2022 Free Agent Signing Grades

On this page, I’m going to be providing the free agent signing grades for the notable signings and extensions that occur (most recent first) based on how good a deal the signing team obtained and the type of impact I expect the player to have. The page will be updated as more signings are reported. For trades, head on over to this page.

December 23, 2022

Browns extend RT Jack Conklin:
Two offensive linemen extensions in one day! This time we have a player with a defined position, and he’s really good at that position. Conklin’s deal is 4 years and $60M with $31M guaranteed. Considering that the Packers just paid a guard $17M a year, and this is $15M a year for a tackle, the value is clearly better in this case. He has been a key member of Cleveland’s strong offensive line, opening holes for Nick Chubb and keeping Jacoby Brissett and Deshaun Watson clean in the pocket. I really have nothing to say about this contract. Only 2 years are guaranteed, but he’s only 28, so he’ll likely be playing at a high enough level to stay for at least all 4 seasons in the contract. Tennessee knew that it was a mistake to let Conklin go in 2020, but cap constraints forced their hand. The Browns pounced, hoping to secure a great blocker for elite franchise QB Baker Mayfield…the blocking part worked out at least. Now, he’ll stay for several more seasons.
Grade: A

Packers extend OL Elgton Jenkins:
NFL.com listed him as a guard, but he’s so versatile and can play so many spots on the line that I left the position generic. You may recall that I ranked him in my top 10 interior linemen article with a question mark. His deal is for 4 years and $68M with $6M more available with incentives. He is now the league’s second-highest-paid “guard”. Jenkins can play any position on the line, including left tackle, but he’s best inside. This price seems rather high for a pure guard though, so I have to assume that the Packers are taking that versatility into account. His struggles at tackle earlier in the year were almost certainly a result of his ACL tear the prior year; he needed a bit of time to return to his previous level of play, and he’s definitely gotten there at guard. Even as a tackle, this annual salary would reside in the top 10, so I can’t give the Packers an A because this deal cost a pretty penny. However, LT David Bakhtiari’s injury history makes this signing imperative and frees up the franchise tag for use on another impendent free agent. Aaron Rodgers can’t complain one bit about this one.
Grade: B+

November 3, 2022

Dolphins extend OLB Bradley Chubb:
The Dolphins had to extend Chubb after trading a first-round pick for him on Tuesday, and now they have done so: 5 years and $110M with $63.2M guaranteed. Incentives can push the total value of the deal to $111.25M. This is not particularly good value right now. According to NFL.com, Chubb is now the 6th-highest paid edge rusher at $22M/year, slightly ahead of former teammate Von Miller. I would argue that Von Miller is the better player, but Chubb is 7 years younger, so he’s more likely to live up to the terms of a long-term deal (he’s a really good player after all). His injury history also gives me pause, but edge rushers seem to get hurt more often than some other positions, so that may just come with the territory. I should note that I said “right now” with regard to value because the market is going to change. We saw it with the WR market this offseason. I anticipate a similar edge rusher spike when players like Nick Bosa and Brian Burns potentially sign extensions this offseason. Taken together, this is a solid signing. Chubb’s representatives had a lot of leverage after this extension was not done as part of the trade itself, and Miami did well not to get gouged in the process.
Grade: B

October 22, 2022

Lions extend P Jack Fox:
We now have a new highest-paid punter in terms of annual salary. The Lions are reportedly giving Fox a 3-year deal worth $3.775M per year ($11.325M total) with $7.5M guaranteed. I don’t have a problem with this. Some people think that giving contracts of any value to punters is bad business, as they can easily be replaced by a rookie. I would argue that the ability to flip the field and pin opponents deep is important, and as I stated over the summer, Fox is a good punter. He also handles kickoff duties and forces a lot of touchbacks. This is clearly not a team-friendly deal, but it’s fair and warranted.
Grade: B+

September 22, 2022

Ravens sign Edge Rusher Jason Pierre-Paul:
With just two sacks through 2 games, Baltimore had to do something to boost their pass rush. That something turned out to be signing JPP to a 1-year/$5.5M deal. Odafe Oweh is still developing, and rookie David Ojabo won’t return until later this season at least as he rehabs from a torn Achilles, so the Ravens needed a solution in the short term. JPP is not the player he was 10 or even 2 years ago, but he’s definitely got something left. He had 2.5 sacks last year in a rotational role and was stout against the run. After watching their secondary get picked apart by Miami, the Ravens either needed to go and get a CB or a pass rusher, and the quality of the available free agent pass rushers is much better at the moment. I don’t think this gives JPP a shot at a ring, but I like this deal a lot for Baltimore.
Grade: A

