NFL free agency 2024 live updates: Kirk Cousins to Falcons, Saquon Barkley to Eagles, Brian Burns to Giants and latest rumors

The free-agency negotiating period is open. Stay here for the latest news from The Athletic’s staff.

 

 

The first day of the NFL free-agency negotiating period has resulted in a flurry of deals. Let’s catch up:

 

The Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota is over. The veteran quarterback has agreed to a four-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, according to his agent.Saquon Barkley, the top running back available, agreed to a three-year, $37.75 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.Three other big-name running backs are off the board: Josh Jacobs to the Green Bay Packers, D’Andre Swift to the Chicago Bears and Tony Pollard to the Tennessee Titans.The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t wait until Monday to make their move, agreeing to a one-year deal with quarterback Russell Wilson.The Las Vegas Raiders made a big-money splash, agreeing to terms with defensive tackle Christian Wilkins on a four-year, $110 million deal.

 

There are plenty of big contracts ahead. Here are the top 10 free agents available, according to The Athletic’s Randy Mueller. We’ll keep this list updated all day.

 

2024 NFL free-agency tracker: From Danielle Hunter to Jamal Adams, see where top 150 players land

 

 

Now almost eight hours into the legal tampering window, the No. 1 player on Randy Mueller’s board — Vikings edge Danielle Hunter — remains available, but Nos. 2 through No. 12 have all agreed to terms.

 

Overall, 24 of Mueller’s top 50 players — including four edge rushers and three defensive tackles — have reached agreements. The Eagles (Saquon Barkley, Bryce Huff) and Packers (Josh Jacobs, Xavier McKinney) have each added two players from the top 10.

 

The next market to watch is wide receiver. Only one of the 11 wideouts in the top 150 (Gabe Davis, Jaguars) has found a home. Calvin Ridley (No. 13) is the second-best player still available.

 

 

The return on Brian Burns was paltry compared to what they turned down from the Los Angeles Rams in 2022 (two future first-round picks and a second in 2023). Former GM Scott Fitterer thought it would be more difficult to replace a top edge rusher than other positions. Plus, the Panthers had just traded Christian McCaffrey. But Burns had all the leverage after details of the Rams’ offer became public. And when the two sides failed to reach a long-term agreement last fall, Burns admitted it wore on him mentally. Even with a new regime in Carolina, it felt like both sides were ready for a fresh start. So the Panthers took what they could get — a fraction of the Rams’ offer — and freed up $24 million, which was what they would have paid Burns on the franchise tag.

 

 

Heading into free agency, the Chargers were looking for a second starting safety next to Derwin James Jr. Now they have that player by retaining Gilman, who set career highs in interceptions (2) and forced fumbles (3) last season. Gilman and James have a strong chemistry, both on and off the field. James lost his way a bit last season under former head coach Brandon Staley.

 

The Chargers were asking James to do too many jobs, and that affected his performance. The most important job of Minter and the new defensive staff will be returning James to his All-Pro form. Having a familiar safety partner in Gilman should only be helpful as James integrates into this new defense.

 

 

The return of Epenesa is a sneakily significant signing for the Bills in their defensive rotation structure. The team doesn’t know what they’ll get from Miller, after he just had zero sacks in 2023, heading into his age-35 season. When all were healthy, Epenesa began the year as the fourth-best defensive end on the depth chart, though the top three of Rousseau, Miller and Floyd all are at their best on the defensive left side.

 

Epenesa became a key role player every week as a natural right defensive end, and his production continued to rise all year. The Bills did use one of the Rousseau, Miller and Floyd trio on the right side as the year went on, but they would prefer to keep players in their position likeliest for production. Epenesa’s return means he could even be the starter at right defensive end opposite Rousseau on the left side, with Miller as the primary backup to both spots.

 

 

After franchise star Saquon Barkley headed to division rival Philadelphia earlier Monday, the Brian Burns trade has to comfort New York fans for its splashiness. It’s a huge boost for the Giants’ pass rush and is one of the biggest moves of Schoen’s tenure as GM.

 

Burns, who will be 26 years old in April, has been a stalwart for the Panthers since he was drafted by the franchise in 2019 with the No. 16 pick. Over 80 games in five seasons, Burns has recorded 46 sacks, including a career-high 12.5 in 2022. He earned Pro Bowl nominations in 2021 and 2022.

 

Last season, Burns added eight sacks, one forced fumble and 32 solo tackles in 2023. Before the tag deadline, Burns was considered the top available free agent in The Athletic’s Randy Mueller’s top 150 ranking. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Burns “fits all the criteria teams look for in free agency: age, athletic ability and all-around game,” Mueller wrote.

 

Giants acquire DE Brian Burns in trade with Panthers for draft picks: Sources

 

 

Seattle’s third free-agent departure on Monday was linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who reportedly agreed to a three-year, $30 million contract with the Dolphins. Brooks, 26, was a full-time starter for the last three seasons in Seattle. While he recovered from a torn ACL last offseason, Seattle declined to pick up the fifth-year option in his contract, which would have paid him $12.7 million in 2024. Now, he leaves for an average annual salary of $10 million. With Bobby Wagner unlikely to return, the Seahawks will need two new starting inside linebackers next season.

 

 

Better Antonio Gibson. Austin Ekeler might not be his peak self, but he’s better than Gibson and has a chance to rebound with a healthy season. This hurts Brian Robinson’s hopes of a workhorse role and possible top-15 value. If anything, this feels a bit like old Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon on the Packers, which means Ekeler is the one with the hope for top-20 value unless Robinson surprises with 10-plus touchdowns.

 

 

With Darnell Savage Jr. reportedly agreeing to terms with the Jaguars, the Packers will lose their top safety from last season. Their Nos. 2 and 3 at the position, Jonathan Owens and Rudy Ford, remain without a team for next season as of Monday afternoon. Regardless of what happened with any of those three, the Packers needed to upgrade at safety, especially given the importance of a play-making free safety in one-high defenses Jeff Hafley likes. Xavier McKinney certainly qualifies as an upgrade over who the Packers had and has the potential to be their most impactful safety in quite a while (since Micah Hyde, Nick Collins even?).

 

 

Running back Austin Ekeler is planning to sign with the Washington Commanders on a two-year deal worth up to $11.43 million, a league source confirmed Monday.

 

Ekeler, 28, has spent all seven years of his NFL career with the Los Angeles Chargers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2017. Prior to the 2023 season, he requested a trade from the franchise but ultimately stayed after incentives were added to his contract.

 

He finished last season with 1,064 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns from scrimmage. That was the third-straight and fourth overall season he tallied at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage finishing with 628 rushing yards and 436 receiving yards.

 

 

It’s tough to gauge how replacing Aaron Jones with Josh Jacobs affects the Packers’ Super Bowl chances for next season. Jones only ran for 656 yards and two touchdowns last regular season while enduring the most injury-hampered season of his seven-year career, but looked like an elite running back for the final three games of the regular season and in the playoffs. Jacobs suffered his own injuries and didn’t produce as much as the season prior, but he was the best running back in football in 2022 while playing all 17 games and is still significantly younger than Jones. Both running backs are among the most productive in the NFL when healthy and the Packers now must cross their fingers Jacobs stays healthier next season than either running back did last season. In the long term, Jacobs is the safer option given his age — the Packers might’ve kept Jones for only one more season even if they were able to agree on a reworked contract — and Green Bay’s new running back meshes more with the identity of a young, promising offense.

 

 

Wil Lutz is staying with the Broncos on a two-year deal, per a league source. He had previously been leaning toward accepting the Jaguars’ three-year offer. It seems like one or two of these cases happen every negotiating period.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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