Top 5 moves of NFL Free Agency: Cousins and Browns highlight crazy first week of new league year

Jake McDonnell , Sports Editor

     Over spring break, the new league year in the NFL began with free agency officially opening on Wednesday, March 14 at 4:00 P.M. E.T. Tampering and trades had already been conducted in the weeks prior, but teams could not make those deals official or sign free agents until the 4:00 window. Below are five of the top moves of the free agency period so far.  

1.    Kirk Cousins signs a fully guaranteed contract with the Minnesota Vikings

      The Minnesota Vikings fell one game short of the Super Bowl last season, and none of the three quarterbacks on that roster will return in 2018. The quarterback who will lead the way for Minnesota next season is former Redskins signal-caller Kirk Cousins, who the Vikings signed to a three-year, $84 million contract, fully guaranteed. This comes after Cousins played the previous two seasons under the Redskins’ franchise tag and made about $44 million in that span. Cousins has thrown for over 4,000 yards in three straight seasons and has arguably the best set of weapons in his career on his new Vikings squad.

2.    The Cleveland Browns go crazy

     The Cleveland Browns have one win in their last 32 games and appear poised to drastically improve their win total next season. After the Miami Dolphins placed a $16 million franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry, they traded him to Cleveland for a 2018 fourth-round pick and a 2019 seventh-round pick. The Browns then acquired quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills for a 2018 third-round pick, and signed running back Carlos Hyde to a three-year, $15 million deal. With the #1 and #4 overall picks in this year’s draft, the Browns could make this offense even scarier.


3.    Jimmy Graham to Green Bay Packers


     The Green Bay Packers lacked a solid receiving tight end last season, and now they have one for Aaron Rodgers to utilize. Last week, after rumors of a New Orleans reunion circulated, tight end Jimmy Graham signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Packers. Graham has two 1,000-yard seasons and 889 or more receiving yards in five of nine seasons in the NFL. Graham is a down-field threat that can play the slot. He will essentially make up for the loss of receiver Jordy Nelson, now with the Oakland Raiders.

4.    Malcolm Butler inks deal with Tennessee Titans

     Malcolm Butler carries an interesting history with him to Tennessee on a five-year, $61 million contract ($30 million guaranteed). Formally a member of the New England Patriots, Butler caught the game-winning interception against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49. Three years later, Butler was mysteriously benched right before Super Bowl 52 kicked off and did not play any defensive snaps as the Patriots lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. Butler, surely looking for redemption and a fresh start, will play under former Patriots linebacker coach Mike Vrabel, as well as former New England defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

5.    Nate Solder signs with New York Giants

     The New York Giants’ 2017 season was a disaster, largely due to a depleted receiving core and a weak offensive line. Last season, the Giants’ offensive line allowed 180 pressures and surrendered 27 sacks, fourth in the NFL. In an effort to significantly improve the o-line, the Giants signed the Patriots’ 2011 first-round pick Nate Solder to a four-year, $62 million contract with over $34 million guaranteed. Solder allowed 51 total pressures last season, a career-high, but he’s been a reliable tackle since he came into the NFL. He brings valuable playoff experience, having started 16 postseason contests.