The start of the NFL’s free-agent signing period will affect the Super Bowl 51 futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, although the current favorite New England Patriots aren’t known for splashy signings.
The Patriots have top odds at +750, as coach Bill Belichick is primarily focused on upgrading the supporting cast of receivers and rushers who complement QB Tom Brady and all-world TE Rob Gronkowski. Five of the first seven free agents to visit the Patriots were offensive players, including RB Benny Cunningham and WR Rod Streater.
Five other teams have +1000 odds to win Super Bowl 51: the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and runner-up Carolina Panthers, plus the playoff mainstay Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.
Like many a Super Bowl champ, Denver has been quickly disassembled. On top of QB Brock Osweiler signing with the Houston Texans, their dominant defense has lost DT Malik Jackson (Jacksonville Jaguars) and ILB Danny Trevathan (Chicago Bears). Star OLB Brandon Marshall is also a restricted free agent.
Denver’s QB replacement could be former Super Bowl starter Colin Kaepernick, who has an $11.9-million 2016 salary that the San Francisco 49ers might be loath to pay after benching him last season.
The Seahawks’ vaunted defense also took a hit with OLB Bruce Irvin signing on with the Oakland Raiders (+3300). Defending AFC South champion Houston (+2000) has been active on offense, adding Osweiler, RB Lamar Miller and G Jeff Allen to address their poor QB play and rushing production.
Houston took a big risk by giving Osweiler $18 million per season. Oakland has also been among the most active teams.
The Patriots’ example shows it can be productive for bettors at this stage of the game to study up on the teams that draft and develop talent in house and make modest free-agent additions when needed.
The Minnesota Vikings (+2000) have depth on defense and improved their offensive line by signing G Adam Boone. Minnesota has salary-cap room thanks to 24-year-old QB Teddy Bridgewater having two more seasons left on a team-friendly rookie contract.
The Vikings’ return to climate-controlled football at the new U.S. Bank Stadium could also help their passing-game production.
The New York Giants (+3300) have ample salary cap room to do something about their defense. They have already re-signed DE Jason Pierre-Paul, while guaranteeing $29.5 million over five years to cover CB Janoris Jenkins, who has been consistently inconsistent so far in his career.