It’s been a busy opening to the NFL‘s free agent market. Here are quick thoughts on some of the early winners and losers:
Winner: Eagles. Quarterback Carson Wentz will have some help in the passing game in his second NFL season after Thursday’s deals with free agent wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The addition of guard Chance Warmack bolsters the offensive line. There was a long way to go and work remains to be done, but the Eagles did get better.
Losers: Adrian Peterson, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick. Yes, it’s early. But no one seems to be in any rush to sign Peterson, Cutler or Kaepernick. And the Cowboys aren’t putting Romo’s decision about his next NFL team completely in his hands, at least not yet. They did not release him Thursday, as had been widely expected, amid renewed speculation that a trade to the Texans or Broncos might be possible.
Winner: Buccaneers. Are there any more Redskins castoffs on their way to Tampa? Maybe not. But getting wide receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive lineman Chris Baker, both of them exiting Washington, helps plenty. Jackson‘s big-play capabilities should aid the ongoing progression of quarterback Jameis Winston, and Baker is a very effective player who probably deserves more recognition than he’s received so far.
Loser: Bengals. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler exited via free agency Thursday. Coach Marvin Lewis usually has been able to make things work and get the Bengals into the playoffs. But that didn’t happen this past season. And the task just got tougher for Lewis and quarterback Andy Dalton.
Winner: Mike Glennon. Glennon might succeed in Chicago where Jay Cutler failed as the Bears’ starting quarterback. He might not. Either way, his bank account will be plenty healthy with his approximately $15 million-per-season deal, awarded after spending half of his four years in Tampa doing next to nothing as Winston’s backup.
Loser: QBs on Instagram. Romo thanked fans via Instagram but did not immediately move on. An early-morning post Friday on Garoppolo’s Instagram account seemed to be a farewell to New England. But then two people close to the situation said they were not aware of a trade involving Garoppolo being in place, and one of them questioned whether Garoppolo’s post was legitimate. Beware of social media.
Winner: Russell Okung. The deal that Okung negotiated for himself, sans agent, with the Broncos last offseason in free agency was widely criticized. Maybe he knew exactly what he was doing, or maybe he was simply fortunate. But the offensive tackle was right back on the market this year and cashed in Thursday with a four-year, $53 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers that includes $25 million in guaranteed money. There is some controversy, however, with a report about suspicions that the league’s tampering rules might have been violated.
Loser: Brock Osweiler. He still has the money. But his NFL legacy, at this point, is that his signing by the Texans ranks with the Redskins’ signing of Albert Haynesworth as the most ill-fated free agent deals in recent memory.
Winner: Browns. This remains a work in progress. The Browns still have a quarterback to get. And no, Brock Osweiler doesn’t count. But Thursday’s trade with the Texans for Osweiler got the Browns a second-round draft pick next year to, in effect, take Osweiler and his cumbersome contract off Houston’s hands. The Browns now have two first-round choices and two second-round selections in this year’s NFL draft and a first-rounder and three second-rounders in next year’s draft. There is the small matter, of course, of using those picks wisely. But there are more than enough draft-choice resources stockpiled for the Browns, if they want, to make an overwhelming offer for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that the New England Patriots simply could not refuse, even if they’re saying that they intend to retain Garoppolo.
Loser: Texans. They basically had to give Osweiler away and had to sweeten the deal to accomplish even that, an embarrassing acknowledgement that last year’s signing was a total bust. If the Texans don’t follow up by getting Romo, the quarterback situation could remain a mess.
Winner: 49ers. The deals with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley give the new decision-making regime of general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan a couple of prospective place-holders at quarterback. The 49ers can be patient with the Kirk Cousins situation; if they cannot pry the franchise-tagged quarterback from the Redskins this offseason, they might have a far easier time getting Cousins to San Francisco a year from now. Lynch and Shanahan are in a start-over situation and they have begun restocking the roster by reaching agreements with linebacker Malcolm Smith, kicker Robbie Gould, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end Logan Paulsen and wide receivers Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson.
Loser: Jets. Hoyer went to San Francisco. Glennon landed in Chicago. Hello, Cutler?
Winner: Jaguars. The Jaguars spent big money to bolster their defense. Sound familiar? At some point, it has to work. Doesn’t it? Thursday’s deals with defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Barry Church come on the heels of last year’s signing of defensive end Malik Jackson. The Jaguars also have added plenty of young talent on defense through the draft. Maybe, just maybe, it all will come together at some point.
Loser: Redskins. Why don’t more teams usher in free agency by firing their general manager with an ugly public spat? Maybe that will catch on.