NFL Analysis


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NFL Free Agent Signings, Trades With Biggest Impact On 2024 Draft

Dec 31, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Carolina Panthers offensive linebacker Brian Burns (0) against the Carolina Panthers during the first quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports

The first few days of free agency have been hectic. Now more than ever, NFL teams are taking advantage of the legal tampering period and getting most of their work done early in the free agency window.

Teams finalized multiple monster deals and team-altering trades over the past few days. Some roster needs have dramatically changed as organizations approach the 2024 NFL Draft. We’re looking at some of the most significant moves in the first few days of NFL Free Agency and exploring their impact on the draft.

Kirk Cousins Signs With Atlanta Falcons

One of the biggest dominos to fall was Kirk Cousins finding a home with the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons were rumored to be aggressive in finding a quarterback this offseason. There was talk of trading up to land Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels or staying put at No. 8 and selecting the best quarterback on their board. Cousins is locked into a four-year $180 million deal, removing the Falcons from the quarterback race in the draft.

That opens up some interesting scenarios for the teams drafting behind Atlanta: the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders and — a sneaky one to keep an eye on — the New Orleans Saints. Experts expect Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels to go inside the top six, so we may be looking at an aggressive market for Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy.

Atlanta is likely to turn to edge rusher or cornerback with the eighth overall pick. Expect to see and hear a lot of chatter about Alabama EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama CB Terrion Arnold and Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell as potential candidates to be Atlanta’s first selection.

Brian Burns Traded to New York Giants

Leading up to free agency, many experts linked the New York Giants to LSU WR Malik Nabers or Washington WR Rome Odunze. After making a blockbuster trade for EDGE Brian Burns and signing OL Jermaine Eluemunor, OL Jon Runyan Jr. and RB Devin Singletary, the Giants roster looks quite talented. 

Will they elect to waste a season with a good roster on Daniel Jones? I’m starting to think maybe not. After making some aggressive moves so far, could the Giants be aggressive in going after a quarterback or electing to draft one if we see Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye fall outside of the top five? 

There are rumors the Giants are done with Daniel Jones. After bringing in QB Drew Lock on a free-agent deal, they have some in-house competition.

Quarterback was a popular pick for the Giants in earlier mock drafts, but the need for a play-making receiver has been the popular option lately. While that could still be the route the Giants take, we may need to start paying closer attention to the moves the Giants make to finish out free agency. Dropping one of these top three quarterbacks in Brian Daboll’s system may be a route that deserves more attention.

>>READ: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board

Christian Wilkins Signs with Las Vegas Raiders

One of my favorite fits for the draft was Texas iDL Byron Murphy II and the Las Vegas Raiders, who have the 13th overall pick. After handing out a four-year, $110 million deal to former Miami Dolphins iDL Christian Wilkins, Murphy is likely off the table for the Raiders.

That opens up the Raiders to start rebuilding their offensive line. They could target Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga, who can play right tackle or guard, or Georgia OT Amarius Mims, who has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class at right tackle. One of the top two cornerbacks is another a direction the Raiders could turn to, with one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL now under contract. 

Keep an eye on the Raiders as a potential team looking to draft their quarterback of the future. The Raiders signed Gardner Minshew to a two-year, $25 million deal, but don’t count them out of the J.J. McCarthy conversation if he’s there when the Raiders are on the clock.

>>READ: Latest 2024 NFL Mock Draft

Xavier McKinney Signs with Green Bay Packers

Minnesota S Tyler Nubin has been mocked to the Green Bay Packers lately. But after making a big splash in free agency, the Nubin-to-Green Bay dream may be dead. The Packers signed former Giants safety Xavier McKinney to a four-year, $67 million deal.

Green Bay was one of the best bets to draft the first safety. Now, the attention turns to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills — two teams picking in the back half of the first round who could add Nubin. Only three or four safeties are projected to go in the top 100. Nubin’s landing spot could lay the groundwork for what the rest of the draft will look like for the safeties.

The addition of McKinney does not entirely prevent the Packers from drafting Nubin with the 25th or 41st overall pick. Still, it’s tough to imagine they will target a safety with one of their two top-50 picks after making McKinney the fourth-highest-paid safety in the NFL.

Mitch Morse Signs with Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars were early players in free agency, going after recently released center Mitch Morse. They had a significant need at center, and the Jaguars turned to Morse to solidify it for at least 2024. While it does not remove them from the Jackson Powers-Johnson sweepstakes, it lessens their odds of adding him. The team still has big voids on defense. 

The Jaguars did what every team in the NFL should do in free agency. They plugged big holes with starting-level veterans. Because Morse was recently released, his signing will not eat into their compensatory pick formula.

It will allow them to head into the draft focusing on adding the best player available. Before free agency began, Powers-Johnson was the ideal fit for Jacksonville, given their need for an interior offensive lineman. But with the addition of Morse and Ezra Cleveland’s extension, the Jaguars could look to improve their secondary or edge rusher spots with the best player available at cornerback (Cooper DeJean, Mitchell, Nate Wiggins), safety (Nubin) or edge rusher (Laiatu Latu, Jared Verse, Chop Robinson).

Calvin Ridley Signs with Tennessee Titans

Coming a bit later in the week was the Tennessee Titans signing WR Calvin Ridley to a four-year, $92 million deal.

Tennessee was one of the many teams with a top-10 pick that was rumored to be in on Nabers or Odunze. Ridley became one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL, so anticipate the Titans using their first-round pick to fix their hole at left tackle.

The Titans are in-line to draft the first or second best offensive tackle in the draft, and either Nabers or Odunze may fall a little further than expected with Tennessee out of the wide receiver sweepstakes.