NFL experts discuss free agency: Biggest head scratchers, best moves, more

The 2021 NFL free agency Offers are slowly slow down, with just a handful of the Top names still on the market. Numerous playmakers and impact talents have agreed on terms for 2021 and beyond. Which contracts have been noticed so far and what have we learned from a week of players who switched to new teams?

The negotiation phase began on March 15th with huge deals for pass rushers in the market, and the free agency officially opened on March 17th New England Patriots was the headline approving new contracts for the two top tight ends in the market – Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith – a pair of wide receivers in Nelson Agholor and Kendrick BournePass rusher Matthew Judon and defensive back Jalen Mills, among other. Are they the winner the time of the free agency?

Our expert crew deals with the free agency including the best upgraded teams, the biggest surprises, underrated deals, curious team approaches, the busy patriots week with their checkbook, and how some quarterbacks for new deals might perform in 2021 . Check back all week for more reactions to the free agent madness of this off-season.

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What was the scratchiest step of the free hand?

Matt Bowen, NFL Analyst: The raiders who sign run back Kenyan Drake. Drake can fit into multiple NFL offenses due to his one-cut running style and short-haul speed. But I wonder why Las Vegas would give Drake a two-year $ 11 million guarantee to get him in touch Josh Jacobs. Remember, Jacobs is a volume runner in Jon Gruden’s energy scheme.

Mike Clay, NFL Analyst: The patriots overpay RPG recipients. Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are # 3 or # 4 best options on most teams. But New England seemed to misjudge a soft receiver market by allocating $ 16 million for the inconsistent agholor (more than Will Fuller V. and Marvin Jones Jr. earned among other things) and $ 5 million to Bourne (more than John Brown, Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams agreed among other things).

Kevin Seifert, National NFL Writer: The Raiders are dismantling their offensive line and are not aggressively using the money to address their defenses. However, they guaranteed Drake $ 6.75 million, despite the fact that Jacobs had signed for at least two more years under the terms of his rookie contract.

Seth Walder, author for sports analysis: The Raiders sign Drake. If Las Vegas wanted to reallocate resources from its line of scrimmage, rolling back backups wasn’t the place to go. I have a hard time imagining the meeting where decision makers decided it was.

What was the best free agent move overall?

Bowen: The patriots sign tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Now, with Henry and Smith in the mix, look for the Patriots to add stress to opposing defenses from two sets of TE. I see Henry as a suture stretcher and a midfielder on the New England offensive. Coordinator Josh McDaniels uses Smith’s dynamic qualities as a tough matchup in the game plan.

Clay: The Browns sign John Johnson III. Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald got all the headlines, but Johnson was a key component in the Rams’ strong defensive play during his four years with the franchise. Johnson is one of the league’s elite security arrangements. He’s versatile and talented enough to dominate in coverage and against the run while orienting himself deep, in the box, or even in the corner. He could be the fulcrum behind a Cleveland Defense outbreak in 2021.

Seifert: The cowboys re-sign the quarterback Dak Prescott. By and large, the Cowboys locked up a Pro Bowl quarterback until he was 31. Including last season’s time on Franchise Day, the Cowboys have controlled at least five of his seasons after his rookie contract expired. Yes, they paid a premium for it, but Prescott’s price wouldn’t have increased until 2022 – and could potentially have been prohibitive.



Dan Orlovsky explains how expectations for Dak Prescott have increased with his new contract.

Forest: The Cowboys re-sign Prescott. It was the most consistent step. In a league of belongings at quarterback, Dallas stepped dangerously on tiptoe to cross that line in the wrong direction. In terms of expected performance over the next five years, Prescott is likely a top six or seven QB. If you have this player on your roster, pay him and be grateful for the opportunity.

Which team is the best improved team after the free agency?

Bowen: Washington soccer team. The Patriots addressed several needs during the free agency, but I’m looking at Ron Rivera’s team here. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Curtis Samuel will bring more juice and explosive playability to DC. And on the defensive side of the ball, cornerback William Jackson III is an upgrade in the secondary. It’s a physical press corner that will allow Washington to play more Cover 1 in 2021.

