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NFL free agency Day 4 winners and losers: Justin Fields’ trade market dwindling, Eagles could pay price

Four days into the start of NFL free agency have come and gone, as the first wave of player signings are coming to a close. There were a few trades on Day 4, as Sam Howell and Desmond Ridder — two quarterbacks from the 2022 draft class — were on the move.

Ridder has a new team in the Arizona Cardinals, while Howell is with the Seattle Seahawks. Rondale Moore found his way to the Atlanta Falcons as a result of the Ridder trade. 

With not as much activity on Day 4 as the1 previous three days, let’s take a look at some winners and losers from the second day of the new league year. 

Winner: Sam Howell

Howell’s days were numbered in Washington, butt he gets a fresh start just a day after the Commanders signed Marcus Mariota. Washington traded Howell to the Seahawks in a package that included the Commanders giving up a 2024 fourth-round pick (No. 102 overall) and a 2024 sixth-round pick (No. 179). The Seahawks gave up a 2024 third-round pick (No. 78) and a 2024 fifth-round pick (No. 152). 

Howell no longer has to worry about unrealistic expectations as the starting quarterback in Washington, getting a fresh start as the No. 2 in Seattle. He’ll get to learn under Geno Smith, who had a few years to learn under Russell Wilson as the No. 2 before taking over the starting role. 

Perhaps the Seahawks think the same can happen with Howell. Giving up a third-round pick speaks volumes. 

Loser: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles may be paying a price for signing Saquon Barkley … in the form of a draft pick. A team spokesman denied the reports of contact between the Eagles and Barkley before the legal tampering period began Monday, although the NFL is investigating the matter. 

Barkley’s former coach at Penn State, James Franklin, said Tuesday that part of Eagles general manager Howie Roseman’s sales pitch to Barkley was “the connection with Penn State and the fan base as well.” 

In the legal tampering period, agents of players can talk to teams — but not players directly. Barkley denied talking to Roseman or the Eagles directly, but the NFL may have something to say about that upon its conclusion of the investigation. We’ll see what happens.

Winner: Arik Armstead

The Jacksonville Jaguars handsomely paid Armstead just one day after losing out on Calvin Ridley to the Tennessee Titans. The money Jacksonville would have spent on Ridley ended up being used on Armstead, as he signed a three-year, $51 million deal on Thursday.

Pairing with Josh Allen and Travon Walker on Jacksonville’s defensive line is more than ideal, especially in Ryan Nielsen’s system where getting to the quarterback is paramount. The Jaguars have a consistent presence on the defensive interior with Armstead, which should free up Allen even more on the edge. 

Loser: Desmond Ridder

Ridder’s days as a starting quarterback were numbered last year when the Falcons benched him twice during the season. When Kirk Cousins signed his contract with the Falcons, Ridder faced an uncertain future with Taylor Heinicke having a year left on his deal. 

Going to the Cardinals is a good reset for Ridder, but not an endorsement he can start in the league again. Kyler Murray is entrenched in that role as the franchise quarterback. Ridder will have to battle with Clayton Tune for the No. 2 role, which also isn’t an ideal situation for a quarterback who has started games and is still developing as a player.  The No. 2 job in Arizona isn’t set in stone. 

Winner: Los Angeles Chargers

The futures of Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa in Chargers uniforms were uncertain heading into Thursday. Both players had high cap hits and were prime candidates to either be traded or released.

Instead, the Chargers got both of their pass-rushers to restructure their deals — saving more than $10 million in cap space in the process. The Chargers would have saved $23 million by trading or releasing Mack and $14 million with Bosa. 

Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter prioritizes the edge, so having one of Bosa or Mack was important. He gets both for one year at least.

Loser: Justin Fields

Four days into free agency and Fields still hasn’t been traded. Two more quarterbacks were dealt to other teams in Sam Howell and Desmond Ridder, as Howell was sent to a potential suitor in the Seahawks. 

What teams are left for the Chicago Bears to trade Fields to? The New England Patriots can just draft a quarterback, same with the Washington Commanders (who already signed Marcus Mariota) and the New York Giants (who signed Drew Lock and already have Daniel Jones under contract). 

Whatever team Fields ends up with in 2024, he’s likely a No. 2 quarterback at this rate. 

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