Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Overreactions, reality checks after first week of free agency: Giants better off without Saquon Barkley?

The first week of free agency is essentially completed, with plenty of moves around the NFL that resulted in one of the busiest weeks of transactions in recent years. Kirk Cousins went to the Atlanta Falcons, Saquon Barkley went to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Christian Wilkins went to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Those were a few moves that highlighted the free agent signings, some of which sparked some more overreactions around the league. Which of the top signings and lack of moves deserved overreactions and which deserved a reality check? 

Falcons are a Super Bowl contender with Kirk Cousins

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

The Falcons are certainly a better team with Cousins at quarterback, the missing piece Atlanta needed to win the NFC South the last few seasons. Atlanta had a contending team in the division last year, but quarterback performance between Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke kept them from winning the division.

With Cousins at quarterback, the Falcons are certainly division title contenders in a weak NFC South. Atlanta also added Calvin Ridley and Rondale Moore to an offense that already has Bijan Robinson, Kyle Pitts, and Drake London at the skill positions. The Falcons also have one of the best run blocking offensive lines in football. 

Are they a Super Bowl contender with this group? There are still teams in the NFC that are more playoff tested and better than Atlanta. Cousins also have to prove he can make a deep playoff run of his own too. The Falcons are a playoff team in 2024, but the rest is to be determined. 

Giants are better off without Saquon Barkley

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The Giants built a team around Barkley over the last six years, but have just a playoff win and a 34-64-1 record to show for it. They were wise to move on from Barkey, not make an offer, and allocate their money elsewhere. 

New York spent that Barkley money on improving the offensive line, adding Jon Runyan and Jermaine Eluemunor. Their big move was trading for Brian Burns and paying him, creating a pass rush with him, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Dexter Lawrence

The Giants still need to improve at wide receiver and quarterback (get out of the Daniel Jones contract), but they are improving between the trenches. This is the best way for sustained success in the NFL, which New York couldn’t do if it paid Barkley.

Eagles are better with Saquon Barkley

Overreaction or reality: Reality

The Eagles actually paid a running back, giving Barkley a three-year deal and making him the first three-down back the franchise has had since LeSean McCoy. Barkley doesn’t have the explosiveness he had in his early days with the Giants, but he still has big-play capability and is an added asset in the passing game (and Kellen Moore will actually utilize him in that role). 

Philadelphia still has Barkley in his prime for at least two years, having him in an offense with A.J. brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert as the top targets for Jalen Hurts. The Eagles are in a Super Bowl contending window and want to take advantage of that. 

Putting Barkley behind that offensive line will do wonders for his career, and the Eagles offense. 

Bears should keep Justin Fields past the NFL Draft

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

The Bears haven’t been able to find any suitors for Fields during the first week of free agency, as teams that needed starting quarterbacks found other options while the other teams are at the top of the draft. The Denver Broncos still need a starting quarterback. 

Fields may have to settle for being a backup quarterback in 2024, but even those teams with ideal No. 2 quarterback situations for him are filling up. The Seattle Seahawks traded for Sam Howell and the Philadelphia Eagles traded for Kenny Pickett. The Pittsburgh Steelers are an option for Fields as a backup to Russell Wilson

Chicago can’t hold out for a high offer for Fields. That option likely isn’t there and the Bears can’t go into 2024 with Fields and the No. 1 overall pick, who’s going to be a quarterback. The Bears just need to move on now. 

Cowboys are wise sitting out the early portions of free agency 

Overreaction or reality: Overreaction

How exactly did the Cowboys get better this week? Dallas is rarely a player in free agency, but the Dak Prescott conundrum is preventing the franchise from improving other areas of the roster. The Cowboys lost Tyron Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Dorrence Armstrong and Tony Pollard already, while Stephon Gilmore and Jayron Kearse are still free agents. Michael Gallup and Leighton Vander Esch also aren’t on the roster. 

The Cowboys never offered Derrick Henry and their lone free agent signing was Eric Kendricks. Meanwhile, the Commanders went on a free agent spending spree to improve their roster while the Eagles added Barkley, Bryce Huff, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. 

Dallas is still a playoff team, but have dropped a level in the NFC East race. A good draft can alleviate the issues Dallas faced in free agency, but this could have been avoided if Jerry Jones and company could handle Prescott’s contract. 

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