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Winners and losers from Day 1 of NFL’s free agency tampering period, plus Patriots go on spending spree

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I’m not sure if the Patriots got a $250 million stimulus check from the government, but I’m starting to think they did based on the way they were spending during the first day of free agency on Monday, which technically wasn’t even the first day of free agency because we’re still in the tampering period. 

Every time I thought the Patriots were done adding free agents, they would add more, and then when I thought they were done adding more, they would add even more. They signed one of the best pass-rushers (Matthew Judon), a solid corner (Jalen Mills) and all the good tight ends (Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry). And that’s not even half the players they’ve added over the past 24 hours.

Hopefully the Patriots will let a few other teams sign some players today. As the tampering period heads into Day 2, deals will be happening all day Tuesday and if you want to stay on top of those, you’re definitely going to want to click here so you can check out our live blog. If you’re too busy to be following a live blog, you can also click here to check out our free agent tracker that will be updated any time one of the top 100 free agents signs a deal

Alright, let’s get to the rundown. As always, here’s your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link

1. Today’s show: Recapping Day 1 of ‘free agency’


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The unofficial start of free agency came on Monday and as expected, things got kind of crazy: The Patriots spent nearly $300 million, the Chiefs finally got some protection for Patrick Mahomes and the Buccaneers officially got the band back together by bringing back to two key free agents (Shaquil Barrett and Rob Gronkowski). 

After a wild day, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I sat down to record a podcast together to discuss every single move that was made and since there were a lot of moves made, the podcast lasted more than an hour, which is arguably impressive, because with all the deals that happened on Monday, this thing could have easily gone on for seven hours. 

Unfortunately, the podcast was recorded at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, which means there were several deals — like Jameis Winston to New Orleans and Ryan Fitzpatrick to Washington — that we didn’t get to talk about and that’s because they happened later in the evening. The good news is that we’ll be covering those deals and the Tuesday deals for Wednesday’s podcast. Does all of that make sense? I hope all of that makes sense. 

To listen to today’s episode — and to subscribe to the podcast — be sure to click here

2. Patriots go on spending spree

I’m starting to think that Tom Brady’s Super Bowl win might have broken something inside of Bill Belichick because the Patriots coach has thrown his normal free agency strategy of not spending big out the window for a new one and that new one seems to be: I’m going to sign everyone and I don’t care how much it costs me. 

Over the past 24 hours, the Patriots have spent nearly $300 million on free agents and that includes their decision on Tuesday to add Hunter Henry. By the time you read this, there’s a very real possibility that the Patriots will have added 19 more free agents and I’m only half-joking. 

Let’s take a quick look at whom the Patriots have agreed to terms with since the start of the tampering period at 12 p.m. ET Monday. 

  • Hunter Henry gets three-year, $37.5 million deal with $25 million guaranteed
  • Jonnu Smith signs four-year, $50 million deal with $31.25 million guaranteed
  • Davon Godchaux gets two-year, $16 million deal with $9 million guaranteed
  • Matthew Judon signs four-year, $56 million deal with $32 million guaranteed
  • Jalen Mills gets four-years, $24 million deal with $9 million guaranteed
  • Henry Anderson signs two-year, $11 million deal
  • Kendrick Bourne gets three-year, $22.5 million deal
  • Nelson Agholor signs two-year, $26 million deal
  • Deatrich Wise re-signs with four-year $30 million deal including $10 million guaranteed

If you’re scoring at home, that’s a total of $273 million and although they likely won’t end up paying out all of that money, they will end up paying out those guarantees, which are now more than $150 million. The problem there is that no team in NFL history has ever won a Super Bowl after handing out more than $100 million in guarantees during an offseason. Of the five teams that did that before this year, three of them missed the playoffs and two were knocked out in the wild card round. You can see the full list of those teams by clicking here

3. Quarterback carousel


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Although the Patriots did their best to steal every headline in the NFL on Monday, they weren’t the only team that made some noise around the league. Two of the biggest free agent quarterbacks came off the market on Monday night, so let’s take a look at those deals. 

  • Jameis Winston to re-sign with Saints. It looks like New Orleans is ready to hand the starting job to Winston and the good news for the Saints is that they got a bargain. Winston ended up agreeing to a one-year deal that’s worth up to $12 million. If Winston ends up being the starter, that contract is a steal. If he goes into the season as the backup, it’s still not a bad contract. Sean Payton made it pretty clear this offseason that he’s a fan of Winston’s so it won’t be surprising at all if he’s the Week 1 starter in New Orleans. 
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick agrees with Washington. This might go down as my favorite under-the-radar move from Monday. Washington won the NFC East last season even though they started four different quarterbacks (Kyle Allen, Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke in the playoffs). The quarterback situation was a borderline disaster for most of 2020 and by adding Fitzpatrick, he might be the steady hand this team needs to repeat as division champs. The best part for Washington is that it only owes Fitzpatrick $10 million for the one-year deal. 

Back on Feb. 26, I got crazy and said that Washington could compete to win the entire NFC if they signed Fitzpatrick (you can see the video here) and now that they have him, I’M STANDING BY MY WORDS.  

In other quarterback news, Andy Dalton seems to have two suitors. The former Bengals quarterback didn’t agree to a deal on Monday, but don’t be surprised if one happens today. According to NFL.com, there are two teams firmly in the Dalton hunt and those two teams are the Bears and 49ers. 

4. Free agency winners and losers for Day 1 of tampering

The only person busier than the Patriots on Monday was our very own Tyler Sullivan, who was in charge of putting together CBSSports.com’s winners and losers story for Day 1 of the tampering period. Tyler is a notorious Patriots homer and not surprisingly, the Patriots made his list of winners. 

