The NFL free agency and trading period is here for 2020 with the new league year set to go into effect on Wednesday, Although several players are staying off the market, either re-signed or franchise-tagged by their teams, many others are set to change teams, by either signing with or being traded to another team.
As the news happens, Sporting News will provide te latest analysis of the most significant moves around the NFL right here.
NFL FREE AGENCY 2020:
Ranking the top 50 players, tracking signings
Cowboys franchise tag QB Dak Prescott at $33 million
The Cowboys needed to get their place-holder in before the tag deadline. Although it seems Prescott and the team should have had a deal by now, this buys time into the summer to give him his bank-breaking long-term deal. He’s their unquestioned franchise QB for many more seasons. Dallas simply got an extension on the extension until July 15.
Vikings extend QB Kirk Cousins for two seasons through 2022
Cousins is coming off an exceptional career-best playoff season and was worthy to secure his future in Minnesota beyond the 2020 season. The Vikings couldn’t afford to mess around with the rumors of the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan possibly having more interest in signing Cousins next offseason.
Titans re-sign QB Ryan Tannehill for 4 years, $118 million
Tannehill proved to be a perfect fit for the Titans’ run-heavy offense once he replaced Marcus Mariota thanks to his strong play-action passing and athleticism. Keeping that intact was better than looking for outside holp in free agency or the draft. The price tag was high, including the $62 million guaranteed, but he still can give them plenty more solid years going into age 32 season.
Texans trade for Cardinals RB David Johnson, second- and fourth-round pick
Houston helps out Arizona by taking on Johnson’s contract while the latter team moves on with transition-tagged Kenyan Drake. The price was high, but the player gives the Texans a back to play ahead of Duke Johnson Jr with both Carlos Hyde and Lamar Miller being free agents. If he can get back to full health with something left at 28, he would add a strong red zone finisher and key receiving element for Deshaun Watson, which is desperately needed now because ….
… Cardinals trade for Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins and fourth-round pick
The pressure was on Steve Keim to have a big offseason for the Cadinals and he started it with a bang. He dumped Johnson’s massive salary after making sure Drake was in place for next season and got Kyler Murray’s new go-to guy, with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk sliding into high-level complementary roles. Kliff Kingsbury will have fun designing big plays all over the field with Hopkins’ smooth route-running reliability.
Colts trade first-round pick to 49ers for DT DeForest Buckner
The 49ers knew they couldn’t afford Buckner beyond 2020 and the Colts had room to pay him $21 million a season with an extension, making him the second-highest paid tackle after the Rams’ Aaron Donald. The 49ers were short on middle draft picks, so they added No. 13 overall to No. 31 overall for their early haul. The Colts were short on impact interior linemen for their 4-3 scheme and had plenty of money under the cap to lock up Buckner. It’s a win-win, especially with the 49ers able to re-sign Arik Armstead.
Browns agree to terms with TE Austin Hooper for 4 years, $44 million
The Falcons couldn’t afford to keep Hooper and the Browns won a bidding war for him by reportedly making him the NFL’s new highest-paid tight end. This is a great pickup given the tight end-friendly nature of Kevin Stefanski’s offense and Hooper is way more reliable and durable than David Njoku. Hooper fits nicely as a top-three target for Baker Mayfield behind Odell Bekcham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, especially given the team’s limited wideout depth. Look for the team to employ more two-tight end sets and play-action passes to help Mayfield rebound.
Browns agree to terms witih RT Jack Conklin for 3 years, $42 million
The Browns needed to badly upgrade tackle with fading Chris Hubbard on the right side and free agent Greg Robinson on the left side. After securing tight end to help Mayfield and the running game with Hooper, now they get an all-around anchor in Conklin. They can focus on a left tackle early in the draft now.
Titans franchise-tag RB Derrick Henry at $12.4 million
They weren’t about to let the NFL’s most dominant runner and reigning rushing champion walk and drain the lifeblood of their offense. He was a no-brainer tag once Tannehill was locked down. Henry will eventually get around $15-$16 million a season when the long-term deal goes down this summer, matching or surpassing what the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott got.
