2023 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 in 2023 (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. Use control-F (Windows), command-F (Mac), or Find in Page (mobile) to search for a specific player. For trades, head on over to this page.

December 23, 2023

Bears extend K Cairo Santos:
Chicago may be focusing on what to do with their shiny projected #1 pick from Carolina, but they’re still addressing the players they currently have. Their reliable kicker has signed a 4-year, $16M extension with $9.5M guaranteed. Santos is 27/29 on FGs this year and 104/114 overall in his 4 seasons with the Bears. He doesn’t have the biggest leg (career-long FG of 55), but it’s adequate, and he’s typically a steady player. Some say that unless you have an elite kicker, you shouldn’t pay decent money to a veteran kicker and should instead opt for a rookie. I don’t follow that school of thought. As we’ve seen with teams like the 2022 Browns and the 2015 Vikings, a trustworthy kicker is most important in the biggest moments, and Chicago has one. I’m not projecting any big moments for this team for a while, but their reasoning is sound.
Grade: A-

December 10, 2023

Browns extend S Grant Delpit:
It’s always nice when teams have patience with a player who didn’t have the ideal start to his career. We saw how that worked with Austin Jackson a few days ago, and we’re seeing it again with Grant Delpit today. Delpit was taken in the 2nd round of the 2020 draft, but a torn Achilles in training camp ended his rookie season immediately. He worked on finding his groove before topping 100 tackles in 2022, flying all over the field but occasionally being burned for big gains. This year, he’s on the same sort of tackle pace but without the coverage busts. Cleveland rewarded him with a 3-year, $36M extension with $23M guaranteed. Only the first 2 years are guaranteed, making it a safer move. I think safeties are undervalued in general, both financially and in terms of draft capital. With that said, I might not have paid this much yet for Delpit, but it’s a solid deal nonetheless. He certainly plays a part on one of the league’s best defenses.
Grade: B+

December 7, 2023

Dolphins extend RT Austin Jackson:
Not long ago, Jackson had his 5th-year option declined. The former first-round pick was intended to be a high-upside left tackle project, but he struggled mightily there and dealt with numerous injuries. Once coach Mike McDaniel arrived in 2022, he shifted Jackson over to RT, where he played better but still was hurt often. He couldn’t have picked a better time to stay healthy. In 2023, Jackson has been much improved and has not missed a single game. Miami has seen enough, handing him a 3-year, $36M extension with $20.7M guaranteed and $3M in incentives. At $12M per season, this falls short of the 5th-year option number. Thus, Miami isn’t overpaying because they think they messed up by declining the option. RT is an extremely important position for the Dolphins because QB Tua Tagovailoa is left-handed. Jackson has developed into a good pass blocker, so this is a good price to keep him in the fold. It also minimizes the risk incurred in case he gets hurt again.
Grade: A-

December 6, 2023

Eagles sign LB Shaquille Leonard:
I waited to see if the Eagles would really snag Leonard for the minimum before grading the signing, which happened Monday. Apparently they did: it’s a prorated 1-year, $1.08M deal. Only two teams were known to be in the running for Leonard’s services, with the other being Philly’s hated rival: the Dallas Cowboys. I suppose Leonard liked the fit better with the Eagles or thought he had a better chance to win a ring, because this is certainly not about the money. He’s coming off a down stretch with the Colts, who cut him rather than pay him to ride the bench. I suspect Leonard’s issues are due to his litany of injuries over the last year. Assuming he is fully healthy again, even if he’s not the dominant All-Pro he once was, he’s certainly a massive upgrade over the Eagles’ ineffective and banged up LB corps. At this low cost, signing him was a no-brainer, and I’m grading it accordingly
Grade: A+

November 9, 2023

Rams sign QB Carson Wentz:
This signing happened two days ago, but I was waiting for the contract details to see if the numbers would be as low as I expected. They are indeed: Wentz is getting a minimum deal worth $1.165M, which is prorated to $732,500 for the rest of the season. I don’t get why Wentz hadn’t been signed. He has put more good football on tape than a lot of backups, including some who got $4M+ guarantees. Yes, he is erratic. But as a backup, who cares. He certainly gives the Rams a much better chance to win games than Brett Rypien did. HC Sean McVay can try to do the same reclamation work with Wentz that he did with Baker Mayfield last year. If this is Wentz’s last chance to revive his career, I can’t imagine any better fit than we’ve got right here. Wentz might not play if Matthew Stafford returns after the bye, but this is a dirt-cheap insurance policy that teams like the Giants and Cardinals should have pounced on.
Grade: A+

November 4, 2023

Bears extend DE Montez Sweat:
I was wondering when this would get done. I don’t like trading for a player on an expiring deal without bundling a contract extension into the package, but it doesn’t look like it cost the Bears this time. Sweat is signing a 4-year, $98M deal with $72.9M guaranteed and $7M in potential incentives. That puts him just ahead of Rashan Gary’s new deal in terms of annual value while a bit behind Myles Garrett. I think that’s about right. Sweat has a longer track record of production than Gary, and he’s consistently available. This is nowhere near a market-resetting contract, and Sweat gives Chicago a piece to build around on defense. He’ll produce for the full duration of the partnership because he’s only 27. The Bears lose points for costing themselves money by not extending Sweat as part of the trade, but otherwise this is great. I seem to be higher on Sweat than many in the media, but I’m in charge of this grade, so it’s staying in the A range.
Grade: A-

November 2, 2023

Bears extend DT Andrew Billings:
Originally drafted by the Bengals in the 4th round of the 2016 draft, Billings tore his meniscus and never played his rookie year. He became a dependable starter thereafter until his contract expired after the 2019 season. Billings signed with Cleveland but opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID. That didn’t work out, as he bounced to the Raiders and Bears after that. He seems to have found a home in Chicago though, and the Bears are giving him a 2-year, $8.5M extension with $6M guaranteed. Billings is a fine player, but I don’t know what the Bears saw that compelled them to extend him right now. He has just 14 tackles and no sacks in 8 starts. Granted, like Linval Joseph below, Billings’ contributions don’t necessarily shine in stats, but he hasn’t been all that active for one of the league’s worst defenses. This kind of money is typically reserved for better DTs with more size (Billings is 6’1″). I can’t say I’m surprised at this given that we’re talking about the Bears though.
Grade: C

Bills sign DT Linval Joseph:
A monster of a man at 6’4″ and 329 pounds, you don’t bring Joseph in to rack up stats, though he does produce quite a few tackles. You want him to push the pocket and be unmovable in the running game. Now 35 years old, Joseph might no longer possess the burst he once did, but at 1 year and up to $3.72M, he’s a perfectly good complementary piece. Buffalo can insert him on running downs to take the load off their injured LB corps. He’ll also be effective if opponents choose to pass on those early downs. Once the trade deadline passes, contenders scoop guys like this up. This was a wise move for Buffalo to make even if it doesn’t make a massive impact.
Grade: A-

October 30, 2023

Packers extend OLB Rashan Gary:
It’s been quite the journey for Gary. Originally drafted #12 overall by Green Bay, he had a disappointing rookie year with just 2 sacks. The production improved to 5 sacks in 2020, but critics were still labeling him a bust. That ended when Gary earned 9.5 sacks in 2021, also setting a career-high with 47 tackles in the run game. He was off to a torrid start in 2022 with 6 sacks through 9 games, but he unfortunately tore his ACL. Gary made it back for training camp and played in week 1, and it has been another good start for him (4.5 sacks so far). The Packers are now rewarding him with a 4-year, $96M contract with a maximum value of $107M. I’m a little hesitant to pay Gary this kind of money so soon after he returned from injury, but he’s well worth the price if he continues to play at this level. Green Bay is also rebuilding (as much as they refuse to admit it), and Gary is just 26 years old, so he’ll be a cornerstone of that effort. Despite my trepidation, I think the Packers had to do this, and they will be graded accordingly.
Grade: B+

October 7, 2023

Colts extend RB Jonathan Taylor:
These two sides appeared to be headed for a divorce when contract negotiations broke down before the season, leading to Taylor demanding a trade. However, Taylor has been out until this week with an ankle injury, limiting his market. Somehow, the player and team have reconciled, agreeing to a 3-year, $42M contract with $26.5M guaranteed. The RB market has been stagnant and for good reason. Most of the big-money contracts have been failures, including Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, and Todd Gurley. I personally wouldn’t have paid Taylor $14M/year either. If you’re the Colts, you’re hoping that Taylor’s 2021 season (1811 yards at 5.5 YPC, 18 rushing TDs) was the norm. Everything since has not been encouraging. Behind a poor offensive line, Taylor ran for just 861 yards and 4 TDs in 2022 while battling injury. His injured ways carried over to this season. At least wait until you see him in action again before paying him! From a PR standpoint, the Colts were wise to do this. They needed to pay their RB before the entire position group and the media converged upon them. From a roster perspective, devoting this much cash to an RB doesn’t usually pay off. Taylor’s peak is a top-5 RB, and he’d be worth the money if he came with no concerns. This is another case of me loving the player but hating the contract; star RBs just aren’t the value proposition they were 10 years ago.
Grade: D+

September 30, 2023

Rams extend TE Tyler Higbee:
No one seems to be exactly sure about the contract details here, but the best guess seems to be 2 years, $27M, and $17M guaranteed. Taking that $13.5M average as our figure, this is a reasonable deal. Higbee has been a quality player for the Rams, and he’s coming off a good year, with 72 catches for 620 yards and 3 TDs in 2022. I’d probably give this a B+ in general; we’re talking about a good player making top-10 but not elite money. This is also a reasonable contract length for a 31-year-old TE. The thing that freaks me out is that each week, I’m seeing Higbee listed as questionable with an “Achilles injury”. Those tendons are ticking time bombs when they start acting up and a player can’t rest them. Ask Aaron Rodgers about his “calf” ailment. It’s possible that the Rams will pay a player who could miss an entire season. Without settling that medical concern, I couldn’t have shelled out $17M guaranteed. The risk is just too great.
Grade: C

September 23, 2023

Saints extend DE Carl Granderson:
A 4-year, $52M contract is quite the payday for a formerly undrafted player. The data back that statement up: Granderson’s $35.3M in guarantees are the most ever for an undrafted DL. It’s important to remember why he went undrafted though: instead of being available for training camp, Granderson was in prison due to a sexual battery conviction. He only got out early because a judge thought that the judge who sentenced him improperly called Granderson’s therapist. In the years since, he seems to have turned things around though and has developed into a quality player. Mostly a rotational DE until this year, Granderson had his best season in 2022. He earned 55 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery. Now a starter for the first time, he’s really breaking out. Granderson has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in just 2 games. To me, this is a worthwhile gamble: at just 26 years old, Granderson is likely on the upswing, and weeks 1 and 2 of this year could be harbingers of things to come. For a pass rusher, $35.3M is not a lot in guarantees, and it hopefully won’t bite the Saints in the end.
Grade: A-

September 20, 2023

Browns re-sign RB Kareem Hunt:
This is a re-signing because Hunt was with the Browns last year and has not signed with any other team since then. In the wake of Nick Chubb’s injury, Hunt is back on a 1-year deal worth up to $4M. From what I understand, the Browns are happy with Jerome Ford. They opted not to pursue Jonathan Taylor. Instead, they went with the familiar but still quality option. I don’t really get the price tag though. This is decent money given how RBs have been devalued. At best, Hunt is looking at a 50-50 touch split with Ford. More likely, he has a minority share of the carries. I like the receiving element he provides, but the Browns could’ve gotten such a player for half the price.
Grade: C+

September 19, 2023

Vikings sign G Dalton Risner:
I’d been wondering why we haven’t seen Risner get signed. I thought he was one of the few good members of Denver’s offensive line, but our wait lasted through week 2. He is joining Minnesota on 1-year deal worth $4M with $2.25M guaranteed. This is sorely needed for the Vikings. QB Kirk Cousins has been under constant siege as injuries have ravaged his line. These injuries have mostly been at the tackle spots, but the guards weren’t playing great either. Risner should instantly help open some running lanes for Alexander Mattison while keeping Cousins cleaner, perhaps ending his fumbling woes. At least a dozen other teams should have made this move, so it’s another A+ from me.
Grade: A+

Chiefs reach new agreement with QB Patrick Mahomes:
When Mahomes and the Chiefs signed a 10-year, $450M extension in 2020, they agreed to revisit it every 3 years to see how the market has changed. Knowing that Mahomes has earned the right to be the highest-paid QB, KC has given that title back to him with a reworking of the next 4 seasons of his contract. He’ll now earn $210.6M fully guaranteed through 2026, and escalators can bring that value to $218.1M. The two sides will revisit the deal again during that 2026 season. I’m not going to give you a long-winded rationale for my grade. You know who Mahomes is and what he means to the Chiefs. Two MVPs. Three Super Bowl appearances with two wins. Best QB in the NFL. Any of those descriptions can justify this contract, and we all knew that Mahomes wasn’t playing anywhere else. That’s now a guaranteed reality for 4 more years.
Grade: A+

September 12, 2023

Chiefs reach new agreement with DT Chris Jones:
Jones blinked. That’s the only way I can describe his decision to end his holdout for $0 in new salary plus $5.5M in incentives. Unlike Nick Bosa, Jones isn’t getting his fines waived, and he lost his $1.08 game check for missing week 1. I’m sure he’s confident in his ability to earn the incentives, but KC also retained the ability to franchise tag him. The reality here is that Jones had no leverage. He was due to receive $19.5M this year, which is a quality salary, and the Chiefs felt like they didn’t need to budge. The incentives are a sign of good will, and the team definitely needed Jones back. Given how little it took to secure his commitment for 2023, the Chiefs are big winners here.
Grade: A+

September 9, 2023

Saints extend RG/C Cesar Ruiz:
Ruiz hadn’t quite lived up to expectations during his first couple of years with the Saints, leading them to decline his 5th-year option early in 2023. It appears they’ve had a change of heart after reviewing his improvement, signing him to a 4-year, $44M extension with $30M guaranteed and $2M more in incentives. The 5th-year option would’ve been more expensive than the $11M average salary in this contract. Ruiz was drafted as a C but has played mostly RG in the NFL, which might be part of his early struggles. Working with OL coach Doug Marrone seems to have done wonders for Ruiz, who went from a mediocre blocker to an above-average pivot. He’s still not in the upper echelon of centers though, but this isn’t a prohibitive price. Continuity along the offensive line is important, and I don’t think NO will regret this signing.
Grade: B+

Colts extend LS Luke Rhodes:
We still talk about long snappers here. That’s particularly true when one becomes the highest-paid player at his position, as Rhodes is here. He’s signing for 4 years and $6.465M with $2.5M guaranteed. I don’t really pick on these deals, especially after what we saw last year in week 1 with the Steelers and Bengals. Cincy’s long snapper got hurt, and a backup TE filled the role. Normally reliable K Evan McPherson couldn’t convert anything, even PATs. It was all due to the snapper. I say that if you’ve got a long snapper you like and trust, keep him. “Highest-paid” here means less than $1.7M per season. That won’t break the bank.
Grade: A

September 8, 2023

Giants extend K Graham Gano:
Friday night kicker news! The Giants have signed their 3-year starter to 3 more years and $16.5M. $11.3M is fully guaranteed, and $2M more is guaranteed for injury. This is a great signing. Teams with playoff aspirations should not go with unproven but cheap kickers on rookie contracts. If you’ve got someone really good, keep him around. A shade over $5M won’t break NYG’s cap situation, but it does retain a kicker exceeding 90% made field goals during his time with the team. Gano also has a massive leg, with a career-long of 63 yards. He went 8/9 from 50+ last year, so he’s consistent from that range as well. New York has one of the league’s top kickers, and they were smart to retain him.
Grade: A+

September 7, 2023

Bengals extend QB Joe Burrow:
The long-awaited extension has finally arrived. After watching draft-mates Justin Herbert and Jalen hurts ink extensions worth $50M+ per season, we all wondered when Burrow would put pen to paper and take the reins as the NFL’s highest-paid player. That day is today: Burrow and the Bengals agreed to a 5-year, $275M contract with $219.01M guaranteed. I have no idea if that latter number has some special significance. Regardless, that is the second-most guaranteed money ever (behind Deshaun Watson’s ludicrous $230M), and the $55 salary is a record. I don’t grade these mega contracts highly…unless they’re for franchise QBs. That position is disproportionately valuable in not just football but all professional sports. Like all giant contracts, this will make it challenging for Cincy to keep a strong roster. WRs Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins are due for extensions soon. However, this team is nothing without Burrow. He’s already the most successful playoff QB in franchise history, and he has made the Super Bowl and back-to-back AFC title game appearances. He brought the Bengals from irrelevance to continual contenders.Unlike Herbert or Hurts, Burrow deserves his new title of highest-paid QB.
Grade: A

Vikings extend S Josh Metellus:
It’s not often that a player who started 3 games in his prior season and mostly plays on special teams receives an extension exceeding $5M per year. Yet that’s less than what Metellus got on his new 2-year, $13M extension ($6M guaranteed). The Michigan safety has improved over his 3 pro seasons though, and this deal is a clear indication that the Vikings believe in him and expect him to take on a bigger defensive role. The team has indicated that they still expect to use Metellus on special teams. However, if they believe in him so strongly, why only 2 years? I understand risk mitigation when you’re paying someone with only no starting experience, but at this high salary, Minnesota could lock him in long-term. This contract doesn’t really let them reap the benefits of Metellus breaking out in 2023 or 2024, but they do receive points for the aforementioned risk avoidance.
Grade: C+

September 6, 2023

49ers extend DE Nick Bosa:
Within hours of reports suggesting that Bosa could miss week 1 while holding out for a new contract, an extension was reached. And it’s MASSIVE. Bosa is signing a 5-year, $170M contract with $122.5M guaranteed. His fines incurred from holding out are being waved, and his $34M annual salary is a record for a defensive player. It’s hard to give a high grade to a contract that resets the market so drastically. In fact, his salary bests that of Rams DT Aaron Donald by $3M per season. Yet there is still a strong argument that SF had to do this. Bosa was a real threat to miss regular season games, which would have been catastrophic. He also happens to be the reigning defensive player of the year and remains one of the premier sack artists in the NFL. Bosa wanted this deal now because, like his brother Joey, he tends to miss time with injuries and thus understandably didn’t want to risk his future payday. The 49ers were forced to oblige because they knew he was an irreplaceable player. Thus, I also can’t grade the team poorly. We’ve got a surprisingly fair agreement for such a big-money contract.
Grade: B

September 3, 2023

Cowboys extend RT Terence Steele:
Originally signed as a UDFA in 2020, Steele has made quite a career for himself. He was pressed into starting duties as a rookie due to injuries, and he has locked down the RT spot ever since. Dallas wants that to continue, so they’re signing him to a 5-year, $86.8M extension with $50M guaranteed and a max value of $91.8M. I really like Steele, but this is way too much money. For comparison, Bengals LT Orlando Brown Jr signed a contract this offseason worth $16M per season. Without the leverage of free agency, Steele is getting $17.3M. Brown is a premium left tackle, while Steele is an above-average right tackle. The Cowboys appear to be moving on from Tyron Smith soon, turning the starting LT job over to Tyler Smith. With Smith, Steele, and elite G Zack Martin, Dallas has a great line again. I just think they’re paying too much for the right side of that line.
Grade: B-

August 31, 2023

Dolphins extend FB Alec Ingold:
Another record-setting extension! This time we’re resetting the top of the FB market, with Ingold receiving a 3-year, $17.2M extension. That $5.73M average passes SF’s Kyle Juszczyk for tops in the NFL. Juszczyk has historically been well above his FB peers in salary because he provides so much more. He takes few carries, but he catches passes sometimes like a TE and blocks like an extra lineman. Ingold is a poor man’s Juszczyk. His receiving skills and YAC ability aren’t anywhere close to Juszczyk’s, though he’s a capable blocker. I don’t think a rookie FB would’ve been a significant downgrade, as Ingold wasn’t great in short-yardage situations last year and suffered a few drops. I know HC Mike McDaniel wanted his FB for his Kyle Shanahan copycat offense, but this was way too steep a price. 
Grade: D

Vikings extend TE TJ Hockenson:
I’ve long thought that Hockenson was underrated. But a guy worthy of being the highest-paid TE in NFL history? I never went that far. Minnesota did though, signing Hockenson to a 4-year, $68.5M contract with $42.5M guaranteed. The average salary and total guarantees are both TE records. Hockenson came over from Detroit in the middle of last season via trade. The fact that the Vikings didn’t extend him as part of that move ruined their leverage; they couldn’t allow the player they traded assets for to walk away. From that perspective, I get the contract. I also believe that Hockenson (who had 914 yards last year) is a good receiver and even better blocker. Still, you can’t tell me that he’s worth more than Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews. I’d have paid him closer to $13M per season, which is a shade below the salaries of the aforementioned players. At over $17M, this is a significant overpay that will hinder the team’s roster-building efforts. I can’t get behind that even though I like the player.
Grade: B-

August 27, 2023

Dolphins extend DL Zach Sieler:
If you’re not a follower of the Dolphins, you might not have even heard of Sieler. I imagine you will now that he has signed a 3-year extension worth $38.65M with $20M guaranteed. Despite the lack of notoriety, Sieler has been an integral part of Miami’s defensive line since he was claimed off waivers in 2019. He started half the team’s games in 2020 and 2021 before becoming a full-time starter in 2022. Though Sieler lines up at multiple positions along the defensive line, he produces most like a DT. His sack production is limited (3.5 in 2022), but he pushes the pocket and stuffs the run (70 tackles last year). He is also surprisingly adept at dropping into coverage, earning 7 PBUs over the past 2 seasons. The nearly $13M average salary in this contract is steep, and it seems like the team is paying as much for what he brings to the culture as what he does on the field. It’s also curious that he’s getting this money while teammate Christian Wilkins, a better player, continues to hold in for an extension himself. While this is not a bad deal because Sieler really is very good, its timing and high cost are suspect.
Grade: B-

August 26, 2023

Raiders re-sign RB Josh Jacobs:
Much like Saquon Barkley, Jacobs held out this offseason and refused to sign his $10.1M franchise tag. Also like Barkley, Jacobs is now under contract with a different 1-year deal. The team and he reached agreement on a 1-year, $12M pact with $200K available in incentives. After his 5th-year option was declined before last season, Jacobs responded with his best season as a pro. He ran for 1,653 yards and 12 TDs, and he earned 400 receiving yards as well. Definitely regretting their prior decision, the Raiders immediately franchised tagged Jacobs, much to the RB’s dismay. Unfortunately for him and other RBs, the franchise tag is often a team’s best play. RBs have shorter shelf lives than other positions, so long-term deals for these players can (and often do) backfire. In signing Jacobs for $12M, Las Vegas is giving him a fair salary while protecting themselves against any regression. They’re also showing some goodwill toward their back by tossing him a little more cash than they were obligated to pay. Since Jacobs is less of an injury risk than Barkley, and I gave that deal an A+, I have to do the same for this one despite the slightly higher price tag.
Grade: A+

August 18, 2023

Ravens sign DE Jadeveon Clowney:
Once a #1 overall pick, Clowney has been on numerous teams recently due to injuries and a lack of production. Though Clowney had 9 sacks with Cleveland in 2021, he has had fewer than 4 sacks in his other 3 years since 2019. He has also only played every game in a season once in his career, and that was all the way back in 2017. All of this has caused Clowney to sign 1-year prove-it deals, but those have steadily dropped in value. This time, Baltimore is getting him for just $6M. Even if Clowney isn’t effective as a rusher like he was in 2021, his best asset has been his run defense. The upside is there for Clowney to greatly outperform his contract, and the floor is a quality run defender who occasionally pushes the pocket. I like this gamble a lot given the low risk.
Grade: A

Ravens sign CB Ronald Darby:
Darby has long been known as a viable slot corner. In some cases, he’s been above average. However, he’s coming off a torn ACL he suffered while playing for Denver last year. That significantly depressed his market, forcing him to sign a 1-year, $3.2M deal. Don’t expect Darby to offer much early in the season. Even if he’s ready to play, it typically takes players a little while to regain their footing after coming off such a serious injury. Baltimore can live with that as long as Darby is healthy in the second half of the year, which makes this signing worth it. I thought we’d see a deal closer to the minimum given the injury and the fact that Darby has been bouncing from team to team lately, but this isn’t much of an overpay.
Grade: B

August 14, 2023

Jets sign RB Dalvin Cook:
Two RBs in 1 day! Curiously, both signed 1-year deals. The former Viking inked a 1-year deal worth up to $8.6M. I imagine that it only took so long for Cook to find a home because he wasn’t satisfied with the offers he received. We’re talking about an RB coming off 4 consecutive 1000-yard rushing seasons. He has also exceeded 1300 scrimmage yards each year during the streak, and 2022 was actually the first year in which Cook played in all of his team’s games. I wouldn’t say the injury concerns are gone, but a 1-year contract alleviates them to some extent. NYJ needed another back with Breece Hall returning from a torn ACL. Cook gives them arguably the best pair of backs in the league, albeit at a premium cost. It remains Super Bowl or bust for Gang Green.
Grade: A-

Patriots sign RB Ezekiel Elliott:
Finally, a big-name running back has been signed. Zeke has agreed to a 1-year deal worth up to $6M. Alas, the Patriots aren’t getting the dominant version of the Dallas RB. Something seems to be missing from Elliott these days, and he doesn’t quite have the same burst he once did. I did notice, however, that when he ceded some carries to Tony Pollard, he looked fresher and more spry on a per-game basis. New England has a stable of backs, so he can be at his best when needed, particularly in goal-line situations. There’s nothing wrong with this signing since it’s just for 1 year, even if the money is a bit high. I just wonder: did NE need a running back? They seem like they needed just about everything else, and this won’t move the needle.
Grade: B-

August 11, 2023

Lions extend WR/PR Kalif Raymond:
I ranked Raymond highly in my annual returner rankings, and Detroit must agree with me. They’re giving Raymond a 2-year, $14.2M extension with $8.1M guaranteed, making him one of the league’s highest-paid returners. Yes, part of this contract is for his receiving prowess. Raymond had a career-high 616 receiving yards in 2022, though he did not reach the end zone (he did as a PR). That value in the slot should not be ignored. However, he is regularly viewed as a returner because of how dangerous he is in that role. Combining the two contributions, this is a fair contract for Raymond.
Grade: B+

August 10, 2023

Browns sign DE Shelby Harris:
Harris played 1 season in Seattle as part of the Russell Wilson trade, but the team never intended to keep him beyond that. He made out well with the Browns, signing a 1-year deal worth up to $5.25M. Probabilistically speaking, Harris is likely to play well this year; he seems to do so every other year. His sack totals in 2017, 2019, and 2021 were 5.5, 6, and 6, respectively. In 2018, 2020, and 2022, he had 6 sacks total. In all seriousness, this lack of consistency is a bit concerning, but he’ll get to line up across from Myles Garrett now. I wouldn’t have paid this much, but the production is likely to look good, so I can’t grade this badly.
Grade: B

Lions sign QB Teddy Bridgewater:
I didn’t think the Lions could actually go into the season with Nate Sudfeld as Jared Goff’s backup. They didn’t either. In a shrewd move, they signed Teddy Bridgewater to a 1-year, $5M contract with $2.5M guaranteed. That sum of guaranteed money is low for a backup in 2023, and that’s probably due to Bridgewater’s injury history. As Miami’s backup in 2022, he was constantly hurt despite only playing a few games. However, when he plays, he has been solid at worst, profiling as a premium backup. Goff is durable, so this is merely an insurance policy, and a good one at that.
Grade: A

Rams sign S John Johnson:
Los Angeles has had a rough offseason. As a result of their going all-in to win a Super Bowl, they had no negative cap space and were forced to cut multiple quality veterans. For once, they’re bringing a veteran back. Johnson left two years ago for the Browns, and things did not go well. Still, him only getting 1-year and $1.08M, the veteran minimum, is ridiculous. The man is only 27 years old, and he was an above-average starter just two years ago. Crucially, he played at that high level with the Rams. There’s no learning curve with this team, and he’ll instantly help a suddenly barren secondary. Great signing.
Grade: A+

August 9, 2023

Ravens extend DT Broderick Washington:
Washington is listed as a DT, but he played DE as well last season. The man is 304 pounds and incredibly hard to move out of rushing lanes. Though he has just 2 career sacks, he’s a pocket pusher who blossomed in his 3rd pro season, earning 49 tackles in 2022. Baltimore is rewarding him with a 3-year, $17.5M that includes $10M in guaranteed money. As Calais Campbell’s replacement, Washington grew into his new role quickly and earned the trust of the coaching staff. This is pretty much average money for a run stuffer anywhere on the line, so I’m fine with it despite Washington’s limited pass rushing upside.
Grade: B+

Patriots sign OLB Trey Flowers:
Unlike receivers, the Patriots HAVE gotten the best out of their edge rushers. Flowers originally blossomed for the team before cashing in with Detroit in 2019. His first year there was good, but he never topped 2.5 sacks in any season since then. He barely played at all in Miami last year, so it’s no surprise that his one-year deal comes in at just $1.165M. Incentives can push that to $2.5M. I’d call this signing pointless if it were any other team. In New England though, Flowers had 21 sacks over the span of 3 seasons. At age 29, I can’t say he’s washed up, so maybe being back with the Patriots will revitalize him. This is a worthy flier.
Grade: A

Vikings sign WR N’Keal Harry:
How far has this former first-round pick fallen? A former bust with NE, Harry is signing a 1-year, $1.08M contract with ZERO guaranteed dollars. This is the weakest contract I’ve graded since I made this site, and that makes me wonder if this is even notable. However, Harry is a household name due to his prior pedigree. Despite being picked in 2019, this is Harry’s 3rd team. With Chicago last year, he caught a mere 7 passes and played in only 8 games. The promise is presumably still there; Harry has the size to be a dangerous red zone weapon if he can ever stay healthy. New England hasn’t been great at developing receivers, so perhaps Harry’s best days are in front of him. I won’t hold my breath though.
Grade: C-

August 7, 2023

Eagles sign LB Zach Cunningham:
Philadelphia signed two LBs to identical 1-year, $2.5M deals today, and Cunningham is the second one. Last season wasn’t Cunningham’s best, but he dealt with injuries and was traded from Houston to Tennessee. That definitely affected him, but he is likely to bounce back given that he’s just 1 year removed from a 164-tackle campaign. He led the league in that category, and he even contributed 3 sacks that year. At least one of these two LB signings should pan out for the Eagles, but I’d place my bet on this one. Cunningham seems like he has a bit more left in the tank than Myles Jack, though they could both contribute.
Grade: A

Eagles sign LB Myles Jack:
Jack is a tackling machine, but he doesn’t do a whole lot else. While he has earned 100+ tackles in each of the past 3 years (most recently in Pittsburgh), he has 1 total sack and 1 INT over the same span. It’s fairly safe to say that numerous injuries have sapped a bit of his athleticism, but he still can be a sideline-to-sideline backer in a committee role. At just $2.5M for 1 year, this is a reasonable flyer for Philly. Either they have a suitable replacement for TJ Edwards, or they found themselves a cheap reserve for 2nd-year LB Nakobe Dean. This signing is solid even if the upside is limited.
Grade: A-

UPDATE: Jack has informed the Eagles that he has opted to retire after 7 seasons in the NFL.