Let’s check out his full list: 

Winners

  • Patriots: “Bill Belichick rolled into free agency like his stimulus check just cleared. The Patriots wasted no time in trying to rebuild a roster that went 7-9 in 2020 and were quick to address key positions of need.”
  • Buccaneers: “Give Bruce Arians credit, his declaration during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV celebration that the Buccaneers would be bringing back all of their key pending free agents proved to be true.”
  • Patrick Mahomes: “The quarterback recently restructured his contract with the Chiefs to give the club more cap space and it has provided immediate dividends with the team signing left guard Joe Thuney to a five-year deal.”

Losers

  • Ravens pass-rush: “While the Ravens did make a big addition to their O-line by adding guard Kevin Zeitler, John Harbaugh’s front seven did take a hit with the club losing both Yannick Ngakoue (Raiders) and Matt Judon (Patriots).”
  • Seahawks: “With the uncertain status looming over Russell Wilson, one would think it’d behoove Seattle to come in hot on the first day of free agency and give the star quarterback what he wants: protection. However, the Seahawks remained quiet on Monday as the likes of guards Joe Thuney and Kevin Zeitler came off the board along with star center Corey Linsley.”
  • Ryan Tannehill: “With tight end Jonnu Smith signing with the Patriots and Corey Davis inking a deal with the Jets, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill is losing two of his top three pass-catchers from a season ago.”

For a more in-depth explanation on each of those choices, be sure to check out Sullivan’s full story by clicking here

5. Biggest free agents left

Free agency hasn’t even technically started and we’ve already seen eight of the top 10 available players get signed. If your team sat out the first day of free agency tampering, you don’t need to worry just yet and that’s because there are plenty of good players who are still available. 

The biggest prize left on the market is probably Trent Williams, who will be an instant upgrade at left tackle for pretty much any team in the NFL. With that in mind, let’s check out the 10 highest-ranked players from Prisco’s top 100 list who are still available (they’re listed with the team they played for last season): 

1. Trent Williams (49ers)
2. Kenny Golladay (Lions)
3. Curtis Samuel (Panthers)
4. William Jackson (Bengals)
5. Anthony Harris (Vikings)
6. Melvin Ingram (Chargers)
7. JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers)
8. Alejandro Villanueva (Steelers)
9. Haason Reddick (Cardinals)
10. Shaquill Griffin (Seahawks)

Since deals could be going down all day Tuesday, here’s another reminder that we’ve put together a free agent tracker so that you can stay up to date on what has happened so far. If you’d like to check out the tracker, just click here. We also have a live blog that will cover signings AND trades as they happen and you can check that out by clicking here

6. Rapid fire free agent roundup


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This is the part of the newsletter where I’m going to run through all the big free agent deals that we haven’t covered yet. In the interest of time, this list will only include players who were given a contract of $30 million or more. 

  • The Chiefs beefed up their offensive line by adding Joe Thuney on a five-year deal worth $80 million ($32.5 million guaranteed). 
  • The Chargers also beefed up their offensive line by convincing former Packers center Corey Linsley to sign in Los Angeles. Linsley’s five-year, $62.5 million deal makes him the highest-paid center in the NFL. 
  • Romeo Okwara is re-signing with the Lions on a three-year, $39 million that includes $20 million in guaranteed money. 
  • Former Rams safety John Johnson is headed to Cleveland after agreeing to a three-year, $33.75 million deal with the Browns. 
  • The Jets got busy late on Monday when they added Corey Davis and Carl Lawson. Davis landed a three-year, $37.5 million deal while Lawson was given a three-year deal worth $45 million. 
  • The Titans added some much-needed pass-rush help in the form of Bud Dupree, who has agreed to a five-year, $85 million deal with Tennessee. 
  • The Bengals also added some pass-rushing help. The team wanted to re-sign Carl Lawson, but after that fell through, they landed Trey Hendrickson with a four-year deal worth $60 million. 
  • Even though they don’t have any cap space, the Rams are re-signing Leonard Floyd to a four-year, $64 million deal. 
  • The Broncos picked up Von Miller’s option for 2021, which guarantees $7 million of the $18 million that he’s due for the upcoming season. 

There were plenty of other signings and if you want to check those out, be sure to head to our free agent tracker by clicking here

In non-signing news, the Rams have 24 hours to get under the salary cap and it seems that they’ve finally started that process. Going into Tuesday, they were $37 million OVER the cap. To get under the cap, the Rams will restructure multiple contracts, including the deals that belong to Jalen Ramsey, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald. 

7. The Kicker: Tom Brady just gave out his phone number

With NFL free agency starting this week, phones are going to be ringing off the hook around the league as teams go after the best available players. Although Tom Brady isn’t a free agent, his phone will also likely be ringing off the hook and that’s because he decided to share his cell phone number on Twitter.

I have no idea why anyone would do it, but Brady did it and you can see his tweet by clicking here. Brady isn’t the first celebrity to share a phone number on social media. Apparently, it’s now a thing for celebrities to have a number that’s solely used to communicate with fans. Ellen DeGeneres did it somewhat recently and all I have to say about that is that I texted her eight times and she still hasn’t gotten back to me. Hopefully Brady is better about returning text messages. 

As for me, I will not be returning any text messages tomorrow because I will be meditating all day. Since I can’t be distracted while I’m meditating, that means Cody Benjamin will be here running the show. I’m not sure what Cody has in store for you, but I can guarantee there will be at least one Andy Dalton joke and since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, I won’t be surprised if he spends half the newsletter talking about leprechauns. 

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