Just 24 hours into the tampering period and boy has the landscape of the league changed. From the high-spending Jaguars to a new QB1 in Pittsburgh to a highway robbery in Denver and a head-scratching trade for the Patriots, ain’t football great?
A lot remains to be settled and signings can’t become official until the new league year begins at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. So, as we sit in this juvenile stage of free agency, here are a few winners and losers in the early window.
WINNER: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Before the tampering period ever began, the announcement of Tom Brady returning to Tampa Bay arguably knighted the Buccaneers as offseason winners before it ever tipped-off. Then the Buccaneers re-signed center Ryan Jensen along with cornerback Carlton Davis III, inked WR Russell Gage to a deal, and traded for one of the better guards in all of football in Shaq Mason (NE) for a bag of Skittles. Not really, but a fifth-rounder for one of the league’s most consistent guards is a steal in anyone’s book, and GM Jason Licht deserves a pat on the back for his early success.
WINNER: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
GM Tom Telesco gave Justin Herbert a defense.
What’s the famous line from Jurassic Park? “Hold onto your butts…”? The sky is truly the limit for the Chargers. After acquiring arguably the market’s top prize in former New England Patriot corner J.C. Jackson (5-years, $82M), the additions of Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to fortify one of the league’s worst rushing defenses last fall was a heck of a first 24 hours. Don’t forget they traded for Khalil Mack and have Joey Bosa, Derwin James Jr., and Asante Samuel Jr primed to headline one of the league’s most talented defensive units.
WINNER: JOE BURROW
The Bengals—finally—addressed the line. The additions of Alex Cappa and Ted Karras will immediately prove their worth by keeping Burrow upright and away from trouble. While the Bengals now have three front-five talents to build on in Jonah Williams, Cappa, and Karras, don’t be shocked if they take a talent like Zion Johnson (Boston College) come April to really beef up Burrow’s security detail.
LOSER: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
With nearly $70M in cap space, the Colts and GM Chris Ballard remained quiet on Day 1. After losing Carson Wentz to Washington, they watched Mitch Trubisky sign in Pittsburgh and were denied contact with Deshaun Watson. They re-upped with tight end Mo Alie-Cox, which headlined their afternoon of action, but remain without a clear plan at the QB spot, and options becoming more and more scarce by the day.
LOSER: LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
It’s a full-blown arms race in the AFC West and I guess the Raiders newly minted GM Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels are fine with their Stomp Rocket. Currently with the sixth-most cap space in the NFL (according to SpoTrac) with roughly $27.3M to work with, the Raiders missed out on a reunion with Mack and watched Zay Jones depart to Jacksonville while the likes of Russell Wilson, J.C. Jackson, Randy Gregory, and the aforementioned Mack all entered the division in the last week. The Raiders need talent and Ziegler isn’t making the best first impression.