Just like that, NFL free agency is over.
Okay, not over. But the vast majority of notable players scheduled to hit the open market were snatched up before the new league year officially got underway Wednesday afternoon.
With that in mind, we can already declare some winners.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: While the 2021 Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs have bled, the team with the next-highest Super Bowl LVI odds has remained almost entirely intact with new deals for Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, Rob Gronkowski, and a franchise tag for Chris Godwin. They’re incredibly well-positioned to run it back with a 44-year-old Tom Brady next season.
New York Jets: It’s not hard to win free agency when you’ve got more money to spend than anyone else, but the Jets have done well. New edge-defender Carl Lawson has star potential and is on an upward trajectory, new linebacker Jarrad Davis should make it possible for them to shop C.J. Mosley and new wide receiver Corey Davis has Lawson-like potential on the other side of the ball. With rising safety Marcus Maye back on the franchise tag, they’re in promising shape for new head coach Robert Saleh.
Cincinnati Bengals: Cincinnati’s rudimentary approach to free agency is often problematic, especially because it stems from the front office’s frugality. But this year, they actually got a tremendous discount in shifting from William Jackson III and Mackensie Alexander to Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton at cornerback. And while they could miss Lawson, 2020 breakout star Trey Hendrickson is a quality replacement on the edge. The offensive line still needs to be addressed, but they’re on the right track for quarterback Joe Burrow’s sophomore season.
Los Angeles Chargers: Meanwhile, the Bolts have clearly focused on adding support for their sophomore quarterback, reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. All-Pro center joins former Green Bay Packers teammate Bryan Bulaga there, and they’ll be joined by intriguing former Pittsburgh Steeler Matt Feiler at guard. It’s a major step up, and it makes up for the loss of tight end Hunter Henry.
Las Vegas Raiders: Yannick Ngakoue has the ability to absolutely transform the Raiders’ long-ineffective pass rush, and veteran speedster John Brown comes cheap as a quality replacement for Tyrell Williams outside at wide receiver. They didn’t go nuts, but it’s easy to see the potential progress. Still, we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt with time to still bolster the offensive line.
Cleveland Browns: They got a deal for underrated former Los Angeles Rams safety John Johnson III and took an affordable, worthwhile swing at edge Takkarist McKinley. McKinley is only 25 and was a first-round pick in 2017 who recorded 13 sacks in his first two seasons. He could explode in a new setting, especially opposite Myles Garrett.