Sports Business Writer
Free agency opened up this past week for the National Football League, and this was marked with a flurry of deals as soon as the free agency period official began as per the league calendar. Even with teams suffering the financial impacts of a pandemic, some were willing to spend right away with the hope of improving their squad in the upcoming season.
The first team to enter the spotlight this offseason was the New England Patriots. After years of success under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the team had to reshape itself after Brady left for Tampa Bay. Brady’s move ended up being very fruitful, ending with a championship. On the other hand, the Patriots were left with a rebuilding project, going 7-9 with QB Cam Newton. Once the season ended, a major question was who would be the quarterback for the Patriots. Would they continue to rely on Newton after such a mediocre season, or would they take their chance on someone new? The team answered that rather quick by signing Newton to a one-year contract worth $13.6 million. New England then went a step further by spending money on some new weapons to help Newton jumpstart their offense. Wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor signed on to the Patriots squad, as well as tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. These should give Newton some new targets, and it will be interesting to see if Belichick can get the production out of the tight ends he did when Rob Gronkowski was playing in New England. On defense, linebacker Kyle Van Noy rejoined the Patriots on a two-year contract. Van Noy won two championships with New England and came back to the team after playing a season with the Miami Dolphins.
Elsewhere in the league, the New Orleans Saints ushered in a new era after longtime legendary quarterback Drew Brees retired. The team resigned Jameis Winston to a deal for one season, meaning he will most likely get the chance to take over the starting role. Taysom Hill, another quarterback option on the roster, received a restructured contract that can be worth up to $140 million over four years. This contract saved the Saints some cap room, and also gives them another quarterback option even as Hill also stars in other positions on offense.
In Pittsburgh, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster returned to the team on a short contract for one season worth $8 million with a $7 million signing bonus. He was one of the biggest receiving options on the market, and it has been reported he settled for less money to return to the team where he has spent his whole career. With more cap space coming next year, it seems Smith-Schuster bet on having a solid year this season and signing for a bigger amount of money in 2022, whether that be in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.
These deals represent just the surface of the action that took place since free agency opened. Every team is building to compete for a championship and chase down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With many big names still unsigned, there will surely be more action and drama before the season officially kicks off in the fall.
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