New Faces In New Places

New Faces In New Places

With 2021 free agency winding down and the draft less than a month away, it is a good time to reflect on what has happened so far. Who are the free agency winners? Who are the losers? There are objective ways to look at this and Bleacher Report has done a great job of putting together a comprehensive list of what teams have attacked free agency and came away on top. I may have differing opinions on some of the finer intricacies of some contracts this year, but at the end of the day, an improved roster will win games, even if it causes some cap problems down the road.. *cough, cough* Patriots... *cough, cough*

Tongue in cheek jab at the Pats aside, no one can deny that their roster has greatly improved over the 2020 version we witnessed. Adding Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry makes that tight end duo top level. I won’t say elite yet, because I want to make sure Henry can stay on the field, but if both are healthy, it will likely be the best TE tandem in the NFL in 2021. Agholor is a WR upgrade, but historically is a very inconsistent receiver. Much like Amari Cooper. Hot and cold. The Pats also beefed up the D line and edge with former Jet Henry Anderson and Matt Judon from Baltimore on the edge. Decent looking front 7. Pats will lean on Cam Newton to play like his MVP year in 2015 and hit the skids on the decline he has been in since that year.

According to Bleacher Report, the second most improved roster is none other than my New York Jets. Adding Corey Davis and Keelan Cole at receiver are the two under the radar steals of the 2021 free agency. Carl Lawson at the edge, Sheldon Rankins at DT and Vinny Curry on the other edge. Are they flashy splash names? No, but the NY Jets front 7 could very well be in the top 10 in 2021, which will greatly assist the defensive secondary that struggled in 2020. The Jets D as a whole is looking very scary. Tevin Coleman coming in, who I wanted in 2019 over Le’Veon Bell, joins a solid RB room. Yes, the Jets RB room is solid especially in a Shanahan/LeFleur offense. Overall, the New York Jets have no excuses in 2021.

On the opposite end of that spectrum, the Pittsburgh Steelers have had a net loss in talent. Not even a net loss, because “net” would imply that there were some additions to compensate the losses, but there are none. The Steelers did nothing but lose players. Pouncey retired, Bud Dupree gone, Mike Hilton gone, Mike Feiler gone. Steelers additions: None. 

Philly is nearly in the same boat with notable losses of Carson Wentz, DeSean Jackson, Vinny Curry, Jalen Mills and Malik Jackson.The Eagles were, however, able to sign Joe Flacco and Anthony Harris to cover a couple positional losses, but the Eagles are looking like a team that will struggle in 2021. Conversely, I feel even though the Steelers have only lost talent, I believe they will actually be ok in 2021.

So those are the highs and lows overall of the 2021 free agency but some notable player/team changes are still pretty interesting. Will Fuller is now a Dolphin. Hopefully he can stay on the field, be it health-wise or suspension-wise.. Kenny Golladay headed to NY and the G-Men. Washington brought in some Fitzmagic as well as Curtis Samuel. JJ Watt being released and signing with the Cardinals was a big one a few weeks ago. Corey Linsley to the Chargers and Joe Thuney to the Chiefs were the big O line moves of the year. Titans strengthen their edge rush by adding Bud Dupree to a monster deal, Yannick Ngakoue marks the complete removal of the insane Baltimore edge rush by signing with the Raiders.

There are so many more but in the interest of time, I think I have made the point that this year has been a remarkable shakeup and coming off a year of Covid restricted sports, the NFL has proven to be a resilient entity and looks to keep growing into the future. We all hate to see player cuts and cap casualties, but we can also take comfort in knowing that the initial projections of how many players could find themselves out of a job has been wonderfully mitigated. Big shoutout to not only the New Orleans Saints organization, but the players as well for the willingness to restructure contracts in order to make this thing work. And all other teams and players that have done the same to whatever degree to weather this storm and keep our sport that we are so passionate about afloat and growing despite the adversity. Yet another reason why the NFL is the greatest professional sports league in the world.


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