Free agency can either feel like a victory or a kick in the you-know-where. How a certain team plays the first signing period of the new year can really set the tone for said team (and for the fans) moving forward.
Naturally, there are both good and bad decisions to be made during this time. At least on paper. We won’t really know how things play out until September.
Or do we?
Regardless, everyone wants to know how their team “did”, so let’s take a look at some of the best decisions to come out of the last two days.
1) Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox are now teammates
For those of you who don’t know who Hargreave is, get ready. You’re gonna learn quick.
He’s one of the best nose tackles in the league and is the ultimate piece to Cox’s pass-rush ability. According to Pro Football Focus, Hargrave was actually graded as the eighth-best interior defensive lineman, just one spot behind Cox, who was seventh.
When you add Malik Jackson into the mix, it’s easy to see why opposing offensive lines are going to have night sweats when they go up against the Eagles.
This may be the best signing of the past two days.
2) The Cowboys use the exclusive franchise tag on Dak Prescott
There are going to be plenty of people who disagree with this, but I’m a big fan of Prescott. In fact, he’s the third-highest rated quarterback of all-time in terms of ANY/A among quarterbacks with 60+ starts over the first five years of their career.
He had the best year of his career in 2019, but the Cowboys decided to hit him with the franchise tag instead of signing him to a long-term deal for whatever reason.
But the key here is that the Cowboys used the “exclusive” franchise tag, which means that Prescott is not allowed to negotiate with other teams. It’s a smart move because I’m sure at least one quarterback-needy team would’ve paid Prescott what he wanted.
Now, the Cowboys can work on shaping their roster for one more year before giving him a long-term deal.
3) The Bills trade for Stefon Diggs
I know it cost Buffalo a lot to trade for Diggs (a 2020 first-rounder, 2020 fifth-rounder, 2020 sixth-rounder, and 2021 fourth-rounder), but this guy is perfect for this offense. He will become the first option in the passing game and has great complementary pieces in Cole Beasley and John Brown.
This move also puts Buffalo in the lead for the division title when combined with Tom Brady’s exit.
Josh Allen should be a very, very happy man right now.
4) Jason Pierre-Paul returns to Tampa Bay
Even though Shaquil Barrett led the league in sacks, the Bucs’ pass rush struggled as a whole before Pierre-Paul came back into the fold.
He didn’t return from his neck injury until Week 8. The Bucs had already played seven games, but had registered just 13 sacks. To make matters worse, Barrett was responsible for nine of the 13 takedowns.
But once JPP was in the mix, the pass rush took off. Tampa Bay recorded 34 sacks over the final nine games of the year and only 10.5 of those sacks belonged to Barrett.
That means Barrett went from producing (69%) of Tampa Bay’s sacks to producing (31%) of the team’s sacks. JPP’s presence not only improved the pass rush, but allowed others to make plays around them.
Tampa Bay’s front seven should be fierce in 2020.
5) Philip Rivers reunites with Frank Reich
I feel bad for Jacoby Brissett, but this is a great fit for Rivers and the Colts. He’s reunited with Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni, who coached him back in his earlier days with the Chargers.
Rivers has a great offensive line and running game to rely on. The Colts’ defense is also a promising unit. With the wide receiver position as deep as it is in the draft, this is easily a win-win for both sides.
6) The Bucs get Brady
Wow. I mean, just wow.
I had a hunch this would happen, but the fact that it has become reality is still sinking in. Just one year after obtaining Bruce Arians as head coach, the Bucs are now of the esteemed privilege to show off the greatest quarterback of all-time in Raymond James Stadium.
The #Bucs’ contract with new QB Tom Brady, one that pays him up to $30M on a per-year basis, is agreed to and finalized, sources say. Not that there was any doubt, but there were no issues. All that’s left is for @TomBrady to announce it.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2020
Arians gets to add coaching the GOAT to his already impressive resume. The Bucs now get a ton of eyes fixated on the team and they also get a lot more stability at the quarterback position. If you follow my work you know I thought Jameis Winston was the best option for 2020 when you factor in all context, but there is little issue with choosing Brady over Winston.
The obvious worry here is Brady’s age and what looked to be a drop-off in production. He’s going to be 43 this year, which is not a ripe NFL age by any means and there are legitimate questions about his arm strength.
But outside of those factors, the Bucs are getting the same guy who has helped dominate the NFL landscape over the last two decades. Something tells me Brady will be just fine this year and the Bucs are likely looking at their first postseason experience since the 2007 season.