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The state of play: First week of free agency round-up

The opening of the free agency market saw a frenzy of moves and deals signed across the leagues.

Whether it’s fringe players moving cities in the hope to find a fresh start or seasoned veterans extending their contracts to have another crack at winning a Lombardi (We’re looking at you, Tom Brady), the beginning of the free agent market is always a turbulent time in the NFL.

And while the Houston Texans desperately try everything they can to hold onto Deshaun Watson, it’s clear the star-studded QB wants out. Despite this, the Texans continue to do business in other areas of the field seemingly ignoring the looming issue of Watson’s potential departure.

Elsewhere the New England Patriots and Bill Belicheck have had somewhat of a resurgence in the first week of the new league year. In quite untypical fashion, the Patriots spent a lot of cash, on a lot of players, signing a total of ten players and going through something of a rebuild in the space of a week. Bringing back Cam Newton for another season and giving him better weapons to throw to will prove to be an instant improvement for the Patriots who are chasing the Buffalo Bills in an evolving AFC East.

The reigning Super Bowl Champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are fully committed to retaining their title next season. Now, that may sound like a stupid statement, of course every reigning champ is committed to holding on to their title but rarely does a team its core group of players as well as the Bucs have managed to this offseason. Tom Brady, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David all resigned with Tampa as they pursue a second consecutive Lombardi. Importantly, Ryan Succop – one of the league’s most consistent kickers – is staying in Tampa on a three-year extension.

Many fans would have been shocked to see the Kansas City Chiefs releasing their two premier tackles following on from the disaster that was Super Bowl LV. Cap restrictions meant Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher were out the door in Kansas leaving many questioning whether the Chiefs will be able to recover their losses in time for the new season. Some even went as far as blaming Patrick Mahomes’ contract for costing his team vital funds that could be used to build a credible offensive line in front of him. Of course, the contract isn’t the issue. Mahomes’ money is so well spread out that next season he won’t even be the highest-earning player on his team, that honour belongs to Frank Clark. In-fact, next season Patrick Mahomes won’t be in the top five highest earners on the Chiefs roster. However, the ship was soon steadied with the signing of Joe Thuney who automatically restores the status of the Chiefs line to stable.

The Arizona Cardinals have, for a few seasons, been piecing together a roster that is capable at competing at the right end of the NFC. The addition of JJ Watt to the defence will pose a lot of problems for opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines. Considering the current state of affairs in Seattle and the problems they are facing upfront, the news of Watt to Arizona must have felt like a gut punch for Russell Wilson. The Seahawks turnstile, sorry, offensive line, was the worst in the league last season giving up a league-high 47 sacks on Wilson. While many might have expected the Seahawks to make a move for one of the two Chiefs’ tackles who were released, there was seemingly no concerted effort or urgency from Seattle to fix their offensive line. Gabe Jackson from the Las Vegas Raiders was the ‘Hawks only addition in the first week of free agency.

With over a month still to go until the draft and the status of some high-profile players still hanging in the balance, we can expect a lot more moves and shake-ups to get us by until the draft in Cleveland. This is one of the most important periods of the NFL calendar when teams are crafted and pieced together and the makings of a Super Bowl-winning squad is put together. Come next February when the Lombardi is being hoisted, it is this period we will look back to and revel at the moves the winning franchise made and praise them for the excellent work which is playing out right in front of us. The coming season is set to be as dramatic and exciting as ever.

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Michael Lavery writes on behalf of the Irish NFL Show who are in partnership with Pundit Arena. Tune into their Sunday, Monday and Thursday shows every week on Facebook.