Free agency fever

10 best moves from first week of NFL free agency

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Keith Allison) under Creative Commons license

For the first time in his 20-year career, Tom Brady will not be wearing a Patriots jersey. Brady signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday. Brady’s signing was just one of many great signings during the first week of free agency.

Despite COVID-19 ravaging through the world and most of sports, the NFL has not completely gone to sleep. Last week was the first week of free agency, and boy was it a busy week. Before I get into the 10 biggest moves from the first week, here are some of the biggest names that still haven’t been taken off the board and where they should sign.

1: Jameis Winston

Don’t be surprised if he turns into the next Ryan Tannehill next season.”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

Since Tom Brady signed with the Buccaneers (we’ll get to that later), Winston is now a free agent. Personally, I thought he would be one of the first QBs signed given that he led the league in passing yards last season. However, all the teams that could’ve (and probably should’ve) signed Winston all denied landing him (Looking at you Colts, Bears, and Panthers).

With all the teams now having starting quarterbacks, Winston might have to sign with a team as a backup. The best place for that has to be in Jacksonville with the Jaguars. Gardner Minshew has talent, but the team wants an insurance policy just in case he stumbles out of the gate.

At the end of the day, Winston is still only 26, passed for 33 touchdowns last season, and has a high ceiling. Don’t be surprised if he turns into the next Ryan Tannehill next season.

2: Everson Griffen

Everson Griffen was one of the best defensive players on the Minnesota Vikings last season, totaling eight sacks. But now he’ll have to find a new team since talks between him and the Vikings have stalled.

Many teams have need for defensive talent, but the Dolphins would be a great fit for Griffen. Last season, the Dolphins defense only totaled 23 sacks, dead last in the NFL. Signing Griffen would immediately increase the sack number while also providing an additional spark on defense.

The Dolphins have already signed big defensive talents, and pairing Griffen with Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy would make the Dolphin defense one of the best in football.

3: Jadeveon Clowney

In one of the weirdest trades of last season, Jadeveon Clowney was shipped off to Seattle. This move made an already dangerous Seahawks defense even more threatening, and Clowney re-established his dominance in the league.

He had a slower year production-wise, only recording three sacks and 31 tackles, but he should be even better now that he knows the Seahawk system.

So why leave? Clowney should stay in Seattle and continue to build up a dominant defense.

10 best moves from the first week of Free Agency

10: Austin Hooper to the Cleveland Browns

Last season was a surprising one for the Cleveland Browns. Everyone thought that with the addition of Odell Beckham, Jr. to an offense that already had Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry that the Browns would be Super Bowl contenders.

This gives the Browns another young offensive weapon that finally could get the team over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time since 2002”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

However, the Browns finished 6-10, did not make the playoffs, and were marred in controversy due to the Myles Garrett helmet situation. But there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Austin Hooper thrived last year in Atlanta, recording six touchdowns on 775 receiving yards.

Another good thing about Hooper — he’s only 25. This gives the Browns another young offensive weapon that finally could get the team over the hump and into the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

9: Darius Slay to the Eagles

The Eagles did not have a lot of needs when it came to free agency, but they definitely addressed their biggest one with the signing of Darius Slay. 

With Slay, the Eagles now have a number one cornerback that can shut down top NFL receivers. He’s arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, and the Eagles now have one heck of a defense that could take them back to the Super Bowl.

8: Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy to the Dolphins

Miami had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, and they’ve made steps in order to improve. ”

— Sports Editor Ben Barkley

Miami had one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season, and they’ve made steps in order to improve. 

Byron Jones made the Cowboy secondary unit one of the scariest in football, and the Dolphins needed someone who had that scare factor in the secondary since they traded Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Kyle Van Noy provided a spark on one of the best defenses in the NFL in the form of the Patriots. He gives Miami a sack artist who had 6.5 sacks last season.

Look out for the Dolphins defense next season — they could shock a lot of people.

7: Dante Fowler, Jr. and Todd Gurley to the Falcons

Talk about an upgrade on both sides of the ball. Atlanta struggled through a 7-9 record and did not make the postseason. While most thought this would cost Dan Quinn his job, Quinn is still the captain of the ship, and he made big improvements.

Defensively, Vic Beasley, Jr. was not the answer and now he’s signed with the Titans. Dante Fowler, Jr. is one of the best young linebackers in football and he should immediately make an impact

Offensively, Devonta Freeman struggled and ultimately was released. Trading for Todd Gurley is an upgrade, but it does come with the risk of him being injury prone. But that shouldn’t matter given he is one of the better running backs in the league.

6: Teddy Bridgewater to the Panthers

Everyone thought Teddy Bridgewater would crash and burn when Drew Brees went down at the beginning of the season. In fact, the exact opposite happened. Bridgewater threw for 1,384 yards and nine touchdowns in a comeback year.

The Panthers were smart in bringing him in. He’s only 27 and his best years are still ahead of him. Look for Carolina to improve on the offensive side with him and perennial do-it-all man Christian McCaffrey leading the way.

5: Melvin Gordon to the Broncos

In the battle of Melvin Gordon vs. Austin Ekeler, Ekeler won, and that left Gordon the odd man out. However, Gordon might thrive even better in Denver than he did in Los Angeles.

He’s a great number one man with Phillip Lindsay as the solid number two. While he had a slower year production-wise last season, he’s still one of the best and should make the Broncos run attack strong.

4: Calais Campbell to the Ravens

Baltimore already had a good defense, and they just got even better with Calais Campbell. 

Campbell broke out in his three years with the Jaguars, recording 195 tackles and 31.5 sacks over the course of those three seasons. With a defense that already includes Marcus Peters, Earl Thomas, and Matthew Judon, look for the Raven defense to be just as explosive as the offense.

3: Stefon Diggs to the Bills

Buffalo got itself a number one receiver for Josh Allen to throw to. Through his time with the Vikings, Diggs caught 30 touchdowns, had his second straight 1,000 yard season, and was a dynamic duo with fellow receiver Adam Thielen.

This addition for the Bills also puts less pressure on John Brown and Cole Beasley, and allows them to move to the number two and three options, respectively. With this addition, the Bills might be the best team in the AFC East next season.

2: Tom Brady to the Buccaneers

Man it’s gonna be weird seeing Tom Brady in anything else other than red, white, and blue. Tampa Bay gave up on the Jameis Winston experiment and instead decided to sign the GOAT in hopes of becoming contenders.

Brady has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Mike Evans, Ronald Jones, Chris Godwin, and O.J Howard make Brady’s job a lot easier. At 42, Brady doesn’t have a lot left in the tank, and the Bucs still won’t win the NFC South next season.

1: Deandre Hopkins to the Cardinals

That was the weirdest trade I’ve ever seen in the NFL. But no less, Arizona now has the best receiver in football.

Hopkins had his third straight 1,000-yard season and caught seven touchdowns last year. He gives young quarterback Kyler Murray, who threw for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns last year, a new number one option. 

He also gives Murray a chance to go over the hump and become an elite quarterback as the Cardinals try to take over the tough NFC West.

While these were just some moves that all happened in a week, there are still other moves that have yet to happen. Stay tuned, because the best may be yet to come.