 2019 Arizona Cardinals. If they win the Super Bowl it will be counted as a sign of the apocalypse.

Who will be trading up for a quarterback this year?

One of the more recent draft trends we’ve seen is teams trading up for a quarterback in the first round. The Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified in 2011 lowered the amount of money that players at the top of the draft would receive, making the picks a smaller portion of each team’s cap space.

That made it easier for teams to move up in the draft to select players that they wanted —most notably, quarterback prospects. Trading up for quarterbacks has ratcheted up even more in recent years. Since the 2016 draft when Jared Goff and Carson Wentz went first and second, only one first-round quarterback hasn’t been drafted involving a trade — that was Baker Mayfield, the first overall pick to the 0-16 Cleveland Browns last year.

There are going to be teams that will trade up for a quarterback this year because there are every year. The New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, and Miami Dolphins are four teams who could be in the quarterback market this year.

The Giants and Jaguars probably have the easiest avenue to get the quarterback prospect they want — likely Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins — because they have the sixth and seventh picks in the draft. It wouldn’t cost too much for them to leapfrog into the top three picks from where they currently sit. If they find a quarterback prospect that they fall in love with and don’t want to miss out on, sacrificing a few draft picks is worth the risk.