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BREAKING: Five winners from first week of NFL free agency

Most of the headline free agents of the 2023 class have signed lucrative deals, and several teams have not been shy about opening up the checkbook. With the first week of free agency in the rearview, here are the five biggest winners.

Atlanta Falcons

Key signings: Jessie Bates, S; Kaleb McGary, OT; Chris Lindstrom, OG; David Onyemata, DT; Bradley Pinion, P; Lorenzo Carter, LB; Kaden Elliss, LB; Taylor Heinicke, QB

The Falcons kept two key pieces of their offensive line intact in McGary and Lindstrom, which will be vitally important if Desmond Ridder is to be given a real shot of proving he should be the team’s starting QB of the future.

Atlanta also landed the top free agent safety in Bates, who has 16 interceptions and 31 pass breakups over the last five seasons. He had as many interceptions by himself (four) as both of the Falcons starting safeties last season — Jaylinn Hawkins and Richie Grant. Onyemata, Elliss and Carter help plug a few defensive holes and Heinicke provides a solid veteran with starting experience as a Plan B under center if Ridder struggles.

Chicago Bears

Key signings: Tremaine Edmunds, LB; Nate Davis, OG; DeMarcus Walker, DE; D’Onta Foreman, RB; Robert Tonyan, TE; T.J. Edwards, LB

Edmunds gives Chicago a legitimate defensive leader, filling the role vacated by Roquan Smith while also adding one of the game’s better tacklers (565 tackles over five seasons). Walker, 28, enjoyed a breakout season in Tennessee and he could thrive on the edge in Chicago after posting a career-high seven sacks in 2022.

The Bears gave Justin Fields some help with the addition of receiver D.J. Moore via trade but by adding Davis on the offensive line plus adding Foreman to pair with Khalil Herbert out of the backfield and Tonyan — a 6-foot-5 target who had 11 touchdowns just two years ago — to throw to, they’re really surrounding Fields with a strong supporting cast.

Detroit Lions

Key signings: C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S; Cam Sutton, CB; David Montgomery, RB; Emmanuel Moseley, CB; Alex Anzalone, LB; Graham Glasgow, OG; John Cominsky, DL

That 30th-ranked Lions pass defense should be drastically better next year after adding Gardner-Johnson (NFL-leading six interceptions), Sutton (50.7 completion percentage allowed, 69.6 passer rating when targeted) and Moseley (five interceptions, 24 pass breakups in four seasons).

While losing Jamaal Williams’ 17 rushing touchdowns will be hard to replace, Montgomery, who’s rushed for 800 or more yards each of the last four years, adds a receiving threat out of the backfield plus higher upside as a home run threat.

New England Patriots

Signings: Jonathan Jones, CB; Juju Smith-Schuster, WR; Riley Reiff, OT; James Robinson, RB; Mike Gesicki, TE; Jabrill Peppers, S; Joe Cardona, LS

Adding Smith-Schuster to offset losing Jakobi Meyers to the Raiders was a nice move. But signing Gesicki, who’s just one year removed from a 70-catch, 700-yard season, will give Mac Jones a nice 1-2 punch with Hunter Henry across the middle of the field. Robinson, a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie just two seasons ago, will also make a nice backfield complement to 2022 1,000-yard rusher Rhamondre Stevenson.

Philadelphia Eagles

Key signings: Fletcher Cox, DT; James Bradberry, CB; Jason Kelce, C; Darius Slay, CB; Brandon Graham, DE; Boston Scott, RB; Rashaad Penny, RB; Greedy Williams, CB

While the Eagles lost plenty of talent (Gardner-Johnson, Edwards, Javon Hargrave, Andre Dillard) keeping Cox, Bradberry, Kelce, Slay and Graham in the fold was vitally important. They can plug the other holes with cheaper free agent options or through the draft.

While Penny, 27, isn’t an every-down back like Miles Sanders, who’s now with the Carolina Panthers, he’s averaged 5.7 yards per carry over his career and should be a solid addition paired with Scott and Kenneth Gainwell.

Honorable mention: Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers