The free agency period is one of the most exciting times of the year for many NFL fans. It’s when franchises throw money at players in a bid to improve their teams. Many of them debate overpaying an established veteran over risking it all on a young college star in the draft. There is no right answer but it’s all very entertaining.
2021 saw one of the busiest free agencies in recent years. This provoked a lot of fan conversation and debate. With the New England Patriots throwing money around, some were worried while others mocked the franchise. So today we’ll take a look at some of the most high-profile moves and fan reactions. Check out the list below via CBS Sports.
30. Jets Sign Corey Davis
The New York Jets made a statement by signing Davis on a three-year contract worth up to $37.5 million. “I feel like this is a good pick up for my Jets,” one fan said on Twitter. “It’s not Juju but it’s a very good wide receiver drafted number five overall so I’m happy.” Anything that looked like improving their weapons for a potential new quarterback was a good move for the New York franchise.
But across the league, this move provoked a mixed reaction. “Paying a former number one pick who barely breaks the top 40 in most receiving categories $12-13 million per year feels like a very Jets move, even for the Jets,” another fan said. However, the one thing that should provide optimism for Gang Green is that the Ravens wanted him. Any statement is a good statement from this franchise.
Johnson joined the Cleveland Browns in 2021 as one of the highest-ranked safeties available in free agency. They paid him like it too when they handed him a three-year deal worth $33.75 million. After their playoff adventure in 2020, Cleveland wants to build upon that experience. “Great Value and a great move by the Browns. Gonna miss him in L.A.” Rams fan Anthony Castillo tweeted.
This seems to be the general consensus from the Los Angeles fanbase. Meanwhile, the Browns were excited to get a strong defensive talent. “You know my browns are great again when players leave LA to come to Cleveland.” one Cleveland fan said excitedly. The Browns haven’t had many good times over the past several decades, but finally, something is building in Ohio.
“I see the Patriots making moves today,” Bills fan Andrew Alfano said. “Solid signing in Matthew Judon. But Bills aren’t playing around. Bring it!” At the end of the day, the AFC East will likely come down to a battle between the Bills and the Patriots for supremacy. New England attempted to buy a competitive team in the 2021 free agency period to compete with the Bills’ packed roster.
Judon arrived on a four-year contract worth up to a staggering $56 million. If they become the elite force of old, then it will be money well-spent. The former Ravens star exited Baltimore after spending 2020 on the franchise tag. He had 34.5 sacks to his name after five years in the NFL. Once obscure, he now receives one of the best salaries for a defensive player in football.
Van Noy returned to New England as part of Bill Belichick’s mega-spending spree. The linebacker was a cog in their 2018 Super Bowl-winning team and it pleased fans to see him return to Foxborough. Meanwhile, the Patriots continued to swipe through free agency like a lonely man on Tinder. Belichick also loves to bring back his former players and Van Noy looks like a good move.
“The Patriots are honestly loaded,” one fan observed. “I think most of their players are overpaid but there’s no competition for free agents when you can pay top dollar for anyone you want.” Furthermore, one fan observed that Van Noy played the money game well. He tweeted: “That was a done deal the minute Miami released him. Kyle made a ton of money going down to South Beach for a year. Couldn’t have worked out any better for Kyle.”
The Tennessee Titans used their first-round pick on Wilson in 2020 but it proved to be a disaster for both parties. His selection was followed by an arrest for DUI. Meanwhile, he also suffered from illness during his time in Nashville and barely played. It was no surprise that they cut their losses and traded him to Miami. However, fans were skeptical about the wisdom of this move for the young man.
“I can see the headlines now,” one fan tweeted. “Isaiah Wilson arrested in South Beach…Thanks, Miami, and good luck!” The general consensus appears to be that Wilson is too volatile to live in Florida. Another said, “He’s a mess but I do wish him luck in Miami. However, if he couldn’t control himself in Nash Vegas, I don’t know about that Miami nightlife.”
A number of teams looked to the free agency market to find protection for their young quarterbacks. The L.A. Chargers were desperate to find a quality center to protect Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. In Linsley, they got exactly that. The long-serving Packers veteran makes the move to California on a five-year deal worth up to $62.5 million. While the Chargers were content, the move infuriated Green Bay fans.
