NFL free agency 2021 winners and losers: Curtis Samuel cashes in, while Bengals and Giants are left in limbo
At 4 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, the 2021 NFL season truly began. At that moment, teams could begin officially signing free agents following two days of legal tampering. And while many players came to terms on contracts during the tampering period, more than half of the players on Pete Prisco’s top 100 free agents list were still available entering the first day of the new league year.
The Patriots were hands down the unofficial winner of the league’s two-day tampering period. And just when when it appeared that the Pats would go one day without making a splash, New England brought back linebacker Kyle Van Noy, the same player the team received a 2021 compensatory pick for after losing him last season.
Patriots aside, here’s a look at the (other) winners and losers from the first day of the new league year.
The Panthers addressed their pass rush with the acquisition of Haason Reddick, the top available pass rusher at the start of the day. In Reddick, the Panthers are getting a player who had 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles last season. To top it off, Carolina acquired Reddick for a reasonable $8 million salary. The Panthers also came to terms with Denzel Perryman, a veteran linebacker who spent his first six seasons with the Chargers.
Fitzgerald is a “loser” only as it relates to his odds at remaining with the Cardinals after Arizona signed former Bengals wideout A.J. Green to a one-year deal. If he continues to play in 2021, Fitzgerald will likely have to find a new team. One option could be the Steelers, who may decide to add a veteran to their receiving corps with the expected departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The eight-time Pro Bowler became the highest-paid offensive lineman in league history when he and the 49ers came to terms on a six-year, $138 million deal. The deal also includes $55.1 million guaranteed and a $30.1 million signing bonus. After a one-year hiatus, the 32-year-old Williams proved last season that he is still among the best left tackles in football.
In a perfect world, the Chiefs would have paired new guard Joe Thuney with either Williams or Rodney Hudson. But after not getting either player, the Chiefs signed former Bears lineman Kyle Long to a one-year deal. While Long was a good player for the Bears, he hasn’t played in a year and dealt with injuries during his last four years in Chicago. Long is a decent addition, but the Chiefs missed a chance to hit a home run on the offensive line.
Winners: Curtis Samuel/Washington Football Team
Washington needed a No. 2 receiver opposite Terry McLaurin, and Samuel was looking for a big payday. Both parties got what they wanted after the former Panther came to terms on a three-year, $34.5 million contract. And while some may criticize Washington for overspending for Samuel, that won’t be the case if Samuel helps the Football Team win a second consecutive NFC East title in 2021.
This is going to come down to which team is able to secure Kenny Golladay. The two teams are reportedly in pursuit of Golladay, who is arguably the best available receiver still on the market. Golladay would be the perfect complement for Giants receivers Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard. He would also be an ideal target for Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow. Golladay is a winner regardless of how this shakes out, and it appears he may be in the middle of a bidding war.