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5 Winners and 5 Losers from Free Agency/Offseason to Date

Check out TRO's 5 biggest Winners and 5 biggest Losers from a wild Offseason as we approach the draft.

 

WINNERS


5) THE ARIZONA CARDINALS

via Arizona Cardinals / Zoom

The Arizona Cardinals should pat themselves on the back for the job they have done thus far this offseason. Obviously, they were able to land defensive lineman J. J. Watt. Despite his age, he showed this past season that he is healthy, and he still his capable of being a dominant force. Watt opposite of Chandler Jones is a scary sight for the rest of the NFC West to see.

The Cardinals also snagged veteran wide receiver A. J. Green from the Cincinnati Bengals. While Green has not stayed healthy or looked like his usual self in the past couple of seasons, a chance to contribute on a competitive team often makes guys realize how much more they actually have left in the tank. A wide receiver unit of DeAndre Hopkins, A. J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Andy Isabella will certainly lead to more Hail Murray's and more nightmares for defensive coordinators.

Most recently, the Cardinals picked up former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner, who will look to be their lead back following the departure of Kenyan Drake.

Last, but certainly not least, Arizona landed former Las Vegas Raiders' Center, Rodney Hudson, who has not allowed a sack since before Kyler Murray was born (or something to that effect). All jokes aside, Hudson might be the best all around center in the league, and he will certainly improve this offensive line.

Arizona did lose Haason Reddick, who is coming off of a monster, 12.5 sack year to the Carolina Panthers, starting running back Kenyon Drake to the Las Vegas Raiders, and legendary cornerback Patrick Peterson to the Minnesota Vikings, but the good here outweighs the bad.


4) THE NEW YORK GIANTS

via Abbie Parr / Getty Images


The New York Giants have made some moves on both sides of the ball that should have fans excited for next season. The front office has made some aggressive, but calculated decisions to round out their roster. Most importantly of all, star running back Saquan Barkley will have a clean bill of health. Other notable moves that landed them on this list are:

  • Franchise tagging defensive end Leonard Williams, who is coming off of a career year after ending the 2020 season with 11.5 sacks;

  • Resigning left tackle Nate Solder;

  • Signing former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross for a value deal. While Ross has not lived up to all of his expectations, he is a burner who could contribute to this deep Giants wide receiver room;

  • Acquiring former Tennessee Titans cornerback Adoree' Jackson. A boom or bust type of player, Jackson should thrive, being more boom than bust, playing in the same secondary as expert cover man James Bradberry;

  • Signing former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo;

  • Locking up Detroit Lions star wide receiver, Kenny Golladay. Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard are talented wide receivers, but their style of play is so similar to one another. Until signing Golladay, the Giants had lacked a receiver that routinely makes contested grabs in traffic since trading Odell Beckham, Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.

The Giants have gotten deeper at wide receiver and cornerback, they have quarterback Daniel Jones returning with another year of experience, and second year head coach Joe Judge seems to have a strong hold on the locker room.


3) THE CAROLINA PANTHERS

via Brandon Todd / Carolina Panthers


When picking winners of this year's offseason/free agency to date, the main question to ask is, what teams have gotten better? The Carolina Panthers are one of the first teams to come to mind in answering this question. First year general manager, Scott Fitterer, has worked with head coach Matt Rhule, and owner David Tepper to improve this Panthers roster from last year. Check out the following notable moves the franchise has made thus far:

  • Signed linebacker Denzel Perryman from the Los Angeles Chargers - a definite upgrade at the inside linebacker spot, a player with good situational awareness, gap control, and leadership qualities;

  • Signed defensive lineman, EDGE, Hasaan Reddick previously with the Arizona Cardinals - coming off of a 12.5 sack season, the combination of Reddick and Brian Burns should keep NFC South quarterbacks up at night;

  • Signed interior defensive lineman Morgan Fox from the Los Angeles Rams - a big athletic body coming off of a career season to shore up this defensive line;

  • Signed former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver David Moore to fill the slot receiver void left by Curtis Samuel;

  • Signed walking giant and tight end Dan Arnold from the Arizona Cardinals - a massive pass catcher that should immediately improve the team's redzone struggles from a year ago;

  • Signed former Denver Broncos cornerback A. J. Bouye - a former Pro-Bowler and a veteran, should find himself in the starting lineup opposite of Donte Jackson;

