Free Agency is often referred to as the most entertaining time in an NFL season, and the 2021 free agency period has not disappointed so far. With over 100 players signed already, not only is it the signings that have been interesting, but the releases and trades that have been caused due to the lowered salary cap have resulted in some unexpected name being on the move. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest headlines, starting with the team that has put the league on notice with a flurry of moves.
Bill Belichick leads New England Patriots spending spree
New England has gotten off to a hot start, signing 10 free agents over the past two days. New England brought in heavy reinforcements in the pass catcher department, as they added wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, as well as tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, to the team. These guys will offer massive improvements over the cast of characters QB Cam Newton was throwing to last season. Old friend Ted Karras was also brought in to presumably replace David Andrews, and he will slot in as the final piece of the offensive line.
Defensively, New England stocked up as well. OLB Matt Judon was the biggest name signed by the Patriots on this side of the ball, as he got a 4yr/$56 million contract to help the Patriots pass rush. They also added Jalen Mills, Henry Anderson, and Davon Godchaux to the mix, while also resigning Deatrich Wise and Carl Davis. Mills versatility in the secondary definitely caught Belichick’s eye, while Anderson and Godchaux will come in and help shore up the Patriots weak run defense, while also potentially replacing Adam Butler (who signed with the Miami Dolphins) and Lawrence Guy, who’s still a free agent. Bill Belichick has taken full advantage of the lowered salary cap, and has put the league on notice that the Patriots aren’t dead just yet.
Cincinnati Bengals revamp their defense
Cincinnati has added some defensive playmakers as they look to help out their offense next season, already filling a couple of huge holes. The big move that will get the most headlines is the signing of defensive end Trey Hendrickson, who was brought in on a 4yr/$60 million deal to replace Carl Lawson, who signed a deal with the New York Jets (more on that in a minute). Hendrickson had 13.5 sacks in 2020, and should be fully capable of filling Lawson’s big shoes. Along with losing Lawson, the Bengals also said goodbye to cornerback William Jackson, as he got $42 million to go play in Washington. Cincy moved quickly to replace Jackson, as they signed Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton to help out the secondary. Awuzie will slide right into Jackson’s role, while Hilton will takeover the slot corner position and provide excellent coverage, as well as fantastic blitzing from time to time. Despite losing some big pieces on defense, the Bengals moved swiftly to replace, it not outright upgrade, these positions on their defense.
New York Jets address pretty much everything other than QB
The New York Jets were loaded with cap space coming into free agency, and have quietly made some solid moves that should help them out come next season. As we previously mentioned, defensive end Carl Lawson has been the Jets biggest signing so far, as he inked a 3yr/$45 million deal to come help out the Jets pass rush. The Jets also added a solid wideout in Corey Davis, as he was handed a 3y/$37.5 million deal to help out whoever is under center in New York next season. Davis is coming off easily his best season as a pro, and the former 5th overall pick turned it into a big contract. Jarred Davis and Justin Hardee were two under the radar signings that will help tighten up the Jets defense and special teams. Davis will join C.J. Mosley in the Jets linebacker corps, while Hardee will help a Jets special teams unit that has struggled at times over the past couple of seasons. Despite these solid signings, much of the offseason revolves around what the Jets end up doing with QB Sam Darnold. The QB market seems to be shrinking, so the Jets may be running out of time to move their former first round pick.
Los Angeles Chargers bolster their offensive line
Although the Chargers have only made two signings so far, they’ve painted a clear picture of the Chargers offseason plans. They made deals with offensive linemen Matt Feiler and Corey Linsley to come in and help protect QB Justin Herbert. Linsley is the bigger name here, as the Chargers give one of the top centers in the league 5yr/$62.5 million to come in and protect Herbert. Feiler got a 3yr/$21 million deal, but it stands as being equally as important. Despite Herbert’s successful rookie season, their offensive line struggled to protect him for most of the season, and the Chargers have made it clear they intend to protect Herbert come next season. The Chargers don’t have much cap space left after these signings, so their next moves will most likely come during the draft.
Other Notable Deals
- San Francisco 49ers resign Trent Williams for 6y/$138.06 million: Williams has finally found a new long term home in San Francisco, as lands a massive contract the rightfully pays him as one of the top offensive linemen in the game.
- Tennessee Titans sign Bug Dupree for 5y/$82.5 million: Coming back from a torn ACL, Dupree will look to help out a Titans pass rush that struggled for much of last season.
- Kansas City Chiefs sign Joe Thuney for 5y/$80 million: We last saw Patrick Mahomes running for his life from the Buccaneers defense, and the Chiefs clearly prioritized adding to their o-line by dishing out a huge deal to Thuney.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers resign Shaq Barrett (4y/$68 million) & Rob Gronkowski (1y/$10 million): The Buccaneers have made it a point of emphasis that they want to run it back with their current group, and they brought back two of their biggest pieces in Barrett and Gronk to help put that plan into action.
- Jacksonville Jaguars sign Shaquill Griffin (3y/$44.5 million) and Marvin Jones Jr. (2y/$12.5 million): The Jaguars are preparing for the arrival of Trevor Lawrence, and are putting their abundant cap space to use. Griffin gives the Jags a no. 1 cornerback they’ve been missing since Jalen Ramsey left, and Jones will presumably provide a solid safety option for Lawrence come next season.
- Washington Football Team signs William Jackson III (3y/$42 million) & Ryan Fitzpatrick (1y/$10 million): Washington got one of the best corners available in Jackson to add to their defense, and signed Fitzpatrick to come in and be a veteran presence in the locker room, while also adding some competition at the QB position.
- Las Vegas Raiders sign Yannick Ngakoue for 2y/$26 million: The Raiders got one of the best pass rushers available to come help out their weak front seven.
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