The NFL offseason took center stage on Monday with no other active sports leagues currently playing. While the new league year has not started yet, NFL teams were very busy on Sunday negotiating, and in some cases, agreeing to deals with free agents. There were franchise tags placed, record amounts of money were paid out and there were plenty of surprises. Here are the biggest moves that were made on the first day of the NFL free agency legal tampering window.
Monday was also the last day for teams to place the franchise tag on players that were scheduled to be free agents, but the teams didn’t want to hit free agency. The list of tagged players is as follows:
Bud Dupree, LB Pittsburgh Steelers
Coming off of a season where he collected 11.5 sacks playing opposite of T.J. Watt, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on former first round draft selection Bud Dupree. Dupree finally performed at the level that the Steelers thought he was capable of, and they were not going to allow him to hit the open market if a long-term deal was not reached.
A.J. Green, WR Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green did not play a single game last season. However, the Bengals know the talent that the seven time pro bowler has. With Joe Burrow most likely stepping in as the team’s new quarterback, it would make sense for the team to want to have a talent of Green’s stature to maximize his talent.
Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans
The man who carried Tennessee to the AFC championship last season was never going to be allowed to be a free agent. The Titans were always planning on bringing Henry back one way or another. Now with their quarterback under contract on a long-term deal and their running back still with the team, the Titans are fully poised to seize control of the AFC South, largely due to a move that will be discussed later.
Dak Prescott, QB Dallas Cowboys
The saga of Dak Prescott vs Jerry Jones ends with a franchise tag. The Cowboys wanted Dak to take a pay cut, while Dak wanted to be paid top quarterback money, which he believes he has earned. Dallas has a long list of free agents, but Prescott was ultimately the best use of the tag for the team.
Shaq Barrett, DE Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coming off of a Pro Bowl season in which he accumulated 19.5 sacks, Shaq Barrett was the top pass rusher set to hit free agency, and Tampa Bay made sure that he went nowhere. The sides had negotiated a long-term deal, but were unable to reach an agreement, resulting in the use of the tag.
Joe Thuney, OG New England Patriots
In what was a surprise to a lot of people, the Patriots placed the franchise tag on Joe Thuney, who was going to likely get a major payday from somebody. Thuney had played phenomenally for New England the last few seasons. This move will count for about $15 million, leaving New England very little space to add offensive weapons, or re-sign Tom Brady. A trade is also in play for Thuney at this point.
Leonard Williams, DT New York Giants
Leonard Williams was acquired last season from the New York Jets, and is viewed by the Giants as a significant piece for their defense. Williams is a former Pro Bowler, and the Giants will hope to see him return to that form. The Giants will now look to sign Williams to a long-term deal.
Kenyan Drake, RB Arizona Cardinals
Kenyan Drake eventually took over the starting running back spot when he was acquired from the Dolphins last season, so it is no surprise to see Arizona want him back. However, Drake received the transition tag rather than the franchise tag. What this means is that Drake can still seek an offer in free agency, but whatever deal he agrees to, the Cardinals can match it. Or Drake can sign the tag for around $8 million.
Anthony Harris, S Minnesota Vikings
Fresh off of a breakout season, Anthony Harris will receive a nice payday to go with it too. He tied for the league lead in interceptions last season with six, and set a career high in tackles with 60 combined. The Vikings will now pursue a long-term extension with the Pro Bowl safety.
Falcons Cut Devonta Freeman
The Falcons parted ways with their longtime running back on Monday. The move will free up $3.5 million in cap room and leave $6 million in dead money. The Falcons can now look for a potential replacement for the two-time Pro Bowler in either free agency or the draft.
Austin Hooper Signs With the Cleveland Browns
The top tight end in this year’s free agency class got paid. The former Atlanta Falcons signed a four year, $44 million deal, with $23 million guaranteed. There were multiple teams interested in Hooper, including the Packers and Bears. Hooper may force David Njoku, a former first round pick of the Browns, out of Cleveland.
Texans Trade Deandre Hopkins to Arizona
In probably the most stunning moment of the day, the Houston Texans traded all pro wide receiver Deandre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals, along with a fourth round draft pick. In return, they received running back David Johnson, a second round pick and a future fourth round pick. The move comes off as a confusing one for Houston, as they did not receive much in terms of draft capital or cap room in return for arguably the best receiver in the NFL.
Ravens Trade Hayden Hurst to Atlanta
Atlanta may have lost their starting tight end from last year, but they did not wait too long to find a replacement. The Ravens have a lot of good tight ends, and Hurst, despite being a first round draft pick of Baltimore’s, never separated himself from the pack. In return, the Ravens received a second and fifth round draft pick for Hurst and a fourth round draft pick.
