Every NFL Team's Smartest 2021 Offseason Decision so Far

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2021

Every NFL Team's Smartest 2021 Offseason Decision so Far

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    It's still relatively early in the 2021 NFL offseason, but many major moves have already happened. Less than a week into free agency, only 11 teams are sitting with $10 million or more in salary-cap space. Before the frenzy began, we had trades, departures, front-office moves and coaching hires. 

    While not every transaction will be a win, each franchise has made at least one decision that, for now, looks smart. 

    We'll run down the list of 32 teams and determine which move has been their most brilliant. Whether that's a tremendous hire, a keen budget signing, a timely extension or a valuable trade, every move will be fair game.

    Future transactions, draft decisions and on-field performances could change the perspective. For now, though, here's a look at each franchise's smartest decision of the 2021 offseason.

Arizona Cardinals: Trading for Rodney Hudson

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    Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals have made a few notable moves this offseason—you're probably well aware that they added J.J. Watt—but their trade for center Rodney Hudson is their smartest decision.

    While the Cardinals appear to be gearing up for a serious playoff push, protecting and developing quarterback Kyler Murray must remain their top priority. Acquiring Hudson from the Las Vegas Raiders should go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

    Hudson is a three-time Pro Bowler who started all 16 games last season. He's missed just one game since 2016 and has played 100 percent of the offensive snaps in four of the last five campaigns.

    In Hudson, the Cardinals have added an experienced, reliable and top-tier anchor for the interior of their offensive line.

Atlanta Falcons: Hiring HC Arthur Smith

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons, who are slightly over the cap, haven't been particularly active in free agency. They made a major move earlier in the offseason, though, hiring former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as their head coach.

    While the 2020 Falcons were loaded with receiving talent, they struggled to maintain offensive balance. They ranked fourth in passing attempts and fifth in passing yards but just 20th in rushing attempts and 27th in rushing yards.

    Smith should help bring balance to the offense. In Tennessee last season, his unit ranked second in both rushing attempts and rushing yards—though just 23rd in passing yards. That was with Derrick Henry in the backfield, of course, but Smith has a plan in place for Atlanta.

    "The reality is that we'll get multiple backs in here, and we'll have the way we trust our schemes and the way we teach the details of it, and we'll commit to it," Smith said, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Atlanta will have to work on its 29th-ranked defense, of course, but if Smith can significantly improve the running game, the Falcons offense may be borderline unstoppable.

Baltimore Ravens: Signing OG Kevin Zeitler

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    Larry Maurer/Associated Press

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Kevin Zeitler's new contract with the Baltimore Ravens is for three years at $22 million with $16 million guaranteed. That's a reasonable price for the 31-year-old guard, who should finally adequately replace the retired Marshal Yanda.

    Considering guard Joe Thuney landed a five-year, $80 million deal with Kansas City in free agency, Zeitler's contract is a downright bargain.

    He has never been named to a Pro Bowl, but he's a starting-caliber guard who has missed only one game in the past six seasons. In 2020, he was responsible for just four penalties and two sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

    He should pay immediate dividends.

Buffalo Bills: Re-Signing Matt Milano

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    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills have been active in free agency. They signed wideout Emmanuel Sanders to a one-year, $6 million deal, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, and then announced the signing of new backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on Thursday.

    However, Buffalo's decision to re-sign linebacker Matt Milano to a four-year, $41.5 million deal has been its wisest move. While the 26-year-old has never been a Pro Bowler, he's one of the league's better young coverage linebackers.

    In 2020, Milano allowed an opposing passer rating of just 70.9.

    His return could prove invaluable, as the rival New England Patriots added tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in free agency. Milano's ability to impact second-level coverage will be a huge asset when these two AFC East teams face off.

Carolina Panthers: Tagging OT Taylor Moton

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The Carolina Panthers may have a new starting quarterback in 2021. While Teddy Bridgewater is under contract for two more seasons, the Panthers own the eighth pick and could make a play for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

    According to Joe Person of The Athletic, the Panthers were "locked" on Watson earlier in the week. However, that was before 12 cases "alleging inappropriate conduct and sexual assault" were brought against Watson, per ESPN's Sarah Barshop.

    Still, pass protection will be vital if Carolina does land a new long-term signal-caller. Therefore, the decision to franchise-tag offensive tackle Taylor Moton was brilliant—and a smart move even if Bridgewater remains the starter.