Panthers sign OLB Justin Houston:
When I saw that a 34-year-old edge rusher signed to a 1-year deal worth $7M with $6M guaranteed, I was surprised. Then I realized that I shouldn’t be. Houston has been defying age norms for years, and he just posted a 9.5-sack season with Baltimore. In fact, he’s had 8+ sacks in each of the past 3 seasons. Carolina needed a 2nd edge rusher to replace Haason Reddick across from Brian Burns, and now they’ve got one. Houston can mentor and help develop the Panthers’ younger players while giving the defense a legitimate chance to carry the team to a division title in the weak NFC South. That might be pushing it, but this is still a good signing that brings in a productive rusher on a slightly high but still fair deal.
Grade: B+

August 4, 2023

Bengals extend LB Logan Wilson:
I thought I misread the numbers on this deal. At 4 years and $37.25M, that’s just over $9M per season! Surely the reports meant 3 years right? Nope. These are the real details, and they form a bargain for the Bengals. Wilson is one of the league’s best coverage linebackers, but he also set a career-high with 122 tackles last year. A 3-down LB like this is certainly worth $13M per season or more, especially one as valuable to his defense as Wilson is. I don’t have much more to say here, and I’ll keep glaring at the screen with my jaw dropped while I try to figure out why Wilson took this contract.
Grade: A+

Cowboys extend S Malik Hooker:
Another team is signing their own today, with Dallas agreeing to a 3-year, $24M extension with Hooker. The deal contains $16.5M in guaranteed money. If Hooker continues to play like he did during his first 2 seasons in Dallas, this is a steal. In 2022, he earned a career-high 62 tackles and tied a career high with 3 INTs. Hooker is obviously a great fit for Dan Quinn’s defense. However, when we talk about Malik Hooker, we always have to worry about injuries. Though healthy so far with the Cowboys, he was very much not during his 4 seasons with the Colts, missing a combined 25 games. I’d have preferred a little less guaranteed money on this contract for that reason, but the deal isn’t out of control, so I still like it.
Grade: A-

Saints extend DE Cameron Jordan:
I love when a player and team come to an agreement that likely ensures that the player will finish his career with that team. Jordan and the Saints have agreed to a 2-year, $27.5M guaranteed extension that seems to do just that. The deal keeps Jordan in NO through 2025. At age 34, that could very well mean the end of his career. Jordan is likely no longer at his peak, but he’s still very productive. He produced 8.5 sacks and 66 tackles on his way to a 6th Pro Bowl nod. A strong rusher, Jordan is one of the best edge players against the run, making him a well-rounded threat to opposing offenses. $13.75M per season is a bargain even if Jordan declines a bit, and since it keeps him in black and gold, I love this deal.
Grade: A+

August 3, 2023

Bears sign DE Yannick Ngakoue:
Another of my top free agents is finally under contract, with Ngakoue signing a 1-year, $10.5M deal with $10M guaranteed. So basically the entire thing is guaranteed. At this number, that’s no issue. Ngakoue is a sack artist. He earned 9.5 sacks last year and 10 in 2021. He has never produced less than 8 sacks in a season. With that level of consistency, I don’t know why he keeps bouncing from team to team, but Chicago very much needs him. The Bears have had an awful pass rush, and though they’ve made efforts to fix it this offseason, this is their best move on that front. Admittedly, the Bears are still not a playoff team. But at least they’re trying, and this is a good signing no matter who writes the contract.
Grade: A+

July 30, 2023

Vikings reach new agreement with DE Danielle Hunter:
Sometimes a team and a player can reconcile their differences. Hunter had asked for a trade unless he got an improved contract. He had 1 year remaining on his deal with under $5M in base salary. The Vikings were reportedly open to trading him, but wisely agreed to a 1-year, $20M contract with $17M guaranteed. It also prevents the team from franchise tagging Hunter while granting him a no-trade clause. Simply put, Hunter is the best QB…hunter (sorry) that Minnesota has. After a “down” 2021 season in which he played just 7 games due to injury (but still had 6 sacks), Hunter got back to his sack-happy ways, earning 10.5 takedowns. He has had 10 or more sacks in 3 of the past 4 seasons (excluding that 2021 campaign). Keeping him in town and happy was key for Minnesota after they traded Za’Darius Smith. This price tag is simply the going rate for premium edge rushers. It might even be slightly low. My only knock concerns the two extra provisions. Did they really have to guarantee not tagging Hunter? This is a minor gripe, because a tagged Hunter likely wouldn’t report.
Grade: A-

July 28, 2023

Bengals extend DE Trey Hendrickson:
Without much fanfare, the Bengals added a year to Hendrickson’s contract, giving him $21M in new money with approximately $13M guaranteed. This was probably done for cap reasons, as Hendrickson wasn’t scheduled to be a free agent for 2 more seasons. Cincy bet that Hendrickson’s final season with NO, a 13.5-sack campaign, was a real breakout and not a mirage. They were dead on. The elite rusher has compiled 22 sacks and 18 TFLs in his 2 years with the Bengals, leading a pass rush that transformed Lou Anarumo’s defense. His presence allows Anarumo to deploy a 3-man front and put 8 in coverage, and it has caused the Chiefs, their main conference rivals, fits. Keeping Hendrickson at this number for another year is well worth it, and the cap savings are a bonus.
Grade: A

July 26, 2023

Jets reach new agreement with QB Aaron Rodgers:
I’m grading this one because it’s a completely new deal and not a simple restructure. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it: a 2-year, $75M fully guaranteed contract. That represents a $35M pay cut from the 2 years and approximately $110M remaining on his previous deal. It’s safe to say that this is completely out of character for Rodgers. The man who is typically viewed as self-centered is making a Brady-esque move here, taking significantly less than his market value to allow his team to add premium talent around him. In Brady’s case, that led to 7 Super Bowls. Time will tell if championships await Rodgers as a result of this decision, but the Jets have to be ecstatic. They got their long-awaited QB and signed him to a team-friendly deal. It’s now on them to ensure that the roster and coaching staff are elite, as Rodgers’ greed can never be blamed again.
Grade: A+

Bears extend TE Cole Kmet:
WHAT?!?!? If you had told me that Kmet signed a 4-year, $50M extension with $32M guaranteed, I would have assumed you were lying to me. Kmet is a decent, homegrown player who had 50 receptions for 544 yards and 7 TDs last season. But $12.5M per season ranks him as a top-10 TE, which is not what he is. He doesn’t offer much as a blocker, and as a receiver he’s a bit above average. His guarantees are even more extreme, ranking 4th among TEs who are not on rookie deals. Like running backs, TEs aren’t players to pay premium money unless you’ve got a truly special guy. I’d consider Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Mark Andrews to be in that category. This is certainly not the worst deal I’ve seen, and it keeps a weapon around to aid Justin Fields’ development. I think Chicago could’ve acquired two players at Kmet’s level for $12.5M a year though.
Grade: D

Giants extend LT Andrew Thomas:
I initially thought Thomas was the best tackle in his draft class, but I began to second-guess myself when I saw his rookie struggles and the media reports about his progress. Shame on me. I try to never judge a player at most positions solely based on their rookie years, and Thomas should have been no exception. He has since blossomed into a premier LT, earning himself a 5-year, $117.5M extension with a record $67 million in guarantees for a lineman. Thomas is critical to the success of Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, and his second-team All-Pro recognition last year proved his new level of performance. I expect him to continue that play throughout this deal, so even though it’s very expensive, it’s well worth it. Outside of QB, no position except MAYBE pass rusher is as important as left tackle.
Grade: A

Texans extend RT Tytus Howard:
Our first of 2 tackle extensions today, Howard is signing a 3-year, $56M contract extension with $36.5M guaranteed. This is a fine contract but definitely not a bargain. The former first-round pick is a quality tackle who is a key part of a strong line. That line will be crucial for rookie QB CJ Stroud. However, I wouldn’t put Howard in the same category as someone like Lane Johnson or Ryan Ramcyzk. Still, this average annual value is similar to those of Taylor Moton on Jawaan Taylor, and I’d probably take Howard over either of them. It was important to get this deal done to maintain OL continuity, and Howard is still young enough to become even better, so it’s possible that this deal looks like a steal in a couple years.
Grade: B+

July 25, 2023

Chargers extend QB Justin Herbert:
The title of “highest-paid QB” has changed hands once again! Justin Herbert is the second of the 2020 QBs to get paid, signing a 5-year, $262.5M behemoth contract with $218.7M in guarantees. Is Herbert the league’s best QB? No. However, he is certainly a franchise QB, and when you find a guy like that, you do whatever it takes to keep him around. The cost of doing business with a true franchise QB now is to make him the highest-paid player at the time of his deal. This number will likely be eclipsed soon by Joe Burrow, then again by Trevor Lawrence next year. So it goes. For the Chargers, Herbert is the guy who returned the team to the playoffs last season in spite of the league’s worst coach (who risked his QB’s health). His 14089 yards and 94 TDs in his first three years are nothing short of excellent. This team believes they’re contenders, and though I think they’re a cut below, they’ll continue to be in the mix with Herbert under center. However, the rest of the roster might pay for this in a couple of years.
Grade: B+

Cowboys extend CB Trevon Diggs:
With Diggs entering the final year of his second-round rookie deal, an extension was a no-brainer. Diggs has exceptional ball skills. While his 2021 INT total of 11 is an extreme outlier, he still has never posted a season with less than 3 picks. Dallas saw enough to hand Diggs a 5-year, $97M extension with $7M more available in incentives and $42.3M guaranteed. That $19.4M per year average ranks 5th among corners, and that feels right. Despite his INTs, Diggs was initially a fairly poor corner. He guessed on routes and bit on double moves, leading to a massive blown coverage rate and yielding a strong passer rating to opposing QBs. His reduced INT total in 2022 belied the fact that Diggs morphed into a complete player. He now plays with more discipline and is a true shutdown corner while still going after the ball. As in his Seattle days, DC Dan Quinn has a defense that relies on sticky press man coverage, and Diggs is the key to the scheme. This deal isn’t a bargain, but it’s deserved and essential.
Grade: A-

Buccaneers re-sign DT William Gholston:
This is a minor signing, but it’s important continuity for Tampa. Their Super Bowl window slammed shut, so during this rebuild (ahem…”retool” according to Todd Bowles), you need solid veterans to build a culture. Gholston has never been a critical member of the defensive line, but he’s solid. His sack production dried up last year, but he had 49 tackles, which was his highest total since 2016. He has played his whole career in Tampa (since 2013) and has re-signed on another one-year deal worth $2.8M. That’s slightly high, but that’s not important. His veteran leadership is what counts here, and Tampa needs plenty of that.
Grade: B+

Giants re-sign RB Saquon Barkley:
This is technically a re-signing because he didn’t end up signing his tag. The Giants took that $10.1M tag, converted $2M to a signing bonus (instead of equal checks each week of the season), and added $900K in incentives that could push the deal to $11M. I can’t believe Barkley took it. He declined an offer with almost $14M per season on it because it didn’t have enough guarantees. This is BARELY more than the tag, and it just speaks to how little leverage he had. New York understandably didn’t want high guarantees because of Barkley’s injury history. The tag is a convenient mechanism for high-performing RBs because of its relatively low cost. If the Barkley of 2022 returns, this is a steal, and they can continue negotiations at season’s end. I truly expected him to hold out until week 1 before taking a deal like this. Getting him in for training camp and keeping the price low? Astounding. Josh Jacobs can’t be happy though.
Grade: A+

July 24, 2023

Seahawks extend OLB Uchenna Nwosu:
We’ve got a nice beefy extension before camp. Nwosu is signing a 3-year extension worth up to $59M with $32M guaranteed. It’s hard to judge this contract without looking at the one Alex Highsmith signed a few days ago. Both players are young pass rushers coming off their best seasons. Highsmith’s was considerably better though, but Nwosu did very well. He earned 9.5 sacks, 66 tackles, and 12 TFLs, which were all career highs. Nwosu was a rotational player for 3 of his 4 seasons with the Chargers, and when he joined the Seahawks, the thought was that he could break out in a leading role. That turned out to be true, but a deal just shy of $20M per season feels rich to me. I’d likely grade this more fondly if Highsmith hadn’t just signed for $17M a season. I like Nwosu and think Seattle needed to keep him around. Something like 3 years and $5M would’ve made me happier.
Grade: B

Raiders sign CB Marcus Peters:
At least my top available free agents are getting signed. Peters, who was somehow a free agent for the first time in his career, signed a 1-year, $5M contract with Las Vegas. He was always going to be signing a prove-it deal after playing 2022 coming off major surgery. Predictably, he had a down season in Baltimore, but it’s likely that he’ll rebound another year removed from his injury. At his best, Peters is a ball hawk who generates INTs at an elite rate. Defensive turnovers have eluded the Raiders, as has solid secondary play. Peters gives them both on a low-risk signing. I’d have preferred to see Peters land on a contender instead of a rebuilding team on the wrong track, but for the Raiders, this is a great signing.
Grade: A+

July 21, 2023

Ravens sign RB Melvin Gordon:
When I posted my RB-heavy list of best available free agents, you’ll notice that I didn’t mention Gordon. Thus, it’s odd to me that Baltimore gave him $3.1M for one year. He’s a pretty good runner, but he has AWFUL fumbling problems. Gordon has lost a whopping 12 of them since 2019. No matter how good you are as a runner, receiver out of the backfield, or pass protector (and Gordon is decent or better at all 3), you’re unplayable if you can’t protect the football. This signing likely has few guarantees and is merely meant as an insurance policy for JK Dobbins, who was placed on the PUP list today. I don’t hate the move, but I would’ve preferred a guy like Leonard Fournette given the depressed RB market.
Grade: C-

Jaguars re-sign Dawuane Smoot:
One of my favorite underrated players, Smoot was expected to take a visit to Baltimore next week, but Jacksonville swooped in and signed him to a 1-year, $6.25M contract with $3.25M guaranteed, keeping him with the one pro team he has ever played for. His weak market is assuredly due to a torn Achilles he suffered near the end of the season, but he has supposedly been recovering well, and the Jaguars’ doctors know his health better than anyone else. Smoot was only a starter in 2020 and 2021, but he has been a rotational player with a high snap count for most of his career. A remarkably consistent force off the edge, Smoot had between 5 and 6 sacks and added between 5 and 7 TFLs in each of the past 4 seasons. That dependability is an asset, and even if Smoot misses time during his rehab, the price tag and duration of this deal are low enough that I’m still a fan of it.
Grade: A-

July 19, 2023

Steelers extend OLB Alex Highsmith:
When TJ Watt missed time last year due to injury, Pittsburgh still had a pass rush. That’s because of Highsmith and his career-high 14.5 sacks, which earned him a 4-year, $68M extension with $27.7M guaranteed. $17M per season is a lot to pay a second edge rusher, but it’s a very low amount for a 14.5-sack player in a vacuum. His sack totals have increased in each of his 3 pro seasons, suggesting that this is not a fluke. His volume may drop with Watt back, but his effectiveness won’t. Highsmith is also good against the run, earning 63 tackles last year and 27 TFLs over the past two seasons. Complete players like this who are home-grown are typically guys you keep around, and Pittsburgh has done just that. I have no problem giving this deal an A.
Grade: A

July 16, 2023

Titans sign WR DeAndre Hopkins:
The most coveted free agent WR chose Tennessee over New England. I would have done so as well, but the question is why the Titans chose him. You all know how I feel about Hopkins. He’s among the best WRs in the league even at this age. The money is actually really good: 2 years and $26M, with incentives that can add $6M more. $13-$16M for an elite #1 wideout is dirt cheap (Tyreek Hill is making $30M per year). I just don’t think he does anything for Tennessee. The Titans are a rebuilding team that doesn’t seem to realize it yet, and they’re probably not even winning the weak AFC South. Hopkins actually pushes them to 2nd, knocking them out of the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. I suppose he’ll help Will Levis along during the second year of this deal, but it feels more like an attempt to remain relevant than an actual winning move. The grade is good because the value is excellent and the player is even better. It’s not an A because of the other confounding factors.
Grade: B

Jaguars extend TE Evan Engram:
One of our franchise tagged players has reached a deal. Engram is signing with Jacksonville on a 3-year, $41.25M contract with $24M fully guaranteed. After a promising rookie year, Engram really struggled with the Giants, mostly due to poor QB play. Joining the Jags on a 1-year deal, he broke out again, earning 73 catches for 776 yards and 4 TDs. This deal is a substantial raise over the $11.35M franchise tag, and it’s basically paying Engram like a #2 WR. Fortunately, that’s pretty much what he is since he doesn’t block much. With Calvin Ridley now in tow, he, Engram, and Christian Kirk will form a formidable trio of weapons for Trevor Lawrence. The cash is a bit more than I’d like, but it seems fair and necessary.
Grade: B+

July 13, 2023

Jets extend DT Quinnen Williams:
As you know, I complain about expensive DT deals if the player is not elite. This contract is for 4 years and $96M with $66 guaranteed, so it certainly qualifies as a hefty sum. However, Williams is one of the premier interior defenders in the NFL. He was my #1 player in the 2019 draft, and after a bit of a slow start (like everyone under coach Adam Gase), Williams has really blossomed over the past three seasons. Last year in particular was stellar: Williams earned a career-high 12 sacks on a whopping 28 QB hits en route to his first Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro berths. He is a building block for Robert Saleh and had to be retained at any price. While this is definitely not a bargain, it’s very fair and locks in a stellar player during his prime.
Grade: A

June 29, 2023

Patriots extend LB Ja’Whaun Bentley:
Dont’a Hightower’s spiritual successor, Bentley is the definition of a Patriot. He joined the team as a 5th-round draft pick and played little as a rookie. Buying into Bill Belichick’s system, he’d appear in every game in 2019 before becoming a starter in 2020. Bentley’s tackle totals have increased every year, reaching 125 in 2022. His sack numbers have also improved, and he recorded 3 last season. A smart, disciplined player who is excellent against the run yet competent against the pass, Bentley is worthy of this 2-year, $18.75M extension ($9M guaranteed). While that seems like a lot for an LB, remember that the position is the key role on Belichick’s defense.
Grade: A

Patriots extend WR DeVante Parker:
I had to wait a bit before grading this deal. When a player is injured as often as Parker is, the degree to which a contract is incentive-based becomes very important. His new deal is for 3 years and up to $33M. He is getting $14M guaranteed, and it is overwriting the 1 year and $5.7M remaining on his current deal. I can grade this much more favorably given how unlikely he is to meet his incentives. One of them has to do with making All-Pro teams, which is incredibly doubtful. If we assume that the true value of the deal is closer to $21M, that’s fair for a decent WR2. The Patriots earn some cap space, and if Parker somehow stays healthy for once, he’ll be worth the price.
Grade: B

June 14, 2023

Texans extend DT Maliek Collins:
After 4 solid years in Dallas and one forgettable season in Las Vegas, Collins joined the Texans and played his best. He had 6 sacks and 66 tackles in 2 seasons, which is good production for a guy whose job it is to open up lanes of attack for others. But was he as good as this contract suggests? Collins is receiving a 2-year, $23M extension. As you might recall, numerous solid DTs have signed this offseason on deals in the $4M/year range. Collins’ $11.5M AAV is almost triple that sum. Thus, I’m not crazy about this contract even though I like the player. I’d have expected Houston to lock down Collins for more than two seasons or do a short deal for less money. By the time Houston is competitive, Collins will be a free agent.
Grade: C+

Jets sign S Adrian Amos:
Surprise, surprise: another former Packer has signed with the Jets. Amos is joining NY on a 1-year deal worth up to $4M. He was solid for the Bears but played much better during his 4 years in Green Bay. Amos had 3 INTs in 4 years with Chicago but 7 with the Packers. He also set a career high with 102 tackles in 2022. New York has a strong secondary, but its biggest strength is at CB. Safety was supposed to be fine with Chuck Clark, but the Amos signing makes more sense now that we know that Clark suffered a serious knee injury yesterday. Amos will be a perfect substitute and perhaps even an upgrade. Easy A grade here.
Grade: A

June 8, 2023

Broncos sign DE Frank Clark:
This is a true replacement for Bradley Chubb, albeit a bit older. Zach Allen, another free agent signing, is a decent rusher, but he’s not on Clark’s level. The former Chief is signing with Denver on a 1-year, $5.5M fully guaranteed deal that is worth up to 7.5M with incentives. Clark is a professional QB hunter. He recorded 9+ sacks in 3 of his 4 years with Seattle before joining KC as a rotational rusher. Crucially, he has earned 10.5 playoff sacks in his 4 seasons in Kansas City, showing he can be counted on in the clutch. Even if Clark is a bit diminished from his prime days a few years ago, he’ll still effective off the edge. He and Allen will form a formidable duo that will make Justin Herbert and even Patrick Mahomes sweat a bit. Sean Payton has completely rebuilt this team with high-pedigree players, and it’s a welcome change for Broncos fans. Stealing Clark from the rival Chiefs, at a bargain no less, makes this even better.
Grade: A+

June 5, 2023

Bills sign OLB Leonard Floyd:
The Bills continue to address their defensive front. Floyd, who played with Von Miller as a Ram, reunites with his running mate on a 1-year, $7M deal worth up to $9M with incentives. I really can’t explain to you why Floyd was still a free agent. He had 29 sacks in his 3 years with the Rams and no fewer than 9 each season. That level of production on a consistent basis usually gets a guy paid. Perhaps teams are worried about his scheme fit; Floyd never topped 7 sacks in a season with Chicago but fit like a glove in LA. Playing alongside Miller again should keep the sacks coming, and that’s precisely what Buffalo needs. Without Miller, the Bills couldn’t get near Joe Burrow in their ugly playoff loss. Floyd provides injury insurance now while also remaining a pass rushing threat in his own right. On a low-risk deal with a cheap salary, Floyd is giving an AFC contender a strong talent at a premium position on a bargain. The late wave of free agency prioritizes player-team fits, and this is an excellent match.
Grade: A+

June 3, 2023

Bills extend DT Ed Oliver:
Ed Oliver seemed like a solid player, but he didn’t necessarily live up to the lofty expectations (and Aaron Donald comparisons) bestowed upon him when he was taken 9th overall by Buffalo in 2019. Thus, some were a bit surprised when his 5th-year option was picked up. Now, he has been signed for the long haul, agreeing to a 4-year, $68M extension with $45M guaranteed. I’m even more surprised at that fact. At his size, he’s not a great run stuffer. Yet he only has 14.5 career sacks, and his season totals have exhibited an overall decreasing trend. This isn’t top of the market money, but it’s still a hefty $17M/year. I don’t think Oliver will be a flop, but I don’t think he’ll come close to justifying this contract either.
Grade: C

May 29, 2023

Jaguars sign K Brandon McManus:
Just cut by Denver, McManus quickly found a new home. He’ll replace the now-traded Riley Patterson, and I suspect that the Jags found themselves a significant upgrade. The price for his services is $2.35M for 1 year. That’s a very reasonable number and one that’s less than Denver was paying him. McManus is coming off a bit of a down year, but it seems like an outlier given his rock solid resume across his career. He comes with a very strong leg, and I expect a bounce-back season in Duval. For a team that fancies themselves contenders (they’re at least a playoff team), having a good veteran kicker is a must, so I like this signing.
Grade: A

May 24, 2023

Broncos re-sign OT Cameron Fleming:
This contract is for 1 year and is reportedly worth up to $4M. I hope the base guarantee is significantly lower; otherwise, this is a severe overpay. Fleming is not a “bad” tackle, but he’s merely a swing tackle who can back up the starters on both sides of the line. There’s value in that, but it says a lot that Denver paid a fortune to Mike McGlinchey to replace him. Assuming that no more than $3M is paid out, I’m ok with this signing because of Fleming’s versatility and experience. Russell Wilson may not be happy if he has to start though; he probably has nightmares where he runs from unblocked pass rushers.
Grade: B-

May 18, 2023

Steelers extend QB Mitchell Trubisky:
Trubisky was entering the 2nd year of his 2-year deal signed last year, but a cap hit of $10M for a backup was untenable. After re-signing Mason Rudolph yesterday (that one is not notable enough to grade), it felt like Trubisky could be cut. Instead, he has been extended, and his new deal is now a 3-year, $19.4 pact. Incentives can bump that up all the way to $33M, but those are unlikely to be hit unless Kenny Pickett gets hurt. Ironically, it may be Pickett who is responsible for keeping Trubisky around. The Steelers reportedly found Trubisky to be a fantastic resource for the rookie QB, and he’s credited with helping Pickett improve over the second half of the season. It’s clear that Trubisky isn’t a starter, but a shade over $6M/year for a high-end backup is reasonable if not cheap. Is he actually important for Pickett? I have no idea. But if things are working, I wouldn’t change them either.
Grade: B+

May 17, 2023

Dolphins sign OT Isaiah Wynn:
The Dolphins and Patriots always have players going from one team to the other, and now it’s NE’s former first-round pick. Wynn is signing a 1-year, $2.3M contract with Miami; an additional $400K is available in incentives. The knock on Wynn has never been talent; injuries have sabotaged his career. In 2022, he had his worst season yet, likely due to the lack of development time he has gotten. There were times though when Wynn looked like a real LT prospect, and that’s what Miami is banking on here. Ideally, he’d compete for the right tackle spot as Terron Armstead is holding down the left side. I see no reason to dislike this deal. The team passed on protectors for Tua Tagovailoa until round 7 of the draft, so this was as good as they were going to do.
Grade: A

