NFL free agency: Day 1 tampering period winners (49ers, Patrick Mahomes) and losers (Bengals, Broncos)
49ers now feature even scarier defensive line
The NFL’s biggest oxymoron, well, one of its biggest oxymorons, kicked off Monday with the start of the “legal tampering” period, when teams can agree to deals with free agents prior to signing them at the official start of the league year Wednesday. This, of course, creates a ton of intrigue with the NFL’s game of musical chairs and can change the outlook of a season in just a few hours.
The rest of free agency still needs to play out and the draft hasn’t happened yet, but here’s a look at some winners and losers from the NFL’s first day of free agency.
Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead
How is anyone supposed to block the 49ers this upcoming season? Teams have to gameplan on how to keep Bosa and Armstead at bay, but now the 49ers have added Javon Hargrave into the mix.
The 49ers are going to create a ton of advantageous situations for their new three-headed monster on the defensive line. Bosa and Armstead are already elite players in their own right. Now they have another true star to help them beat up on offensive lines. Hargave is another disruptor who will create only more opportunities for Bosa and Armstead.
Las Vegas Raiders
Hey! The Raiders got a veteran quarterback. Probably not the one Davante Adams was hoping for, but Jimmy Garoppolo gives them a chance to have passable QB play for the 2023 season.
Garoppolo’s contract still gives the Raiders the flexibility to add a quarterback with the seventh pick in next month's NFL Draft. Garoppolo can hold the fort down while their next quarterback gets used to the NFL (assuming this is the path head coach Josh McDaniels wants to take).
The Raiders are a tentative winner, but they’re putting themselves in a spot to attain stability at the game's most important position.
Mahomes is getting a stronger supporting cast after winning his second Super Bowl in five years. The Chiefs signed former Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor to a four-year contract to seemingly replace Orlando Brown Jr. as their option at left tackle. Even though Taylor hasn’t played left tackle in the NFL yet, he profiles as a better option for Mahomes as a passer. He’s a bit more agile in pass protection than Brown, which should give Mahomes more time to find guys in the first few seconds of a pass concept.
The NFL’s best offense got even better. Mahomes could throw to Air Bud and win an MVP with the offensive line talent the Chiefs are accumulating.
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Sam Darnold, congratulations. He gets to play for the most quarterback-friendly offense in the NFL by joining the San Francisco 49ers and Kyle Shanahan.
With Darnold signing a one-year contract with the 49ers, he’s (likely) not going to be their initial starting option, but the 49ers have shown the importance of depth at QB over the next few seasons. Based on their recent history, they needed someone who could come in and run the offense without too many hiccups. There’s a long list of quarterbacks who can do that for Shanahan and Darnold should benefit from this system. If he plays well in the event his number is called upon, he might be in a situation to get paid by another team next offseason. That makes him a winner.
Big fellas, welcome to your bag season. Chris Lindstrom picked up a five-year, $105 million contract from the Atlanta Falcons, Jawaan Taylor brought in the cash from the Kansas City Chiefs and Laremy Tunsil is on track to be the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league — again.
The price is moving up on top-shelf offensive linemen and these guys are cashing in on their rare skills. Orlando Brown Jr. likely lost out on his spot with the Chiefs, but the contracts that these other linemen are getting is going to help him out in the long run.
Continuity on the defensive back end is important and the Bengals lost both of their starting safeties from last season with Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell signing with the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, respectively.
Bates and Bell led the Bengals in defensive snaps last season, combining for a whopping 2,041 snaps. Bates played 98.2% of available defensive snaps with Bell playing 98.4%. They have some promising young players like Daxton Hill and Cam Taylor-Britt poised to get playing time at those spots, but the losses of Bates and Bell leave a big vacuum in the Bengals' secondary.
The Broncos had a chance to regain some lost ground this offseason, but a weak free-agent class at the top hampered the top-tier talent that they could add to their roster. Still, they doled out a lot of money to linemen Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers to try and bolster their offensive line. Final contract numbers have yet to be released, but they appear to have shelled out a lot of money for players who are, at best, slightly above average at their positions. This might help the Broncos’ offensive line become a more complete unit, but the line still is not a great unit.
The Jets, Packers and quite frankly, everyone
We sat around waiting for Aaron Rodgers to end up a member of the New York Jets and nothing happened! Rodgers is taking his sweet time with this deal, holding the Jets and Packers hostage as they wait to hear what the future Hall of Famer wants to do. There’s only so much time and speculation that can be spent on Rodgers deciding what he wants to do next with his career and his life. Free agency officially opens Wednesday and we’re all just hoping for a finish line here so we can move and start to figure out what both of these teams look like following this trade, if it ever happens.
The Titans look like they’re going to have some serious problems up front if things stand pat. The team signed former first-round draft pick Andre Dillard, who lost his job to Jordan Mailata, to start for them with a $30 million contract. Nate Davis left the Titans for the Chicago Bears, leaving a thin offensive line for the Titans to work with. That’s not an ideal situation for Henry as he tries to maximize the back nine of his career and churn out a couple more productive seasons.
Still, it’s worth noting that the Titans have the 11th pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and very well may use that pick on an offensive lineman — it doesn’t look like they have a choice based on how their roster has been constructed.