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Five extra points: Nightmares, deals and steals in Week 1 of NFL free agency

1. Dead Bronco Walking

To honor Wednesday's official and utterly embarrassing release of Russell Wilson, we list six fellow quarterbacks who will count less against their teams' salary caps the next two seasons than Wilson's record $85 million in dead money will count against Denver's next two caps: Lamar Jackson ($76.1 million), the reigning league MVP; Joe Burrow ($76 million), the highest-paid player in NFL history; Justin Herbert ($56.6 million), the second-highest paid player in NFL history; Jalen Hurts ($35.4 million), the fourth-highest paid player in NFL history behind No. 3 Jackson; and the combined cap numbers of Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett and Wilson ($9.5 million, including $1.2 million for Wilson), whose signing made the Steelers the Week 1 winner of free agency. Must-see TV: Pittsburgh at Denver this year.

2. Purple's painful payday

The Falcons outbid mostly the Falcons for Kirk Cousins. Danielle Hunter preferred playing for a better team in his hometown. And Marcus Davenport somehow tricked someone else into trusting an injury prone underachiever. All former Vikings now, each will count more in dead money against the Vikings salary cap than they'll count against their new teams' caps this season. Cousins: $28.5 million in Minnesota, $25 million in Atlanta. Hunter: $14.9 million in Minnesota, $14.75 million in Houston. Davenport counts $6.8 million in Minnesota and is now in Detroit on a one-year, $6.5 million deal. The Vikings rank No. 2 in dead money ($57.4 million). The Raiders inched ahead ($58.8 million) when they released Jimmy Garoppolo and Hunter Renfrow on Wednesday. Meanwhile, in Kansas City, dead money: $5.9 million.

3. DTs smiling to the bank

Six defensive tackles had nine or more sacks in 2023, a feat the Vikings haven't experienced since 2004. Three of them were in a contract year and have rewritten the top of the position's financial food chain with deals worth a combined $166 million in guarantees. The Chiefs and Ravens re-signed Chris Jones and Justin Madubuike, respectively. With an average salary of $31.8 million, Jones dethroned Aaron Donald as the highest-paid defensive tackle in league history. Madubuike ranks fourth ($24.5 million). Now ranking third is 28-year-old Christian Wilkins ($27.5 million), whom the Raiders pried from Miami with the biggest deal among all players not named Kirk Cousins. The second-happiest guy in Vegas: Maxx Crosby. Crosby and Wilkins had a combined 23.5 sacks, 54 QB hits and 33 tackles for loss last season.

4. Changing of the guards

Speaking of positions in which the Vikings have fallen well short of extraordinary for many moons … How 'bout them guards? The initial wave has seen four guards land guarantees that rank among the top 11 deals. Carolina signed two of them away from other teams. The Panthers got Miami's Robert Hunt and Seattle's Damien Lewis for an incredible $89.2 million guaranteed. The 27-year-old Hunt's $63 million guaranteed ranked third, one spot ahead of the $48 million that Hunter, an elite edge rusher coming off a career-high 16.5 sacks, got from Houston. In New England, where the Patriots dumped a Hall of Fame coach and took a sixth-round pick for a quarterback chosen 15th overall, a guard – Mike Onwenu – got $36.5 million guaranteed to stay put.

5. King of Queens in Pittsburgh

At one-year, $1.2 million, Wilson gives Pittsburgh arguably the greatest no-risk, high-reward potential in free agency history. But that's not the Steelers' only Week 1-winning move. Defensively, Pittsburgh plucked inside backer Patrick Queen from archrival Baltimore, which couldn't afford to keep its stacked defense intact. Queen turns 25 in August and never has missed a game. He's been outstanding the past two years, finishing second-team All-Pro while posting 133 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception in 2023. Imagine him paired with Pittsburgh edge rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Queen got three years, $41 million from Pittsburgh. Only $13.8 million is guaranteed, however. That's less guaranteed money than the Vikings gave Texans inside backer Blake Cashman ($15 million), who turns 28 in May and has never played a full season because of injuries.