NFL free agency technically just launched, but it’s essentially over. Practically all of the key moves have already been made, which means we already have pretty clear winners and losers. Here’s a rundown as the dust settles:
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals fooled the Texans into taking aging, expensive, ineffective running back David Johnson off their hands and somehow landed DeAndre Hopkins in return. They also added a potential key defensive player in Jordan Phillips and suffered no major losses. They’re on track to contend in 2020.
Loser: Houston Texans
The Texans were duped into taking Johnson from Arizona in exchange for Hopkins, which means they’re now out a three-time first-team All-Pro and all they really have to show for it is a few non-first-round picks. They’re overpaying Randall Cobb and Eric Murray and they also lost D.J. Reader. Gotta feel sorry for Deshaun Watson.
Winner: Cleveland Browns
Offensive tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper will immediately make life a lot easier for young franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield, and both came at surprisingly reasonable prices for Day 1 of the legal tampering period. They were also smart not to overpay for Murray, Christian Kirksey or Joe Schobert. Cleveland looks like a playoff-caliber team on paper.
Loser: New England Patriots
It’s one thing to lose dudes like Jamie Collins Sr., Kyle Van Noy and Danny Shelton, because New England always seems to survive losses like those. But with a complete void at quarterback, there’s little doubt the Patriots have taken a huge step back. It almost seems like they’re tanking.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
This is mainly about Stefon Diggs, who immediately gives young quarterback Josh Allen one of the best wide receiver groups in the NFL. Diggs’ route-running and experience combined with John Brown’s outside speed and Cole Beasley’s prowess in the slot should make Buffalo extremely dangerous in 2020.
Loser: Chicago Bears
Nick Foles fooled the Jaguars, and now he’ll do the same thing to the Bears, who should have aimed higher for Cam Newton or Teddy Bridgewater under center. Now, they’ll be in that situation in which they have no quarterbacks because they have two quarterbacks. They also lost Nick Kwiatkoski, Leonard Floyd and Kevin Pierre-Louis, and they overpaid for Robert Quinn and Jimmy Graham, both of whom are beyond their prime.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
The only 14-win team from the 2019 season added Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers to an already-solid defensive front, and they’ve suffered no major losses. That’s undoubtedly a win.
Loser: Cincinnati Bengals
In what can only be construed as a wayward attempt to convince presumed top pick Joe Burrow that they’re serious about winning, the Bengals actually decided to participate in free agency this year. But they would have been better off sleeping through it, because they overpaid Reader instead of bringing back the likely-cheaper Andrew Billings, and the contract they gave cornerback Trae Waynes is a complete joke.
Winner: Miami Dolphins
One year after tanking hard, the Dolphins got serious. They overpaid Byron Jones, but he’s a top-notch No. 1 cornerback, and they made up for that by getting tremendous value for high-potential edge defender Shaq Lawson, while Kyle Van Noy and Ereck Flowers should also help as grinders.
Loser: New York Giants
This could change if the G-Men land marquee pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, but they overpaid for James Bradberry, Blake Martinez is overrated and they have otherwise been pretty quiet.