It’s always difficult to assess a free agency period in the first week, but as teams took a collective breath Sunday night after a three-day feeding frenzy, there are some significant differences between teams that have come out aggressively to improve their stock and others that have been standing pat while their players are getting plucked away.
Fans of the Minnesota Vikings have primarily been focused on their favorite team, but the landscape has changed a lot over the four days since free agency began. Here’s our early look at the winners and losers to date in the free-agent talent stockpiling, as well as a couple teams that need to be reminded that free agency has begun.
Carolina Panthers – They’re putting the band back together, bringing back Julius Peppers, Captain Munnerlyn and re-signing Charles Johnson (the DE, not his new teammate of the same name) and fellow DEs Mario Anderson and Wes Horton. Reuniting brothers Ryan and Matt Kalil is yet another family reunion in the Carolinas.
Chicago Bears – They make this list simply by getting rid of Jay Cutler. While Mike Glennon is more hype than production, they replaced Alshon Jeffery with Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and Rueben Randle (a fair tradeoff) and really helped their secondary by signing CBs Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper and safety Quintin Demps while having all their 2016 starters under contract. Chicago’s defense has taken a big step forward.
Cleveland Browns – Offensive line is clearly a priority for the metrics crew in charge. They already had Joe Thomas and re-signed guard Joe Bitonio before spending heavily to land guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter. If you win games up front, the Browns are taking steps in the right direction.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Shad Khan isn’t shy about spending money and he’s at it again. He bolstered his O-line, adding Branden Albert and Earl Watford, and made moves on defense to bring in DE Calais Campbell, CB A.J. Bouye, S Barry Church and DT Stefan Charles. Campbell and Bouye could tip the balance of power in the AFC South.
New England Patriots – The Pats are looking to double down in a big way. They added WR Brandin Cooks, TE Dwayne Allen and DE Kony Early in a trade and signed CB Stephon Gilmore and DE Lawrence Guy in free agency. The rich just keep getting richer.
San Francisco 49ers – John Lynch has made an impact, signing 10 guys in three days, and the only guys who are gone that have been signed by others were cut or allowed to leave. They’re adding a lot of bodies and it may continue in the coming days and weeks.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cards were successful because of a strong defense and big-strike offense. But, in the first three days of free agency, they lost DE Calais Campbell, CB Marcus Cooper, S Tony Jefferson and S D.J. Swearinger. All they added was safety Antoine Bethea and aging linebacker Karlos Dansby. The losses will be hard to make up.
Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens don’t spend much money on outside free agents, but rarely get poached. They’ve signed safety Tony Jefferson and running back Danny Woodhead, but have lost OT Ricky Wagner, DE Lawrence Guy, LB Zach Orr and FB Kyle Juszczyk, as well as releasing LB Elvis Dumervil, S Lardarius Webb, CB Shareece Wright and S Kendrick Lewis. For a team that doesn’t break the bank on outsiders, that’s a lot of in-house talent out the door.
Cincinnati Bengals – They have yet to make a significant signing and have already lost four starters – OT Andrew Whitworth, G Kevin Zeitler, NT Domata Peko and linebacker Karlos Dansby. They’re late to the party and they’re getting plucked by other teams along the way.
Dallas Cowboys – They’ve made a couple mid-level defensive signings, but have lost G Ronald Leary, OT Doug Free (retirement), NT Terrell McClain, DE Jack Crawford and safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. Fortunately, Tony Romo has overshadowed the other losses.
Detroit Lions – Detroit is taking things seriously in the offseason. They’ve signed eight players, highlighted by offensive linemen Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang. They have other needs, but are connecting a lot of dots.
Houston Texans – They had to trade a second-round pick to get out from under the awful Brock Osweiler decision and have lost CB A.J. Bouye, safety Quintin Demps and LB John Simon without signing a single impact player from outside the organization.
Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings have spent a ton of money to get a left tackle who played right tackle last year and a right tackle the team didn’t think was good enough four years earlier. From the 2016 team, Chad Greenway retired and the team let Kalil, Brandon Fusco, Rhett Ellison, Mike Harris, Munnerlyn, Audie Cole and Jeff Locke walk out the door. The addition doesn’t match up to the subtraction, not to mention the pending potential losses of Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson.
New York Jets – It doesn’t get much worse. Looking to be a playoff team last year, they have rid themselves of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Brandon Marshall, center Nick Mangold and OT Breno Giacomini from the offense. All that’s missing is Jay Cutler to take over the Bad News Bears East Chapter … and it sounds like he may be coming.
Oakland Raiders – To date, the only outside signing is swingman O-lineman Marshall Newhouse and they’ve lost OT Menelik Watson, OLB Malcolm Smith, CB David Amerson, OLB Darren Bates, S Nate Allen, DT Stacy McGee and S Brynden Trawick – seven players all signed by other teams
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Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons have signed only one outside free agent of note – Dallas linebacker Jack Crawford. They’ve lost a handful of players and have spent most of their free agent time re-signing their own guys.
Green Bay Packers – They said they could get aggressive in free agency. Who knew it only applied to tight end, where they didn’t give Jared Cook a deal, but signed bad-quote machine Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. In the meantime, other teams have taken away offensive linemen T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter, linebacker Julius Peppers and CB Micah Hyde. Throw in the cutting of Sam Shields, Green Bay has taken an early backward step, ignoring 21 positions while addressing just one – tight end.
Kansas City Chiefs – They have yet to sign any big free agents and the only players they’ve lost, they cut. They must like what they have.
Los Angeles Chargers – The only guy they signed was to overspend for Russell Okung. The only guy they lost that they didn’t cut was RB Danny Woodhead, whom Baltimore overspent to take away.
New Orleans Saints – The only player they lost they traded (Brandin Cooks) and the only outside signings have been role players. Perhaps Mardi Gras took out the front office.
Pittsburgh Steelers – They’ve signed nobody from the outside and let Lawrence Timmons and Markus Wheaton walk away. That’s the extent of their free agent activity. Classic Steelers! Sign your own and let others make headlines in March.
Seattle Seahawks – When you’re only outside signing is Blair Walsh, you haven’t embraced free agency.