NFL free agency: Winners and losers from busy first week

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Wins and losses in the NFL are not limited to September through the Super Bowl.

In fact, the winners and losers of free agency often dictate the results once the real games kickoff.

So, as the first week of free agency wraps, here is The Post’s lists of which teams struck gold and which teams struck out.

Winners

Jets

We’ve been fooled by the Jets in free agency before, with Le’Veon Bell, Trumaine Johnson and so on. But this time it didn’t feel like throwing money at the top of the market. They addressed their biggest need on each side of the ball, with pass-rusher Carl Lawson and receiver Corey Davis, both of whom were second-tier free agents thought to be ascending into their prime.

One of the benefits of having loads of cap space is the ability to give out one-year deals. The Jets added help at linebacker (Jarrad Davis), receiver (Keelan Cole), safety (LaMarcus Joyner) and offensive line (Dan Feeney) without the risk of long-term commitment. Three of those players could start.

Washington

If you need a sign that embattled owner Dan Snyder finally stopped meddling in football operations, Washington hasn’t overspent on a player with character issues. Yet.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the bridge quarterback to offer stability for a team that won the 2020 NFC East starting four different quarterbacks. Pairing receiver Curtis Samuel with running back Antonio Gibson opens doors for a creative offensive staff. And Washington has quietly built a formidable secondary – even with safety Landon Collins’ recovering from season-ending injury – by adding cornerbacks William Jackson and Ronald Darby.

Buccaneers

Keeping the band together! Considering how little cap space the Buccaneers had at one point, it’s incredible gymnastics that they re-signed tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Lavonte David and pass-rusher Shaq Barrett – all at a slight hometown discount – and franchise-tagged Chris Godwin.

Give credit to general manager Jason Licht and to quarterback Tom Brady, who restructured his deal to get $40 million in cash this year with only a $9 million cap hit. Will it catch up to the Buccaneers down the road, like it did with the Eagles and Saints? Probably, but the window to repeat as Super Bowl champions is now.

Patriots

General manager Bill Belichick is a little more error-prone than coach Bill Belichick. Then again, he’s never acted like this before.

The Patriots’ unexpected $250 million spending spree included the top two tight ends on the market in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. They spent more in one day than in any other offseason combined to remake the entire depth chart.

The biggest spender in free agency over the last five years has averaged an improvement of more than five wins the next year, but then four of those teams dropped by at least four wins two years removed from their investments. All that money hasn’t solved a quarterback problem, but it suggests Belichick is eyeing a first-round quarterback with a team-friendly contract to slot in.

Losers

Bears

With jobs on the line, the best coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace could do to upgrade at quarterback was to sign Andy Dalton, who couldn’t find a starting job last offseason and settled in as the Cowboys backup.

Dalton is a three-time Pro Bowler who led the Bengals to four playoff berths and is a capable starter, but they reportedly swung and missed at trading for Russell Wilson because their draft capital doesn’t match up to other suitors.

Pro Bowl offensive guard Kyle Long, who retired last year, came back and chose the Chiefs, and the Bears cut top cornerback Kyle Fuller to save about half of his $20 million cap hit.

Seahawks

Did they hear Russell Wilson’s plea to improve the offensive line? Their biggest commitment so far is $6 million to tight end Gerald Everett, while the NFC West rival 49ers, Rams and Cardinals all keep improving. They are in danger of wasting Wilson’s final prime years like the Giants wasted Eli Manning’s.

Texans

Does anyone with other options really want to play here right now? Quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s incentive-laden one-year, $12 million contract is the best indication so far that the Texans plan to trade Deshaun Watson, though new allegations of mistreating women (denied by Watson) add a new wrinkle into his market.

Jaguars

Where are all the splashy moves? No team had more cap space available than the Jaguars, who upgraded their secondary but not much else. Maybe it’s smart to save and be ready to make a splash next year, after rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has developed. Or maybe players still don’t want to play in the league’s worst, even if Urban Meyer is the head coach and ownership has money to throw around.

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