“So we paid Jones essentially the same amount we could have paid Linsley?” one fan reacted on Twitter. “Don’t get me wrong I’m stoked we kept Jones but would have preferred Linsley for the same price.” Another NFL viewer said, “Bengals take notes on how to protect the future of your franchise.” To sum up, it’s not the most glamorous position on the field, but it’s a very important building block for the franchise regardless.
One of the big names to enter free agency in 2021, Reddick joined the Carolina Panthers on a one-year contract worth up to eight million dollars. “Panthers did well here, not a huge risk for that money potential big reward to go opposite Brian Burns,” fan Richard Andrews observed. The linebacker joined the Arizona Cardinals in 2017 but they declined his fifth-year option. Their loss was Carolina’s gain.
“That’s an amazing steal and great value,” NFL fan Nick Smith said. It remains to be seen how Reddick settles with the Panthers. His first couple of seasons weren’t great by any measure but he flipped the script in 2020. In one game against the Giants, he posted five sacks. Throughout the season he recorded career highs in all meaningful stat categories. This looks like a great deal for both parties.
Look away now, Jets fans, the world is ending. It must be, because the addition of Lawson was a great piece of business. It was expected that Lawson would stay with the Cincinnati Bengals but the Jets jumped at the chance to add the highly-rated defensive end. Many fans thought that they overpaid for Lawson, but with the most cap space in the league, they chose to indulge.
“$12m a year for a 25-year-old, extremely-productive edge rusher is not overpaying,” one Jets fan on Twitter agreed. “Especially with how much edge rushers are paid nowadays.” Of course, it will take more than Lawson to change New York’s fortunes, but the only way is up for this franchise. Many had Lawson as the top DE of the 2021 free agency period. Will Gang Green take over New York?
The Niners decided not to prioritize their quarterback situation during 2021 free agency and instead focused on enhancingother positions. Or in this case, it was about maintaining them because they were desperate to keep Juszyck. His five-year, $27 million contract made him the highest-paid fullback in the league. “And it’s well deserved,” Niners fan Eric Fuerte acknowledged on Twitter.
“Well deserved,” another fan agreed. “He’s key to our run game and key to our offensive success.” San Francisco’s decision to invest in the position proved popular. Questions remained about the quarterback position but many fans expected them to go to work in the draft instead of free agency. After a disappointing 2020, the Niners wanted to make a statement.
After 15 seasons, the New Orleans Saints will start a quarterback whose isn’t named Drew Brees. Jameis Winston looks to be the immediate beneficiary of Brees’ retirement. After spending a season as the veteran’s backup, the former Tampa star inked a new contract with the Saints. With a very tight salary cap, the Saints didn’t have a lot of wiggle-room as they entered 2021 free agency.
“I don’t know why Winston isn’t a top 10 QB,” said one Saints fan on Twitter. “He always seems to choke. I don’t think you can fix a choke artist. He’s gifted with every other ability you should have for a quarterback.” Many New Orleans supporters became embroiled in a battle over whether Winston or Taysom Hill should be the starter in Week One. In short, do they play a one-dimensional gadget player or a pick machine?
Washington joined the Patriots as one of the big spenders of the 2021 free agency period. Their fans greeted the news of Jackson’s signing with joy and schadenfreude for Cincinnati. “We are really about to have the best defense in the NFL,” one Football Team fan marveled. After losing Ronald Darby in free agency, they brought in Jackson on a three-year $42 million contract.
One of the NFL’s best corners for the previous three seasons, Jackson plays consistently. He started at least 14 games per season since his sophomore year after missing his first with a pec injury. A consistently disruptive presence, his ability to intercept is a great asset. Meanwhile, his age isn’t ideal considering the money involved but if it works out it will be a canny piece of business for Ron Rivera’s team.
One of the most cash-motivated moves of the 2021 free agency period, Hudson departed the Raiders for Arizona. The center departed with a big reputation to the ire of many Las Vegas fans. “I’ll take a Pro Bowl and All-Pro center over a third-round swing likely to be a bust,” Ryan Murphy said on Twitter after Arizona fleeced the Raiders. It’s definitely one of the strangest trades of the year.