September 16, 2022

49ers extend P Mitch Wishnowsky:
This deal is very similar to the one that the Patriots’ Jake Bailey signed recently; this one is $.5M less at 4 years and $13M overall. However, I like this one better. Only 17 of Wishnowsky’s punts were returned last year, and his kicks went 47.4 yards on average (42.7 net). Those are both solid numbers, and he’s also performed well when tasked with kickoffs. I didn’t have him in my top 10 punters, but I thought about him and he’s definitely in the upper half. Some may argue that unless you’ve got an elite punter, it isn’t worth devoting extension money to one. I can only agree with that to a certain extent; continuity on a playoff hopeful is good, and Wishnowsky will get plenty of work to earn his money while QB Trey Lance goes through some struggles in his first stint as a full-time starter.
Grade: B

September 10, 2022

Colts extend G Quenton Nelson:
We have now shattered the record for average annual value on a guard contract, with Nelson earning a 4 year/$80M extension with $60M guaranteed. The previous high was held by Brandon Scherff, who signed with JAX this offseason for $16.5M/year. Normally, I’m against resetting the market for any position. This is not a normal case. We’re talking about a potential Hall of Fame guard who has played 4 years and amassed 4 Pro Bowl selections and 3 first-team All-Pro honors. He and Zack Martin are the two best guards in football, and Nelson has been this good since the moment he was drafted. With a less-than-mobile QB in Matt Ryan, an elite protector is necessary. Nelson also helped RB Jonathan Taylor lead the league in rushing last year. I rarely give mega contracts high grades, but the Colts did the right thing. They couldn’t replace someone as elite as Nelson.
Grade: A

Raiders extend TE Darren Waller:
It’s a mild shock that the two sides came to an agreement despite the fact that Waller still had 2 years on his deal. The terms are 3 years and $51M, with $19.25M fully guaranteed. I liked this deal a lot less before I saw the guarantee structure. Waller missed 6 games due to injury last season, so I might have let him play another year on his current contract to ensure that he bounces back. I’m also not fond of the fact that at $17M per season, he’s now the highest-paid TE in terms of annual value. Waller is in the upper echelon of tight ends; he is a big-bodied target with mismatch speed that enables to either get open or make contested catches with regularity. But is he better than Travis Kelce and George Kittle? I believe the Raiders will look better soon if the TE market spikes, but as of right now, they only get a passing grade because the last couple years of the deal aren’t guaranteed.
Grade: C-

September 9, 2022

Titans extend S Amani Hooker:
Tennessee has seen Hooker for 3 years and has decided that he’s worth another 3 years at $11M per season, with a total contract value of $33M and $19.5M guaranteed. I don’t disagree with their decision. Though he was only a high-level safety in year 3, he was above average in each of his first two seasons, which suggests that he’s still in an uptrend at only 24 years old. This isn’t an egregious number like Jalen Thompson’s contract, so the pain is lessened if Hooker doesn’t develop further. That said, I think he will, so I think this is a plenty fair deal if not a bargain.
Grade: B

September 8, 2022

Saints extend C Erik McCoy:
Here’s the other team that plays cap games every year! This time, they’ve extended their center for 5 years and $63.75M. McCoy’s $12.75M/year average puts him in 5th place among all centers. While McCoy has been more than solid, I’m not sure I’d rate him that highly, but he’s close. He only received a 63.6 grade from PFF for 2021, but he also allowed no sacks that season. With the departure of Terron Armstead and the recent injury to Trevor Penning, the most important thing New Orleans can do is keep Jameis Winston upright, especially since he’s coming off a torn ACL. Therefore, I don’t mind the team paying this hefty sum for an undervalued position, especially if it provides some short-term cap relief.
Grade: B+

September 7, 2022

Rams extend RT Rob Havenstein:
Still wondering where the Rams find the cap space to sign these players. There’s going to be a year when all these cap charges come crashing down. Anyway, this deal is for 3 years and $34.5M. $24.1M is guaranteed, and $6M more can be earned through incentives. I really have nothing to complain about with this deal. Tackle prices have risen considerably, and Havenstein is one of the best RTs in the league. Based on his play, he’s likely to reach whatever the incentives are unless they’re tied to winning Super Bowls each of the next 3 years or something, so if we assume that he’ll be making $13.5M per year instead, that’s still fine! Taylor Moton of Carolina is making $17M/year, and I’d rather have Havenstein. This contract is both fair and a relative bargain, and I will grade it accordingly.
Grade: A