  • Christian McCaffrey returns healthy and well rested;

  • Most notably, traded the New York Jets for quarterback Sam Darnold - this is one of the biggest moves of the entire offseason, the Panthers handed the Jets a sixth round pick in this years draft, and a second and a fourth round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

    • Darnold never got a fair shake in New York, playing under Adam Gase, and with no weapons, and a complete lack of an offensive line;

    • The Panthers get to keep essentially their entire draft to kick the tires on a former number three overall pick who is younger than last year's number one overall pick in Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow;

    • Offensive coordinator Joe Brady was able to turn Joe Burrow around at LSU, can he and Matt Rhule maximize the talent Darnold has exhibited and limit the turnovers and poor decision-making he also has shown?

    • At the very least, his ability and fearlessness to push the ball down field should pair nicely with all of the Panther's speedy weapons.

The Panthers also signed a couple offensive linemen, another veteran corner, made some calculated cuts to clear cap space, and still hold the number eight overall pick in this year's draft. They might even have a chance at bringing back former Pro-Bowler, defensive tackle Kawaan Short.


2) DAK PRESCOTT

via Vernon Bryant / Dallasnews


Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has to be one of the happiest men in the league this offseason. His six-year $240 million dollar deal, with $126 million guaranteed and a $66 million dollar signing bonus is a record-breaking deal, and one Prescott has fought hard for. No matter who you are a fan of, you can't help but be happy for Prescott. He puts in the work, he says and does all the right things on and off the field, and he's one of those guys that loves leading "America's Team," especially since he grew up a fan of the Cowboys.

Despite Prescott having a tremendous 2019 season, negotiations stalled with the Cowboys' front office that offseason, leading to Prescott being slapped with the franchise tag for the 2020 season, which is rare for a quarterback, especially one of his caliber. Prescott did not let business get in the way of his leadership and focus towards football. Despite playing under the franchise tag in 2020, he grabbed his lunch pail and went to work and came out the gates blazing in 2020 with league leading numbers. He was destined to earn a long-term deal to his liking, until he suffered a gruesome ankle injury in Week 5.

As Prescott attacked his recovery and rehab head on, the Cowboys' offense looked lost without him, and Dallas looked like the worst team on the field week in and week out. It might not have gone the way he planned, but Prescott proved his worth to owner Jerry Jones, and it paid off big time.


1) THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

via Nancy Lane / MediaNews Group / Boston Herald


Some teams make a splash during free agency, the New England Patriots cannonballed into a kiddie-pool. Take a look of a rundown of their most notable acquisitions:

  • Resigned quarterback Cam Newton;

  • Traded with the Las Vegas Raiders to bring back offensive tackle Trent Brown;

  • Signed defensive lineman (EDGE) Kyle Van Noy, bringing him back to New England, following his brief stint with the Miami Dolphins;

  • Signed former Los Angeles Chargers' star tight end Hunter Henry;

  • Signed former standout Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith;

  • Signed former Philadelphia Eagles safety Jalen Mills;

  • Signed former Las Vegas Raiders' wide receiver Nelson Agholor;

  • Signed former San Francisco 49ers' wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.

The Patriots started the 2020 season in a promising and competitive manner despite the team looking much different than it has for the last twenty years. Cam Newton was off to a hot start despite not having an offseason to learn the Patriots' system, and not being afforded many weapons. We all know how that season ended up for both Newton and the Patriots. Simply put, it took a major nosedive, leaving questions to be answered about head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and Newton. This offseason, Belichick believed in giving Newton another shake, and decided to load the roster up with some of the best available talent on the market.

You will note that New England obtained BOTH of the biggest free agent tight ends on the market, mirroring one of Bill Belichick's most successful offensive football teams of his entire career, the 2011 Patriots, which touted tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Similarly, the 2021 Patriots will have a pass-catching machine in Henry, and a versatile, uber-athletic tight end in Smith, who is an unstoppable force in the redzone and can even be utilized as a runner.

The rest of the names speak for themselves. The storyline of 2020, was that the Patriots did not have any notable pass-catching skill players, now they have four. It is also worth noting that the return of players like Trent Brown and Kyle Van Noy should bring immediate stability and consistency to both lines. Potentially most notably, the defense will have its vocal and cerebral leader, linebacker Dont'a Hightower, back this year, after he opted out of the 2020 season due to personal concerns surrounding COVID-19. Lastly, the Patriots look like they have a decent chance of bringing budding star, cornerback J. C. Jackson, back for at least another year.

