NFL free agent signing period winners and losers


After re-signing quarterback Cam Newton to one year contract, the New England Patriots went out and got him two formidable weapons in tight ends Hunter Henry (left) and Jonnu Smith (right).

Compared to previous years, this NFL free agency period was a quiet one, although it’s hard to top Tom Brady’s departure from New England as far as entertainment is concerned. All things considered, much was learned from the free agency period, and some teams did better than others. Many players were signed to one-year “prove-it” deals for little pay, and, due to the decreased salary cap, many non-free agents restructured their existing deals to make room for the new guys. Fear not, however, The Torch is here to get all NFL fans caught up on free agency’s winners and losers, as if the Patriots’ mass spending spree wasn’t enough to keep fans locked in to Adam Schefter’s twitter page.


New England Patriots: Money, Money, Money, MONEY!! Bill Belichick had a lot of it and gave it to virtually anyone with their hands out. He brought back Cam Newton for another year, then proceeded to buy him many new toys to play with, including, not one, but TWO of the top tight-ends in this year’s free agency class in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, along with some underrated wideouts in Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. He didn’t stop there, though. “Billy B” also handed out money to various defensive stars including the likes of former Baltimore Ravens standout linebacker Matthew Judon, former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Jalen Mills, and brought back outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who enjoyed the weather in South Beach for just one season before being cut and went crawling right back to the frigid Foxborough, Massachusetts climate. He also bought protection for Cam Newton despite losing standout guard Joe Thuney to a major deal with Kansas City. Trent Brown was traded to New England from Las Vegas – the move that started the spending spree – and starting center David Andrews was re-signed. After all was said and done, $159.6 million in guaranteed money was spent, and the Patriots, at least for the moment, appear to have thrust themselves right back into the race for the AFC East.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Perhaps the biggest winners of free agency, and just the NFL in general, the Bucs’ front office can rest easy knowing that their chances of repeating as Super Bowl champions are as high as they can possibly make them. The Bucs re-signed all nine free agent starters from their Super Bowl winning squad in a frenzy of moves that included an extension of Tom Brady’s contract which may keep him playing NFL football at age 45. If father time can’t find a way to beat Tom Brady, The Torch wishes the rest of the NFL luck.

Pass Rushers: The following is a list of new contracts for free agent pass rushers:

  1. Bud Dupree, Tennessee Titans – 5 years, $82.5 million
  2. Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4 years, $68 million
  3. Trey Hendrickson, Cincinnati Bengals – 4 years, $60 million
  4. Matthew Judon, New England Patriots – 4 years, $54.5 million
  5. Carl Lawson, New York Jets – 3 years, $45 million
  6. Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions – 3 years, $37 million
  7. JJ Watt, Arizona Cardinals – 2 years, $28 million
  8. Yannick Ngakoue, Las Vegas Raiders – 2 years, $26 million
  9. Tyus Bowser, Baltimore Ravens – 4 years, $22 million
  10. Denico Autry, Tennessee Titans – 3 years, $21.5 million

“Lesson? If you can’t be the quarterback, then learn to beat up the quarterback.” ~USA Today.


Chicago Bears: Bears GM Ryan Pace had a meeting with Seahawks GM John Schneider in Fargo, North Dakota, desperately trying to sell his soul to get his Chicago Bears their new face of the franchise in superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. Pace did everything he could, reportedly offering three first round draft picks and two starters, but inevitably flew home to Chicago empty handed. Not soon after, news came out of the 33-year-old “Red Rifle” Andy Dalton signing a one-year, $10 million contract to be the Bears’ starting QB for the 2021 season. Yikes! Not only that, but in order to sign Dalton, the Bears had to part ways with their best cornerback in Kyle Fuller, and replaced him with a rapidly aging Desmond Trufant. Yikes! The silver lining to all this is that finally Mitchell Trubisky is gone and can no longer disappoint the Bears faithful. Unfortunately for them, Ryan Pace still can.

Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s hard to look at a team other than the Bears and really call them “losers” of free agency, but the Jags’ lack of aggression this year particularly caused some head scratching. Despite going into the offseason with the most cap space in the NFL, none of the moves Jacksonville made really stood out as much as those of teams such as the Patriots, Buccaneers, Browns, etc. They used their franchise tag on young offensive tackle Cam Robinson, securing protection for likely #1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence, and they even got him a cheap, underrated veteran weapon in Marvin Jones, Jr. These moves and adding defensive back Shaquill Griffin are the only moves that are really worth commenting on, and for a team that went 1-15 last year, it’s probably not a good sign for the future if your team didn’t get significantly better.

Derek Carr: The Las Vegas Raiders starting quarterback should be fuming right now, especially after watching the sheer magic division rival QB Patrick Mahomes had to do without a healthy offensive line in the Super Bowl against Tampa Bay. Sixty percent of the Raiders’ offensive line from 2020 – arguably a top five offensive line in the league – is gone. Also gone is starting wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who led Raiders wide receivers in receiving yards, targets, and touchdowns. The story of a QB without protection rarely ever ends well, and a team which looked like it had so much promise last season, still seems to have mountains to climb before anyone can consider them to be “contenders.”