    Moton, 26, is one of the NFL's top young tackles. He was responsible for just two penalties and three sacks in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus.

    With cash being thrown at offensive linemen in free agency, Carolina may have had a difficult time keeping Moton had he reached the open market.

Chicago Bears: Tagging WR Allen Robinson II

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears' decision to franchise-tag wideout Allen Robinson II was initially curious, given their salary situation—they're still well over the cap. However, the move did prevent him from hitting the open market, and Chicago has a good chance of inking him to a long-term deal.

    The market hasn't been especially hot for receivers, which prompted Robinson to sign his franchise tender.

    "Robinson took note of the fact WRs are not breaking the bank in free agency. He does not believe agreeing to tag affects his leverage for a multiyear deal," Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune tweeted.

    With Robinson agreeing to the tag, the decision to use it looks shrewd. Robinson is a rare true No. 1 receiver, and if he's looking to sign a long-term deal in the next year, it'll have to be with Chicago.

Cincinnati Bengals: Signing OT Riley Reiff

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    Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Bengals had two significant deficiencies in 2020: They struggled to protect quarterback Joe Burrow and couldn't consistently stop the run.

    The Bengals lured defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi from the rival Cleveland Browns with a one-year, $6.2 million contract to help improve the run defense. More importantly, though, they agreed to a deal with offensive tackle Riley Reiff, according to Jay Morrison of The Athletic.

    Reiff has started at least 15 games in three of the past four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and has been a solid pass protector. He was responsible for only one penalty and one sack in 2020, according to Pro Football Focus.

    This is a smart addition, especially considering how poor the Bengals' pass protection was in 2020. Burrow was sacked 32 times in just 10 games before being lost for the season with a severe knee injury.

Cleveland Browns: Signing Safety John Johnson III

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Last season, the Cleveland Browns offense was good enough to not only make a playoff push but also to produce the franchise's first postseason win since it returned to the league in 1999. However, Cleveland's 22nd-ranked pass defense was a liability.

    Cleveland addressed its pass defense in a big way by signing safety John Johnson III to a three-year, $33.75 million deal.

    Johnson was largely overshadowed by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey in the Los Angeles Rams defense, but he was an outstanding contributor. Last season, the versatile safety amassed 105 tackles, eight passes defended and an interception. He also allowed an opposing passer rating of just 71.9.

    It was also smart to go with a young playmaking safety rather than an older veteran such as the 29-year-old Anthony Harris. Johnson is only 25 and can be a long-term member of the resurgent Browns.

Dallas Cowboys: Signing Dak Prescott Long Term

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys locked up quarterback Dak Prescott with a four-year, $160 million deal.

    Prescott is one of the top young signal-callers in the NFL. He's a two-time Pro Bowler who was leading the league in passing yards before an ankle injury ended his 2020 season. He's also just 27 years old and can be Dallas' starter for the next decade-plus.

    Getting a deal done allows the Cowboys to avoid keeping Prescott on the franchise tag for the second straight season. The contract is also structured in a way that benefits the franchise.

    Prescott's 2021 cap hit of just $22.2 million is tremendous in a year with a reduced cap. He'll also carry a cap hit of just $33.2 million in 2022. While Prescott's hits will jump to over $40 million in 2023 and 2024, that may seem like a relative bargain by then.

    Quarterback contracts are not going down anytime soon, and the league's new TV deal is likely to lead to a salary-cap jump in the near future.

Denver Broncos: Tagging S Justin Simmons

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Safety Justin Simmons has been one of the Denver Broncos' top defenders for the past couple of years. He was a Pro Bowler in 2020 and has logged 24 passes defended and nine interceptions over the last two seasons.

    Rather than taking their chances with Simmons on the open market, Denver shrewdly gave him the franchise tag for a second year in a row.

    While the second use of the tag gave Simmons a 20 percent raise, he's still not drastically overpriced. Simmons will earn $13.7 million this season. That's a significant sum, but that's only $2.5 million more than John Johnson III is set to earn annually on his free-agent deal.

    The Broncos are paying a bit more to keep Simmons in the fold, but it's not a gross overpay, and they'll have until July 15 to work on a long-term deal.

Detroit Lions: Trading QB Matthew Stafford

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    In a vacuum, the Detroit Lions' decision to trade quarterback Matthew Stafford doesn't look good. He's one of the league's few true franchise signal-callers. However, the Lions are set to undergo a serious rebuild, and the 33-year-old quarterback didn't quite fit into the plan.

