The new NFL year kicked off Thursday, and it certainly lived up to the hype.
Franchise tags were signed, free agents found new homes and there even was a stunning trade. Some teams got a whole lot better by way of free agency, while others undoubtedly regressed.
With that said, here are the winners and losers from Day 1 of NFL free agency.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
The Super Bowl LI champions didn’t waste any time improving their squad for the upcoming season. The Patriots arguably made the most high-profile move Thursday, as they’re expected to sign Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore. This hardly was the only move New England made Thursday, though. The team reportedly re-signed both safety Duron Harmon and defensive tackle Alan Branch, preserving two key pieces of the Patriots’ defense. The Pats had a terrific Day 1, but the uncertainty over linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Malcolm Butler still hovers over them.
The Jaguars had a dreadful 2016 campaign, but the moves they made Thursday provided a sense of optimism for the upcoming season. Judging by Jacksonville’s bevy of reported deals, it was clear the team viewed defense as its top priority this offseason. The Jaguars reportedly agreed to terms on a five-year deal with arguably the best available defensive back in A.J. Bouye. Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell also appears to be on his way to Jacksonville, as well as former Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church. The Jaguars were one of the most active teams on Day 1 of free agency, and it’s hard not to like the moves they made.
While we typically don’t see the Browns in the “winners” category, Cleveland certainly got off to a good start on the new NFL year. The Browns made two huge additions to their offensive line, as they reportedly agreed to terms with Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter. Cleveland also is expected to bring in one of the better deep threats in the league in wideout Kenny Britt. The Browns were a part of the most surprising move of the day, as they acquired quarterback Brock Osweiler and a 2018 second-round pick from the Houston Texans. Cleveland is expected to part ways with Osweiler, but the second-round pick is a tremendous get. The Browns now own 22 picks in the next two drafts combined. Dare we say the future is looking bright in Cleveland?
The Bengals did themselves no favors on Day 1 of free agency. They lost two starters on their offensive line, as Zeitler appears to be on his way to Cleveland, and Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth reportedly agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Rams. Cincinnati is coming off a season in which its offense underperformed considerably, and losing two of Andy Dalton’s protectors certainly does not help its chances moving forward. The Bengals re-signed cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, but their general inactivity is cause for concern in Cincinnati.
To say the past two offseasons have been radically different for Osweiler would be an understatement. Last year, he inked a four-year, $72 million dollar contract with the Houston Texans, $37 million of which was guaranteed. Fast forward a calendar year, and the Texans already have decided to cut ties with the man they thought would be their next franchise quarterback. Osweiler appears to be on his way to Cleveland, but not for long. The Browns are expected to simply eat Osweiler’s hefty salary for the sake of earning a 2018 second-round pick. Osweiler went from a massive pay day to becoming a relatively unwanted player.
The Bears were tied to a number of moves Thursday, but none of which were anything to get excited about. They’re expected to sign former Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon to a lofty three-year deal worth $45 million, $19 million of which is guaranteed. That’s a hefty price for a quarterback who only has started 18 games in his career. Chicago lost its best offensive weapon in Alshon Jeffery, who reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears also parted ways with Jay Cutler, who is rumored to garner some interest from the New York Jets.
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