American Football NFL

NFL Free Agency Round Up

With the 2021 NFL season officially kicking off this week, the usual free agency frenzy is upon us as teams begin to build their rosters for opening weekend in September.

One of the stories of free agency so far is the New England Patriots, who fell to a record of 7-9 in their worst season since 2000. Head coach and general manager Bill Belichick clearly felt the need for an overhaul of his team as the Patriots, predicted to have the second most in cap space ahead of free agency, have been the busiest team in free agency by far.

One of the biggest moves of free agency so far was announced when the Patriots agreed a four-year, $56m deal including $32m over the first two years with former Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Matthew Judon.

Judon posted 50 tackles and six sacks in 14 games last year as he was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight year, finally leaving the Ravens after being franchise tagged last year.

The defensive improvement continued for the Patriots as they revealed news of a four-year, $24m deal with former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills. Earlier in the day the Patriots also agreed a two-year, $16m deal with former Miami Dolphins nose tackle Davon Godchaux, a fifth-round pick out of LSU in 2017.

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The Patriots, not normally this active in free agency, continued their spending spree with big deals for receivers Nelson Agholor, who caught eight touchdowns for the Raiders last year, and 25-year-old Kendrick Bourne, who had seven touchdowns in the last two seasons with the 49ers.

Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dealt with the period in the opposite manner, re-signing their key free agents to long-term deals. One of the biggest question marks for the world champions was pass rusher Shaq Barrett, set to break the bank on the open market.

But Barrett was signed to a multi-year deal, as was veteran linebacker Lavonte David. Quarterback Tom Brady also signed an extension that cleared much-needed cap space. Wide receiver Chris Godwin had been predicted to make a lot on the market but was tagged by the Bucs as general manager Jason Licht looks to bring the gang back together.

Pass rushers Bud Dupree, Trey Hendrickson and Yannick Ngakoue all found new teams on day one of the new league season. Dupree, formerly of the Steelers, made one of the biggest headlines of the day as he signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Tennessee Titans.

25-year-old Ngakoue signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders. The former Jaguar has 45.5 sacks and 18 forced fumbles in 78 games (70 starts) over five NFL seasons.

Trey Hendrickson left the New Orleans Saints as he agreed to a four-year, $60m contract with the Cincinnati Bengals, according to reports.

Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Ron Rivera-led Washington Football Team. Reports suggest Fitzpatrick will be in contention for the starting role on week one.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones was the point of a lot of controversy as he head into free agency without a tag, but the Packers eventually took the star back off the market, agreeing a four-year, $48 million contract to stay with the team.

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“Not being relevant in 2020 clearly did not sit well with the New England Patriots and they have made a busy start to the negotiating period with impending free agents. Within the first few hours, the Pats have agreed deals with tight end Jonnu Smith (Tennessee), edge rusher Matthew Judon (Baltimore), cornerback Jalen Mills (Philadelphia) and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux (Miami),” NFL analyst Neil Reynolds said of the New England Patriots.

“At first glance, these look to be very nice moves. Smith is talented, athletic and productive, Judon can be a difference-maker and Mills offers the kind of versatility that Bill Belichick covets. But as is always the case in free agency, there are no guarantees. Smith won’t have the luxury of being in an offense with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and AJ Brown; and Judon is the latest in a long line of edge rushers out of Baltimore who must prove the grass is greener on the other side of free agency.

“The Patriots have made the kind of big free agency splash that those chasing them for all those years were forced to make. Have they turned into the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins? I think these moves have improved them, but I also think they have overpaid (a free agency norm).

But all the moves in the world mean nothing without a quarterback who can be relied upon week in and week out. The Patriots do not currently have such a player, even following the recent re-signing of Cam Newton.”

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