The first four exciting, frantic, and dramatic days of free agency have come to a close after a relatively quiet weekend, following all the drama after free agency opened on Thursday afternoon at 4pm EST.
With the tampering window for teams to negotiate with other franchises’ free agents starting the day before, many deals were revealed by the two most eminent breaking NFL reporters, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and Adam Schefter of ESPN, before the 4pm commencement of free agency.
The Jacksonville Jaguars following on from last year’s free agency blitz, have again been aggressive and acquired three high profile stars for a defence that now surely has top five potential. The headline act is defensive end/tackle Calais Campbell the 2nd best interior defender according to PFF, who departs the dry heat in Arizona for for muggy heat in Florida. Campbell is arguably the best player available this free agency, and the Jags will be mightily excited to pair him with Malik Jackson and Abry Jones. Cornerback AJ Bouye, also comes over after trading teams in the AFC South, to pair with the ascending, Jalen Ramsey. Ex-Cowboys’ safety, Barry Church completes the trio, as a strong safety at the back with Tashaun Gipson.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been busy too, as they look to upgrade their offence. Top free agent wide receiver, Alshon Jeffrey comes aboard as a number one target for Carson Wentz on a one-year $14 million deal. He’s joined by noted speedster, Torrey Smith who’s clearly opted for greener pastures outside the Bay Area. Former, top ten draft pick, Chance Warmack, a guard, joins them as an offensive line reinforcement. The Eagles did lose cornerback, Nolan Carroll, and are actively looking to upgrade their cornerback position.
In a surprising course of events, the Patriots have been arguably the most active of any franchise since last Thursday afternoon. Here’s a simple summary of their whirlwind last four days; they re-signed, defensive tackle Alan Branch and safety, Duron Harmon on reasonably generous deals. They acquired cornerback, Stephon Gilmore with their largest ever defensive free agency deal from Buffalo, also added defensive lineman, Lawrence Guy from the Ravens. Most intriguingly Belichick has pulled off two trades, sending draft picks away (including a first rounder), for defensive end Kony Ealy and wide receiver Brandin Cooks from Carolina and New Orleans respectively. Also, priority free agents Dont’a Hightower and Malcolm Butler (restricted free agent) are still out there waiting to find a home.
Brock Osweiler’s four-year $72 million deal with the Houston Texans, will go down in footballing folklore as one of the most disastrous free agency deals of all time. And, whilst the Texans deserve to be criticised, they also deserve praise in how they ridded themselves of Osweiler and his contract. In rather an NBA style trade, the Texans traded Osweiler, their second round pick (in 2018) and their 6th rounder this year, to the Cleveland Browns for a 2017 4th rounder. Whilst the move appears unconventional, for the Texans it’s a salary cap masterstroke, and it could allow them to chase Tony Romo when he shortly becomes available.
For the Browns, they can elect to keep Osweiler, trade him or release him depending on what they think he can do. The $16 million salary cap hit, isn’t an issue for the Browns, who had over $100 million in cap space at the start of free agency. So essentially it’s space they can afford to pick up and they get a second round draft pick with it! A win-win for both franchises.
The Browns have been active elsewhere too, particularly prioritising a poor offensive line. Guard Kevin Zeitler, and center JC Tretter, are key upgrades for the offensive line. Zeitler signed a massive $60 million contract as he moves from Cleveland’s divisional rival, Cincinnati. Adding to their depth at wide receiver, 31 year old, Kenny Britt also signed on a four year deal.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made several underrated moves early in free agency. Re-signing defensive end, William Gholston, was a must to shore up the pass rush. Then they snared the most underrated signing so far, the acquisition of ex-Redskins’ defensive lineman, Chris Baker. Baker should be the perfect interior partner for Gerald McCoy. DeSean Jackson has been one of the game’s premier deep threats for years, and now he’s lining up opposite Mike Evans who will occupy most of the opposition’s double teams. This offence will be one to watch like a hawk when September comes round.
Notable free agents signatures elsewhere around the league:
- Mike Glennon QB, Chicago Bears
- Brandon Williams NT, Baltimore Ravens
- Terrelle Pryor WR, Washington Redskins
- Tony Jefferson SS, Baltimore Ravens
- TJ Lang OG, Detroit Lions
- Nick Perry OLB, Green Bay Packers
- Martellus Bennett TE, Green Bay Packers
- Andrew Whitworth OT, Los Angeles Rams
- Pierre Garcon WR, San Francisco 49ers
- Brandon Marshall WR, New York Giants
- Ronald Leary OG, Denver Broncos
The first phase of free agency has passed, but there still remains a bucket load of talent available that will need to fall into place before the draft in late April.