The NFL’s first official day of free agency was a whirlwind of activity and emotion. Two hours before teams could sign payers with expiring contracts many of us were making bad drinking jokes about the non-stop cornucopia of news – “Feels like we’re drinking but where’s the alcohol?” (Hardy har har.) By nightfall a certain team overflowing with toxicity instantly retired the bad attempts at alcohol humor.
Overall it was the most compelling first day of free agency in eons. Let’s examine the notable winners and losers
Sashi Brown, Browns general manager and Paul DePodesta, Browns chief strategy officer:. With approximately $99 million in available cap space, the most in the league, the Browns went on a shopping spree Thursday. The roster still has a litany of problems but the offensive line ain’t one. Joining perennial Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas and quality guard Joel Bitonio (who was awarded a contract extension) is fellow top-flight guard Kevin Zeitler over from Cincinnati. But the scene-stealer was Cleveland’s shrewd move to trade for maligned Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler, along with Houston’s second round pick. Osweiler’s $18 million helps get the Browns to their salary cap floor, and they get that high pick in the process. Cleveland now has a whopping seven picks in the first two rounds of the draft. Now this was the DePodesta moneyball we’ve all been waiting for.
Houston Texans: I don’t care it I called them winners for signing Osweiler at this time last year. It was evident immediately that Osweiler was not the franchise quarterback the organization thought. Most teams are straightjacketed for years with “potential” franchise quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Blake Bortles and even Jay Cutler. The Browns figured out a creative way to quickly cut bait all while freeing up some cap room for a new solution under center. Which leads me to…
Tony Romo: While Romo hasn’t officially been released because the Cowboys are reportedly trying to work out a trade, the longtime Cowboy quarterback recorded a farewell message. It was charming as all hell. See for yourself.
Carson Wentz: Alshon Jeffery, the top available receiver, took less money to come to Philadelphia. It was an odd contract for Jeffery, a one year, prove it deal. But for one year the Eagles’ second year quarterback gets a bonafide no. 1 receiver. Plus a side of solace knowing that Jeffery gave up a fancy car or two just to catch passes from Wentz.
San Francisco 49ers: Everything is fresh in Santa Clara these days including the roster after new G.M. John Lynch signed SEVEN free agents in day one. (Plus pending signings of QB Matt Barkley and WR Aldrick Robinson.) Super Bowl XLVIII MVP linebacker Malcolm Smith was arguably the most marquee pickup, and Pierre Garcon should provide some nice offensive weaponry. The rest reads like fantasy roster you draft because the names are fun to recite: Brian Hoyer, wideout Marquise Goodwin, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end Logan Paulson and kicker Robbie Gould. This group won’t instantly turn around a team that finished 2-14 last season but collectively this is a major step in the right direction.
Dwayne Allen: I don’t think the new Patriots tight end is a “little better than Martellus Bennett” as Packers veteran James Jones suggested. But I do know that starter Rob Gronkowski has played just a bit more than half the time over the past four seasons. Even when Gronk is healthy the Pats are very skilled with two tight ends sets. Allen should have ample opportunity to succeed.
Jacksonville Jaguars: I can’t even engage in typing about the improved Jags defense without salivating. Pairing corner A.J. Bouye (who signed a five-year, $67.5 million deal) with stud Jalen Ramsey sets that unit up to be the best in the NFL. Jacksonville also beat out Denver and added dominant DE Calais Campbell, and signed improved strong safety Barry Church. With preexisting pieces like Malik Jackson and Myles Jack, Jacksonville’s defense is set up for greatness. Maybe Romo should steer clear of Houston, which of course faces Jacksonville twice.
Fans: Thursday was awesome. What a needed escape from the rest of the world!
Dan Snyder/Bruce Allen: What kind of an organization embraces an admitted alcoholic, then two years later anonymously leaks his recent issues with alcoholism as a prelude to his ousting? Of course it’s Washington who fired talent evaluator extraordinaire Scot McCloughan in such vermin-like fashion, with seemingly no understanding of his disease or worker protection laws. No wonder Kirk Cousins is begging to get out.
As an aside, of all days this really had to happen on the first day of free agency? What a disaster.
New York Jets: The quarterback deficient Jets were silent on day one after missing out on the Mike Glennon-Brian Hoyer “sweepstakes.” For now, they’re relegated to reaching out to Jay Cutler and/or, in a longer shot, striking a deal with Cleveland for the privilege of signing Osweiler. Hug your nearest Jets fan.
Running backs: While players across the board (kickers included) were getting signed in droves, running backs were at best scheduling team visits. The fact that players such as Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Latavius Murray remain unsigned after day one speaks volumes about the position’s expendability.
Blake Bortles: See winners. Bortles really feels like the weak link.