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2022 NFL free agency winners and losers, Day 2: Buccaneers find way to reload, Cowboys take massive step back


The NFL’s legal tampering period has lasted more than 24 hours, and there have been plenty of contracts that have been agreed upon around the league. While Day 2 of the legal tampering period hasn’t been as frantic as Day 1, there have been plenty of impending transactions and players changing teams. 

Randy Gregory agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys — then didn’t. Tom Brady got a new pass catcher and the Baltimore Ravens have a new star in the secondary. Deshaun Watson is still meeting with teams as the deadline is coming on where he will play in 2022 and another quarterback is off the market. 

Day 2 of free agency certainly had its share of moments, so let’s take a look at the winners and losers after the second day of “legal tampering.” 

Winners

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

How Tom Brady can inject life into a franchise is incredible. Before Brady made his decision to return, the Buccaneers were interested in Deshaun Watson (weren’t considered a favorite) and about to lose a good chunk of their free agents. After a rough Day 1 on the offensive side of the ball, general manager Jason Licht found some help for Brady. 

The Buccaneers are expected to sign Russell Gage to a three-year, $30 million deal, pairing him with Mike Evans at wide receiver while Chris Godwin recovers from his ACL tear (Godwin will be back at some point). Brady has three wide receivers who can make plays down the field, keeping the passing attack one of the most dangerous in football. Just imagine if Rob Gronkowski decides to come back. 

Licht also countered the loss of Alex Cappa by acquiring right guard Shaq Mason from the New England Patriots for a fifth-round pick; that’s all Tampa Bay had to give up for one of the better guards in the game. Mason actually allowed fewer sacks (one) and pressures (15) in more pass-blocking snaps than his best season in 2020. 

Tampa Bay has a No. 3 wide receiver and a starting right guard, instant upgrades on an offense poised for another Super bowl run.

Marcus Williams

Williams was the top safety in free agency, and he certainly was paid like one of the elite players on the market. Williams agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens — joining a secondary that already features Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters and Chris Clark (Williams is expected to play free safety). 

In terms of total value, Williams is the third-highest paid safety in football (behind Kevin Byard and Jamal Adams). The $37 million guaranteed trails only Adams for the most in the league. What’s even better for Williams is how Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will use him in his scheme. as he can roam in center field and create more turnovers while also lining up in the box in short-yardage situations.

The Ravens have a history of prioritizing safety with Ed Reed and Eric Weddle. They were able to land Williams, who chose them over multiple suitors. 

Jared Goff

How can the quarterback on a 3-13-1 team be a winner in free agency? When his team actually address their biggest need — getting Goff wide receivers to throw to. 

The Lions already had a rookie stud in Amon-Ra St. Brown, but needed an outside threat to take the pressure off him. Detroit was able to land D.J. Chark on a one-year “prove it” deal worth up to $12 million. Chark will start on the outside while the Lions can line up St. Brown opposite him or in the slot. 

Detroit was also able to retain Kalif Raymond — bringing him back for another year with Goff — along with Josh Reynolds on a two-year, $12 million deal. Add T.J. Hockenson to the mix and the Lions have five reliable pass catchers Goff can trust. 

The Lions are still in a rebuild, but they are taking the right steps toward improving with their 27-year-old quarterback. Detroit will find out this year if Goff is worth keeping, but they’ve done everything in free agency to give him the weapons he needs to get back to his Pro Bowl form. They also re-signed center Evan Brown to keep their offensive line intact, the strength of that unit. 

Don’t be surprised if the Lions offense make some gains in 2022. 

New York Jets

The Jets don’t have any signings that will get anyone to rub their eyes, but they are being aggressive and quietly having a strong legal tampering period. Landing guard Laken Tomlinson and pairing him with Alijah Vera-Tucker on the offensive line will pay huge dividends for Zach Wilson. They also improved at tight end by signing C.J. Uzomah, which highlighted a strong Day 1 of free agency. 

Jets general manager Joe Douglas addressed the 30th-ranked pass defense by signing D.J. Reed to a three-year, $33 million deal and Jordan Whitehead to a two-year, $14.5 million deal. Both players are 25 years old and have significant upside, landing in that second tier of free agents the Jets coveted. Reed played for head coach Robert Saleh with the San Francisco 49ers and Whitehead was New York’s top safety target with Marcus Maye departing. 

The Jets still have a significant amount of cap space remaining and top draft capital to improve this roster in 2022 and beyond. This team should be better in 2022, but that also hinges on Wilson’s development.

Losers

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys thought they were getting back one of their own in free agency by agreeing to terms with Randy Gregory — only to have Gregory back out of the deal and agree to terms with the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys’ social media account actually tweeted they agreed to terms with Gregory — ouch. 

Gregory agreed to a similar deal he would have received in Dallas (five years, $70 million with $28 million guaranteed). So how did Dallas lose Gregory? Per ESPN’s Ed Werner, Dallas had a clause that voided Gregory’s contract if he was fined or suspended for any drug offense or violation of the NFL‘s personal conduct policy. The Cowboys failed to mention it in their contract talks Monday, and it wasn’t in Gregory’s old contract. 

Dallas basically thought Gregory would reward the team for sticking with him through all his suspensions, but Gregory left them needing a pass rusher opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. Dallas also lost left guard Connor Williams and wide receiver Cedrick Wilson to the Miami Dolphins and had to trade Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns for Day 3 draft picks to shed salary cap space. 

The Cowboys are taking a step back this offseason and are falling out of contender status in the NFC (if they were considered that prior to this offseason anyway). 

Daniel Jones

The Giants agreed to terms with Tyrod Taylor to a two-year, $11 million deal (worth up to $17 million) to improve the No. 2 quarterback position after last year’s Mike Glennon disaster. New York has a new head coach in Brian Daboll, who has little (if any) commitment to Jones. The Taylor signing — with his starting experience — could indicate Taylor could compete with Jones for a starting job.

Jones is the No. 1 quarterback for now, but he will have to improve in 2022 if he doesn’t want to get replaced by Taylor. Jones struggled in his third year in New York, as he completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,428 yards with 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions for an 84.8 passer rating. In three seasons, Jones has completed 62.8% of his passes to 45 touchdowns and 29 interceptions (84.3 rating).

Jones has 49 turnovers since the start of the 2019 season, tied for third most in the league (only Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield have more). With Taylor being guaranteed $8.5 million in this deal, he’s certainly going to get an opportunity to compete with Jones for the Giants’ starting quarterback job. 

Jones will be on watch throughout the 2022 season with Taylor waiting for another shot. 





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