NFL Free Agency: Winners and Losers Day 3
The Patriots are never gonna stop
1. Loser: Big name Wide Receivers
The big name wide receivers are still on the board and it doesn’t look good for them getting a big payday. While Kenny Golladay is still expected to do well (and widely expected to sign with the Giants after a planned visit there), Juju Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller V, and TY Hilton are all still out there and the money is drying up. Curtis Samuel signed yesterday for a good but not great contract. He was a player I really thought had value given his skill set and versatility, but it didn’t move the market much. Color based players like AJ Green or John Brown signed below expected deals. Several major factors are probably at play here. The NFL draft has been churning out a glut of talented wide receivers the last few years. The salary cap moved the wrong direction. Other than Kenny Golladay, none of these players has a chance of being a true WR 1. And several of these players have problems that linger under the surface for teams. Schuster (social media use, whether you think that is fair or not), Fuller (health). Hilton (age), and the rest (lack of skill) all have something on their resume that is costing them.
2. Winner: The Patriots… still
Another day, another big signing as the Pats gobbled up Kyle Van Noy, a player who has played very well for them in the past and who received a big, and short lived, payday from the Dolphins last year before being a cap casualty this year. Van Noy might be aging, but the Pats got him at a great bargain price. While it is easy to be critical of the money the Pats have shelled out so far, one thing worth noting is that a lot of the signings have reasonable value and have been given to players under 30 (Van Noy being a rare exception). Next season is probably going to come down to what Cam Newton has left, but the rest of the team isn’t going to be struggling to beat the Jets again. The only question I have is the sudden holes opening up in the center of the offensive line with the departure of the mega-reliable Joe Thuney and David Andrews.
3. Loser: My interest in this year’s free agency
What a downer free agency has been so far. Several of the teams with money are just sitting on it (Jags, Colts, Dolphins, Jets). Most of the big names to sign have been offensive or defensive linemen. The Patriots are the only team doing interesting stuff (signing the same positions like edge, tight end, and WR over and over). Most of the interesting players were either tagged or re-signed by their original team. The rest of THIS article will be SUUUUUPER interesting though.
4. Loser: St. Patrick’s Day
The one day of the year when people acknowledge day drinking is ok and drinking socially isn’t a chore, was ruined by the pandemic (again). Drinking at home to forget my troubles is what I do every day, so this isn’t really a notable holiday at this point. Apparently there are religious ramifications to St. Patrick’s Day. For most of us though, we just want to drink a Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale and dance in front of others without moving our arms. Thanks COVID, you suck.
5. Winner: Patrick Mahomes
Mahomes has been alternately blamed and exonerated for the Super Bowl loss by various critics, but it has already become clear who the Chiefs blame. Their offensive line (which was savaged in the Super Bowl) has undergone a massive facelift, starting with guards Joe Thuney and Kyle Long. With two players who opted out last year likely returning and their tackles cut, this will be a totally new unit next year. Sometimes, the quietly running wheel gets the grease.
6. Winner: Trent Williams bank account
Trent Williams was the true winner in free agency this year, signing a colossal deal to remain with the 49ers. In fact, it was the largest offensive line contract EVER. This was notable, as the 49ers didn’t have a lot of space to work with and the cap has depressed significantly. This happened for a reason. Trent is widely viewed as one of, or even the best, offensive linemen in football. Players this good are rarely available to be signed on the open market, and it showed. He is so good, football swami Bill Barnwell declared it the best signing so far. I don’t agree. Look. He is VERY good. But he is 32, first of all. His prime is definitely not in play for this deal, which is 6 years long. He won’t play out all of that as is (that’s not how NFL contracts work), but there is no way he will be the best tackle in the NFL in 3 years, let alone six. Barnwell notes earlier in this column that the best value contracts leave space for the player to exceed its value. That’s not the case here. Unless Trent is the best offensive lineman in the NFL for the next 3 years, this is an overpay. If he gets hurt (super common for players in their 30s) then it is a disaster. You know what isn’t a disaster? Trent’s line of credit. How many credit card offers do you think he is going to get in the mail everyday. 10? 20? I get one almost every day and I am a low-level white collar employee at a hospital.
7: Loser: Derek Carr
Carr is a solid, but unspectacular quarterback for a solid but unspectacular team. Except in one area. The Raiders had an absolutely incredible offensive line. I say “had” because they absolutely obliterated it with a series of moves removing all 5 starters, culminating in them trading away quite possibly the best center in the NFL in Rodney Hudson. It remains to be seen if they can parse together something solid again, but this is a very bad break for a player who’s biggest problem has long been fumbling the football. He has lost more than 30 fumbles in the last six years, definitely the most in football. Tom Brady has 41… in his entire 21 year career. Derek isn’t going to be able to escape pressure either, as he is by no means a running quarterback. This feels like the opening act of one of those engineering disaster shows. “The bridge was built for the first time without cables and rivets. What the engineers didn’t realize was, cables and rivets are the only things that hold a bridge together…”