2024 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 2024 (most recent first) based on how good a deal the signing team obtained and the type of impact I expect the player to have. Please note that an offseason signing cannot be made official until the new league year starts on March 13 unless the player is remaining with his current team or his previous team already released him. 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.

April 18, 2024

Raiders Sign G Cody Whitehair:
This is more in line with what an average guard contract should look like. The Raiders, needing help along the interior of their line, are signing Whitehair away from Chicago on a 1-year, $2.5M contract with $1.35 guaranteed. Like Laken Tomlinson below, Whitehair has been a rather durable player. He missed a total of 7 games over his 8 years with the Bears. His play has also been steady; Pro Football Reference has given him a value of 6 each of the past 5 seasons. I think Whitehair will provide an upgrade at guard, but if the Raiders draft someone better, he’ll be great depth.
Grade: B+

Seahawks Sign G Laken Tomlinson:
Coming off a great stretch with 49ers, Tomlinson signed a 3-year, $40M contract with the Jets in 2021. He did not stay with the team through the end of that contract, as New York was not happy with his performance. Tomlinson saw some success as a run blocker, but his pass protection was poor. Seattle hopes that a return to the NFC West will revitalize him, agreeing to a 1-year contract worth up to $4M. This is considerably higher than the contracts we’ve seen reported lately, but the guard market is nuts right now. Tomlinson is extremely durable, missing no starts in any of the last 6 years. Guards can also continue to play well at 32 years old. I suspect that getting away from NYJ will revitalize Tomlinson, so the value here likely won’t be terrible.
Grade: B-

April 16, 2024

Vikings Sign LB Kamu Grugier-Hill:
Grugier-Hill has bounced around the league quite often for someone who is a quality run defender. He played for Carolina in 2023, earning 56 tackles, an INT, and a sack despite starting just 5 games. Based on the Vikings’ LB room, he might get some more playing time on his new 1-year, $1.378M contract with $142.5K guaranteed. The last time he was a full-time starter (2021 with the Texans), Grugier-Hill earned 108 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles, all of which were career highs. At age 29, he should have a few good seasons left in him. At this price, it’s wise for Minnesota to bring him in and see how he fits.
Grade: A-

Saints Sign WR Equanimeous St. Brown:
Originally a 6th-round pick of the Packers, St. Brown played the least two seasons in Chicago. Sort of. He really did play in 2022, earning 323 yards. However, he appeared in just 7 games last season for the Bears’ poor offense. That explains his new contract: $1.125M for 1 year with absolutely nothing guaranteed. Unlike his brother Amon-Ra, who is an elite WR for the Lions, Equanimeous is known much more for his blocking. New Orleans had a problem in that department last year, especially with their offensive line injuries. Having someone on the outside of the formation who can block effectively would be a boon for Derek Carr, and maybe there will be a few targets for St. Brown as well.
Grade: B

Rams Re-Sign LB Troy Reeder:
Outside of a 1-year blip with the Chargers in 2022, Reeder has played every season of his career with the Rams. He’s back for at least one more, signing a 1-year, $1.125M contract with $75K guaranteed. His production the past two years took a major dive, but as of 2020 he was racking up 91 tackles in a season. Based on the defensive help the Rams need, Reeder should be able to earn more playing time. Two consecutive down years typically don’t lead to a full reversal, but with so little money guaranteed, why not give him a shot? Reeder knows the system and can hit the ground running, giving him a leg up during training camp.
Grade: B

Ravens Sign Returner/WR Deonte Harty:
Harty once had 500 receiving yards in a season, but he’s mostly a returner. He was an All Pro and a Pro Bowler in that role as a rookie with the Saints, and last year, his 96-yard PR against the Dolphins handed his Bills a division title. Baltimore, whose HC (John Harbaugh) places emphasis on special teams, swooped in and grabbed him with a 1-year, $1.293M contract including $1.153 guaranteed. I love this move because Harty can provide some speed in the slot while guaranteeing some production as a returner despite being on a minimum contract. When filling in your roster with cheap deals, this is the type of player you want.
Grade: A+

