Free Agency First Wave News Roundup

A look at all of the news you need to know from the first wave of free agency

AFC

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are now officially a good organization that makes players want to stay for less money instead of letting the market set their price in exchange for the uncertainty that comes with changing teams. They kept LB Matt Milano (4/$48M), OT Daryl Williams (3/$24M), and OL Jon Feliciano (3/$17M) on very reasonable deals to help continuity on both sides of the ball… John Brown was released as expected, but instead of opening up a starting opportunity for 2020 fourth rounder Gabriel Davis, who was very good on Josh Allen extended plays, the team signed Emmanuel Sanders (1/$6M) to keep their wide receiver group strong four-deep and likely keep Davis in the same role he had last year… Mitchell Trubisky was signed to replace Matt Barkley as the backup to Josh Allen

Miami Dolphins

Kyle Van Noy was released only one year into a four year deal that was part of the Dolphins free agent frenzy last year, a sign that something went sour as they didn’t even attempt to restructure his deal. He’ll cost a little over four million in dead cap, but free up almost ten for a team that wasn’t needy in that area... Shaq Lawson, another member of the Dolphins 2020 free agent class, was dealt to the Texans for Benardrick McKinney, who should bolster the Miami run defense… the Dolphins decided to take on about four million in guaranteed money to 2020 first round bust Isaiah Wilson in a trade with Tennessee for a meaningless late pick swap, an offensive tackle out of Georgia. They’re hoping a reunion with college teammate Solomon Kindley on the offensive line and the prep school (Poly Prep in Brooklyn, NY) connection between Wilson and head coach Brian Flores can help turn Wilson’s career around… Malcolm Brown (1/$1.75M) was signed to a fully guaranteed deal as the Dolphins were apparently not in the market for a big ticket free agent back, but that doesn’t mean they are out on running back as an early draft pick with four picks in the top 50… Jacoby Brissett (1/$5M) was added to give the team a strong backup. The team is clearly committed for Tua Tagovailoa for at least this year… Adam Butler (2/$9.5M) was added as part of the Miami-New England pipeline. He’ll provide disruption and penetration on the interior defensive line… Justin Coleman (1/$2.75M) signed a cheap prove it deal to give the team very good depth at slot corner. He could be a big bounceback candidate after being freed from Matt Patricia’s defense… Matt Skura was added to man the center position despite some troubles snapping the ball late in his Baltimore tenure. This means the Dolphins are out on former Patriots center David Andrews, the best free agent left on the market… Will Fuller V signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in hopes that the wide receiver market will be better next year and he will be coming off of a full, productive season. He should start outside along with DeVante Parker, with Preston Williams a question mark coming off of an achilles tear. Miami should also add another wide receiver early in the draft, most likely one of the two Alabama receivers (DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle) if they trade down from #3

New England Patriots

The Patriots emerged as the biggest early market buyer in free agent, a stunning reversal of Bill Belichick’s modus operandi during the Tom Brady era. He rebuilt the offense in the image of the Hernandez/Gronkowski 12 personnel default, signing the top two tight ends on the free agent market, Jonnu Smith (4/$50M) and Hunter Henry (3/$37.5M). Smith has more fantasy value and has the better chance to hit in 2021 fantasy leagues, but the signing of Henry a day after he signed to open free agency took a lot of wind out of his fantasy value sails… Nelson Agholor (2/$22M) and Kendrick Bourne (3/$22.5M) give the team two credible starters at outside receiver, which is two more than they had last year. Agholor’s ability to stretch the field will create room for Henry and Smith to operate… On the other side of the ball, Davon Godchaux (2/$16M) and Henry Anderson (2/$7M) will upgrade the run defense, Matt Judon (4/$56M) will give the team their best edge rusher, hopefully exorcising the demon of the failed Adalius Thomas free agent pickup, one of the few Belichick made before this year, and Jalen Mills (4/$24M) gives the team a versatile player in the secondary who is a good fit for their defensive approach… Belichick also got pick swaps of a 4th for a 5th, and in the 6th round from the Texans for OT Marcus Cannon, who might have been a cut candidate otherwise. That’s not trivial because Belichick and Texans GM Nick Caserio may have a lot of players in common on their big boards since Caserio has worked under Belichick since 2002… Cam Newton was brought back on a contract that will pay him at a backup level ($5.1M) with somewhat difficult incentives that could boost the value of the deal. His presence probably made the team a more attractive destination for free agents, but doesn’t preclude the team taking their quarterback of the future early in next month’s draft… Deatrich Wise Jr (4/$30M) was brought back on a very reasonable deal that helps the pass rush and defensive line rotation… With the team not bringing back David Andrews, they instead brought back Ted Karras (1/$4M), who filled in for Andrews in 2019 before going to Miami last year… J.C. Jackson, an RFA, got tendered at the second round level, which could possibly draw an offer sheet considering the thin cornerback market and Jackson’s recent high level of play… Keeping the Miami to New England and back theme going, Kyle Van Noy (2/$12M) is back in New England on a reasonable deal and the team will also have a fourth-round comp pick after he signed a huge deal in Miami during last year’s free agency period… Nick Folk will be back on a one-year deal to kick for the Patriots again in 2021

