5 NFL teams who improved in free agency the most, and 2 teams who did not

When 12:01 p.m. hit on Monday afternoon, the legal tampering window was blasted open and NFL free agency got underway. Teams were wheeling and dealing, spending wild amounts of money through the first two days. NFL Network’s Gregg Rosenthal made a list of the top 101 free agents before the league year started, and this is the state of the list now:

Yeah, a lot money has been thrown around fast through this point in the free agency window. However, not every move is made equal. While some teams drastically changed the outlook of their roster, some still have a lot of questions left to answer. With that being said, here are 5 teams that got better and 2 teams that need some more work to be done in free agency.

5 NFL teams that got better in free agency

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Houston Texans

With one of the NFL’s best passers going into his second year on a rookie deal, the Texans came in with a lot of money to spend to improve on a team that went to the divisional round last year.

They went in and hit a grand slam with their early free agency period. The big fish in their haul was DE Danielle Hunter, signing a two-year, $49 million deal with $48 guaranteed. After losing Jonathan Greenard in free agency, the Texans made a more cost effective move for a better pass rusher in Hunter, and have created the best EDGE duo in the division.

On top of that, signing LB Azeez Al-Shaair upgrades the vacancy Blake Cashman left in free agency. Al-Shaair has experience with Demeco Ryans, and is a physical run defender that can play MIKE. Denico Autry provides some intensity and versatility up front, being able to play 3T or kick outside. That defense has instantly gotten more juice, strengthening the weakest point of the Texans from last year.

Offensively, with most of their guys being on rookie deals or long term contracts, they mainly retained their own. A trade for RB Joe Mixon could be really good if Mixon returns to his 2021 form, but Houston instantly fixed their defensive issues, raising their stock going into 2024.

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Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta landed the big QB fish in Kirk Cousins, which automatically makes them a winner. The contract structure also works well here, but on the field this is a perfect fit for a team that feels they’re a few small pieces away from being serious contenders in an NFC that has good, but flawed teams. Cousins played the best football of his career under Kevin O’Connell, who came from the same McVay system as new Falcons OC Zac Robinson. There’s a belief that in an offense with the same bones as the one in Minnesota, he can succeed.

In addition, the Falcons added WR Darnell Mooney, a speedy receiver who can do a lot of work on jet motions in 11 personnel. He’s a great complement to Drake London and Kyle Pitts, and can operate really well with Kirk Cousins downfield. Atlanta still needs to make a couple more moves, but they started off really well.

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Los Angeles Rams

Big. Beefy. Linemen. Paving. Roads.

The Los Angeles Rams have undergone a shift in their offensive philosophy, going from an outside zone heavy approach to more duo and vertical in their run game. They solidified this by paying big money to retain RG Kevin Dotson, then shelling out money to sign LG Jonah Jackson and TE Colby Parkinson. Their motive is clear: they want to be able to grind teams into the dirt in the run game, making life a little bit easier on QB Matthew Stafford and company in the passing game. I’ve loved their moves offensively, and it shows that they want to get ahead of the curve on the NFL, schematically.

They haven’t made many moves defensively, but bringing back CB Darious Williams is an awesome move. He’s an experienced corner who excels in off coverage, something the Rams do a lot of. Not only that, but he’s a veteran in a room with a lot of undrafted and late round young guys. Williams was on the Rams team that won the Super Bowl, and he can bring that back with him to LA.

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins

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Carolina Panthers

Let’s be very clear here: there was nowhere to go but up for the Panthers in this free agency window. After having the worst record in the NFL and no first round draft pick, the Panthers were kinda hamstrung in first year GM Dan Morgan’s first offseason in charge. However, the moves that they made did make them better. Trading away Brian Burns (especially for that price) sucks, but the moves they made offensively help them to get off the floor and give us a glimpse into what they want to be offensively.

Spending massive capital on guards Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis make it clear that the run game is a major priority, along with protecting pressure up the middle for second-year QB Bryce Young. In addition, they only had to give up CB Donte Jackson and a seventh-round pick for Steelers WR Diontae Johnson, which will give Young someone who creates easy separation. Yeah it’s a lot of money, but when you’re the Panthers, you’ll have to overpay. It’s not franchise-altering, but it’s a start.

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Washington Commanders

I’ve honestly loved the moves the Commanders have made in free agency, especially on defense. A lot of Cowboys came over, such as EDGEs Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr.. Both guys might not be three-down starters, but can provide rotational pass rush for head coach Dan Quinn’s pressure packages. LB Frankie Luvu signing for $36 million over three years is great value, and S Jeremy Chinn is a great fit for what Quinn wants to do defensively.

Offensively, there’s some intriguing moves here. Center Tyler Biadasz coming over from Dallas makes an interesting logjam on the interior with Ricky Stromberg possibly being the odd man out. Austin Ekeler comes over from Los Angeles and can be an interesting fit in the Kliff Kingsbury offense. QB Marcus Mariota is here too. Washington has made some good moves this free agency period, moves that can support a rookie QB.

NFL teams with more work to do

Seattle Seahawks

I have a lot of questions for what the Seahawks are planning in head coach Mike MacDonald’s first year. Re-signing TE Noah Fant and DT Leonard Williams were cool, but they still have a lot more work to do. Letting LB Jordyn Brooks walk, and seeing him only get $10M per year from the Dolphins has to sting a little bit. Losing Damien Lewis felt like a given, but now it’s just a bit confusing what they’re doing.

Dallas Cowboys

Uhhh…have the Cowboys figured out that free agency started? All of their moves seem to go against the “all-in” mantra that Jerry Jones said before the window opened. What has “all-in” looked like? Well, here goes:

  • Re-signing long snapper Trent Sieg
  • Letting LT Tyron Smith walk, without a true succession plan
  • Not extending QB Dak Prescott to create more cap to…
  • Give WR CeeDee Lamb a new contract

CB Stephon Gilmore is also a free agent, yet the Cowboys have been oddly quiet. Letting RB Tony Pollard walk might be good for them, but there’s no viable replacement plan at this moment outside of the draft. Even then, there are holes at LB still, and the free agent market at linebacker is quickly fizzling out. I’m just confused by the plan and vision in Dallas, and we might not be able to find out until free agency ends.

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