Much has been made of the money spent to acquire defensive-line help during the off-season, but here's how three other eye-opening personnel moves have played out.
1. Transaction: Patriots' restricted free-agent running back Curtis Martin signs a six-year, $36 million contract with the Jets, who compensate New England with first-and third-round draft choices in '98. (Pats take running back Robert Edwards and fullback Chris Floyd, respectively, with those picks.) Result: Martin leads Edwards in rushing yards, 618-580, but the rookie has proved to be the better runner between the tackles and $4.85 million cheaper per year. Winner: Patriots
2. Transaction: The Chargers trade return man-wideout Eric Metcalf, linebacker Patrick Sapp, '98 first-round ( defensive end Andre Wadsworth) and second-round (cornerback Corey Chavous) picks and a first-round pick in '99 to the Cardinals for the second pick in the '98 draft—which turns out to be quarterback Ryan Leaf. Result: Only Wadsworth, with four sacks, has had an impact, and Leaf has struggled. Winner: Too early to call
3. Transaction: The Jaguars trade quarterback Rob Johnson to the Bills for first-round ( running back Fred Taylor) and fourth-round ( running back Tavian Banks) picks in '98. Buffalo signs Johnson to a five-year, $25 million extension. Result Injuries have slowed all three players, but Taylor, who is averaging 5.2 yards per rush on 95 carries, has looked great at times. People forget how well Johnson (92.8 passer rating) played before two concussions and a rib injury put him on the shelf. Now he's lost in the hoopla surrounding his charismatic replacement, Doug Flutie. Winner: Bills