Look for the Patriots to flip the script in 2021 and be right back in the middle of the playoff conversation.


LOSERS


5) THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

via Chris Szagola / AP


The Philadelphia Eagles have not had the greatest offseason thus far. A team riddled with holes last year has not made many efforts to improve their roster for first year head coach Nick Sirianni, and second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, entering his first year as a full-time starter. Of course, the Draft has yet to come, and there are still some notable free agents available, but to date, the Eagles are in a bit of a rough shape. Notable losses are as follows:

  • Quarterback Carson Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts, ending his career in Philadelphia, five years after being drafted by the team;

  • Wide receiver DeSean Jackson signed with the Los Angeles Rams, ending his second tour in Philadelphia;

  • Defensive lineman (EDGE) Vinny Curry signed with the New York Jets;

  • Linebacker Duke Riley signed with the Miami Dolphins;

  • Linebacker Nate Gerry signed with the San Francisco 49ers;

  • Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin has not been offered a new contract as of yet;

  • Tight end Zach Ertz is all but certain to be traded from Philadelphia.

Now, the Eagles did upgrade the safety position by replacing Jalen Mills with Anthony Harris. They resigned center Jason Kelce, safety Rodney McLeod, running back Boston Scott, and wide receiver Greg Ward. They also brought in veteran quarterback Joe Flacco, likely to assist Jalen Hurts in his development.

The problem is that the Eagles have yet to address the biggest holes on the roster from last year: wide receiver, linebacker, offensive line, and cornerback, and there are only but so many rounds of the draft... In fact, Philadelphia has seemingly shed starting and rotational players at these positions this offseason. They are approaching a point where they simply need bodies, and they've got their work cut out for them.


4) ALLEN ROBINSON

via Jose Osorio / Chicago Tribune


Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson entered the 2020 season on the final year of his deal. Following a few cryptic tweets, public support from Bears fans, and teammates, it was clear Robinson wanted a big-time extension, or potentially, to play for another team by 2021. Robinson did not let business get in the way of his production. 102 catches, 1,250 yards, and 6 touchdowns despite the revolving door of Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles at quarterback, and the Bears trotting out a bottom 10 offense each week, is a monster season for the Bears' leading wideout. That certainly would lead a team to want to strike up a deal, or at the very least address the quarterback position to try to convince your best offensive weapon to want to stick around.

The Bears and Robinson did not get a deal done this offseason. Instead, they slapped him with the franchise tag, prohibiting him from testing free agency. For a brief moment, all hope was not lost, as it seemed the Bears would be aggressive in pursuing some of the biggest quarterback names available. Then the news broke that they signed quarterback Andy Dalton to a deal some might say was too expensive for a quarterback with not much more talent, if any, than Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles.

To Robinson's dismay, and unless the Bears make a blockbuster move on Draft Night, he is stuck at least playing another year of his prime in a struggling Bears offense.


3) THE DETROIT LIONS

via Jeff Nguyen / AP


The Detroit Lions have seemingly worsened their roster, while still avoiding a full rebuild. We'll get to the obvious move in a minute, but the Lions were also on the wrong side of the following transactions:

  • Cornerback Desmond Trufant signed with the Chicago Bears;

  • Cornerback Justin Coleman signed with the Miami Dolphins;

  • Wide receiver Marvin Jones, Jr. signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars;

  • Wide receiver Danny Amendola has not been offered a new contract as of yet;

  • Wide receiver Kenny Golladay has signed with the New York Giants;

  • Interior defensive lineman Danny Shelton has signed with the New York Giants;

  • Linebacker Christian Jones has signed with the Chicago Bears;

  • Linebacker Reggie Ragland has signed with the New York Giants;

  • Cornerback Darryl Roberts signed with the Washington Football Team;

  • Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu signed with the San Francisco 49ers;

  • and franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and draft capital.

Lions fans might see some of these names, and say "we're happy some of these guys are gone," and that might be true, but the problem is there are no alternatives. Similar to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Detroit Lions will need bodies to fill the roster, and what's behind the starting/rotational players mentioned above that have been let go are guys who could not compete with those guys to earn reps.

