2024 NFL Free Agency Winners and Losers

Now that the main wave of free agency has passed, we can now get a pretty good look at how the different teams have done. Some have addressed key needs, others have added depth, while a few teams are deciding to wait until the draft to tackle the holes in their rosters. Cap constraints had a major impact on what clubs were able to do. Regardless, free agency can be a critical way to build your team. With that in mind, let’s check out the winners and losers of the 2024 NFL free agency period. You can catch up on all the signings (and my grades for them) here.


Washington Commanders

No team except the Patriots had more cash available to spend (the Commanders had slightly more than $91M in cap space), but to their credit, Washington didn’t blow it all carelessly. They brought in RB Austin Ekeler on a team-friendly deal. New HC Dan Quinn imported a boatload of former Cowboys, including C Tyler Biadasz and DE Dorance Armstrong. Their most underrated move was signing G Nick Allegretti away from the Chiefs; he’ll provide a major boost up front. Elsewhere on defense, Washington completely remade the LB corps with Bobby Wagner and Frankie Luvu.

The one place they got worse was in the secondary, with S Kamren Curl and CB Kendall Fuller departing. Most of the other players who left weren’t all that impactful. The lone exception is QB Sam Howell, who was traded to Seattle. This move is setting the stage for the team to spend the #2 overall pick on a QB. It would be awkward to have the rookie on the roster at the same time as Howell. I like Washington’s overall plan: build through the trenches and try to prepare the incoming quarterback for success. It’s how good teams build, but they first have to hit on that particular draft pick.

Chicago Bears

GM Ryan Poles had a tough job this offseason. First and foremost, he had to decide what to do about Justin Fields (the team correctly traded him). Whichever QB was to be under center next year, he needed more talent around him. Chicago completely revamped the skill positions, bringing in RB D’Andre Swift and trading for elite WR Keenan Allen. He and DJ Moore will form one of the best receiving duos in the league. Losing Darnell Mooney doesn’t even matter here. Along with TE Gerald Everett, the Bears have produced an exceptional supporting cast for presumptive #1 overall pick Caleb Williams.

Over on the defensive side, Chicago re-signed CB Jaylon Johnson and added S Kevin Byard, with no truly notable losses to speak of. The Bears think they can contend for the playoffs immediately, and they showed that with their spending habits. I’d criticize that approach, but I happen to agree with them. The defense improved greatly late last year once DE Montez Sweat joined the team. The offense can level up simply by having a competent passer, which Williams should be. The NFC North is difficult, with Detroit a legitimate power and the Packers a 2023 playoff team. Don’t discount the idea of the Bears making noise though.

New York Jets

Going to into free agency, the Jets had two prime objectives: beef up the offensive line, and give Aaron Rodgers another weapon opposite Garrett Wilson. Check and check. They started out by raiding the Ravens, signing away G John Simpson and acquiring RT Morgan Moses via trade. That was just the warm-up act. NYJ made their biggest splashes later, landing LT Tyron Smith and WR Mike Williams. A competent backup QB (Tyrod Taylor) was finally acquired, DT Javon Kinlaw came to beef up the interior, and both specialists (K Greg Zuerlein and P Thomas Morstead) were re-signed.

The team’s most glaring loss was edge rusher Bryce Huff, but they actually upgraded at that spot by trading for Philly’s Haason Reddick. I don’t love losing S Jordan Whitehead or DT Quinton Jefferson, but they can be replaced, as neither of them play what is considered a “premium” position. GM Joe Douglas and HC Robert Saleh have pressure on them to win now, and with QB Aaron Rodgers returning, this is their one and only chance. Anything but a deep playoff run will be deemed a failure. With how the Jets attacked free agency, this team is even more of a contender on paper than it was last season.

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons got their man. Everyone saw how close the Falcons were to winning the NFC South in 2023, and they could’ve done so if they had even a mediocre QB. Now, they have a top-10 option in former Viking Kirk Cousins. I know for a fact that WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts are celebrating. Now that they have a quarterback, Atlana has opened up their options with the #8 pick. They can now use it on someone like Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner (as I currently have them doing). To help Cousins, they traded for WR Rondale Moore and signed WR Darnell Mooney.