Clay: Cleveland Browns. They were a competitor in 2020, but remember that of the 14 playoff teams they were the only ones with a negative lead (minus 11). In order to avoid 2021 becoming irrelevant again, there was still a lot to do on the defensive side of the ball in the off-season. Mission accomplished. Star safety John Johnson III is a game changer of an acquisition; Troy Hill Improves the opposite corner point Denzel Ward;; Malik Jackson increases the depth of quality in defensive duels; DE Takkarist McKinley helps to replace Olivier Vernon;; and Malcolm Smith and Anthony Walker Upgrade the team’s wobbly linebacker corps. Cleveland is already on the offensive and now has a top 10 defense.

Seifert: New England Patriots. I’ll choose the obvious answer and leave the rest of our crew looking for deeper insights. Your offense is now much more explosive thanks to the broad receptor Nelson Agholor and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henryand their defenses will get more pop up front Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy. The departure of the guard Joe Thuney is worrying but overall the Patriots have undoubtedly improved a half a dozen starting positions.

Forest: New England Patriots. There is certainly reason to be skeptical of the value some of the moves bring – the Agholor signing stands out – but there is no question that an influx of talent that has just flowed into Foxborough, Massachusetts and New England in the US will be better off in the short term.

Prediction WR Kenny Golladay‘s stat line for 2021 with the Giants.

Bowen: 65-767-8. Golladay has the ability to part vertically and he will give the giants a boost in deep dips and contested throws. That is the body control and the large catch radius there. Given the inconsistent quarterback play Daniel JonesI see Golladay end up with around 60-70 receptions.

Clay: 73-1,128-7 … and I’ll say 126 goals. Golladay will be the clear destination in New York Sterling Shepard best as a slot option, Darius Slayton Working as a situational deep threat and Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph and Saquon Barkley Handling of the majority of the remaining short-term to intermediate work. At 6-foot-4, Golladay is the team’s tallest receiver at three inches and will be very busy near the goal line.



Jeremy Fowler cancels Kenny Golladay’s deal with the Giants and response to the NFL.

Seifert: 52-633-6. The two most important players in completing a pass are the receiver and the quarterback. We know Golladay is capable of big games and big numbers. But last season Jones hit the target with 16.8% of his throws, the ninth-highest rate in the NFL. It’s far from clear that Jones is a quarterback who can generate a big season for a receiver.

Forest: 70-1,100-8. I’m a Golladay fan and I have to envision his competitive fishing skills being translated in New York. Sure, he’s taking a step back in terms of QB play, but he’ll also be the focus of the passing game. And remember Matthew Stafford only played eight games in 2019 when Golladay posted 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns.

What is the most underrated step in the time of the free agency?

Bowen: Kevin Zeitler, Dig. Zeitler is an upgrade inside the offensive line, and his features fit into Baltimore’s run-heavy system. He has the movement ability to draw gap schemes and he brings a physical approach to the point of attack. In addition, the veteran can set up his base in Pass Pro to hold off inner rushers.

Clay: William Jackson III, CB, Washington. Jackson played in Cincinnati during his first five NFL seasons and didn’t get much attention. But the earlier first-round pick turned out to be one of the best corners of the league. Washington’s defense took a huge leap in 2020, but it needed improvements in the backend to get to the next – and perhaps an elite – level. Together with Jackson Kendall Fuller on the corner, Washington gives one of the best CB duos in the league and gives him a borderline top 10 overall list.

Jeremy Fowler, National NFL Writer: Gerald Everett, TE, Seahawks. Everett was considered the No. 3 tightest end in the free hand and as the two players who went before him- Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry – Received a total of $ 32 million in the first year. Seattle got Everett for $ 6 million. Smith and Henry are better players, but the gap isn’t as big as you think. Many in the league believe that Everett has top 10 positional talent if he can put it all together.

Seifert: Andy Dalton, QB, bears. There is so much vitriol over this signature that its beneficial properties have been buried. (That’s my definition of “underrated” today anyway.) Dalton is easily the best quarterback the Bears have played in the last five seasons, from Mitch Trubisky to Mike Glennon to Nick Foles. He’s got five Bengals teams into the playoffs and could do the same for the Bears. He is not Russell WilsonThe bears did not acquire in a trade, but its advantage was ignored in the debate.