New York Jets

The Jets used the franchise tag on Marcus Maye at a reasonable price around 11 million so they could hold onto their best defensive back… Carl Lawson (3/$45M) gives the team their best edge rusher in recent memory. He should feast in the Robert Saleh scheme… Corey Davis (3/$37.5M) should be in a higher volume pass offense, but should also draw better corners with 2020 second-rounder Denzel Mims on the other side. If the Jets draft QB Zach Wilson (BYU) at #2 or somehow trade for Deshaun Watson, Davis value will get a boost, but it’s hard to improve on the quality of his situation last year with opposing defenses focused on A.J. Brown and Derrick HenryJarrad Davis (1/$5.5M) should get a significant amount of snaps in the Saleh defense as an off-ball linebacker in a sign that they thought the Matt Patricia Lions misused him... Keelan Cole (1/$5.5M) adds depth to a rebuilding wide receiver group and could be an important piece if the team decides to move on from Jamison Crowder and his 10 million dollar 2021 price tag

AFC South

Houston Texans

The Deshaun Watson trade front had a few developments this week. Venerable beat writer John McClain finally said he believes the team will trade Watson, two and half months after he said he had a better chance of becoming head coach than Watson had of being traded. A sexual assault civil lawsuit was filed against Watson, which will be monitoring to see if it negatively affects his trade market or ability to play in the upcoming season. Houston also signed Tyrod Taylor (1/$6M) in a deal that could signal willingness to deal Watson… The Texans were active before free agency opened, signing Mark Ingram II and Christian Kirksey to small one year contracts as depth, restructuring Brandin Cooks contract to keep him as the team’s #1 wide receiver, and renegotiating David Johnson’s 2021 compensation to keep him as the team’s #1 running back… Houston also acquired Shaq Lawson to give them a 4-3 end to help with the transition to Lovie Smith’s defense in exchange for Benardrick McKinney. Tyrell Adams played well in place of McKinney last year to help ease any worries about losing McKinney’s quality presence run defense

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts offered the second round (~3.3M) restricted free agent tender to Zach Pascal and Mo Alie-Cox. Pascal should play a significant role in the wide receiver group again this year and Alie-Cox has a chance to be the top receiving tight end for new quarterback Carson Wentz in an offense that should feature the tight end in the passing game… Marlon Mack (1/$2M) was re-signed in a move that will cast a shadow on Jonathan Taylor’s status as a first-round pick in 2021 fantasy drafts

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars chose to franchise tag left tackle Cam Robinson with hopes that retaining offensive line coach George Warhop will get his best football out of him. They must not have had much hope of signing Trent Williams and didn’t like the prices on the thin and old offensive tackle free agent market… Carlos Hyde (2/$4.5M) was reunited with Urban Meyer to back up James Robinson, which should allow fantasy teams with Robinson to breathe a sigh of relief since it lowers the chance of them drafting a running back early… Shaq Griffin (3/$44.5M) was signed to play opposite 2020 first-round pick CJ Henderson at corner. He’s a good, not great corner, but the cornerback market always overpays that type of player… Marvin Jones Jr (2/$14.5M) was reunited with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and should help the young wide receiver group. He’ll likely start over Collin Johnson and have a chance to maintain fantasy relevance in the improved Jaguars offense… The Jaguars traded for Malcom Brown (2/$11M) and signed Roy Robertson-Harris (3/$24.4M) to bolster the interior defensive line

