Ahhhhh…it’s that time of the year again. March 17th marks the start of the 2021-22 NFL season and free agency. Teams can officially sign unrestricted free agents, seek trades and see franchise tagged players hit the salary cap. This time of the year always creates different vibes for teams and players.
From a player standpoint, free agency can create the ultimate payday or the opportunity to leave a negative situation and be an impact player elsewhere. For teams, it could be the chance to acquire multiple players to help build or meet the goal of being in the playoffs after a drought. Free agency can lead teams to that one piece that leads them to lifting the Lombardi at the end of the season. With that being said, here are the top 5 intriguing NFL free agency signings thus far.
1. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith sign with the New England Patriots.
Bill Belichick finally realized he needed to get Cam Newton some help. So why not bring a quarterback’s best friend, a tight end. And not just one, but two very skilled tight ends.
Due to the lack of consistent tight ends in the league, it’s very rare to have two on the same team. With Hunter Henry, Cam can drive the ball down the field with a sure-handed receiver. Last season, Henry racked up 613 receiving yards, putting him in the top ten for that category. He’s shown that, when healthy, he can produce, especially when attacking the middle of the field. The question is now, can he be the go to option for Cam Newton like Greg Olsen was in Carolina.
With Jonnu Smith, it’s about blocking and being a threat in the red zone. Out of the two, there’s no doubt that Smith is the better blocker. Jonnu’s presence will give even more of a boost to a New England line that helped rush for 2,346 yards. The former Tennessee Titan also gives New England a much needed red zone threat. Last season, the Patriots ranked 24th in red zone scoring. Henry and Smith will give Cam Newton the opportunity to extend and finish offensive drives in 2021, it could be an exciting year in Foxborough.
2. Bud Dupree signs with the Tennessee Titans
This one is pretty straight forward. Bud Dupree was on track for another solid year with the Pittsburgh Steelers until it was cut short by an ACL injury. Until then, the former Kentucky Wildcat was going to crush his season high sack record of 11.5, already having eight in eleven games. Dupree’s strength is getting after the passer, which makes him a perfect fit in Tennessee. Last season the Titans ranked a staggering 29th in sacks per game at 1.4. With the potential loss of Jadaveon Clowney, Bud Dupree can slip right in as Tennessee’s main pass rusher.
However, there are a few questions surrounding this move though. Will Dupree be as productive coming off an ACL injury? Was Dupree only benefiting because TJ Watt was on the other side? Will the former Steeler be able to produce as the main guy in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme? Only time will tell.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick signs with the Washington Football Team
Ryan Fitzpartick will be playing for his ninth professional team this season, as he signed a 1 year / $10 million contract for the 2021 season. Now the question is, what do Washington want to do with him?
Could we see something similar to what Miami did last season? Bring in Fitzpatrick to start off the season then have Taylor Heinicke takeover depending on where they are? For me, that wouldn’t make sense. I feel that Washington thinks Heinicke is the guy going forward, but he needs guidance. So, who better than Ryan Fitzpatrick? He knows the ins and outs of the league and has 16 seasons under his belt. We also saw how he was able to help Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa progress. Why not have him do the same in Washington? Even if Heinicke gets benched or hurt, you still have the opportunity to win multiple games with Fitz in. With the way the NFC East is set up, just the slightest chance to win may crown you division champs.
4. Kenny Golladay signs with the New York Giants
After his fourth season, Kenny Golladay is headed to the Giants on a four year / $72 million deal. This deal comes after Golladay was held to only four games due to a hip injury last season. Before this season, Golladay was coming off of back-to-back thousand-yard seasons, so this injury was a major blow. In the end, he still got his bag and his talent is definitely there. In each of the games Golladay played last season, he had at least four catches and two of them were hundred-yard games.
With bringing on Golladay, the Giants get a true number one receiver and a legitimate red zone threat. Adding Golladay to an offense with Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard definitely gives quarterback Daniel Jones the options to prove that he’s the franchise quarterback going forward. In Jones’ make or break third year, the quicker he can build a rapport with Golladay the easier it will be for him offensively. As for Golladay, the mindset is to get back to that thousand-yard form in 2019 that got him Pro Bowl honors, and establish himself as one of the top receivers in the game.
5. A.J. Green signs with the Arizona Cardinals
Lastly, we have A.J. Green. He is going to the Cardinals on a one year / $8.5 million dollar deal. I really don’t think this deal is getting enough credit, it’s an absolute steal. This signing gives Arizona the best receiving core in the league. Green was tired of the Bengals and last year it definitely showed. Now, he has the opportunity to be around two Hall-of-Fame receivers (Larry Fitzgerald, and DeAndre Hopkins) and be a key piece in an already solid wide receiving core.
The biggest question is Green’s health. If he can stay on the field, he’ll be able to take a lot of pressure off DeAndre Hopkins and provide a solid number two receiver on the other side. Along with that, he gives the already dangerous Kyler Murray another weapon that should take him to the next level in the passing game. It will also allow Arizona to work a lot of underneath routes due to respecting Hopkins’ and Green’s big play capability. Don’t be surprised if the Cardinals make a push for the NFC West due to the addition of the former Georgia Bulldog, A.J. Green.
Each one of these free agents is looking to provide that spark for their team to take them to the next level. We’ll see how each singing progresses over the season to rate whether they were a boom or a bust.