NFL Free Agency: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly One Week In

NFL free agency isn’t finished. There are still plenty of veterans out there, ready to sign and help their new team. But, as usual, it feels like the majority of the work is already done just a week after the so-called legal tampering period started. We saw huge movement across the league and millions of dollars being paid to free agents by hopeful franchises.

How has your team done to this point? Here are the good, bad and ugly for teams a week into free agency:


Chicago Bears: It’s hard to find a good receiver in the NFL. The value of a No. 1 wideout has skyrocketed. The Bears have managed to get creative and add a couple of good ones the past two offseasons.

Last offseason they used the Carolina Panthers‘ desperation to get the No. 1 overall pick into a trade for DJ Moore. Then this offseason, the Bears took advantage of the Los Angeles Chargers’ salary-cap woes and traded for Keenan Allen. A fourth-round draft pick for Allen wasn’t cheap, but the Bears have undeniably upgraded their receivers room tremendously. Allen has twice as many career yards as any receiver in Bears history (admittedly, the bar isn’t too high).

The Chicago Bears acquired Keenan Allen from the Los Angeles Chargers in a trade. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Not everything was great for the Bears this offseason. They overplayed their hand on Justin Fields and had to trade Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a deal that was much better for Pittsburgh. But the Bears are about to draft Caleb Williams (or surprise everyone and take another top-tier QB prospect), added Allen and other veterans like running back D’Andre Swift and safety Kevin Byard. The Bears finished last season quite well and are better after the first week of free agency.

Detroit Lions: They are the defending NFC North champions — still sounds a little weird, right? — and were in an advantageous position this offseason. They had some salary-cap space to address areas of need, and did well at that task.

They signed cornerback Amy Robertson and traded for cornerback Carlton Davis III. They signed defensive end Marcus Davenport and defensive tackle DJ Reader. The Lions needed more talent on the line and some help at cornerback and checked both boxes.

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The Lions were on the verge of a Super Bowl last season. On paper, they’re better than they were in that NFC championship game.

Green Bay Packers: Notice a theme? The NFC North is going to be very good, with the top three teams all getting better (that fourth team … we’ll get there).

The Packers felt they upgraded at running back, going from Aaron Jones to Josh Jacobs. If Jacobs is the player who led the NFL in rushing in 2022, it’ll be huge for an improving offense. The Packers also added one of the top defensive players in free agency, landing former New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney.

The Packers came on strong late last season and made aggressive moves. They had to because the Lions and Bears were also making improvements.

Pittsburgh Steelers: For a moment, it seemed the Steelers didn’t have much of a long-term plan at quarterback. Russell Wilson on a one-year, $1.2 million deal was a great no-risk move, but it also was a one-year deal for a 36-year-old quarterback whose star has fallen hard the past two seasons.

Then the Steelers stole Justin Fields. All they sent was a 2025 sixth-round draft pick that can become a fourth if Fields plays 51 percent of the snaps. The Steelers have spent almost nothing for two quarterbacks, and Fields can theoretically be their quarterback of the future.

Pittsburgh will figure out how to handle the whole QB situation. But the Steelers made two shrewd moves that give them options.

Kansas City Chiefs: The L’Jarius Sneed situation got messy, as the cornerback was allowed to seek a trade after being given the franchise tag. We’ll see how that works out.

The Chiefs are better with Sneed in the lineup. But the Chiefs’ push to a third straight Super Bowl has been pretty good. Chris Jones came back on a huge extension, which might not age that well but he’ll be his normal dominant self for at least another season or two. Then the Chiefs got great value on receiver Marquise Brownsigning him to a one-year deal that can go as high as $11 million. Brown might not be the star everyone was hoping when he was a first-round draft pick, but he’s young and now catching passes from Patrick Mahomes.

Also, the Chiefs saw some rivals lose players. The Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens were among the AFC’s top teams that saw some good players leave due to cap reasons. The Chiefs are chasing history, and they’ve set themselves up pretty well for it.


Atlanta Falcons: Take a breath, Falcons fans. The Kirk Cousins addition could turn out quite well. It’s hard to find a quarterback and the Falcons found a way to land Cousins.

But in the excitement of that move, and the visions of Cousins throwing to all those weapons, the risk has been ignored. Cousins will be 36 years old this upcoming season and he is coming off a major injury. Cousins doesn’t rely on mobility and recovery from Achilles tendon tears is getting better, but it’s still a big injury to be coming back from at any age. Even if Cousins hadn’t gotten hurt, 36 is when most non-Tom Brady quarterbacks slow down. This could end up being a tremendous addition. There could also be some regret over a four-year, $180 million deal. It is a gamble.

