NFL: What are the ins-and-outs of this free agency period?

Kevin Singhel, Asst. Sports Editor

While the rest of the sports world has been frozen in place because of COVID-19, the NFL’s opening of free agency provided a much needed distraction. 

Sports fans are looking for any content they can get their hands on after the suspension of several pro sports leagues and the cancelation of the NCAA tournament. Thankfully, this year’s opening NFL free agency period was wild and crazy enough to provide sports fans with exactly what they were looking for.

The biggest news out of free agency involves Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots. The longtime Patriots quarterback is leaving Foxborough after 20 legendary seasons, which likely means an end to one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time. 

Brady and the Patriots won six Super Bowls and nine AFC Championships together, allowing Brady to stake his claim as one of the top quarterbacks in the history of the game. Brady’s accomplishments make him one of the most famous and sought after free agents in recent memory, but his age does come into question. Brady will be 43 years old at the start of next season, meaning that the “goat” likely has only one or two seasons left in the tank. 

Reports have surfaced that Brady is on his way to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that has struggled mightily in recent years. It’ll be very interesting to see if Brady can turn the team’s fortunes around and transform them into a Super Bowl contender. It also remains to be seen which direction the Patriots and legendary head coach Bill Belichick will head after Brady’s departure.

Although Tom Brady’s decision was the main news out of the NFL’s free agency, it certainly wasn’t the only news to emerge. The Houston Texans traded away superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. 

The Texans have received a lot of flak for the deal because at first glance it looks like a case of highway robbery. Hopkins is arguably the best wide receiver in the game, so any trade where you have to give him up is going to greatly hurt the quality of your team. 

However, this trade appears especially bad since the Texans didn’t even get a first-round draft pick out of it, and the player they got back (Johnson) hasn’t had a truly productive season in years. Although Johnson may return to form and the draft picks may pan out, many people still believe that the Texans could have definitely gotten more in return for Hopkins and may have just been better off holding onto him in this scenario. 

The Minnesota Vikings were another team that shipped a star wide receiver away. The Vikings reached an agreement with the Buffalo Bills to send star receiver Steffon Diggs to Buffalo. The Bills gave up a treasure cache of draft picks to the Vikings, making Diggs’ price much more expensive than Hopkins’. 

In all, the Vikings received a 2020 first-rounder, fifth-rounder and sixth-rounder along with a 2021 fourth-rounder. The Vikings were a playoff team last year, and the exchange of Diggs for draft picks will allow the team to retool and add some depth. The Minnesota offense should be fine, as quarterback Kirk Cousins received an extension to stay with the team and the Vikings still retain their other star receiver Adam Thielen. 

The Bills were also a playoff team last year, and the addition of Diggs will be a huge boost to Buffalo’s offense. Quarterback Josh Allen showed some exceptional growth last season in leading the Bills to the playoffs, and it will be interesting to see just how much the addition of a new weapon will help him. 

Other stars were on the move as well, as longtime Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers has signed a one year deal with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts previously had star quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm before he abruptly retired just before the start of last season. Jacoby Brisset filled in admirably for the season, but the Colts decided to take a gamble on Rivers for next season. 

Like Brady, Rivers is getting up there in age, but he does have a long history of great performances and winning seasons. Signing Rivers to a one-year deal can allow the Colts to go all in for a title this year with Rivers while potentially drafting and developing their next franchise quarterback in the shadows.

In other news around the league, the Cowboys locked up their star wide receiver to a new contract extension, keeping Cooper in Dallas for the next couple years. Former Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota signed with the Oakland Raiders, a place where he can compete with Derek Carr for a starting role. 

Finally, former Atlanta Falcon tight end Austin Hooper inked a deal with the Cleveland Browns. Hooper joins an already stacked offense that was supposed to be one of the best in the league last year. The Browns hope that Hooper is the missing piece to finally turn their franchise around and have a winning season. 

In order to replace Hooper, the Falcons acquired Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst for a second round pick and another pick swap. The deal is great for both teams, as the Falcons find an immediate replacement to Hooper and the Ravens can use the picks to draft more depth around this year’s MVP Lamar Jackson. Baltimore doesn’t mind the loss of a tight end too much, as they already have a great tight end in Mark Andrews. 

With the rest of the sports world on lockdown, all eyes have been on this NFL free agency period, making it one of the most hyped up free agency periods in recent memory. Thankfully, the NFL offseason has delivered with huge free agent signings and some blockbuster trades. It will be extremely exciting to see how everything pans out and how these moves reshape the future of the league.