Week 1 winners and losers in free agency

After nearly a week of free agency, teams have seen significant shifts, for better and for worse. Who are the winners and losers of free agency to date?

As we close out the first week of free agency, more than a billion dollars has been thrown out to deserving players and the futures of franchises have been altered.

Some teams have taken a step forward. Some have taken a step back. While we are still a long, long way from the start of the 2014 season, the Vikings have put themselves among the winners of the first week of free agency.

The Vikings have lost some players, but none of them were unanticipated, including RB Toby Gerhart, CB Chris Cook and TE John Carlson. Barring some kind of miracle, they're going to lose Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, but, for now, they've done a solid job of solidifying their roster.

They re-signed Matt Cassel to be the de facto starting quarterback, as well as DE Everson Griffen, WR Jerome Simpson and guard Charlie Johnson.

Having the league's worst scoring defense last year, the Vikings invested in all levels of their porous defense, signing DT Linval Joseph, LB Jasper Brinkley and CBs Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox.

For a team that will be predicted to finish last in its division almost universally next year, they're spending their money wisely and will lose players they don't want to re-sign to long-term deals.

While still a long way from the finish line of the marathon of free agency, here's our take on the Week 1 winners and losers in free agency.

WINNERS

Denver –
Knowing Peyton Manning has one or maybe two years left, the Broncos are making a big-time run. The total of the contracts they gave Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward was $110 million. Granted, when Manning goes, so could the rest of them, but Denver is loading up for a one- or two-year run at a championship and have the horses to get it done.

Indianapolis – Peyton Manning's old team isn't doing too shabby. They have lost a player they couldn't afford to lose (Antoine Bethea), re-signed their most critical free agent (Vontae Leach), and added DE Arthur Jones, LB D'Qwell Jackson, C Phil Costa and WR Hakeem Nicks – all of whom should be starters on a defending division champ.

Atlanta – The only players the Falcons have lost have been players they've either cut or retired. They spent heavily on the defensive line, adding Paul Solai and Tyson Jackson for $58 million and added offensive line depth with OT Gabe Carimi and G Jon Asamoah.

Jacksonville – When you stink out the place like the Jags have the last few years, you need to make noise in March. They re-signed five of their own free agents early, including DE Jason Babin and CB Will Blackmon, and went out and signed some big-time free agents looking to cash checks or get their chance – DEs Red Bryant, Ziggy Hood and Chris Clemons for about $50 million, guard Zane Beadles and RB Toby Gerhart. For a team that is a "hard sell" for free agents, the Jags have done remarkably well.

Miami – The Dolphins have no problem spending money. It's getting value for that cash that has been the problem. They lost a couple of key players in Soliai and CB Nolan Carroll, but they re-signed CB Brent Grimes and added left tackle Branden Albert, nose tackle Earl Mitchell, CB Cortland Finnegan and S Louis Delmas. That has to be viewed as a significant win.

Philadelphia – They've made additions, like CB Carrol and S Malcolm Jenkins. They've lost nobody … yet. Nothing wrong with that.

Tampa Bay – Any time you can add DE Michael Johnson and CB Alterraun Verner, not to mention a starting center and potentially a starting QB, while only having to swallow hard and pay off Darrelle Revis, you've done O.K.

LOSERS

Houston –
For a team sitting on the first pick of the draft, they've lost Owen Daniels and Ben Tate on offense, three defensive linemen of the six they had on the roster at the end of the year and three linebackers. Complicating matters, they have yet to sign a single outside free agent.

Carolina – All the Panthers have added are an inexpensive safety (Roman Harper) and tight end (Mike McNeill). They lost three wide receivers, including three of their top four last year – Steve Smith, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon, had three offensive linemen announce their retirements in less than one week, and lost starting D-backs Captain Munnerlyn and Mike Mitchell. It doesn't get much worse than that for a team that earned a first-round bye in last season's playoffs.

Baltimore – The Ravens have spent a lot of money just to keep more players from getting away after the mass exodus following their Super Bowl win a year ago. The only outside signing was Steve Smith, who was cut because he was too old and too expensive for the WR-starved Panthers. The Ravens have already lost CB Corey Graham, LB Jameel McClain, DL Arthur Jones, OT Michael Oher and FB Vonta Leach and are likely to lose S James Ihedigbo to the Lions soon.

Cincinnati – The only outside player brought in was Dontay Moch and he was claimed off waivers. In the meantime, they've lost two offensive linemen (Anthony Collins and Kyle Cook), their best defensive lineman last year (Michael Johnson), veteran LB James Harrison and CB Brandon Ghee. For a team finally ascending to the top of the AFC North, they've taken their share of hits.

Kansas City – Any time you lose a talent like Branden Albert, you've suffered a blow, but, they lost three O-linemen (including guard Jon Asamoah and Geoff Schwartz), too. That doesn't include starting DE Tyson Jackson or playmaker Dexter McCluster. For a team chasing Denver, they seem to be losing ground.

Dallas – The Cowboys' only signings have been D-linemen Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey, while losing Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. That's nowhere close to a fair trade, but the Cowboys were in cap trouble and were a bit hamstrung. Still, it's been kind of a beating so far.

New Orleans – The Saints added blue-chip safety Jairus Byrd, but they cut Lance Moore, Will Smith, Jabari Greer and Roman Harper, lost DB Malcolm Jenkins, traded Darren Sproles, and Jimmy Graham isn't happy about getting hit with the franchise tag. Things aren't all party down on Bourbon Street these days. Who dat?

New York Giants – They did a nice job of re-signing some of their own, but their losses are significant – D-linemen Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph, WR Hakeem Nicks, CB Corey Webster, LB Keith Rivers, TE Brandon Myers and S Ryan Mundy. They need a lot of backups to step up and be Giants.

Oakland – There are multiple reasons to put them on the list, not the least of being allowing RB Rashad Jennings to leave while re-signing Darren McFadden. The Raiders have become a joke for a reason – they're funny. Lamarr Houston and Jared Veldheer could have helped make them relevant. They're gone.

St. Louis – They've added nobody and lost Finnegan. Much less re-signing Saffold after the Raiders said "no." The Raiders! Ouch! Trade that No. 2 pick and redeem yourselves.

Seattle – The only free agent they have added to date has been trivia answer Taylor Price. They've lost, in alphabetical order, Brandon Browner, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Breno Giacomini, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. Good luck, champs!


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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