Bills extend TE Dawson Knox:
Another big payday for a pass catcher! Knox’s deal is for 4 years and $53.6M. More than $31M of it is guaranteed. On a personal note, I’m SUPER happy for Knox to get this contract after the devastating sudden death of his brother; he needs good things like this in his life right now. Now to get to grading the deal. I don’t think the contract represents great value for Buffalo as they’re paying an above-average but not transcendent tight end $13.4M per season, which currently ranks 6th in the league. However, I recently ranked Knox in the top 10 at his position, so the deal might be fair. Unless you’ve got someone like Gronk, Travis Kelce, or George Kittle though, paying big money to a TE doesn’t often work out. Still, I can’t hold that against the Bills given that they’re trying to pry open an extended Super Bowl window and want to win now.
Grade: B

September 2, 2022

Cardinals extend S Jalen Thompson:
I did not see this one coming. Thompson was the lone player selected in the 2019 Supplemental Draft (5th round) after being declared ineligible during his final season of college due to a banned substance in an over-the-counter supplement. He had a solid rookie season before a forgettable 2020 campaign, in which he suffered an ankle injury and played only 5 games. His 2021 season was a different story; Thompson broke out, setting career highs in INTs (3) and tackles (121). I personally would’ve preferred to see Thompson turn in a repeat performance in 2022 before committing to a 3 year/$40M deal. His contract expires after this season, but with Kyler Murray’s deal done, the Cardinals could have wielded the franchise tag (incidentally, the $12.91M tag number for safeties is actually lower than this contract’s $13.33M average). Furthermore, building a defense around two highly-paid safeties, a position that typically isn’t considered ultra valuable, isn’t necessarily ideal roster building. Regardless, Thompson is an ascending player, so this deal could look fair in a couple of years.
Grade: C

Broncos extend QB Russell Wilson:
Move over Kyler Murray; Wilson is now the second-highest paid QB at 5 years and $245M. That’s $49M/year, and $165M is fully guaranteed. This is the type of contract you get when you don’t hammer out an extension WHILE you’re trading for a player. Denver gave up 2 first-round picks and more to acquire Wilson, so they had to extend him no matter what it took. If you were just going to extend him a couple months later though, why not wait a year? Wilson had two years left on his deal. The Broncos could have let the season play out, make sure all sides are happy and that Wilson is the ideal fit they dreamed of, and THEN extend him, especially since his last couple of years haven’t been up to his normal standards. I don’t think the QB market was going to drastically change in a year, as Aaron Rodgers’ $50M/year would still be the benchmark. In a vacuum, I don’t hate this deal. The Broncos have proven inept and drafting and developing QBs, so they had to acquire a veteran, and Wilson is great. The contract is no bargain, but it’s simply the going rate for a top-shelf signal caller. Denver is now a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and if they win the Lombardi trophy, the contract needed to get there won’t matter.
Grade: C+

August 28, 2022

Dolphins sign Edge Rusher Trey Flowers:
I figured Flowers could be had for a bargain after his time in Detroit ended in disappointment; I didn’t expect him to be THIS cheap. The Dolphins are reportedly paying him just $2.1M for one year, with an additional $900K available in incentives. This is a great flier for Miami to take. He’s obviously not going to be that breakout player that Detroit was expecting at $18M per season, but he could certainly top 5 sacks as a rotational pass rusher (he averaged 7 per season from 2016-2019). There shouldn’t be much of a learning curve as Flowers is familiar with DC Josh Boyer’s scheme from their shared time in NE. If this signing fails, the team loses next to nothing, but it it hits, the Dolphins will have themselves a quality contributor in the front seven.
Grade: A+

August 17, 2022

Chargers extend S Derwin James:
Records are being broken all over by this 4-year $76.5M deal. The $19.1M annual average, $42M signing bonus, and $29M in year one are all new benchmarks for NFL safeties. This is a tough one. On the surface, James is worthy of being the league’s highest-paid safety based on his play alone. Very few players can operate in the box and in coverage as well as he can. However, his injury history is concerning. James has missed 29 out of a possible 65 games since he was drafted due to various ailments. There’s a real chance that he continues to miss time in the future. Regardless, the Bolts had to get him back into the fold as they contend for a title this season, the terms are fair for a player of his caliber, and only two years are guaranteed.
Grade: B

