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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

NFL Free Agency shaping up to have big impact around the league

Possible trades and big free agents round up what should be an entertaining free agency window in the NFL

By OMAR NAVARRO — sports@theaggie.org


With NFL free agency set to begin on March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, this offseason is shaping up to be one of the biggest and most impactful negotiation periods in recent memory. From star quarterbacks to high impact players, teams will have an opportunity to improve — if they are willing to spend.

The most obvious player who would create a domino effect in this free agency period isn’t even a free agent. Green Bay Packers 4x MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers has had a very publicized back and forth with the Packers, as last year he only agreed to come back to the team under a specific set of circumstances. Another MVP (and another playoff flameout) later, Rodgers remains with the Packers with one year remaining on his contract. The agreement the team and Rodgers made last year gives him the opportunity to negotiate a new contract and stay a Packer for life, or ask for a trade if he chooses, which is something that the quarterback was said to be “torn” with. 

If Rodgers does stay with Green Bay, the roster will look a lot different than it did last season as many key players are set to become free agents or will have to be cut. Projected at $50 million over the salary cap, the Packers have begun to make moves to try to continue to keep the team together if Rodgers decides to stay. But what if the quarterback doesn’t want to stay? There was a report that perhaps the quarterback would choose between the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans if he did decide to ask for a trade, but the report has been shot down. Still, it seems as though if a move were to happen, those teams mentioned were the favorites to acquire the star quarterback. 

This entire situation is a difficult one for the Green Bay Packers because an MVP quarterback is difficult to pass up. The thing is, they drafted another quarterback, Jordan Love, in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft to be his replacement, and if Rodgers does stay, that would mean they would most likely have to let go of Love at a lower value than what they got him, forever stamping that selection as a wasted one for Green Bay. And on Tuesday morning, it seems that this will be the case. Aaron Rodgers confirmed the reports on Twitter that he would be staying in Green Bay. Although the details of the contract have not been confirmed, the reigning MVP staying now means that the Packers and their front office now has to make certain moves to keep the QB happy. 

With Packers star wide receiver Davante Adams set to break the wide receiver contract market, Rodgers staying means that he will want his star receiver there as well. But, despite Adams continuously being at the top of wide receiver rankings, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has not guaranteed Adams will stay, rather opting to say there is a possibility that the receiver could walk in free agency. It remains to be seen if it is a negotiation tactic or what, but with the news of Rodgers staying, the top wide receiver free agent is going nowhere.

Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Champion quarterback Russell Wilson made some noise about perhaps finding a new home. Wilson had been with Seattle his entire career and now at the age of 33, it feels like the perfect time to find a new home. But, the Seahawks didn’t seem interested in moving the quarterback, as they have been reported turning down a trade from the Washington Commanders that included multiple first-round picks. That is, until news broke that Wilson would be heading to Denver in a mega deal that included three players and draft compensation for the star quarterback. 

A trade of this magnitude involving a quarterback does not happen often in the NFL. Russell Wilson now enters an AFC West division that includes Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert — perhaps the best division in football. This move will send shockwaves to the rest of the league as teams will have to adjust their approach to free agency and the draft —both in the AFC, which just got tougher, and the NFC, which just lost a great QB. 

Teams who are ready to compete now will look for other options, like San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite making an NFC Championship game run, the 49ers will look toward the future as Trey Lance — who they traded up to draft number three overall in last year’s draft — is set to take the reins under center. San Francisco will work together with Garoppolo to find his new home and with one year left on his contract, wherever he ends up will likely have to negotiate a contract extension. But, the possibility of the quarterback being cut still remains so if teams who are needing a quarterback aren’t able to trade for one or draft one they like, Garoppolo will be a hot name for them.

Aside from Adams, this wide receiver class will also be one to monitor as there are some big names whose contracts are about to expire. Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Chris Godwin is coming off an ACL tear, but will certainly attract a lot of attention if he hits the open market. But, even after Tom Brady’s retirement, the Buccaneers feel as though they can compete right now and want to keep the receiver, so it will likely end in another franchise tag if an agreement cannot be reached. Speaking of franchise tag, that also seems to be where the negotiations for Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams is heading, as the team will likely tag him before he can hit free agency. 

The position of wide receiver can be a difficult one because it is dependent on quarterback play, as Allen Robinson has found out. Robinson continues to be productive but the quarterback carousel with the Chicago Bears never allowed him to fully reach his potential. That coupled with injuries led to a down 2021 season and after that, it seems as if the two sides are ready to split. Robinson will have many suitors and as another wide receiver showed, situation is everything. That was Odell Beckham Jr., who was released by the Browns midseason and found himself in a perfect situation with the Super Bowl winning Los Angeles Rams. Although he suffered a torn ACL in the Super Bowl, Beckham Jr. found his former self with the Rams. The injury makes this harder, but the Rams are confident they will be able to keep the free agent receiver and run it back.

The defensive side of the ball also has some high-level players available — but it won’t be cheap. Coming off his second Super Bowl win, defensive end Von Miller will hit free agency and has many options. While the interest is mutual between him and the Rams, Miller will test the market to see what he prefers. Chandler Jones is another edge rusher who will likely hit free agency after the Arizona Cardinals did not offer him an extension during the year. Although he is 32, he is coming off of another 10-sack season and will surely attract attention this offseason wherever he ends up. 

It is rare that a player of J.C. Jackson’s caliber becomes available in free agency, but that is shaping up to be the case. The New England Patriots are reportedly not going to place the franchise tag on Jackson and will let him test the market. If so, Jackson — who is a Pro Bowler and has been one of the highest rate corners in the last two years — will likely get big money from cornerback-needy teams. 

EDGE Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE Randy Gregory, DB Stephon Gilmore, DB Carlton Davis, S Tyrann Mathieu, G Brandon Scherff, TE Mike Gesicki and many more highlight this free agency class. While some of the bigger names might stay put with their team, there is more than enough noise and players available for teams to improve and for some to get over the Super Bowl hump.


Written by: Omar Navarro — sports@theaggie.org




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