NFL free agency: Day 2 tampering period winners (Dan Quinn, Rashaad Penny) and losers (Elijah Moore, Colts)
The NFL free agency frenzy continued Tuesday with more signings and more dollars being spent in the lead-up to the new league year starting Wednesday. There’s still no official word from Aaron Rodgers on his decision with the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers, but there’s the rest of the league to dive into. Here are a few winners and losers from the second day of the NFL’s "tampering" free agency period.
Whoever the Panthers draft
Frank Reich and the new-look Carolina Panthers are clearly going to draft a quarterback with the first overall draft pick, but they lessened the workload for their new quarterback by signing Andy Dalton to be a veteran presence for their rookie.
At this point, Dalton is a journeyman and is a fine enough option to hold the fort down for a rookie quarterback while they get up to speed over the first few weeks of the season.
Let’s be real — the first overall pick is going to start a handful of games this season, but Dalton’s presence helps ease the transition.
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The Atlanta Falcons appear to have decided that Desmond Ridder is going to have a legitimate shot to be the team’s next long-term starting quarterback.
Star guard Chris Lindstrom was extended on the first day of free agency, Jonnu Smith was acquired from the Tennessee Titans, Kaleb McGary re-signed with the team and they added Taylor Heinicke to a clear backup-level quarterback contract.
All signs are pointing to Ridder being the starting quarterback and they’re attempting to provide him with a stable supporting cast to help him grow. That’s good news for Ridder, who showed some promise in the final quarter of the 2022 season.
The Dallas Cowboys have built continuity on defense and that all starts with being able to retain the services of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who could have bolted for other jobs over the past two offseasons. Quinn is staying and the Cowboys are making his life a bit easier in the secondary.
First they re-signed stud safety Donovan Wilson to a three-year deal before trading for veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore to play across from Trevon Diggs. To finish the day, they re-signed linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year deal.
One of the league’s best units is sticking together with more chances to add talent throughout the offseason, and that’s a good start to the offseason for Quinn.
Rashaad Penny has been one of the NFL’s premier big-play running backs when healthy, but he really needed to nail his next playing spot to maximize his talent. It’s safe to say Penny did that by choosing to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles on the second day of free agency's tampering period. Since 2018, Penny ranks third in yards per rushing attempt (5.7) among all NFL players with at least 330 carries — the only players with higher marks are quarterbacks Lamar Jackson (6.1) and Kyler Murray (5.8). Now, Penny gets to run behind arguably the best offensive line in the sport while playing next to Jalen Hurts.
Penny should have plenty of room to do what he does best — rip off explosive runs. Penny’s injury history has been concerning, but this is the best landing spot for him.
Buccaneers’ skill players
Who is going to block for the Buccaneers? Donovan Smith has been released (which is a replaceable move) and now Shaq Mason is on his way to Houston to start for the Texans’ rebuild.
The Buccaneers are in a weird spot where they have some young pieces, but those young players have played a lot of big-time football due to the presence of Tom Brady over the past few seasons. They need to do some retooling and rebuilding on offense and now their offensive line, besides Tristan Wirfs, needs a major overhaul.
The Bucs were unable to get in on the quarterback game, either. Now Mike Evans and Chris Godwin find themselves in a tough situation in the immediate aftermath of Brady retiring.
At least they got a ring! That makes everything worth it, even catching passes from Baker Mayfield.
Is Moore going to put himself back on the trade market? With Aaron Rodgers seemingly one appearance away on "The Pat McAfee Show" from coming to New York, the Jets have started getting the gang together for Rodgers.
Allen Lazard is reportedly on the verge of signing a four-year contract and they’re reportedly sniffing around the possibility of adding Randall Cobb to their offense. That’s going to leave someone looking on the outside in for the Jets’ receiver room, and that someone is not going to be Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson. Moore might find himself below the others on the pecking order, and the Jets might not be willing to trade him based on how they’ve operated in the past with his trade request and their refusal to move fellow wide receiver Denzel Mims.
Moore is a talented wide receiver, but he might find himself fighting to get on the field for this iteration of the Jets.
The Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis' investment in Matt Ryan will officially backfire after he's released this week. Normally, doing so wouldn't matter much, especially considering Ryan’s level of play last season, but after he was acquired from the Falcons, the Colts guaranteed $12 million for the 2023 season in his contract. Ryan won't be a Colt this coming season, but they still owe him the $12 million from his re-worked contract.
Hopefully things start to get normal for the Colts soon! Or not, this is pretty fun too.