August 11, 2022

Jets sign LT Duane Brown:
Normally I’m not a fan of a noncontender signing an aging veteran (Brown is 37). The exception to this is when a team has a young QB that they need to evaluate. Zach Wilson, in his second year, is under much pressure to succeed, but he needs adequate protection. With Mekhi Becton missing the season with a broken kneecap, Brown was easily the best replacement available. The interesting part of this contract (worth $22M) is that it’s for TWO years, not 1. The second year could be unguaranteed, but the fact that it’s there at all signals that the Jets have plans for him beyond this season. Becton has obviously been a disappointment, so maybe the team is no longer relying on him as the LT of the future. In the short term, Brown is a quality LT who should still perform well (Andrew Whitworth was great at age 40). $11M per season is a good value for a good player at a critical position, so it’s hard not to love this signing.
Grade: A

August 8, 2022

Ravens extend K Justin Tucker:
This deal, reportedly for 4 years and $24M, is not outrageous. Yes, it’s the highest annual value for a kicker in the NFL, but we’re also talking about the most accurate kicker in NFL history. He’s arguably the most clutch as well, though you could vouch for Adam Vinatieri in that discussion. My question marks center around WHY they gave him this deal now. He wasn’t an impending free agent; he actually had two full years remaining on his contract. I don’t see this providing much cap relief for a Lamar Jackson extension, so why rush it? I will never go below a B for a Tucker deal because of how special he is, but timing matters in the context of NFL contracts, and I have to deduct points for their earliness. You obviously also can’t call this a bargain.
Grade: B

August 4, 2022

Steelers extend WR Diontae Johnson:
If you asked me a year ago, I would’ve HATED a 2-year deal worth $36.71M (>$18M/season) for Johnson. He had come off an awful campaign in which he dropped countless passes. A lot has changed since then. The receiver market exploded, and Johnson had a breakout year in 2021, setting career-highs in catches (107), receiving yards (1,161) and TDs (8). The closest deal to this one in terms of annual value happens to be Christian Kirk’s with the Jaguars ($18M/season excluding incentives). Diontae Johnson is way better than Kirk, so it makes sense for the Steelers to give him this contract. If he continues to excel, they get a great bargain; if he regresses, which is the main risk here, they’re only on the hook for 2 years of bad money. Plus, they have to create a strong WR corps if they intend to properly develop rookie QB Kenny Pickett.
Grade: A-

August 3, 2022

Cowboys sign LB Anthony Barr:
I cannot believe that this 1-year deal is worth only $3M. Granted, Barr isn’t the physical phenom that he was early in his career, but he was still productive as recently as last year. In 2021, he totaled 2.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 5 passes defended, and 71 tackles. After an injury-plagued 2020 season in which he played just 2 games, I thought that his return was pretty good. Apparently other teams didn’t feel the same way. I imagine Barr waited to sign to find a better fit and to skip some of training camp, but I’m shocked that this was the best offer he could find. If you’re the Cowboys, this is a fantastic bargain; they’re paying rock-bottom price on a player who could really help, particularly in coverage, alongside Micah Parsons at LB.
Grade: A+

August 2, 2022

Cardinals extend LT DJ Humphries:
The Cardinals are making some odd moves this offseason. This time, they extended DJ Humphries for 3 years and $66.8M with $34M guaranteed. I’m not saying Humphries isn’t a good player; he has steadily improved and made his first Pro Bowl last year. However, this is top of the market tackle money that nearly matches Trent Williams’ annual value! There is simply no comparison between the two players. You can certainly find positives here: Humphries was a home-grown first-round pick, he’s shaken off terrible injury luck at the start of his career to play 16 games in each of the past 3 seasons, and he’s critically important for protecting Kyler Murray. For those reasons, I won’t be too hard on this deal, but I am not crazy about how Arizona is managing its cap and constructing the roster.
Grade: B-

August 1, 2022

Steelers extend K Chris Boswell:
Kickers are not as replaceable as punters. Especially not at Heinz Field…excuse me…”Acrisure Stadium”. The cold weather makes it very difficult to kick at long distances, but Boswell has kicked longer FGs than anyone in franchise history. His 4 year/$20M deal is high for his position, and the $5M average puts him right around Justin Tucker’s salary, but if any other kicker deserves it, it’s Boswell. He had a poor year in 2018, but the Steelers stood by him. Let that be a lesson in rewarding patience, as Boswell has topped 90% FG percentage in every season since. You can’t just get a rookie kicker and expect the success to continue, especially when you’re Pittsburgh. This grade reflects that.
Grade: A+