Texans sign CB Shaquill Griffin:
When Griffin joined the Jaguars in 2021, the team thought it was getting the star Seahawks version. They got close to that for one year before injuries sabotaged his 2022 campaign. Jacksonville let him go, and the Texans have now acquired his services for 1 year and $4.5M ($3M guaranteed). To write off a 27-year-old CB as washed up would be foolish; Griffin has played most of his team’s games other than last season. I think this is a low-risk signing that gives the team a great option across from Derek Stingley. Griffin is a high-end #2 corner. The one complaint I have is that the deal is for just 1 year; a rebuilding team should be signing players who aren’t too old to multiyear pacts. The Texans can always re-sign Griffin after the season, but if he returns to form, that might become pricier.
Grade: A-

May 10, 2023

Texans extend G Shaq Mason:
For the second time in two years, Mason was traded (first from NE and then from TB). It appears he has finally found a long-term home. The Texans are signing Mason to a 3-year, $36M extension with $22M guaranteed. I have mixed feelings about this deal. Giving Mason $12M a year is rich, even though he’s a good guard. He’s not Zack Martin, and the position isn’t highly valued. On the other hand, the team just drafted a QB at #2 overall. The best thing you can do for him is to give him a competent line. Laremy Tunsil was recently extended, and now Mason is locked in. I can’t fault that trench-based strategy even if the money is high.
Grade: B+

Saints sign TE Foster Moreau:
Moreau’s free agency lasted for an extended period because he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma during a visit with these very Saints. After pausing his career to focus on treatment, he has now signed with New Orleans on a 3-year, $12M deal with $8M guaranteed and $3M in incentives. As a member of the Raiders, Moreau was a reserve for 2 seasons before becoming the starter across from Darren Waller in 2021. In 2022, he caught a career-high 33 passes for 420 yards. It remains to be seen how well he’ll play without Waller attracting attention, but more importantly, he needs to get healthy first. As mean as it sounds, I wouldn’t have signed Moreau to a contract with $8M in guarantees until he was cleared to play. Presumably, this won’t matter because he’ll fully recover (at least we deeply hope so). I’m mostly going to grade this contract based on the player, and I find the contract to be a bit rich based on the TE market.
Grade: B-

May 9, 2023

Bills sign DT Poona Ford:
Ford’s market was supposed to be in the $9M/season range. Either that projection was way too high, or he took significantly less to play for Buffalo. His 1-year deal is a low $3.25M with $1.5M guaranteed. Ford can earn $1M more through incentives related to playing time and sacks. I find that total a bit laughable given his skill against both the pass and the run. A pocket pusher with 2 or more sacks in each of the past 4 years, Ford makes life easier for edge rushers, so Von Miller and Gregory Rousseau will love him. He also clogs running lanes, which will be key against the Patriots and Jets. I wonder if he took less because he thinks Buffalo is a Super Bowl contender. I’m not sure how open their window is anymore, but they benefit from this deal nonetheless.
Grade: A+

Chiefs re-sign RB Jerick McKinnon:
I was waiting for contract details here because there were conflicting motives. An RB lasting this long on the open market likely earns a minimum deal, but McKinnon was so important to KC last season that they should be paying to keep him. Apparently the former argument won out, as he’s back on a 1-year deal worth just $1.32M. McKinnon didn’t blow anyone away as a runner with his 291 yards, though his 4 yards per carry were fine. His value came as a receiver and pass protector. He caught 56 passes for 512 yards and 9 TDs while keeping Patrick Mahomes upright with blitz pickups. Having a safety valve like that to pair with hard-charging Isiah Pacheco is ideal, and the reigning champs got theirs back for next to nothing. What is the rest of the NFL doing?
Grade: A+

May 4, 2023

Giants extend DT Dexter Lawrence:
A large man has been paid a large sum. Towering DT Dexter Lawrence has been extended for 4 years and $90M with $60M guaranteed. That is a pile of money for a DT, so you expect a guy to be like Aaron Donald. Lawrence isn’t a Hall of Famer like Donald, nor does he have the same body team. What the 342-lb tackle has done, however, is develop and produce. His tackle totals have increased every year since he was drafted in the first round of the 2019 draft, culminating in a 68-tackle 2022 season. He also set career highs with 7.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 passes defended. Teams can’t run on Lawrence, which was surely a part of this decision since the Giants share a division with the Eagles. I wouldn’t call this a bargain, but it’s not unreasonable, and Lawrence was definitely someone NYG had to keep. Thus, it was the right move to pay the man who calls himself “Sexy Dexy.”
Grade: B+

May 3, 2023

Chiefs sign OT Donovan Smith:
Kansas City shocked everyone by letting Orlando Brown Jr walk and replacing him with Jawaan Taylor. It now appears that Taylor will actually replace Andrew Wylie at RT, as Smith is signing for 1 year and up to $9M to play LT. Smith is a very good blocker, but he incessantly commits holding penalties. He had 12 total accepted penalties to lead the league in 2022, his worst year in the NFL. This is likely a minor blip given that Smith has been a steady starter for years. I anticipate him being an above average tackle, so this is a fair price. It will also let rookie Wanya Morris have some time to develop. Just hope that Patrick Mahomes doesn’t go crazy when one of his 40-yard magic plays gets called back for a holding penalty.
Grade: B+

Ravens sign CB Rock Ya-Sin:
Now that the draft is over, teams are seeing the holes that they DIDN’T fill and are looking to veterans. Case in point, Baltimore only took one CB in the draft (Kyu Blu Kelly in the 5th round), so they need an established player. Thus, they signed Ya-Sin to a 1-year deal worth up to $6M. This feels like an overpay to me. Ya-Sin has never been able to stay healthy, and he hasn’t picked off a pass in 2 years. He plays with decent technique and athleticism, but did you Las Vegas’ pass defense last year with him in the lineup? I wouldn’t have paid much more than the veteran minimum for that.
Grade: C

Jets sign WR Randall Cobb:
Cobb’s Aaron Rodgers tour continues but with a new team this time. As expected, he’s joining the Jets. His contract is for 1 year and $3M with $1M more in incentives. For any other team, this grade would be a C or lower. Cobb’s production has been in decline for the past 3 years and he might not have enough left in him to make it onto other team. However, Aaron Rodgers said he wanted him. That was enough to get any new Rodgers home to sign the slot WR. Cobb had 417 yards last season, so he isn’t completely washed up. He’ll teach the young Jets how to play the right way (at least “Aaron’s way”), and he can act as a great safety valve along with fellow former Packer Allen Lazard. The money is a bit high, but keeping Rodgers happy is what matters here.
Grade: A-

Bills sign RB Latavius Murray:
Why can’t Murray stick with a team? He’s a bruiser back with strong pass blocking skills that has almost never been below 4 yards a carry. The guy produces for every team. Now he’ll try to do the same in Buffalo, where he likely has to compete with Damien Harris for the “hammer” role. Murray will earn $1.32M on a 1-year deal that is mostly guaranteed. There’s little downside to this signing. Murray appears to have tread remaining on his tires, so he’ll likely be a quality option for the Bills. I don’t have any complaints, as I’ve liked him since he was a Raider.
Grade: A

May 2, 2023

Packers extend QB Jordan Love:
This is the first time I’ve ever seen an extension of this nature, but this situation is somewhat unprecedented. Love needed to have his 5th-year option picked up or declined by 4 PM EST today, but he has just 1 start in the NFL. Picking it up would have guaranteed Love $20.27M, whereas if the Packers declined the option and Love played well, they’d have to shell out a costly extension (see NYG and Daniel Jones). This extension finds the middle ground: the team is declining the option but extending Love for the same time frame, providing him a 1-year deal (for the 2024 season) worth up to $22.5M. $13.5M is guaranteed, and the rest can be earned through incentives. The deal is a win for both sides. Should Love prove to be a franchise QB, he’ll earn more money than he would have on the 5th-year option AND get his long-term extension. If he is as mediocre as he appeared, Green Bay will have basically paid $16M for this season while incurring no dead money after that. It’s not perfect; ideally, the team and Love would each know how good he is. I do believe that it’s the best solution to be found here though.
Grade: A-

Jets sign OT Billy Turner:
I remember when Turner was an abysmal member of Miami’s offensive line as a young player. He has since bounced back and forth between Green Bay and Denver, playing well for both teams. The Jets didn’t obtain the tackle they wanted in the draft, so they turned to the free agent market to acquire veteran depth. Turner will earn up to $3.15M on a 1-year deal. I like this move because Mekhi Becton has been unreliable, while Duane Brown will be 38 by time the season starts. Having a veteran swing tackle might have helped last year if the QB play were decent. With Aaron Rodgers under center, it DEFINITELY matters, and the Jets got the best one available.
Grade: A

Chiefs re-sign P Tommy Townsend:
The Chiefs took a while to re-sign their punter, which makes sense. After all, the team is so good on offense that they rarely punt. Regardless, Townsend is a good one, and he will earn more than the minimum on a 1-year, $2.63M contract. He was the AFC’s Pro Bowl representative and the league’s first-team All-Pro at the position in 2022, when he set career bests in net yards per punt (45.8) and touchback percentage (7.5%). I don’t expect to Townsend to be particularly impactful due to the Chiefs’ offensive prowess, but if and when he’s needed, he’ll perform effectively.
Grade: A

April 27, 2023

Ravens re-sign QB Lamar Jackson:
I know the draft is tonight, and I was going to ignore any relatively minor news until tomorrow. This one has to be discussed. Jackson and the Ravens finally found common ground in the wake of Jalen Hurts’ extension, agreeing to a 5-year, $260M contract with $185M in guarantees. This is not the fully guaranteed deal Jackson wanted, but it’s a staggering number nonetheless. His $52M/year average makes him the NFL’s highest-paid player. That’s insane. A QB whose passing isn’t elite and who has missed the end of each of the past 2 seasons isn’t a guy who should be making this type of money. Yes, Baltimore gets short-term cap relief, but then their cap gets crippled for years. Jackson has complained about his supporting cast, but the Ravens can’t do anything about that unless they hit on all their draft picks given the cap charges they have to eat. This deal caps Baltimore at a solid playoff team but not a contender. I won’t fail Baltimore; they had to do this for the sake of their locker room and their fanbase. Two franchise tags in succession felt like a better approach though.
Grade: D

April 26, 2023

Jaguars extend DT DaVon Hamilton:
Raise your hand if you thought the next player from the 2020 draft to get an extension would be Hamilton. How about the fact that it’s a 3-year, $34.5M deal with $23M fully guaranteed? My hand isn’t up, because I’m stunned at these terms. Hamilton is a nice player who had a bit of a breakout last season, starting 14 games and earning 56 tackles (5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks. Jacksonville obviously wants to reward their former 3rd-round pick, but this price is ridiculous. I consider him very similar to the player below (A’Shawn Robinson), yet he just received almost 6x the guaranteed money! This isn’t a failure because Hamilton is a quality player. It does however get a poor grade because of the colossal overpay.
Grade: D+

Giants sign DT A’Shawn Robinson:
After playing for the Lions for 4 years and the Rams for 3, Robinson has shown that he does not provide much in the way of sacks. He does, however, push the pocket for others to get sacks, and he’s a great run stuffer, as evidenced by his 109 tackles over the last two seasons. Now, he’s going to NY on a 1-year, $5M deal with $4M guaranteed. The contract is worth up to $8M with incentives. This isn’t a great value, but it’s a necessary signing. In a division with the Eagles and Cowboys, you have to be able to stop the run. Cycling Robinson with Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams on the interior will enable NYG to do just that.
Grade: B+

Jets re-sign C Connor McGovern:
Centers are considered the least-valuable linemen, but they’re very important. They touch the ball on every single play. With Aaron Rodgers in tow, having a solid pivot is critical. McGovern waited for an offer on the free agent market, and his old team came calling with a 1-year, $1.92M contract. Though not an elite center, McGovern is very competent. Similar players got much more this offseason. $1.25M is guaranteed, but that’s a pittance for a good lineman and a locker room leader.
Grade: A+

Eagles sign WR Olamide Zaccheaus:
Serving as the nominal #1 WR in Atlanta, Zaccheaus was overmatched. In spite of that, he caught 40 passes for 533 yards and 3 scores. That feels worthy of much more than the 1-year, $1.23M he’s getting from Philly to be their #3 receiver. With DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown entrenched as the top 2 options, Zaccheaus can feast on lesser corners and safeties over the middle. His opportunities will decrease because the team has other mouths to feed, but this is great value for the Eagles.
Grade: A

Chiefs sign QB Blaine Gabbert:
This guy is quietly having a Chase Daniel-type of career: doing pretty much nothing while continuing to sign contracts. I believe this is among the cheapest deals that he has agreed to (1 year, $1.32M), but it’s the only appropriate one. Famous for being the guy Jacksonville selected 1 pick ahead of JJ Watt, Gabbert is not a good QB. His career completion percentage is 56.4, and he owns a 13-35 record as a starter. Often looking like a deer caught in headlights, Gabbert reacts poorly to pressure and takes sacks on 8.4% of his dropbacks. I get that nobody could replace an injured Patrick Mahomes, but this is a severe downgrade from Chad Henne, who recently retired.
Grade: D

April 20, 2023

Bills extend K Tyler Bass:
Big kicker contract alert! Bass is getting a 4-year extension worth up to $21M with $12.3M guaranteed. He was entering the final year of his 6th-round rookie deal, so he was due to for a new contract. Bass has quietly been very good; he owns a 97.5% PAT conversion rate and went 27/31 on FGs last season. His career-long of 58 yards also shows you his strong leg. I like how he’s nearly automatic on PATs, but his field goal kicking doesn’t strike me as “top 5 kicker” quality. This deal slots him at #4 among kicker salaries, ahead of Chris Boswell and Younghoe Koo, both of whom I would select first. I approve of a contender spending to keep a reliable veteran kicker, but this feels like a bit of an overpay.
Grade: C+

Chargers re-sign WR Jalen Guyton:
A 2019 UDFA of the Chargers, Guyton was developing nicely. He totaled 959 yards and 6 TDs over a 2-year stretch from 2020-2021, but his 2022 season was short-circuited by an early-season ACL tear. The team clearly likes how his recovery is going, as they’re re-signing him to a 1-year deal. The contract value is $1.23M. Guyton has been emerging as a decent deep threat prior to his injury. This minimum deal carries no risk as the team and player reunite to continue on that trajectory. I still think the Bolts are going to target a pass catcher early in next week’s draft, but this is a fine signing.
Grade: B+

Dolphins sign WR Chosen Anderson:
Did Miami forget about Cedric Wilson? They gave him a decent deal last year in free agency and then drafted a 4th-round WR and signed other guys to play instead of him. The newest is the man formerly known as Robbie Anderson, who is earning $1.32M on a 1-year deal. This signing is either really good or pointless. He was a great deep threat for NYJ and CAR, posting 4 consecutive seasons with 750+ receiving yards. After being traded to Carolina last year, he did absolutely nothing for them over 10 games. Tua Tagovailoa is much better than Kyler Murray, but Anderson won’t see the field a whole lot with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle already entrenched as the speedsters. This deal is good depth but probably not much more.
Grade: B-

Bills re-sign DE Shaq Lawson:
Buffalo initially drafted Lawson with a 1st-round pick, but he didn’t develop as they hoped. After playing for two more AFC East times, he returned to Buffalo last year and earned 3.5 sacks and 31 tackles in a rotational role. The Bills are bringing him back for 2023 on a 1-year, $1.32M contract. This is a fine deal even if there’s not much upside to it. Lawson is familiar with the scheme, and that’s important with HC Sean McDermott taking over DC duties. If he gets a few sacks and gives Von Miller and Gregory Rousseau rest, that’s all it will take to make this signing worth it.
Grade: B

Browns sign WR Marquise Goodwin:
Goodwin is most known as a speedy receiver, and for good reason, as he’s a noted track athlete. He does a better job than you would think though in terms of route running and making tough catches. His best year by far was in 2017 (962 yards), but that was an outlier. Goodwin is more of a 300-400 yard guy, so his 1-year, $1.7M deal makes sense. He doesn’t seem to have lost a significant step at age 32, so he’ll provide a nice speed element that Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones can’t. I doubt he’ll be more than the #4 WR on the depth chart, but this deal is cheap enough for the insurance that Goodwin provides.
Grade: B+

April 17, 2023

Eagles extend QB Jalen Hurts:
The first domino in the QB market has fallen, and the Dolphins, Bengals, Chargers, and Ravens are none too pleased. Hurts has received a 5-year, $255M extension with $15M in incentives and $179.304M guaranteed ($110M fully guaranteed). It also comes with the first no trade clause in franchise history, but that doesn’t seem as consequential since it’s mostly the QBs driving trades, not their teams. Needless to say, this is the largest deal in terms of annual value ($51M) for any player in NFL history. Should Hurts have been the guy to set that bar? I would say no, although the Eagles have undoubtedly helped themselves by completing their deal before players like Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson do theirs. The team seemed to have no hesitation with regard to making Hurts a $50M/year QB, but they should have. As well as Hurts performed last year, a repeat is unlikely given how the league tends to adapt to outliers. Remember how Colin Kaepernick had a legendary run only to be completely bottled up from there on out. Hurts is obviously better than Kaepernick, but he also comes with an injury risk. His running game cost him 3 matchups last season and hobbled him for another. These guarantees do not protect the team in any way. Arizona is seeing the result of that with Kyler Murray as we speak. I consider Hurts to be an above-average QB: a decent passer and an excellent runner. If any of his rushing ability erodes, this team is toast. They also won’t be able to keep their supporting cast with this contract eating their cap space. I don’t fault the Eagles for paying a QB that got them to a Super Bowl. I just worry they’re paying more for past performance than they can reasonably expect to receive in the future.
Grade: C-

April 14, 2023

Falcons sign OLB Bud Dupree:
A late bloomer with the Steelers, Dupree broke out in his 5th year, earning a 5-year, $82.5M contract with Tennessee despite coming off a torn ACL. That proved to be overaggressive, as Dupree lasted just two seasons with the Titans. Now that he’s further removed from his injury, Dupree is an excellent bounce-back candidate. He had 19.5 sacks over his final 2 seasons in Pittsburgh, so it’s reasonable to expect 7 or 8 out of him in 2023. I really like that Atlanta is signing high-upside players to short prove-it deals during their rebuilding year. They can then sign the ones that work out to longer-term deals while they fill out their roster with draft picks. This is an excellent team-building strategy, and the grade for this signing reflects that.
Grade: A

Jets sign QB Tim Boyle:
This is my second grade so far that makes me wonder why I have anything to grade at all. Boyle is not a roster-worthy QB. Based on what we’ve seen from him, he might not even belong in the XFL or USFL. I couldn’t care less that Boyle is familiar with Aaron Rodgers or that the contract is for just 1 year and $1.155M. His 3:8 career TD:INT ratio doesn’t even describe how anemic his offenses have looked. Worse still, the Jets guaranteed $75K to a guy who won’t make their roster (Zach Wilson is still there). Someone should tell Rodgers that for all their good moves, THESE are the Jets we’re accustomed to.
Grade: F

April 9, 2023

Ravens sign WR Odell Beckham Jr:
It took what feels like an eternity, but Beckham has finally signed with a team. The Ravens are acquiring him for 1 year and $15M, with $3M more available in incentives. The former Ram had some workouts last year, but his Super Bowl ACL tear took longer to heal than expected. Now fully healthy, he had been linked to the Jets and even had a visit scheduled with them tomorrow, but Baltimore decided to close the deal before that could happen. Beckham is clearly the best WR on the market, and he had to take a 1-year deal to prove that he could be the same player as before. However, this pairing seems like an odd fit. Beckham should appeal to Lamar Jackson, but this is a running offense. While fine at blocking, Beckham isn’t known for it, and he may not want to do it. If this gets Jackson back in the fold, it’s worth it. Ironically, it’s actually better if Jackson departs because Beckham will be critical for an incoming rookie. I think he’s a better teammate than he gets credit for, and he is a high-end #2 wideout at worst.
Grade: B+

April 7, 2023

Titans extend DT Jeffery Simmons:
This deal dwarfs all the other free agency contracts except those of Chris Lindstrom and Geno Smith. Simmons is getting a whopping $94M over 4 years with $66M guaranteed. That haul is even more impressive for Simmons given that he still has his 5th-year option remaining. I’m a big fan of Simmons. I ranked him behind only Aaron Donald among DTs heading into the 2022 season, and he didn’t disappoint. He piled up 7.5 sacks, 54 tackles, and somehow 7 passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage. Few players on the interior are game-wreckers like Simmons against both the run and the pass, and he’s being paid like it. I much prefer this deal to the Javon Hargrave signing, but leverage had to do with the difference between their contracts. Tennessee appears headed toward a full rebuild, but at least they’ll have 1 stellar core piece to work with.
Grade: A

Buccaneers sign S Ryan Neal:
Another Neal, but this one isn’t related. Also, he’s better. Playing the last 4 years in Seattle, Neal has improved each season. He started as a healthy scratch for 13 games in 2019, but he became a starter by 2022 and posted a career-high 66 tackles while defending 8 passes. A young ascending player like him managed to get…a 1-year deal worth $1.23M. Why Seattle didn’t retain him is a mystery, but it’s Tampa’s gain. The deal is mutually beneficial: the Bucs get a quality safety that fits Todd Bowles’ system (remember, he says he will NEVER tank), while Neal finds a favorable situation to rehab his value. If the two sides are a fit, I’d expect Tampa to make him one of their building blocks for their next contender.
Grade: A+

Steelers sign S Keanu Neal:
We’ve finally got the contract details for Neal, and he’s getting 2 years and $4.25M from the Steelers with just $920K guaranteed. Perhaps best known for his starting years in Atlanta, Neal revived his career a bit with a strong season as a reserve in Dallas in 2021. He didn’t do quite as well with TB in 2022, but he was still a strong tackler. In coverage though, he was exposed fairly often. Technically a free safety, Neal will likely play SS in Pittsburgh due to the presence of Minkah Fitzpatrick and the loss of Terrell Edmunds. While I think Neal is a downgrade from Edmunds, he’s solid enough. The deal is cheap too, which is a nice bonus.
Grade: B+

Raiders sign QB Brian Hoyer:
After losing former Patriot backup Jarrett Stidham, Josh McDaniels responded in the only way he knew how: by signing ANOTHER Patriot backup. I happen to like this one though. Hoyer is getting $4.5M over 2 years, and only $295K of the deal isn’t guaranteed. Despite the high percentage of guarantees, this is low-end backup money. Fun fact: Hoyer is the only QB to have a winning record while playing for the Browns to have a winning record since 1999. QB records don’t mean much, but the point is that he’s a very capable backup who can play winning football if (or when) Jimmy Garoppolo gets hurt. He’s also not threatening to a potential rookie, as Tom Brady, who hated NE picking Garoppolo, loved having Hoyer around.
Grade: A

April 4, 2023

Dolphins extend TE Durham Smythe:
This is the only “new” contract for today, as the others were all signings from last week that didn’t have terms reported yet. Smythe is receiving a 2-year, $7.75M extension with $5.5M fully guaranteed. He can earn $M more through incentives. Known primarily for his blocking, Smythe has been more active in the passing game over the last few years, though his career-high in receiving yards is still just 357. It’s his blocking that makes him appealing in Mike McDaniel’s offense. Coming from the Shanahan system, McDaniel needs his TEs to block, and Smythe is very good at that. This deal isn’t a bargain for that type of player, but it’s reasonable. Having already lost Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins wanted to keep Smythe in the fold, which is smart.
Grade: B+

Bears re-sign QB Nathan Peterman:
I wouldn’t consider this signing notable except for that fact that Peterman is a terrible QB. In a limited sample size, Peterman owns a 53.1% completion percentage for his career with 4 TDs and 13 INTs. This includes a memorable 5-INT half in a game when he was with Buffalo. Chicago is mishandling their backup situation. I’d call Peterman a camp arm, but his 1-year, $1.23M deal has $152.5K guaranteed. Their only other player behind Justin Fields, a player who opens himself up to injury with his playing style, is PJ Walker, who is a mediocre #2 at best. This grade is for Peterman though, and this QB does not belong on a roster.
Grade: F

Buccaneers sign K Chase McLaughlin:
Tampa shifted from Ryan Succop to McLaughlin for what I assume are cap reasons, because that’s the only way this makes sense. Succop does not have long range, but he’s more accurate than a player whose best career season included an 83.3% FG rate. Granted, that season was 2022, but McLaughlin is not a top-shelf kicker. A 1-year, $1.13M contract is cheap enough, but the team would be better served by signing a UDFA after the draft. That would be even more cost-effective, and that player would likely be an upgrade as well. Among veteran kickers, I still would’ve gone in another direction.
Grade: C-

Bills sign S Taylor Rapp:
I know that safeties aren’t typically paid big money, but this is ridiculous. One year and $1.77M for a player with three 90-tackle seasons in 4 years? Buffalo is getting a steal. The former Ram couldn’t stay in LA because of their awful cap situation, but he was an every-game starter for the last two seasons and played really well. He has been effective both in run support and in coverage. The Bills don’t actually need a safety, but Sean McDermott can get creative with 3-safety sets if necessary to get Rapp on the field. You simply don’t turn down this kind of depth opportunity at an amazing bargain.
Grade: A+

Broncos sign WR Marquez Callaway:
A 2020 UDFA of the Saints, Callaway broke out in 2021 when many other options were injured. During that season, he caught 46 passes for 698 yards and 6 TDs, showing off his size and speed. His production fell dramatically while on the QB carousel of 2022, and he had just 158 receiving yards. That led to a poor market, and he signed a 1-year, $1.14M contract with $302.5K guaranteed in Denver. The Broncos insist that they’re not trading Jerry Jeudy, but this feels like an insurance move. As it stands, they’re set at WR with Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick. Perhaps Patrick isn’t fully recovered from his ACL tear. I like this move in that scenario, especially since Sean Payton knows Callaway. If not, his upside is capped by the depth chart.
Grade: B+

Panthers re-sign K Eddy Pineiro:
More late contract arrivals! Pineiro is receiving a 2-year, $4.1M deal with $2.25M guaranteed. He arrived in Carolina to fill in for the injured Zane Gonzalez, and he was a substantial upgrade. In his lone season with the club, he made 94.3% of his field goals. Carolina has opted to move on completely from Gonzalez in favor of Pineiro, which is the correct move. I don’t know if he can consistently kick this well, but a 2-year contract with 1 guaranteed season mitigates the risk. At best, the Panthers have found their franchise kicker and can fully work on developing their new QB. Otherwise, they can move on at season’s end.
Grade: A

April 2, 2023

Falcons sign DL Calais Campbell:
Aww, I guess Campbell has given up on winning a ring. He’s plenty wealthy, so maybe he liked the city of Atlanta or coach Arthur Smith on his visit. I can’t think of anything else, because he sure isn’t winning a Super Bowl with the Falcons. For Atlanta though, this is a great get. They’ll be paying Campbell $7M fully guaranteed for 1 year, with $2M more available in incentives. Somehow, at age 36, Campbell is still an excellent player. He had 5.5 sacks in 2022, and he remained a stout run defender and disruptor from the interior. Grady Jarrett finally gets a running mate, and though Campbell isn’t part of Atlanta’s long-term future, he’ll be a great mentor for whatever young players the team acquires.
Grade: A

Bengals sign TE Irv Smith Jr:
Cincy didn’t seem to have much interest in re-signing Hayden Hurst, which strikes me as odd considering the low cost and how he performed for them last year. Granted, 1 year and $1.75M (with $250K in incentives) is drastically cheaper than Hurst was for Carolina, but the drop-off is equally as steep. Smith has mostly been a nonfactor since being selected in the 2nd round by Minnesota in 2019. A one-year wonder at Alabama, Smith has never topped 365 receiving yards in a season at the NFL level. Part of that has to do with injuries, which have plagued him for the past 2 years. When healthy, he just hasn’t made an impact. There’s upside to be found here, but it’s more likely that his 2019 season will be remembered as the outlier.
Grade: C

Browns re-sign LB Anthony Walker:
These contracts aren’t late April Fools jokes; they’ just took forever to become public. Walker is coming back to Cleveland for 1 year and $1.23M, which is less than 1/3 of his $4.25M salary with the team in 2022. The likely reason for this type of deal is that Walker is coming off a torn quad. Even still, I expected the best run defender the Browns had to get more than this. He’s only a year removed from racking up 113 tackles, and he was off to a good start in 2022 as well. I expect this type of injury to be an outlier, as it’s the first major ailment he’s faced during his career. Cleveland gets a steal, and their run defense will no longer be putrid like it was as soon as Walker got hurt.
Grade: A+

