Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 18, 2021

Evaluating the winners and losers of NFL free agency

By ALEX FORLENZA | March 26, 2021

bmoreravens

KEITH ALLISON/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Baltimore Ravens have yet to add any receivers to complement quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Winners

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While they made absolutely no improvements to their roster, they lost none of their key pieces. When you are the defending Super Bowl champs, and you have the greatest quarterback of all time, this type of free agency means you are a winner. Moreover, this team was absolutely stacked in talent last year looking at every level of their offense. On defense, all three levels were just as saturated in top-tier talent.

When you already have a Madden-Ultimate-Team-type roster, there is not much to add. They will only lose wide receiver Antonio Brown in all likelihood, which is a loss, but they have two All-Pro receivers on their roster besides him. This roster pre-draft has all the talent to make another run at a title. They won’t win again next year, but that’s for a different piece.

New England Patriots

Head coach Bill Belichick has not had this much money to spend in free agency during my time watching the NFL. He certainly has made the most use of that money. The Patriots made around 12 moves during free agency thus far, so I will only give you the highlights. They re-signed quarterback Cam Newton and added tight end Hunter Henry, tight end Jonnu Smith and wide receiver Nelson Agholor on offense. On defense they added linebacker Matt Judon, strong safety Jalen Mills and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. They also improved their offensive line. That is a lot of names and a lot of different positions.

The Patriots improved with every one of those guys at their position. At minimum, they improved a quarter of all their starting players. On top of that, they get back players who took last year off because of the pandemic. On paper, this is one of the most talented Patriots rosters there has been in a couple years. Add some depth in the draft, and this team will be shutting down opponents and probably scoring more points than last year when they had no one to catch the ball.

New York Giants

The New York Giants spent an enormous amount in free agency. They are betting everything on quarterback Daniel Jones, as they went and got the most expensive wideout on the market: Kenny Golladay. They also added a project in wide receiver John Ross and veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. 

So in theory, this should be an offense where Danny Dimes can either show he’s their franchise quarterback, or they realize they have to move on. 

On defense they added defensive end Leonard Williams and cornerback Adoree Jackson. Both are solid additions, and in tandem they help the Giants pass defense have a better level of talent than last year, which is not a great improvement but is at least something.

Losers

Kansas City Chiefs

The only important piece they added was Joe Thuney at guard. But they lost wide receiver Sammy Watkins, running back Damien Williams and offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz — the most important piece. The Chiefs’ record when Schwartz played during the last couple years versus without him is staggering. They go from an amazing Super-Bowl-winning squad to a slightly above-average team.

Obviously correlation is not causation, but when you look at their Super Bowl loss and see how badly they got beat in pass protection, you have to wonder why they let their best tackle go and did not replace him with better talent. I trust the Chiefs to draft well, but right now they are worse off than when they played in February.

Indianapolis Colts

They made a good move at the quarterback slot to pair quarterback Carson Wentz up with his old coach Frank Reich. They also made a good move to resign T.Y. Hilton, who is a longtime veteran in the organization and was wanted back. The problem is, in a year where there was notably less cap space, the Colts were one of the teams that had a fair amount of money to spend anyway. Yet they have not gotten any big free agents.

This team is already loaded with really good players who fit their scheme really well, but they had the money to add more. They could have added Golladay, Henry or Trent Williams at offensive tackle. Instead all these other free agents were taken up by other teams who arguably are in a worse position to win than the Colts. It is not like they could not have given competitive offers to these players. So there is absolutely no reason the Colts could not have improved their roster a lot more than they have.

Chicago Bears

The loser category is necessary for the Bears. They made one solid move by keeping their stud wide receiver Allen Robinson, but absolutely nothing can make up for what they did at the quarterback position. They put all of their assets and time into trying to trade for Russell Wilson, who is arguably a top-three quarterback in the league.

But even when they offered way too many first-round draft picks the Seattle Seahawks still turned down the trade. Instead of Wilson, they signed quarterback Andy Dalton. Now, I will not rag on Dalton too much, as he has given the Ravens a little too much heartbreak over the years, but Dalton is not in the same stratosphere as Wilson. So the Bears set expectations as high as they ever have been, and then they only get Dalton. That seems like the definition of a free agency loser.

Baltimore Ravens

Why haven’t the Ravens gotten any wide receivers? Maybe they want to hurt me.

Reportedly, the Ravens have been turned down by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster when they offered more money than the Steelers. On top of that, the Ravens were also turned down by Hilton, who was offered less money per year but more money overall. They also finished their workout of Watkins without signing him as well.

You see the pattern? Each of these free agents has a legitimate reason that they turned down the Ravens. It is not the annoying and dishonest narrative that people do not want to play with quarterback Lamar Jackson. That said, the Ravens front office has for years undervalued wide receivers and has seemingly not made any aggressive moves to try and get one. So it seems that from a roster-building perspective, they do not see the glaring need at wide receiver as a glaring need but only a missing complementary piece. It is tragic, because I want to see Jackson with just a little bit more offense talent.

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