We’re not even 24 hours into free agency, and already it feels like the league’s entire landscape has shifted. Just wait until we finally get a Tony Romo decision!
With just enough hindsight to pass judgement, we can look back at the moves made during a wild first day of free agency and spot a few clear winners … and some painfully obvious losers.
This is our list from day one.
The one thing Houston needed to do this year was find away out of their biggest mistake in free agency last year. But getting rid of Brock Osweiler and his giant contract seemed all but impossible … until the Cleveland Browns and their hunger for draft picks changed all that.
Does this put the Texans in position to get Tony Romo? Maybe! This deal is going to have far-reaching effects on the rest of the NFL, too.
Cleveland now has a boatload of draft picks, which could come in handy if they want to make a run at a certain Patriots backup quarterback. If that doesn’t happen, then they’ve probably spent a little too much money to get a second-round pick, but they have some flexibility with Osweiler at least.
The Buccaneers offense
Because the DeSean Jackson deal was one of the first ones reported on Thursday morning, you can be forgiven if you forgot about it in the excitement of the day. You’ll be reminded of it constantly throughout the season. The Bucs offense is going to be deadly, the kind of unit that can keep pace with the Falcons in the NFC South.
Teams that needed offensive linemen
Was there a more glaring need around the NFL last season than offensive linemen? The Vikings got Riley Reiff. The Rams signed Andrew Whitworth. The Lions replaced Reiff with Rick Wager, an upgrade in pass protection on the right side. The Chargers landed Russell Okung.
Denver bolstered their interior line with Ronald Leary. New Orleans signed Larry Warford.
No position group went off the board faster, and it’s not a surprise at all. Offensive line, especially tackles, are becoming a tougher position for teams who want plug and play guys out of the draft. And most teams don’t have the luxury of a draft and develop approach.
Titans special teams
Don’t overlook the value of good special teams. Tennessee signed Brynden Trawick, Daren Bates, and Nate Palmer, a trio of special teams aces, who will give them a big advantage in terms of field position on both sides of the ball. Start shaving off an average of a few yards of every return, and makes life easier for the defense. The flip side of that is true, as well: give Marcus Mariota a shorter field to work with, and watch the magic happen more frequently. Now, all they need to do is find a return man.
Dwayne Allen is a steal for the Patriots, who will pay him around $10 million for the next two seasons. He’s a versatile tight end who can create even more matchup problems.
They pulled off another big surprise when they signed Stephon Gilmore, who becomes their new No. 1 corner. New England has never really shied away from spending on corners. Now they have a secondary rivaling any team in the AFC.
We’re not used to talking about the Patriots being big players on day one of free agency, but these moves only up the odds of another trip to the Super Bowl.
He was adamant about a trade, but when the team told him that wasn’t going to happen, the next report had Cousins willingly signing his franchise tag. So much for leverage!
Washington’s NFL team
Not content just to fire general manager Scott McCloughan over petty turf wars, they had to assassinate the man’s character in the process by putting out reports that it was his drinking that got him fired, a complete change of script from where the team was just two weeks ago.
Washington fired their GM on the first day of free agency. And they handled it about as ugly as they could have. This team might have a legitimate claim to being the worst institution in Washington, and that’s really saying something.
I’m sure Mike Glennon is fine as a backup quarterback. Making him a bridge starter is big stretch, based on his prior performance. Investing $19 million guaranteed ($45 million all together) in a career backup because you were bidding against yourself is harder to excuse. This is not how teams get better.
Jimmy Garoppolo’s password security
An Instagram goodbye to Boston … is there a more fitting way to bid farewell these days? But wait! It was not to be. It turns out that Jimmy might have been hacked.
Almost every team that needed offensive line help found someone. And most of the signings look pretty good … except for the Panthers and Matt Kalil. No team was more desperate for O-line help than the Vikings, and they willingly let Kalil, the fourth overall pick in 2012, walk.
An incentive-laden deal would change the perception of this signing entirely. Instead, the Panthers shelled out $55 million over five years, with $25 million guaranteed. This after the Michael Oher deal blew up in their face last year. WHY DO YOU HATE CAM NEWTON, PANTHERS????