March 29, 2023

Lions sign WR Marvin Jones:
Jones played for Detroit from 2016 through 2020, and after 2 years in Jacksonville, he’s back in the Motor City on a 1-year, $3M deal. His numbers have dipped over the past 3 seasons, and even though he posted a respectable 529 yards, he’s clearly in decline at age 33. His TD numbers dropped from 9 in 2020 to just 3 last season. Last time he was in Detroit, he was forced to be a #1 wideout. Now, he’ll slide into the #3 role, which better fits his current skillset. Jones was never a burner, and he can still use his great contortionist abilities to make wild catches. He’s just not gaining separation as easily. With Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams on the field, he’ll draw much better matchups, which will enable him to continue producing.
Grade: A-

Patriots sign P Corliss Waitman:
Our new cheapest contract in free agency comes in at just $990K for one season. Waitman is tasked with replacing Jake Bailey, who the Patriots recently released. Originally from Belgium, Waitman played in 2022 with the Broncos and put up good numbers. The caveat there is that most people can kick better in Denver due to the altitude. It was Waitman’s first year as a starter and second overall in the NFL, and he showed some quality leg power. His touchback rate needs to drop, but I suspect that it will outside of Mile High. New England might still draft a punter, but signing a current pro is never a bad idea.
Grade: B

Jaguars sign RB D’Ernest Johnson:
Arguably the best player to emerge from the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF), Johnson signed with the Browns because they were the team willing to give him a chance. Unfortunately, he got stuck on the depth chart behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, both of whom are RB1-caliber players. Finally a free agent, Johnson is signing a 1-year, $1.233M contract to hopefully earn a larger share of the carries behind Travis Etienne. At 27 years old, Johnson barely has any tread on his tires, and he has averaged 5.2 yards per carry during his Browns career. His best stretch came in 2021 when he filled in due to injuries, and he earned 671 scrimmage yards while demonstrate great burst, power, and vision. This signing has a lot of upside not only because it will keep Etienne fresh but because I believe Johnson is a true threat at the position.
Grade: A+

Saints sign S Johnathan Abram:
We got a few numbers for previously signed contracts today, and here’s the first of them. Abram is signing with NO for 1 year and $1.163M, a far cry from his first-round rookie contract a few years ago. Abram’s issues with the Raiders were twofold: his lack of discipline led to penalties for bad hits and missed assignments, and his hard-hitting nature led to constant injuries. He played just 1 game as a rookie but seemed to greatly improve over the next two years, culminating in a 116-tackle season in 2021. He fell off in 2022 while playing for 3 different teams, and he has just 3 career INTs. While it appears safe to say that Abram wasn’t worth a first-round pick, if he plays in a rotational role, he’s less likely to get hurt. The chance for solid production makes this a worthy signing for the Saints.
Grade: B+

March 27, 2023

Giants sign WR Jamison Crowder:
Crowder had a 2022 season in Buffalo to forget. He was injured all season, playing just 4 games (0 starts) and catching 6 passes. In fact, Crowder’s production has declined since its peak in 2019, which was also the last season during which he played 16 games. That explains why he could only fetch a 1-year, $1.318M deal in free agency. If you squint, you can almost see the Crowder of old in his 2021 tape, but it remains to be seen if that player can return. The upside is a reliable safety net for Daniel Jones in the slot, an area where New York needs much help. We’ll have to see if he makes the roster first though.
Grade: B

Jets sign P Thomas Morstead:
Morstead’s AFC East Tour continues. The 2022 Dolphin is joining the Jets on a 1-year, $1.318M deal. I don’t really understand why teams are replacing familiar and serviceable punters for non-upgrades. This is pretty much a lateral move for New York, as I didn’t consider Braden Mann to be a problem. The price difference appears negligible as well. Morstead’s net yards per punt of 40.4 were his lowest since 2010, which makes sense considering that he’s now 37. However, his corner kicking remained strong, and he only ceded 2 touchbacks. There’s nothing wrong with this move per se, but it wasn’t one that needed to be made.
Grade: C+

Eagles sign S Terrell Edmunds:
Everyone knew that Tremaine Edmunds would be selected in the first round of the 2018 draft. Not many thought that Pittsburgh would make his brother Terrell a 1st-round pick as well. It turns out that was a bit of a reach, but he has developed rather well. His stats have been good most years, particularly in the tackling department, but his consistency increased tremendously in 2022. Edmunds covered much better than in years past, and he was more reliable overall. Philly is adding him on a no-risk 1-year, $2M deal in the hopes that he just needed more time to grow into the NFL. If 2022 was a fluke, it’s not a big deal. In either case, I don’t think he’s worse than Marcus Epps, who earned a bigger deal elsewhere.
Grade: A

March 25, 2023

Seahawks sign LB Bobby Wagner:
I hoped this might happen. Wagner was not happy about his release from Seattle a year ago due to cap issues. He was right to be annoyed: his performance remained worthy of his salary. Though he played great during his 1 year with the Rams, the team fell apart, and now he’s back with the Seahawks on a 1-year deal worth $7M. There shouldn’t have been a gap between these two Seattle contracts, but I’m not grading that aspect. Wagner was typically excellent in 2022, making 140 tackles, picking off 2 passes, and earning a career-high 6 sacks. He doesn’t appear to have declined one bit, and the 1-year duration of this contract protects the team even if he does in 2023. I do so love a happy ending!
Grade: A+

Browns sign QB Josh Dobbs:
Cleveland has found themselves a new backup for Deshaun Watson: their old backup! Dobbs was with the Browns in 2022 before Watson returned from his suspension. He then went to the Titans, where he filled in admirably for Ryan Tannehill despite having little time to practice with his new team. That encouraged the Browns to bring him back for 1 year and $2M. Make no mistake: this is a definite downgrade from Jacoby Brissett, who actually looked better than the rusty Watson last year. There’s familiarity here though, and Dobbs has clearly shown that he can step in and not flop when needed on short notice. I’m fine with this deal because it doesn’t preclude the team from acquiring another passer later on (like they did last year).
Grade: B

Panthers sign WR DJ Chark:
With one DJ gone, another is taking his place. Chark will actually fill the same deep-threat role that DJ Moore had, though he’s not quite the possession receiver that Moore is. He was originally a 2nd-round pick of the Jaguars, and he had a great 2nd season with them, catching 73 passes for 1008 yards and 8 TDs. Chark had another good season in 2020 before injuries started piling up. He played just 4 games in 2021 before signing with Detroit, where he was playing well; he had 502 yards and 3 TDs before another injury derailed his season. With that in mind, Carolina was wise to give him just $5M on a 1-year deal. Chark needs to prove he can stay healthy, but he’ll provide a great target for the Panthers’ new QB.
Grade: A

Cardinals sign DE LJ Collier:
Seattle took a chance on a former first-round bust in Devin Bush, and now a Seahawk bust is getting a shot in the desert. Arizona is signing LJ Collier to a 1-year, $1.23M deal. In 4 seasons in Seattle, Collier started all 16 games in 2020 but had 0 starts otherwise. During that one season as a starter, Collier had just 3 sacks and 22 tackles. The fact that those are his career highs is not a good look for Collier, even though he’s built more like a DT than a DE. Seattle actually tried him as a DT last year, but that went nowhere, as the Seahawk defense hemorrhaged yards and points. I normally love these buy-low deals on players who had a lot of promise, but I unfortunately don’t see anything Arizona can extract out of Collier. The signing is cheap, so I won’t be too harsh, but it will be an uphill battle just for him to make the roster.
Grade: B-

49ers sign CB Isaiah Oliver:
Oliver alternated between being a starter and a reserve in Atlanta, playing decently but not great. The Falcons determined that he was more of a backup player to be used in subpackages than a CB1 or 2. San Francisco, a team with incredibly poor injury luck in their secondary, needed such a player with Emmanuel Moseley departing for Detroit. Though Oliver never overlapped with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, the latter still continues to sign Falcons, giving Oliver a 2-year, $6.75M deal. This isn’t a large signing, and it could prove useful, as Oliver can play both outside and in the slot. If the 49ers end up needing him to play a big role, something clearly won’t have gone right. That’s sort of a hint as to just how effective Oliver is expected to be.
Grade: B

March 24, 2023

Eagles sign LB Nicholas Morrow:
This is the cheapest deal I’ve seen in free agency. Morrow will be earning just $1.16M on his 1-year contract, and that’s insane to me. Tackles don’t mean everything for an off-ball LB, but they do tell you whether a player is involved on a play-to-play basis. In Chicago, he very much was, with 116 tackles to go with his 1 INT and 2 passes defended. Though he rarely rushes the passer, he had 3 sacks in 2021 with the Raiders, suggesting that he could do so if asked. I think the team wishes it could’ve re-signed TJ Edwards, and he is the better player, but this signing is much more affordable. Even if Morrow plays only 25% of the snaps, the value here is excellent.
Grade: A+

49ers sign G/C Jon Feliciano:
This time we have a late signing that’s NOT near the minimum. Feliciano’s 1-year deal is worth $2.25M, and it’s all guaranteed. Feliciano can play both guard and center, and he’s been doing so at a slightly-above-average level since 2015. Injuries limited him to 9 games each in 2020 and 2021, but he played 15 games last year and looked fine. With Jake Brendel returning, Feliciano will mostly see his playing time at guard, where he’ll be a premium reserve at worse. A Super Bowl contender needs as much line depth as it can get, and this signing helps quite a bit in that regard.
Grade: A

Colts sign WR Isaiah McKenzie:
Buffalo signed Trent Sherfield as their WR3 and retained Nyheim Hines to be their return man, so the speedy McKenzie had to go elsewhere. That place is Indianapolis, who has signed him for 1 year and $1.23M. His most productive year as a receiver by far was 2022, when he caught 42 balls for 423 yards and 4 TDs. The Colts, who traded Hines to Buffalo, likely view him as a returner as well. I’d caution them there. McKenzie is very shifty and quick, so he can definitely break some nice runs. However, he wore out his welcome in Denver by fumbling 6 times. He has only fumbled 4 times in the 5 years since, but doing so on returns hurts considering how few touches he gets. There’s little downside to a near-minimum contract; Indy just needs to do a lot more at WR.
Grade: B

Cowboys re-sign DE Dante Fowler:
Fowler is returning to Dallas on basically the same deal he had in 2022: $3M for 1 season. Once the #3 overall pick of the draft, he never really lived up to expectations. If you graded him based on a 3rd-round pick or so, you’d be much more pleased with his production. He earned 11.5 sacks with the Rams in 2019, though he’s averaged closer to 5 sacks throughout his career. As a rotational rusher who doesn’t consistently start, $3M is a good price to pay for someone who takes down the QB at that pace. In 2022, Fowler had 6 sacks for Dallas, so DC Dan Quinn likely wanted to keep him in the fold this year, and that’s smart.
Grade: A

Raiders sign TE OJ Howard:
The Raiders needed a tight end after trading Darren Waller. This doesn’t seem like much of a downgrade in terms of athleticism, but the former Texan isn’t joining his 3rd team in the past 3 years because of his stellar play. Howard was able to secure just a 1-year deal for a value close to the minimum ($1.23M) because his play and injury history aren’t promising. His best years were in Tampa as a rookie and as a 3rd-year player, when he topped 600 yards both times. Since then, he’s had terrible injury luck and has not been a reliable red zone threat. I don’t blame LV for taking a flier at such a low price. Howard might not make the roster, but the upside is worth giving him the opportunity.
Grade: B

Cardinals sign WR Zach Pascal:
This deal took forever to learn about, but the former Eagle is going to earn $4.5M over 2 years in the desert with $1.5M guaranteed. Pascal barely saw any targets last year, but that was to be expected with Devonta Smith, AJ Brown, and Dallas Goedert on the team. Prior to that, he had some decent production with a QB carousel in Indianapolis, posting consecutive 600-yard seasons. As a 3rd receiver, I like him a lot. He might need to be more than that in Arizona though with AJ Green retired and DeAndre Hopkins on the trade block. His volume should skyrocket, and he’ll likely produce more than this deal says he should. I am fond of this signing, but I think he’s going to asked to play a role that he has no business being in.
Grade: B+

Buccaneers sign DT Greg Gaines:
Wow! Tampa signed a free agent from another team! That feels like a miracle, and they didn’t even give Gaines the minimum, handing the former Ram a 1-year, $3M contract. Gaines came off the bench for his first 2 years in LA, but he was mostly a starter in 2021 and 2022. As a result, his sack numbers went up; he had 4.5 in 2022 to go with 36 tackles (6 for loss). A jack of all trades, Gaines won’t blow you away in any particular area, but he’s solid. Tampa lost Akiem Hicks and Rakeem Nunez-Roches, so they had to get someone to spell Vita Vea. Gaines will do that just fine, and he still has time to improve at just 26 years old.
Grade: A-

Ravens sign WR Nelson Agholor:
Agholor was much maligned as a first-round bust of the Eagles, but he put up some decent if not spectacular numbers. Once his rookie contract ended, he signed with the Raiders and put up career-best numbers, catching 48 passes for 896 yards and 8 TDs. He was finally playing like the deep threat he was expected to be. Agholor cashed in during free agency of 2021, signing with New England and predictably regressing to the mean. His biggest issue has always been his inconsistent hands, and that problem flashed during his time with the Patriots. However, I can’t put most of the blame for his production on him alone. The offense was a mess, Mac Jones looked terrible last year, and nobody was protecting him. Thus, Baltimore is making a good move by signing Agholor to a 1-year, $3.25M deal. It comes with no risk, and he’s GOT TO be better than what the Ravens trotted out at WR in 2022.
Grade: A

Eagles extend RT Lane Johnson:
The numbers on this extension seem a ridiculous: 1 year, $33.445M, and $30M guaranteed. Johnson is the best RT in football, but that’s an exorbitant sum for 1 year. However, when you look closer at the deal, you see what’s really going on. Johnson was already under contract through 2025 at $47.3M over the next 3 years. This extension takes him through 2026 with a 4-year, $80.75M overall deal. That’s still the highest among all right tackles, but only by a bit now. As stated before, Johnson is the clear-cut #1 RT in the league, so he’s deserving of this deal. Guaranteeing $30M for 2026 strikes me as risky for a 32-year-old tackle coming off a torn adductor, but he played great even with the injury. He’s also a critical piece of the puzzle if the Eagles want to return to the Super Bowl, so I am giving this signing a good grade despite the top-of-the-market money.
Grade: A-

March 23, 2023

Broncos sign P Riley Dixon:
Denver decided to bring back an old friend. Dixon played his first 2 years in the NFL with Denver, left for 5 more, and is now back on a 2-year, $3.5M deal with $1M guaranteed. It’s a good time for a reunion, as Dixon just had the most yards per punt in his career at 48.4. His touchback percentage (5.6) was also down, though his net punting was near his career average. Dixon’s range stats figure to get better at Mile High, and he’s a reliable veteran to have, especially if Russell Wilson goes 3 and out at an outrageous clip this season.
Grade: A-

Bills sign WR Trent Sherfield:
Sherfield was one of several 49ers that went to Miami once Mike McDaniel became the head coach. That familiarity helped him in his reserve role, as he posted the best numbers of his career despite starting only 4 games. He caught 30 passes for 417 yards, and he’s a good blocker. Thus, he should be an ideal #3 receiver for Buffalo. I say “should”, however, because of his recent comments. Sherfield said that he needs an elite QB to become an elite WR. Although a Bills beat reporter insists that this was not a shot at Tua Tagovailoa, I’m not so sure. If the statement is true at face value, he might not be so happy in Buffalo either. If Josh Allen’s accuracy issues continue to resurface, he’ll miss Tua in a heartbeat. With a 1-year, $1.77M contract though, the risk is low.
Grade: B+

Cowboys sign RB Ronald Jones:
Ezekiel Elliott looked like he was definitely declining last year, but this is still a significant downgrade. Drafted in the 2nd round with much promise, Jones looked like a potential starter in 2019 and 2020, when he topped 700 yards and 6 TDs each season. During his other 3 seasons, he did next to nothing. He’s got some burst and power, and he can theoretically catch based on those two years, but he hasn’t contributed in the passing game in either of the past 2 seasons. This isn’t a significant signing as this should still be the Tony Pollard show, but the former Buc should be able to provide short-yardage plays. At 1 year and $1.23M, it’s also cheap, and it might have some upside.
Grade: B

Texans sign LB Denzel Perryman:
You’ll notice that it’s taking longer to get the contract details for these lower-level signings. Perryman signed a few days ago, but we’re just now learning that the former Raider is signing a 1-year, $3.5M deal. Perryman has been around for a while and is known as a bruising linebacker, for better or worse. He is a tackling machine, but he also opens himself up to injury at his smaller size (5’11”). He has never played 16+ games in a season, though he was relatively healthier with Las Vegas, playing 27 games over 2 seasons. Perryman also played his best there, earning a Pro Bowl nod with 154 tackles. Though his output dipped to 83 tackles during 2022 (again due to injury), he’s definitely needed in Houston to stop the run (Derrick Henry in particular). This is a very low price for one of the better LBs in that regard, and the 1-year deal mitigates the injury risk.
Grade: A

March 22, 2023

Raiders sign TE Austin Hooper:
Las Vegas has now signed two new TEs to replace Darren Waller. OJ Howard, who signed earlier (I’ll grade that one when I get the contract details) isn’t very important, but Hooper is a stellar signing. Just two years ago, Hooper had a deal averaging $11M per season. Now, the Raiders are getting him for $2.75M on a 1-year deal, with $750K more available in incentives. While Hooper was clearly overpaid in Cleveland and underutilized in Tennessee, he’s a much better fit in a Josh McDaniels-led offense. He had 500+ receiving yards in 3 consecutive seasons with Atlanta, so he can clearly produce if used properly. Hooper is also a quality red zone threat. The Raiders are getting him at the nadir of his value, so it’s impossible to grade this signing poorly.
Grade: A+

Jets sign WR Mecole Hardman:
When you watch Hardman, the first thing that jumps out at you is speed and lots of it. You might also notice that you don’t watch Hardman play that often despite his playing for the Chiefs because he either misses games due to injury or isn’t starting. Ultimately, despite his game-breaking potential, he couldn’t find enough consistency to carve out a steady role in Kansas City. In New York, he’ll slot in as the immediate deep threat. Corey Davis and Allen Lazard are big possession receivers, so Hardman adds a new element. For Aaron Rodgers, he’ll essentially function as his Marquez Valdes-Scantling (with the same inconsistent hands!). At 1 year and $6.5M, he makes sense for the Jets as a young reclamation project with plenty of upside. Just know that if Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid couldn’t make him a star, then I’m not sure who can.
Grade: B+

Patriots re-sign DB Jalen Mills:
New England planned to cut their two-year starter, but they have now brought Mills back on a 1-year deal with the same average annual value of up to $6.1M. Weird cap math aside, Mills is someone that the Patriots needed to re-sign. The strength of this team last year was its defense, particularly in the secondary. As two rookies were playing many snaps at corner, Mills served as a reliable veteran presence. In his 10 games played (all starts), he recorded 2 INTs and 5 passes defended in 2022. He isn’t the greatest tackler, but he’s good in coverage. That will be especially important in 2023 once Aaron Rodgers joins the AFC East.
Grade: A-

Bills sign RB Damien Harris:
New England wouldn’t pay $1.7M on a 1-year deal to keep Harris away from Buffalo? He missed 6 games last year due to injuries and was bound to have to take a prove-it deal, but his play when he was on the field remained strong. Harris ran for 4.4 yards per carry and totaled 462 yards in 2022. However, in 2021, he ran for 929 yards and 15 rushing TDs, so it’s fair to say that he’s a pretty good RB. He runs hard between the tackles and has good burst as well. I consider him a substantial upgrade over Devin Singletary and a better complement for James Cook. Acquiring him at this near-minimum deal is even sweeter.
Grade: A+

March 21, 2023

Dolphins sign P Jake Bailey:
It didn’t take long for Bailey to find a new home. Just cut by New England last week, he’s joining the Dolphins on a 1-year, $1.23M deal. I guess if a Dolphin leaves for the Patriots, a Patriot must leave for Miami? I’m just assuming that’s axiomatic, and Mike Gesicki did make that move, so this is the reaction. I’m kidding of course, but Miami did replace Thomas Morstead with Bailey and I don’t know why. He had career-worst stats across the board in 2022, was hurt, and even got suspended by NE (though I sense he’s in the right there). Morstead was doing well, but Bailey might bounce back, so this signing isn’t terrible. I just would’ve preferred to keep the known quantity here.
Grade: C

Seahawks sign LB Devin Bush:
Let me offer a word of advice: don’t trade up in the draft and spend the following year’s first-round pick to go get an off-ball LB. The position isn’t that valuable, and misses sting more. Pittsburgh is feeling that pain now, having jumped up to #10 to take Bush. He hasn’t played terribly or anything, but the returns have been underwhelming for such a heralded prospect. He’s not a pass rusher at all, but he’s an athletic, rangy LB who made 81 tackles last year. It’s a bit telling that Pittsburgh opted not to re-sign Bush despite having a need at the position, but players with tools are exactly who Seattle looks for. Seattle is also buying low, giving him a 1-year deal worth just $3.5M. If Bush can tap into his potential with a better fet, this signing will look genius.
Grade: A+

March 20, 2023

Texans sign RB Devin Singletary:
Houston went on a little spending spree today! For this signing, they snagged for Bills RB Devin Singletary on a 1-year deal worth $3.75M. I like how these are 1-year deals because their new QB will determine their timeline to competitiveness, so they need to wait and see whether to pour financial resources into veterans. Singletary performed well for Buffalo, but they didn’t seem to appreciate him. He had 1689 rushing yards, 12 rushing TDs, and 508 receiving yards in 2021 and 2022. Singletary is a complete back and will make a good change of pace option to keep Dameon Pierce fresh, which is the biggest benefit of this signing.
Grade: A

Texans sign TE Dalton Schultz:
Schultz doesn’t even have to leave Texas. The former Cowboy is signing with Houston on a 1-year deal worth up to $9M. This is a continuation of the Texans’ plan to create as good of a situation around their #2 overall QB as possible. I guess they learned something from how they sabotaged David Carr after all! This is an upgrade over OJ Howard, who just left, and provides a nice big target over the middle. Schultz’s production took a bit of a hit in his franchise tag year, but he still topped 550 yards for the 3rd straight season. The TE market is depressed due to the elite class in the draft, so this is a good value signing.
Grade: A

Titans sign CB Sean Murphy-Bunting:
The exodus from Tampa continues! When the team re-signed Jamel Dean, we knew that Murphy-Bunting was out the door. He joins a Tennessee squad that very much needs help at the position. His career has been up and down, with his best years coming as a rookie and in his 4th season (last year). In those seasons, he defended 15 passes and had 5 INTs, whereas he had just 1 INT and 6 passes defended total over the two years in between. The Titans suddenly have to worry about the Jaguars. They still don’t have enough corners to cover Christian Kirk, Calvin Ridley, and Evan Engram, but this is a step in the right direction. It’s also inexpensive at 1 year and $5M in case Murphy-Bunting regresses.
Grade: B+

Falcons sign WR Mack Hollins:
I guess Las Vegas doesn’t like keeping players who were good for them. The big-bodied Hollins more than tripled his career highs during his first year as a starter in 2022, earning 690 yards on 57 receptions. That production seems to exceed the 1-year, $2.5M contract he’s signing with Atlanta. Hollins has been a reliable role player in other spots, and if that’s all he is, then this deal is decent. If he performs more like the player we saw with the Raiders, this is an absolute steal. The low risk and high upside of this signing make it a great fit for Atlanta.
Grade: A

March 19, 2023

Titans sign OL Daniel Brunskill:
We’ve got another Niner following Ran Carthon to Tennessee. This deal took forever to learn about. It was agreed to on Tuesday but we’re just now getting the details: 2 years, $5.5M, and $1.5M guaranteed. Brunskill is a very versatile lineman, as he is capable of playing all 5 positions along the line. Tennessee was desperate for help all over the line, so Brunskill can line up wherever the team doesn’t find an adequate player. I also think he’s better than some of the other cheaper linemen who have signed. Value + versatility + ability=another consecutive grade in the A range.
Grade: A+

Lions sign S CJ Gardner-Johnson:
I’m waiting for someone to tell me what took so long for this guy to get signed. The Eagles acquired Gardner-Johnson via trade from the Saints prior to the 2022 season, and all he did was set career highs in tackles (67) and INTs (6). He’s also barely 25 years old, meaning he might get even better. I agree with him for demanding a 1-year deal if no good offers were on the table, but there should have been. Why did no teams offer a 3- or 4-year contract? Needless to say, this $8M contract is a steal for Detroit, and I mentioned the other day that Detroit needed more safeties. Hopefully the partnership lasts longer than just 1 season, but Detroit is starting to get scarier.
Grade: A+

Panthers sign WR Adam Thielen:
Giving a 32-year-old WR a 3-year contract is…bold. I suppose no one has ever said that David Tepper WASN’T bold. I see that $10M of this $25M deal is due in the first year, so it’s slightly front-weighted. $14M is guaranteed, so I imagine Carolina isn’t promising Thielen his age-35 season. In that case, it’s another good signing by Carolina. Thielen will instantly become a security blanket for the #1 overall pick. He has declined recently, but that might have more to do with Justin Jefferson’s ascendance. Thielen had over 700 yards in each of the past 3 years while remaining mostly healthy, so this change of scenery could revitalize him. There’s certainly risk in this contract, but with a rookie QB contract, it’s one Carolina can and should take.
Grade: A-

Bears sign TE Robert Tonyan:
The Bears are continuing their spending spree, but this one might feel extra sweet given that they’re poaching a player from the hated Packers. Tonyan played all 5 of his prior NFL seasons in Green Bay, really breaking out in 2020 with 586 yards and 11 TDs. He tore his ACL in 2021 but rebounded in 2022, catching 53 passes for 470 yards. The TDs regressed to the mean (just 2 in 2022), but he is still a viable receiving threat. Chicago now has a nice dual TE set with Cole Kmet, one of the only quality skill position players on the roster last year, and Tonyan. They’re acquiring him for just $2.65M for 1 year, so this is great value.
Grade: A

Steelers sign G Isaac Seumalo:
Without question, this is Pittsburgh’s most important move. The team is signing the former Eagles guard to a 3-year, $24M contract (shoutout to Ari Meirov for the terms!). I’m curious about the guarantee structure here because Seumalo has started 10 games in a season just twice. Fortunately for him, one of those seasons was 2022, when he started all 17 games and had a great year. Regardless of the contract specifics, the Steelers had to get Kenny Pickett and Najee Harris a player like this. They already signed Nate Herbig, but that was nothing special. Seumalo is one of the best guards available in free agency, and though Pittsburgh gets docked slightly for the injury risk, I wholeheartedly agree with this signing.
Grade: A-

Texans extend LT Laremy Tunsil:
As he did a few years ago, Tunsil has once again reset the tackle market. His annual salary will now be $25M, as he’s signing a 3-year, $75M deal with $50M fully guaranteed at signing. That makes him the highest-paid tackle in league history, as he was when he signed his last deal. He can make a case that he’s the best LT in football; Pro Football Focus ranked him 3rd, but it was close. I’m almost never grading a signing that resets a position market in the A range unless the player in question is a hall of famer. Tunsil isn’t at THAT level, but he is a Pro Bowl-quality tackle that will be pivotal for the new QB Houston takes at #2 overall. It’s not like they have a ton of talent that they need to pay, so spending on a tackle is a good decision.
Grade: B

March 18, 2023

Patriots sign OT Calvin Anderson:
I’ve been waiting a few days for the contract details here, and I must say I’m underwhelmed. Two years and $7M feels like a lot considering the limited impact Anderson had in Denver. He mostly played as a reserve, and he was not great at it. There was nothing particularly glaring. Defenders just seemed to get by him at a high rate. New England badly needs linemen, and you can do worse than Anderson as a backup swing tackle, but you can also definitely do better.
Grade: C+

Lions re-sign DB CJ Moore:
Once again, this DB designation is inconsequential, as Moore is purely a special teams star. At this point I’m sure you won’t be shocked to see me groan about the contract. It’s for 2 years and $4.5M. $3M is fully guaranteed, and he can earn another $1.25M in incentives. I’m not completely opposed to paying special teamers. I’ve graded kicker, punter, and long snapper signing highly, and I even gave a decent grade for JT Gray. The difference here is that Moore, unlike Gray, is not an All-Pro. In such cases, I only like giving substantial deals to special teams players if they’re valuable reserves at another position. Moore barely even played safety last year, so he doesn’t fir that description.
Grade: C-