Unfortunately, Detroit looks as if it is at the early stages before a rebuild. They have downgraded at positions all over the field, but have made enough signings to avoid this offseason being characterized as a true rebuild. Goff certainly is not Stafford, but he is a gamer, someone who seemingly looks at every situation with optimism and as an opportunity, but he comes with a big contract and requires above offensive line play and weapons. The Lions have neither of those.

The Lions have signed some other players to attempt to fill some of these holes, such as wide receiver Tyrell Williams, cornerback Corn Elder, wide receiver Breshard Perriman, interior defensive lineman Michael Brockers, and running back Jamaal Williams. However, these signings seem like plugging holes in a sinking ship with bubblegum. Unfortunately for Lions fans, the team is beginning what is going to be a long rebuild.


2) THE LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

via Jose Carlos Fajardo / Bay Area News Group

The Las Vegas Raiders have made some head-scratching decisions so far this offseason. Despite the fact that they'll likely have a better season than the Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions, they have found themselves higher (or lower, depending how you look at it) on TRO's offseason Loser's list because of where they are coming from. A competitive team this past season, looking to find more consistency, and make the push to a playoff team as they were hyped up to be at this time last year, can't afford to make costly offseason moves. They simply stand to lose more than the Eagles and the Lions. Take a look at the following questionable transactions:

  • Traded tackle Trent Brown (and a 2022 seventh round pick) back to the New England Patriots for just a fifth round pick in next year's draft;

  • Traded superstar center Rodney Hudson for a seventh round pick in this year's draft;

  • Failed to resign wide receiver Tyrell Williams;

  • Lost right guard in free agency to the Seattle Seahawks;

  • Lost safety Erik Harris in free agency to the Atlanta Falcons;

  • Lost wide receiver Nelson Agholor to the New England Patriots in free agency;

The Raiders managed to sign running back Kenyan Drake, interior defensive lineman Soloman Thomas, and resign offensive guard Richie Incognito, among a few other names. Most recently, the Raiders brought back former first round pick, safety Karl Joseph, after a one-year hiatus with the Cleveland Browns. While some of these have been valuable signings, and Las Vegas has brought back some other key players, the main problem with the Raiders' offseason thus far has been the loss of three starting offensive linemen from what was once one of the best units in the entire league. Derek Carr and this offense are not built to run behind poor offensive line play, and the Raiders have seemingly dealt away their greatest strength in exchange for pennies on the dollar.


1) THE CHICAGO BEARS

via Nam Y. Huh / AP


The Chicago Bears have seemingly tried their hardest to frustrate their fanbase. You won't find another fanbase in the league coming off of a playoff appearance more discouraged about what lies ahead of them next season, and rightfully so. Take a look at what this front office has been up to as they are in, what is more likely than not, a career determining season:

  • Frustrated star wide receiver Allen Robinson by slapping him with the franchise tag;

  • Released star cornerback Kyle Fuller after losing all trade leverage;

  • Lost quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in free agency to the Buffalo Bills just four years after trading up in the draft to select him;

  • Signed quarterback Andy Dalton to a one year, ten million dollar deal;

  • Retaining quarterback Nick Foles under contract through the 2022 season, including $10.3 million in dead cap this upcoming season;

  • Failed to resign offensive spark-plug, KR/WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson.

This list might not be as long as some of the others above, but it might be the most detrimental. You have a team coming off of a playoff appearance, despite its bottom ten offensively ranked unit, somehow getting worse. You also have them losing their best cover man on the defensive side of the ball, because they botched any leverage they had in trading him, piercing holes at one of their strengths.

Above all, the Bears' inability to properly evaluate and address their quarterback situation the past few years lands them at the top (or bottom) of this list. Let's take a look back: the Bears traded up in the 2017 NFL Draft to select Mitchell Trubisky at number two overall, when they could have probably gotten him anytime they wanted him, including in the second or third round; fast forward to 2020 when they traded for Nick Foles and took on his monster contract only to backup Trubisky, despite having the chance to sign Cam Newton, Alex Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Andy Dalton, or Philip Rivers, possibly all for far cheaper cap hits than Foles; and the Bears ultimately rolled through the 2020 season rotating Trubisky and Foles, unsuccessfully, leading them to only sign Andy Dalton for more money than they would have paid him had they signed him in 2020, which would've saved the Foles cap hit for the next two years.

Rant over. Unless the Bears manage to pull off a miracle trade to acquire a top rookie quarterback prospect in this year's class, this offseason has been a disaster for four years in the making.

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