Ten biggest individual winners and losers of NFL free agency

Caption: Jan 1, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is sacked by New York Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (41) in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Rachel Wold
Written by Rachel Wold

The aftermath of NFL free agency moves is always intriguing to watch play out. New signings mean new bodies in town to share the workload. In some cases, fresh faces mean competition. This can be both good and bad. Overall, the goal for a team is to work as a unit to win no matter which guys are getting more touches or action.

But on a personal level, it is never fun for an individual to see a new teammate arrive and steal a big chunk of his work. This could be the case particularly for a few running backs as training camp competitions play out.

Meanwhile, some quarterbacks stand to benefit tremendously from their team’s free agent moves.

Here are a combination of 10 individual winners and losers as a result of this year’s free agency thus far.

Winner: Carson Wentz, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz

Wentz is probably doing a very snappy happy dance wherever he is spending this offseason. His team added two shiny new wide receivers for him to play catch with this fall.

He has been gifted veterans Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith as a result of his team’s handy work.

Wentz attempted a whopping 607 passes in his rookie year. He completed 62.4 percent of them, a mark that can be considered pretty darn good. But the second-year quarterback could be on course to even better his performance with both Jeffery and Smith on board.

They are already penciled in as the starters in Philadelphia without even taking a snap with the team. It is pretty sexy lineup featuring Jordan Matthews in the slot.

The Eagles have been lacking a true No. 1 wideout since they released DeSean Jackson back in 2014.

Wentz threw for 16 touchdowns last season. This number stands to increase dramatically in the fall.

Loser: Sterling Shepard, wide receiver, New York Giants

Shepard’s rookie season progressed swimmingly in 2016. Enough so that he managed 65 catches for a total of 683 yards and a stunning eight touchdowns. Those eight scores were only two shy of Odell Beckham Jr.’s end zone trips.

Shepard’s production was enough that the Giants showed fellow wideout Victor Cruz the door.  Cruz was the obvious odd-man out in the Giants’ receiving trio last year.

But Shepard might be feeling a bit lonely now that the team has signed veteran Brandon Marshall. Marshall is 10 years older than Shepard, but still plays at a high level. The six-time Pro Bowler is already featured ahead of Shepard on the team’s unofficial depth chart.

Marshall should excel with OBJ collecting double teams on the other side of the field. Unfortunately, his presence does push Shepard down on the depth chart.

Winner: Todd Gurley, running back, Los Angeles Rams

Gurley had a smashing rookie season, posting 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns over 13 games.

However, his world came crashing down big time as a sophomore when the team relocated to Los Angeles the following season. Gurley’s yards per average slumped from 4.9 to a meager 3.2. He rushed for just 885 yards and scored just six times.

But that should be a thing of the past. The Rams made an excellent free agency signing when they brought offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth aboard.

Pro Football Focus rated Whitworth as the No. 2 tackle in 2016. He should do a good job opening lanes for Gurley to run through in 2017. That’s only magnified with mauler Greg Robinson likely moving from left tackle to guard.

Open holes are one thing we did not see Gurley boast last season. After all, he ranked outside of the top 30 in the NFL in yards before contact. With a new head coach an an All Pro tackle now in the mix, look for this to change.

Loser: Julian Edelman, wide receiver, New England Patriots

Courtesy of USA Today Images

The romance and friendship will never be lost between Edelman and his beloved quarterback Tom Brady. But the 30 year-old’s targets and touches will stand to take a hit now that the Patriots have a younger new toy for Brady to play catch with.

The Patriots swooped up 23-year-old Brandin Cooks in sweet trade with the New Orleans Saints. There is nothing to suggest that Cooks won’t be a staple on offense this upcoming season. He is slated to play opposite Chris Hogan at wide receiver. Meanwhile, Edelman looks to occupy the slot.

Edelman’s targets reached an all-time high of 159 in 2016. But the addition of Cooks and return of Rob Gronkowski are going to rain on Edelman’s parade on more than one occasion this season.

Winner: Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Miami Dolphins

Last season saw the Dolphins progress big time en route to earning their first playoff appearance since 2008. And prior to his injury, Tannehill had been having his most-productive season to date. He completed a career-high 67.1 percent of his passes, besting Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in that specific category.

The Dolphins’ free agency moves should only continue to create a winning environment for Tannehill to thrive in 2017. First, Miami re-signed wide receiver Kenny Stills. Stills led the team with nine touchdowns in 2016.

Tannehill also inherits tight end Julius Thomas. It was only a few seasons back that Thomas thrived in touchdown production working with current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase and the Denver Broncos, scoring a combined 24 touchdowns in 2013-14.

Yes. Tannehill should have all the tools he needs this upcoming season. Miami retaining Stills and adding Thomas to the mix should magnify this further.

