NFL teams already have had close to 48 hours to improve their rosters.

And some have used that time wisely, doing a better job than others during the NFL’s legal tampering period, otherwise known as the unofficial start to free agency. It’s been a big two days for players as well, with some cashing in and getting ready to see their bank accounts exponentially grow.

There still will be plenty of time for teams across the league to make moves since free agency doesn’t officially begin until Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, and there are still notable players out on the open market.

But for now, here are the winners and losers of the NFL’s legal tampering period:

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Winner: Saquon Barkley and his fellow running backs
The running back market hasn’t been robust in recent seasons but that changed, especially for Barkley.

Barkley played on the franchise tag last season after being unable to come to a long-term contract agreement with the New York Giants. He was a candidate to have the franchise tag placed on him for a second straight season but left the Giants for the NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles.

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There’s no doubt that the Eagles gave the two-time Pro Bowler more of what he looked for in a contract. Barkley agreed to terms on a three-year, $37.75 million deal, per NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. The only running backs now making more than Barkley are Chris McCaffery, Alvin Kamara and Jonathan Taylor, according to’s Eric Edholm. That certainly has to appease Barkley.

Barkley wasn’t the only running back to quickly ink a deal, either. Josh Jacobs (Green Bay Packers), D’Andre Swift (Chicago Bears), Tony Pollard (Tennessee Titans) and Derrick Henry (Baltimore Ravens) are all set to make at least $8 million a year.

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Loser: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers didn’t do anything to dissuade the notion that they are arguably the worst franchise in the NFL.

Coming off a league-worst 2-15 season that didn’t even net them the No. 1 overall pick because they traded it away, the Panthers didn’t make a big splash in free agency. Instead, Carolina traded away its best player.

The Panthers reportedly shipped star edge rusher Brian Burns to the New York Giants on Monday for the measly return of a 2024 second and 2025 fifth-round pick. The two sides will also swap 2024 fifth-rounders.

All Burns, a two-time Pro Bowler, did last season was compile eight sacks and 50 tackles.

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Good luck to the Panthers trying to replace that.

Winner: Kirk Cousins
Cousins is better suited to win in free agency than he is in primetime games.

The veteran quarterback had almost everything working against him as his contract voided with the Minnesota Vikings and he hit the open market. Cousins is coming off a significant injury after he tore his Achilles in Week 8 and will turn 36 before the start of next season.

So, a team wasn’t going to throw a boatload of money his way, right? Wrong.

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The Atlanta Falcons, who were in desperate need of an upgrade at quarterback, reportedly handed Cousins a four-year, $180 million deal with $100 million guaranteed.

That’s another staggering payday for Cousins, as he and the Falcons both got what they wanted.

Loser: Minnesota Vikings
Can anyone explain what the Vikings are doing with their quarterback position?

Of course, there were concerns surrounding Cousins, as previously mentioned, but it feels like the Vikings weren’t prepared at all for him to walk and go elsewhere in free agency.

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So with Cousins gone, the Vikings reportedly are turning their offense over to none other than Sam Darnold or potentially one of the lesser quarterbacks in the NFL draft — Minnesota holds the 11th overall pick. Either way, going from Cousins to Darnold or a rookie quarterback is a significant downgrade for the Vikings.

Darnold has proven he isn’t a starting quarterback in the NFL. He posted a 21-35 record in six seasons and is best known for seeing “ghosts” on a football field.

The Vikings have plenty of offensive weapons, but they don’t have a quarterback. That’s a massive problem.

Winner: Houston Texans
The Texans surprised practically everyone this past season by coming out on top in the AFC South and then winning a playoff game.

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Houston did lose some pieces of its defense during the tampering period but made two key additions that should only help continue its upward trajectory.

The Texans first acquired standout running back Joe Mixon from the Cincinnati Bengals for only a seventh-round pick. Mixon replaces Devin Singletary, who left the Texans to join the New York Giants. Houston also made a splash on the other side of the ball Tuesday by reportedly agreeing to terms with former Minnesota Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter.

Mixon will give Houston’s offense a boost as a reliable three-down running back. He ran for over 1,000 yards last season with nine touchdowns while recording 52 receptions for 376 yards and three more scores. Hunter gives Houston another edge rusher to pair with Will Anderson as the four-time Pro Bowler tallied a career-high 16.5 sacks in 2023.

The additions of Mixon and Hunter have things set up nicely for the Texans to build off their strong season.

Loser: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have so much flash on offense that it puts their defense in a shadow. Well, whatever is left of their defense.

Miami saw somewhat of an exodus on that side of the ball. The Dolphins cut linebacker Jerome Baker and star cornerback Xavien Howard before the tampering period even began. Then linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel walked out the door to join the Vikings.

The Dolphins’ biggest loss came when defensive tackle Christian Wilkins left for the Las Vegas Raiders on a reported four-year, $110 million deal.

Miami has so many holes now on a defense that was in the bottom-half of the NFL in points allowed per game (23) last season. The Dolphins should just prepare for all their games next season to be shootouts.

Featured image via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images