Overreactions: Early Free Agency Winners and Losers

The Super Bowl Champions Come Out Strong

NFL Free Agency officially opened on Wednesday, but the action has been flying since Monday morning. While we are still waiting for some of the bigger dominoes to fall, there is still enough going on to declare some early winners and losers.

Winners: Aaron Rodgers & Chris Carson

Aaron Jones re-signed with the green and yellow for four years and $48 million. It was a surprising move, given Green Bay decided to pass on the franchise-tag option for their star running back. However, this keeps the status quo in Wisconsin, and that should mean good things for the Packers. This is a franchise that’s been to four NFC Championships games since 2014 but hasn’t cleared the hump to the Super Bowl since 2011.

Getting Jones back in the mix gives the Packers a steady and reliable back to carry the load when Aaron Rodgers isn’t slinging it to Davante Adams. Over the last two seasons, Jones averaged over 1500 yards and 15 touchdowns in Green Bay. His return to Lambeau Field should be a boost for anyone invested in the Packers’ future fortunes.

As a result of Jones coming off the free-agent market before the race began, it opens the door for Chris Carson to become the most desirable ball carrier available. Buffalo, New York, and Miami should all compete for Carson’s services. The former-Seahawk was the No. 2 free-agent running back per ProFootballFocus.com, and he will have his pick of the running-back needy teams to call home for his next contract.

Losers: Allen Robinson

Woof! I picture Allen Robinson as Mario in his Nintendo 64 adventure trying to climb the never-ending staircase without enough stars. Just when he thought he would get out of Chicago and become a free agent, he gets slapped with the franchise tag. He hoped that the Bears would upgrade at quarterback and trade for Russell Wilson, but then the trade apparently falls through at the last second.

Can Allen Robinson catch a dang break?! This is a player that’s caught passes from Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky, and Nick Foles in his career. Now, it looks like he will be catching passes from the Red Rifle, Andy Dalton, in 2021. Even if Dalton is the best quarterback to throw to Robinson in his seven-year career, this is not the “upgrade” he nor Bears fans were hoping for just a week ago.

Winners: Tampa Bay’s Repeat Chances

Chris Godwin? Tagged. Rob Gronkowski? Re-signed. Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett? Both re-signed. It seemed like a tough ask for the Buccaneers front office to find enough cap space to bring all of these standouts back to Tampa Bay, but they found a way. Thanks in part to Tom Brady manipulating the salary cap once again to increase his chances at a Super Bowl ring.

Every year, we see more and more that a salary cap is literally just a number. Players and front offices on some of the best teams in the league become extremely creative in clearing acres of space in order to retain and obtain talent. Brady proves once again that he will take a pay cut if he believes it will help the team get to his ultimate goal: another ring.

Losers: Jonnu Smith & Hunter Henry Believers

Within the span of 24 hours, the fantasy football community changed from “Jonnu Smith TE 1 SZN,” to “What the heck are the Patriots doing?”. New England made some of the earliest splashes in the pass-catching market when they locked up Smith and Hunter Henry over the first two days of the legal tampering period.

Smith left the Music City to sign a four-year, $50 million deal in Foxboro, while Henry followed him not a day later for three years and $37 million. There were immediate screams that Bill Belichick was trying to recreate the Aaron Hernandez-Rob Gronkowski tandem from the early 2010s, but that’s going to be a problem. There is only one Rob Gronkowski, and Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry are nowhere near what Gronk was when he was dominating the middle of the field during his peak years.

As a result of both Smith and Henry signing in Massachusetts, it’s slamming the ceiling on their fantasy upside. While they could be the hottest topic for debate all summer among fantasy analysts, it may just be wise to avoid the situation altogether. Another thing that made the Hernandez-Gronk combo so devastating? Tom Brady.

Cam Newton is not Tom Brady. While it’s admirable that the Patriots are willing to take a swing like this, there are huge questions about whether it will shake out the way Belichick hopes. He is trying to reload and retool the franchise on the fly as they look for an immediate return to the playoffs after missing out in 2020.

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