Patriots extend P Jake Bailey:
As Rich Eisen says, punters are people too. The question is whether Bailey is worth his reported 4 year/$13.5M contract with $6.5M guaranteed. I’d say…not really. He was already a weird fit for Belichick because he’s right-footed. That makes him the only full-time punter in Belichick’s time as NE coach to not kick left-footed. Performance-wise, Bailey ranked in the top 10 in yards per punt (47.3), but he ranked 14th in punts downed inside the 20 (23) and 20th in net punting average (39.6). Furthermore, nobody had more than Bailey’s 3 punts blocked in 2021. A few years ago, Bailey got the job because the Patriots thought incumbent Ryan Allen was replaceable at a cheap rookie salary. So why didn’t they do that here with a punter who is definitely worse than Allen? The money isn’t huge at least, so I won’t extend below the C range.
Grade: C-

49ers extend WR Deebo Samuel:
How did this one happen? One minute Samuel is demanding a trade out of SF because he doesn’t like how he’s being used, and the next minute he’s reporting to training camp on time and signing an extension. The deal is for 3 years and $73.5M, with $58.1M guaranteed. I hope the two sides have come to an understanding, because I really like this deal. It averages $24.5M per season, which is well below the top contract (Tyreek Hill: $30M annually). In fact, the average annual value ranks 6th among WRs, right between AJ Brown and DK Metcalf. I’d probably take Samuel over both of them, though I like all 3, so this seems like a good value for SF. I think Samuel also benefits, especially if he continues to line up at RB sometimes. He would be playing a less valuable position, yet he’s still earning high-end WR money.
Grade: A-

July 28, 2022

Seahawks extend WR DK Metcalf:
Metcalf’s “hold in” lasted about a day, as he’s agreed to a 3 year/$72M deal with over $58M guaranteed and a $30M signing bonus, which is a WR record. This grade is a bit harder than it should be. Viewed on its own, the signing is pretty good. Metcalf is a young, rising star receiving a little less than his college teammate AJ Brown (who is the better player). His athletic traits are ridiculous, and if he refines his technique, he can be a game-breaker. On the other hand, who’s throwing him the ball? Drew Lock? Geno Smith? Either way, it feels like the team is wasting Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Still, you can’t let franchise cornerstones like this walk despite the lack of a bargain and organizational clarity.
Grade: B+

Chiefs sign DE Carlos Dunlap:
I never understood why the Bengals and Dunlap grew apart or why he’s seemed to bounce around since then. It appeared that he had something left in the tank. That was confirmed in 2021, when he compiled 8.5 sacks as a part-time player for Seattle. Though he’s not young, he is definitely capable of continuing his role as a rotational pass rusher, maybe even a bit more if rookie George Karlaftis needs a little more development than expected. When KC lost Melvin Ingram in free agency, I thought Karlaftis would have to immediately fill that void, but that burden has now been eased. In any case, KC got an effective pass rusher at 1 yr/$8M, and you can never have too many of those, especially in the AFC West.
Grade: A

July 27, 2022

Patriots extend DT Davon Godchaux:
My eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I saw the terms of this deal: 2 years, $20.8M with $17.85M fully guaranteed. I haven’t a clue what NE is doing this offseason. Godchaux is a fine run stuffer, but he offers almost nothing in the passing game. In fact, he barely played on 3rd down at all! According to ESPN, Godchaux played a mere 59% of the defensive snaps last season. Paying over $10M a year for a part-time player is bad business, regardless of his tackling proficiency (65 last year). I won’t completely fail this signing because I don’t dislike Godchaux as a player within the context of his role. But this is not the way to construct a roster.
Grade: D

Buccaneers sign WR Julio Jones:
I was waiting for some contract details before posting this grade. We now know that Jones will collect $6M for one year, with $2M more available in incentives. I don’t know how much Jones has left in the tank; he seemed like a shell of his former self from an athletic standpoint with the Titans, and they had to cut him and eat the money. Though it’s possible that the player-team fit just wasn’t there, and Tom Brady will certainly bring out the best of this current version of Jones, I’m not sure if he’s as good of a player as his big name implies. That said, I don’t have any issue with a contender trying load up on depth with upside. It certainly makes the Russell Gage deal more curious though.
Grade: A-