A bunch of players went out the door, but it was mostly quantity over quality. The only notable departures were RB Cordarrelle Patterson and TE Jonnu Smith. The Falcons didn’t do a whole lot else, but no team got better to the degree that ATL did with just one swing. You can call them the favorites to win the NFC South. I doubt that the Saints and Buccaneers will appreciate this sentiment, but Atlanta nearly upstaged them last year. On paper, this is by far the most talented roster in the division. I’m not ready to call the Falcons Super Bowl contenders just yet, but they’re on the right track.


Dallas Cowboys

Hamstrung by QB Dak Prescott’s albatross of a contract, the Cowboys basically did nothing all month long. They signed one minor external free agent (LB Eric Kendricks) and brought back 3 reserves of their own. Otherwise, they’ve sat still while a load of talent went elsewhere. RB Tony Pollard, OT Tyron Smith, C Tyler Biadasz, WR Michael Gallup, DEs Dante Fowler Jr and Dorance Armstrong, LB Leighton Vander Esch (medically retired), and DT Johnathan Hankins are just some of the names that won’t be back. One draft can’t replace all these players, so I don’t know how Dallas gets over the proverbial hump in 2024.

Miami Dolphins

Miami’s defense struggled down the stretch due to a plethora of injuries. Now it might suffer because of the massive losses it has taken over the past few weeks. The hits came at every level; up front, DTs Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis both left town. LB Jerome Baker was released, and OLB Andrew Van Ginkel was lost due to cap constraints. Those same cap issues cost the Dolphins S Brandon Jones and CB Xavien Howard. LB Jordyn Brooks is not a viable replacement, and the team only managed to sign CB Kendall Fuller and OLB Shaq Barrett. New DC Anthony Weaver has his work cut out for him.

Offensively, the damage was less severe. Losing G Robert Hunt hurts, but Carolina shouldn’t have paid him $20M per season. C Connor Williams was adequately replaced with Aaron Brewer, and WR Cedrick Wilson wasn’t appropriately used by the team anyway. I’m less worried about this side of the ball…if the team drafts well to replenish the offensive line. Miami faded last season and can’t afford to do so again now that the Jets are genuine threats. Extending QB Tua Tagovailoa and WR Jaylen Waddle is the next order of business; those two will be necessary to carry a lesser defense toward the playoffs.

Denver Broncos

Two words: Russell Wilson. Releasing the QB that never should have been signed to a massive extension put a stranglehold on Denver’s cap. The team was practically paralyzed this offseason, only signing a couple of role players and bringing back a few of their own free agents. WR Jerry Jeudy, another whiffed first-round pick, was shipped off to Cleveland, and S Justin Simmons (arguably their best player) was inexplicably released. Add in the losses of C Lloyd Cushenberry and LB Josey Jewell, and you can easily see the long rebuild looming ahead. Denver fans will need to be patient; this situation can’t be fixed quickly.

Minnesota Vikings

Back on this list for the second consecutive year, the Vikings answered my question: they are NOT going to commit to QB Kirk Cousins. That lack of commitment is exactly why he left, and he is the biggest loss of any team this free agency period. His replacement (for now) will be Sam Darnold, who I like more than most, but this isn’t an even swap. Minnesota’s new QB situation might force them to do something irrational, like trade up in the draft for JJ McCarthy. There’s also a domino effect here: will star WR Justin Jefferson still sign an extension without Cousins force-feeding him the ball and with a rookie as his QB?

Cousins was far from the only loss. DEs Danielle Hunter, DJ Wonnum, and Marcus Davenport all left, as did LB Jordan Hicks. Minnesota replaced some of them, signing DE Jonathan Greenard, LB Blake Cashman, and OLB Andrew Van Ginkel, and they even upgraded at RB from Alexander Mattison to Aaron Jones. However, that doesn’t make up for the losses of Cousins and Hunter, the top two overall free agents. Green Bay made the playoffs last year, Chicago looks much improved, and Detroit is a Super Bowl contender. It’s hard not to view Minnesota as the worst team in the NFC North, even if Darnold plays well.

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