It’s crazy how much action goes down on the first official day of NFL free agency. It’s even crazier how much the first big moves in the league’s free agency period can end up having a huge impact on how the season plays out.
In just the first day of action, enough went down that could drastically affect how Super Bowl 53 plays out. If it doesn’t have a direct link to who actually wins the big game, it at least should have an imprint on how the playoffs take form.
Some big names have decided where they’re going already and there will be more to follow. The biggest domino of all – Kirk Cousins – fell on March 13th, however, and along with him, there were numerous signings that could potentially reshape how bettors view the NFL.
Here are the biggest moves from day one of free agency and how they could impact the teams involved:
Kirk Cousins Signs With Vikings
This is the big one everyone was waiting for. Cousins visited the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, with a second trip to New York hanging in the balance.
Minnesota didn’t allow Cousins to leave, as they handed him a three-year deal worth an estimated $86 million guaranteed. That’s a record-breaking deal and it could change the course of the NFL in terms of negotiations and free agency in general.
More importantly, the addition of Cousins just might make the Vikings the favorites to win Super Bowl 53. Minnesota already had interesting +1500 odds at Bovada, but with Cousins in tow, those odds are sure to improve.
Cousins isn’t exactly an elite quarterback, but he’s a stable one that’s being plopped down in a very good offense. Minnesota has the offensive weapons and a very strong defense in support.
With only the Green Bay Packers to worry about in the NFC North, Cousins could lead Minny to a second straight division crown and march this team right to it’s first ever Super Bowl. Betting on the Vikings to win it all just got logical.
Drew Brees Stays in New Orleans
The Drew Brees contract situation was honestly a much bigger deal than the less talented Cousins, except nobody really felt he was every at risk of leaving town.
The only issue with whether or not the Saints were “all in” with a 39-year old passer who had begun to slowly decline. Even though that’s arguably the case, Brees remains extremely accurate and still has the arm to attack defenses.
The Saints were wise to keep things consistent and they committed to their current title window with a two-year, $50 million contract:
This is a good deal for the Saints, who can now attack a future signal caller via the draft, while also pushing for another Super Bowl run in 2018.
The Saints were a Minnesota miracle away from getting to the NFC title game a year ago, so the return of Brees certainly can’t hurt their +1500 title odds.
Case Lands in Denver
The Denver Broncos seemed to be quite aware that they weren’t going to pay Cousins what he wanted, nor would they pry Brees out of Louisiana.
Denver’s other options came down to some guys with injury questions, inexperience or limited success. The latter brought in former Vikings passer Case Keenum on a two-year, $36 million deal.
I really don’t think the Broncos are done here, though. They are certainly trying to move on from the likes of Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch and bringing in Keenum lets them do that immediately.
He busted once they got there, but he seems to have the talent and smarts to work with what is in front of him and Denver does have some solid offensive weapons.
It’s possible Keenum could be a one-year wonder in the end, but he does provide an upgrade and temporarily boosts Denver’s +3000 title odds. Considering this is a team with an elite defense that was really just missing steady quarterback play, this could be a bigger move than it initially seems.
While this is a solid signing, the Broncos have more work to do, especially if they don’t buy Keenum as their long-term solution. Because of that, they’ll almost certainly also add a passer via the 2018 NFL Draft.
Chiefs Reel in Sammy
One of the biggest signings early in free agency is undoubtedly the Chiefs reeling in former Rams and Bills speedster, Sammy Watkins.
Kansas City was going to be stacked with offensive talent for second-year passer Patrick Mahomes III no matter what, but Watkins gives them yet another deep threat that can kill defenses down the field or in the short area passing game.
This is a mild risk due to Watkins’ injury history, but he’s actually an underrated talent that can make impossible catches look routine.
Kansas City has no excuses now as they move on from the Alex Smith era. While Watkins alone may not guarantee a march to the league title game, he certainly doesn’t hurt the Chiefs’ chances for 2018.
Bears Grab Allen Robinson, Trey Burton
Nobody is looking at the Bears as valid threats for next year (+7500 at Bovada), but perhaps they should be. After all, the Philadelphia Eagles went from trash to champions in one year largely due to excellent roster construction and the maturation of their young franchise passer, Carson Wentz.
I’m not sold on Mitch Trubisky turning the corner that quickly, but if he doesn’t, it won’t be due to a lack of weapons.
Chicago’s offensive cupboard was admittedly pretty bare, but they added former Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson (3-year, $42 million) and former Eagles tight end Trey Burton (4-year, $32 million) to the mix.
The Bears already have Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen and a hopefully healthy duo of Kevin White and Cameron Meredith on the roster. With all of that talent together, Chicago has an argument for a vastly improved standing going into 2018.
Redskins Nab Paul Richardson
The Redskins ditched Kirk Cousins after trading for Alex Smith earlier this offseason and they continued their efforts to solidify their offense by signing former Seahawks receiver, Paul Richardson (5-year, $40 million).
Only time will tell if these moves were the right ones, but there’s no denying the fact that Washington wasn’t exactly winning titles with Cousins running the show.
With the steadier Smith under center and Richardson’s speed added to a roster already featuring Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson, it’s arguable the Redskins are one of the better 2018 Super Bowl sleepers (+6000 at Bovada) to keep tabs on.
Danny Chooses Miami
Sometimes it’s not really about what one team gains, but more about what one team loses. The Miami Dolphins made waves by bringing in slot demon Danny Amendola, which was a direct swipe from the New England Patriots.
The 32-year old Amendola is not a massive signing for the Dolphins, who quite honestly may never find a way to appropriately utilized a tiny receiver who is hurt more often than not.
It’s likely the Patriots weren’t going to, either. Amendola was the team’s MVP during their run to Super Bowl 52, but he’s fighting father time and was going to lose snaps with Julian Edelman returning from a knee injury.
I’m not sure it puts a huge dent in the Pats’ league-leading Super Bowl 53 odds (+500), but it doesn’t help.
Miami (+7000) is still a long way from making serious noise up high. They’ve been losing quality talent via free agency and trades for two years now and signing an aging slot receiver doesn’t stop the bleeding. Not enough, at least.
Sam Bradford Headed For the Desert
The Arizona Cardinals went into the offseason with zero quarterbacks on their depth chart. Carson Palmer retired and with a new head coach coming into town, AZ realized they were better off starting from scratch.
It remains to be determined what that exactly means, but for now they’ll be letting veteran passer Sam Bradford try to pick up the pieces. Bradford has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $20 million contract with the team, which tentatively puts him in the lead to start under center for the Cards in 2018.
Bradford’s Minnesota tenure ending due to knee issues and he’ll always have question marks surrounding his health. However, when he was on the field, he largely delivered solid results and kept the Vikes competitive.
Bradford’s new deal could give Arizona a competent starter and with stud running back David Johnson and ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal, he could potentially thrive. I’m not sure that makes Arizona (+6600) title favorites, but it does give them a slight boost from where they were just days ago.
There are still 32 NFL teams and before the season gets started, they all stand in the way of each other.
That being said, there are some teams with poor Super Bowl odds that should get a boost and there are some sleepers that may vault into “favorite” status. Only time will tell, but it’s not crazy to suggest the first day of the 2018 NFL free agency period just might have a lasting impact.