NFL free agency Winners & Losers: Improvements in Indy, Bucs wrong to bet on Brady

Omnisport

The dust is settling on a typically fast and furious start to NFL free agency.

While the new league year is still in its infancy, most of the major players on the open market have found new homes or opted to stay put.

A string of blockbuster trades have also changed the landscape of the league.

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Here we look at the winners and losers from free agency.


WINNER: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have been aggressive in addressing their needs in response to a disappointing 7-9 season in 2019, with the signing of Philip Rivers and the acquisition of DeForest Buckner in a trade from the San Francisco 49ers the headline moves.

Rivers comes across from the Los Angeles Chargers following 16 seasons with that franchise. He threw 591 times last season and was intercepted on 20 of those attempts.

A Colts running game led by the dynamic Marlon Mack that finished seventh in the NFL last year along with a bruising offensive line should ensure Rivers does not have to chance his arm as much in Indianapolis.

Rivers also has great familiarity with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni from his time as the Chargers quarterback coach. The fit could hardly be better.

The Colts gave up a first-round pick (13th overall) to land defensive tackle Buckner and then pay him $21million a year. If he delivers the same kind of performances he produced for San Francisco – he had 28.5 sacks and 74 quarterback hits in four seasons for the 49ers – the Colts defense will be significantly improved in 2020.

LOSER: Houston Texans

The NFL universe is collectively still trying to wrap its head around the Texans' decision to trade DeAndre Hopkins, one of the league's premier receivers, and a late-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for just a second-round pick and running back David Johnson.

Hopkins' departure means quarterback Deshaun Watson loses his most reliable weapon in the passing game. Johnson's arrival hardly upgrades the running attack, as he was an afterthought for the Cardinals last year.

Houston also lost defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, and overpaid for veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb, giving him a three-year deal worth $27m.

Head coach Bill O'Brien's presence as the de-facto general manager looks more ludicrous by the day.

WINNER: Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater's career appeared in jeopardy when he suffered a gruesome knee injury prior to the start of the 2016 season.

However, after making an emotional return to the field for the Minnesota Vikings, he has revived his career with the New Orleans Saints – going 5-0 during Drew Brees' spell on the sideline last season – and his comeback story reached his peak when he received a reported three-year, $63m deal from the Carolina Panthers to be their starting quarterback.

Expectations will be low with the Panthers in rebuild mode under Matt Rhule. Bridgewater, though, still has arguably the league's best running back in Christian McCaffrey and worked with Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady in his time in New Orleans.

Don't be surprised if he lives up to a deal some believed was too rich for the former first-round pick.

LOSER: Nick Foles

The author of the most remarkable comeback story in recent league history will get another chance to earn a starting job after a short-lived spell with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

However, in being dealt to the Chicago Bears, Foles is not landing in a situation where he can succeed.

The Bears took a step back on both sides of the ball last year and on offense Foles will find limited options at the offensive skill positions beyond Allen Robinson.

Chicago overpaid a declining tight end in Jimmy Graham who is unlikely to help the Bears improve their production on offense.

Even if he eventually takes the quarterback job from Mitchell Trubisky, Foles will have an uphill battle to guide the Bears to supremacy in a division also featuring Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins.

WINNER: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have not yet managed to reach a long-term deal with quarterback Dak Prescott, instead using the franchise tag on him, and lost cornerback Byron Jones, who signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Defensive tackle Maliek Collins and pass rusher Robert Quinn were further departures, but the Cowboys were able to sign wide receiver Amari Cooper to a lucrative five-year deal and replaced Collins with a superior player in Gerald McCoy. HaHa Clinton-Dix's signing gives the Cowboys a reliable starter at safety, too.

The Cowboys still have a strong roster with which to contend in the NFC, and they should be in the mix for years to come if they can eventually come to a more concrete arrangement with Prescott.

LOSER: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs' signing of Brady from the Patriots was unsurprisingly met with tremendous excitement from the Tampa Bay fanbase, while there have been reports of free agents showing desire to sign with them following the six-time Super Bowl-champion's arrival.

Yet it is debatable whether Brady will improve the Bucs' offense, which led the league in passing yardage with Jameis Winston at the helm but was undermined by the former first-overall pick's tendency to commit crushing turnovers.

The 42-year-old has the velocity to excel on the downfield throws that are a pivotal part of Bruce Arians' passing attack, but Brady lacks Winston's ability to escape pressure that helped mask the deficiencies of the Bucs' offensive line.

If Tampa Bay cannot improve up front, it could be a painful few years in Florida for Brady. For all the buzz around his signing, the Bucs would have been better served investing in a more mobile free-agent quarterback and looking to the draft for a long-term answer.

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