2021 NFL free agency: Wednesday's winners and losers

The most interesting part of the Bears' trade proposal for Russell Wilson is that the Seahawks thought about it.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that a clandestine meeting between Bears general manager Ryan Pace and Seahawks GM John Schneider took place in Fargo, North Dakota, when the two were in town for prospect Trey Lance's pro day. The Seahawks slept on the offer. According to Rapsheet, it was Seahawks coach Pete Carroll who decided that, at 69 years old, he's not looking to rebuild his team.

The timeline here is instructive. If trading Wilson was totally off the table, Schneider would not have needed to meet with Pace or think about it for a night. It's also a reminder that Carroll has as much power as any head coach in football, including Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden.

The Bears quickly pivoted to signing Andy Dalton, inspiring an expression of righteous public anger about the team's quarterback position that has been building for roughly three decades. Carroll and Schneider should be wary of potentially embarking on a similar streak in the wilderness if they continue to entertain moving Wilson, this offseason or next. Unless the Seahawks receive a franchise quarterback in return, trading Wilson away makes no sense. And if it comes down to choosing between Carroll or Wilson, it shouldn't be a tough decision for ownership.

Here's a look at the other winners and losers from the first official day of free agency:

Going up

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals QB: Did Rapoport inadvertently help out the Cardinals' offensive line -- and the Raiders, in the process?

Rapsheet reported Tuesday that the Raiders were going to release center Rodney Hudson. That apparently inspired the Cardinals to call the Raiders and inquire about how much it would cost to secure Hudson before he hit the open market. It's safe to say the Cardinals weren't the only team to call, because it wound up costing Arizona a third-round pick to secure one of the best centers in the league.

Hudson is under contract for two more years and may want a raise, but the Cardinals have to be thrilled they were only bidding against other teams in trade terms rather than competing financially on the open market. Arizona has been coaching up a talent-poor offensive line since Kliff Kingsbury arrived in 2019, and Hudson provides a big upgrade in talent. The team also brought back right tackle Kelvin Beachum, which should make Murray smile.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers QB: Before his season was derailed by a high ankle sprain, Jimmy G had the good fortune to start six games with Trent Williams at left tackle. That number will presumably rise in 2021. It's hard to overstate how much injuries -- whether to Garoppolo or to his teammates -- have ravaged Garoppolo's time in San Francisco.

Re-signing Williams and picking up center Alex Mack gives Garoppolo a chance to perform like it's 2017 (when he went 5-0 after being traded from New England) or 2019 (when he helped the Niners to the Super Bowl), rather than the other cursed years of the Kyle Shanahan era in San Francisco. Speaking of which ...

Trent Williams' bet on himself: Consider what happened with Williams the photo negative of Le'Veon Bell's year out of the league. Williams' absence from football in 2019 had a lot to do with his unhappiness with the Washington organization, in addition to money. He eventually forced his way out, then kindly asked the 49ers not to franchise tag him when they traded for him.

After Williams put up another season as one of the best tackles of the last decade, I guessed he'd become the highest-paid tackle in the league -- and that's exactly what happened Wednesday, when he agreed to a six-year, $138.05 million deal to stay with the 49ers. In a year where free agency prices appear to be slightly down, Williams was paid his full value. He could wind up in Canton someday, if he can continue to stay healthy.

Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders QB: Since I put Carr in my "Moving down" section on Tuesday, it's only fair to point out that the Raiders have since made one of my favorite value pickups of the week in John Brown. While Brown is an injury risk, he's just as good a player as Nelson Agholor. Brown will cost significantly less. The Raiders are also re-signing Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good, so at least their diminished offensive line will have some familiar faces back.

Patrick Peterson's redemption narrative: Peterson has a Hall of Fame résumé. The final two seasons of a legendary run in Arizona, however, were marred by injury, suspension and surprising ineffectiveness.

Peterson's one-year, $10 million deal in Minnesota is an incredible chance at a comeback. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's specialty is getting the best out of veteran corners, and the high price tag indicates a real show of faith. One thing won't change: Peterson will remain in the spotlight, tracking the opposition's best.

Moving down

Larry Fitzgerald's chances at returning to Arizona: A.J. Green's arrival in Arizona was a surprise. I did not expect him to get a $6 million base salary after his sluggish final season with the Bengals.

While it remains to be seen what this means for Fitzgerald's future, Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio believes the 37-year-old Fitzgerald will have to retire or play elsewhere. Fitzgerald averaged 7.6 yards per reception last season, producing 409 yards in 745 snaps.

The edge rusher market: Nine of my top 10 edge rushers were accounted for by Tuesday morning, with Jadeveon Clowney likely to wait until he's healthier to sign a new deal. Based on his free agency experience last year and the cooling market, he shouldn't expect a big contract.

The Panthers' one-year, $6 million contract (with $2 million more in incentives) for Haason Reddick on Wednesday signaled the start of Phase 2 of free agency at the position. Other available players like Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram can help a team, but probably won't break the bank. I believe that the top of the market, including Carl Lawson and Trey Hendrickson, might have come at a slight discount compared to other years, when more cap space was available. The bigger change in finances might hit the middle class of veterans, with Reddick seeing less money.

The Chiefs' big offensive line hopes: NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports that the Chiefs were runners up in the Trent Williams sweepstakes. Williams would have been an incredible pickup after the Chiefs cut their two starting tackles last week and they freed up the cap room to make a run at the No. 1 overall free agent.

Kansas City fans were also clamoring for the return of former Chief Rodney Hudson, who wound up being traded from the Raiders to the Cardinals on Wednesday. Pairing either Hudson or Williams with guard Joe Thuney, who agreed to a deal with the Chiefs on Monday, would have made Patrick Mahomes feel a lot better about the offensive line. And while I like the risk-reward of signing former Bears guard Kyle Long, he has to prove he can stay healthy after a year out of the league. The Chiefs were clearly hoping to do bigger business and still have a major problem at tackle to solve.

The wide receiver market: I hesitate to write this because it could change any minute, but three of my top four available free agents are wide receivers: Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Will Fuller. Once franchise tags were accounted for, those were three of my top four available wideouts overall.

It's safe to say, then, that they aren't getting the offers they expected. Golladay is reportedly going to visit the Giants and might take a short-term deal. I never expected Nelson Agholor and Corey Davis to come off the board well before the other three mentioned above. The depth of the position in free agency and in the draft isn't helping the supply-and-demand ratio.

Regardless of how their deals wind up, all three players are quality starters in a pass-first league. Other contributors like T.Y. Hilton, Sammy Watkins, Antonio Brown and Breshad Perriman are also waiting for the logjam to free up.

Gardner Minshew Jaguars jerseys: Jacksonville has received a few calls from teams inquiring about Minshew, according to Rapoport. It's a matter of time before Minshew Mania is looked back upon as a poor man's version of Linsanity.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter.

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