April 15, 2024

Eagles Extend WR DeVonta Smith:
The Heisman trophy winner out of Alabama concerned analysts with his slight frame, but he turned out to be more durable than expected. He has missed just one game in his 3 pro seasons, earning 900+ receiving yards during each campaign. The Eagles are now extending him with a 3-year, $75M contract containing $51M guaranteed (basically 2 of the 3 years). Smith has become one of the league’s better #2 receivers. He nabbed 81 passes for 1066 yards and 7 TDs in 2023. My concern is that I can’t say he’d be nearly as effective if AJ Brown weren’t on the field with him. That’s the true #1 WR who draws the top CBs to shadow him because he’s so dangerous. Smith is very good, but $25M per season? He’s now the highest-paid WR2 in the league, which is not the distinction I’d bestow upon him.
Grade: B-

Colts Extend DT DeForest Buckner:
When the Colts traded a 1st-round pick to San Francisco for Buckner a few years ago, he was everything they had hoped for. The Niners only parted with him for cap reasons; Buckner was and remains one of the best DTs in the NFL. Entering the final year of his deal, the Colts weren’t about to let him walk, so they signed him to a new 2-year, $46M extension. That sounds like a lot of money, but it’s only 7th among interior defensive linemen in terms of annual value. Buckner is definitely better than 7th. He has provided a guaranteed 7 or more sacks since 2018 and is a stout run defender, earning an exceptional 81 tackles in 2023. You also get durability with Buckner, who hasn’t missed a game since 2020. Given all I just said, this signing is actually a value.
Grade: A+

April 13, 2024

Giants Sign DT Jordan Phillips:
Already the home of Dexter Lawrence, the Giants decided to go for another massive nose tackle. They are signing Phillips away from Buffalo, GM Brandon Beane’s former team, with a 1-year, $1.79M contract including $430K guaranteed. Is age Phillips’ problem here? I don’t think 31 is too old, but pocket pushing DTs usually fetch more than this. His 2019 9.5-sack season stands out as an outlier, but he as added a couple sacks each year since while providing adequate run defense. I expected somewhere in the range of $4-5M, so the Giants are getting a steal and putting together a formidable defensive line.
Grade: A+

49ers Sign CB Rock Ya-Sin:
The 49ers came into the offseason needing CB help, and they first addressed the position by signing Isaac Yiadom. Now the’ve imported Ya-Sin from Baltimore on a 1-year, $1.293M contract with $1.056M guaranteed. The main issues with this former 2nd-round pick are durability and ball production. He has never played a full season, and he has 0 INTs in the past 3 years. The positives are that he provides decent coverage and is a good tackler. Of the Niners’ signings, I like Yiadom better, but we learned last year that this team in particular needs more depth at the position. This is great value for a CB4, and perhaps having Ya-Sin as a reserve like Baltimore did will keep him healthy.
Grade: A

Eagles Sign TE CJ Uzomah:
Best known for his time with the Bengals, Uzomah didn’t pan out as a free agent for the Jets. It’s hard to blame him for that though; nobody but Garrett Wilson could produce with the Jets’ motley crew of QBs. He remains a quality blocker, so for the low price of $1.378M for 1 year with $717.5K guaranteed, the Eagles can take a chance on his receiving numbers bouncing back. Dallas Goedert is more of a receiving threat, so Uzomah’s skill set complements him well as a TE2. A run-first team, Philly needs its TEs to set the edges, and Uzomah can do that. The upside here is limited, but so is the price.
Grade: A

Jets Re-Sign S Ashtyn Davis:
A home-grown 3rd-round pick, Davis became a necessity to keep after the Jets lost Jordan Whitehead. Despite interest from other teams, Davis opted to stay home on a 1-year, $2.743M contract with $167.5K guaranteed. It’s easy to see why: he became a turnover machine in Robert Saleh’s defense, with 3 INTs and 3 fumble recoveries in 2023. At 27 years old, there’s probably not much room for further development, but he can definitely fill Whitehead’s starting role. Once again, the safety market is terrible for players, so we’ve got yet another cheap contract at the position.
Grade: A-