Chiefs sign LB Drue Tranquill:
Did I not JUST complain about the Chiefs acquiring quality players on the cheap? They’re at it again, and they’re stealing him from their most threatening division rival no less! The former Charger is coming aboard for 1 year and $5M. Tranquill is an excellent tackler, and he had 146 of them last year. However, he offered so much more that he hadn’t before 2022. He added 5 sacks, an INT, and 4 passes defended. His top skill is coverage, as he sticks to TEs and RBs better than most RBs in the league. Keeping him away from the Chargers is good work, but adding him to your own roster is stellar.
Grade: A+

Dolphins sign WR Braxton Berrios:
In another intradivisional move, Miami has grabbed Berrios after he was cut by the Jets. The money made no sense for New York, but this much cheaper 1-year, $3.5M deal is better for the Dolphins. As good as Jaylen Waddle, Jevon Holland, and even Tyreek Hill are as punt returners, Berrios taking over the tole would keep those guys from getting hurt. He might be an upgrade over Raheem Mostert as a kick returner as well. On offense, he’ll likely compete with Cedric Wilson to be the slot receiver, where he’s a bit overrated. The special teams value is really why this signing gets a quality grade.
Grade: B

Chargers re-sign DL Morgan Fox:
Fox can play both inside and out, and when he’s in the DE role, he’s more focused on run support than pass rushing. Regardless, he had a career-high 6.5 sacks and 38 tackles in 2022. Los Angeles has therefore decided to bring him back for 2 years and $7.25M with $3.75M guaranteed. Fox has been a consistently average-above average player throughout his 6-year career, so this is fair value. He can replace Joey Bosa when the latter inevitable gets hurt, or he can stay inside and push the pocket while Bosa and Khalil Mack rush. The versatility is what makes this signing good.
Grade: B+

Jets sign OL Wes Schweitzer:
New York dealt with numerous offensive line injuries last year, so they’re brining in reinforcements. Schweitzer is getting $5M over 2 years, though I’m not sure whether the team plans to use him at guard or center, as he can play both. Ideally, the former Commander would be a premium backup, but sources say that the team is considering starting him. I’d much prefer the first idea because while he isn’t terrible, he’s merely an average blocker. This grade emphasizes the fact that he shouldn’t be among the starting 5.
Grade: B-

Bills sign QB Kyle Allen:
One team, two Allens! This won’t be confusing because Kyle will never see the field unless something happens to Josh. Bills fans hope nothing like that occurs, and not just because they love their starter. Kyle Allen is a significant downgrade from last year’s QB2 (Case Keenum). In 2022 with the Texans, Allen backed up Davis Mills until Lovie Smith benched the latter. Allen got the next start and was so putrid that Smith had to go with a platoon consisting of Mills and Jeff Driskel, banishing Allen to third string. I don’t care if this is a 1-year deal for a measly $1.23M. Allen doesn’t belong on a roster.
Grade: F

March 17, 2023

Browns sign TE Jordan Akins:
Akins somehow seems to go under the radar every year. He has never started more than 9 games in a season during his 5-year career with Houston, but he plays a lot of snaps because he produces. Last season, he set career highs with 494 yards and 5 TDs despite starting just 3 games. Cleveland loves to hoard TEs, and Akins probably slots in after Davis Njoku but ahead of Harrison Bryant. For his services, the Browns will be paying a mere $5.2M over 2 years IF Akins meets certain incentives. The base value is even lower, and I think Deshaun Watson will enjoy reconnecting with him.
Grade: A

Vikings sign DT Dean Lowry:
The Vikings sure love stealing Packers. Last year it was Za’Darius Smith and this time it’s Lowry, who is signing on a 2-year, $8.5M deal. Lowry doesn’t earn many sacks, but he can push the pocket. His real skill is his rushing defense. He has earned 35+ tackles in each of the past 5 seasons, using craftiness to get around blocks. Lowry will be replacing Dalvin Tomlinson; I think Tomlinson is a better player, but he costs nearly triple this salary. Minnesota needs to take these savings and invest more in the secondary.
Grade: B

Dolphins re-sign RB Myles Gaskin:
The whole gang is back together! All 3 of Miami’s free agent RBs are back under contract, but based on Miami’s lackluster rushing production, I’m really not sure why. Gaskin is well-rounded, equally capable of running between the tackles and catching passes out of the backfield. He’s just not particularly great at either of those roles; the Dolphins didn’t even make him active most weeks last season. His deal reflects that: it’s just $1.23M for 1 year, and I can’t find any record of guaranteed money. Gaskin can help a team as a reserve, but it probably won’t be Miami.
Grade: C

Bengals sign S Nick Scott:
Scott’s first year as a starter came in 2022, and he proved worthy of the playing time. He tallied 86 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 forced fumbles and 5 passes defended. Now, he’ll be tasked with replacing Vonn Bell. Oddly enough, Scott’s most notable performance was in the NFC Championship game that got them to the Super Bowl…against the Bengals! Cincinnati probably noticed him that day and plotted his acquisition since then. Scott is getting $12M over 3 years, and that $4M average is on the low end for safeties during this free agency period. Thus, I like the deal, though I might have preferred a more proven player for a contender.
Grade: B+

Chargers re-sign TE Donald Parham:
Los Angeles has been pretty quiet in free agency, but this is their second consecutive small signing. The team didn’t tender Parham because they apparently knew that they could reacquire him at a much cheaper rate. That rate is $2.65M over 2 years, which is peanuts for a TE2. Parham initially got a shot with the team because he was great in the 2020 edition of the XFL. His sheer size draws attention, as he’s a large 6’8″ man. He has only ever caught between 10 and 20 passes in a given season, but he has improved each year. His typical production in 2022 came in only 6 games due to various injuries. Now fully healthy, Parham could surprise some people in 2-TE sets with Gerald Everett.
Grade: A

Chargers re-sign P JK Scott:
Scott is an average punter who Green Bay had no issues parting with two years ago. He isn’t bad by any means, and his 2-year, $4M deal isn’t crazy. The key here is the team. For once, special teams didn’t doom the Bolts, so I strongly encourage the team to keep the current core together before disaster strikes again. Part of that is Scott, and so while they could have saved a few dollars or gotten a couple more yards per punt by looking elsewhere, I’m good with this agreement.
Grade: B

Chiefs sign S Mike Edwards:
Sigh. The Chiefs got themselves another cheap contributor who will likely star at a key time during the postseason. Edwards has left Tampa Bay for a 1-year, $3M deal with $2M more available through incentives. Jamel Dean was the Tampa DB who got the free agency attention, but you can argue that Edwards played better. He had his best season in 2022 with 82 tackles and 2 INTs. That was his third consecutive season with multiple INTs, and he had 3 pick sixes over that span, so his ball skills are legit. KC got some great rookie contributions last year in the secondary, but you can never have too much depth and talent in a conference with Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and likely Aaron Rodgers.
Grade: A

Patriots re-sign LS Joe Cardona:
More special teamers for NE, more long snapper grades for you. Yay! Unlike the signing below, I am a fan of this one. The money looks trivial, but at 4 years and $6.3M ($2.6M guaranteed with $400K more in incentives), Cardona is now the league’s highest-paid LS. When I graded the Andrew DePaola signing, I discussed how underappreciated and important this position is. You can take the same arguments and apply them here. The takeaway is: if you have a long snapper you like, keep him for his career.
Grade: A

Patriots sign LB Chris Board:
I have Board as a linebacker because that’s his listed position, but this is a pure special teams signing. Thus, 2 years and $6.7M feels like an exorbitant price. We just saw Elandon Roberts sign for only $300K more, and he’s a far better player. There’s no question that Board plays well on special teams or that New England needed such a player (just ask Nyheim Hines about his week 18 kick returns). The grade is middling and not a failure because of those two mitigating factors. I simply wouldn’t have spent even half this much money for a player with this role.
Grade: C

Steelers sign LB Elandon Roberts:
Pittsburgh is doubling down on LBs, signing former Dolphin Elandon Roberts to a 2-year, $7M deal. This signing was necessitated by the release of Myles Jack. Roberts is a similar player but cheaper. Truthfully, I’d rather have Roberts. He’s a bit better in coverage, and he has the same sort of pop in the pass rush department. He had 107 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year, which was by far his best career season. With increased playing time, that sort of improvement was bound to happen. I think the Steelers got themselves an upgrade while saving money, and that’s not easy to do without a rookie contract.
Grade: A

Bills re-sign S Jordan Poyer:
Poyer looked for sure like he’d be gone, but then two things happened. First, his market didn’t develop as expected, and his price came down. Second, the Bills restructured Josh Allen’s contract to open a bunch of cap space. The result is Poyer returning to the team that he wanted to be with all along. They’re glad to have him back as well, as he played great for them during his 6 seasons with the team. He didn’t receive appropriate recognition for a while, finally earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in the past 2 years, during which he recorded 9 INTs. It seems as though he gave Buffalo a hometown discount; otherwise, I can’t justify another team not outbidding this 2-year, $10M contract. This is easily among the best deals of the year.
Grade: A+

Seahawks sign S Julian Love:
Why the Seahawks need Love is a mystery to me. With Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams at safety, it doesn’t seem wise to spend $12M over 2 years for a 3rd player at the position. Perhaps the team envisions him playing corner, maybe in the slot? That or Adams is basically becoming a linebacker. As far as Love goes, he deserves this type of contract. He’s a well-rounded safety who made 124 tackles and defended 5 passes last year. Seattle is known to be creative in terms of how they deploy players, so I’ll withhold judgment on the fit until I see what their plan is.
Grade: A-

Cowboys re-sign QB Cooper Rush:
Cowboys fans might be happier to see Rush back than Dak Prescott after the way last season ended. Prescott suffered a thumb injury in week 1, forcing Rush to start the next 5 games. He went 4-1, managing the game admirably and playing a high level of complementary football. Thus, I’m surprised he’s only getting $6M over 2 years. Is Rush a limited QB? Absolutely, and we saw that when he single-handedly sunk the Cowboys in their first matchup against the Eagles by tossing 3 picks. I wouldn’t like this signing as much for another team, but Dallas is the right spot for him to be at his best.
Grade: A

Patriots sign TE Mike Gesicki:
Gesicki was franchise tagged by the Dolphins last year rather than extended, and that was smart because it turns out that he doesn’t fit Mike McDaniel’s system at all. He had just 362 yards in 2022 after posting 760 in 2021. The issue was that he’s a terrible blocker and may as well be a large WR. Since the Patriots can’t seem to handle their WR room, this might be the best way for them to add weapons. New England OC Bill O’Brien was the head coach that recruited Gesicki to Penn State, so there’s familiarity was well. The deal is only 1 year long, and it’s worth up to $9M. That’s a solid signing because it will let the team finally evaluate QB Mac Jones fairly, and at worst, Gesicki is a very good receiving threat.
Grade: B+

Cardinals sign OL Hjalte Froholdt:
A mere reserve for his first 2 NFL seasons, Froholdt appeared in every game for the Browns in 2022, starting 6 of them. He was called upon mainly due to injuries to other players, but he surprised and played rather well. He isn’t a top-tier lineman by any means, but he’s serviceable. His versatility makes him valuable as a reserve, but he might start some games on Arizona’s weak interior line. Froholdt is signing a 2-year, $4.6M deal with $2.11M guaranteed and $1.5M in incentives. That’s a low price for a still-developing player, and it gives Arizona a piece with upside as they go through a likely rebuilding year.
Grade: A

Eagles sign QB Marcus Mariota:
Just a few hours after losing Gardner Minshew, Philadelphia has found a new backup. Marcus Mariota has signed a 1-year, $5M contract with $3M more in incentives. This is a lateral shift. Mariota is a far better runner, but Minshew is a much better passer. Perhaps the important part is that Mariota has a more similar style to that of Jalen Hurts. Should Hurts get injured again, Nick Sirianni wouldn’t have to change his offense much. I think Minshew is the better bargain, but I’m good with the thought process here. Mariota’s starting days seem over, but he’s a premium backup.
Grade: A-

March 16, 2023

Bears sign RB D’Onta Foreman:
Foreman is quite the enigma. He can’t seem to stick with a team even though all he does is produce. He had injury issues early in his career, with a torn Achilles and torn bicep limiting him to 1 total game across 2018 and 2019, but he’s been durable since then. As a reserve with Tennessee in 2021, he took over when Derrick Henry got hurt, carrying the ball 133 times in just 9 games, earning 566 yards. After signing with Carolina for 2022, he got a bunch of carries once Christian McCaffrey was traded, and he took 203 carries for 914 yards and 5 TDs. He was almost the entire Panther offense at time, yet Chicago was able to steal him for just $3M for 1 year? Foreman might actually be better than David Montgomery, who he will be replacing, but at half the cost.
Grade: A+

Eagles extend CB Darius Slay:
I guess Slay isn’t getting released after all! Despite leaking that Slay was going to get cut after failing to reach an agreement on a contract restructure, his representatives worked tirelessly with the team to find a solution. Two days later, they have found one: a 2-year, $42M extension with $23M guaranteed. I wanted them to keep Slay because he’s a legitimate CB1 for a team with Super Bowl dreams. This is just ridiculous cash. At $21M per season, he’s tied with Jaire Alexander for the highest average annual salary among CBs. Worse still, this extension keeps him under contract until age 35. He might age well, but I wouldn’t want to commit this kind of money to a 35-year-old corner. I get why the team did it, and if it helps them win a Super Bowl, the rest doesn’t matter. I don’t think they’ll win a ring though in the next 3 years, and they might regret this contract.
Grade: C

Seahawks re-sign QB Drew Lock:
Lock, who Seattle got in the Russell Wilson trade, is back on a 1-year, $4M deal with $3.5M in additional incentives. Is Seattle trying to convince us that they won the trade? Seriously, we know you all fleeced the Broncos. If that’s not it, then I don’t know what they see in lock. Pete Carroll has talked about his high hopes for Lock, but I figured that was coachspeak. He’s got a live arm, but his accuracy and decision making are terrible. Seattle has playoff hopes now, and I wouldn’t trust Lock if push came to shove. Geno Smith is pretty durable, so hopefully we won’t have to see Lock tossing INTs during the regular season.
Grade: C-

Colts sign QB Gardner Minshew:
New head coach Shane Steichen came from the Eagles, and he’s taking his backup QB with him. Minshew is getting $3.5M fully guaranteed on a 1-year deal, plus what are described as “very reachable incentives” worth up to $2M more. I don’t know what those incentives are, but let’s assume that he will make the full $5.5M for this grade. Minshew is one of the league’s best backups. In fact, I’d take him over several teams’ starters. Yet he’s making less than Mike White, Baker Mayfield, and Taylor Heinicke. We also know that he can play in Steichen’s system. He’ll be an excellent backup to the Colts’ next young QB, or he can play if that player (such as Anthony Richardson) isn’t ready to go right away.
Grade: A+

Dolphins re-sign CB Nik Needham:
Not a lot of people are familiar with Needham, even if they follow the Dolphins. Maybe you should get to know him, because he’s been a very good slot corner for Miami. For his first 3 years in the NFL, he was remarkably consistent, with 2 INTs each year and between 54 and 59 tackles per season. He was on his way to doing well again, but he sadly tore his Achilles early in the season. At full health, his 1-year deal (worth just under $2M) would be fantastic. As is, I don’t know how Needham is going to play (if at all). A prove-it deal makes a ton of sense for both sides. Hopefully he’ll bounce back and sign for a longer period of time next offseason.
Grade: A

Commanders re-sign DE Efe Obada:
Obada is a rotational rusher who is coming back for his second season in Washington. He’ll make $3M in 2023. This is a lower total than the $7-9M I’ve seen other similar players make, so I automatically like this deal better. Obada had 4 sacks last year and 13 over his past 3 years despite starting just 1 game in each of those seasons. He wasn’t a liability in the run game either. I doubt he will see much more action than normal with Chase Young fully healthy and Montez Sweat on the other side, but I like the team bringing him back as someone to keep the stars rested and as insurance.
Grade: A-

Jets re-sign DT Solomon Thomas:
The 49ers reached on Thomas with the #3 overall pick in 2019. He did next to nothing for 4 years before posting an average season for Las Vegas in 2021. Last year, he reunited with former SF DC and current NYJ HC Robert Saleh, but he put up his worst career numbers amid 0 starts. Despite that, the Jets have brought him back for another year and are paying him $3.9M. That may be a low sum, but I think it’s still double his value if not more. Saleh clearly believes that #3 overall talent is still there, but after 6 years, it’s clear that Thomas is a replacement-level player.
Grade: D

Raiders re-sign CB Brandon Facyson:
Las Vegas is paying their #4 CB well. Facyson is getting a 2-year deal worth $6.5M, but only $700K is guaranteed. It wouldn’t surprise me if he only sees one year of this contract, and that’s fine. He hasn’t helped the secondary very much, and I still believe that the team needs at least 2 more corners. In 5 years, Facyson has one career INT. He also tends to get burned in coverage. I might have opted to start a new at the position like the team did with Trayvon Mullen last year. If Facyson is playing in a starting role, it’s going to be a long season for the silver and black.
Grade: D+

Giants re-sign WR Darius Slayton:
Slayton has had an interesting career arc. An unheralded 6th-round pick, he made an immediate impact as a rookie with 740 yards and 8 TDs. He followed that up with 751 yards and 3 TDs in his sophomore season before completely cratering in 2021. Slayton lost his starting job and caught only 26 passes that year. As if nothing had happened, he bounced back under new coach Brian Daboll and had 724 receiving yards, i.e., his usual level of production. That has earned him the solid #3 receiver price of 2 years and $12M. I think that 2021 season was an outlier and that we can expect to see close to 700 yards from him per year on average. Daniel Jones has chemistry with him as well, so this is a good signing.
Grade: B+

Patriots re-sign LB Mack Wilson:
The other part of the Chase Winovich swap mentioned below, Wilson is also staying with the team that acquired him. New England has signed him to a 1-year, $2.2M contract. I was surprised when Wilson slid to the 5th round of the draft, but I guess teams saw something because he hasn’t been a full-time starter in 3 years. Still, he’s been a solid rotational player, averaging nearly 50 tackles per season. The more experience he gains in Bill Belichick’s system, the better he’ll play, so I like this low-cost deal to see if the Pats can extract more from him.
Grade: B+

Texans re-sign DE Derek Rivers:
The Patriots selected Rivers with a 3rd-round pick back in 2017, but we never got to see what he could do because he was always hurt. He missed the entire 2019 season and has never played in 14+ games in a season. Last year, he played just 5 games for Houston with 1 start. That’s why this contract (1 year and $1.06M) is so cheap. I guess he has some athleticism that makes teams refuse to give up on him, especially a guy like Nick Caserio who was in that New England front office in 2017. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if Rivers doesn’t spend half the season on IR, but I’m not holding my breath.
Grade: C-

Lions re-sign S Will Harris:
Detroit lost one safety but retained another, keeping Will Harris with a 1-year, fully guaranteed $2.58M deal. Honestly, he’s a slightly lesser version of DeShon Elliott, who the Lions let walk. He started 10 games last year, making 57 tackles, defending 4 passes, and picking off another. Detroit’s other defensive moves have been more inspiring, and they still need safety help after this signing. The contract is cheap enough for him to remain a backup, in which case he will be a much better fit as a depth piece. Nothing exciting here.
Grade: B-

Saints sign DT Nathan Shepherd:
When you give $5M a season to a player I wasn’t even thinking about, you’ve done something odd. That’s what the Saints have done though, giving the former Jet a 3-year, $15M contract. Crazier still, $10.1M is guaranteed! A player who has never exceeded 33 tackles or 2.5 sacks in a season, Shepherd is a replacement for Shy Tuttle, who New Orleans lost a couple days ago. They’re similar players, and they’re both overpaid. Someone has to spell fellow new signee Khalen Saunders, but there’s not much upside here to commit this kind of financial capital.
Grade: D

Raiders re-sign FB Jakob Johnson:
Anyone who watched Josh Jacobs last year knows how instrumental this signing is. Johnson plowed through defensive linemen to give Jacobs running lanes, and he’ll do so again in 2023 on a 1-year, $1.625M contract. Much to the chagrin of Kyle Shanahan, fullbacks are not valued very highly, and many teams don’t even carry the position on their rosters. Coming from New England, Josh McDaniels is not going to let the Raiders be one of those teams. As far as fullbacks go, Johnson is an excellent blocker. In fact, he’s better than most of the Vegas linemen. This is an easy A, and hopefully I’m doing my part to encourage other teams to sign these poor fullbacks.
Grade: A

Lions sign G Graham Glasgow:
Detroit drafted Glasgow in 2016 but let him go to Denver in free agency, Now he’s back on a 1-year, $4.5M deal. There’s nothing to dislike about this agreement. Glasgow is an above-average guard who played well for these very Lions at one time. Detroit doesn’t actually need him due to the greatness of their line, but you can never have too much depth. Ask Tampa and Cincinnati how their offensive line plans went last season. Glasgow can fill in effectively at guard or center and ensure that Jared Goff is protected.
Grade: A

Bears sign DT Andrew Billings:
Billings was originally a steal of a 4th-round pick by the Bengals, but he wasn’t quite the same after suffering a torn meniscus. As a member of the Browns, he opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID pandemic and has bounced around to several other teams since, most recently the Raiders. Chicago is bringing him in for 1 year at $3.5M with $2.4M guaranteed, but I don’t think it matters. He’s decent enough at stopping the run, but players of his caliber are a dime a dozen. Billings doesn’t rush the passer well, so he’s a 2-down DT. He’s just not as good as others that have been signed. Still, the deal is cheap, so this is ok.
Grade: B

Giants sign WR Parris Campbell:
In their quest to fill their receiving room with actual NFL players, the Giants have signed Campbell away from the Colts on a 1-year deal worth up to $6.7M. It’s heavily incentive-based and has under $3M guaranteed. I loved Campbell coming out of Ohio State because his size and speed combination was tantalizing. Then injuries struck. He played just 15 total games over his first THREE NFL seasons. There’s a happy ending though: 2022 was a demonstration of what he could be. Campbell caught 63 passes for 623 yards in what was easily his best season. New York is taking a flier here and it has immense upside. Should Campbell continue to get hurt, the team isn’t out much money. If not though, he might just be the WR1 Daniel Jones needed.
Grade: A+

Colts re-sign WR Ashton Dulin:
If you told me the Colts were going to re-sign one of their free agent WRs, I would have assumed that the answer was Parris Campbell. Instead, it’s Ashton Dulin getting 2 years and $7.2M from Jim Irsay. I have no doubt that Dulin is more valuable to the Colts than other teams due to familiarity. His best year was in 2022, when he had a mere 207 receiving yards. If he gets more snaps, he might produce more, but he still strikes me as a completely average, replacement-level WR. I won’t go too low on the grade due to his low price, but the money had better uses available.
Grade: B-

Buccaneers sign RB Chase Edmonds:
The cheapest RB signing thus far, Edmonds is leaving the Broncos for a whopping $1.08M 1-year deal. Traded from Miami as part of the Bradley Chubb deal, Edmonds didn’t do much for the Dolphins or Broncos, running for just 245 yards combined. His value only comes as a receiver, as he isn’t very effective between the tackles. It’s a nice ability to have when you’re transitioning to a new QB, but I wouldn’t expect a ton of production. He’s worth a shot though at this low a price.
Grade: B

Steelers sign LB Cole Holcomb:
Upon losing Robert Spillane to the Raiders, Pittsburgh needed a new run stopping LB. Hence, they signed Holcomb away from Washington at a price tag of $18M over 3 years. Though he only played in 7 games in 2022 due to season-ending foot surgery, he still collected 69 tackles. 2021 was his best year, as he made 142 tackles and even picked off two passes. The fact that he is competent in pass coverage adds to his value. This is the generic LB contract that’s been given out over the last few days, and I think Holcomb is more deserving of it than most, so I like this deal.
Grade: A-

Dolphins sign S DeShon Elliott:
Elliott’s first year with Detroit was his best as a pro, as he earned 96 tackles and 3 passes defended in just 14 games. Much more of a strong safety than a free safety, Elliott hovers near the line of scrimmage to offer support in the running game. With Jevon Holland at free safety, Elliott is expected to compete with Brandon Jones for playing time. Whether he wins or loses that battle, a 1-year, $1.77M contract is very cheap even for a backup. Hence, this is a good signing with no risk.
Grade: A-

49ers sign DE Clelin Ferrell:
Most analysts considered Ferrell a reach when the Raiders took him #4 overall in 2019. Those analysts were very much correct; he might not even go in the first 3 rounds in a redraft. He had 4.5 sacks as a rookie, and that was his career-best total. Ferrell hasn’t even been a starter the past two seasons, which is damning considering the fact that first-rounders get 9 lives. In San Francisco, he won’t asked to be more than a rotational/reserve player, which is commensurate with his $2.5M contract for 1 year. If Steve Wilks wants to kick Ferrell’s tires to see if he can improve, I say go ahead.
Grade: B

March 15, 2023—New league year begins; free agency officially opens at 4 PM EST.

