The 5 Biggest Winners of 2014 NFL Free Agency

These teams shelled out for talent and bolstered their squads.

We looked at the small picture last week, but now let’s take a look at the crews that best utilized the first week of free agency.

5. Saints

New Orleans was able to milk some value out of Darren Sproles by trading him to the Eagles instead of just cutting him loose, but the real damage was done on the other side of the ball. If you count the inevitable re-signing of Jimmy Graham, the Saints landed both of the biggest free agents of the season with the addition of Jairus Byrd. Rob Ryan has good things coming his way (and we’re not just talking about beads).

4. Patriots

The pain of losing Aqib Talib was washed away by Belichick swooping in and picking up Darrelle Revis while his breakup with Tampa Bay was still painful. Tom Brady also breathed a sigh of relief as Julian Edelman re-signed with the team, depriving the rest of the league of a scrappy gym rat with a high motor and good fundamentals.

3. Bucs

They’ve already got the awful uniforms, but at least this offseason Tampa Bay went out and got some talent to fill them. New coach Lovie Smith didn’t hesitate on releasing Revis and going out to get a new corner (Alterraun Verner), a new starting quarterback (JoshMcCown),and a lot of big dudes that play on the line (Evan Dietrich-Smith, Oniel Cousins, Brandon Myers, and Michael Johnson). Apparently, one good decision follows another.

2. Giants

The G-Men were in a three-point stance, and rocketed out of the gate of free agency. First, bolstering their troublesome offensive line with Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton, and fixing their running game shortly after that with Rashad Jennings. They picked up a couple of returners in Quintin Demps and tiny-but-very-fast-man Trindon Holliday along with one of the top CBs on the market in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They ended the opening week by re-signing Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, who spent most of last year being hurt in San Francisco (which, all things considered, is not the worst place in the world to be hurt).

1. Broncos

The Broncos did so staggeringly well in free agency that ESPN felt the need to write a story explaining how they did it. Adding any of the guys they signed – Emmanuel Sanders, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, or T.J. Ward – could be called a victory. But signing all of them, plus re-signing guys like Andre Caldwell, is a margin of victory on the level of, well, the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win (sorry, Denver). It looks like Peyton could get some help locking down that second ring.

Photos by Photo: Ralph D. Freso / Reuters / Landov