The Raiders were prepared to cut Hudson which would have made zero sense at all. But they finally reached a deal with the Cardinals, who believe they will be contenders in 2021. Meanwhile, the Raiders tore apart Derek Carr’s offensive line so no doubt this decision won’t impress him much. Some believe that Las Vegas obtained good value but that overlooks the fact that it was a dumb idea to think about cutting him for nothing.
Despite the limitations of their salary cap, the Giants threw an eyebrow-raising amount of money at Booker. The former Las Vegas Raiders back-up signed a two-year contract worth six million dollars. It’s a lot to pay for a running back in his position and needless to say, it confused their fans. “Worst run team in the NFL,” one Giants fan bemoaned. “Can’t believe we are doing stuff like this instead of signing good players.”
“He was a good backup for the Raiders last year,” another more reasonable fan observed on Twitter. “Averaged 4.5 yards a carry, but really struggled when he had to start so hopefully that doesn’t have to happen.” Effectively signed to relieve Saquon Barkley, only time will tell how this one pans out. But it is a questionable move when there were potentially more economical options available in free agency.
One of the big free-agency quarterback moves saw Brissett depart Indianapolis for the Miami Dolphins. This crushed a lot of Colts fans who held the QB in high regard. In fact, many of them held firm to the belief that he has a high ceiling. “I guess this ends Jacoby’s run as a possible starter,” Colts fan Isiah Tuman said. “I will forever stand by that he is a starting-caliber QB and if the Colts never have all those injuries in ’18 they make the playoffs.”
Brissett effectively replaced the outgoing Ryan Fitzpatrick in Miami but there were also questions about Tua Tavogailoa’s status. “That’s a decent decision by the Dolphins,” one NFL commentator observed. “Brissett is a solid backup plan if all goes wrong with Tua.” Meanwhile, it also crushed the Bears whose fans were furious when they learned that Brissett was available.
Justin Herbert had a record-setting rookie season in L.A., so the message was clear for Taylor. The Chargers traded him to the Houston Texans, where he might replace DeShaun Watson or compete for the starting position. “Who’s going to end their career with the most different jerseys of teams they have played QB for, Tyrod Taylor or Ryan Fitzpatrick?” Larry Newman said on Twitter. “Now that’s a forthcoming NFL trivia question!”
Taylor was desperately unfortunate in L.A. He was the starter for a single game before a doctor accidentally punctured his lung. Then, Herbert emerged as a blue-chip prospect and the Chargers haven’t looked back. His one-year, $12.5 million deal suggests that Taylor will receive game time in 2021. However, nobody can guess what the Texans are thinking.
It’s fair to say that the Packers’ decision to re-sign Jones was controversial. “Whoever made the decision to draft both Dillion and Love should be Fired,” Packers Fan R.J. Lee said. “Obviously, they’re not getting rid of Rodgers, & now they resign Jones to a big contract. So what was the point of wasting the first two picks last year on a QB and RB? And they wonder why they lost to Tampa.”
These are two very good points. First, the running back position is the most replaceable in football so it doesn’t make sense for Green Bay to hand Jones a four-year, $48 million contract. This free agency move comes after they spent their second pick on another running back in A.J. Dillon in 2020. Meanwhile, the whole Rodgers/Love saga will roll on until one of them departs.
“I didn’t think it was possible but I’m so glad it’s done,” Ignacio Beltran said after the Rams re-signed Floyd. In 2020, the linebacker recorded a career-high 10.5 sacks, 55 tackles, and 19 quarterback hits as part of the NFL’s best defense. With Matthew Stafford’s arrival, there is a lot of optimism in L.A. However, there are some issues with Floyd’s new contract.
First of all, a four-year, $64 million contract is an astounding amount of money considering they only paid him $10 million in 2020. They clearly hate their accountants because they will have to perform some kind of wizardry. Also, they could have got better value in free agency but opted to go for the tried-and-tested option. If they change their defensive structure then it will be even more questionable.
This early trade that become official during free agency was very controversial. “You’re gonna love him if you want a guy who turns the ball over, misses wide-open routes, takes bad sacks, says he’s gotta be better in a postgame presser, and then forces his way out when he gets benched after being the worst QB in the league for 12 weeks,” Eagles fan Dan Ruttle said. However, not everybody agrees with this assessment.
