Over two weeks after NFL free agency has started, the dust has essentially settled on the most impactful moves by teams. History tells us that outside of quarterback (hello Tom Brady/Tampa), there are not many moves in free agency that will truly impact an NFL team’s chances at winning a Super Bowl. With that in mind, I captured the Super Bowl odds via DraftKings the day before free agency began and the current odds below:
There has been some modest movement among a number of teams but the one clear “winner” in free agency according to the DraftKings betting market is the New England Patriots. The Patriots’ odds have come down from 40-1 prior to free agency to 28-1 as of today. The movement is a little overdone in my opinion, considering the market already knew that New England had the most money to spend in free agency and it’s not as if they signed impact players to the extent to validate this movement.
Most importantly, New England did nothing to improve their QB position, with the re-signing of Cam Newton. Yes, the offense will certainly improve with Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, and Nelson Agholor in the mix but the base was so bad last year (27th in DVOA pass offense) that it wasn’t difficult to see these improvements coming. The fact that their odds are the same as the Miami Dolphins is surprising given Miami’s better overall roster, adding the most explosive free agent wide receiver in Will Fuller and sitting on two top-18 picks in this year’s draft. If I had a choice between these two squads I would 100% take Miami over New England at these odds.
The largest increase in odds has come from three teams (Carolina, Las Vegas, and the Jets) with one thing in common, Deshaun Watson interest. Bettors anticipated that one of those three teams would have a shot at trading for Watson before free agency began but with the off-the-field allegations increasing for Watson, the odds of a trade have lessened recently.
There is a group of teams who have seen odds movement recently that I believe are sharper moves. Jacksonville has seen its odds drop from 75-1 to 70-1, based on playing in the second-easiest division in football, the expected drafting of Trevor Lawrence, and some solid roster improvement in free agency with cornerback Shaq Griffin, safety Rayshawn Jenkins, and wide receiver Marvin Jones.
The Saints (22-1 to 28-1) and the Titans (28-1 to 33-1) have seen some negative movement. Both are most likely based on losing key players. The Saints lost Malcolm Brown, Trey Hendrickson, Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, and Janoris Jenkins as cuts/free agents as well as the retirement of Drew Brees. The Titans lost Corey Davis, Adoree Jackson, and Malcolm Butler without really being able to replace those players. I totally agree with the move on Tennessee when you also factor in losing their offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons. Tennessee also has to face a projected top-10 toughest schedule after facing a top-10 easiest schedule last year.
Best Longshot Super Bowl Odds
The one team that I love as my favorite long shot future is the Denver Broncos, currently sitting at 60-1 to win the Super Bowl, 28-1 to win the AFC, +285 to make the playoffs, and an over/under win total of 7.5 +100 to the over. I like all of those bets.
Let’s start with what went wrong last season for Denver. First and foremost, just awful injury luck hit the Broncos defense starting with star edge rusher Von Miller missing the entire season right before the opener. In fact, the Denver defense lost 61 total games, 44 from the front four alone, due to injury. Compare that to the Rams and Steelers who lost only 12 and 29 games, respectively, due to injuries.
They also had to face a bevy of good opposing offenses and faced the fourth-toughest schedule of opposing offenses by DVOA, with seven games against offenses that ranked in the top-seven. With all of that adversity, somehow Vic Fangio and that Broncos defense were able to finish 19th in yards per play allowed and 13th in defensive DVOA.
When you consider they get back their top defensive pass rusher in Miller, re-signed DL Shelby Harris who finished eighth among all DL in PFF grade, re-signed both safeties, Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson (both graded among the top-nine overall in PFF grade), and added two more top 30 PFF coverage cornerbacks in Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller, this defense will be absolutely loaded this year.
When you include Miller’s 2019 season, Denver will have eight defensive players ranked inside PFF’s top 100 defensive player grades from last season. No other defense in the NFL has more than six currently on the roster. The Rams had six last season but lost two, John Johnson and Troy Hill, in free agency.
Oh yeah, and the overall schedule for the Broncos goes from the seventh-toughest to the easiest this season. They get to face the weak NFC East along with Jacksonville and Detroit (at home) in their non-divisional schedule.
Obviously, the quarterback position is the biggest question mark on this team and still has to be addressed. Drew Lock was horrendous last season, finishing 28th in EPA/play and 32nd by a country mile in completion percentage over expected (-5.6 vs 31st ranked Carson Wentz at -3.6). Not only did Denver have to deal with Lock’s incompetence at QB but they had to play three games with Jeff Driskel/Brett Rypien combo as well as a game against the Saints without a QB!
The Broncos are loaded on offense with second-year WRs Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, third-year tight end Noah Fant, and the return of rising star receiver Courtland Sutton from injury. Sutton was the 11th-ranked PFF WR in 2019.
Denver’s odds would obviously plummet if they got their hands on Watson but there are two other paths to improving considerably at quarterback and making these odds a major bargain. Plan A should be to do whatever it takes to move up in the draft (most likely Atlanta at No. 4) and draft Justin Fields if he drops past the third pick. As shown above, the Broncos’ roster is so loaded that trading away a future first-round pick along with another pick or two in this years’ draft wouldn’t be very costly.
Another route is to trade for a veteran quarterback who can give Denver B- to C- level of QB play, such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Teddy Bridgewater, Alex Smith, or Sam Darnold. It shouldn’t be very difficult to pry any of those guys away from their current teams and Smith is currently a free agent. Any of those options would instantly make this a playoff team and if a rookie quarterback like Fields can play at a high level, there is a chance for Denver to make a decent playoff run.