Loser: Thomas Rawls, running back, Seattle Seahawks

Clearly, the Seahwaks are not completely sold on the injury-prone duo of Thomas Rawls and second-year rusher C.J. Prosise. So, the team signed running back Eddie Lacy, extra pounds and all.

Weighing in at 267, head coach Pete Carroll said he prefers Lacy big. Rawls tips the scales at 217 pounds and he got pummeled badly on more than one occasion last year. He also managed only 3.2 yards per carry while rushing for 349 yards and three touchdowns in nine games.

Assuming he finds a way to get in shape this summer and remains healthy, Lacy should factor more into what the run-heavy Seahawks do on offense in 2017. Remember, Lacy did average 5.1 yards per rush before he landed on injured reserve last fall.

The Seahawks didn’t sign Lacy to grill cheeseburgers on the sidelines. He is still an amazing talent when it comes to breaking tackles and should easily eat into Rawls’ production, no pun intended.

Winner: Danny Woodhead, running back, Baltimore Ravens

Danny Woodhead

The Ravens made a clever free agent signing by bringing veteran running back Woodhead onto the squad.

Woodhead is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. As such, he has tallied more receiving yards (2,498) and receiving touchdowns (17) than he has rushing yards and rushing touchdowns since entering the NFL in 2009.

He is sure to become a fabulous right-hand man for quarterback Joe Flacco in short-yardage situations. The two should bond nicely while second-year running back Kenneth Dixon sits out a four-game suspension for violating the NFL PED policy. Way to go.

Dixon was beginning to learn the ropes towards the last half of 2016 and tallied 118 touches while alternating snaps with Terrence West.

Now that Woodhead is in the picture, Dixon’s stint on the league’s naughty list could cost him. Meanwhile, Woodhead brings maturity and talent to the table after spending seven combined seasons playing with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.

Loser: Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Washington Redskins

Cousins is stuck with a team, creating quite the nasty vibe during free agency. So much so that he expressed his desire to be traded to the San Francisco 49ers. This would have seen Cousins join former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco.

But instead, Washington has so far denied Cousins a trade. The team locked him up with another franchise tag for 2017. Instead of Cousins starting a childish holdout, he signed off on the franchise tender. Obviously, he needs to remain employed. But that does not mean that he will be a happy camper.

If nothing changes, Cousins will play without two of Washington’s top receivers from last year. Both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon were quick to bolt from the nation’s capitol and head for greener pastures, the latter with the very same 49ers team Cousins wants to suit up for. Imagine that.

Cousins seems like the kind of guy that will take this all in stride. But it stinks that the team’s brass is taking such a juvenile approach on many issues.

Winner: Markus Wheaton, wide receiver, Chicago Bears

Had he stayed in Pittsburgh, Wheaton was likely going to keep taking a backseat on the Steelers’ offense. After all, it’s an offense that houses the elephant-sized personality and pass-catching talents of Antonio Brown.

Beyond Brown was the up and coming Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates. Then, there is Le’Veon Bell who actually put up 75 receptions in 12 games this past season.

Wheaton can hopefully get his career kick-started as a top receiving option for his new Bears team. At the very least, there really is no major playmaker threat like Brown to steal the show in 2017.

Wheaton’s most-productive season came back in 2015. He managed 44 catches for 749 yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately, Wheaton’s career all but took a steep demise in 2016 when injuries occurred.

There should be nowhere for the fifth-year wideout to go but up in his new digs.

Loser: Kenny Britt, wide receiver, Cleveland Browns

Caption: Nov 13, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt (18) carries the ball in the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Rams defeated the Jets 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In keeping with the receiver theme, Britt will have to move once again. This time it will be from southern California to Cleveland. That is already all kinds of depressing.

He also was just signed by a team that mind-blowingly traded for Brock Osweiler. It is too early to tell what Cleveland’s plans are for the embattled quarterback, but he could compete with second-year signal caller Cody Kessler for the starting job. Yippee.

If for some reason Osweiler winds up under center, he will likely shy away from throwing Britt’s way. This happened on several occasions when Osweiler played with DeAndre Hopkins in Houston.

At least when playing for the Rams last season, Britt achieved a career-high 111 targets and 1,002 yards. He may be hard pressed to accomplish this again in Clevelnd’s circus of a quarterback situation.

Sadly, Britt has moved from one losing team to even a worse one, where he is locked up for four long years. But hey, at least he got paid the green.

About the author

Rachel Wold

Rachel Wold

Rachel is a football lover of both the NFL and Fantasy and creator of When she is not vacationing in Miami or Vegas, she is an NFL writer at Sportsnaut and a fantasy contributor at Rachel's articles are also featured on Yardbarker, MSN and Fox Sports.

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