Tennessee Titans

The Titans made a big splash signing Bud Dupree (5/$82.5M) to give Harold Landry a legitimate running mate on the edge after the Vic Beasley Jr signing was a bust last year in a bit of bad news for AFC South quarterbacks… Elsewhere on defense they cut Adoree' Jackson before his fifth-year option got locked in and replaced him with recent Saints cap cut Janoris Jenkins and signed disruptive defensive tackle Denico Autry (3/$21.5M) away from the rival Colts… The team re-signed tight end Anthony Firkser to a one-year deal instead of giving him a restricted free agent tender. He has a chance to be the #1 receiving tight end for the Titans this season and has been reasonably productive and effective when called upon… After trading away 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Wilson for a late pick swap, the Titans swapped right tackles by releasing 2020 starter Dennis Kelly and signing journeyman Kendall Lamm (2/$6.8M) at a lower cost than Kelly’s 2021 salary… Jayon Brown (1/$5.25M) came back on a very reasonable deal considering his past contributions when healthy

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens made a big improvement to their interior offensive line by signing Giants cap cut Kevin Zeitler (3/$22.5M) to a very reasonable deal for a player with his track record… The edge rush lost Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue, but the team was able to retain Tyus Bowser (4/$22M) at a good price for a player whose best football might be ahead of them… The Ravens gave up a conditional seventh-round pick to take a chance on receiving tight end Josh Oliver, who hasn’t been able to stay on the field since the Jaguars took him in the third round in 2019

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals chose Trey Hendrickson (4/$60M) over keeping Carl Lawson. Hendrickson broke out with the Saints last year, but he won’t have Cam Jordan on the other side of the line in Cincinnati. We’ll be comparing Hendrickson and Lawson to rate the wisdom of this move… Cincinnati poached playmaking slot corner Mike Hilton (4/$24M) from the Steelers for a good price considering his production… The Bengals also landed Chidobe Awuzie (3/$21.75M) to a deal based more on potential than production in their second straight free agent spending spree at cornerback… The Bengals took a chance on Larry Ogunjobi, who flashed on the interior defensive line for the rival Browns at times before they let him walk

Cleveland Browns

The Browns made one of the best signings of the early free agent period when they got standout former Rams safety John Johnson III (3/$33.75M) for a less than market setting price. If 2020 second-round Grant Delpit and successful reclamation project Ronnie Harrison stay healthy, Cleveland should have a versatile impact trio at the position… The Browns didn’t make an impact signing at edge rusher to replace Olivier Vernon, but if new signing Takk McKinley (1/$4M) can get over the injury bug, he can vastly outproduce his modest price… Cleveland gave KhaDarel Hodge the lowest restricted free agent tender (~2M) but also brought back Rashard Higgins, so their top five at wide receiver is set for this season... The Browns landed Troy Hill (4/$24M) on a bargain deal for a starting corner. He'll give them the best player they have had opposite #1 corner Denzel Ward so far in Ward's young career

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers were able to retain two quality pieces in free agency, inside/outside corner Cam Sutton (2/$9M) and projected starting tackle Zach Banner (2/$9.5)... There was some blood let as long time starting inside linebacker Vince Williams was released in a cap cut. His possible replacement Robert Spillane was on an ERFA one-year tender… BJ Finney was brought back on a minor one-year deal as a stopgap at center if the team doesn’t draft one early

