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NFL Free Agency Starts Strong

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Mar/16/2021

The NFL salary cap went down because of the empty stadiums of 2020, and NFL free agency was supposed to be more measured in 2021. Shorter deals for less money, with the hope that those contracts could lead to bigger things in 2022, when the salary cap goes back up. 

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Not so fast, say the NFL, its players, and the agents that negotiate the contracts. 

New England Patriots 

Not a big fan of where he now sits on the "Was it Tom Brady or Bill Belichick?" debate, Belichick wasted no time in his effort to wash out the taste of last season's 7-9 record.

Quarterback may still be a question, but if it is indeed Cam Newton under center, at least he'll have someone to throw the ball to. Tight end Jonnu Smith is getting $50 million over four years to head to New England, and he's joined by wide receivers Nelson Agholor (two years, $26 million) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $22.5 million).

The biggest signing, however, is the four-year, $56 million contract given to edge rusher Matthew Judon. He instantly upgrades the Patriots' pass rush and will team quite nicely with Chase Winovich and Dont'a Hightower.

Online sportsbooks have the Patriots at +4000 to win the Super Bowl. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

The quest to repeat in Tampa Bay is off to a good start. Last week, the Buccaneers made sure that linebacker Lavonte David and wide receiver Chris Godwin were staying home. 

On Monday, Tampa Bay locked up pass-rusher Shaq Barrett to the tune of $72 million over four years, then gave $10 million for another season of tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The biggest remaining free agents for Tampa Bay are Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown, and Ndamukong Suh. Online sportsbooks have the Bucs at +750 to win Super Bowl LVI. 

Quarterbacks 

With the retirement of Drew Brees, who is moving from the field to the television booth, the Saints entered free agency with only Taysom Hill at the quarterback position. He'll be 31 when the season begins and has still only thrown for 1,047 yards in his career.

As suspected, that lasted for a little less than 24 hours, as Jameis Winston is back with an incentive-laden one-year deal that could be worth as much as $12 million. Hill and Winston will now compete for the starting job and most likely both be used in some capacity this season by Sean Payton.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is still employed and now joins his 45th (kidding!) NFL franchise. He has agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract with Washington, and the 38-year-old is the assumed starter ahead of Taylor Heineko and Kyle Allen. His signing also means that Washington could draft a quarterback in April. 

Other Notables 

Among the other teams making noteworthy moves, the Jets signed wide receiver Corey Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million contract. They also signed former Bengals pass rusher Carl Lawson for three years at $45 million.

All-Pro center Corey Linsley is leaving the Packers for the Chargers and $62.5 million over five years. And the Chiefs began rebuilding their offensive line by signing guard Joe Thuney for five years and $80 million.

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