The NFL free agency tampering period got started with a bang on Monday. Three-time Super Bowl quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo turned in his red and gold for the silver and black. He’s now headed to the Las Vegas Raiders.
A bit further back east, the Chicago Bears continued their active ways early this offseason by adding multiple likely starters on both sides of the ball.
For those who thought the NFL world was going to wait for Aaron Rodgers to make a decision, Monday’s news cycle was a pleasant surprise.
Below, we take a look at the biggest winners and losers from NFL free agency thus far.
Related: NFL free agent tracker and grades
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
Not only did Seattle retain the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year, but it was also able to make it team friendly. Essentially, the Seahawks are locked in on Geno Smith for only the 2023 season. The three-year, $75 million contract includes only $27.3 million guaranteed. Seattle can actually get out from it with a $13.8 million cap savings next March.
- Geno Smith stats (2022): 69.8% completion, 4,282 yards, 30 TD, 11 INT
This enables general manager John Schneider and Co. to still look quarterback with the fifth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. It also gives the team a ton of avenues to pursue once the annual event comes calling now that Smith re-signed ahead of the draft.
Loser: Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati is a clear loser during the early stages of NFL free agency. Star safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates both departed for NFC teams on the first day of the tampering period. These are two brutal losses for defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo. It also goes to show us just how much of a penny pincher owner Mike Brown is given their performances a season ago.
- Vonn Bell stats (2022): 77 tackles, 8 passes defended, 4 INT, 64.0 QB rating allowed
- Jessie Bates stats (2022): 71 tackles, 8 passes defended, 4 INT, 76.1 QB rating allowed
We really don’t know what to make of it. Bell and Bates were lynchpins on defense over the past two seasons, making up for questionable cornerback play. There are no internal options to replace them. Even if Cincinnati goes bargain hunting in free agency moving forward, it is not going to find players of this ilk. That’s for sure.
Related: Top takeaways from Day 1 of NFL free agency
Winner: Miami Dolphins
The decision to move off cornerback Byron Jones ahead of the start of NFL free agency wasn’t a surprise. Once the game’s highest-paid cornerback, his inability to stay healthy truly set back what was a promising career.
Instead of relying on an unproven youngster or lesser veteran in free agency, Miami went out there and added one of the top corners in the game, Jalen Ramsey.
It came at a cost of a mere third-round pick and a reserve tight end. Despite some regression last season, Ramsey still looked like a ball hawk for the Los Angeles Rams. Ramsey recorded four interceptions while giving up a low 84.5 QB rating when targeted.
The idea of teaming him up with Xavien Howard was obviously too good for general manager Chris Grier to pass up on. It now creates the single best cover duo in the NFL.
Loser: Philadelphia Eagles lose key defenders
Based on the contracts general manager Howie Roseman dealt out last spring, it was pretty clear that the Eagles were in win-now mode this past season. While the defending NFC Champions still have several key cogs in place on both sides of the ball and saw Jason Kelce return for another season, multiple losses on defense is going to hurt.
The four-year, $84 million contract stud defensive tackle Javon Hargrave signed with the San Francisco 49ers was out of Philadelphia’s price range. Even then, losing out on one of the best interior pass rushers in the league has to hurt. Philadelphia also lost leading tackler from a season ago, linebacker T.J. Edwards, to the Chicago Bears during the opening day of NFL free agency.
Related: Ranking the top NFL free agents remaining
Winner: Chicago Bears remain proactive after blockbuster trade
We can question Chicago’s decision to focus on linebackers one day one of NFL free agency until we’re blue in the face. But it’s pretty darn clear that defensive-minded head coach Matt Eberflus feels the additions of T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds are going to help on that side of the ball.
Chicago added Edwards on a team-friendly three-year, $19.5 million contract from the defending NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles. The former Wisconsin standout was tremendous a season ago, racking up 159 tackles and seven passes defended. As for Edmunds, he heads to the Windy City on a heavily frontloaded deal after earning two Pro Bowl appearances in five seasons with the Buffalo Bills.
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Fresh off acquiring Pro Bowl wide receiver D.J. Moore in a blockbuster trade, Chicago also added more help for young quarterback Justin Fields by signing guard Nate Davis to a three-year contract. Still only 26 years old, Davis started 54 games in four seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
Loser: Tennessee Titans
New Titans general manager Ran Carthon already gutted the roster ahead of NFL free agency. This included releasing three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan as well as key contributors in that of Bud Dupree, Ben Jones, Zach Cunningham and Robert Woods.
So, what did the Titans do to open the market on Monday? They signed former Philadelphia Eagles first-round bust Andre Dillard to a three-year, $29 million contract. All Dillard did in four seasons with Philadelphia was start nine games. This is sure to move the needle for a Titans team that loss seven consecutive to close out last season. Fun times in Nashville.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers find Nick Bosa some help
No one saw this coming. Right as NFL free agency was opening on Monday, San Francisco shocked the football world by signing Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million contract. The former Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowler is among the best interior pass rushers in the NFL.
- Javon Hargrave stats (2022): 60 tackles, 16 QB hits, 11 sacks, 10 tackles for loss
The idea of teaming Hargrave up with reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa on San Francisco’s offensive line has to scare opposing NFC offenses in a huge way. The 49ers also picked up former top pick Sam Darnold to be their third-string quarterback. It came via a team-friendly one-year contract. These two moves paint the defending NFC runner ups in a great light.
Loser: Las Vegas Raiders fumble quarterback situation
We don’t hate the contract Vegas signed Jimmy Garoppolo to. It comes in at $24.25 million annually with only $33.75 million fully guaranteed. At issue here is whether Garoppolo is even that much of an upgrade over the recently departed Derek Carr.
- Derek Carr stats: 64.6% completion, 35,222 yards, 217 TD, 99 INT, 91.8 QB rating
- Jimmy Garoppolo stats: 67.2% completion, 14,289 yards, 87 TD, 42 INT, 99.6 QB rating
When Vegas pretty much made the decision to move on from Carr by benching him late last season, most figured the team was going big-game hunting. That wasn’t the case. No Aaron Rodgers. Lamar Jackson was a pipe dream.
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Instead, Las Vegas spent the first day of NFL free agency signing a starting quarterback who has missed 29 games due to injury over the past five seasons. That’s a risk this downtrodden organization shouldn’t have taken.