Forest: Daryl Williams, OT, bills. He’s not a star, but in a duel you could do a lot worse than Williams, who had a slightly above-average win rate on pass blocks last season. A three-year contract that pays an average of $ 8 million a year is good business for a 28-year-old solid attacker like Williams, especially when you consider Buffalo for less than $ 10 million out of the contract after the first year can get off when things go south.

Outside of the patriots’ buying frenzy, what has surprised you most about the free hand so far?

Bowen: The length of the free agent deals. We see more two- and three-year contracts with players than four- or five-year contracts in the prime of the years. However, with the expectation that the cap will go up due to the new TV deal, these players will be able to hit the free agency again as there are more prime years of earnings left.

Clay: A lack of action from that Indianapolis Colts, a 2020 playoff team and 2021 AFC potential contender that is at the top of the league in the cap area. So far Indianapolis has faced a net loss Denico Autry (Division rivals Titans) and Jacoby Brissett (Dolphins) sign elsewhere. I know GM Chris Ballard isn’t known for irresponsible spending, but the Colts have a rare window to add star players with an already solid roster. I am curious what you will do in the coming days.

Seifert: I’m shocked how almost no one seems to blink at the legally large numbers in the contract San Francisco 49ers gave tackle left Trent Williams. He’s a great player without a doubt, but he’s also turning 33 this summer and hasn’t played a 16-game season since 2013. We should at least consider the fact that this deal could cause pain for the 49ers in the long run.



Dan Graziano explains why signing Trent Williams on a long-term contract was important for the 49ers.

Forest: The slow moving recipient market. I understand: there is a large class of newcomers coming. But we’re talking about what is probably the second most important position in sport, so it comes as a surprise to me that someone is as talented as Kenny Golladay remains unemployed on Wednesday lunchtime.

Which team has had the most confusing approach to the free hand so far?

Bowen: Las Vegas Raiders. Add defensive ending Yannick Ngakoue should be viewed as a “plus” for Vegas. You need a differentiator in advance, and Ngakoue has disruptive qualities as a pass-rusher. But I’m still trying to figure out why the Raiders dismantled the offensive line. With Trent Brown to be traded to New England and the Raiders try to move on from both Gabe Jackson and Rodney HudsonVegas now has key positions to fill for an offense that seeks to go downhill under coach Jon Gruden.

Clay: Las Vegas Raiders. One of the strengths of the 2020 Raiders – a team close to the playoff – was their offensive line. They’ve ripped it off almost entirely in the past few days, including the bizarre Hudson trade. You’ll also have to replace Hudson, Jackson, Richie Incognito, or Brown. Ngakoue and wide receiver John Brown were solid additions, but holes remain in this roster including defensive tackles, corners, safety, depth of offensive skill position and of course along the offensive line. GM Mike Mayock has a lot of work to do.

Seifert: New England Patriots. They are benefiting in part from a depressed market in a year when they had limited cap space. But if it were someone other than Bill Belichick on the controls, the condemnation would be nearly universal. Topping up high-priced free agents like this rarely works. The Patriots have successfully identified certain goals in their past, most recently cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but they’ve never tried it on this scale before – for good reason.



Adam Schefter reports on the Seahawks’ current reluctance to trade with Russell Wilson, adding that the bears have made several inquiries regarding the QB.

Forest: Chicago Bears. The steps not taken – plus another $ 10 million to burn Andy Dalton – show a lack of awareness of how far this team is from the competition. Check in on Russell Wilson It was worth it, but Plan B should have blown it all up (I’d start acting Khalil Mack) set up for 2022 and beyond. Instead, they show a remarkable commitment to sub-par football.

How do you react to the patriots’ buying frenzy?

