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  • Writer's pictureElijah Southwick

Stock Up, Stock Down from NFL Free Agency

It’s been a wild few days for the NFL as the legal tampering window opened and nearly 100 players signed new contracts within its first 24 hours. There are no doubt some clear winners and losers around the league from players on new teams to players without new teams to players with new, highly-paid teammates.

Stock Up: Atlanta Falcons

There is a power gap currently between the AFC and NFC, and that gap is largely driven by the gap in quarterback talent between the conferences. Former Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was the prize of the entire free agent class, especially among quarterback needy teams. With Cousins signing a four-year, $180 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons, that power between conferences may have shifted some.

Of course, the Falcons and the Vikings are both NFC teams. But a consensus has been built already that the Falcons with Cousins at the helm are a stronger team overall relative to the league than the Vikings would’ve been with his return. That small gain made within the NFC could ultimately produce another Super Bowl contender to compete with the likes of the 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, the ascendant Lions and Packers, and the eventual AFC champion.

Cousins should continue to produce as a top 10 statistical quarterback in Atlanta. With his new indoor home playing field, strong offensive line and litany of offensive weapons, Cousins is in a great position to succeed. It’s remarkable that Cousins could find an offense better suited for him at this stage of his career than his indoor home field in Minnesota where he threw for over 5,338 yards and 28 touchdowns to Justin Jefferson over the course of 54 regular season games both at home and on the road.

Stock Down: Justin Fields

The quarterback signings early in free agency could not have gone worse for Justin Fields’ trade prospects. The Falcons, Steelers, Raiders, Patriots, Vikings and Buccaneers have all signed or traded for veteran quarterbacks over the last few days. The Falcons and Buccaneers may well be the only teams truly out on the quarterback market among those teams. But it’s getting harder to imagine the other teams on that list trading for Fields. Time is running out for Fields to land in an ideal situation for the 2024 season.

The Broncos, Patriots and Giants may now be the most likely teams to trade for Fields. In the case of the Broncos and Giants, Fields would be entering organizations with horrible salary cap situations and poor offensive weapons due to previous contracts given to Russell Wilson and Daniel Jones. The Patriots now look to be the most appealing spot, as the team would then most likely draft WR Marvin Harrison Jr. with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. The Patriots traded away former first round pick QB Mac Jones and signed veteran Jacoby Brissett in the last few days. But those moves could also be in anticipation of drafting a rookie quarterback with their No. 3 overall pick.

Stock Up: League-Wide Running Back Value

After multiple seasons of NFL running backs suffering a brutal market correction, the position came back from the dead in free agency. Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, D’Andre Swift, Tony Pollard, Austin Ekeler, Devin Singletary, Antonio Gibson, Zack Moss, Aaron Jones, Joe Mixon and Gus Edwards all have new teams. 

It’s a stark contrast to years of hardball being played between front offices and running backs looking for new contracts. But the market remains modest. Barkley’s new contract with the Eagles comes in at just over $12 million per year on average with $26 million guaranteed. Relative to top contracts at other positions, it’s virtually pennies on the dollar.

It’s a brighter day today than yesterday to be an NFL running back. There is a clear path forward now for running backs to earn good veteran contracts. Supply and demand will remain the most important factor when it comes to dollars and cents, but the compromise seems to be a positive for all parties.

Elijah Southwick is the lead sports content writer for Degen Magazine. His work has appeared in several news and sports publications


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