    And the return was massive. Stafford went to the Rams for quarterback Jared Goff, a 2021 third-round pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.

    Obviously, those picks will aid Detroit's rebuild, but Goff shouldn't be overlooked. He's a two-time Pro Bowler with Super Bowl experience and is just 26 years old. While he's not guaranteed to be the long-term answer at quarterback, he could be.

    And if Goff cannot establish himself as the Lions' new franchise signal-caller, they can release him after two seasons with no dead money remaining on his contract. Either way, Detroit got a nice picks package.

Green Bay Packers: Restructuring Za'Darius Smith's Contract

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers haven't been big players in free agency. They did re-sign running back Aaron Jones to a four-year, $48 million deal, and while bringing back Jones was smart, the price tag wasn't.

    However, the Packers saved valuable cap space with another, financially smarter decision. According to ESPN's Field Yates, they have restructured pass-rusher Za'Darius Smith's contract and will save $7.38 million in cap room this offseason.

    This is a wise decision for a couple of reasons. For one, it means Green Bay gets to keep Smith—who had 12.5 sacks and 39 quarterback pressures in 2020—for at least another season at a fair value. Secondly, it helps Green Bay navigate the deflated 2021 cap.

    The Packers are still $3.5 million over, but they're one step closer to getting under the bar and having the financial space to sign incoming draft picks.

Houston Texans: Parting Ways with J.J. Watt

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    It's always hard to say goodbye, and the Texans' decision to part with longtime face of the franchise J.J. Watt couldn't have been easy. However, it was the right decision given the direction the team is headed and its cap situation.

    Houston was hamstrung by salary—it's still well over the cap—and doesn't have first- or second-round picks in this draft. It's hard to see the Texans significantly improving on last year's four-win campaign, which means that a full-on rebuild is probably pending.

    There's also the matter of Deshaun Watson's trade request, which only further invites the possibility of a full rebuild.

    While the 31-year-old Watt may still have something left, he wasn't likely to be a long-term building block. When Watt asked for his release, the Texans obliged. Doing so allowed Watt to walk away happy and saved Houston $17.5 million in cap room.

    The savings are nice, but allowing Watt to leave also spared the Texans the problem of having two disgruntled superstars.

Indianapolis Colts: Trading for QB Carson Wentz

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    Carson Wentz was not a good quarterback in 2020. He tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions despite playing in only 12 games. He was benched in favor of Jalen Hurts.

    While the prospect of trying to rehabilitate Wentz's career is risky, the Indianapolis Colts' trade for him was shrewd.

    Wentz reunites with head coach Frank Reich, who served as the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator and helped them win a Super Bowl. If anyone is going to fix Wentz, it's Reich. Plus, it's not like free agency was chock-full of high-end quarterbacks.

    The challenge of correcting Wentz's problems isn't more daunting than, say, fixing Jameis Winston's turnover issues or rolling with Mitchell Trubisky or Andy Dalton. Wentz is at least a high-upside player who was once playing at a near-MVP level.

    And in terms of compensation, it's not an overly dicey move for the Colts. They surrendered a 2021 third-round pick and a conditional 2022 second-rounder.

    According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, that second-round pick only becomes a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 percent of the offensive snaps or 70 percent of the snaps while leading Indianapolis to the playoffs. So, if Wentz stinks it up early in the season, the Colts can pull the plug and keep their first-rounder.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Hiring HC Urban Meyer

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Early in the offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars hired Urban Meyer. Deciding on their top target and landing him was a tremendous move.

    Meyer had tons of college success, but not every collegiate legend makes a successful transition to the NFL—just ask Nick Saban. But Meyer is a strong recruiter and is helping to build a buzz in Jacksonville.

    Justin Barney of News 4 Jacksonville wrote:

    "Three of the Jaguars' more prominent free-agent signings spoke Thursday afternoon and offered up similar tones on what they saw in joining the worst team in the NFL. ... Cornerback Shaquill Griffin said the Jaguars were the 'clear choice' to him. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins said that he believes in coach Meyer’s coaching acumen."

    One-win teams rarely become desired destinations in free agency. However, the hiring of Meyer and the potential of adding Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence have helped make Jacksonville an exception.

Kansas City Chiefs: Signing OG Kyle Long

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs are revamping their offensive line. They paid handsomely to bring in Thuney on a five-year, $80 million deal. They got three-time Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long for much less.

