The funny thing about NFL free agency is how short it really is. We’re a week into the new league year and the market has been pretty much cleaned out already. Most of the A-listers signed on the first day of free agency, and a lot of mid-tier guys followed shortly afterward. Now we’re entering the period where teams try to find value signings and would-be big names (Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles) are still shopping around for a team.
With a week of free agency in the books, several teams look dramatically different from what they were before. Let’s go over some of the biggest moves and see which ones helped (or hurt) teams the most.
Eagles have some real receivers now
The Eagles went to the offseason with one goal in mind: get Carson Wentz some weapons. They delivered in spades, landing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. They also addressed the offensive line by adding Chance Warmack and Stefen Wisniewski.
Philly’s running game is still iffy, but a Jeffery/Smith/Jordan Matthews trio is a massive upgrade from last year, when it was Matthews, Nelson Agholor, and a handful of tumbleweeds. Now it’s all on Wentz to build on a promising-but-inconsistent rookie season.
Jaguars beef up defense
Stop me if you heard this before: The Jaguars spent a lot of money in free agency. This time they got cornerback A.J. Bouye, pairing him with rising star Jalen Ramsey. Then they successfully poached away Calais Campbell from the Arizona Cardinals, giving the defensive line another pass-rushing threat. They also turned a free agent bust (Julius Thomas) into a starting left tackle (Branden Albert) in a trade with the Miami Dolphins.
Make all the “offseason champion” jokes you want, but this Jaguars team is much better on paper than it was two weeks ago. It’s now up to Doug Marrone to turn that on-paper talent into actual wins.
Patriots load up on weapons
It’s possible that the defending Super Bowl champions will be even better next year. New England was surprisingly aggressive in free agency, landing cornerback Stephon Gilmore on a lucrative contract with $40 million guaranteed and hanging on to defensive playmaker Dont’a Hightower. The Pats also made a trade to acquire Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett in the process.
But Bill Belichick wasn’t done there. He then traded away a first- and third-round pick to get Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints, giving Tom Brady yet another talented wide receiver to work with. Never one to rest on his laurels, Belichick is pushing his chips all in with Brady (who turns 40 in August) near the end of the line.
Jameis Winston gets much-needed help
Mike Evans is great, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had scant depth behind him, which limited the passing game despite Winston’s improvement. Now the Bucs have the speedy deep threat they’ve been looking for after after signing DeSean Jackson and giving Winston another option. Jackson is getting up there in years and has a long injury history, but when healthy he’s still one of the most lethal playmakers in the league. Tampa’s offense should be much more dynamic going forward.
A more low-key, but necessary signing was retaining running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who might be called on again if Tampa releases Doug Martin.
What, exactly, are the Bears trying to accomplish?
Is Chicago rebuilding, or trying to reload and contend? Everybody knew Jay Cutler was gone, and the QB market is a barren wasteland, but the Mike Glennon contract is a true headscratcher. $15 million guaranteed for a guy who hasn’t started in two years? Glennon had stretches of competence in Tampa, but that is a massive leap of faith. Did we learn nothing from the Brock Osweiler fiasco?
The questionable moves don’t stop there. $10 million guaranteed for Dion Sims is a lot for someone with a career 9.4 yards per catch. Markus Wheaton essentially got the same contract as Brandon Marshall did with the New York Giants. These signings feel scattershot, like John Fox and GM Ryan Pace are trying to save their jobs after a disastrous 3-13 year. The Bears should be better in 2017, but these are some pricey gambles for a team that’s nowhere close to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
It’s a good year to be a left tackle free agent, because desperate teams were more than happy to throw around some cash. Russell Okung cashed in on a mediocre year in Denver to get $25 million guaranteed from the Los Angeles Chargers, which is questionable in its own right. But the Panthers giving $25 million guaranteed to Matt Kalil? What is going on here? Kalil was a disaster in his last few years in Minnesota, and missed most of 2016 with hip surgery. Maybe he’s a genuine upgrade at LT, which was a turnstile in Carolina, but that’s really not saying much.
The Seahawks’ one-year deal for Luke Joeckel is less egregious, but it still raises an eyebrow that they gave $7 million in guaranteed money to a failed left tackle prospect coming off ACL surgery. Perhaps Joeckel can carve out a decent career at guard, but after striking out on T.J. Lang, Seattle still has a lot of question marks on the offensive line.
Washington is a mess
While most teams were busy signing players on the first day of free agency, Washington was busy firing its GM and smearing him in the media. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins is stuck on the franchise tag, can’t shake the trade rumors, and lost his weapons when DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon left town. The most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL lives up (down?) to its reputation once again.
At least they got Terrelle Pryor, though.
Wait and see?
— The Houston Texans still don’t have a quarterback after dumping Brock Osweiler, but it seems like the entire league is waiting until the Tony Romo situation in Dallas is resolved. Same goes for the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Cleveland Browns.
— With tons of cap space and almost no talent on the roster, the San Francisco 49ers went on a fairly random spending spree. Pierre Garcon, Brian Hoyer, Kyle Juszczyk, Malcolm Smith, and a handful of others all joined Kyle Shanahan in Santa Clara. It’s not much, but the Niners needed something to start with. The upcoming draft should tell us a lot more about Shanahan’s rebuilding plan.
— The Browns essentially bought a second-round pick with the Osweiler trade, but he’s clearly not in their plans, so QB is still a position of need. They also lost Terrelle Pryor and replaced him with Kenny Britt, which seems like a lateral move at best. Offensive line gets a boost with the signing of guard Kevin Zeitler.
— The Cardinals lost some key defensive players, including Calais Campbell, Marcus Cooper, and Tony Jefferson. They did add Jarvis Jones and could get some reinforcements in the draft, but it’s a concerning development for a team that fell far short of expectations last year.