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Broncos Journal: Winners and losers from first week of NFL free agency

One word to describe the first week of NFL free agency: chaos.

The Falcons found their quarterback. The Dolphins watched multiple key players leave. Derrick Henry moved to Baltimore, where he and quarterback Lamar Jackson might have the most unstoppable zone reads in football. And former Giants running back Tiki Barber sounded off on Saquon Barkley joining the Eagles.

“You’re dead to me,” will be my go-to phrase whenever someone rejects my trade request in fantasy football in the fall.

There are still more moves to be made, but let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from a busy first week:


Kirk Cousins: People can criticize the veteran quarterback for his lack of playoff success. But when it comes to securing big-time contracts, Cousins might be a Hall of Famer. The former Vikings star signed a four-year, $180 million deal with $100 million guaranteed with Atlanta despite being 35 and coming off a season-ending torn Achilles. Before joining the Falcons, Cousins earned $231.6 million while playing for Washington and Minnesota, according to Spotrac.

Cousins will be the best quarterback to wear a Falcons uniform since Matt Ryan. He should work well with wide receiver Drake London, tight Kyle Pitts and running back Bijan Robinson. But man, it’s hard to not think about how he’s been able to get the Brink’s trucks constantly rolling to his house.

Offensive guards: A handful of guards around the league received the bag. Former Dolphins guard Robert Hunt signed a five-year, $100 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. Two-time Pro Bowler Landon Dickerson inked a four-year, $84 million extension with the Eagles. And the Rams signed Jonah Jackson to a three-year, $51 million contract.

As guards signed deals left and right, Quinn Meinrez had to be smiling. The Broncos’ starting right guard will be an unrestricted free agent in 2025 and could be in line for a big payday if his performance in 2023 carries over into 2024.

Washington Commanders: Under new ownership, the Commanders were active. They signed a handful of veterans, including running back Austin Ekeler, defensive end Dorance Armstrong, linebacker Frankie Luvu and tight end Zach Ertz. On Thursday, Washington improved its draft capital by trading quarterback Sam Howell, a fourth-round pick (No. 102) and a sixth (No. 179) to the Seattle Seahawks for a third (No. 78) and fifth (No. 152). The Commanders currently have six draft picks inside the top 100 while adding quality veterans to the roster. Washington seems to be trending in the right direction with new head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters.

Houston Texans: The Texans lost running back Devin Singletary, defensive end Jonathan Greenard and linebacker Blake Cashman. But they responded by trading for former Bengals running back Joe Mixon and signing edge rusher Danielle Hunter to a two-year, $49 million deal. Pairing Hunter with Will Anderson Jr. gives Houston one of the best pass-rush duos in the NFL. Hunter totaled 16½ sacks for the Vikings in 2023, while Anderson had the third-best pass-rush win rate (26%) in the league, according to ESPN.

Mixon is an upgrade from Singletary, and Houston only had to give up a seventh-round pick before giving him a three-year, $27 million deal. The Texans also added linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and re-signed tight Dalton Schultz and kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn. It appears Houston is in win-now mode with young quarterback C.J. Stroud and head coach DeMeco Ryans.


Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys’ nonchalant approach to the first week of free agency has been questionable. They re-signed long snapper Trent Sieg, but their only major addition thus far has been signing linebacker Eric Kendricks.

Dallas doesn’t have an answer for the running back position after Tony Pollard joined the Titans and Henry, a potential free-agent target, signed with the Ravens. Quarterback Dak Prescott’s $59.45 million cap hit in 2024 has complicated things. The Cowboys could create short-term cap relief by giving Prescott an extension. However, the team reportedly hasn’t had talks with Prescott.

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers finally did it. They traded star edge rusher Brian Burns to the New York Giants for a 2024 second-round draft choice (No. 39) and 2025 fifth-round selection. Both teams also agreed to swap fifth-rounders this year.

But Carolina could’ve gotten so much more if they would’ve traded Burns in 2022.

According to ESPN, the Los Angeles Rams were willing to send two first-round picks and a second-rounder for Burns, but the Panthers decided to hold on to him. Quarterback Bryce Young should benefit from the additions of Hunt and wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Still, the fact that Carolina traded Burns for nickels on the dollar puts them in the loser category.

New Orleans Saints: The Saints were pretty much at a standstill due to their cap situation. They brought back safety Tyrann Mathieu, who lacks the speed and explosiveness from his prime years, and 35-year-old linebacker Demario Davis. The addition of former Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay Jr. was solid. Beyond that, New Orleans’ moves keep it in the same position it was last season. That’s not good when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Falcons have improved.

Broncos quarterback situation: When free agency started, the Broncos were expected to go after a veteran quarterback to compete with Jarrett Stidham, who started the final two games of the regular season. Instead, Denver watched quarterbacks like Sam Darnold, Gardner Minshew and Jacoby Brissett sign elsewhere.

What’s left in the free agent market is injury-prone quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Tannehill, Tyler Huntley, MVP candidate-turned-journeyman Carson Wentz and Josh Dobbs. Denver might be pressured to take a quarterback in the draft. However, the Vikings further complicated that plan when they acquired the No. 23 pick from Houston on Friday morning. With Minnesota in possession of two first-round picks, it has enough ammo to trade up and draft a quarterback like J.J. McCarthy or Drake Maye.

Perhaps, the best move for Denver is to roll with Stidham and pray it’s in a position to draft Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders in 2025. I can already see the “Tank for Shedeur” tweets flooding my timeline on X in October.

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