    His deal is for one year and just $1.5 million. While he spent the last year in retirement, Long believes the time away will make him a better player in 2021.

    "It's the renaissance year for me, the rebirth," Long said, per Nate Taylor of The Athletic.

    Offensive tackle Trent Williams proved last season that a lineman can take a year off and return at a Pro Bowl level. The Chiefs are wagering that Long can do the same. They're not betting much money, though, making this one of the smartest gambles of the offseason for any team.

Las Vegas Raiders: Signing Edge Yannick Ngakoue

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Getting to the opposing quarterback has been an issue for the Las Vegas Raiders for some time. They produced just 13 sacks in 2018, 32 sacks in 2019 and 21 sacks this past season. Meanwhile, 2019 No. 4 pick Clelin Ferrell has failed to develop into a dominant sack-artist.

    Naturally, finding a proven pass-rusher was a free-agency priority—and the Raiders made a smart decision in their pursuit.

    While several quality pressure players hit the market this offseason, Las Vegas opted for the 25-year-old Yannick Ngakoue. He's produced at least eight sacks in each of his five pro seasons and was a Pro Bowler in 2017.

    Ngakoue's age means he can be a centerpiece for the Raiders. Las Vegas landed him on a reasonable two-year, $26 million contract.

Los Angeles Chargers: Signing C Corey Linsley

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Chargers have found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. The Oregon product outshined fellow rookie Joe Burrow in 2020 en route to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He also watched Burrow take a beating behind the Bengals offensive line before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

    If the Chargers want to ensure Herbert avoids a similar fate, they need to build a strong offensive line in front of him. This is why the decision to sign All-Pro center Corey Linsley was brilliant.

    Linsley didn't come cheaply at five years and $62.5 million. However, the Chargers desperately needed a new center following the February retirement of Mike Pouncey, and Linsley is about the best replacement they could have gotten.

    While Linsley did miss three games in 2020, those are the only three he's missed in the last four seasons. He was named a first-team All-Pro in 2020 and allowed just a single sack, according to Pro Football Focus.

Los Angeles Rams: Trading Jared Goff

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    The Rams paid heavily to move quarterback Jared Goff and his $134 million contract, but it was still a smart decision.

    They seemed to feel like they had gone as far as they could with Goff under center. His contract was prohibitive over the long-term—they're still responsible for $24.7 million in dead money on it—and they believe they have found an upgrade in Matthew Stafford.

    "He has consistently shown he is an elite thrower of the football and is a leader on and off of the field. We're excited for what he brings to our team," head coach Sean McVay said, per Cameron DaSilva of Rams Wire.

    By moving Goff, Los Angeles gets a fresh start at quarterback and a signal-caller it believes in. The Lions get a bevy of draft picks and a quarterback to develop in Goff. This is the rare trade that looks like a wise decision for both teams.

Miami Dolphins: Signing WR Will Fuller V

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    It's unclear whether the Miami Dolphins are sold on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa or if they'll consider another signal-caller with the third pick. Either way, their decision to add burner Will Fuller V in free agency was wise.

    Fuller, who had 879 yards in just 11 games last season, is one of the league's most dangerous deep threats. Along with DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and tight end Mike Gesicki, he should help form one of the AFC's most explosive receiving corps.

    That the Dolphins signed Fuller to a modest one-year, $10.6 million deal was also smart. Fuller does have a significant injury history and ended his 2020 season on suspension for a performance-enhancing drug violation, which will extend to Week 1 this year. 

    Miami is essentially giving Fuller a season to prove his long-term value, and it didn't overpay to give him that opportunity. It's a low-risk, high-reward move.

Minnesota Vikings: Signing CB Patrick Peterson

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings never quite rebounded from last offseason's exodus of cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes. A year after getting to the divisional round, the Vikings finished 7-9 due in no small part to their 25th-ranked pass defense.

    Addressing the secondary with potential future Hall of Famer Patrick Peterson was brilliant. He may not be the same elite lockdown corner he was early in his career, but he's still starting-caliber and remarkably durable.

    Peterson missed six games in 2019 because of suspension for a violation of the league's PED policy. Those are the only games the 30-year-old has missed in his 10-year career.

    Minnesota also nabbed Peterson at a reasonable price: one year at $8 million. Ideally, recent first-round cornerbacks like Jeff Gladney and Mike Hughes will become high-end starters. Peterson should provide an outstanding example of how to approach the position, which only makes the decision to sign him smarter.

