, August 01, 2021

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2021 NFL Free Agency Moves and Rumors: Keeping Track of the Frenzy

  •   5 min reads
In almost every way free agency will run through the fate of Deshaun Watson, but several sexual assault cases filed against him have put that future in question. LARRY W. SMITH/EPA

We're not even two days in the NFL's legal tampering period for free agency but we've already heard about some big moves in the league. Tampa Bay's Super Bowl winning roster was largely built through free agency and now that is the overwhelming trend headed into the 2021 season. We saw A.J. Green sign with the Arizona Cardinals giving Kyler Murray one more weapon to succeed. Someone get that team some defense please. Sort of puzzlingly we saw Kenyon Drake leave Phoenix for Vegas to join the Raiders who already have a phenomenal back in Josh Jacobs. Similarly to the Cardinals, the Raiders didn't miss the playoffs because of offense. Ever since they've traded Khalil Mack to the Bears, they've needed pass rushing in the worst way.

Speaking of Chicago, the Mitchell Trubisky era is officially over as he signed with the Bills on a year deal to be Josh Allen's backup. He wasn't terrible going 29-21 in his four years in the windy but at the No. 2 overall pick he certainly didn't solve Da Bears century-long woes at the position. They reportedly went all in on a trade for Russell Wilson offering three-future first round picks, a third-round pick, and two unidentified starters. The Hawks turned that down but it still seems like the first indication that they realize that they already have one of the best quarterbacks ever.

If the Seahawks did let Wilson go, it'd be more like when Ken Griffey signed with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000. At least the Mariners were good after that. There's just no reason to think the Seahawks would find a quarterback even close to the caliber as Russ with those first-round picks. The Bears will have a top-20 pick in the upcoming draft and with them signing Andy Dalton in place of Trubisky, they'll likely be average instead of terrible to give the Seahawks a top-five pick in future drafts.

Seattle needs to wake up to reality and realize the grass isn't always greener and do whatever it takes to make Wilson happy. It's been a good start that they added offensive line help so he doesn't have to keep running for his life. It also helps they added an upgrade at TE signing former Ram Gerald Everett to an already stellar receiving core led by Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.  Adam Schefter reports that this deal with the Bears might not be dead. Let Russ cook and let all rumors die. If the Seahawks don't, they're going to go back to one of the worst teams in the league before he got their in 2012. While those were some of the things that did and didn't happen in the first frames of free agency, here's what we could still be looking forward to.

Pats Aren't Done

After spending more in this round of free agency than they have in the past 10 years, the Patriots still might not be done. You think if they spent like this in any of those years, Tom Brady would still be on the team. But alas, Bill Belichick was ready to move on and he is not ready to concede the loss with Brady just yet. Watch the video above to see who they all signed but the biggest move they still made was bringing back Cam Newton on a one-year deal.

Newton receded significantly after he was diagnosed with COVID in the middle of the season last year but Belichick and co. saw enough in him to bring him back, albeit on a very incentive-laden contract. He's still a former league MVP but don't be surprised if they bring in more QBs to compete. There are still rumors that they could bring DeShaun Watson (more on him later) which would make them instant Super Bowl contenders. Maybe a more likely scenario will come in the draft. While the Jets are certainly not going to trade their second-overall pick to their hated in-division rival, the Eagles at the sixth spot make some sense.

While they eventually will probably need a new QB, Philly is in a long rebuild after they traded Carson Wentz to the Colts. They're likely to see what they have with Jalen Hurts drafting him last year in the second round and building around him. They can get skill positions later in the draft and get a bounty from the reloaded Patriots. With Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson likely off the board by then, they may have an outside chance at Ohio State's Justin Long or more likely North Dakota State's Trey Lance who keeps rising in mock drafts. If they are sold on Alabama's Mac Jones which is unlikely, expect them to stay at the 15th pick. Otherwise, look for a lot of players and picks to be on the move here soon from New England.  

Is there a chance Sam Darnold stays?

The quarterbacks to rule the day and that still includes the ones that haven't panned out... yet. As each day passes, it seems less and less likely that Sam Darnold will have an airplane on the side of his helmet next season. He still has potential but got drafted into an awful situation and it looks like new head coach Robert Saleh wants to start his new regime with a fresh start. With Lawrence off the board they will most likely draft Wilson with the second pick. Giving them an opportunity to pick up some much needed draft capital to fill their many needs.

The two leading places to land Darnold is first QB hungry Washington. They released Dwayne Haskins during the season and then veteran Alex Smith, who led them to the playoffs, after. Coach Ron Rivera had great success mentoring Cam Newton and while he has a different skillset, Darnold would benefit from a proven and stable coaching staff. Another landing spot for the 2018 third-overall pick would maybe be San Francisco. While the Niners are committed to Jimmy G, they are always going to be looking at the market. Darnold wouldn't necessarily be an upgrade but having him sit behind Garoppolo and then the chance to be coached and developed up in a Kyle Shanahan offense he might actually have a shot that he wasn't afforded in New York.

How will the biggest target in free agency shape 2021?

Or all of this can still be blown up by the pending trade demand from Watson. The Jets could still make a big swing for him by trading Darnold and essentially the rest of the team along with that No. 2 pick. Outside of New York, two teams that keep surfacing that he would like to sign with most are the 49ers and Denver Broncos. Houston still has yet to grant his trade demand and Watson may not have the power he used to as now a third account of sexual assault has been filed against him. It is unclear how this will affect his trade stock in a quarterback free agent market that will be driven by the young star going in 2021. Time will tell how the dominoes will fall.

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