July 26, 2022

Bears sign OT Riley Reiff:
I’m surprised the Bears signed a veteran lineman. I was certain that the team was looking to put QB Justin Fields in the worst possible position to succeed. Fields is likely to flop regardless, but this is a quality signing. Reiff is getting a 1-year deal worth up to $12.5M, with $10M of that very likely to be earned. Thus, there’s minimal risk involves. This is important because his injury last season may have derailed the Bengals’ title chances. When he’s on the field though, he’s a good if not great tackle. He’ll provide a reliable presence along the offensive line, and you can never grade a signing like that poorly, even if the Bears should be tanking for the #1 pick.
Grade: B+

July 21, 2022

Cardinals extend QB Kyler Murray:
After threatening a potential holdout, Murray and the Cardinals have reached a 5-year, $230.5M deal with $160M guaranteed. This is an AMAZING deal…for the Rams. Arizona just handed them the division on a silver platter. Murray is a good runner with a strong arm, but he’s not a very good NFL QB. His accuracy leaves much to be desired, he has trouble seeing over his linemen and thus cannot take snaps under center (he’s 5’10” officially, but I don’t buy it), and he doesn’t win important games. He and the Cardinals fade toward the end of every season. In 2020, they flamed out and missed the playoffs entirely, while in 2021, they went from the last undefeated team to a wild card spot and a first-round exit. Even if you want to be generous and say that he was injured each times, that simply means he isn’t sufficiently durable either. One more quick note: his deal comes out to $46.1M a year, surpassing Deshaun Watson’s annual average by $.1M and ranking second only to Aaron Rodgers. This was intentional and tells you about his personality, where he’s already not considered a leader.
Grade: F

June 28, 2022

Commanders extend WR Terry McLaurin:
Yet another WR gets paid. This one is a 3-year deal with a maximum value of $71M. At just under $24M annually, this is a decent contract for the team. It seemed as though receivers were all about to break the bank after Tyreek Hill crossed the $30M/year threshold, but the most recent deals have all come in a bit below that number. I’m a bit torn; on the one hand, paying McLaurin close to what Cooper Kupp is making is terrible. However, Kupp was extended with two years remaining on his current deal, which likely capped his leverage. Relative to the Hill deal, McLaurin is a much better signing. He’s a young, ascending talent who has produced in spite of awful QB play. Carson Wentz figures to be at least a little bit better than what they’ve had, so McLaurin should play up to the level of this deal and then some.
Grade: A-

June 15, 2022

Steelers extend S Minkah Fitzpatrick:
We now have a new highest-paid safety, with Fitzpatrick bringing in $73.6M over 4 years. This was almost guaranteed to happen once they traded a first-round pick to acquire him from the Dolphins. Fitzpatrick was good in Miami, but he did not like switching around multiple spots. The Steelers have allowed him to play exclusively at his natural FS position and have reaped the rewards. Fitzpatrick has been an absolute ball hawk with plus tackling ability and elite instincts. His new deal eclipses the previous record held by Jamal Adams, and there’s no doubt that Fitzpatrick is a better player and worthy of the distinction. When you reset the market with a contract, I’m highly unlikely to grade it in the A range, but this comes close, as Pittsburgh is retaining a star player who’s a core part of their defense.
Grade: B+

June 10, 2022

Raiders extend WR Hunter Renfrow:
And the WR spending spree continues! This deal is much smaller relatively speaking, at 2 years and $32M. However, I like it a lot less than the Kupp deal. Renfrow is a very good player; he gets open, has reliable hands, and moves the chains. However, he’s a pure slot receiver. That position is not as valuable as a WR that lines up on the outside. Other productive slot receivers like Jarvis Landry (1 year, max $6M) and Jamison Crowder (1 year, max $2M) were acquired at great bargains, and Cole Beasley is still available to sign. I admit that Renfrow is both younger and slightly better than those players, but the skill gap isn’t large. The Raiders needed to either sign Renfrow to a longer deal that would age better as the salary cap rises or look through the remaining crop of free agents, where the best signings are likely to occur.
Grade: C-