New England Patriots: Signing LB Kyle Van Noy

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    I've been critical of New England's offseason spending spree, but the team's decision to re-sign linebacker Kyle Van Noy following his one-year sabbatical in Miami was smart.

    Before leaving for the Dolphins, Van Noy was a key cog in the Patriots defense. The versatile linebacker racked up 56 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, seven tackles for loss and 24 quarterback pressures in his last season with the Patriots.

    Those numbers are comparable to what Matt Judon produced last season in Baltimore—he had 32 quarterback pressures, six sacks, 50 tackles and nine tackles for loss—but Van Noy was a far cheaper addition.

    Judon is set to earn $13.6 million per year over the next four seasons, while Van Noy will cost $12 million over two years.

    Judon is a good player, but the Patriots overpaid. With Van Noy, they got a bargain.

New Orleans Saints: Re-Signing Jameis Winston

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Quarterback Drew Brees retired this offseason, leaving the New Orleans Saints with the unenviable task of finding his replacement. They had Taysom Hill under contract but made the bright decision to bring back Jameis Winston as well.

    Not only are the Saints getting a bargain with Winston—his deal is for one year and $5.5 million—but they're also getting a signal-caller they believe can reach greatness.

    "Some Saints folks believe Winston has a higher ceiling than [Matthew] Stafford," The Athletic's Jeff Duncan wrote. "They clearly liked what they saw from him this past year and are intrigued enough by his potential to prioritize him in free agency."

    A competition between Winston and Hill will determine New Orleans' 2021 starter, so there's no guarantee Winston will be the guy. However, the Saints were intelligent to bring back a quarterback with whom they are comfortable rather than trying their luck with an unknown commodity.

New York Giants: Signing Leonard Williams to Long-Term Deal

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Though it was a costly decision, the New York Giants were smart to franchise-tag Leonard Williams for the second straight year. The defensive tackle was a difference-maker in 2020, amassing 11.5 sacks and 42 quarterback pressures.

    Tagging Williams kept him off the open market, a boon for the cap-strapped Giants. Subsequently signing him to a long-term deal was an even wiser decision.

    Williams' new three-year, $63 million contract will only carry a cap hit of $11 million in 2021. That's a huge savings after Williams was due a 20 percent raise over his 2020 tag value of $16.1 million.

    New York is still $13.9 million over the salary cap, but it would be in even worse shape without extending Williams. At the same time, losing him entirely would have been detrimental to a defense that was the team's strength a year ago.

New York Jets: Hiring HC Robert Saleh

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    The Adam Gase experiment didn't work for the New York Jets. The supposed quarterback guru failed to develop Sam Darnold into an above-average starter, and the 2020 Jets finished last in points scored.

    This offseason, the team reversed course and hired the mastermind behind the San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl defense of 2019, Robert Saleh. That decision quickly attracted the attention of premier free agents, such as pass-rusher Carl Lawson.

    Lawson said the following, per Brian Costello of the New York Post:

    "I looked up some stuff on YouTube about Coach Saleh. I've heard about him throughout the league and I saw he took the job here. I looked at some of his interviews and I just came away with how impressive he was, the message he was preaching. Even in a video, I felt like he was talking to me. That was in the back of my mind. It kind of started there."

    If the Jets hope to change their fortunes, they have to start with shifting the culture. Hiring Saleh was a strong step toward that.

Philadelphia Eagles: Trading Carson Wentz

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    While the Colts' gamble on Carson Wentz was smart for them, the Eagles' decision to part with the maligned quarterback was also a bright one. With Hurts on the roster and the relationship between Wentz and the team strained, it was time to pull the plug.

    According to former Eagles receiver and coach Jason Avant, the relationship began to deteriorate in 2018 when Philadelphia went with Nick Foles over Wentz late in the year.

    "Carson wanted to play," Avant told NBC 10 Philadelphia. "The organization chose against Carson's wishes to play Nick Foles. Nick Foles revives the season."

    Wentz was serviceable in 2019 and downright bad in 2020 before giving way to Hurts. The incumbent was not happy.

    "I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It wasn't fun," Wentz told reporters.

    Firing head coach Doug Pederson was part of the reset, but Philadelphia couldn't properly move on with Wentz in town.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Restructuring Ben Roethlisberger's Contract

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to reset at quarterback soon. One could argue that they should have moved on from the 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger this offseason, but they could not keep him at his original price point.

    Wisely, the Steelers restructured his contract.

