As the first week of NFL free agency comes to an end, The winners and losers of the off-season are beginning to identify themselves. While non-playoff teams have made the moves to compete for a playoff run, some of the league’s best teams in 2021 now face an uphill battle to return to glory.
Winner: Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore made multiple key signings through the first week of free agency that should contribute to a return to the playoffs in 2022.
The team started the off-season by signing one of the best defensive backs available in former Saint Marcus Williams. The safety fills an immediate positional need for Baltimore, as the team got shredded through the air in the second half of the 2021 NFL season.
The Ravens also signed right tackle Morgan Moses to a three-year deal, and it is one of my favorite moves of free agency so far. Alejandro Villanueva was the team’s tackle a year ago and was a revolving door against opposing pass rushers. The duo of Morgan Moses and left tackle Ronnie Stanley gives Baltimore two pillars at the tackle position to protect franchise quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Winner: Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas addressed multiple positions of need already and is my pick as the winners of free agency so far.
Offensively, quarterback Derek Carr gets his first number one wide receiver since Amari Cooper in Davante Adams. The former Packer is the best wideout in the entire NFL, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. A receiving trio of Adams, Hunter Renfrow in the slot, and Darren Waller at tight end will be a nightmare for any opposing defense.
Not only did the Raiders sign veteran pass rusher Chandler Jones to their defensive line, but they also extended its cornerstone defensive end in the process. The duo of 100 million dollar man Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones greatly improves the Raider’s defense. In a division that features some of the best teams in football, Las Vegas is ready to compete with any of the top contenders.
Loser: Kansas City Chiefs
By process of elimination, the Kansas City Chiefs are a loser in free agency so far because the other three teams in their divisions made major upgrades to their roster. Kansas City, on the other hand, downgraded overall.
While the signing of safety Justin Reid seems positive on its face, it signals the departure of “Honey Badger” Tyrann Matheiu. Mathieu was a leader and key defensive player in Kansas City for the past three seasons, so the defense is in danger of regressing without him.
The signing of Juju Smith-Schuster is a low-risk, high reward signing which may play well, but does not equate to the firepower the Chiefs’ rivals added. Even if he does exceed expectations, the signing is more of a one-year rental than anything.
Loser: New England Patriots
A season ago, the Patriots spent more than any other team in free agency. New England made the playoffs in 2021, and the improvement from the season prior can be attributed to key signings such as Matthew Judon, Hunter Henry, and Nelson Agholor.
Now in 2022, the team is making no noise. In fact, the team got worse after losing lockdown cornerback “Mr. Int” J.C. Jackson to the Chargers. On top of that, New England signed zero-skill position players to help further Mac Jones’ development, despite many being available.
After getting embarrassed by division rival Buffalo in the wildcard round, one would think Belicheck and the Patriots would be aggressive in pursuing quality free agents. Instead, the team declined while the rest of the AFC loaded up.
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