“If he is fit yes he is a top 10 QB,” another Eagles fan tweeted. “Lost his way with us but that was more our team’s fault I like him.” But regardless of opinion, there is no doubt that Wentz has everything to prove in Indianapolis. The Colts are in a position to compete for the Super Bowl, but they are staking everything on a quarterback who signed after the worst year of his career.
“So the Giants received a trade offer from the Packers for Dalvin Tomlinson at the deadline last year and then proceeded to let him walk in free agency for nothing… Not ideal,” Alex Wilson observed on Twitter. In sum, the New York Giants are a very poorly run organization. Actually, the Packers tried to trade twice for the former Giants star but failed in both efforts.
The Minnesota Vikings were the beneficiary of New York’s ineptitude. In short, the defensive tackle signed a two-year contract worth $22 million. Giants fans were distraught after the deal was concluded because he never missed games and was a team captain. It’s difficult to replace players like that and it’s highly unlikely that the Giants will be successful in their efforts.
One of the biggest trades of the 2021 free agency period happened very early. It saw the long-serving Matthew Stafford leave Detroit for greener pastures with the Los Angeles Rams. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles franchise sent inconsistent QB Goff in the opposite direction. Detroit fans were disconsolate. “I still hate that now I’m both a Lions fan and a Matthew Stafford fan now because they no longer mean the same thing,” one said.
However, there was an overwhelming sense of appreciation for their star, who showed loyalty through his tenure. Rams fans also showed love for Goff, who found himself shoved out of the door. “Dude brought winning to the Rams organization,” Rams fan Logan Faler observed. “As a younger fan who grew up knowing Rams football only after the Warner era it was a long time before I saw that, JG is a baller just didn’t fit McVay’s new scheme.”
“Let’s be real, this move makes the Bengals instant divisional favorites,” NFL fan Ryan James claimed on social media. “With a generational pass rusher added to their roster, this could be dangerous for the rest of the league.” This might be an overexaggeration because Cincinnati let Carl Lawson and William Jackson III go. Meanwhile, $60 million is a lot of cap space to invest in Hendrickson.
Meanwhile, not everybody agreed that this rare statement signing was smart business. “That’s $60 million not spent on protecting Burrow,” Jenna Delaney commented on Twitter. This is a very good point because Joe Burrow was on course to absorb a record number of his before his season ended prematurely due to injury. However, it’s clear that there is a shift in Bengals’ mentality and their division is better for it.
“They haven’t spent no money in 15 plus years on key free agents at this many positions now they throwing bags from Bob Kraft’s private jet,” one NFL fan acknowledged after the Patriots added Bourne to their free agency buffet. “Leave some players for the rest of us,” was the general consensus after the Niners wide receiver signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract.
The move didn’t impress Kansas City fan, Daniel Schaffer. He reacted by saying, “They gonna run out of cap space signing average players if they aren’t careful.” It’s clear that Bourne isn’t the full package yet but he developed in 2020 despite a stop-start season. He endured two spells out with illness but it was still his most productive year in the NFL. To sum up, this is a promising signing for the Pats.
The New England Patriots spent an unprecedented amount of money in the 2021 free agency market. However, despite their frivolous spending, it didn’t impress all fans. One of their most controversial acqusitions was Agholor on a two-year contract worth $26 million. The former Raiders wideout failed to convince that he could soar to an elite ceiling in Philadelphia. But Bill Belichick believes he could bring him to the next level.
“If I were a Patriot’s fan, I’d ask why would they do that to Cam?” one Eagles fan said. “Saw enough of Nelson for a lifetime in Philly. He could turn his career totally around and I’d forever doubt it.” Those are damning words and suggest that Agholor has everything to prove in New England. Agholor signed for the Patriots after his most productive year with the Raiders when he caught 48 passes for 896 yards and eight touchdowns.
In hindsight, Bears fans were naive to believe it would be any different. After the media seduced them into believing a trade for Russell Wilson was possible, they went and signed Andy Dalton from free agency. It was the ultimate catfish which is all the more hilarious for the rest of the NFL. In sum, it outraged their long-suffering fanbase and alienated many of them even more, which is saying a lot.