Bengals sign LT Orlando Brown Jr:
Cincinnati had been letting every free agent except Germaine Pratt walk, and I was struggling to understand why a Super Bowl contender would do that. Now we know. The Bengals have shocked everyone by snagging the #1 free agent on many lists. Brown wants to remain a left tackle exclusively (hopefully he’s happy that I have designated him as such in the heading), and that just happens to be the position Cincy needs most, as Jonah Williams has been yet another first-round lineman bust for the organization. Joe Burrow’s pass protection improved last year, but the left side of the line still seemed terrible. The right side just partially made up for it. The line should be a real strength now with Brown in the fold. Curiously, this contract is for 4 years and $64.092M (I don’t know where that number came from) with $42.3M fully guaranteed. That’s less per season than his franchise tag in 2022, and I feel as though the Chiefs offered more. Either way, the Bengals got a great player at a great value.
Grade: A+

Bears sign QB PJ Walker:
DJ Moore isn’t the only Panther heading to Chicago. The Bears have signed one of Carolina’s backup QBs to a 2-year deal worth up to $5M. That’s cheaper than just about any other QB contract during this free agency period. This makes sense though, as Walker has not proved much at the NFL level other than his cannon arm. Walker doesn’t do much for Chicago, but he’s arguably better than Trevor Siemian, and he’s definitely better than Nathan Peterman. Therefore, this signing doesn’t give me much to complain about, particularly since the Bears won’t be competitive enough to require a good insurance policy.
Grade: B-

Patriots sign RB James Robinson:
I think I’m a bigger fan of Robinson than most, but I’m not crazy about this signing for New England. The team already has Rhamondre Stevenson, and they spent draft picks on Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong last year. Even if Damien Harris walks, running back was not a position that the Patriots needed to spend on. They’re giving Robinson $8M over 2 years, which is appropriate compensation. I’m only complaining about the team fit here, because this was one team that did not have a reason to sign a mid-priced RB.
Grade: C+

Vikings sign RB Alexander Mattison:
Minnesota is reportedly open to trading Dalvin Cook, as his bloated salary and frequent injuries are not a great combination. With that in mind, retaining Mattison was imperative. They have done so at a surprisingly cheap price, as this deal is reportedly for 2 years and just $7M. His yards per attempt were down the past two seasons (3.7 and 3.8), which is probably why the Vikings were able to sign him at this price. Mattison has fresh legs due to his limited workload, and he has shown that he can be effective in this offense. I wouldn’t have liked this signing as much for another team, but it’s decent for the team that has watched him play for 4 years.
Grade: B

Panthers sign RB Miles Sanders:
Carolina has addressed every area of their offense, and that now includes RB. Sanders had a breakout year in 2022 after being given limited touches in his first 3 seasons. That success led him to a 4-year, $25M contract in free agency. He’s essentially Saquon Barkley lite, and that’s not just because he replaced Barkley after the latter departed from Penn State. Sanders is balanced, as he can catch the ball well and run it both outside and between the tackles. I think he’s worth this level of pay. I just don’t get why Carolina is the one paying him. They signed D’Onta Foreman off the street last year and he was great for them. Foreman would’ve been cheaper and perhaps equally as effective. Maybe the Panthers will still re-sign him, and I’ll like this signing more if it’s meant to replace the more pedestrian Chuba Hubbard.
Grade: B+

Saints sign RB Jamaal Williams:
I’m trying to figure out what I’m not seeing here. Williams, the NFL’s touchdown leader in 2022 who was virtually unstoppable at the goal line, is getting a deal that has a lower average per year than those of Jeff Wilson and Davis Montgomery. New Orleans is paying the former Lion $12M over 3 years with $8M guaranteed. Detroit should have given Williams this contract. That being said, I actually like the fit with the Saints even more. Williams can be the bruiser that handles a lot of the running between the tackles, keeping Alvin Kamara fresh. It will mark a return of the Kamara we saw during his first few years when he split time with Mark Ingram. The Saints will do better in short yardage while optimizing their top playmaker. Don’t you love when value and fit collide?
Grade: A+

Browns sign S Juan Thornhill:
Kansas City got their ring, but they’re losing some key members of their defense. The latest is Thornhill, who has signed with the Browns for 3 years and $21M. The Browns have very good corners, but safety is a weak spot in their secondary. Now it’s a strength, as Thornhill and Grant Delpit form a nice duo. Thornhill also has championship experience from his two Super Bowl wins, so maybe he can teach Cleveland about that because they desperately need it. He is a complete safety who picked off 3 passes, defended 9 more, and made 71 tackles in 2022. That type of player can fit in any system, and the money is right. I think the Browns need linebackers and another edge rusher more, but Thornhill is a good addition nonetheless.
Grade:
A-

Eagles re-sign DT Fletcher Cox:
This is a tough one. In a lot of ways, Cox is the Jason Kelce of the defense. He’s the heart and soul of that unit, and you love to see a team do right by someone like that. On the field though, he is not the same player he was in his prime, whereas Kelce is still arguably the league’s best center. Reportedly, the Eagles got a “hometown discount” since other teams were offering more money. I have questions about those teams and what they were thinking, because $10M for a season is rather high even for Philadelphia. Cox had a bit of a resurgence last year alongside an all-star cast, earning 7 sacks. However, he’s not as good in run support as he used to be. I would have used that money on Darius Slay or another departing free agent, but I respect how GM Howie Roseman is treating a player of Cox’s significance.
Grade: B

Titans sign LB Azeez Al-Shaair:
This time, a 49er defender followed Titans GM Ran Carthon instead of DeMeco Ryans from San Franciso. Al-Shaair is getting up to $6M on a 1-year contract. A quintessential off-ball linebacker, he doesn’t pass rush at all, and he has just 2 career sacks. Instead, he seems to have learned from now former teammate Fred Warner about not missing tackles, as he racked up 146 over the past 2 years despite not playing all the snaps. There’s considerable upside with this signing, which makes me wish that the contract were longer. It’s not bad though, as the money is low and both sides can re-evaluate after the season.
Grade:
B+

Colts sign DT Taven Bryan:
It’s fair to say that Bryan didn’t pan out as a first-round pick of the Jaguars. Now, another NFC South team is seeing what he can do, as the Colts are signing him to a 1-year, $4.5M deal. His stats have been pretty consistent, but that’s not good because he doesn’t compile many of them. That’s not completely unusual for a DT, but he hasn’t really made his presence felt in other ways either. I don’t hate the deal because something made him a first-round prospect. A 1-year test run to try and unearth that talent is reasonable, even if the cost is a bit high.
Grade: B-

Texans sign DT Sheldon Rankins:
Houston seems to be taking chances on a bunch of players with injury histories or limited playing time, and it’s a good approach. Rebuilding teams need to cast a wide net to try and stock up on talent. Rankins falls into the injury category, as he has missed numerous games in multiple seasons. Last year was not a bad year for him injury-wise, as he started 15 games. In those contests with the Jets, he earned 3 sacks and 43 tackles. Like other big DTs, his job is to make others’ lives easier, and he did that for an ascending defense. $10.5M for 1 year seems like a bit too much money, but it’s not like the Texans have so many stars that they have to pay.
Grade: B

Patriots sign WR JuJu Smith-Schuster:
Is it just me, or did the Patriots let Jakobi Meyers, a superior receiver, walk and then turn around and hand Smith-Schuster the same contract Meyers got with Las Vegas? That’s how it seems, as JuJu is also receiving a 3-year, $33M contract. Needless to say, this is a poor swap. Meyers has produced with every quarterback that’s thrown him a pass, whereas Smith-Schuster only somewhat bounced back from 3 down years with Patrick Mahomes. He only reached 933 receiving yards because Tyreek Hill was traded and everyone else got hurt. He’ll be a viable pass catcher…just a grossly overpaid one.
Grade: C-

Ravens re-sign RB Justice Hill:
I wonder why Baltimore thought it necessary to retain Hill. He is one of their frequently injured backs, but even when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t been utilized very much. JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards are clearly ahead on the depth chart, so it makes little sense to sign Hill to a 2-year, $4.5M contract. It’s not pricey enough to mess up their cap, but it is a waste of cash. We don’t really know how good Hill is because he has never topped 60 carries in a season. Baltimore would know him best, so I’ll give them a slight benefit of the doubt.
Grade: C

Buccaneers re-sign LB Lavonte David:
David is now 33 years old, but he’s as good as he’s been for years. The man is a tackling machine, and he’s still fast enough to cover effectively. Tampa refuses to admit they’re rebuilding, so they need someone like this to justify such statements. It’s just a 1-year deal, but at $7M, it’s a steal. Last season, David had 124 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5 passes defended, looking like an all-around player who hasn’t lost a step. Letting him walk would mean that the team is truly admitting the end of an era is upon them, so you can’t really argue with their reasoning for trying to hang onto relevance.
Grade: A

Buccaneers sign QB Baker Mayfield:
Time for another perplexing QB signing. Mayfield is getting a 1-year deal worth $8.5M, and that’s top-tier backup money. That part is fine, as Mayfield is just that: a high-end backup and nothing more. The situation is great for Mayfield but terrible for Tampa. Like Jacoby Brissett in Washington, Mayfield will have a chance to compete with Kyle Trask, a second-round pick from 2021. As the Bucs are in salary cap hell and need a year to recover from Tom Brady’s retirement, they should just start Trask and see what they have. Mayfield has been terrible since 2020, with only a few good games as a member of the Rams. He bombed in Carolina, and Tampa had a front-row seat to that debacle. They’re potentially wasting a chance to evaluate Trask, and if Mayfield is average, they might ruin their draft positioning during a lost year.
Grade: D-

Commanders sign QB Jacoby Brissett:
Unlike what I’ve said about Andy Dalton and a couple of other backups, this is NOT the player you want backing up a young, developing QB. Brissett wanted to steal the starting job from Tua Tagovailoa in Miami but floundered, and then he signed with the Browns just so he could start while Deshaun Watson was suspended (he played better there). Now, he’s going to try and win the starting job over Sam Howell, who should just be able to play without looking over his shoulder. The contract being handed out here ($10M for 1 year) is not backup money; it’s low-end starter cash. I don’t like the fit or the financials, particularly because of the dynamic that this signing will create. Washington needed to go after a different QB.
Grade: F

Saints sign DT Khalen Saunders:
Saunders isn’t a household name, but he’s a sneaky good player. Playing in 16 games this past season for the Chiefs without starting any of them, he earned 3.5 sacks and made 48 tackles. Those are good stats for a nose tackle that typically opens up opportunities for other players. His deal is for 3 years and $14.5 million. A player of his size isn’t likely to play all the snaps, but I recall watching the Chiefs during the postseason and yelling at the TV for Steve Spagnuolo to put him in, as their rushing defense got significantly worse when he was off the field. Hopefully he’ll have a bigger role with the Saints since they lost all their DTs in free agency. If so, this contract will have great value.
Grade: A+

Patriots sign OT Riley Reiff:
Reiff is best known for his time in Minnesota and Detroit, but this is his third different team since then. He started 10 games for Chicago last season. At a value of $5M for 1 year, this is a worthy flier for the Pats to take. Mac Jones was swarmed last year, as his offensive line alternated between injury and ineffectiveness. They were a quality run blocking unit, but they couldn’t stop pass rushes. Reiff is a solid but unspectacular option to try and fix the problem. He has mostly been durable, which is already a plus. I expect him to start in New England, and $5M for a starting tackle is good value, especially on a deal with no risk.
Grade: A-

Bills sign WR Deonte Harty:
Speed sells, but not for this price! Hardy was not a receiver I had my eye on during free agency. His best year as a WR came in 2021, when he had 570 receiving yards. In 2022, he caught just 2 passes. He wasn’t even the primary return man for New Orleans, having ceded the role to surprising rookie speedster Rashid Shaheed. Harty might get that role back in Buffalo, but 2 years and $13.5M with $5M guaranteed is a big gamble. I don’t get what this does for the Bills given that Gabe Davis is already their deep threat. Harty might look better with Josh Allen, but this is too much money for “might”.
Grade: D+

Panthers sign TE Hayden Hurst:
Carolina continues to raid the Bengals. Hurst is getting more money this time around, agreeing to a 3-year, $21.75M deal with $13M fully guaranteed. Once more, the Panthers are doing something to help their incoming rookie QB. A QB’s best friend is a tight end security blanket, and Hurst is a pretty good one. I’m a bit surprised he got signed before Dalton Schultz or Mike Gesicki, but he did have 52 catches for 414 yards in 2022. Hurst never should have been a 1st-round pick, and this is a bit more than I would have given him, but it’s an acceptable price to add another weapon for your team.
Grade: B+

March 14, 2023

Eagles re-sign RB Boston Scott:
This 1-year, $2M deal wouldn’t be notable if Scott hadn’t stayed in the NFC East. The reason for that is his (deserved) reputation as a Giant killer. A reserve back who gets few touches, Scott has ELEVEN career TDs against New York. I had to double-check that stat, but it’s true. I find this to be a very ordinary deal for a very ordinary player, but needling your division rivals is very fun, and I am pro-fun. Philly gets a solid grade for letting us see if this weird trend continues in 2023.
Grade: B

Texans sign WR Noah Brown:
For a team in need of weapons, Dallas really didn’t want to pay Brown. It wouldn’t have cost much to retain him, as Houston is only paying him $2.6M for 1 season. Early in his career, Brown was barely used, but he always seemed to make a great catch here and there that made you wonder why he wasn’t getting more playing time. He became a starter in 2023 until Michael Gallup recovered from his ACL tear, and it’s no surprise that he delivered his best season to date. Brown caught 43 passes for 555 yards and 3 TDs. Quietly, the Texans have built a sneaky good receiving corps with Brown, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods. That’s music to the ears of CJ Stroud and Bryce Young, either of whom could become Texans next month.
Grade: A+

Cardinals re-sign K Matt Prater:
Prater is getting a 2-year, $7.5M deal with $4M guaranteed to stay in the desert. I insist on retaining a veteran kicker if you’ve got a good one, and Prater has one of the biggest legs in the business. He went 22/25 on FGs last season, including 5/6 from 50 yards or further. He also missed just 1 PAT. In the scheme of things, this is not a lot of cap space to devote to a kicker, and they’re the guys who score a bunch of the points. I’ll always back the signing of a high-end player at the position, and you can see that in the grade I’m giving Arizona for this deal.
Grade: A+

Vikings re-sign LS Andrew DePaola:
Yes; we even provide long snappers love here at Takeaways. That’s doubly true for one coming off a Pro Bowl AND All-Pro season. DePaola is getting a 3-year, $4.025M contract to stay in Minnesota, and his $2.265M guarantee is the most ever for his position. If you want to learn about the importance of a long snapper, check out what happened to the Bengals in week 1 of 2022 when theirs got hurt. I’m admittedly no expert on the position, but those who are think DePaola is the best in the business, so I’m totally fine with this “large” deal.
Grade: A

Cardinals sign LB Kyzir White:
Coming over from Philadelphia, White is following new Arizona HC Jonathan Gannon. With that in mind, there’s no mystery regarding whether White is a scheme fit. Unlike some of the other LBs on this list, White is very strong in coverage. That’s critical for Arizona, who have seemingly been unable to cover TEs for 20 years. That said, White is also competent against the run, making him a well-rounded player. Better still, his deal is only $11M over 2 years, making him cheaper than some of the other free agent LBs. I don’t like much of what Arizona has done lately, but they’ve excelled in free agency thus far.
Grade: A+

Patriots re-sign LB Raekwon McMillan:
Originally drafted by the Dolphins, McMillan eventually made his way to New England. Sadly, he tore his ACL in 2021. However, the promise he showed in Miami caused New England to re-sign him, and he began the 2022 season as a starter. It was clear that he wasn’t all the way back, and his snap count dropped throughout the season. Still, the Patriots have brought him back again on a 1-year deal worth up to $2.2M. This is not the first injury that has kept McMillan on the sidelines, but this tiny deal doesn’t carry a big risk. I just don’t see the Patriots getting much out of it I’m afraid. A backup depth piece is the best they can hope for.
Grade: C+

Buccaneers re-sign G Aaron Stinnie:
If you can get a good guard for this cheap a price tag, please do so. Stinnie is receiving just $2.5M for 1 year. Granted, he tore his ACL and MCL before his fast game last year, but he should be fully recovered in time for training camp. Whoever plays QB and RB for Tampa will be extremely grateful that he’s back, as his injury was part of the reason why the protection was so poor for the Buccaneers in 2022. The team needs a bunch more linemen, but this is an excellent start because Stinnie is better than a replacement-level guard. Now, to find a tackle, another guard, and more depth…
Grade: A+

Raiders sign LB Robert Spillane:
Breaking news alert: a two-down run-stuffing linebacker has signed a 2-year deal. Here we’ve got former Steeler Robert Spillane signing a 2-year, $9M contract. As a member of Mike Tomlin’s team, Spillane has been instilled with a level of toughness that the LV defense has been lacking. He’ll also improve a porous run defense. $4.5M seems like the market rate for this type of player or maybe slightly less, so it’s decent value. The signing may not move the needle, but it’s good.
Grade: B+

Chargers re-sign RT Trey Pipkins:
When Rashawn Slater went down last year, everyone assumed that left tackle would be the liability for LAC. Instead, Jamaree Salyer performed very well, and it was right tackle that was the problem. Justin Herbert constantly faced pressure from the right side, and Austin Ekeler found much less running room on that side as well. Therefore, consider me perplexed about the team re-signing Pipkins to a 3-year, $21.75M deal. If Kelvin Beachum got around $2.5M a year, then Pipkins is worth the veteran minimum. To play devil’s advocate, Pipkins DID have his best PFF grade of his career. Additionally, he managed to do that with an injured MCL. Perhaps the Sioux Falls product just has a slower learning process than prospects from bigger schools. I think I’ll be cautious with this grade as a result.
Grade: C

Vikings re-sign QB Nick Mullens:
Minnesota acquired Mullens during the 2022 season, and it was clear that he was an upgrade over Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion. The Vikings agree and are signing him to a 2-year, $4M deal. I cannot stress enough how good it is that we won’t have to see Mannion take snaps. He was the worst backup in the NFL last year except for MAYBE Tim Boyle, so this signing gets bonus points just for sparing me from that bleak future. Beyond that, Mullens is a gunslinger who will make plays for both teams. He’s fun to watch, and he’s not starting material, but he’s not a bad backup.
Grade: A

Vikings sign CB Byron Murphy:
Minnesota can’t seem to draft and develop their own CBs, so they wisely grabbed one from another team this time around. Murphy is getting a 2-year deal worth $22M. Despite being a slightly undersized corner at 5’11”, Murphy plays like a bigger corner, providing sticky coverage. He can play both in the slot and outside, but he’s coming off a season in which he only played 9 games due to injury. In his last full season (2021), Murphy earned 4 INTs, forced a fumble, and made 64 tackles. Assuming that he’s as durable as he was in his previous 3 years, this is a solid signing for Minnesota that can’t go wrong. Right?
Grade: A-

Bears sign RB Travis Homer:
Homer is going to mostly play on 3rd downs and on special teams, which is his best role. That’s good, because he’s not worth 2 years and $4.5M as a pure RB. His running style is that of a plodder; he’s not especially fast or strong, but he has some receiving ability. Homer does well as a gunner, making tackles down the field in the return game. Khalil Herbert and possibly another RB to be named later will be Chicago’s primary backs, so this is just a mediocre signing.
Grade: B-

Titans sign DL Arden Key:
This is a surprising amount of money for the former Jaguar. Key is getting 3 years and $24M from Tennessee, and $13M of that is guaranteed. That last tidbit is the part I have a problem with. Key has always been talented, but he slid to the 3rd round of the 2018 draft due to drug abuse. He seems to have turned himself around, but his development as a football player suffered. His 3rd team, Jacksonville, seemed to unlock something by letting him rush from both the edge and inside, which is why he’s described as a “DL” here. He has earned 11 sacks over the past 2 seasons despite starting just 3 total games, so the ability is clearly still there. Guaranteeing that sort of money and paying that salary to a troubled player doesn’t usually end well though.
Grade: C+

Lions sign RB David Montgomery:
Montgomery is an above-average back who fights through contact very well. His numbers were harmed last season by Chicago’s woeful offensive line, and I think he’s a fine value at 3 years and $18M. I’m just curious: why the Lions? Signing Montgomery almost certainly means that Jamaal Williams, the leading TD scorer in the NFL last year, is on his way out. Williams was a great fit in Detroit, both on the field as a complement to D’Andre Swift and in the locker room as a key culture guy. The team obviously doesn’t trust Swift, but I would have preferred Williams for this particular team. This grade isn’t Montgomery’s fault; it’s Detroit’s.
Grade: C

Chiefs sign DE Charles Omenihu:
This signing is just like the Samson Ebukam deal: we have a former 49er rotational pass rusher who is getting severely overpaid. In fact, Omenihu is making slightly more per season (2 years, $20M) than Ebukam, even though Ebukam is the better player. Furthermore, he’s a definite downgrade from Frank Clark, who the Chiefs released to save cap space. Omenihu was dumped by the Texans last season, and they had no pass rush to speak of. He should have been given 1/4 of this salary, so the signing obviously earns a poor grade.
Grade: D

Broncos sign RB Samaje Perine:
Cincinnati had two Oklahoma Sooner RBs last season, including Joe Mixon. Believe it or not, Perine looked like the better back on tape. He demonstrated toughness running between the tackles, picking up yards after contact. He also served as the 3rd down back due to his combination of pass catching skills and quality blocking. For a guy who was barely signable a couple of years ago, Perine has really turned his career around. Denver has rewarded him with a 2-year, $7.5M deal, which is very good value. He’ll be able to spell Javonte Williams, who is coming off a torn ACL, and he’ll provide Russell Wilson with an outlet out of the backfield. Perine was a very necessary addition for the Broncos.
Grade: A+

Vikings re-sign K Greg Joseph:
This contract is cheap at $2M for one year. It’s mostly guaranteed ($1.7M), and $500K more can be earned through incentives. I just don’t believe that the low price tag saves this signing. Joseph is not an accurate kicker. He missed 6 PATs and 7 FGs in 2022, with an FG percentage of just 78.8. His accuracy issues are even worse beyond 50 yards. Minnesota plays in a dome, so they don’t need a special kicker like Justin Tucker. They do need a reliable one though, and that’s not what they’re getting in Joseph. A UDFA or another veteran would have been upgrades, and the Vikings should have taken that route.
Grade: D

Cardinals re-sign G Will Hernandez:
I don’t understand why the Cardinals gave Hernandez 2 years and $9M, almost double what they gave Kelvin Beachum. Beachum is a quality blocker who will keep pass rushers at bay. Hernandez is just not a very good player. He can be a decent depth piece, but he’s more of a liability than an asset at guard. There’s something to be said for offensive line continuity, but that might not be the best thing in this case. This contract is a clear overpay, assuming that they should have signed Hernandez at all.
Grade: C

Colts sign DE Samson Ebukam:
Ebukam has tallied 4.5 or 5 sacks in each of the past 4 seasons, so he’s very consistent. He also doesn’t play all of the defensive snaps, so there is room for improvement. I just don’t think that his actual play will improve because after 6 years in the league, we know what he is. Ebukam is a nice rotational pass rusher who should be making $6M per season, but instead the Colts are giving the former 49er a 3-year, $27M deal. I don’t like these financials because Indy is paying him like a player on the verge of a small breakout, not someone who has been the game guy for several seasons. Ebukam will help the Colts and he’s a good player to have, just not at these numbers.
Grade: C

Patriots re-sign S Jabrill Peppers:
Peppers signed with New England in 2022 after suffering a torn ACL the prior year, and he was still working his way back in the early part of the season. His snaps increased as the season progressed, and he ended up with 60 tackles. Now, the Patriots are bringing him back on a 2-year, $9M deal. I find this to be a bit of an overpay. Peppers is a decent thumper in the run game, but the elite playmaker that caused him to go in the first round is never going to materialize. I might have given him $5M over 2 seasons given how replaceable he is.
Grade: C+

Falcons re-sign RT Kaleb McGary:
Since Atlanta drafted McGary in the first round in 2019, he has been fairly underwhelming. That is, he underperformed until 2022. Something seems to have clicked, and he played great this past season. The Falcons decided to re-sign him, inking him to a 3-year, $34.5M contract. McGary is making considerably less than the other premium right tackles who have signed thus far. That’s presumably a result of his single year of strong play. As a young player, he was bound to improve, and he could become even better. This contract has some moderate risk, but it’s not concerning for a rebuilding team. After all, protecting a young QB is paramount whether that’s Desmond Ridder or someone else. Atlanta had to re-sign their RT.
Grade: A-

Seahawks re-sign DT Jarran Reed:
After winning a ring with KC, Reed is back to Seattle, where his career started. I thought Reed was at his best in Seattle, which bodes well for his prospects over this 2-year, $10.8M deal. A well-rounded player, Reed pushes the pocket and defends the run decently, though he’s not exceptional at either task. $5.4M per season is a fair number to give him, especially given his familiarity with the Seahawks’ system. At worst, he’ll be a space eater in the middle of the defense to defend against the 49ers.
Grade: B

Cowboys re-sign LB Leighton Vander Esch:
Jerry Jones can’t quite Vander Esch. I don’t blame him, because the talent is tantalizing. He was a first-round pick of the team who is a high-level, complete linebacker. His tackling in the running game is superb, and he also covers well. Unfortunately, a neck problem was discovered prior to the draft, and many wondered if he could survive the rigors of the NFL. Injuries have indeed followed Vander Esch, causing him to return on a cheap 1-year deal last season. That same problem led to another cheap signing this time around, with a 2-year, $11M contract. Obviously, that’s a low-risk deal that could pay dividends for Dallas. Dan Quinn clearly loves how he plays, and as always, he’ll be great is his health cooperates.
Grade: A

Panthers sign QB Andy Dalton:
Moving from one NFC South team to another, former Saint Andy Dalton is signing a 2-year, $10M contract with $8M guaranteed and an additional $7M in incentives. This might be the best backup QB signing this offseason. Dalton is the type of backup who can assist with the development of a young QB while starting in a pinch if necessary. He’s a good backup but not one who will threaten a rookie starter. That is EXACTLY what Carolina had to acquire to slot behind their future #1 pick. Or in front of him if he looks too overwhelmed.
Grade: A+

Eagles re-sign CB James Bradberry:
Please don’t hold Bradberry’s infamous Super Bowl holding penalty against him. On balance, he was an excellent corner for the Eagles and should remain so for the duration of this contract. He’s now signed for 3 years at $38M with $20M guaranteed. That’s a high sum among the CBs in this free agent class, but he’s arguably the best available. Somebody has to cover CeeDee Lamb and Terry McLaurin in the NFC East. Bradberry has shown that he can do so effectively, and he was one of Philly’s most impactful free agents. The team has managed to retain their CB, which is even more important given Darius Slay’s impending release.
Grade: A

Steelers re-sign DT Larry Ogunjobi:
Last season, Ogunjobi signed a bloated contract with the Bears but failed his physical due to an injury, leading to the deal falling apart. He instead signed a 1-year prove-it deal in Pittsburgh. The Steelers must have liked what they saw, because they have inked Ogunjobi to a 3-year, $28.75M contract. I think Ogunjobi is good, but not this good. He can definitely push the pocket well, but he doesn’t usually get home for sacks. He also stuffs the run effectively, so it’s not like Pittsburgh is getting swindled here. I’m just not a fan of the value. I do like the player though, and he’s a good guy to keep around.
Grade: B-

Jets sign WR Allen Lazard:
All of the pieces are falling in place for the time when Aaron Rodgers arrives. Rodgers apparently has a wish list of players that he wants the Jets to acquire, and Lazard was at the top of that list. I can understand why. Lazard is not very fast, but he’s big at 6’5″ and makes tough catches. He runs good routes, has good chemistry with Rodgers, and is an excellent blocker. Supposedly, the Jets planned to sign Lazard regardless of whether Rodgers comes. At 4 years and $44M, the largest WR contract so far this free agency period, I hope that’s true. I’d consider this a bit of an overpay, but you do what it takes to acquire a legendary QB.
Grade: B+ (A+ if/when Rodgers arrives)

Lions re-sign DL John Cominsky:
Cominsky is much like a budget version of Zach Allen. He can line up both inside and on the edge, he provides a bit of pass rush pop (4.5 sacks in 2022), and he plays well against the run. Thus, 2 years and $8.5M feels like an appropriate contract. To be sure, Cominsky does not really change the outlook for the Detroit defense; he’s merely a quality player that Dan Campbell wants to have back with the team. The cost isn’t too high, so it makes sense to strike a deal.
Grade: B

Eagles sign RB Rashaad Penny:
If Penny could ever stay healthy, I truly believe he’d be a star. Nobody produced more than Penny’s 6.2 yards per carry over the past two seasons. The issue is that he earned that stat with a mere 176 carries. Derrick Henry can reach that volume in 6 games. After a slow start to his career, Penny credited Adrian Peterson with helping him improve. He has since shown the burst, decisiveness, and vision that caused Seattle to spend a 1st-round pick on him. Injuries are just a constant threat. Philadelphia understands that and thus only signed him to a 1-year, $1.35M deal. $600K is guaranteed, and $750K more can be earned through incentives. Despite the health concerns, this deal is dirt cheap and all upside. Talent-wise, he’s better than departing RB Miles Sanders. The team can also draft or sign another RB as insurance.
Grade: A+

Lions sign CB Emmanuel Moseley:
I knew Moseley was only going to get a 1-year deal, as he is coming off a torn ACL. Due to that, I’m not certain what version of Moseley the Lions are going to get. The one that last played for San Francisco is definitely worth this $6M contract. Even if he’s not available to start the season, I like getting him in the building because he will help this putrid secondary at some point. This is now the second CB that the Lions have signed (the first being Cam Sutton), so they’re aware of their weakness and are targeting it accordingly. I approve of this strategy.
Grade: A-

Colts re-sign LB EJ Speed:
Speed is a rotational player on defense, so a 2-year deal for $9M might seem high for him. However, he adds a ton of value on special teams. He scored two special teams TDs in 2022, and he always seems to be around the ball. His name fits him, as he’s a fast linebacker. I’d prefer him to have a bigger role on defense given this contract, but his special teams contributions make the deal a safe bet no matter what he does defensively. Perhaps he’ll start next to Shaquille Leonard, because he’s a really tough tackler who has flashed some good athleticism.
Grade: A-

Steelers sign G Nate Herbig:
I’m a little surprised that this contract ended up being notable. Herbig is getting a 2-year deal worth $8M. That’s less per year than other guards, but that’s mainly because Herbig isn’t as good. Originally an Eagle, Herbig was waived before the 2022 season and picked up by the Jets, where he often struggled. There were some good spurts too, but he is merely an average guard. Average might actually be an upgrade for Pittsburgh though, who entered the offseason needing to do anything they could to guard Kenny Pickett and Najee Harris better. This does that, albeit only marginally.
Grade: B-

Dolphins re-sign RB Jeff Wilson:
Miami ended up keeping both former 49er backs. After signing Raheem Mostert to a new deal earlier in the day, the team brought his stablemate back as well. Wilson is making barely more money, as his 2-year deal is worth $8.2M. The Dolphins traded a 5th-round pick for Wilson during the 2022 season, but I like Mostert more. Wilson is a generic back who picks up what’s blocked. He played better behind San Francisco’s superior line. I think he’s fine, but better backs were available. None of this matters if Miami doesn’t acquire an upgrade at right tackle.
Grade: B

49ers re-sign C Jake Brendel:
This center contract is even cheaper! The terms are 4 years and $20M. The Niners are lucky they had Brendel this year. Before the season, star center Alex Mack retired, leaving a gaping hole along the offensive line. Brendel stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. Having Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey on the line definitely helped, but Brendel did his part and now will get the chance to do so again for the next several years. Maintaining continuity along a strong line is key for a contender. SF couldn’t retain McGlinchey (they should have), but they did manage to hold onto Brendel.
Grade: A