June 8, 2022

Rams extend WR Cooper Kupp:
The Rams have some very deep pockets. This time they pay one of their existing offensive players, receiving triple-crown winner Cooper Kupp. The extension is for 3 years and $80M. If you asked me about that deal 4 months ago, I would’ve said it was insane. Going above $22M on a receiver was unprecedented at that time. Now, this deal ranks 4th in average value among receivers. Tyreek Hill did not warrant $30M a year. Kupp at $26.7M is a different story. He’s the most reliable outlet any QB has at the moment, consistently producing even in the biggest spots. I imagine this extension was done to create cap space as much as it was to keep Kupp happy, but it’s a good move nonetheless. For once, I have to declare a mega-contract a bargain based on his likely market value.
Grade: A

June 6, 2022

Rams restructure the contract of DT Aaron Donald:
Wow. This is some contract. Donald, without adding any years to his current deal, received a raise of over $40M throughout the remaining 3 years on his contract. His new deal guarantees him $65M over the next two seasons, while adding another $30M in 2024 for a total of $95M. Normally, teams are not in the business of adjusting contracts in ways that increase their cap charges and do nothing for their financial situation. There’s usually some give and take to these proceedings. However, Les Snead is not a normal GM, and Aaron Donald is anything from a normal player. Donald, still the best defensive player in the league, was contemplating retirement and was likely going to bow out if he did not receive a better deal that reflects the current market. The Rams, fresh off a Super Bowl win and looking to repeat, could not afford to lose Donald, particularly after watching Von Miller walk. This is a painful deal that likely sets a poor precedent for future contract negotiations, but it’s something that had to be done for a Hall of Fame-caliber player that completely changes the complexion of their season.
Grade: B+

June 4, 2022

Browns re-sign RB D’Ernest Johnson:
Johnson serves as the shining achievement of the defunct AAF: a player who was desperate for a chance to prove himself shined and earned a chance to play in the NFL. He didn’t see the field a lot for the Browns, but when he got playing time due to injury, he showed out, averaging over 150 yards from scrimmage when receiving 20 touches or more. At his age and with little tread on his tires, this is an incredible value signing for a quality player. My only problem here: why the Browns? The reason Johnson rarely plays is that Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, two other excellent backs, are already on the roster. This new deal, which pays Johnson $2.4M for 1 year with $900K guaranteed, could go to adding depth at positions of need. I’d give this signing an A+ for just about every other team, but the Browns get docked some points here for odd roster construction.
Grade: B+

May 31, 2022

Buccaneers sign DT Akiem Hicks:
Sooner or later, the Bucs were either going to re-sign Ndamukong Suh or find his replacement. It appears they’ve chosen the latter option, signing Hicks to a 1 year deal worth up to $10M. I’m not sure what the base value is, but even if he earns the full $10M, I like this signing. Both Hicks and Suh are aging players, but it looked like Hicks had more in the tank last year when healthy. His primary issue is durability, but he’ll be part of a rotation, enabling him to stay fresher. This 1 year deal comes with no long-term risk, and if he’s healthy, Hicks can be a devastating force on the interior in both the run game and the pass game. The Bears’ talent exodus continues, as their defense was decidedly worse when Hicks was not on the field. Their loss is the Bucs gain; Tampa’s Super Bowl push just got stronger.
Grade: A

May 27, 2022

Browns extend TE David Njoku:
This certainly didn’t seem likely a short while ago. Njoku was frustrated with his usage and requested a trade. He later rescinded that request upon Kevin Stefanski’s arrival. Fast forward and Njoku has now been re-signed to a 4 year/$56.75M deal with $28M guaranteed. Njoku was a late bloomer, possibly due to the plethora of offensive systems he had to learn with the constant turnover in Cleveland. He’s always been a physical specimen, so the talent was never in question. Njoku offers a lot more as a pass catcher than a blocker, which is true of a lot of tight ends today. The Browns clearly believe his best days are in front of him, as he didn’t get a lot of use with Baker Mayfield at QB. It’s a bit risky to pay him this much before he demonstrates a track record of proven production, but the team is clearly all-in right now and he’s their best TE by far.
Grade: B

May 22, 2022

Browns re-sign DE Jadeveon Clowney:
The Browns are obviously trying to win immediately, so it’s no surprise that they would make a renewed push to bring Clowney back. The deal is for 1 year and $11M. He generates decent pressure numbers, but he’s probably overrated as a pass rusher. However, he’s really good against the run, which is especially important with the Ravens in their division. Based on Clowney’s injury history, it was wise to sign him to another 1-year prove-it deal. There’s always the risk that injuries could wipe out his season, but I like this move for Cleveland much more than I would for a noncontender.
Grade: A-

