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Early Winners and Losers of NFL Free Agency

Early Winners and Losers of NFL Free Agency

As the first wave of free agency dies down, we take a look at a few potential winners and losers from around the league 

WINNERS

 LA Chargers

After a disappointing end to 2021, Head Coach Brandon Staley was looking to add to an already playoff ready roster. The Chargers started on offense by re-signing Mike Williams for 3 years and $60 million.Williams will continue to be an option for Justin Herbert down the field.  

Then, the Chargers moved to defense, trading with the Chicago Bears for Khalil Mack and acquiring J.C. Jackson in free agency from the Patriots. 

Former NFL Philadelphia Eagles President Joe Banner felt that Jackson’s deal was one of the best values in Free Agency, grading it as an “A” in a March 15 article.

“I thought he would have topped Jalen Ramsey ($20M APY) for the highest paid CB in the NFL. At the very least, $18M+ seemed nearly certain with the $19M range being likely (in line with Lattimore and Humphrey),” Banner wrote. “Yet, in one of the bigger surprises of the day, Jackson only got $16.5M per year, matching Byron Jones and putting him right behind Darius Slay.”

The additions of Mack and Jackson will work with Joey Bosa and Derwin James to improve a defense that finished 23rd overall in scoring in 2021.

Cincinnati Bengals

The biggest question that the Bengals had to answer is how they were going to protect Joe Burrow. Cincinnati has done an outstanding job the last three years drafting talent at the skill positions and it was time for them to make an investment in protecting that talent. 

They made this investment by signing center Ted Karras from the Patriots and guard Alex Cappa from the Buccaneers and finished the first week off by landing troubled former Dallas Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins. The Bengals made some “quiet moves” during free agency that will have a loud impact in 2022 by applying the franchise tag to safety Jesse Bates III and re-signing cornerback Eli Apple. 

Denver Broncos

George Paton and Nathaniel Hackett completed the biggest trade of the offseason thus far in acquiring Russell Wilson from the Seahawks. But they were not done. In even a bigger free agency shock they were able to sign edge rusher Randy Gregory from the Dallas Cowboys. Wilson and Gregory join a roster that is believed to be primed to make a run at winning the AFC West in 2022.

Von Miller

Miller cashed in on another Super Bowl victory by signing with the Buffalo Bills for six years. At 33, Miller still shows the ability to rush the passer at a high level. He will add to a Super Bowl contending defense that finished No. 1 overall in 2021.

Josh McDaniels

McDaniels and Dave Ziegler started the first week of free agency by using a previous relationship with Chandler Jones to coax him to sign with the Raiders. Jones will bolster the Raiders pass rush attack opposite Maxx Crosby, who signed a four-year extension. 

The Raiders then used Derek Carr’s close relationship with Davante Adams to influence him to take less money in a trade with the Green Bay Packers. Adams will partner with Hunter Renfrow and Josh Jacobs in McDaniel’s offense.

LOSERS

Green Bay Packers

The Packers traded top receiver Davante Adams, who chose less money, higher taxes, and a close relationship with Derek Carr over MVP Aaron Rodgers. The Packers will need to spend the remainder of free agency and the draft trying to replace Adams’ 153 catches, 1,500 yds and 11 TDs from 2021.

“In my mind, if the Packers attacked Rodgers’ contract more aggressively in early February and created a sense of urgency for Rodgers to make up his mind much earlier than March, they could have shifted their focus to Adams earlier and presumably reached an agreement before Free Agency,” former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum wrote in a March 18 article about the Rodgers-Adams break-up.

Julio Jones

The 33-year-old Jones was acquired by the Titans during the 2021 offseason to help be a deep threat in the passing game for Ryan Tannehill. Instead, Jones played in just 10 games and had career lows in catches (31), yards (434), and touchdowns (1). 

Known for his speed, athleticism, and catch radius, it will be interesting to see how much teams around the league are willing to pay the 11-year veteran with a history of multiple lower body injuries.

ProScout Inc’s Mike Giddings told readers of The 33rd Team that the Titans’ trade for Jones was likely to go awry back in June of 2021 due to his advanced age and late-career struggles with injury.

Cole Beasley

Beasley, 32, was released from the Buffalo Bills this past week. Beasley has been one of the many voices against mandatory COVID vaccines for players. Beasley missed a Week 16 division matchup with the New England Patriots due to NFL Covid policies. Isaiah McKenzie stepped in his place for 11 catches, 125 yards and 1 touchdown and was re-signed on a two-year deal in the first week of free agency. Beasley still shows the ability to control the middle of the field and beat man coverage, and with a limited injury history, he could be an option for some teams late in free agency.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons were reportedly the favorite to land Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans before Watson changed his mind and elected to play in Cleveland. Their courtship of Watson was unfruitful, and their consolation prize was an awkward situation with former MVP Matt Ryan, who they then traded to Indianapolis on Monday for a third round pick. 

The Falcons will incur the largest dead cap hit in league history ($40.52 M) and are now turning toward Marcus Mariota as their starter. With the WR corps looking bleak even before Calvin Ridley was suspended for the year, the Falcons offense now no longer exudes even a whiff of the 2016 Super Bowl runner-up squad.