AFC West

Denver Broncos

Melvin Gordon III’s DWI charges were dropped and Von Miller will not face charges after he was investigated for domestic violence, clearing both for the 2021 season, although it’s not impossible that the league will levy a punishment of some sort. Gordon’s outlook also improved when the team only offered Phillip Lindsay a right of first refusal restricted free agent tender, and then rescinded it, giving Lindsay his release. The development increases both of their values. The Broncos signed Mike Boone (whom the Vikings did not tender) to a small deal (2/$2.6M) to replace Lindsay...Denver gave Tim Patrick a second-round RFA tender, which insures that he’ll be with the team as part of their outside wide receiver depth chart and part of three and four wide receiver sets… On defense, the team added Ronald Darby (3/$30M) to start at corner and kept Shelby Harris (3/$27M) to hold down the interior defensive line. AJ Johnson got a second round RFA tender to all but assure he and his contributions (especially vs. the run) will stay in Denver

Kansas City Chiefs

After releasing the somewhat high-priced tackle duo of Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, whose 2021 Week 1 availabilities are in question, the Chiefs were able to land one of the elite offensive line free agents, Joe Thuney ($5/80M), who is at home on the interior of the line, but could play tackle if the team’s other plans at the position fall through...Darrel Williams (1/$2.1M) was signed to a modest deal, but with 930,000 guaranteed, he should be on the Week 1 roster, but Damien Williams will not be, as the team released him after earlier stating that they expected him to come back for the 2021 season… Kyle Long is back in the NFL and he chose the Chiefs in free agency. He’s a possible answer at one of the tackle positions

Las Vegas Raiders

The vaunted Raiders offensive line will have a different look in 2021. Trent Brown was traded to the Patriots for a swap of a fifth and seventh round pick. Rodney Hudson was traded to the Cardinals for a swap of a third and seventh round picks. Gabe Jackson was traded to Seattle for a fifth round pick. Richie Incognito was released and then re-signed. Denzelle Good was re-signed after his excellent 2020 with the team and he should help the running game. It’s hard to get a read on what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock are doing here...Yannick Ngakoue (2/$26M) will give the team a legit passing rushing threat opposite Maxx Crosby after 2019 #4 pick Clelin Ferrell hasn’t lived up to the lofty investment...Nicholas Morrow was brought back after a strong 2020 that offset some of the bad taste left by the investment in Cory Littleton...John Brown (1/$3.75M) will replace the deep threat that the team lost when Nelson Agholor signed with New England. Bryan Edwards will probably split snaps with him, but Brown’s presence should help the development of Edwards and Henry Ruggs III...Daniel Carlson was protected with a second round tender after his outstanding 2020, so he’ll be the Raiders kicker again this year… Jonathan Hankins was brought back and the team also signed Solomon Thomas and Quinton Jefferson to give them a deep and varied interior defensive line rotation… Kenyan Drake (2/$11M) was signed to a fully guaranteed deal that almost insures a committee and big hit to the value of Josh Jacobs

Los Angeles Chargers

The neverending quest for the Chargers to fix their offensive line resulted in the team signing Corey Linsley (5/$62.5M) and Matt Feiler (3/$21M), which should upgrade the center and right tackle positions… Casey Hayward was released as he heads toward the decline phase of his career, but Mike Davis (3/$25M) was kept even though the rival Broncos made a strong bid for him… the Chargers brought back Michael Badgley after the kicker had a very shaky 2020, but expect competition to be brought in before training camp… Jared Cook (1/$6M) was brought in to replace Hunter Henry and slow the Donald Parham hype train. Cook should have marginal redraft value but provide a better downfield threat than Henry was last year

NFC

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

After the Cowboys signed Dak Prescott to a top of the market deal, they didn’t have many bullets to fire in free agency. They did give Cedrick Wilson an original round tender, so he should return as the #4 receiver and have value if one of the top three receivers go down...Jourdan Lewis (3/$16) got a cheap deal to come back and play a big role in a secondary that lost Chidobe Awuzie to Cincinnati

New York Giants

The Giants released Kevin Zeitler in cap cut and Nate Solder took a pay cut...Devontae Booker (2/$6M) was added to back up Saquon Barkley, which means Wayne Gallman won’t be back… After tagging Leonard Williams (3/$63M), the team ended up signing him to a longer term deal to be the cornerstone of the defensive line that lost run stuffer Dalvin Tomlinson to the Vikings… John Ross (1/2.5M) got a shot to redeem himself but will probably start out as a backup in the underachieving Giants offense...Kyle Rudolph (2/$12M) should play a big role in the offense, which could mean more two tight end sets, but it could also mean that Evan Engram will be available via trade

Philadelphia Eagles

Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson were released in a long expected moves. Both will carry heavy dead cap hits. The Eagles have the most inexperienced wide receiver group in the league... Philadelphia only made end of the roster moves because they have little cap room to play with. Hassan Ridgeway and Andrew Adams are depth signings at best...

