Free Agency

Winners and Losers of First and Second Waves of NFL Free Agency

By Kyle Smith March 19, 2020 0 Comment
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The NFL league year is officially underway and superstars across the league are changing teams at a rapid pace during free agency.

As the NFL league year officially kicked off, teams around the league scrambled to negotiate contracts with A-List players. This free agency class was incredibly deep in many areas, and teams left no stone unturned in order to upgrade their team at any position. With the musical chairs of quarterbacks finally coming down to the last beat, and only a few tier-one players remaining, we take a look at the winners and losers of the first and second wave of free agency.

Winners

Las Vegas Raiders – Key additions: Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski, Marcus Mariota

Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock saw holes on the defensive side of the ball and decided to fill literally all of them. At linebacker, the Raiders signed two of the top players in Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton. Kwiatkoski’s deal is team-friendly at 3 years, $21 million. Littleton received less than he probably expected at 3 years, $36 million. The Raiders signed Hard Knocks fan favorite Carl Nassib, defensive end from the Buccaneers, to a 3 year, $25 million contract. Eli Apple, cornerback from New Orleans, also agreed to a contract with the Raiders.

Gruden saw an opportunity to push Derek Carr when he signed Marcus Mariota, quarterback from the Tennessee Titans. Gruden was a fan of Mariota’s during the 2015 draft season and now finally has the opportunity to coach Mariota who he once compared to Russell Wilson. Look for the Raiders to load up on offensive weapons with their two first-round draft picks come April.

Miami Dolphins – Key additions: Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson

The Dolphins went into free agency with the most money to spend, and boy did they. Miami exceeded all expectations last year. They went from “Tank for Tua” to beating New England in the last game of the season. This did not stop them from treating their roster as a complete rebuild. Miami secured the bag when they signed Byron Jones, cornerback from Dallas, to an astounding 5 year, $82 million contract. Jones and Xavien Howard will be a brick wall against any opposing receiving corps.

They may have overpaid, but they locked down the offensive guard position by signing Ereck Flowers to a 3 year, $30 million deal. The Dolphins also signed Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, and Emmanuel Ogbah to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Miami continues to be linked with Tua Tagovail0a and Justin Herbert to lead this team to the top of the AFC East.

Cleveland Browns – Key additions: Jack Conklin, Austin Hooper, Karl Joseph

The Cleveland Browns were one of the most disappointing teams in 2019. After an offseason of encouraging trades and free agent signings in 2019, Baker Mayfield and Freddie Kitchens’s browns sputtered across the finish line to a 6-10 record. The revamped Browns front office knew it had to protect Baker Mayfield. They spent serious cash to do so by signing Jack Conklin, tackle from the Titans. Conklin signed a 3 year, $42 million deal to solidify the right side of the line. The Browns also gave Mayfield a new target in Austin Hooper, tight end from Atlanta. Hooper signed a 4 year, $44 million deal to make him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Finishing up the day, Cleveland signed Karl Joseph, safety from the Raiders to boost their defensive backfield. The Browns still have needs at linebacker and could use an upgrade on the offensive line to protect Mayfield.

Baltimore Ravens – Key additions: Calais Campbell, Michael Brockers

To start free agency, the Ravens franchise-tagged Matthew Judon to hold down the fort at edge rusher. Judon may or may not be traded depending on the market for edge rushers following free agency. The Ravens also cashed in on teams desperate to move on from expensive contracts. Baltimore sent only a 5th round pick to Jacksonville for big man Calais Campbell to beef up their defensive line. According to Ian Rapoport, Campbell and the Ravens are also finalizing a 2-year deal worth $27 million. They did not stop there. They went on to sign Michael Brockers, defensive tackle from the Rams, to a 3 year, $30 million deal. Baltimore also dealt Hayden Hurst to the Falcons in exchange for a 5th round pick that was used in the Calais Campbell trade. The Ravens have a hole at the linebacker position and are set to fill that gap in the draft.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Key Additions: Tom Brady

