The NFL free agency and trading period is here for 2021 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 the latest analysis of the most significant moves around the NFL right here.
NFL FREE AGENCY 2021:
Ranking the top 50 players overall, best by position, tracking signings
NFL free agency 2021: Grading the latest signings, trades
Patriots sign EDGE Matthew Judon for 4 years, $56 million
The Patriots are trying to rebuild their pass defense with a mix of versatile youngsters (now including former Eagles cornerback/safety Jalen Mills for 4 years, $24 million) but they needed a bona fide productive rusher. Here they pluck Judon from the Ravens with a hearty deal to be a multiple position fit for Bill Belichick.
Patriots sign TE Jonnu Smith for 4 years, $50 million
The Patriots finally splurge for capable experienced starter to help replace Rob Gronkowski with this strong former Titans blocker who also has high receiving upside. Smith is going into his only age 26 season and should use his athleticism to be a key pass-catcher all the way through the red zone for Cam Newton and/or a rookie QB. Smith’s also versatility fits well with Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick. The only concern is durability for such a high price.
Buccaneers re-sign EDGE Shaquil Barrett for 4 years, $72 million
The Buccaneers continue their mastery of the cap in making sure all the key pieces and top priorities in free agency stay from their Super Bowl 55 time. Barrett took a mild “hometown discount” to stay, too, and will continue to wreak havoc opposite Jason Pierre-Paul.
Jaguars sign DT Roy Robertson-Harris for 3 years, $24.4 million
This is the first big outside move by the coaching/GM combination of Urban Meyer and Trent Baalke. It’s not bad to add a solid defensive tackle to the rotation for Joe Cullen’s hybrid front, but it’s about your typical, average signing.
Lions re-sign DE Romeo Okwara for 3 years, $39 million
He was a bright spot in a disappointing season for the end of Matt Patricia’s defense with a breakout 10-sack season. The Lions may have overpaid a bit for limited sample size, but they are desperate to have a youn gfoundation up front for the Dan Campbell era.
49ers re-sign FB Kyle Juszczyk for 5 years, $27 million
His name is hard to spell and his role is hard to define, but with his blocking and pass-catching, he’s an invaluable versatile cog in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
49ers re-sign CB Jason Verrett for 1 year, $5.5 million
This is also is underrated move by John Lynch given all the free-agency issues elsewhere in the secondary. Verrett was very good at times in 2020, much like his prime younger Chargers self. He will start for a nice price.
Ravens sign G Kevin Zeitler for 3 years, $22 million
The Giants had to say goodbye to his services but the Ravens, hurting in the interior without Marshal Yanda, find their solid replacement right guard.
Packers re-sign RB Aaron Jones for 4 years, $48 million
The Packers avoided using the franchise tag on him and gave him a reasonable deal tied with his prime as a strong all-around back. He will form a nice punch with A.J. Dillon going forward to keep supporting Aaron Rodgers.
Colts trade for Eagles QB Carson Wentz
The Colts made a calculated move for a young QB with a lessened contract for them, hoping Wentz will get his grove back with Frank Reich and a better support system overall.
Rams trade for QB Matthew Stafford
The Rams gave up a lot hoping they got a big upgrade at the position, but Stafford isn’t exactly that and he’s a older QB with recent major durability issues and a notable history of not winning (or getting to) playoff games.
Lions trade for QB Jared Goff
Goff is a pretty decent bridge QB for a promising new offense with Anthony Lynn with some talented young skill players. Plus, the Lions also are in great shape with two extra first-rounders out of the deal and maybe didn’t downgrade all that much with a chance for Goff to rebound with a change of scene.
Cardinals sign DE J.J. Watt for 2 years, $28 million
The Cardinals got the Texans legend for pretty good market value coming off another strong all-around season. He’s a perfect fit for a 3-4 front that needed a player like him badly.
Cowboys re-sign Dak Prescott for 4 years, $160 million
Prescott got his needed big money now and a chance to break the bank in relation the market in not too much later. The Cowboys also won by getting big cap relief and locked up their young, elite long-term QB.
Buccaneers re-sign LB Lavonte David for 2 years, $25 million
The Buccaneers not only kept their top disruptive pass rusher, but they also made sure their defensive leader and second-level glue didn’t go anywhere.
Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers (tendered at 1 year, $15.9 million)
The Buccaneers weren’t about to let a key Tom Brady target — arguably his true new go-to guy — walk in their quest to repeat.
Allen Robinson, WR, Bears (tendered at 1 year, $18 million)
The Bears need to keep Robinson badly, but it doesn’t look like he’s thrilled to stay unless the QB situation improves. They’re also extended themselves cap-wise without a real QB solution.
Taylor Moton, RT, Panthers (tendered at 1 year, $13.75 million, re-signed)
This rebuilding team with a promising offense needed to keep a sturdy, young, all-around blocker for whoever the next starting QB is. This was a no-brainer at the price.
Justin Simmons, S, Broncos (tendered at 1 year, $13.7 million)
Safety still has a favorable value to tag Simmons again, much needed for Denver because of other major secondary issues.
Cam Robinson, LT, Jaguars (tendered at 1 year, $13.75 million)
Robinson isn’t considered an elite blindside pass protector, but the Jaguars had plenty under the cap and needed to keep the edges intact for Trevor Lawrence.
Leonard Williams, DE, Giants (tendered at 1 year, $19.35 million)
The Giants got a big interior pass-rushing season from Williams, the former Jet, and needed him for the foundation of an improving defense. The price may be a little high, however.
Brandon Scherff, G, Washington (tendered at 1 year, $18 million)
Washington needed to keep some offensive line pieces as it tries to upgrade tackle for its next starting QB.
Marcus Maye, S, Jets (tendered at 1 year, $10.6 million)
Maye is about an average player at this point but the Jets showed some desperation here, still feeling the void of Jamal Adams.
Marcus Williams, S, Saints (tendered at 1 year, $10.6 million)
Williams was a big part of the Saints’ secondary — which is now in transition at cornerback — so working the cap to keep a key playmaker was huge.