Washington Football Team

Washington made the move that created the most joy among the NFL fanbase when they signed Ryan Fitzpatrick (1/$10M) to be the 2021 starting quarterback. While it denies 2020 late season hero Taylor Heinecke a chance to start, it boosts the value of all of the offensive players and gives the team a better chance to repeat as NFC East champions… Curtis Samuel (3/$34.5M) was reunited with offensive coordinator Scott Turner and should be used efficiently and often in the offense with Terry McLaurin running more downfield routes and Logan Thomas provided a presence in the middle of the field...Cam Sims will be behind Samuel on the depth chart, but the team showed a commitment to him for 2021 with a right of first refusal RFA tender (~2M)... Brandon Scherff was brought back on a second consecutive franchise tag, giving him a 33-34M take over the last two years, huge for a guard, and he can still sign a long term contract next year… Dustin Hopkins signed a one-year deal to remain as the team’s kicker… William Jackson III (3/$42M) was added to give the team a corner to match with #1 receivers that can play zone or man

NFC North

Chicago Bears

The Bears made their run at Russell Wilson, but were denied, and they were also reportedly in on Jameis Winston, but ended up having to settle for Andy Dalton (1/$10M). He has experience with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor when they were both in Cincinnati, but only marginally improves the offense from Mitchel Trubisky… Germain Ifedi was brought back on a one-year deal after his shift from right guard to right tackle helped jumpstart the running game. He was a pleasant surprise, starting all 16 games last year… The Bears at least finally solved their kicker problem, at least for now, signing Cairo Santos (5/$16M) after he had a strong 2020 with them

Detroit Lions

Tyrell Williams (1/$4M) was signed to a very cheap deal for a starting quality receiver on a team that didn’t have any entering free agency. He’ll be reunited with Anthony Lynn, who was his head coach with the Chargers… Jamaal Williams (2/$7.5M) signed a modest deal that will probably make him the primary passing down back in a small blow to D’Andre Swift’s 2021 value... Romeo Okwara (3/$39M) was kept as the marquee edge rusher in a rebuilding defense that let Justin Coleman, Danny Shelton and Desmond Trufant go in cap cut moves… Michael Brockers was acquired from the Rams for a 2023 7th in a deal that helped GM Brad Holmes old team get under the cap and add a core starter for the post-Matt Patricia defense...

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Jones (4/$48M) was signed after the Packers chose to not tag him. It’s really only a two-year commitment and keeps the Green Bay offense in good shape at running back. Jones fantasy value should be up after Jamaal Williams left for the Lions. 2020 second-round pick A.J. Dillon isn’t nearly as well-suited as Jones is to pick up the passing down snaps that Williams vacated...

Minnesota Vikings

Keep an eye on Danielle Hunter’s status, as there was some buzz that Hunter was unhappy and wanted a new deal or a new team… Patrick Peterson (1/$10M) will give a young cornerback room a strong presence in his first season away from the Cardinals… Dalvin Tomlinson (2/$22M) is an immovable object on the interior defensive line who will make life tough on opposing running games… Dan Bailey was released, opening up the path for Greg Joseph to be the Vikings kicker this year… Riley Reiff was released in an expected move after he had to rework his deal just to stay with the team in 2020… Chad Beebe was brought back on a small deal instead of getting an RFA tender. He’ll compete for the third wide receiver job.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

The team restructured Matt Ryan’s deal to cost them over 40 million in cap space next year whether he plays for them or not. That should cast some doubt on whether they will target a quarterback at #4… Younghoe Koo signed a one-year deal to come back to the Falcons. He was one of the few bright spots last year… Erik Harris was signed to man a safety position that was left empty after the team didn’t keep any of their top three safeties from 2020

