The Legal Tampering Window opened in the NFL last Wednesday and a ton of moves have been made in the hours that followed. After almost a week of frenzied activity, we look at who the free agency winners and losers so far. Here’s an update:
Los Angeles Chargers: Winners
Despite losing out on the Tom Brady race, the Chargers have had a phenomenal offseason so far. They used their franchise tag on Hunter Henry, locking up the 25-year old tight end for the foreseeable future. They bolstered their offensive line by signing Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner and tackle Bryan Bulaga. They also grew their defensive depth with tackle Linval Joseph cornerback Chris Harris Jr. The Chargers already had a strong secondary but Harris will make them just that much more fearsome heading into 2020.
One big surprise is the Chargers’ decision to half their quarterback search and will not be addressing that issue in free agency. This certainly could be viewed as a negative, but running with Tyrod Taylor is not the worst conceivable outcome.
Just look at the Patriots quarterback situation right now.
The Chargers were committed to protecting whoever their eventual starter would be. Bulaga especially, provides a huge upgrade for the Chargers, bringing his elite pass protection to a team that sorely needed it. In the last six seasons, he ranks second at RT in pass-blocking. Turner will compliment him well and the right side of their offensive line is now a force to be reckoned with. If Taylor can make the most of the time in pocked this line will afford him, Tom Telesco and company might be able to move on from Phillip Rivers at a bargain price.
Chicago Bears: Losers
While I won’t say that the Bears’ signing Nick Foles is a big win, it is not the reason for their loser designation on this list. Foles gives Chicago a chance to up their production from the quarterback position with Mitchell Trubisky in a permanent slump. The Bears surrendered a measly fourth-round pick to get their new QB and still have the ability to trade Trubisky to further better their roster. Foles has flashed glimpses of greatness but has also put up a fair amount of stinkers along the way. Either way, it is a low risk/high reward move for the Bears and will be the bright spot of this offseason.
Moving to the other moves made by Chicago is where things begin to fall apart.
They inexplicably made Jimmy Graham one of the Top-10 paid tight ends in the league. Sure, Graham was probably the best TE in the game for a couple of years in New Orleans. But many years have come and gone since those glory days and I am actually surprised he was given a starting job anywhere at all. The reason being, his price tag likely superseded his current talent. Seems the Bears disagree and thought a player with a grade below 60.0 over the last two years is worth $10M. Chicago followed up that mess with an even worse contract, signing Robert Quinn to a puzzling five-year $70M deal. Much like Graham, Quinn was a phenomenal player.
The keyword here is was. Don’t get me wrong, Quinn is still a quality starter at the position, but not worth that kind of scratch. It’s like whoever made the call on these deals was accidentally looking at stats from the 2013 season or something. It is a bad use of their salary cap and this was already a team that didn’t have the luxury to spend a lot in the first place.
The team itself might be better after these moves, sure. But at what cost? This is not a team that will contend for anything and now has exhausted a huge chunk of their spending money on overpaid talent.
Miami Dolphins: Losers
The Dolphins really could have made a splash this offseason with a ton of money to spend on bettering their team. Instead of doing so, they wildly overspent on a few non-impact players at positions they really didn’t need help with.
New in town is cornerback Byron Jones, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, running back Jordan Howard, guard Ereck Flowers and defensive ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson.
Miami actually has been the biggest spenders so far this offseason, completely retooling their roster in the process. And sure, they have improved. But they remain losers for the sheer cash spend compared with the return of talent they acquired.
They do have the No. 5, 18 & 26 picks in the draft. The latter two were traded for from the Steelers (for Minkah Fitzpatrick) and the Texans (Laremy Tunsil). And while those will go a long way in the future, their outlook for 2020 still looks bleak. This is especially evident when we take a gander at their QB depth. Or lack of.
They are hell-bent on making it work with Ryan Fitzpatrick and, well, good luck with that. It is possible they try to trade up and make a move on drafting Tua Tagovailoa, which is fine. But he is still a rookie, a talented one with a bright future, but he has to prove himself first.
All in all, the Dolphins did get better but should have gotten A LOT better with all the money spend.
Denver Broncos: Winners (maybe)
The Broncos have been busy bees these last few days of free agency. They picked up a number of guys that might not be household names but will really help this team improves on their 7-9 record from last year.
John Elway has added A.J. Bouye, Jeff Driskel, Jurrelly Casey, Graham Glasgow on Wednesday and followed it up with a big Thursday signing.
Denver made an offer to running back Melvin Gordon which was good enough to tempt him away from the Chargers. To be fair, LA is a sinking ship right now and he is much better off. The thing is, for as good as Gordon can be, he has a tendency to underperform and is a bit of an injury risk. This is why I have to add that maybe to their winning status.
Gordon is coming off an absolute disaster of a season, missing time due to a contract holdout and seeing his stats dive after he did make it back to the field. He also saw the fumble issues he suffered his rookie year rear its ugly head. He put the ball on the ground four times in just 204 touches and even lost the Chargers a game by butterfingering a likely TD run from the 1-yard line versus the Titans. Frankly, Austin Ekeler was the Charger’s better option last year.
That being said, Melvin Gordon is an amazing running back who has a very high ceiling. He is just 26 years old and was on his way to superstardom before last year’s speedbump. If he can stay healthy, find his stride and keep his hands on the damn ball, Gordon could have a big year in Denver.
Minnesota Vikings: Winners
The Vikings went the route of the Texans and traded away perhaps their best player in Stefon Diggs. The thing that the Vikings did differently was to actually get something worthwhile in return. Sure, Diggs is a player which cant be totally replaced and the offense will be slightly less threatening in 2020 without him. But the sheer number and quality of the draft picks acquired from the Bills gives them immense flexibility in the draft.
Diggs will be missed on the field, but not in the locker room. He really butted heads with Kirk Cousins and HC Mike Zimmer which is no way to succeed on any team.
Minnesota also did good work restructuring Kirk Cousins’ contract while saving even more money by cutting Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph.
They will have a strong crop of wideouts in the draft to pick from and could surprise a lot of people next year if they draft well.
New York Jets: Losers
The Jets might be losers, but it is not for lack of trying. They have been linked with a bunch of key free agents, making a run at multiple players but coming up empty-handed. I mean, in all fairness, I would sign elsewhere if given the chance to not play for the Jets. They aren’t exactly a franchise that is viewed with high praise.
The only poor saps they managed to lure into their web of mediocrity was Broncos lineman Connor McGovern and former Seahawks backup offensive tackle George Fant. Let that sink in for a second. Perhaps the Jets’ biggest pickup was a guy who couldn’t even keep a job as a second-stringer on the Seahawks. And they plan on starting him. Oof.
Now they find themselves still in need of help at wide receiver, cornerback, edge rushing and pretty much their whole offensive line. There are a few guys still left who can help this team. Robby Anderson and Emmanuel Sanders come to mind but even they could only do so much.
Long story short, the Jets suck and will continue to do so until they can rebrand and tempt some quality talent over to their side.