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Storylines to Watch As NFL Free Agency Period Begins

Maybe this is only for the team-building, strategy obsessed, cap lovers out there but what exactly will the impact of the COVID cap cut be? The salary cap sits at $182.5 million - down $16 million from last season. Over the past seven seasons, the league has seen its salary cap per club increase by no less than $10 million per year. And, consider the long-term contracts that were signed a couple years ago — no one had any expectation of a global pandemic and therefore, lost revenue resulting in lowered salary cap.


Most execs will tell you big winners in free agency aren’t winning big on day one. There are, of course, exceptions. But that’s life. There are always Tom Bradys. Who best manages the reduced cap? How beneficial is it to teams with a bevy of draft picks? How does it hinder teams that don’t have a surplus of picks? What is the long-term impact of the expected short-term deals inked by free agents who desire a bigger payday once the cap goes back up? The questions beget questions.


All that said, here are some answers we will watch for as the league year and free agency begin this week:


Protect the Franchise

Remember that manhandling of the Kansas City offense by the Tampa Bay Bucs? Patrick Mahomes, who can create plays like a toddler strews toys all over a room, could do none of that in Super Bowl LV, largely due to the fact that the Chiefs were missing both of their starting offensive tackles. Since that dismantling, Kansas City has cut both starting tackles. One has to believe they will not send their franchise quarterback back out come fall behind two rookies. Andy Reid has said throughout his career that games are won and lost in the trenches. How he fills the void in the trenches may be the story heading into Wednesday.


Next Move, Bill?

New England brought Cam Newton back with a move that was well received by teammates in Foxborough. Follow the money, and it’s clear Newton is the best option right now. “Option” is the key word: The Patriots have given themselves optionality under center. New England also brought back Trent Brown and traded Marcus Cannon. With free agency and the draft still to come, it promises to be a busy offseason. Bill Belichick has cap space as he looks to improve his weakest roster in decades.


Indy and Buffalo Zone In

The Colts made the move for Carson Wentz. The Bills already made two key moves to keep their own: re-signing linebacker Matt Milano and offensive tackle Daryl Williams. Josh Allen needs more weapons as Buffalo failed to keep pace with a potent K.C. offense in the AFC Championship. The Bills released John Brown to save money. Brown, for his part, made it known that he’d love to be a deep ball target in Indy. For two teams that may only be a few key moves away, the opening of free agency bears watching.


Line ‘Em Up

After sitting out a season in Washington, Trent Williams went to San Francisco and immediately became their starting left tackle. The 49ers would reportedly like to keep him right where they have him — any team with a need at the position understands why. But he wanted to experience free agency. Will the 49ers be able to hammer out a deal during the “legal tampering” period before other teams begin bidding in earnest on Wednesday?


Put Up Some Points

Who nabs tight end Hunter Henry? Where does wide receiver Kenny Golladay land now that the Detroit Lions made it clear they are in for a long-haul rebuild? Teams looking to increase their point totals have some noteworthy names to investigate.