The Falcons also overpaid for receiver Darnell Mooney. He got $39 million for three years, which is a ton for a player with 907 yards the past two seasons combined. Maybe a change of scenery does wonders for the deep threat, but that’s no sure thing. And the Falcons still badly need a pass rusher. Maybe Atlanta can solve that in the draft or the rest of free agency. Realistically, the entire offseason hinges on how good Cousins looks off that Achilles surgery.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans did what they could to improve in free agency. They also seemed to be the team with a ton of cap room and not much to spend it on, so they made some questionable moves.

Calvin Ridley is no sure thing for a four-year, $92 million player. Tony Pollard got $24 million over three years, and he’s coming off a so-so season with the Dallas Cowboys and seems similar to Tyjae Spearsa 2023 rookie who probably deserved a bigger role this season and now won’t get it.

The Titans have a lot of work to do. They did improve on the offensive line and cornerback, and Pollard and Ridley are good players. We’ll see if they got a good return on their investment.

Los Angeles Rams: It’s not like the Rams did anything wrong in the Aaron Donald situation. But when you lose someone who has a legitimate claim as the greatest defensive player in NFL historyit’s a rough offseason.

The Rams were in a great spot. They were coming off a surprise playoff berth, had their first-round draft pick for the first time in years and a decent amount of cap space. They invested in the offensive line this offseasonwhich was good. Everything was looking good. Then one of the most dominant players in NFL history walked away.

It’s hard to get too excited for the rest of the offseason after that.


Dallas Cowboys: We’ll keep this short because Cowboys fans have been through enough this offseason.

It always made sense that Dallas wouldn’t be a huge player this offseason. They have to worry about what comes next with the CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons extensions. But that’s why team owner Jerry Jones shouldn’t have gotten anyone’s hopes up with his “all-in” speech.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his team would be all in this offseason, but that hasn’t been the case. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) (Tom Pennington via Getty Images)

Cowboys fans aren’t happy with the lack of activity after Jones set that expectation. In fact, they’ve lost some big players like Pollard, offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadaszand defensive lineman Dorance Armstrong Jr. It’s so bad that Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones had to calm the fans’ nerves and walk back the “all in” rhetoric.

The Cowboys being passive in free agency always made sense. It’s why the franchise owner shouldn’t have been getting the fan base excited going into it.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings probably did the right thing moving on from Cousins. We’ve all seen the ceiling in that relationship, and why spend another $180 million to see if it would change?

But it’s hard to find a quarterback. The Vikings didn’t have any great options to replace Cousins. They signed Sam Darnold but that’s not exciting anyone. They acquired an extra first-round draft pick, presumably to move up to select a quarterback. But it might end up that they trade two first-round picks to move up seven spots just to take the fourth best quarterback in the class.

We’ll see the Vikings’ next move. Maybe it will work out great. But there’s some uncertainty, and it doesn’t help that the rest of the NFC North got a lot better.

Los Angeles Chargers: There was excitement for the start of the Jim Harbaugh era. Then the Chargers’ salary cap issues knocked on the door.

The salary cap is not a myth. The Chargers cut receiver Mike Williamstraded receiver Keenan Allen and let running back Austin Thank youone of the best receiving backs of this era, walk in free agency to Washington. Good luck, Justin Herbert. Other players like linebackers Kenneth Murray and Eric Kendricks left too.

Maybe none of those moves sting as much as it seems they will. But when you play in the same division as Patrick Mahomes, it’s not great to take a step back during the offseason.

Denver Broncos: For the first time in a long time, a Sean Payton team didn’t get out of the credit card and start mortgaging the future to make big moves in free agency. We finally found out what could slow down Payton: An unbelievable $85 million dead cap hit for Russell Wilson.

The Wilson trade and contract will set the Broncos back a while. And it’s not like they’ve had much recent success. The Broncos saw some players leave in free agency and haven’t added much as they swallow that massive cap hit. It will be hard for Broncos fans, who also saw favorite safety Justin Simmons get cut, to get excited about this upcoming season. Maybe they’ll make a move in the draft for a quarterback who will spark optimism.

Right now the Broncos look like another bad team with no hope because there’s no short- or long-term answer at quarterback, kind of like … the 2016-2023 Broncos.

2024-03-18 14:42:12
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