Vikings re-sign C Garrett Bradbury:
Minnesota’s former first rounder is staying in town to the tune of a 3-year, $15.75M contract. That’s actually slightly lower than what other centers have been getting, but there’s no reason for that. Bradbury has protected Kirk Cousins very well, and he has also helped open holes for Dalvin Cook. He does have one critical weakness though: a sweaty butt. No, seriously! Cousins actually complained about this when Bradbury was a rookie. I’m teasing though; that his no impact on his ability as a center or his worthiness of this contract.
Grade: A+

Saints rework deal of WR Michael Thomas:
I’m including this because it’s not a simple restructure that shifts salary to a signing bonus, nor is it a straight pay cut. The Saints are giving him $10M for this season with a chance to earn $5M more in incentives. Thomas was once an elite receiver, but that was nearly 4 years ago now. Since his last great year in 2019, his ankles have been horrible, and he has missed most of the past few seasons. He was only going to be brought back on a prove-it deal, and a contract with a third of its value in incentives certainly qualifies as such. There’s no real downside to doing this: either Thomas returns to form and the two sides partner up again next offseason, or he struggles and the team moves on.
Grade: B+

Falcons re-sign P Bradley Pinion:
Pinion is sticking with the Falcons on a 3-year, $8.65M deal with $4.325M guaranteed. Since being poached from the rival Buccaneers last offseason, Pinion has played well, and there was no reason for Atlanta to make a change. Some might quibble with the guarantees given to a slightly above-average punter, but it’s definitely fair market value. Punters don’t age poorly, so the length of the contract isn’t a concern either. The bigger worry is that Atlanta might have to use him a lot if they can’t throw the football. If anything, that adds to Pinion’s value.
Grade: B+

Jaguars re-sign S Andrew Wingard:
A solid backup for the Jaguars, Wingard is being retained on a 3-year, $9.6M deal with $6M guaranteed. The deal can reach $13.8M with incentives. Those large guarantees and incentives suggest that Jacksonville has a bigger role in mind for their former UDFA. At least I hope they do, because otherwise that’s quite a bit of money to hand a reserve. Wingard did fine when pressed into duty, but he doesn’t have much more upside. If he continues at his current level, he’ll be solid but overpaid.
Grade: C+

Dolphins re-sign RB Raheem Mostert:
Of all the backs that Miami was looking to re-sign, Mostert was the one they had to have. He provides a speed element that most backs just don’t. There’s always a chance that he’ll get injured given his history, but at 2 years and $7.6M, the risk level is low. Mostert is a proven player in Mike McDaniel’s system, and he’ll be great lightning for whatever thunder the Dolphins acquire as the lead power back. Some partnerships are obvious, and this is one of them.
Grade: A

Cardinals re-sign OT Kelvin Beachum:
That’s it? 2 years and $5.15M is all it took to retain a quality right tackle? He’s not young at 34, but tackles can play until they’re 40 or so. Of all the offensive problems in Arizona, right tackle wasn’t one of them. I figured Beachum would get double this amount if not more. Plenty of teams had holes on their lines and might have made an offer if they knew how little they’d have to pay. The Cardinals look to be in for a rough season, but at least they won’t have to worry about protection on the right side.
Grade: A+

Panthers sign S Vonn Bell:
This is another signing from yesterday that I just got contract details for. The former Bengal is signing for 3 years and $22.5M with $13M guaranteed. Carolina might remember him from his time with the Saints, but I think he was even better in Cincinnati. In fact, I like him even more than Donovan Wilson. He covers well, and he is not afraid to get dirty in the running game. That latter part is important because nobody in the NFC South except New Orleans even knows who their week 1 QB will be. Bell will be sorely missed by the Bengals, but he’ll complement an already strong Carolina defense.
Grade: A

Cowboys re-sign S Donovan Wilson:
Since Dan Quinn arrived in Dallas, Wilson has developed very well, and he’s now a complete safety. He covers well, and he provides good run support. His 3-year, $24M deal is slightly higher than what we’ve seen other safeties get, but I think Wilson matters more to the Cowboys. With Stephon Gilmore and Travon Diggs in tow, Dallas once again has a stellar secondary. The defense will have to carry the load more often if Dak Prescott has another playoff meltdown, so they need as much talent as they can collect.
Grade: A-

Raiders sign WR Jakobi Meyers:
The man whose ill-advised toss handed the Raiders a win against the Patriots is now joining their team. Meyers and Chandler Jones can laugh about it after the former pockets his 3-year, $33M deal with $21M guaranteed. I really like this signing. He doesn’t really fit as a #1 receiver, which he was basically forced to be in NE, but he’s a stellar #2. Slotting him in with Davante Adams out wide and Hunter Renfrow in the slot seems perfect. Meyers produced no matter who was under center for the Patriots, including Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, and a decrepit Cam Newton. I have no doubt that he’ll click with Jimmy G as well.
Grade: A

Eagles re-sign C Jason Kelce:
This signing actually took place yesterday, but nobody announced the terms until today. His contract is once again for one year, and it’s worth a guaranteed $14.25M. I tell you that to be informative, but I don’t really care. I was going to give this an A+ no matter what the contract terms were. We’re talking about a hall of fame center still playing great, and he’s the heart and soul of the Eagles. Nobody cares if this is record money for a center. Philly fans just want to see #62 back in uniform for perhaps his final ride. His beard game is good too.
Grade: A+

Colts sign K Matt Gay:
Gay is another good player the Rams couldn’t afford to keep. After some early career struggle in Tampa (where all kickers seem to fail), he found his footing (pun intended this time) in LA. He even earned a Pro Bowl nod. Indianapolis hopes he’ll be just as good in a different dome, because they’re paying him a fortune in kicker terms. He will be making $22.5M over 4 years, and this is now the largest contract ever given to a free agent kicker. That’s a little misleading, as players like Justin Tucker don’t sniff free agency, but it still tells you what an investment this is. After navigating a season with Rodrigo Blankenship and Chase McLaughlin though, I understand why the Colts did it.
Grade: B+

Falcons sign QB Taylor Heinicke:
Nothing I saw from Heinicke last year in Washington, even while winning, shouted “high-end backup” to me. The team looked like it was winning in spite of him. Ron Rivera noticed too, as he eventually switched to Sam Howell. The Falcons though are paying him like a high-end backup, giving him $14M over 2 years with incentives that would push it to $20M. If any of those incentives are met, that means that something will have gone terribly wrong with Desmond Ridder. Regardless of that implication, I thought Heinicke should get approximately $3M per season, and this is double that. What a waste of money.
Grade: F

March 13, 2023—Note: All players switching teams today cannot officially sign until March 15.

Browns sign DT Dalvin Tomlinson:
One last overpay on the opening day of the legal tampering window! The former Viking is earning $57M over 4 years with $27.5M guaranteed. I understand the thought process: Tomlinson never fills the stat sheet, but he eats a ton of space in the middle of the defensive line, improving the rest of the defense around him. In his defense, that’s honestly true. He’s a good DT, particularly against the run, and he’s also capable of pushing the pocket. That’s just not the type of player who should be topping $14M per season. I’d give this a high grade if the deal were cut in half. Not at this price.
Grade: C-

Bears sign DE DeMarcus Walker:
This one really caught me by surprise. I know the Bears have money to burn, but they just handed a 3-year deal worth $21M to a player with 13 starts in his 66 career games. Recency bias probably told the Bears that Walker logged 7 sacks in his 6 starts last season, meaning that he must be primed for a breakout. At 28 years old, we probably know what he is: a decent rotational player who didn’t do very much until last season. I respect the upside, but Walker wasn’t even on my radar as far as a key free agent signing went. Chicago isn’t very improved by this deal.
Grade: D-

Vikings sign DE Marcus Davenport:
Surprisingly drafted by the Saints after using a first-round pick to trade up, Davenport was always viewed as a great athlete who was a project. That dream seemed to come to fruition in 2021, with Davenport logging 9 sacks in 9 starts. Unfortunately, his production took a major step back in 2022, when he earned a paltry half sack. I doubt he’ll ever be an elite edge rusher, but his true self is probably between those last 2 seasons. Gauging him as an approximately 6-sack player, I find $13M to be too much for 1 year. If he balls out, the Vikings will have to pay a ton to keep him. If he fails, the team can cut bait quickly. The Vikings need any and all help on defense, so I’ll bump their grade up a bit for the effort.
Grade: B-

Falcons sign OLB Kaden Elliss:
Atlanta appears to be enjoying themselves as they poach players from the cap-strapped Saints. New DC Ryan Nielsen came from New Orleans, so it’s not a surprise to see players follow him to the Falcons. At 3 years and $21.5M, this is no small price for a player who didn’t start more than 1 game until 2022. That said, in his 11 starts last season (17 games played), Elliss stuffed the stat sheet, earning 7 sacks, 78 tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 passes defended. If this is the type of player we can expect to see going forward, Atlanta got themselves a great find. For a contender, I wouldn’t recommend risking a 3-year deal on a projection. If you’re a rebuilding squad like Atlanta, this is the perfect thing to do. In fact, he’s young enough (27) to improve even more.
Grade: A

Chargers sign LB Eric Kendricks:
Kendricks is not the elite cover linebacker he once was. However, since he was also good at stopping the run, he still possesses value. The Chargers are only paying him $13.25M over 2 years, which is basically the going rate for a run stuffer. There’s also the possibility that he’ll play better this year now that he’s away from Minnesota, where defense apparently goes to die. The risk on this deal is low, while the reward is high. That’s even better for a team aiming to win a Super Bowl. Somehow Brandon Staley will still screw this all up. I just know it.
Grade: B+

Seahawks sign DL Dre’Mont Jones:
Dre’Mont Jones has averaged 5.5 sacks per season over his 4-year career, and half of that was spent playing for Vic Fangio. Somehow, Seattle has decided that he’s worth $17M a year, giving him a 3-year, $51M contract with $23M guaranteed. He’s not even a good run stuffer; in fact, he gets run over with regularity. The Seahawks have some eclectic roster tastes, and they’ve admittedly been good at building their team. I have a feeling they’ll regret this one though unless they have some seriously special pass rushing plans for him in mind.
Grade: D

Saints re-sign QB Jameis Winston:
If you expected Winston to re-sign with New Orleans following their acquisition of Derek Carr, you knew something I didn’t. Like Sam Darnold, Winston must not have envisioned a path to a starting job, so he opted for a 1-year, $8M deal to stay where he is. Don’t expect to see much of Winston as Carr is pretty durable. I sense that the Saints are making this move through a win-now lens. They feel that they need a backup who can step in and save their season. I’m not convinced yet that New Orleans is good enough to be thinking like that, but we know the fit with Winston is good. He’s a high-end backup, and this is high-end backup money. Nothing wrong here.
Grade: B+

Texans sign S Jimmie Ward:
Here’s another Niner following DeMeco Ryans to Houston. Ward is getting a 2-year deal worth $13M. I’d call that a steal, but Ward is frequently injured. This is fantastic value if he plays all 34 regular season games over those 2 years. In reality, he’s never started a full season. Ward is a good player who can roam the middle of the defense while also being capable of lining up in the slot. I suspect he’ll remain at safety alongside Jalen Pitre. He’s a ballhawk, as evidenced by his 3 INTs and 5 passes defended last year despite only starting 5 of the 12 games in which he appeared. At a pace of 12 games per season, this is still a good deal. Plus, he’ll help implement Ryans’ system, so I’m giving the signing a good grade.
Grade: A-

Broncos sign DE Zach Allen:
The Broncos are tossing money around like nobody else so far this offseason. They might be this year’s Jaguars. Except that JAX had Trevor Lawrence and Denver has a declining Russell Wilson. Zach Allen is an improved player. If you watched Hard Knocks: In Season, you know that JJ Watt sort of took Allen under his wing and taught him some techniques. That enabled Allen to tally 5.5 sacks while remaining stout against the run. Like Watt, he can also line up inside. However, if you asked me for an appropriate contract, I would have said 3 years and $30M. He’s getting 3 years and $47.8M with $32.5M guaranteed. Allen might grow into this deal and make it look like a steal. At this time though, it’s too risky given that Allen won’t have Watt by his side.
Grade: B-

Broncos re-sign LB Alex Singleton:
Shocker: a 2-down linebacker who can’t cover in the passing game. This contract comes in between those of Cody Barton and Bobby Okereke; it’s a 3-year deal worth $18M with half of it guaranteed. Given that I gave the Barton signing an A and the Okereke signing a C, you probably know where I’m going here. This is a fair value for Singleton; it’s not a bargain, nor is it an overpay. I also like that his current team is retaining him because there’s no mystery about his scheme fit. Denver is acting as if they’re making a playoff push. It may be misguided, but you have to respect it.
Grade: B

Panthers re-sign C Bradley Bozeman:
$6M per season seems to be the going rate. Like Ethan Pocic of the Browns, Bozeman is getting a 3-year, $18M contract. However, Pocic is currently the better player. Bozeman had a poor start to 2022 after he suffered a high ankle sprain. He and the line as a whole improved later in the season though, and it’s possible that he can maintain that elevated level of play. As with several other teams discussed here, Carolina needs to protect their #1 overall QB that they’ll grab in a month. Maintaining continuity on a line that was hitting its stride is a good start.
Grade: B

Giants sign LB Bobby Okereke:
Copy what I said about Cody Barton below and apply it to Okereke. Just change the team names around. The difference here is that New York handed this particular LB a 4-year, $40M deal with $22M guaranteed. Okereke is a decent player who offers a bit more in coverage than Barton, but this is quite a high price. It’s not obscene, but it’s not a good use of resources after paying Daniel Jones $40M per season. Oh yeah, I guess the Giants don’t know how to spend money do they? Okereke will rack up enough tackles to justify this deal, but I projected him at $6-7M per year, not 10.
Grade: C

Commanders re-sign LB Cody Barton:
This is another LB who can only stay on the field for running downs. At 1 year and $3.5M though, who cares? That’s a very cheap signing for someone who will play the Eagles (Jalen Hurts), Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard), and Giants (Saquon Barkley) twice each. Washington needs as much of a rushing defense as it can get. I will remind you that the Commanders are the only team that beat Hurts during the regular season, and Barton was part of that. I wish that the deal were longer given this annual value, but that’s a minor quibble.
Grade: A

Jets re-sign K Greg Zuerlein:
Teams are learning the value of good kickers. For New York, it seems as though that value is just 1 year and $2.6M with $900K in incentives. Zuerlein had a poor 2021, but he rebounded somewhat in 2022, showing off his trademark Greg Leg. He missed just 1 PAT all season, and he went a respectable 30-37 on FGs (including some unfairly long attempts). To be a complete contender, your special teams need to be playing at a high level. This signing takes care of part of that equation. As long as the 2022 (or 2017) version of Zuerlein returns in 2023, this is a great signing. If not, no harm no foul, as the Jets can cut bait right away.
Grade: A

Dolphins sign LB David Long Jr:
If you needed any more proof that the Titans are tanking, here it is. They wouldn’t even match this extremely low 2-year, $11M offer that got David Long under contract with the Dolphins. You all know how I feel about linebackers who are good in coverage. Even though Long is slightly undersized and a bit of an injury risk, this deal is so cheap that none of that matters. Miami now has a player who can cover Dawson Knox and Hunter Henry, which they were lacking prior to this signing. The second level of the Dolphin defense is its weakest, but Vic Fangio now has a rangy linebacker that he can deploy as he pleases. Shame on Tennessee.
Grade: A+

Broncos sign TE Chris Manhertz:
Like Josh Oliver, Manhertz offers nothing as a receiver. His career-high for catches in a season is 6. Unlike Oliver, Manhertz is signing a much more reasonable contract. It is for 2 years and $6M with $3.34M guaranteed. We can consider him an extra lineman for all intents and purposes. With that in mind, $3M is appropriate for a pure blocking TE, and again, Denver is adding pieces to boost Russell Wilson as much as they can. I’m liking their team-building philosophy, but there’s nothing special about this signing. It’s just smart and solid.
Grade: B+

Raiders sign S Marcus Epps:
The Eagles are starting to hemorrhage free agents at this point. Epps is not one of their key losses, but he’s a quality safety. He had his best season in 2022, with 94 tackles and 6 passes defended. His deal is for 2 years and $12M, with $8M guaranteed. The Raiders need tons of help in the secondary, and this is a step in the right direction. They need corners more, but those are more expensive. Epps can sometimes have issues in coverage, so it will be best if the Raiders leave those tasks to Trevon Moehrig. Ultimately, this is a fair price for an above-average player, which is a smart way to go about free agency.
Grade: B

Titans sign OT Andre Dillard:
Tennessee recently cut Taylor Lewan, and they’ve chosen to replace him with former Eagle Andre Dillard. Dillard is a bit of an unknown because despite being a first-round pick, he didn’t get to play very much in Philadelphia. Supposedly, he developed slowly, and injuries cost him opportunities. Thus, it may seem a bit weird for Tennessee to give him 3 years and $29M. You have to go back and look at the talent that made him a 1st rounder to begin with and also realize that it’s not his fault that Jordan Mailata ended up being so good, taking the starting job. I don’t trust him to be any less injury-prone than Lewan, but he’s cheaper, and he might just play well with a real chance to start. It’s a medium-risk/high-reward signing.
Grade: B+

49ers sign QB Sam Darnold:
I knew that the Niners wanted to add a veteran QB with both Trey Lance and Brock Purdy coming off major injuries. Neither QB is a lock to be full-go in training camp, so adding another arm was all but guaranteed. I just didn’t think they’d be able to land Darnold. The contract structure is very interesting: it’s a 1-year, $4.5M deal with $3.5M guaranteed and an additional $7M in incentives. The large amount of supposedly attainable incentives means that SF believes either that Brock Purdy will miss time during the regular season or that Trey Lance might struggle again. In the worst-case scenario, both of these things are true, and the team will have a great insurance policy. In the best case, Lance improves, Purdy is healthy, and the Niners paid a small premium to protect themselves. This is half of what I thought Darnold might get.
Grade: A+

Buccaneers re-sign CB Jamel Dean:
This is quite the surprise! With Tom Brady retiring, the team’s contention window has closed, and his cap hit assured that the Bucs would be light spenders. Nobody, not even the insiders on NFL Network, thought that they’d be able to re-sign Dean. In fact, they’ve handed him a 4-year, $52M deal with half of it guaranteed. Dean was easily Tampa’s best corner last season, though that’s not a high bar. He’s young and has good size (he’s 6’1″), and he picked off 2 passes while batting 8 more in 2022. Todd Bowles likes how he fits the team’s defense, and he should be good for years to come. This isn’t quite the bargain that Jonathan Jones was, but it’s still pretty good.
Grade: B+

Giants sign DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches:
Tampa is losing free agents at a rapid pace due to their poor cap situation. They’ll miss Nunez-Roches, who has signed with the Giants for 3 years and $12M with $7.5M guaranteed. I like the idea of him spelling either Dexter Lawrence or Leonard Williams at DT, particularly on run-stuffing downs. Nunez-Roches doesn’t offer a lot in the passing game, but he’s very good against the run. He tallied 5 TFLs last season in a rotational role. NYG is relying on their defensive line to be the backbone of Wink Martindale’s defense, and this signing goes perfectly with that aim.
Grade: A

Browns sign DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo:
I think the Browns are overpaying here. Okoronkwo was a reserve DE for the Texans last year and had a career-high 5 sacks. The thing is, that was more than he had in his first 3 years TOTAL. So why give him a 3-year, $19M deal with $12.5M guaranteed and $3M more in incentives? I would have probably signed him for half that amount. Of course, once he’s in a more consistent role, he could continue to be a quality player. However, he’s no more than a rotational pass rusher, but he’s being paid like a starter. His performance should look better when he’s lined up opposite Myles Garrett, but this is still too high a price.
Grade: C

Steelers sign CB Patrick Peterson:
After saying he would be interested in joining the Bengals, Peterson joined…their hated rivals? Interesting. Peterson wanted a 2-year deal and got one; it’s worth $14M with $5.85M guaranteed. He also wanted to play for a contender, but he isn’t getting that. Regardless, this is a good deal for Pittsburgh. They just lost Cam Sutton, and Peterson is a viable albeit older replacement. He went through a couple of down years but rebounded nicely with Minnesota last season. I think he’ll make a good addition to the steel curtain, and he’s almost half the price of the player he’s replacing, but he might not have much high-level play left.
Grade: B+

Lions re-sign LB Alex Anzalone:
We have yet another off-ball LB signing! This time, Anzalone is returning to Detroit on a 3-year, $18.75M deal. This is in line with what other guys like TJ Edwards and Germaine Pratt have received today, and I think Anzalone is deserving of the money. However, I’d rather those other two players above him, even though Anzalone had his best year in 2022 (125 tackles and 6 passes defended). Still, I’m giving this a high grade because coverage linebackers are so key, and this is a really fair price. Dan Campbell also loves him as one of his “grit” guys, so I suppose that means something (though I’m not entirely sure what).
Grade: A-

Falcons sign S Jessie Bates:
The Dirty Birds have landed a big fish. Bates was as good as gone in Cincinnati after not receiving a second consecutive franchise tag, and Atlanta reeled him in with a 4-year, $64.02M deal containing $23M in year 1. This is a hefty sum, but I actually like it. First, CB AJ Terrell finally gets a running mate. He’s been doing all the heavy lifting in that secondary for too long. Second, Bates is a young (26), consistent star player who plays the free safety role as well as anyone in the league. He’s also durable, having missed just a couple of games over his 5-year career. Atlanta needed an infusion of defensive talent, and though this is not a bargain, it’s a sorely needed addition.
Grade: A-

Chargers re-sign QB Easton Stick:
Justin Herbert’s backup is sticking around on a 1-year, $1.8M deal. This is very low pay, so I won’t be too harsh. I just don’t like the philosophy. Stick has shown absolutely nothing during his time with the Bolts, getting outplayed by Chase Daniel. If Herbert goes down, the team is in trouble no matter what, but this win-now team needed a quality veteran insurance policy. This isn’t it. Another reason this grade won’t be too low is because the signing in no way precludes the Chargers from signing someone else and cutting Stick. The face that this is an advisable path though suggests that the signing is mediocre.
Grade: B-

Bears sign LB Tremaine Edmunds:
The team with the most cap space spent a lot of money on a new LB. I said I won’t grade offensive signings poorly for the Bears, but that’s not true of defensive contracts. Edmunds is getting a 4-year, $72M deal with $50M guaranteed. He generates a bunch of tackles (more than 100 per season) and has made a couple of Pro Bowls, but he’s honestly overrated. The upside is immense as he’s an athletic freak, but Buffalo fans will tell you that he never lived up to his potential. Edmunds really only has one year of strong tape, and it so happens to be his contract year of 2022. I suppose he could continue to play well, but not $18M per season well. Bad value for Chicago.
Grade: C-

Bears sign G Nate Davis:
Chicago finally got a lineman to help Justin Fields! Davis is coming over from Tennessee to sign a 3-year, $30M deal. He has started almost every game over the past view seasons and has played well. His run blocking is excellent, and his pass protection is sure to be an upgrade over what Chicago had last year. This is a slight overpay, but I don’t have a problem with it. The Bears have the cap space, and they needed to acquire blockers no matter the cost. I refuse to grade any offensive improvements in Chicago poorly unless they’re egregious.
Grade: A-

Texans sign LB Chase Winovich:
Winovich started his career with New England but seemed to fall out of favor with Bill Belichick, at which point he was traded to the Browns. He didn’t play a whole lot in Cleveland, but he’s a decent depth piece. At 1 year and $2M, he’s also very affordable. Winovich has shown quality play in bursts, and he knows the system well. I don’t have any complaints about this signing, but it’s also very unexciting.
Grade: B

Texans sign QB Case Keenum:
Keenum is back where his career started. The Texans signed him as a UDFA and gave him his first opportunity. Now, he’ll be a backup for whoever the team drafts at #2 overall next month. This was likely Houston’s backup plan (no pun intended) after missing out on Jimmy Garoppolo. He’s certainly much cheaper, coming in at 2 years and $6.25M. That’s low-end backup money, but he’s a top-tier reserve! Players like Mike White are getting $8M per season, yet Keenum is by far the better option. He has taken a team to the NFC Championship game and can easily perform well as a spot starter or as a bridge to a rookie. This feels weird to say, but well done again Texans!
Grade: A+

Commanders sign OL Nick Gates:
I hate to give this signing anything but a great grade. As a member of the Giants in early 2021, Gates suffered an awful broken tibia and fibula against these very Commanders. It looked as though his career might be over. He missed the entirety of that season and half of 2022 before returning for the final 8 games. Gates played well over that stretch, and he’s versatile, as seen by his “OL” designation. You can slot him at G, C, or T. I just don’t think I would have given him a contract this long (3 years), this valuable ($16.5M) or this guaranteed ($8M). A 1-year prove-it deal was the way to go here, and it’s no wonder that New York didn’t try to match this contract. I wish Gates the best and hope he rebounds well, but there’s a ton of risk for Washington.
Grade: D+

Browns re-sign C Ethan Pocic:
The Browns weren’t expecting to start Pocic last season. He was an injury replacement for Nick Harris, and not much was expected. Instead, Pocic played great, turning out to be one of the best parts of the line. His 3-year, $18M deal is completely reasonable for a quality center. In fact, it’s a bargain in 2023. His presence will help Deshaun Watson try to return to form, and he’ll also continue to make holes for Nick Chubb. Cleveland can apparently do something right!
Grade: A

Texans sign DT Hassan Ridgeway:
This signing looks better after seeing the Shy Tuttle deal. Ridgeway is a very similar player in that he is mainly used on first and second down before coming off the field in passing situations. His contract is just a lot better; it’s 1 year for $4M. The former 49er follows his new HC to Houston, so DeMeco Ryans knows that Ridgeway fits his scheme. The Texans couldn’t stop the run to save their lives, so this signing can only help them. To address a talent-bare roster, you have to sign a bunch of mid-level free agents to build depth. That’s exactly what this signing achieves.
Grade: A

Vikings sign TE Josh Oliver:
My eyes may be unclear. They’re telling me that the Vikings grabbed a blocking TE from the Ravens for $7M per season. No, that’s real; Oliver is getting a 3-year deal worth $21M. $10.75M is guaranteed, and $3M more can be earned through incentives, though I doubt he’ll hit them. He has never caught 15 passes in a season after all. To be fair to Oliver, this isn’t about him. He’s a blocking TE, and a very good one. That type of player just tends to earn below $3M per season, and this is more than double that. It’s not like Minnesota needed a TE anyway, having traded for TJ Hockenson and already possessing Irv Smith. This is a colossal waste of money, and it earns the first F grade of this free agency period
Grade: F

Bengals re-sign LB Germaine Pratt:
Nobody should be shocked that the Bengals signed one of their own rather than dipping their toes into the pool of free agents from other teams. It’s just how they operate. Pratt was an important piece to keep though, and they do so on a 3-year, $21M deal. That’s incredibly cheap even though he’s an off-ball linebacker because his coverage skills are so good. He’s a thumper in the run game as well, but his ability to cover backs and tight ends makes him a key piece for DC Lou Anarumo. To that point, Pratt earned 10 passes defended and 99 tackles. That’s an extremely well-rounded player, and I hope he’s back at this price because he wanted to stay in Cincinnati. If not, the rest of the league dropped the ball.
Grade: A+

Chiefs sign OT Jawaan Taylor:
I know we’re supposed to trust Andy Reid on all things offensive line-related, but this one is peculiar. The Chiefs declined to franchise tag LT Orlando Brown for the second consecutive year, and they have chosen to let both him and RT Andrew Wylie walk…to sign Jawaan Taylor? For 4 years and $80M with $60M guaranteed no less? Granted, Taylor improved under Doug Pederson in Jacksonville, but I feel like he’s a downgrade from both tackles. I don’t know which side KC plans to have him play, but in either case, you can’t tell me he’s worth more per season than Mike McGlinchey. This would be an F if I took all the compounding factors into account, but I’m trying to grade this signing independently. It still doesn’t look good through that lens.
Grade: D+

Commanders sign RT Andrew Wylie:
How on earth did Wylie get just $24M over 3 years when other right tackles are topping $17M per year today? The Chiefs let Wylie walk to sign another player we’ll get to in a minute, and the Commanders pounced. The team didn’t exactly need a tackle as badly as they needed a guard, but perhaps they plan to have Wylie play inside. He does have experience at guard. His versatility only adds to his appeal, and I’m shocked a team with better postseason prospects didn’t pounce. Sam Howell is going to have a better chance to succeed because of this signing. Patrick Mahomes will tell you that Wylie’s Super Bowl performance was phenomenal, and Ron Rivera hopes his team is receiving that version of Wylie.
Grade: A+

