The National Football League’s free agency period is always a source of excitement for football fans. The window, which opened on March 8th, has seen a wave of signings and one innovative deal.
The Eagles snagged wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, whom many pundits labelled as the top free agent this year. Jeffery agreed to a one year, $15 million contract. Not to be overshadowed, former 49ers wide receiver Torrey Smith was also signed by the Eagles, who now appear to have two startable wideouts on the roster. Jeffery has a knack for catching 50-50 balls—an ability that always helps rookie quarterbacks. Smith on the other hand, can blow through offenses and force defenders to cover the entire field. Wentz, known for being a gunslinger, finally has a deep threat to throw to. The Eagles also bolstered their already strong offensive and defensive lines by picking up offensive lineman Chance Warmack and defensive end Chris Long. Finally, in a surprise move, Philly brought back quarterback Nick Foles from the Chiefs on a two year deal. Since the Eagles now have QBs Wentz, Foles, and Chase Daniel on their roster, they released Daniel, an experienced backup who helped Wentz navigate his rookie year last season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars also made headlines by picking up defensive end Calais Campbell and up-and-coming cornerback AJ Bouye. However, both deals were for at least 4 years and upwards of $60 million dollars. Experts disagree over how wise it is to spend big money on free agents, and there is a certain amount of risk involved in offering long term deals to aging players. No one knows how the signings will turn out for the Jaguars.
But perhaps the most jaw-dropping move was between Houston and Cleveland. Last year the Houston Texans signed quarterback Brock Osweiler’s for a 4 year, $72 million deal. Osweiler turned out to be a complete bust, turning in 14 games of pathetic play before being benched for the rest of the season. Osweiler was so unwatchable the Texans elected to trade him to the Cleveland Browns. The Texans benefitted by ridding themselves of Osweiler and the $16 million guaranteed salary. They also saved $10 million in cap space and acquired a 4th round 2017 draft pick. The Browns gained a 2018 2nd round pick and a 2017 6th round pick. Since the Browns currently have about $100 million in cap space, they were comfortable with eating Osweiler’s contract. This NBA-style trade marked the first time two teams have traded a player’s contract in the NFL. On top of it all, the Browns have hinted that they don’t see much of a future for Osweiler in Cleveland—the Browns acquired a player they don’t even want on their team in order to buy draft picks from the Texans.
Every year there are a few teams that seem to “win” free agency by picking up the best players and making splashy moves. While it’s still unclear which teams will benefit most from their pickups, a perceived winner of free agency were the defending champions, the New England Patriots. The Patriots traded for the Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who is known for his quickness and agility. The signing gives Tom Brady quite possibly his most talented receiver since Randy Moss. The Patriots also signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the division rival Buffalo Bills. It’s pretty clear who the team to beat is for this coming season.