    Roethlisberger was set to carry a cap hit of $41.2 million. Under the restructuring, he will carry a hit of just $25.9 million. The deal includes four years that will void after the 2021 season, meaning there's a good chance that this will be Big Ben's final year with the franchise.

    It would behoove the Steelers to strongly consider finding his successor now. They did take a flier on Dwayne Haskins Jr., but this year's draft class should also be evaluated.

    Roethlisberger's new deal ensures Pittsburgh will at least have a proven starter while finding/developing its quarterback of the future. It also helps the Steelers manage the reduced salary cap—though they still have less than $2 million in space.

San Francisco 49ers: Re-Signing OT Trent Williams

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    The 49ers had several notable free agents hit the market this offseason—Richard Sherman and Tevin Coleman are still out there—but no one was more important than left tackle Trent Williams.

    San Francisco traded for Williams last offseason to replace the retired Joe Staley. Williams, who sat out the 2019 season after a medical dispute with Washington, responded with a Pro Bowl campaign. With the 49ers' playoff window wide open, it was critical to bring him back.

    The 49ers paid heavily to re-sign the 32-year-old, giving him a six-year, $138 million contract. However, they were smart about constructing the deal. Williams will carry a cap hit of just $8.2 million this season.

    If the tackle is declining by 2023, San Francisco can release him for just $12 million in dead money.

Seattle Seahawks: Not Trading Russell Wilson (Yet)

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks may not be able to salvage their relationship with quarterback Russell Wilson. The 32-year-old has publicly voiced his displeasure with his team's pass protection, and Seattle hasn't been happy about it.

    "A source told me that the Seahawks management is not happy with Russell Wilson and his camp for taking this to the media. ... The current situation is unsustainable," Dan Patrick said on his show (h/t Rob Staton of BBC Sports).

    But it appears Seattle won't pull the plug on Wilson yet. The Bears made a push to acquire the future Hall of Famer but were rebuffed.

    According to Schefter, Chicago was told the Seahawks won't move Wilson "at this time."

    This doesn't mean Seattle won't trade Wilson in the future. However, moving hastily to deal an elite quarterback in his prime would have been a massive mistake. The Seahawks were smart to give themselves an opportunity to repair the relationship—or at least time to see how things develop.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Extending Tom Brady's Contract

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done a great job of retaining key contributors from their Super Bowl run this offseason. They've re-signed Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Rob Gronkowski and franchise-tagged wideout Chris Godwin.

    While all of these have been smart moves, the Buccaneers' best was their decision to extend quarterback Tom Brady's contract.

    The one-year extension ensures the quarterback will have some certainty about his future. More importantly, though, it provided the Buccaneers with much-needed financial flexibility.

    The new deal carries a cap hit of just $9.1 million for 2021. This has helped Tampa find the money to make the aforementioned moves and still have some cap space with which to work.

Tennessee Titans: Re-Signing LB Jayon Brown

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans' splashiest move was their signing of pass-rusher Bud Dupree to a five-year, $82.5 million deal. Their smartest was the resigning of linebacker Jayon Brown.

    A dislocated and fractured elbow limited him to 10 games last year. He was spectacular in 2019, though, amassing 105 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and an opposing passer rating of just 77.7.

    Since being taken in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, Brown has been one of Tennessee's most versatile second-level defenders. His new deal will ensure that he sticks around for at least another season at a relative bargain.

    The 26-year-old will cost the Titans a modest $5.3 million for the 2021 season.

Washington Football Team: Signing Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team may target its quarterback of the future in the draft. However, it needed a proven starter to navigate the coming season. Washington's signing of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick helps take care of the second while still providing flexibility for the first.

    The team signed the journeyman quarterback to a one-year deal worth $10 million.

    Fitzpatrick has been a solid stopgap starter, most recently with the Dolphins. He had a quarterback rating of 95.6 last season while helping Miami reach 10 wins. Washington was not the only team interested in him. According to ESPN's John Keim, at least three franchises were after Fitzpatrick.

    "I was just talking to my dad about it the other day, it was interesting that in year 17, this was the most sought-after I have been in my whole career," Fitzpatrick said, per Keim.

    Washington is getting Fitzpatrick at a fair price while also not being tied to him long term. If the team finds its quarterback of the future—in the draft or perhaps in the inexperienced Taylor Heinicke—Fitzpatrick can help develop him for a year and then move on.


    Cap and contract information via Spotrac unless otherwise specified. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.


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