Dolphins sign QB Mike White:
Teddy Bridgewater was a poor backup for Miami because he constantly gets hurt. So they replaced him with…a QB who frequently gets injured. White certainly showed promise during his time with the Jets, but his playing time was very brief. He left injured in 2 of his 7 games. Among those contests, he balled out in 2, had a complete meltdown in another, and played decently in the others. I believe he’d be at least an average backup if I could trust him to not get hurt when he comes into games. I also don’t like the value. At $8M per season (his deal is for 2 years and $16M), he’s making premium backup money, and I don’t think he’ll deliver on that. Better options were available, like Gardner Minshew and Case Keenum.
Grade: D

Bills sign G Connor McGovern:
Buffalo added some protection for Josh Allen in the form of McGovern, a former 3rd-round pick of the Cowboys. He receives a 3-year contract worth $23M with $11M guaranteed. This seems like a solid value. He’s being paid like an average starting guard, which is exactly what he is. McGovern is a better pass protector than a run blocker, so he wont really fix the Bills’ rushing woes, but Allen will be happy. His one issue in the pass game is that he commits a bunch of holding penalties, but he blocks well. Just don’t be surprised when he gets bulldozed by larger run-stuffing DTs.
Grade: B

Raiders sign QB Jimmy Garoppolo:
Huh. The Raiders actually saved money shifting from Derek Carr to Jimmy G. Over 3 years, Garoppolo will receive just $67.5M and $45M guaranteed. That’s a mere $22.5M per season! For comparison, Daniel Jones is making $40M per year on his new contract. I’d take Garoppolo over Jones any day. He gets a bad rap, but he is by far the winningest QB to play for Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Garoppolo made the Super Bowl once, and he reached the NFC Championship another time. He would have been the one to do so again in 2022 had he not gotten hurt. And there’s the rub: durability. Garoppolo is never a safe bet to play a full season, but he’s pretty good when he’s on the field. This deal doesn’t stop the Raiders from drafting a QB, and the transition should be smooth for Jimmy because he was drafted in NE when Raiders HC Josh McDaniels was the OC. The familiarity, the bargain, and the quality of the player make this an excellent signing.
Grade: A+

Panthers sign DT Shy Tuttle:
The Saints have lost another DT to a division rival. This one doesn’t hurt nearly as much. Tuttle is a quality run stuffer, but he offers next to nothing in the pass rush department. Thus, a 3-year, $19.5M deal with $13M guaranteed is quite rich for my blood. You can get a 2-down DT at or near the veteran minimum, and this is way more per season. Carolina definitely gets points for depriving NO of his services, but I don’t know that they did too much to help their own case. At least it should be hard to run on him and Derrick Brown in the middle of the defensive line.
Grade: C

Lions sign CB Cam Sutton:
Detroit nearly made the playoffs last year, but their biggest weakness was on defense. The front 7 showed a bit of promise late, but the secondary needed a lot of help. That’s where Sutton comes in. The former Steeler has been signed to a 3-year, $33M deal with $22.5M guaranteed. After spending his first few years as a role player, he started for Mike Tomlin’s defense the past two years. He played really well in 2021, but he was stellar in 2022. Sutton picked off 3 passes and defended 15 more, nearly doubling his previous best total. In addition, he played smothering coverage throughout the season. A player with 2 consecutive years of quality play should have earned more than this, so this grade is simple for me.
Grade: A+

Broncos sign RT Mike McGlinchey:
Russell Wilson now has TWO less excuses. Shortly after signing G Ben Powers, Denver has snagged the best RT on the market (Orlando Brown Jr insists he’s a pure LT) for 5 years and $87.5M. $50M of the deal is guaranteed. The Broncos have now acquired a pair of linemen who are better pass protectors than run blockers, but this season is all about trying to restore Wilson. Sean Payton is going to whatever he can to make Wilson succeed, or else he’ll cut bait. I really thought the Niners would prioritize re-signing McGlinchey over adding another defensive lineman (see below), but their loss is Denver’s gain. This is a steep price for a right tackle, but it’s apparently not completely out of line for the current market. Thus, the Broncos earn a solid grade.
Grade:
B

49ers sign DT Javon Hargrave:
I didn’t see the Niners as a landing spot for Hargrave. The team has two stout DTs in Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw, and they have a big deal for Nick Bosa coming soon. Spending big on Hargrave means that tackle Mike McGlinchey is gone, and I personally wouldn’t make that swap. Protecting a young QB like Brock Purdy or Trey Lance is imperative, whereas the defensive line was already a strength. This contract is 4 years and $84M with $40M guaranteed. I know Hargrave was great last season with 11 sacks and is going to a similarly talented line, but he’s redundant for SF. That feels like a big waste of $21M per season. None of this is Hargrave’s fault; he’s a great player who deserved to cash in. GM John Lynch just went overboard. Hargrave’s play is the only reason this grade isn’t a D or below.
Grade: C-

Patriots re-sign CB Jonathan Jones:
I wasn’t surprised when the Pats didn’t franchise tag Jones because paying market value for players is not typically what they do. Count me as equally surprised when I read that they managed to re-sign him anyway. Two years and $20M (with $13M guaranteed) is a real bargain for a player who performed like a top-shelf CB1 in 2022. The former UDFA had a career-best year with 4 INTs and 69 tackles. Bill Belichick’s defense does best when his secondary is playing well, and Jones is a big part of that. I thought for sure someone would toss $15M per season his way, but the Patriots managed to keep him home. This is an easy A, and I’m withholding the + only because he’s had just 1 season at this level. The deal will age well if he keeps it up.
Grade: A

Broncos sign QB Jarrett Stidham:
Denver absolutely HAD to replace Brett Rypien as their backup. He looked no better than Russell Wilson last year, and for 2022, that’s a terrible sign. They upgraded with a similar player in Jarrett Stidham. When I say “similar” here, I mean a guy who you can say has upside but is a bit unproven. However, Stidham’s 2022 tape was much better in his short audition, most notably against SF. He comes to Denver from LV with a 2-year, $10M deal. $5M is guaranteed, and an additional $4M can be earned through incentives. I’ll ignore the incentives because if they’re earned, something will have gone horribly wrong with Russell Wilson. This seems like an average deal for a backup, and Stidham projects as an average or slightly above-average backup.
Grade: B

Texans sign FB/TE Andrew Beck:
We care about fullbacks as well here at Takeaways. The former Bronco is receiving a 2-year, $6.75M deal with $4M guaranteed. Beck provides the most value on special teams, but he’s a decent blocker as an H-back as well. I’d classify this as a bit of an overpay, but when you’re as bad as the Texans, it takes a bit of extra cash to convince free agents to sign with you. This type of signing makes few headlines, and you’ll rarely hear his name called during the season. Good teams need players like this though, and Beck is a dependable player. I view this is a solid signing as long as the Texans don’t stop here.
Grade: B

Falcons sign DT David Onyemata:
Atlanta is continuing to make it rain. This time, they’ve poached David Onyemata from the Saints with a 3-year, $35M deal with $24.5M guaranteed. I like Onyemata even if he doesn’t stuff the stat sheet. He totaled 5 sacks and 43 tackles in 2022, but his impact goes beyond the numbers. Life for Cam Jordan and Marcus Davenport is made easier by Onyemata’s presence. He attracts excess attention, providing others with friendlier matchups. I do have to complain about the price tag though. The standard contract for 3-year deals has been $30M, and this is a decent bit more than that. Providing those types of guarantees to a 30-year-old defensive lineman also scares me a bit. However, he should be a great running mate for Grady Jarrett, and Atlanta needs playmakers all over on defense. You also get brownie points when you steal from a division rival.
Grade: B+

Packers re-sign CB/KR Keisean Nixon:
Packers fans really wanted to see this news today. Ok, maybe they were a lot more interested in Aaron Rodgers. But they really did care about Nixon! He is coming back on a 1-year, $6M deal. I list him as a CB, but he played almost 0 snaps there. Instead, he was an All-Pro kick returner, which is what he’s being paid to do. Ordinarily I’d say that this is a hefty sum for a KR. However, you have to understand Green Bay’s years-long special teams woes to wrap your head around this sign. First-year ST coordinator Rich Bisaccia made some great improvements, but no change was as important as replacing Amari Rodgers with Nixon. He consistently gave the Packers improved field position, which was surprisingly necessary for this offense. I can’t give a perfect grade for this high price tag on just a 1-year deal, but there’s a lot to like.
Grade: A-

Broncos sign G Ben Powers:
THIS is what a contract for a quality guard is supposed to look like. Powers is getting 4 years, $52M, and $28.5M guaranteed. That’s just $13M a year, which is much less than what Chris Lindstrom received. Powers is likely to be even better in a passing-centric scheme, as that is his true strength. He did fine in Baltimore’s run-first offense, but Sean Payton will be playing to his skillset. I see this as a great first step toward upgrading an average line, and great teams are built from the trenches (ask Kansas City and Philadelphia). Russell Wilson has one less excuse now.
Grade: A

Falcons extend G Chris Lindstrom:
Atlanta definitely needed to sign their stalwart guard, but not like this! His deal is reportedly for 5 years and a whopping $105M with $63M guaranteed. In terms of average annual value, Lindstrom is now the highest-paid guard in NFL history. You may recall me grading a similar contract highly when I evaluated Quenton Nelson’s extension. Well, news flash: Lindstrom is not Nelson. Thus, there’s no good reason to pay a guard this type of money. More than most tackles in fact. So why aren’t I failing the Falcons? Because I still value guards more than most, and Lindstrom is very good if not elite. Also, Atlanta needs to protect its future QB, so I have to give them points for at least making an effort on that front.
Grade: C+

Bills extend LB Matt Milano:
This signing actually took place yesterday, but I didn’t have the contract details until now. He was already signed through 2024, but he’s now under contract until 2026 now that he has signed a 2-year, $28M extension. Milano is currently a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler, and I expect this $14M/year sum to age well as salaries continue to rise. The deal also gives Buffalo more cap space to work with, and they definitely needed the breathing room. Despite his smaller stature, Milano is a hard hitter and acts as the QB of the defense. He’s a stellar player and deserves every penny here. My only concern is that he’ll be 32 in the final year of this deal, but that’s not something the team has to worry about now.
Grade: A-

Bears sign LB TJ Edwards:
Chicago lacks talent all across the roster, and that includes at LB. Armed with the most cap space in the NFL, I expected them to throw a bundle of cash at this problem. Instead, they’ve signed a player from a top defense in Philadelphia for a very reasonable 3-year, $19.5M deal with $12M guaranteed. Edwards has developed slowly but steadily, and he balled out in 2022. He racked up 159 tackles and 2 sacks, looking like a premier off-ball LB. There is nothing to pick on about this contract. It’s inexpensive and is being spent on a younger player (Edwards is 26). The duration is fine, and he’ll help immensely with the rebuild. Excellent signing.
Grade: A+

49ers re-sign S Tashaun Gipson:
Gipson was a late signing by SF last season, only joining the 53-man roster in September of 2022. He only got playing time due to injuries, but he responded with his best season in years. Gipson tallied 61 tackles and 5 INTs, playing so well that even when a couple of other players returned, he remained in the lineup. The team decided to bring him back on another 1-year deal, but this one is worth $2.9M. Whether he plays well or is relegated to the bench as a depth player, this is a cheap contract. At 32, he’s no longer in the prime of his career, but there is plenty of value to be had here.
Grade: A

Giants re-sign WR Sterling Shepard:
The only option for Shepard was likely to stick with the team that drafted him. Even they only offered him a 1-year deal worth $1.3M. The reason why is simple: injuries. In the past two years, he has torn his Achilles and his ACL. Shepard simply can’t stay healthy, but when he’s on the field, he’s a decent #2 or #3 receiver. He topped 500 yards in each of his first 5 seasons, so the team is confident in his fit. New York also has nothing at WR, so taking a flier on a potentially good player is a no-brainer. Shepard will be competing for a roster spot, as the Giants should definitely throw more resources at the position.
Grade: A

Colts re-sign DL: Tyquan Lewis:
The Colts have retained their former 2nd-round pick on a 1-year, $2.1M deal. I’m not going to pick on such a cheap contract, but it’s fair to wonder what player the Colts are getting. Lewis was a quality rotational lineman (both inside and on the edge) for a few years, but he tore his patellar tendon in 2021. That’s the worst orthopedic injury in football, especially for a large man. He got back on the field late last year and looked alright on his way to 14 tackles. The Colts are hoping that he’ll resemble his former self as he moves further away from his injury. Even if he doesn’t, there’s no risk to this signing.
Grade: B+

Bills re-sign P Sam Martin:
More punter deals! I like this one a lot more. It’s slightly more expensive at 3 years and $7.5M ($4.115M guaranteed), but Martin is much better than Gillan. He posted the second-best numbers of his career, which is more meaningful given that he played every other season in Denver. Punters also matter more to a contender like Buffalo, form whom field position is critically important. Even on a lesser roster, this is a completely reasonable deal for a high-end punter.
Grade: A

Giants extend P Jamie Gillan:
Let it never be said that Takeaways Football doesn’t care about punters. Are you happy Rich Eisen? This deal is cheap at 2 years and $4M, but it still might be an overpay. Gillian was middling in terms of most punter stats, including net average (26th). An argument can be made that the Giants should have released Gillian and signed a rookie or even another veteran. Continuity is good at least, and the field goal unit should remain stable (Gillan is the holder). I won’t knock this too much because of the price tag, but upgrades were available.
Grade: C-

March 12, 2023

Jets re-sign LB Quincy Williams:
The hard-hitting LB is getting a 3-year, $18M deal. Half of it is guaranteed, and $3M is available in incentives. I love this deal. As far as Williams himself, after joining the Jets following his release by Jacksonville, he has tallied 216 tackles (21 for loss) and 5 sacks in the past two seasons. Off-ball linebackers aren’t premium players to pay, but $6M is definitely not a premium price. Very much a scheme fit for Robert Saleh’s defense, Williams is likely to perform at a similarly high level throughout this contract. But that’s not even the biggest reason I am fond of this deal. More critically, re-signing Quincy will be viewed as a positive by his brother Quinnen. Quinnen Williams is an absolute stud DT (one of the best in the league), and the Jets must retain him. The team has had issues working out second contracts with their high draft picks, most notably along the defensive line. Anything that can boost the odds of Quinnen Williams remaining with Gang Green is a job well done.
Grade: A+

Commanders extend DT Daron Payne:
If it feels like I just graded a Payne signing, that’s because I did. I commended Washington for franchise tagging him. However, the reasons I liked the tag are the same reasons I’m not crazy about this deal. His contract is reportedly for 4 years and $90M with $60M guaranteed. That’s a hefty $22.5M per year, putting him behind only Aaron Donald among DTs. Clearly, that’s quite a commitment for a player that I said needed to prove himself. If his 2022 was an outlier, this contract will look horrible in mere months. I should note that if 2022 is the new normal, then this contract is fair, but it’s still not team-friendly in the slightest. As I said below, this deal could have waited another year. Montez Sweat seems more deserving of an immediate extension. I like the philosophy of building the defense from the trenches, and I do think Payne is probably a very good DT. Whether this contract works out will be determined by just how good.
Grade: C

March 11, 2023

Saints re-sign TE Juwan Johnson:
Originally signed as a UDFA, Johnson has spent the last 3 years with the Saints and was a restricted free agent. His 2022 was easily his best year, with the big TE catching 42 passes for 508 yards and 7 TDs. New Orleans believe he is an ascending player, and they have given him a 2-year, $12M deal with $8.5M fully guaranteed and $2.5M more in incentives. As a restricted free agent, Johnson did not have much negotiating room. The Saints could have placed a cheap tender on him to retain his rights for one more year. I do believe this deal is fair though because of what I saw on tape. Johnson used his big frame to box out CBs but had enough breakaway speed to outrun LBs. That sort of skillset was likely to perform well with increased polish, and that appears to have happened this past year. Hence, this is a fair deal if not a complete bargain.
Grade: B+

March 10, 2023

Saints re-sign Special Teamer JT Gray:
Technically Gray is a DB, but he plays almost exclusively on special teams, so that’s how I’m listing him. New Orleans values him in that role, as evidenced by his 3-year, $9.6M deal that comes with $1.5M more in incentives. I’m not sure that Gray is a glue guy to the degree of someone like New England’s Matthew Slater. That said, he is the reigning All-Pro special teamer, so he’s clearly good at his job. Still, for a team that’s annually in salary cap hell, I don’t really think that this is where money should be invested. It’s not a big deal as this is a small deal, but it won’t be my favorite move this offseason.
Grade: B-

Eagles re-sign DE Brandon Graham:
One down, twelve to go! Or at least that’s what it feels like with how many key free agents the Eagles possess. They have in fact gotten one out of the way, bringing Graham back on a 1-year, $6M deal. Though he turned 35 this year, Graham had a fantastic season, racking up 11 sacks. He’s also considered a key locker room and community leader, a fact that can’t be overstated. This is a pretty cheap deal, and it’s probably a hometown discount. Thus, the Eagles clearly did well. His play could decline, but at this price, even a rotational rusher and mentor role would provide great value. Easy grade.
Grade: A+

Texans sign WR Robert Woods:
Recently released by the Titans for cap reasons, Woods is joining the division rival Texans for 2 years and $15.25M, with $10M fully guaranteed and another $1.75M available in incentives. Woods sure gets moved a lot for a quality player. He and new (and one time) teammate Brandin Cooks have that in common. His presence wasn’t felt too much in the passing game in Tennessee due to the bad offensive line and Ryan Tannehill’s injury. Go back to his time with the Rams, and you’ll see much more of a difference maker. Woods possesses good hands and an uncanny ability to get open despite lacking high-end speed. He’s also a very good blocker at the WR position, as Derrick Henry can tell you. Most importantly, he’s a reliable option for whichever QB the Texans select in the draft at #2 overall. I’m glad to see that Houston has enhanced their offensive line and receiving corps before throwing a rookie passer into the fire. The fact that they snagged a good receiver at a nice price is a bonus.
Grade: A+

March 7, 2023

Giants place Franchise Tag on RB Saquon Barkley:
One positive side effect of the Jones deal is that it left the tag ($10.091M) for Barkley. This final tag of 2023 is yet another quality decision. Handing Barkley a long-term deal would have been foolish even though 2022 was his best season. He barely played over the prior two years due to injuries, and I’m not sure he’s among the top backs. I notice that he used to dance around too much behind the line of scrimmage, creating negative plays. However, he cut back on that under coach Brian Daboll, so maybe he has truly improved. Regardless, seeing whether he can stay healthy for 2 years in a row is the only way to handle this situation. If he duplicates last year’s campaign this fall, then I’ll feel more comfortable with a long-term deal. As it stands, the team gets their offensive engine back for another year at a fair price, so you can’t dislike that.
Grade: A

Giants re-sign QB Daniel Jones:
If you would have told me that the Giants would decline Jones’ 5th-year option and then hand him a 4-year, $160M deal a year later, I would have laughed and called you crazy. Yet here we are. I’ve been giving out some nice grades lately, but that trend ends right here. Jones is not even close to a $40M QB. He had a nice year, but whenever his throwing determined games instead of his running, the Giants lost. Jones cut down on his turnovers, but his ball security still concerns me, and a franchise tag would have saved the team $8M while seeing whether 2022 was a fluke. Instead, they have hamstrung their cap and won’t be able to surround him with quality receivers (not that they’ve done so in the past). I won’t fail NYG here because they were sort of caught in a bind, but it’s a bind of their own making. This team has ensured that they won’t be competing for Super Bowls for the next few years.
Grade: D

Ravens place Franchise Tag on QB Lamar Jackson:
This tag has been destined to occur for months. Jackson, who is representing himself, seems to be very difficult to negotiate with, and he and the team are far apart. As you may know, I’m not very high on Jackson as a passer or in terms of his durability, so I wouldn’t give him the fully guaranteed deal he wants or the $50M per season he has requested. Many teams would though, so tagging him means that the Ravens retain his rights. There’s a key distinction with this tag though. For every other position, the nonexclusive tag is typically used because it’s much cheaper. The tagged player can talk to other teams and sign an offer sheet, at which point the tagging team can either match the offer or decline, receiving 2 first-round picks in return. The exclusive tag is basically only used for QBs because it costs a lot more, and teams are much more willing to pay that draft pick price for a signal caller. However, it prevents the player from talking to any other team. In this case, I find it interesting (and wise) that Baltimore chose the nonexclusive tag, which pays $32.416M instead of $45M. That’s a massive gap, and it benefits the Ravens greatly. Personally, I’d take 2 picks for Jackson, so I agree with the decision on that front as well. I don’t adore the $32.416M number either, but this was the only move for the Ravens to make, and they’re being graded accordingly.
Grade: A

March 6, 2023

Jaguars place Franchise Tag on TE Evan Engram:
Another tag that I’m fond of! This one is worth $11.345M. Engram had a nice rookie year but never regained his footing with the Giants. The team that selected him with a first-round pick let him walk in free agency, and he signed a 1-year prove it deal with the Jaguars last season. I think he proved something. Engram broke out and posted a career year, resembling the player the Giants thought they drafted. He caught 73 passes for 766 yards and 4 TDs, and he was easily a top-2 weapon for Trevor Lawrence. The best part is that it didn’t look fluky at all. Engram’s athleticism led to open looks, and he made great plays in space. I would grade this similarly if Jacksonville had given him a reasonable long-term deal, which I hope is what comes next.
Grade: A+

Seahawks re-sign QB Geno Smith:
There are things I like about this contract and things I don’t. I appreciate that it’s only 3 years instead of 4 or 5, but I still would’ve preferred a 2-year pact. The money, $105M with $52M in year 1, is also a bit rich for my blood, though I also understand how the QB market is taking off. Relative to what Deshaun Watson got, this is a good deal. Compared to Derek Carr’s deal signed early today though, I’m not as high on it. There’s no denying that Smith had a great year. It just came out of nowhere. A guy who flamed out with the Jets and spent almost a decade thereafter as a backup doesn’t typically take his first starting opportunity and earn a Pro Bowl bid while leading the league in completion percentage. Smith knows the system in Seattle, and you can always claim that the Jets were responsible for his bust status (as with many players). Like Josh Jacobs below though, I’d prefer to see if he can do it again. The torrid start Smith got off to wasn’t season-long; he cooled a bit in the second half of the year, but he was still good. If you get the first-half Smith, this is a good deal. The second-half version is probably worth a bit less.
Grade: B

Raiders place Franchise Tag on RB Josh Jacobs:
I love this tag (for the same $10.091M) as much as I like Pollard’s but for a different reason. I’d be more hesitant to hand Jacobs a long-term contract. He takes a HEAVY workload, so his durability isn’t as assured moving forward. Also, his 5th-year option was declined because the team wasn’t happy with him. Why completely change your tune after 1 good year? Well, he was the league’s leading rusher, and he seemed to fit new coach Josh McDaniel’s scheme like a glove. I think he’s finally delivering on all the promise that made him a 1st-round pick in the first place, but let’s see if he can do it again (in another contract year) before the Raiders hand him a pile of cash.
Grade: A+

Cowboys place Franchise Tag on RB Tony Pollard:
I didn’t think Dallas would be able to do this. Given Jerry Jones’ fondness for Ezekiel Elliot, it seemed like the team would be forced to let Pollard walk while continuing to overpay Zeke. Instead, Pollard has received the $10.091M franchise tag, and I love it. That’s a high number for an RB, and their total expenditure for the season at the position will exceed $25M. However, Pollard possesses game-breaking ability, and he has looked like the clearly better option for Dallas over the past two years. He was not a piece that I’d have let go, and Jones seems to agree. The team needs all the weapons it can get to help Dak Prescott, and Dalton Schultz is likely out the door. Pollard gives this team another dimension, and I hope they come to an agreement on a multiyear deal before the deadline in July.
Grade: A+

Saints sign QB Derek Carr:
The first major QB domino has fallen. New Orleans has reached a 4-year, $150 million deal with former Raider QB Derek Carr. The deal includes $100M in total guarantees. I have no earthly idea how the Saints do this cap voodoo to sign such expensive veterans. One of these years, I fully expect to see the team have to play with 53 guys on veteran minimum deals while carrying $250M in dead cap space. Ignoring that, this makes the Saints the instant favorite to win the NFC South. Tom Brady has retired, and the Bucs, Panthers, and Falcons all have no idea who their QB will even be next year. New Orleans struggled early in 2022, but the defense returned to peak form late in the season. Dennis Allen is looking to the QB he drafted in Oakland to get him off the Jameis Winston/Andy Dalton carousel. I think Carr is underrated. His stats aren’t the best, and he makes the occasional mistake, but he’s easily a top 15 passer (maybe even top 10). As the Niners proved last season, if you can assemble a great roster around an above-average QB, you can make a run. New Orleans also gets bonus points for ignoring the QBs in this draft and because they knew Green Bay wouldn’t trade Aaron Rodgers in the AFC. I like this move despite the hefty contract.
Grade: A-

February 28, 2023

Commanders place Franchise Tag on DT Daron Payne:
Our first franchise tag of the offseason has been placed, and Daron Payne is the recipient. The tag comes with a fully guaranteed $18.937M for one year. I agree with the decision to tag Payne and not immediately extend him. The Commanders have a TON of money due to their stout defensive line comprised entirely of first-round picks. DT Jonathan Allen was extended last year, and DEs Montez Sweat and Chase Young are due soon. Of the four, I’d be most hesitant to extend Young due to his injuries, but Payne had underperformed during the first few years of his deal. He broke out as a complete player with 11.5 sacks in 2022, but the team undoubtedly wants to see if he can repeat that performance before committing long-term. If Payne can remain this good in 2023, a long-term deal will be justified. Until then, this tag is completely fair.
Grade: A

February 25, 2023

Jaguars extend DL Roy Robertson-Harris: The Jaguars were certainly busy on a random Saturday. This was their more notable deal, with the team handing Robertson-Harris a 3-year, $30M contract. I’ve seen a lot of those exact contracts for DTs in recent years, which makes this one look better by comparison. With salaries rising, this is actually a better deal despite having the same value. Also, I think Robertson-Harris is really underrated. He plays both on the edge and inside, and he stuffs the run really well. I saw him play his best football in the playoffs this season. Before that, he was a successful lineman for the Bears. I wouldn’t call this contract a bargain, but it’s certainly reasonable. I expect him to pair nicely with Travon Walker and Josh Allen for the next several years.
Grade: A-

February 24, 2023

Jaguars extend QB CJ Beathard: Admittedly, this isn’t the QB anyone in Duval county cares about. But a backup QB still matters! Ask the Niners and Dolphins. This is a cheap deal for 2 years and $4.5 million. I think Beathard is a fairly average backup, but that makes him the best backup in the AFC South at the moment. He knows the system and did reasonably well in his limited playing time, so I don’t have a problem with this. It’s a solid contract for both sides.
Grade: B+

January 18, 2023

Seahawks extend K Jason Myers: Myers has been rewarded for his game-winning kick against the Rams that helped the Seahawks reach the playoffs! We’ll forget about the miss at the end of regulation. I’m joking of course, as he has really been extended due to his overall stellar performance. Myers has signed a 4-year, $21.1M deal, which is second only to Justin Tucker’s contract in terms of average annual value. That feels reasonable to me considering the fact that Myers is the NFC’s Pro Bowl kicker after converting 91.9% of his FGs and 41/42 PATs on the season. He has a rocket leg and doesn’t come with any range limitations. Accuracy and power are hard to find together, and Myers has performed really well for Seattle and stabilized their kicking situation. This contract is certainly pricey for a kicker, but the position is very important. Seattle isn’t getting a bargain by any stretch, but they needed to make this move.
Grade: A-

January 11, 2023

Ravens extend LB Roquan Smith: I was wondering when this deal would get done. The Ravens traded for Smith at the trade deadline but didn’t extend him as part of the deal. As Smith was on an expiring contract and the franchise tag is seemingly earmarked for Lamar Jackson, they risked losing him if the two sides couldn’t come to terms on an extension. Today, they can relax. Smith has signed a 5-year, $100M extension with $45M fully guaranteed and $60M in total guarantees. That’s basically a 3-year, $60M commitment that gives the team 2 option years on the back end. I’m aware that this is the highest salary in the league for an ILB. His impact is worthy of that distinction. He has made 86 tackles and earned 2 sacks as a Raven, reaching his first Pro Bowl (he’s already been an All Pro). His arrival transformed the Baltimore defense, which has been incredibly stingy of late. I don’t have a problem with the Ravens resetting the market at Smith’s position for a player of his caliber. He’s a long-term building block that they would hate to lose.
Grade: A


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