In the National Football League Christmas comes in March. That’s when the free agent signing period begins. It’s when teams can begin to put their rosters together. It’s also when teams can either start the rebuilding process, replace lost talent, add to their current talent crop, or start looking towards the future. While the NFL Draft is important, free agency starts the process and you can’t have one without the other.
So with that being said, here are the top five winners so far during the NFL’s free agent season…..
5. Chicago Bears
General Manager Ryan Pace managed to get his team the defensive upgrades it needed without blowing through all of the franchises available cap space. He signed inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman (3 yrs, $12 million) and Danny Trevathan (4 yrs, $24 million), defensive linemen Akiem Nicks (2 yrs, $10 million) and Mitch Unrein (2 yrs, $2.26 million), and cornerback Tracy Porter (3 yrs, $12 million) all to cap friendly deals.
The Bears also added offensive tackle Bobby Massie (3 yrs, $18 million), re-signed tight end Zach Miller (2 yrs, $6 million with incentives), and brought in wide receiver Deonte Thompson (1 yr, $840,000) at discount rates. They also gave the franchise tag to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery ($14.5 million) until a long-term deal can be worked out. The Bears are far from done but Pace’s talent for number crunching should give the Bears a better team for 2016.
4. Denver Broncos
Despite losing the aforementioned Trevathan, defensive end Malik Jackson, and quarterback Brock Osweiler, they still managed to make a few moves. They gave outside linebacker and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller the franchise tag ($14.12 million), fought the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears tooth and nail to keep running back C.J. Anderson (4 yrs, $18 million), and landed a top notch offensive lineman in tackle Russell Okung (5 yrs, $53 million). The Broncos still need to add a few pieces but so far they seem to be in good shape.
3. New York Giants
The “G-Men” solidified their pass rush -and spent a great deal of money in the process- by signing defensive tackle Damon Harrison (5 yrs, $46.25 million), defensive end Olivier Vernon (5 yrs, $85 million), and hung onto Jason Pierre-Paul for one more year ($10 million). Hopefully he’ll stay away from fireworks this summer.
2. Houston Texans
The Texans pulled off the steal of the year when they managed to snatch former Denver Bronco Brock Osweiler. After Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos were ready to give Osweiler the keys to the kingdom. The only problem was that the Arizona State alum was a free agent and needed a new contract. Just as the Broncos were ready to make an offer, Osweiler surprised the entire football world by taking a four-year, $72 million contract to move to Houston. The Texans quarterback issues from last season are well documented, and they’re hopeful that Osweiler can fix those issues.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars made the biggest splash in free agency with not only the amount of money they spent, but they also filled their biggest positions of need. They snagged defensive end Malik Jackson away from the Super Bowl Champion Broncos for five years and $90 million. They got themselves and every down running back in Chris Ivory for $32 million, and improved their secondary with Prince Amukamara at a cost of $5.5 million. The Jags’ are obviously serious about getting better.
Free agency has been entertaining thus far, now let’s see what moves these teams make on draft day.