Bowen: It is totally atypical for the patriots to spend a lot of money at the beginning of the free hand. However, you are addressing critical needs here on both sides of the ball. Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith Give New England the opportunity to create stress for opposing defenses from 12 employees and broad recipients Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne allows the pats to stretch the field vertically. And in defense Matthew Judon has the qualities of being a prolific pass-rusher on Bill Belichick’s planned fronts while he’s back defensively Jalen Mills can play multiple courses in the New England Secondary.

Clay: I can’t help but feel a bit under-challenged, but it reminds me of what Buffalo has been doing for the past couple of offseasons by building a winners list by adding solid role-players. Sure, the duo of Henry and Smith is fascinating. But such as Of which Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Bourne and Agholor have worked primarily as rotation / depth players throughout their careers. Mills’ play was inconsistent and Judon was a solid but unspectacular edge rusher. The Patriots are better on paper but I’m not sure they are a playoff team. That will likely depend on how well Cam Newton Plays.

Fowler: It had to be done. This is New England’s way to get right. Approval of the draft alone will not fix this roster. And some of those contracts will be out of date in two years when the money hits gambling. I’m not sure all the signings will come, but two top-notch bottlenecks are forcing the defense to play the run and pass without a substitute.

Mike Reiss, Patriot Reporter: It’s a balance between “Are you smarter than the rest of the NFL?” and “Will you regret straying so far from the design / development / re-signing philosophy that has proven to be the best approach to sustainable success?” I understand their strategy: The cap is going down, so better in-their-prime players are entering the market, there is less competition to sign them, their space for the cap is ample, and the future cap will rise. In the end, I give Belichick the benefit of the doubt. He deserved it.

Seifert: They recognized the unique buyer’s market caused by the (suspected) one-time drop in the salary cap. The Patriots knew their roster needed improvement, but this seemed like an attempt to capitalize on just about anything market forces.

Forest: Two good tight ends again in an offensive in New England? Yeah, I bet I’m intrigued. Overall, this was a necessary revision of a missing duty roster. I don’t like every step – that’s a high average annual value for Agholor – but in general it makes sense to be a buyer when so many teams are overwhelmed. I particularly like Judon’s signature.

Field Yates, NFL Analyst: They are a decidedly more talented team than they were 24 hours ago. I will withhold a full review until I see the full details of the deals, but the Patriots had no interest in waiting around to improve a roster they needed where they were approached.

Are the Buccaneers the Super Bowl favorites after bringing all their core back?

Bowen: We should see the Bucs as one of the favorites to make another run in the Super Bowl, especially after signing key defensive players Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David. However, with just a day of free agent moves and more than a month to go until the NFL draft, we need to see how the rest of the off-season here plays out before we settle for the 2021 season.

Clay: At this very moment? Yeah, I think they are the best team in the league on paper. They signed their key players with people like new Ndamukong Suh, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, Steven McLendon and Ryan Succop as their best remaining unsigned free agents. Even if neither of them returns, the Tampa Bay roster is loaded and they will be battling for a second Lombardi Trophy in a row.

Fowler: No let’s go AFC. The Kansas City Chiefs will be a favorite after replenishing the offensive line and the Buffalo Bills have made big leaps in each of the last two years. The next jump is an AFC championship – maybe more. The Green Bay Packers have to break through at some point after two defeats in a row in the NFC Championship Game. Tampa is one of four or five teams in the mix.

Jenna Laine, Buccaneer’s reporter: I’m not ready to call them Super Bowl favorites again as we have to see their rewind, line of defense, and free hand kicking situations evolve. What exactly happens to Fournette, Suh and Succop? And while the Bucs are deep in the receiver, Brown led the Bucs in goals for the last five weeks of the regular season before sustaining a knee injury in the postseason. The Bucs talk to everyone, but they exist just so much money that can go around.



Adam Schefter explains what will happen to the buccaneers after signing Shaquil Barrett.

Seifert: Eh I can’t exactly name a team right now that I think has a better chance of winning the Super Bowl, but bringing the gang back together isn’t usually good enough in football. What can you do to improve and have you already done it?

Forest: No. Just because they run back the same players doesn’t mean we should expect the same results, especially with Tom Brady one year older. One prediction we can trust is this Patrick Mahomes will be the best quarterback in the league in 2021, and that makes the Chiefs Super Bowl favorites.

