When it comes to the NFL offseason, the splashy moves draw all of the headlines. Matthew Stafford heading to the Rams had a clear effect on the market; so did Carson Wentz to the Colts, the 49ers’ trade for the No. 3 pick, and the retirements of Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.
But what about the moves that might not have grabbed the spotlight? Here are five under-the-radar acquisitions that could have a significant effect on the NFL betting market in 2021.
Joe Thuney to the Chiefs
This one drew plenty of attention when it happened, if only because of how glaring the Chiefs’ offensive-line issues were in their Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers. Still, don’t gloss over this move in favor of flashier skill-position signings.
Thuney ranked in the top 12 among guards in PFF grades in each of the last four seasons and has played 500 more snaps at left guard than any player in the league since joining the Patriots in 2016. That consistency and availability is a game-changer for the Chiefs (+500) in their quest for another championship.
John Johnson to the Browns
The Browns seemingly had the makings of a title team last year with an elite offense and burgeoning pass rush. Their biggest weakness was on the back end – Cleveland ranked 12th in points allowed per red-zone trip (4.93) but fell to 23rd in points per drive (2.52), a symptom of poor secondary play and an inability to prevent the deep shot.
Johnson ranked fourth among safeties in coverage grade last year (minimum 100 snaps) and fourth in run defense, too, recording 79 tackles and seven pass breakups with the Rams. He’s the type of defensive star who could elevate the Browns (+2000) to legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Ryan Fitzpatrick to Washington
It’s rare that a quarterback signing can fly under the radar, but that’s what happened when Washington inked Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal early in free agency. The move provides stability at quarterback to complement the team’s elite defense and developing rushing attack, making Washington an instant value in the NFC East.
Fitzpatrick also has the potential to unlock Terry McLaurin and new signee Curtis Samuel after both ultra-efficient wideouts were saddled with years of poor quarterback play. Don’t sleep on this team with the old gunslinger at the helm.
Will Fuller to the Dolphins
Amid one of the best wide-receiver free-agent classes in recent memory, Will Fuller’s one-year contract with the Dolphins was overshadowed by Kenny Golladay’s payday from the Giants and multi-year deals for Samuel and Corey Davis. Yet Fuller’s move could have the greatest impact in 2021.
Miami desperately needed a receiver opposite DeVante Parker and found it in Fuller, who ranked 10th in yards per game (79.9) and sixth in yards per catch (16.6) in 2020. His availability has been a concern, but if Fuller’s healthy for the playoffs, the Dolphins (+2800) could be explosive enough to compete with the top offenses in the AFC.
Kyle Fuller to the Broncos
When the Bears cut Fuller to save $14 million, it was a logical but somewhat surprising move. It’s only fitting that Broncos coach Vic Fangio – who worked with Fuller as the Bears’ defensive coordinator – took a chance on the 29-year-old two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
In Fangio’s last year in Chicago, Fuller tied for the league lead with seven interceptions and ranked fourth in PFF coverage grade and in passer rating allowed (66.6) among corners with at least 500 snaps. Another season like that would help the Broncos exceed their mediocre win total and potentially surprise as a dark-horse playoff team.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for RunSportBet. He’s an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He’s also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.