We’re deep in the heart of NFL free agency, and there’s no shortage of intrigue from the roster shakeup that unfolded league-wide this week. Wednesday saw plenty of action with the league’s new year officially kicking off and a wide range of trades and signings all becoming official. Some stunners also fell to the wire, including Von Miller signing a mammoth six-year deal with the Buffalo Bills that made him one of the big winners in Day 3 of free agency.
So how did Thursday’s action go? Here’s a look at the winners and losers from Day 4 of NFL free agency.
Winner: Allen Robinson
After staying on the open market a bit longer than expected, Robinson has found a new home. The veteran wide receiver has agreed to a three-year, $46.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Rams that includes approximately $30 million guaranteed. Not only did Robinson get paid and landed with the defending Super Bowl champions, but he should finally have an elite quarterback. Throughout Robinson’s career — which spans from Jacksonville to Chicago — he’s barely been able to play an average QB, let alone a top-half flagger in the league. So far, he’s had the likes of Blake Bortles, Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton, and Justin Fields kicking NFL football for him. Now he gets Matthew Stafford, who is arguably the best quarterback he’s ever played with at this level, which is an exciting prospect for the talented receiver.
Loser: Cleveland Browns
It’s been a whirlwind week for the Browns. The club was surprisingly on the hunt for Deshaun Watson, but the Texans quarterback has since kicked them out of the running for his services. Understandably, this Watson pursuit has upset current quarterback Baker Mayfield and he has since demanded a trade, leaving the top job on their roster in a state of disarray. Mayfield’s displeasure was headed in that direction, especially after posting what was essentially a farewell message to the city of Cleveland on Wednesday night. Now the Browns will have to do damage control to try and mend the fences with their quarterback, which likely won’t be an easy task.
Loser: Baker Mayfield
Following his trade request, the Browns walked out and said they would not leave Mayfield despite his wishes. No matter how you look at it, it’s a tough situation for the former No. 1 overall pick. He is now part of a team that openly tried to replace him and now refuses to trade him after that failed pursuit. It makes things ridiculously awkward for all parties involved and it looks like the deck is completely burnt from Mayfield’s perspective, so it will be interesting to see the dynamic if they stick together ahead of the regular season. After all, who’s to say Cleveland won’t try to land another quarterback in the future? Hard to buy and compete in this type of situation if you are Mayfield.
Winner: Davante Adams
One of the biggest blockbuster trades of the offseason happened Thursday night and saw the All-Pro wide receiver land with the Las Vegas Raiders. Not only does this trade reunite Adams with college quarterback and good friend Derek Carr, it also makes him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. Along with acquiring Adams, the Raiders reportedly gave him a five-year, $141.25 million contract, which equates to an average annual salary of $28.25 million. Not only does Adams come out of playing the 2022 season on the franchise tag, but he also lands with a team where he already has a strong quarterback rapport, which should be seen as a win-win for him all around. . .
Loser: Aaron Rodgers
While the Green Bay Packers might have picked up a first- and second-round pick in exchange for Adams, Rodgers just lost his greatest weapon in the passing game. The reigning league MVP would have been aware that Adams was unlikely to stay with the team as he negotiated his own monster expansion, but that doesn’t change the fact that they just lost a huge piece. to attack. It won’t be an easy task to replace Adams either, especially with the free agent market for elite passers drying up. Odell Beckham Jr. is the biggest name, but he’s coming off an ACL tear he suffered in the Super Bowl, so he won’t even be at full capacity for a while.
Winner: Hayden Hurst
Since entering the league, Hurst has been looking for a starting opportunity. Mark Andrews’ rise in Baltimore kept him from living up to his first-round status with the Ravens and after a career year with the Falcons in 2020, Atlanta drafted Kyle Pitts, pushing Hurst up the table depths. Now the tight end finds himself in an intriguing situation with the Cincinnati Bengals, the team he just signed a one-year contract with on Thursday. With CJ Uzomah now in New York, Hurst is expected to be the Bengals’ starter in 2022. That not only means Hurst is the prime candidate to adopt the bulk of Uzomah’s 63 targets from last season, but he’ll also be playing in a offense led by Joe Burrow and features pass catchers like Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Those receivers will likely get attention, creating plenty of openings for Hurst to make plays.
Loser: Baltimore Ravens
This is the offseason for players changing their minds, it seems. After reports surfaced that the Ravens and Za’Darius Smith had reached an agreement on a contract, the passing veteran decided to return to the free agent market. Smith is now becoming one of the best free agents in the open market, but that leaves the Ravens still stuck with filling a big hole on the edge. Pro Football Focus gave Baltimore a pressure rating that ranked 20th in the NFL last season and the unit’s 34 total sacks put them in the bottom half of the league in 2021. Smith was in charge of help improve those totals, but now Baltimore will look for other players to create a better passing rush in 2022.