Ravens trade for Jaguars DE Calais Campbell for fifth-round pick
The Jaguars needed to create some salary room in trying to keep much younger fellow end Yannick Ngakuoe after franchise-tagging him, so they were forced to move Campbell before his age 34 season. The Ravens will try to get some Terrell Suggs-like late-career resurgence from a five-time Pro Bowler and reigning Walter Payton Man of the Year. They needed this extra edge-rushing presence badly even after tagging Matthew Judon.
Chiefs franchise-tag DT Chris Jones at $16.1 million
The Chiefs have enough room to keep Jones and also work on that extenstion for Patrick Mahomes. Jones is indispensable to their defense and is almost as key to their chances to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
Colts re-sign LT Anthony Castonzo for 2 years, $33 million
Castonzo hinted at possible retirement at age 31, but he returns to keep one of the NFL’s strongest offensive lines intact from left to right. He’s a vital pass proection piece as the Colts potentially look to upgrade at quarterback over Jacoby Brissett.
49ers re-sign DE Arik Armstead for 5 years, $85 million
The 49ers surprised some by keeping Armstead at his steep price, given they have Nick Bosa and Dee Ford and passed on paying DeForest Buckner instead ahead of his 2021 free agency. This is an indication they see Armstead, who exploded with 10 sacks, as the key complement to Bosa with Ford being more the situational pass rusher behind both.
Raiders agree to terms with ILB Nick Kwiatkoski for 3 years, $21 million
Las Vegas’ first free-agency move is a low-risk, high-reward bet. Kwiatkoski is the rangy, acitve playmaking linebacker the Raiders were sorely missing at a position of highest need. They had assets in the pass rush and secondary but now get a cleanup man who had three sacks, an interception and 76 total tackles in only eight fill-in starts for the Bears last season.
Browns sign QB Case Keenum for 3 years, $18 million
Keenum got a little overpaid with $10 million guaranteed, but he gives the team a high-end backup behind Mayfield who is very familiar with Stefanski’s coaching from Minnesota and can easily adapt to the run-oriented, play-action system.
Chargers franchise-tag TE Hunter Henry at $10.6 million
Henry is one of the league’s most impactful young receiving tight ends and with limited wideout depth, he’s a key third target in the offense for whoever replaces Philip Rivers at quarterback, right there with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The price was too nice not to bring him back easily, even with his durability concern.
Falcons trade for Ravens TE Hayden Hurst
The Falcons lost Hooper, so giving up a second-rounder and fifth-rounder for Hurst is a nice recovery. The Ravens gave up only a fourth-rounder to move Hurst, who was superfluous on their roster because of Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle providing plenty of tight end help for Lamar Jackson.
Steelers franchise-tag OLB Bud Dupree at $15.8 million
Dupree did have a career-high 11.5 sacks last season and might have been hard to replace, but the Steelers are a bit cap-stapped and could have let him walk and found a fair replacement in the draft. They chose to not to mess around with their pass-rush mojo, however.
Bengals franchise-tag WR A.J. Green at $18 million
Green missed all of last season with an ankle injury and he is going into hia age 32 season. Although he presumably will remain a key veteran target for Joe Burrow, $18 million is a lot to invest in one aging, recovering player, despite his pedigree and high level of past success.
Patriots franchise-tag Joe Thuney at $15 million
This was surprising for sure as everyone expected New England to let Thuney walk with limited cap space, especially if it could possibly bring back Tom Brady. But Thuney is an absolute force and an asset who keeps the strength of the Patriots’ power running game intact.
Cardinals transition-tag RB Kenyan Drake at $8.5 million
Arizona made the questionable midseason trade for Drake, only to see him take control of the backfield and take off as an explosive, productive runner in Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme after being underused in Miami. it’s a bonus the Cardinals were also able to move David Johnson.
Buccaneers franchise-tag OLB Shaquil Barrett at $15.8 million
The Bucs stole Barrett in last year’s free agency when he moved on from the Broncos. He led the league with 19.5 sacks, excelling in the 3-4 scheme of Todd Bowles. He was worthy to go from bargain to splurge as he turns only 28 in November.