“Should have signed Mitch Trubisky. I honestly don’t get this move,” one fan raged. “We get an older QB with a similar throwing ability as Mitch, much less mobile…I JUST DONT GET IT! They could of at least made it fun and got Ryan Fitzpatrick.” Fans called for the heads of head coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace because they mishandled the position so badly.
Fitzpatrick continued his quest to play for every NFL franchise by signing with the Washington Football Team in 2021. After a season where he was arguably the Miami Dolphins’ best quarterback, he left with the goodwill of fans in Florida. Washington snapped him out of free agency because they recognized his value as a short-term starter also for his presence in the locker room.
“Good for him! Our Dolphins rolled the dice with Tua last year and were still in the hunt despite him. I think we would have done better with Fitzpatrick. Love the guy in any team. Great leader!! We will miss him,” Miami fan Dustin Brehm said. Alongside his magnificent beard, Fitzpatrick does a solid job and could become a fam favorite in the nation’s capital.
“Tom called Gronk up after watching Bill make deals all day and told Gronk “free agency is closed.” Tera Victoria commented after the tight end signed up for another season. He agreed to another one-year $10 million season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after helping the franchise to a long-awaited Super Bowl. It was a deal that made many fans smile because Gronk is such a popular figure.
The season away from football really helped him because it allowed his body to recuperate. Meanwhile, Gronk’s presence makes Tom Brady a happier quarterback. The Buccaneers did very well to keep the core of their Super Bowl-winning roster together. Of course, $10 million is a lot to pay, but considering his name value and his performance in the showpiece game, it’s the going rate.
“Well, looks like the Patriots are going back to the old Gronkowski-Hernandez 12 personnel days! ” fantasy football writer Michael Fabiano tweeted. This came after New England obtained the two best tight ends in 2021’s free agency. The addition of Jonnu Smith and Henry was a statement of intent by the Patriots. However, critics questioned whether the Pats overpaid for the pair.
They agreed to pay Henry $37.5 million over three years. This is a lot, but the former L.A. Chargers star definitely adds an injection of quality into the New England offense. Furthermore, fans didn’t react with total positivity. Chris Morris said, “The only guarantee is that 10-yd passes will sail overhead, be behind them or at their shoelaces.” Looking at you, Cam Newton.
“Now if they somehow end up with a quarterback who doesn’t throw the ball to the other team or into the ground, I’ll be interested,” one Patriots fan tweeted after the news broke of Smith’s signature. New England continued their bid to conquer free agency by adding Smith to their roster. They stunned the NFL by handing the former Tennessee Titans wideout a contract worth up to $50 million.
The Patriots burned through money like it was going out of fashion. Smith never had more than 450 receiving yards in any of his four years with the Titans, so this is a lot of money for him. However, New England required weapons and clearly felt like he was value for money. To be fair, they haven’t enjoyed those numbers since before Rob Gronkowski’s first retirement.
“As long as Cam is the starting QB all these weapons don’t matter,” Patriots fan Chris Matchuk complained. “The people who constantly defend Cam’s play last year guaranteed did not actually watch him play. He just cannot throw the ball. All of this is for nothing if he is the starter.” However, Newton agreed to another one-year deal with the Patriots after he inked a contract worth up to $14 million.
This was unexpected after an uneven year with the Pats in 2020. There were thoughts that the likes of Washington, Chicago, or Denver might snap him up in free agency but instead, New England played it safe. This doesn’t mean he will be their starter in 2021 but with the addition of a ton of weapons, Newton no longer has excuses. Finally, it’s safe to say he didn’t convince the fans.
“I still can’t believe JJ Watt finally had the chance to play for a Super Bowl contender and chose to go to Arizona instead,” Houston Texans fan Adam Vaccaro bemoaned. Vaccaro had a point but there’s no doubt that the Cardinals pulled off a coup when they reunited Watt with DeAndre Hopkins. But this two-year, $31 million deal makes a lot of sense for the defensive end after he entered free agency.
First, it also reunited him with defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Meanwhile, a defensive line with Watt and Chandler Jones is something to look forward to as two of the most effective pass rushers in the NFL. Furthermore, the addition of the popular Houston star could take young quarterback Kyler Murray to the next level. If this is what transforms the Cardinals into contenders then it will be brilliant.