NFL Free Agency – Three early observations

The Patriots resigned quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year deal, one of New England's twenty free agency deals in the opening week.

Photo Courtesy of Elise Amendola/Associated Press

The Patriots resigned quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year deal, one of New England’s twenty free agency deals in the opening week.

Kevin Zhang, Sports Editor

While football fans will have to wait a few more months before their favorite players and teams return to the field, the arrival of NFL free agency will give fans something to look forward to as some of the league’s premier players take their talents to new destinations. Today, the Tide makes its three key observations in regards to the opening week of free agency. 


1. A Patriotic Revival:  

In their first season without Hall-of-Fame quarterback Tom Brady, who went on to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory, the New England Patriots found itself swimming in foreign waters. The team had arguably its least talented roster of the millennium and despite flashes of brilliance, new QB Cam Newton struggled to establish any consistency in route to a disappointing 7-9 finish. 

This offseason, however, legendary coach Bill Belichick entered the free agency period with an aggressive mindset, taking advantage of New England’s desirable salary cap situation and signing a bevy of valuable free agents. The signings of wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne gives Newton a pair of reliable wideouts, while tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith round out the revamped Patriots receiving core.

The team welcomed back center Ted Karras and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, providing the team valued veteran depth. With the return of linebacker Dont’a Hightower after opting out the 2020 season, the Patriots are set to return to the postseason after a one-year absence. 


2. Chief Cuts: 

Despite being just one win away from another Super Bowl championship, the Kansas City Chiefs found themselves in a salary cap deficit, forcing the team to cut key players in order to avoid penalties. After a Super Bowl that saw star QB Patrick Mahomes be pressured on half of his dropbacks, Kansas City released two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher and four-time All-Pro right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. 

Although the Chiefs still sport a talented offensive core and an impressive aerial attack, their Super Bowl performance provided a blueprint to stopping their offensive prowess. The loss of Schwartz and Fisher will only deplete Mahomes’ offensive protection, though it remains to see whether this will hinder Kansas City next season. 


3. The Wild West: 

The NFC West has been notorious since the later half of the 2010s for being arguably the toughest division to compete in. Despite the Tide’s prediction of the Rams’ downfall in 2020 after losing multiple key starters on offense and defense, the Rams ended up making the playoffs with the top-ranked defense in the league. This offseason, the team upgraded at QB, trading for longtime Lions QB Matthew Stafford. 

The Arizona Cardinals, on the other hand, made several big splashes after a disappointing finish to the 2020 season. The team landed big-time veterans A.J. Green and J.J. Watt, while reinforcing the offensive-line by trading for center Rodney Hudson. 

The Seahawks and the 49ers were able to retain their major free agents, with the Seahawks re-signing running back Chris Carson, and the 49ers locking up LT Trent Williams for the long-term. These signings will only add to the competitiveness of the division for the long-term, making the division any team’s to win for years to come.