Carolina Panthers

After franchising tackle Taylor Moton, the team signed Pat Elflein (3/$13.5M) and Cam Erving (2/$10M) to expensive deals for depth pieces on the line… The defense was improved with the signing of Denzel Perryman (2/$12M) to play middle linebacker, Haason Reddick (1/$6M) to give the team a credible edge rush threat opposite Brian Burns, and Morgan Fox (2/$8.1M) to provide pass rush punch from defensive tackle in place of Kawaan Short

New Orleans Saints

As expected, Jameis Winston (1/$5.5M) will come back on a cheap deal that represents his faith in the Saints organization to rehabilitate his stock around the league so he can get a bigger deal down the line. He’ll compete with Taysom Hill for the starting job in training camp, but expect Winston to win… Emmanuel Sanders was let go to help the team get under the cap, opening the door for Tre’Quan Smith to move into a starting role in the last year of his rookie deal. Jared Cook was also released, which will push 2020 third-round pick Adam Trautman into a larger role at tight end

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin was franchise tagged, but could still sign a long term deal, which would block Tyler Johnson indefinitely.... Lavonte David (2/$25M) came back on a market value deal that will keep the inside linebacker duo intact… Shaq Barrett (4/$72M) got paid the year after the Bucs tagged him as the team didn’t get hurt for using the franchise tag on Godwin this year instead… Rob Gronkowski (1/$8M) came back to keep the band together on offense. There were reports that the Bills made a strong play for him… Ryan Succop (3/$12M) revitalized his career with the Bucs and he was rewarded with a new deal go along with his ring

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals made the biggest signing of the pre-free agency period when they won the services of J.J. Watt (2/$28M). They chose to give pass rush specialist Dennis Gardeck a second-round RGA tender (~3.3M) and signed Markus Golden (2/$9M) to help capitalize on the opportunities Watt will create… A swap of a third for a seventh got Rodney Hudson from Las Vegas, which gives the Cardinals interior line a big upgrade at center. Kelvin Beachum (2/$4M) was brought back on a ridiculously cheap deal for a 16 game starter from 2020… A.J. Green (1/$6M) will give the receiver room a strong veteran presence, possibly to replace Larry Fitzgerald, who is a free agent and hasn’t announced his 2021 plans yet. Green will be a lot more effective inside than outside if 2020 is any indication… Matt Prater was signed to replace Zane Gonzalez at kicker

Los Angeles Rams

Leonard Floyd (4/$64M) was signed to a monster deal after a reunion with Brandon Staley brought him back to top form last year. Staley is gone, but Floyd will remain and benefit from playing on the same line as Aaron DonaldDarious Williams got a first round RFA tender (~4.8M) and was the only restricted free agent to get tendered at that level, a sign that the Rams were worried he could have been signed away if they only protected him with a second-round tender

San Francisco 49ers

Trent Williams (6/$138M) signed a blockbuster deal that should keep him in a 49ers uniform until his retirement, or at least for three more years if his level of plays goes south. He was the top free agent available at any position and the 49ers did what they had to… Alex Mack (1/$5.5M) was reunited with Kyle Shanahan on their third team together to hold down the center position... Jason Verrett (1/$5.5M) and Emmanuel Moseley (2/$9.4M) were both brought back to help a secondary that will likely lose Richard Sherman and K’Wuan Williams in free agency

Seattle Seahawks

The interior offensive line got a boost when Seattle sent a fifth-round pick to Las Vegas for Gabe Jackson.. Akhello Witherspoon (1/$4M) got a prove it deal after a rocky stint with the 49ers. He’ll replace Shaq Griffin, who took a big day in Jacksonville… Poona Ford (2/$14M) got paid going into year four instead of getting an RFA tender. He’ll continue to anchor the interior defensive line… Gerald Everett (1/$6M) will be the top receiving tight end and benefit from a larger role and improvement in quarterback play, freeing Tyler Higbee to break out back in Los Angeles


More articles from Sigmund Bloom

See all

More articles on: Analysis

See all

More articles on: Offseason

See all