Tampa Bay just went from a potential 8-8 team to NFC Championship-caliber, all by signing one player. Tom Brady will be a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. 2020 is weird, but the NFL world never expected this. As Tom officially announced that he would not be returning to Foxborough, sources around the league confirm that Brady is finalizing a deal to become the new quarterback for the Bucs. Going from Jameis Winston to Tom Brady has to be one of the most jarring experiences for any fan base and Raymond James Stadium will be firing the cannons a lot next season. The team also franchised tagged NFL sack leader Shaq Barret and resigned Jason Pierre-Paul. Expect Bruce Arians to load up the offensive line to protect Brady, and potentially give him even more weapons (watch out for Antonio Brown, seriously).

Losers

Houston Texans – Key Losses: Deandre Hopkins

There really is not too much to say here. The Texans traded Deandre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals in return for David Johnson, a second-round pick, and next year’s fourth-rounder. If this was 2016 David Johnson, the conversation could be had that this MIGHT be an okay trade for the Texans. However, Johnson simply has not been the same since injuring his wrist in 2017.

Houston botched this trade as they did last year with Jadeveon Clowney, and once again showed the ineptitude of Bill O’Brien as a General Manager. Players across the league took to Twitter to express their disbelief and even some disdain towards the trade, including Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt. If you want to successfully ruin your young franchise quarterback during your prime playoff window, trade away the best receiver in the league. The Texans are the big losers of this free agency and now have major holes to fill with minor draft capital.

Chicago Bears – Key Losses: Nick Kwiatkowski, Cap Space

Mitchell Truibisky is in need of a serious wake-up call. The former number 2 overall pick in the draft has not lived up to the expectations, especially considering he was taken before now NFL and Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. Ryan Pace decided that bringing in a veteran quarterback to compete for the starting job would do just that. This has to mean Cam Newton, right…? Nope. Nick Foles, former Eagles hero turned Jaguars bust, is now a Bear. The Bears traded For Nick Foles from Jacksonville for a 4th round pick.

Foles was able to pull off a miracle in the wake of Carson Wentz‘s injury but was never able to replicate that during a regular-season game. Chicago now has to eat $21 million guaranteed from Foles’s Jacksonville contract that he signed just last season. The Bears did sign Robert Quinn from Dallas and Jimmy Graham from Green Bay, but aging players is something Chicago does not need. The Bears had a chance to upgrade at the QB position but instead took the backroad. “That’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see how it plays out.”

New England Patriots – Key Losses: Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins

Bill Belichick will probably prove me wrong like he does every writer who has ever doubted him. However, this year seems different. New England will have a new starting quarterback for the first time in 20 years as Tom Brady heads for Tampa Bay. They also lost key defensive pieces in Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Danny Shelton, and Duron Harmon. These losses will, however, pay dividends come next season’s compensatory picks, but the creates immediate gaps. The Patriots did franchise tag Joe Thuney and resigned Devin McCourty, but that won’t be enough to keep the dynasty rolling. New England is expected to trade or sign a veteran quarterback to compete with Jarrett Stidham for the starting job, but do not rule out making a move in the upcoming draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Key Losses: Javon Hargrave

Pittsburgh rarely plays in free agency, but usually comes out on top due to excellent scouting for the draft. This year was no different in that their only moves consisted of franchise tagging edge rusher Bud Dupree, signing Derek Watt to play with his brother, and restructuring multiple contracts to get as close to the cap as possible. The Steelers do not have a first-round pick this year to help bolster the hole created when they lost defensive lineman Javon Hargrave to the Eagles, but never count Pittsburgh out of the race, especially with a healthy Big Ben coming back this season.

As free agency rolls on, expect the quarterback carousel to slow down as Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, and Cam Newton search for new teams. Look for the receiver position to finally land as Robby Anderson remains, and watch for running back news as Melvin Gordon continues his unlikely treasure hunt.

 

 
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