Arik Armstead Re-signs with San Francisco
Arik Armstead lead the 49ers in sacks with ten, and the 49ers wanted to keep his pass rushing prowess around. Armstead signed a 5 year, $85 million contract, with $34 million guaranteed. The deal was costly in terms of it’s financial cost and what it also forced the team to do next, but Armstead was the team’s top priority this offseason.
Colts Acquire Deforest Buckner, Extend Him
After extending Arik Armstead, the 49ers were forced to deal defensive tackle Deforest Buckner, who was a force in the middle for the 49ers. In return, the 49ers received the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft. After acquiring him, the Colts signed Buckner to an extension that will pay him the second most money for defensive tackles behind Aaron Donald.
Jack Conklin Signs With the Cleveland Browns
The Browns had some notable offensive line struggles last season, and they are starting to reshape their line with a right tackle. Conklin signed a three year, $42 million deal with the Cleveland Browns. Conklin gets a nice contract, and the Browns are able to buy Baker Mayfield just a little bit more time.
James Bradberry Signs With the New York Giants
Former Carolina Panther James Bradberry signed a 3 year, $45 million deal with the New York Giants, in an attempt to patch up their secondary. Bradberry had a career high of three interceptions last season, along with 12 pass deflections. Bradberry will now step into the top cornerback spot for the Giants, with first round pick Deandre Baker struggling in his rookie season.
Dolphins Make a Pair of Big Defensive Signings
The Miami Dolphins put their large amount of cap space to use on Monday, signing a pair of top defensive free agents. The first being cornerback Byron Jones, who previously played for the Dallas Cowboys. Jones signed a five year, $82.5 million deal, making him the highest paid cornerback in NFL history. Jones, a former Pro Bowler, was seen as the odd man out in Dallas between Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Jones, and he will now be the top corner for the Dolphins next to Xavien Howard.
The next signing the Dolphins made was edge rusher Kyle Van Noy. Van Noy last played for the New England Patriots, and is seen as a very versatile piece. Van Noy’s departure was expected for New England, as they were not going to be able to pay him, but it does damage their pass rush significantly. Van Noy signed a 4 year, $51 million deal, with $30 million guaranteed.
Jamie Collins Signs With Detroit
Kyle Van Noy was not the only loss the Patriots’ defense suffered on Monday. Jamie Collins signed a 3 year, $30 million deal with $18 million guaranteed. Collins was another versatile piece for New England, as he was a solid pass rusher and reliable in coverage. Collins will be reunited with his old defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, while leaving another hole in New England’s defense.
Marcus Mariota Signs With Las Vegas
One quarterback domino fell on Monday, as former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota signed with the newly christened Las Vegas Raiders. Mariota may not be the biggest name available for quarterbacks, but he will likely compete with Derek Carr for the starting job.
Vikings Trade Stefon Diggs to Buffalo
Stefon Diggs tweeted this out on Monday afternoon:
Diggs had made cryptic tweets in the past and nothing had come of it, but this time was different. Diggs was dealt to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for a first round pick, a fifth round pick, a sixth round pick and a future fourth round pick. Diggs will immediately become the top wide receiver in Buffalo, which is likely what he has wanted from the start.
Amari Cooper Re-signs with Dallas
Amari Cooper never wanted to leave Dallas, but he also wanted to get paid. He’ll get his wish as he signed a five year, $100 million deal with the team. Cooper gets top receiver money, and with Byron Jones gone, Dak Prescott will likely become the next extension target for Dallas.
Kendall Fuller Signs with Washington
Kendall Fuller was a very versatile piece in Kansas City’s Super Bowl run, as he started as a cornerback, and then moved to free safety after Juan Thornhill went down. He will now be getting paid as he signed a 4 year, $40 million deal with the Washington Redskins. Since the Redskins cut ties with Josh Norman, Fuller will likely step in at cornerback for the Redskins.
Randall Cobb Signs with Houston
Randall Cobb is not a bad player but this signing will not make Houston feel good. Cobb will step in and replace Deandre Hopkins on a 3 year, $27 million deal. Cobb, most notable for his time with the Packers but has recently spent time with the Dallas Cowboys, will be a major downgrade at wide receiver for the Texans, considering that he will be replacing arguably the best receiver in the league.
Day one of the NFL free agency period was filled with lots of signings and shocking deals, but there are still several key pieces available. With names like Tom Brady and Jadeveon Clowney still on the board, the NFL offseason has potential to get even more exciting from here on out.