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2019 NFL free agency: Winners and losers after first round of major signings

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The first few days of free agency tends to benefit every player who makes it to the open market and signs early. It’s not necessarily mandatory to sign early, but big-name players generally commit quickly because teams will give them the contract they desire.

These elite free agents are generally not the top players at their position, and yet they get paid as such, if for no other reason than the fact that they’re available. That’s why, largely, the early losers of free agency are the teams that are active during this period (along with the players who get tagged or agree to extensions before hitting the market).

It’s simply hard to find a good deal when everyone wants a tackle and an edge rusher. The Detroit Lions were willing to pay defensive end Trey Flowers a total of $18 million per year, which is more than J.J. Watt, Aaron Donald and Von Miller make annually. Flowers is an outstanding and versatile player and was the top edge player available, but his earning power has exceeded elite company. To make his contract worthwhile, he’ll have to be the second best defensive end in the NFL.



Still, there are teams that manage to find deals, and there are players who wind up losers. Here’s a look at the early winners and losers as the dust has settled on the early and major transactions.

Winners

The tampering window: You might be wondering: What is the tampering window? It’s the time from Monday at 12 p.m. and Wednesday at 4 p.m. when teams can agree to terms and put financials in place. Transactions cannot become official until Wednesday afternoon, so nothing is officially signed during the period.

Players can and do change their mind. Linebacker Anthony Barr, for example, intended to sign with the New York Jets before he had a change of heart, and ended up returning to the Minnesota Vikings. Overnight, the Jets lost a key piece on defense.

The New England Patriots tried desperately to convince receiver Adam Humphries to change his mind about joining the Tennessee Titans, according to NESN. It didn’t work. And Teddy Bridgewater seemed intent upon joining the New Orleans Saints, before changing course and scheduling a meeting with the Miami Dolphins.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File

Cleveland Browns: They managed to secure Odell Beckham and Olivier Vernon in trades with the New York Giants. As mentioned, the best players in the NFL generally don’t hit the market. Acquiring a player like Beckham, one of the best players in the NFL, should prove fruitful. They also added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a deal that was a bit too rich, according to VAMP, our metic designed to measure salary cap allocation. But they badly needed help in interior. Myles Garrett, Richardson and Vernon should make the Browns’ line one of the league’s best. They also secured cheap depth options at linebacker by re-signing Ray-Ray Armstrong and tight end by signing Demetrius Harris.



Odell Beckham Jr./Antonio Brown: Both players flexed their power as superstars in this league. Brown was clearly not content with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Beckham seemed unhappy with the New York Giants. And in the process of changing teams, both players will likely get a raise. It made for an unprecedented offseason.

Tennessee Titans: The Titans managed to add talent on reasonable contracts. As mentioned, they signed Humphries despite the Patriots’ best efforts. (Though, technically, the receiver is still unsigned.) He should be a reliable slot and red zone option for Marcus Mariota. The Titans also improved their offensive line with guard Roger Saffold, probably the only deal where they spent too much, and their defensive line with pass-rusher Cameron Wake. He may be aging, but he’s still producing, which makes the price right.



Devin Funchess: He’s on a one-year, prove-it deal in Indianapolis – but he’ll be making up to $13 million in the process, which is pretty great. He’s a big receiver, resembling a tight end at times, that will be catching passes from Andrew Luck, who adores tight ends. A good choice by Funchess and his agent.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Foles: Nick Foles landed a colossal $88 million deal which includes $50.2 million in guarantees over the next four years. Nick. Foles. Good for him. The Jaguars, meanwhile, aren’t in the losers section, but consider them an honorary member. Comine Foles’ contract with the decision to release Blake Bortles, and we’re looking at a bang-your-head-against-the-wall bad decision. The upgrade is going to be minimal, if at all. The Jaguars can’t possibly expect a different result with Foles. But don’t tell them that — they’re all in on the Super Bowl MVP.

Losers

Green Bay Packers: There isn’t a single free agent they signed that isn’t overpaid. It’s a new era in Green Bay. And I’m not sure I see a method to their madness except to spend, spend, spend. Buyer’s remorse will come.

New York Jets: They landed a group of hugely talented players in linebacker C.J. Mosley, running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Jamison Crowder. Still, they will have a hard time justifying the salaries of every one of those players. It’s possible, but Mosley, Bell and Crowder have quickly become some of the highest-paid players at their positions. Coach Adam Gase will have to do his best work. To make things worse, the Jets had Barr, an edge rusher who might have been worth his salary, within their grasps. He bailed on them after making a verbal commitment.

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins entered free agency will the clear hope of signing a veteran quarterback. They were interested in Tyrod Taylor, and failed to sign him. They were also interested in Teddy Bridgewater, who seemed to be signing with the Saints but is now open to the idea of joining the Dolphins. If Bridgewater bails on Miami, it has to draft a quarterback or stick with Ryan Tannehill, something the Dolphins don’t want to do.

Running backs not named Le’Veon Bell: Bell got paid. The rest of the running backs did not. The players are human battering rams. And while the NFL has changed the tackling rule, they haven’t changed the way the game is played. Running backs still take a tremendous beating, and yet they’re still one of the lowest-paid positions in the NFL.

Oakland Raiders: They absolutely stole Antonio Brown away from the Steelers. It wasn’t even fair. But everything they’ve done since that move has been questionable. Within nine minutes of the start of the tampering period, they made tackle Trent Brown the highest paid offensive lineman in history. The Raiders needed a left tackle, but Brown comes with considerable risks. He has only been a reliable left tackle for one season when he was, frankly, pretty average. What’s more, he has had weight issues in the past, which might crop up now that he’s cashed in. They also overpaid for safety Lamarcus Joyner, who plays a position that’s deep in free agency. And they overpaid for receiver Tyrell Williams. Admittedly, I thought someone was going to vastly overpay Williams and turn him into Paul Richardson 2.0. But the Raiders’ decision to give Williams $44 million still seems a bit rash.



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