Ravens franchise-tag OLB Mathew Judon at $15.8 million
Judon was Baltimore’s clear best pass rusher in 2019 with a career-high 9.5 sacks while playing and starting a full 16 games for the first time. In relation to Barrett, however, the Ravens don’t quite get the same bang for the buck with the tag.
Broncos franchise-tag S Justin Simmons at $11.4 million
Simmons was a playmaking beast in 2019 and as it always is with safeties, they come with a relative bargain price tag when tied to the franchise tag. He’s the glue to their secondary with his coverage and prolific tackling.
Patriots re-sign S Devin McCourty for 2 years, $23 million
The Patirots were facing a big dropoff from the versatile cover man had they not re-signed him after another strong season. He’s still playing at a high level going into his age 33 season and is leadership is important, a reason the team also had no problems retaining long-time special teams ace Matthew Slater.
Jaguars franchise-tag DE Yannick Ngakuoe at $19.3 million
Ngakuoe doesn’t really want to remain in Jacksonville and it has to hurt more that they parted ways with Campbell to separate the bookends of Todd Wash’s 4-3. Jacksonville should think about trading him, because he may not sign the tender and be out the door in 2021, anyway.
Vikings franchise-tag S Anthony Harris at $11 million
Minnesota got aggressive with other defensive cuts (Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes) and a big Cousins restructure to ensure it had enough room to keep Harris roaming around and making big plays next to Harrison Smith in the secondary. Again, like Simmons, the price tag was too favorable not to bring him back at a key position for Mike Zimmer’s defensie.
Texans re-sign CB Bradley Roby for 3 years, $36 million
Houston had all kinds of cornerback problems in 2019 and had to shake things up, but Roby was a stabilizing force after coming over from the Broncos. It’s a little steep for his services, but the Texans didn’t want to mess around and further weaken the position before the draft.
Redskins franchise-tag G Brandon Scherff at $14.8 million
There’s nothing wrong with valuing Scherff’s strengths as a run blocker because few interior linemen have been so consistently good all-around. But for rebuilding Washington, saving and investing elsewhere might have made a little more sense.
Giants franchise-tag DE Leonard Williams at $17.4 million
The Giants had to do this after trading multiple picks to get him from the Jets last midseason. Williams is a solid player for their 3-4 scheme, but he was well short of spectacular during his short stint. They’re paying him thinking he’ll do more with additional help in a better group for new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
Broncos trade for Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye for fourth-round pick
They didn’t give up too much, which good. But Bouye really diminished with his coverage skills to be more an average corner in relation to his salary. Should Chris Harris Jr. not be re-signed, ths feels like a downgrade.
Buccaneers re-sign EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul for 2 years, $27 million
JPP is 31 so Tampa Bay might have overpaid for a rebound 8.5-sack season in his first season of Todd Bowles’ 3-4 to complement Barrett. But it’s hard to argue with the ever-improving results Bowles got from the pass defense.
Packers sign RT Rick Wagner
The Packers had to go here knowing they won’t be keeping Bryan Bulaga. Wagner is coming off a bad season with the rival Lions and is a definite overall downgrade.
Packers sign ILB Christian Kirksey for 2 years, $16 million
The Packers again go for a downgrade knowing they will need to replace Blake Martinez in free agency. Coming off a bad season with the Browns, he’s a far-cry consolation prize after the team seem more locked into the Rams’ Cory Litttleton.
Dolphins sign LG Ereck Flowers tor 3 years, $30 million
Flowers was.bust for the Giants at offensive tackle and although he was much improved playing the interior for the Redskins, he wasn’t worthy of this lucrative of a deal for a team trying to overhaul its run blocking.
Dolphins sign DE Shaq Lawson for 3 years, $30 million
Lawson had a career-best 6.5 sacks last season as a rotatonal pass rusher. The Dolphins showed some desperation here with a defensive line that doesn’t have all that much beyond second-player Christian Wilkins.