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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Off the Gridiron: Winners of free agency

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Washington Football Team 

This past season, the Washington Football Team’s potent pass rush allowed the team to emerge from NFC East and challenge the eventual Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Wild Card Weekend. Boasting one of the most productive defenses in the league, Washington was held back largely by subpar quarterback play and a lack of a dynamic receiving threat outside of Terry McLaurin

To address the question marks at the quarterback position, the Football Team turned to Ryan Fitzpatrick, inking the journeyman to a one-year, $10 million contract. While Fitzpatrick is certainly not the quarterback of the future in D.C., he will serve as an excellent bridge-player who offers high upside in terms of his veteran leadership and willingness to throw the ball downfield. In addition to Fitzpatrick, Washington reunited head coach Ron Rivera with wide receiver Curtis Samuel, one of the most electrifying hybrid receivers in the league. Samuel’s presence should take some pressure off of McLaurin, his former college teammate, and open up the offense for these two talented receivers and dynamic tight end Logan Thomas. After losing Ronald Darby to the Denver Broncos, the Washington Football Team decided to upgrade and sign William Jackson to a three-year deal worth $42 million. Jackson is one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the league and only adds to the already talented defense. 

With this young, talented and ascending nucleus, look for the Washington Football Team to be aggressive in looking to trade up in the NFL draft. One option could be to trade up and select North Dakota State's Trey Lance to be the franchise's quarterback of the future. The presence of Fitzpatrick would allow Lance to sit and learn for a year before taking a snap. 

 

Cleveland Browns 

The Cleveland Browns were a 14-yard run by Chad Henne and a gutsy fourth down call by Andy Reid away from having a shot at playing in the AFC championship game. The Browns are not only back, but their tenacious running game and potent play-action passing have also made them legitimate contenders in the AFC. In order to seriously challenge the Chiefs, Browns general manager Andrew Berry needed to shore up the secondary. 

The Browns were able to secure former Rams safety John Johnson III, who had become one of the most coveted players in free agency. Adding Johnson III to a group that features Ronnie Harrison and Grant Delpit gives the Browns an incredibly versatile and productive safety room. Berry further solidified the secondary when he snagged cornerback Troy Hill, Johnson III’s teammate from Los Angeles. Along the defensive line, the Browns added reliable defensive linemen Malik Jackson and Takkarist McKinley, who serve as low risk, high reward options that could potentially take attention away from All-Pro Myles Garrett. With these signings and the retention of Rashard Higgins and Malcolm Smith, the Browns have positioned themselves well to climb into the upper echelon of the AFC. 

 

New York Jets 

All of a sudden, the future is looking bright in East Rutherford. Replacing Adam Gase with Robert Saleh allowed the Jets to quickly improve their reputation around the league. While this roster had many needs entering the offseason, the Jets were able to bring in a lot of talent without breaking the bank, which is crucial for a team that is rebuilding. 

The Jets primarily addressed their defense in the first wave of free agency, which was highlighted by their franchise-tagging of starting safety and team captain Marcus Maye, signing of defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to a two-year deal and reeling in coveted former Cincinnati Bengals’ pass rusher Carl Lawson. Inserting Rankins and Lawson next to rising star Quinnen Williams suddenly gives the Jets a menacing defensive line. Coupled with the additions of Lamarcus Joyner and Jarrad Davis, general manager Joe Douglas provided some much-needed juice for head coach Robert Saleh’s defense. 

In addition to revamping their defense, the Jets added weapons for Sam Darnold or the rookie quarterback they should select with their second round pick in the 2021 NFL draft. In signing Corey Davis to a three-year contract worth $37.5 million, the Jets are getting a receiver who is just starting to put it together and beginning to develop into a really talented and physical receiver. The Jets also signed Keelan Cole, one of the most underrated players in the league, to a one-year deal worth $5.5 million. Adding Davis and Cole to a wide receiver room that already features Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder ensures that whoever is playing quarterback for the Jets will have a plethora of weapons at their disposal.