May 18, 2022

Eagles sign CB James Bradberry:
I don’t think this could have gone any worse for the Giants. Bradberry was probably slightly overpaid, but he’s a very good corner, and new GM Joe Schoen very much wanted to keep him. Alas, former GM Dave Gettleman left the team in salary cap hell, forcing the team to move on from highly paid players like Bradberry. NYG tried to trade him, but since they had no leverage, they were forced into a release. Now, he’s signing a 1 yr/$10M deal with a division rival. I love this for Philly on 2 fronts. First, lining Bradberry across from Darius Slay changes the Eagles’ secondary from a liability to a strength. Second, they got stronger at the direct expense of a hated foe. Another year on the deal would’ve been nice, but that’s a minor quibble that won’t affect this grade at all.
Grade: A+

Dolphins sign DE Melvin Ingram:
This signing happened yesterday, but we now know the contract: 1 year and $5M. I am glad that this is only a 1-year deal due to his lack of scheme versatility. Ingram struggled badly with the Steelers but bounced back after being traded to the Chiefs. The Dolphins can evaluate him in Josh Boyer’s scheme, which worked great last year. If Ingram works out, this is a great price for someone who will really give Miami juice coming off the edge. If not, only a small sum of cash is lost, with no negative ramifications down the road. I love this type of deal.
Grade: A

Packers extend CB Jaire Alexander:
This deal is a whopping 4 year, $84M contract. His $21M/year average is now #1 among all CBs, and his $30M signing bonus is a record for any defensive back. Needless to say, this deal is no bargain. Alexander is a true #1 shutdown corner when healthy, but therein lies the problem. He played only 5 games this past season due to a shoulder injury. I would’ve liked to have seen the Packers evaluate him for one more year once he recovered, with the option to wield the franchise tag next season, before committing to this pact. Still, I don’t hate this deal as much as it sounds like I do. The Packers get somewhere in the realm of $12M in cap space, and they absolutely needed to retain Alexander as a team whose Super Bowl window is still open. This deal could pay off greatly, as Alexander is elite, but it’s not without risk.
Grade: B-

May 13, 2022

Saints sign WR Jarvis Landry:
The Saints are really trying to win now with Jameis Winston at QB. That’s admirable in a way. This deal makes a lot of sense though. Landry is signing a reported 1-year deal worth up to $6M. With WR contracts going through the roof in recent months, this is a cheap, no-risk deal. Landry was hurt last year, but when healthy he’s a high-quality slot receiver who is also a willing blocker. Even if he doesn’t return to form, the Saints won’t be on the hook beyond this year. New Orleans had an abysmal receiving corps last year, but with the return of Michael Thomas and the additions of Landry and Chris Olave, that is no longer the case at all. The Saints inched closer to a playoff berth with this signing.
Grade: A

May 3, 2022

Falcons extend DT Grady Jarrett:
With one year left on his current deal, Jarrett was a prime candidate for the Falcons to extend so they could alleviate their cap woes and sign their draft class. The deal is 3 additional years for $51M, with $34.5M guaranteed. The Falcons gain $10.9M in cap space from the signing. I don’t love this deal from Jarrett’s perspective; Atlanta will not be winning a lot of games throughout this contract now that Matt Ryan is gone. However, that’s not who I’m grading here. This is a very good move for Atlanta. Excluding Aaron Donald, Jarrett has an argument for being a top-3 DT in the league, despite the fact that he’s been criminally underrated. He pushes the pocket as a rusher while stuffing gaps when playing the run. $17M/season is not a bargain, but it’s not an overpay either. Keeping one of your lone franchise cornerstones at a fair price while freeing up cap space is the right way to do business during a rebuild.
Grade: A

Saints sign S Tyrann Mathieu:
Tyrann Mathieu was surprisingly allowed to walk by the Chiefs, and it was expected that he’d be a hot commodity on the free-agent market as a proven playmaker in the secondary. However, his asking price was too high, and teams decided to sign younger and cheaper options, leading Mathieu to go unsigned until after the draft. He then got his wish by signing with his hometown team, and he received a large contract to boot. The terms are reportedly 3 year/$33M with $18M fully guaranteed. I don’t understand this from the Saints’ perspective. They are operating as if they’re going all-in to win this year, which is foolish. With Jameis Winston at quarterback, the Saints are a low-end playoff team at best. The team also already signed Marcus Maye, so they’re devoting big money to the safety position now, which is not a strategy used by most teams. Mathieu is a good player and this is probably fair value for him, but it’s not a great fit for New Orleans.
Grade: C

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