The first wave of NFL free agency has finished, so it’s time to grade each team’s haul.
Once again, the moves in NFL free agency went beyond the players who were set to hit the open waters when the legal tampering period began. Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins were two superstar wide receivers who received trades before free agency officially opened, as the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals made blockbuster moves to help their young quarterbacks.
Of course, they weren’t the only teams who made major waves to boost their passing attacks. The Cleveland Browns added two more pieces in Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper to help Baker Mayfield even more, while also adding a veteran passer in Case Keenum to hedge their bets.
But the biggest free agency move was easily Tom Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to replace Jameis Winston. Talk about shockwaves.
Plenty of splashes were made, but which team had the best first wave of free agency? Here are the full grades.
New England Patriots
It would be easy to give the New England Patriots an overwhelmingly negative grade, because all the headlines focus on who they lost in free agency.
The most glaring departure is legendary quarterback Tom Brady, but the Patriots also lost several quality pieces to former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy left for the rival Miami Dolphins, along with Elandon Roberts.
However, the Patriots quietly kept onto more impressive – and important – players. Star offensive lineman Joe Thuney was hit with the franchise tag, the team picked up star cornerback Jason McCourty’s option, core special-teamer Matthew Slater re-signed, and inked defensive leader Devin McCourty to a two-year deal.
The Patriots will have to replace Brady, but in Jacoby Brissett and Cam Newton, Bill Belichick should have options. And after watching how poorly Brady played last year, someone like Bridgewater could be a major upgrade.
New England’s success is built on more than a system or a player. It’s built on a proactive approach which never mortgages the future for the present. That’s why the Patriots were willing to let Brady walk, saving money and avoiding attaching themselves to a quarterback who wasn’t going to get any better for them.
Now, the Patriots can move on and focus on building the next chapter in their dynasty. They had to say goodbye at some point, and this was the time to do it.