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NFL Free Agency Stock Watch: Whose stock is rising and falling after the first wave of free agency

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The Steelers finally made some moves, the Patriots are still the favorites, and the AFC South will be better than you think

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers signed free agents Knile Davis and Coty Sensabaugh on Monday to one- and two-year deals, respectively. These deals came on the heels of a one-year contract afforded to Justin Hunter, who most recently played with the Buffalo Bills in 2016. None of these signings were particularly earth-shattering, but Davis and Sensabaugh provide some much-needed depth to Pittsburgh’s backfield and secondary, so we can all sleep a little more soundly.

It took Pittsburgh longer than pretty much every team in the NFL to test the open market, but now that they have, we can go ahead and evaluate where everyone stands after the first wave of free agency:

Stock up: New England

This one is kind of just for housekeeping for those who found this article by way of a Google keyword search. Welcome to BTSC.

While it’s a little too early to determine if New England will defend their Super Bowl title next February, it’s probably safe to say that the odds are heavily in their favor.

One thing I would like to make note of is how under-the-radar the Brandin Cooks trade was. To be clear, the Patriots acquired a 23-year-old receiver who already has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. The only reason this dude isn’t a definitive household name is because he was drafted in the same class as Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. If New England finds a way to sign Cooks to a long-term deal, the guy who eventually replaces Tom Brady will have access to a top 10 receiver.

Let me put it this way: if Brady suddenly decides he hates football and retires in two weeks, the Patriots would still likely be the favorites in the AFC. The rest of their roster is that good.

Stock down: Cincinnati

If you thought last year’s free agent exodus in Cincinnati was insurmountable (and it was—the Bengals finished the 2016 season 6-9-1), wait until you truly dissect their 2017 losses. Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, two of the 15 best offensive linemen in the NFL, signed elsewhere, as did Karlos Dansby, Domata Peko and Rex Burkhead. That’s five pretty important players, three of which were starters.

Maybe this is a blessing in disguise for the Bengals. You can’t lose in the first round of the playoffs if you don’t qualify in the first place. Sad!

Stock up: Veteran running backs

Eddie Lacy is in Seattle, Latavius Murray is in Minnesota and Marshawn Lynch is rumored to be interested in un-retiring to join his hometown Oakland Raiders. If that happens, I will leave work early that day to purchase a Marshawn Lynch Raiders jersey.

Murray will join the Vikings as the unquestioned No. 1 back after splitting snaps with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington during his time in Oakland. Lacy, meanwhile, has seven (seven!) monthly weight loss incentives built into his contract with Seattle to ensure that he stays in reasonable game shape.

I personally hate these incentives. I want Eddie Lacy to look like Bartolo Colon within the next three seasons.

MLB: Atlanta Braves-Workouts Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Stock down: Adrian Peterson

Peterson, the NFL’s current active leader in pretty much every conceivable rushing category, has yet to find a suitor.

Peterson’s age (31) and usage (almost 2,500 career carries; about 315 per season) are valid concerns, but this is a dude who rushed for almost 1,500 yards during his most recent 16-game season. Peterson has never rushed for fewer than 10 touchdowns in a season in which he has played 12 or more games (which is all of them, except two).

Somebody needs to step up and sign this guy, or else the Patriots will sign him to the league minimum and he will rush for 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Stock down: Washington

I included Washington in the column that I wrote the day after the first day of free agency, and things have only gotten worse for them since then. General manager Scott McCloughan and the team “parted ways,” which might actually turn out to be mutually beneficial for both sides.

More than anything, though, McCloughan’s departure was an indicator of things to come. Namely, barring a Super Bowl run, Washington’s entire franchise will probably undergo a major shake-up next offseason. Maybe they can even change their super racist nickname while they’re at it.

Confusingly, Washington signed Terrelle Pryor to a one-year “prove it” deal, which means he is almost certainly headed for greener pastures after he accrues a monster stat line this season—not because he is the next Terrell Owens (he isn’t), but because Kirk Cousins is going to throw the ball as much as any quarterback in the NFL next season, and because Washington will be playing from behind. A lot.

Stock up: AFC South

The AFC South was arguably the worst division in the NFL last season, but a reversal of fortunes seems imminent. Tennessee and Indianapolis both have franchise quarterbacks. Houston fielded the best defense in the NFL last season, and did so while the best defensive player in the world recovered from an injury. Jacksonville, meanwhile, signed two of the five best free agent defenders on the market. The Colts, Jaguars and Titans all have top-15 draft picks. Everybody’s arrow is pointing up.

Stock up: Tampa Bay

Jameis Winston is the truth, and having a weapon like DeSean Jackson at his disposal will only further accelerate his growth. I think it would be prudent for Tampa Bay to kick the on Peterson or perhaps draft former Florida State halfback Dalvin Cook. The Buccaneers should win the NFC South.