J.J. Watt (DT, 32)
The Cardinals struck early, plucking Watt off the street after he was granted a release from Houston in Mid-February. Watt won’t be the most dominant player on the field most weeks, but he’ll bring plenty of clout to a defense that is looking to keep up with a young, explosive offense in Arizona.
Julio Jones (WR, 32)This one shouldn’t have surprised Spotrac listeners too much, as the writing was on the wall immediately after 2020. Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, & newly drafted Kyle Pitts will be Matt Ryan’s lead arsenal going forward.
Sammy Watkins (WR, 28)
With limited capital to work with, the Ravens couldn’t missed out on a few of the bigger WR fish this offseason, but still landed a potential upgrade in Watkins, who brings talent, and playoff experience from LAR/KC to Lamar’s offense.
Extending Their Own
LB Matt Milano, OT Daryl Williams, OG Jon Feliciano, CB Levi Wallace all remain in the fold, while their most important in-house extension is still pending - QB Josh Allen. WR Emmanuel Sanders should be a value upgrade as a WR2/WR3 piece as well.
Sam Darnold (QB, 24)
At $23M over the next two seasons, Carolina essentially gets a do-over on the Bridgewater experience with a younger, different style QB. There’s a good chance that a change of scenery and scheme bring out the best in the former #3 overall.
Allen Robinson (WR, 27)
There were plenty around the game (myself included), who thought there was no chance Allen Robinson would stick with this franchise past 2020, even if a healthy franchise tag was offered. But Robinson signed the tag, and will give Andy Dalton/Justin Fields a legit WR1 weapon to rely on for the season.
Highly Drafted Offensive Weapons
The Bengals’ “fantasy” lineup now contains 6 players who were drafted in the first two rounds. Joe Burrow/Ja’Marr Chase in the first, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Drew Sample in the second. If this core gels, it could mean big things from a scoring standpoint over the next 4-5 seasons.
John Johnson (S, 25), Troy Hill (CB, 29)
Anytime you can add two highly regarded players from the Rams defense, things are going well for you. Toss in a late addition of Jadeveon Clowney, and this already solid Browns D should be geared up for big things in 2021.
Dak Prescott (QB, 27)
We didn’t learn much from the NFC East last year, but we all found out just how important Dak Prescott is to the Dallas Cowboys. Dak is back, he’s well-paid, and his offensive weapons are nothing short of outstanding heading into 2021. Did the defense improve enough, and is there enough left in the O-Line to make it all work?
With Justin Herbert, and Patrick Mahomes in the division, the Broncos have loaded up on defensive backs the past two offseasons, extending Justin Simmons, adding Ronald Darby & Kyle Fuller via free agency, bringing back Kareem Jackson, and drafting Patrick Surtain II. Will they also acquire a QB that will put other defensive backs on their heels in 2021?
Jared Goff (QB, 26)
Goff fell out of favor rather quickly despite a ton of team success with the Rams. Will his style translate better elsewhere? The Lions don’t exactly boast the best passing game weapons in the league right now, so the odds are likely stacked against him.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones (RB, 26)
To me, extending Jones to an at-value contract was a warning shot that the Packers believe they have the right team to push this thing to the top. There are very few reasons to pay a 26 year old running back these days, but pushing the chips all in is one. Did they foresee a massive PR disaster for the next 10-12 months at the QB position? Likely not. But common logic says the restless will calm down come football time, and this roster will return to legit NFC contender standing.
Tyrod Taylor (QB, 31), Davis Mills (QB, 22)
Sure, Houston could just be covering their bases for the upcoming season with the understanding that it’s most likely Deshaun Watson will be sent to the commissioner’s exempt list and/or suspended. But the selection of Mills also tells me there’s a very realistic possibility that once the dust settles a bit, Houston will indeed seek out and grant Watson the trade demand he pushed on them just a few months ago. The Dolphins are patiently waiting.
Carson Wentz (QB, 28)
Unlike Goff, Wentz enters a team where he’s familiar with the coaching, and will be offered a solid group of pass catchers to toss to. But the retirement of Anthony Castonzo seems a huge red flag for the Colts and Wentz’s immediate success.
Trevor Lawrence (QB, 21)
The Jaguars out-tanked the Jets for the rights to select Lawrence, and while health remains an issue this offseason, all signs point to an exciting uptick for the Jaguars. Urban Meyer and Co. have held onto and added a lot of speed and versatility in terms of weapons around him - but is the O-Line deep and strong enough to protect a young QB?
Kansas City Chiefs
Joe Thuney (OG, 28, Kyle Long (OG, 32), Orlando Brown Jr. (OT, 25)
Quite a response to what was an obvious deficiency in KC’s Super Bowl repeat bid last season. Mahomes loses a weapon in Sammy Watkins, and there are some contractual question marks on the defensive side of the ball (Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu), but this is a rock solid AFC team as per usual on paper.
Las Vegas Raiders
Kenyan Drake (RB, 27)
This was one of those “huh??” signings at first sight, but once the dust settled (and the Raiders chopped off about $15M from their O-Line), it’s understandable to see them acquire a proven player who can catch a few passes, but also greatly improve their red zone production, without sacrificing Josh Jacobs 100% of the snaps. The Raiders offensive was sneaky good last year, and there’s reason to believe they’ll be better.
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert’s New Offensive Line
Every season this team on paper gets me believing that their odds in Vegas are crazy off. Then 11 preseason injuries later, I’m feeding my kids bread and water for a few weeks. The difference this year? The notable upgrades all came on the offensive line, and the guy they’re protecting is trending toward a generational talent level. Slater, Aboushi, Linsley, Feiler, Bulaga could finally be the piece to this puzzle that pushes LAC forward.
Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford (QB, 33)
It was the right time for a change, and there aren’t many better landing spots than a Sean McVay led Rams offense for Stafford. Will he hit the ground running with a team ready to win? Tom Brady seems to think that’s possible. Conventional thinking says it usually takes a year to gel and find the rhythms, but this will be a highly bet on team heading into 2021.
Jaylen Waddle (WR, 22)
The Alabama connection QB/WR should have real value, & when tossing in a 1 year flier on Will Fuller, the Dolphins’ passing game is geared to take that next step - assuming Tua has the capacity to take them there. The QB situation in Miami could be on high alert in the coming months, assuming Deshaun Watson’s status changes in Houston.
Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, 27)
The Vikings made it a point to address the defensive side of the ball via free agency, while shoring up offensive line depth via the draft. A third round QB selection also adds a new wrinkle for next offseason. Tomlinson outplayed his ability to be re-signed to the Giants, and it’ll be the Vikings’ gain.
New England Patriots
Jonnu Smith (TE, 25), Hunter Henry (TE, 26)
The QB situation remains very much fluid in New England, but nothing feels more stable and nostalgic than the return of a two tight end set offense with two prominent offensive weapons in those roles. Will the Patriots wildly uncommon spending spree this offseason translate to a contending team?
New Orleans Saints
We knew the cap crunch was going to be tough on New Orleans, and from a roster standpoint, the defensive side of the ball took the most hits. Gone are DE Trey Hendrickson (CIN), CB Janoris Jenkins (TEN), DT Sheldon Rankins (NYJ), & LB Alex Anzalone (DET), while WR Emmanuel Sanders is the notable loss on that side of the ball. Can a rebuilt defense plus a brand new starting QB for the first time in 16 years keep the Saints afloat in contention?
New York Giants
Kenny Golladay (WR, 27)
In an offseason where a plethora of WR options via free agency and the draft seemingly dropped the values to acquire one, the Giants zagged and went all in on Golladay with $40M guaranteed over the next two and a half years. It’s a statement signing to see what they have in QB Daniel Jones - barring Golladay can stay on the field to support him.
New York Jets
Zach Wilson (QB, 21)
Wilson is young and talented, but he’ll forever be the guy taken after Trevor Lawrence. Did the Jets screw the pooch by not losing enough games in 2020? Only time will tell, but they’re saying all the right things about their new QB1, and there’s a halfway decent set of pass catchers and a legitimate left tackle already on this roster to give him a fighting chance out of the gate.
You’ll find changs and turnover seemingly everywhere you look on this roster - from the coach to the QB to the WR to the OL to the DL to the secondary (and eventually to the TE position). Philly’s pre-draft trade with Miami might easily be the best thing they do in 2021, as it proved their identified who/what they are this year, and are acquiring assets to follow a year of “taking it on the chin” from a dead cap, and roster growth standpoint. With that said, Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, Miles Sanders, and a few legitimate edge rushers should still raise some hell in the NFC East.
Ben Roethlisberger (QB, 39)
Oh to be a fly in the wall of the Steelers’ front office this past winter, trying to decide if ripping the band-aids off and starting fresh in many regards was the proper way forward, or if patching things back together and hoping Mike Tomlin’s magic wand can do the trick one more time was worth the investment. Big Ben’s paycut & restructured contract answered that question in early March, and a surprise return from JuJu Smith-Schuster added even more juice to this team’s defiance to go downward. Massive cap casualties on the O-Line & Defensive side of the ball could tell the true story down the stretch though.
San Francisco 49ers
Trent Williams (OT, 33)
After the big pre-draft trade to go up and get their next QB, ensuring his blind spot was secured for the coming years had to be priority number two. San Fran acquired Williams for a 3rd & 5th round pick last year, then paid him $12.5M as a trial run through the 2020 season. That turned into $55M guaranteed over the next three seasons, and what they hope will be a smooth transition from Jimmy G to Trey Lance.
Chris Carson (RB, 27)
See Aaron Jones above. Extending the RB who was allowed to hit free agency signals one thing: We’re all in. Toss in a 2nd round selection of WR D’Wayne Eskridge, and a once disgruntled Russell Wilson at least has a good set of toys to play with - though it remains to be seen if he’ll have enough time in the pocket to see them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No Super Bowl winner has ever returned all 22 starters in the following season: Until Now. The Buccaneers piggy-backed off of a down league salary cap year to bring all their major pieces back on slightly team-friendly costs, with extremely team-friendly structure. Free Agent Signings | Offseason Extensions
Julio Jones (WR, 33)
Tennessee was always on the short list of teams that would be willing to pay the price for Julio, and with an offseason of signings and draft picks focused directly on the defensive side of the ball (rightfully so), this was the right time to splash. Julio steps in for the departing Corey Davis, and now pairs up with A.J. Brown as one of the better 1-2 duos in all of football.
Washington Football Team
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB, 38)
I don’t think there’s enough praise being given to the WFT for this move, despite the fact that there were so many other QBs on the move this offseason one way or another. This Washington team has a lot of things going right for them, and were able to add a savvy WR in Curtis Samuel to up their efficient passing game. After years of overpaying at the QB position with very little return, the franchise decided to slow play this move, bringing in an experienced game manager who can still fling the ball downfield to open receivers - something this offense should have plenty of in 2021.