The NFL’s legal tampering period opened at noon ET on Monday. The action was slow-moving for the first 15 minutes, but oh boy, did things pick up fast! The Bears and Falcons stand out as winners of the first day of free agency.
The Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons entered the offseason with the most available cap space, and they put it to great use Monday. Here is a breakdown of each signing and a few more teams that improved the roster on day one of free agency.
•Jessie Bates III
The Falcons signed Jessie Bates III away from the Bengals after the star safety failed to strike a new deal with the franchise. Bates found his payday from Atlanta, signing a four-year, $64 million mega-deal and providing an upgrade to the secondary instantly.
David Onyemata bolsters the front lines and reunites with his former defensive coordinator and d-line coach in New Orleans, Ryan Nielsen. Onyemata generates pressure on the pocket from the interior and will form a nice tandem with Grady Jarrett.
The Falcons also signed Taylor Heinicke early Tuesday morning, bringing the remaining cap space to ~$44 million. Atlanta still has another move (or two) up its sleeve.
The Bears started the offseason with a bang when they traded out of the No. 1 overall pick and acquired DJ Moore — and four draft picks in return. Heading into free agency, Chicago was expected to be heavily active, and this prediction came to fruition.
Two linebackers, Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards signed on to lead the middle of the Matt Eberflus defense. Edmunds is only 24 years old, and TJ Edwards is 26. Both will start immediately and fill the Shaq Leonard/Bobby Okereke roles for Eberflus.
On top of the linebacker upgrades, the Bears brought Nate Davis in to start at a guard position on the offensive line. The commitment to Justin Fields is a sight for sore eyes, but general manager Ryan Poles is not done yet.
The Bears still sit at ~$50 million in remaining cap space. The names remaining in free agency are not the type to turn a franchise around single-handedly. But with a few more depth signings — and a home run NFL Draft — Chicago could double its win total from 2022.
A Few Other Free Agency Moves That Stood Out
Javon Hargrave Signs with the Niners
•The expensive price tag is worth it for a player of Hargrave’s stature. He will thrive in San Fran, teaming up with Nick Bosa for sacks on the regular.
Jimmy Garoppolo Signs with the Raiders
•Raiders fans, as a whole, seemed disappointed in the signing of Jimmy G. I get it, he isn’t the top choice in a vacuum, but his fit with Vegas makes all the sense in the world.
Garoppolo reunited with Josh McDaniels and arrives on a relatively cheap deal. He can give the Raiders a chance to win games in 2023 without handcuffing their ability to draft and develop a quarterback behind him.
Dalvin Tomlinson Signs with the Browns
•The Browns need to improve the run defense, to put it mildly. The front seven couldn’t stop a nosebleed last year, but Dalvin Tomlinson is a huge (pun intended) step toward fixing this issue. Tomlinson is a massive human being who stuffs running lanes and harasses quarterbacks. Cleveland spent big, but at the most pressing need on the roster.