The NFL free agency period never fails to present fans with surprise and disappointment when the top players on the open market find new NFL homes. This year was no different, as all 32 NFL teams did their best to improve their rosters and make the fans happy, although some did better than others. Let’s rank the five teams that had the best free agency period.
1. Buffalo Bills
Heading into free agency, Bills’ GM Brandon Beane was tasked with filling out the offensive depth chart with better players at just about every position. With nearly $70 million in the bank, Beane and his staff brought in nine players, with all but one of them playing on offense, the lone defensive addition being cornerback Kevin Johnson. The Bills did an excellent job addressing all of their needs, making the biggest one, offensive line, a priority. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen now has four new offensive linemen in Spencer Long, Mitch Morse, Ty Nsekhe, and Jon Feliciano. In addition to filling the large holes on the offensive line, Buffalo made drastic improvements to a receiving unit that was about as lackluster as it could have possibly been, by inking veteran pass catchers Tyler Kroft, John Brown and Cole Beasley to multi-year deals.
While Buffalo clearly emphasized improving its passing game, the Bills also showed the running game some love, by signing future Hall of Fame running back Frank Gore to a one-year deal. Lots of Bills fans questioned the Gore signing, but it makes a lot of sense. Gore improves Buffalo’s offense in a variety of ways, the first being his durability and consistency. While Gore’s numbers aren’t as good as they once were, he still deserves a good chunk of credit for being as productive as he is at age 35. Coupling Gore with LeSean McCoy behind a much improved offensive line should yield pleasurable results for Buffalo in 2019. A second reason Gore makes sense for Buffalo is one of his traits that won’t show up on the stat sheet: his ability to pick up blitzing linebackers in pass protection. The Bills surely had this trait — and Josh Allen — in mind when they discussed signing their new ageless back.
2. New York Jets
Much like their AFC East division rivals, the Buffalo Bills, the Jets entered free agency with a shopping list that was nearly identical to Buffalo’s. While the Jets had a lot more work to do on defense, both teams were jockeying for position to be the highest bidder on several players at the same positions. Now that free agency is over for the most part, it’s safe to say both squads did fantastic in addressing their needs, but more so the Jets, as they did it with a lot more razzle dazzle than Buffalo did.
New York’s free agency was not just a splash. The Jets were an absolute cannon ball this year, which made the beginning of the off-season much more exciting for their fans, which is something the Jets haven’t been able to provide for nearly a decade. Jets’ GM Mike Maccagnan had nearly $100 million to play with, and man, he had his fun. Three of the league’s top players at their positions in linebacker C.J. Mosley, running back Le’Veon Bell, and slot receiver Jamison Crowder, signed with the Jets on contracts that combine for a total of 12 years in length and $166 million in total value. With New York adding a new crop of handsomely paid skill players around second-year passer Sam Darnold and also possessing the third overall pick in the NFL Draft for the second consecutive year, Jets fans most definitely have a lot to be excited about heading into 2019.
3. Detroit Lions
The Lions succeeded greatly at catching lots of fans off-guard and implementing the “wow” factor this free agency. GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia wasted no time in replacing long-time starting defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, signing former Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers — arguably the best player available in free agency — to a five-year deal worth a whopping $90 million dollars. The shock and fun didn’t stop there for the Lions. Detroit continued to bolster its defense by adding nickel cornerback Justin Coleman, signing him to a four-year contract worth $36 million — the largest contract for an NFL nickel back.
Flip to the offensive side, where the Lions made two more key additions. Detroit inked established slot receiver Danny Amendola to a one-year, $5.75 million contract and finished their explosive free agency off by luring tight end Jesse James away from Pittsburgh on a four-year deal worth $22.6 million. The Lions wisely spent big, upgrading big time at all four of the positions their new additions will play. The four largest contracts handed out by Detroit this off-season total out to 14 years in length and a total value of $154.35 million.
4. Green Bay Packers
Hello, defense! After years of not having a formidable secondary, Green Bay started to address that issue in the NFL Draft last April by selecting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson. Eleven months later, the cheese heads remained focused on improving the back end of their defense, by stealing safety Adrian Amos away from the NFC North division rival Chicago Bears. Amos signed a four-year contract worth $37 million with the Packers, a relatively cheap deal considering the price tag attached to the majority of the other available safeties, such as Earl Thomas and Tyrann Mathieu.
Call them the Sackers. After agreeing to terms with Amos, Green Bay shifted their attention to the front seven, landing two top pass rushers in Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. Followed by the signings of the Smith’s, Green Bay terminated the contracts of linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, completely swapping out edge rushers. Despite acknowledging their defensive weaknesses, Green Bay ranks lower on this list due to the neglect to address pressing needs on offense. The interior of the offensive line needs some patchwork, but new tackle Billy Turner may be able to slide into guard to help with that. Furthermore, there isn’t just a drop off at receiver outside of Davante Adams, there is an abyss. Green Bay’s compliments to their No. 1 wideout includes young, underdeveloped talents like J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. So long as they upgrade at receiver and bolster the offensive line a wee bit, Green Bay should not have an issue getting back into the playoff picture in 2019.
5. Oakland Raiders
Following a season that saw head coach Jon Gruden transform the roster, Oakland had a rather impressive free agency. The Raiders
did a tremendous job improving the supporting cast around quarterback Derek Carr, by making Trent Brown the highest paid offensive tackle in NFL history and bringing in three new wide receivers.
Acquiring Antonio Brown is undoubtedly Oakland’s biggest move, and it’s going to stay that way. But free agent signings Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson should not go unnoticed. Williams will be able to provide some relief for Brown in terms of double coverage, and Nelson has more than enough speed to take the top off of defenses. Oakland now just has to find someone to fill the void left by the trade of Kelechi Osemele, someone more productive and effective to tote the rock in the ground game on offense and build on the good start they’re off to defensively with the signing of Lamarcus Joyner.