Yates: You are safe. This team took its step in the second half of the season and has a clear path to a division title, the goal of a possible farewell in the first round and another deep run.

Which Edge Rusher signing will turn out to be the best in two years?

Bowen: Shaquil Barrett, privateer. Barrett’s Pass Rush production is already on tape in Todd Bowles’ system. With fronts planned and spins / stunts planned, Bowles can create one-on-one fights for Barrett to create glitch in the pocket.

Clay: Carl Lawson, Jets. He may not be the best in the group, but he may be the biggest upgrade from what his new team had before. It seems like we’ve waited a decade for New York to add an Impact Edge Rusher, and the Robert Saleh regime finally got the job done. Lawson – whose 32 QB rushes just ran after T.J. watt last season – has a chance of a full outbreak in 2021 and beyond.

Fowler: Bud Dupree, Titans. He is perhaps the most talented pass rusher in the group. So if he puts it all together in Tennessee, he has a chance to dominate. Expect a slow start to the 2021 season due to its ACL rift in December, but the Titans are playing the long-term game on a massive five-year contract worth $ 82.5 million. Its unique blend of strength and speed will age well.

Seifert: Shaquil Barrett, privateer. His wild 19.5 sack performance in 2019 was no accident as he demonstrated in 2020. Playing in Bowles’ scheme for at least one more season should ensure Barrett continues to put up big numbers.

Forest: Shaquil Barrett, privateer. He ranked seventh among edge rushers for the Pass Rush win rate for the past two seasons. I think he’s the safest bet to be productive in the short term, even though he dropped fewer sacks last season. I’ll be giving Detroits an Honorable Mention Romeo Okwaraeven though. I’m thrilled with his advantage on a non-Matt Patricia defense.

Yates: Denico Autry, Titans. While he’s not exclusively playing as an Edge player, I love the titans that Autry add to it. It’s rare for players to see their first major contract after age 30, but Autry has aged well and is just a no-nonsense, absolutely solid player. Tennessee got better.

Which newly signed QB will have a better 2021 season, Washington Ryan Fitzpatrick or New Orleans’ Jameis Winston?

Bowen: Winston. I think Taysom Hill sees reruns this year at quarterback in specific packages for the Saints. But I go with Winston in Sean Payton’s heavily planned passing game because of his thrower qualities and second reaction ability.

Clay: Fitzpatrick. From today’s perspective, I would give him the advantage. Winston will face real competition from Hill and may not even start for New Orleans while Fitzpatrick is a strong favorite Taylor Heinicke in Washington. Fitzpatrick has also played much better than Winston in recent years, only replacing him as a starter in Tampa Bay two years ago.

Fowler: Fitzpatrick. Winston has a chance to succeed in Payton’s offense. But there’s no hard evidence that it can shake the sales problem, and the Hill factor cannot be ignored. Hill’s early-down packages could hurt Winston’s bottom line. Fitzpatrick played the best football of his career in a few spots last year and is joining an up and coming team.

John Keim, Washington Reporter: Winston. I think there is more to learn Washington’s situation – What else does it add to the offense? – before I say Fitzpatrick will have a better year when I think he will have a good one. Winston has a head start on an offensive that the players have long been together while playing for one of the best offensive minds in the NFL.



John Keim cancels Washington’s decision to sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Seifert: Winston. That assumes he wins the starting job over Hill, which is likely, but not a suspension. In this case, I’m projecting better numbers for the quarterback on a Payton offense than on the quarterback on a Ron Rivera offense. I like my chances there.

Mike Triplett, Reporter for the Saints: Winston. My only hesitation is that Winston actually has to secure the job by defeating Hill in camp and I think it will be a legitimate competition. But Winston is the front runner and he would be in a fantastic position around people like Payton. Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamaranot to mention that offensive line.

Forest: Winston. He really wasn’t that bad at Tampa Bay. Even in his 30th interception season in 2019, Winston finished 16th in QBR. I like his chances in Payton’s offense and he gives Payton the luxury of being able to play downfield games too.

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