April 11, 2024

Dolphins Sign DT Teair Tart:
Originally a Titan, Tart’s tenure with Tennessee came to an abrupt end in 2023 when he was released due to “issues with his effort and attitude“. Apparently he wasn’t getting the playing time he felt he deserved, particularly in a contract year. He hoped to cash in on the free agent market after latching on with the Texans, but he’s signing a 1-year, $1.293M contract with $576.7K guaranteed. That’s a veteran minimum deal for a player who made over $4M in 2023. Truthfully, I’m not sure Tart is worth any more than this. He has 2.5 career sacks and is merely a decent run defender. The fact that he played in Miami at FIU is helpful, but how much playing time is he expecting? I’m worried he’ll cause problems again if he isn’t happy with his usage.
Grade: C+

Chiefs Re-Sign RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire:
KC hosted JK Dobbins for a visit but opted to bring back the player they knew, signing Edwards-Helaire to a 1-year, $1.7M contract with $1.325M guaranteed. He was a first-round pick in 2020, but everyone thought that was a reach. Edwards-Helaire is a smaller back who is good in space, but after a solid rookie season (1100 scrimmage yards, 5 total TDs), his rushing production has steadily declined. Some of that has been due to the emergence of Isiah Pacheco, who is simply a better back. The other part is that while Edwards-Helaire has been decent at times, he has not shown consistency. Maintaining the status quo here is probably good for the Chiefs, as they just won a ring with this arrangement. At this price, there’s no harm in trying.
Grade: B+

April 10, 2024

Jaguars Extend OLB Josh Allen:
Having a career year when your contract is about to expire always works wonders. Allen, a 2019 first-round pick, parlayed his 17.5-sack 2023 season into a franchise tag, which his now been replaced by a 5-year, $150M contract with $88M guaranteed. If that sounds like a lot of money, that’s because it is; Allen is now 3rd among all defensive players in terms of average annual value, with only Nick Bosa and Chris Jones making more. On the one hand, Allen is a quality edge rusher and a home-grown talent. Letting him leave an already poor defense would be foolish. On the other hand, he has historically been good for 7 to 10.5 sacks per season. Was 2023 a sign that he’s putting it all together or a fluke? The franchise tag exists to give teams time to make that determination. This contract has Allen out-earning players like TJ Watt, which feels wrong. Allen is very good and could remain great, but even in that scenario, the Jaguars are getting no bargain.
Grade: B-

Giants Re-Sign LB/S Isaiah Simmons:
Arizona has not had much luck drafting LB/S hybrids. They spent the #8 overall pick on Simmons in 2020, and he could never carve out a consistent role. He didn’t become a starter, and the Cardinals traded him to the Giants last year for a mere 2nd-round pick. NYG chose to play him more as a safety, which yielded decent results. The team wants to see more of Simmons, so they’re signing him to a 1-year, $2M contract with $1.425M guaranteed. There’s no reason not to give him a chance; the freak athleticism that got him drafted so highly is still around in its entirety. Utilizing him correctly has always been and will be the main challenge. At this low cost, new DC Shane Bowen gets his turn and turning that talent into production.
Grade: A-

April 7, 2024

Patriots Extend S Kyle Dugger:
It took a little while, but the transition-tagged Dugger has reached agreement on an extension with the Patriots. The terms are 4 years and $58M, with a maximum value of $66M and $32.5M guaranteed. When I gave the Pats a B for the transition tag, I had no idea how the safety market would devolve. With the information we know now, there’s no way I’d give a safety $14.5M per season unless he’s one of the top 3 in football (see my A grade for Antoine Winfield Jr). Dugger is an ascending player who is coming off his best season, but is he worth double any of the safeties who have signed in the past month? It was good for NE to bring him back, as he’s a great run defender who is trending toward above-average in the passing game. I would’ve preferred signing 2 (or even 3) of the other safeties we’ve discussed though, as the value is just not there with Dugger.
Grade: C-

April 6, 2024

Eagles Re-Sign CB Avonte Maddox:
Released a month ago for cap reasons, Maddox didn’t justify a $6.85M-salary. His play in the slot was plenty good, but he was often unavailable the last 2 years, playing just 13 games total. Bringing him back at a much lower price tag, $2M for 1 year with $875K guaranteed, is a lot more palatable. I’ll put aside the likely dead cap charge for the initial release and say that at this cost, there’s plenty of upside with Maddox. He earned his original extension because of his good coverage and run support. A player like him without an injury history would easily triple this salary, so it’s hard not to like the value for Philly.
Grade: A

Chiefs Sign QB Carson Wentz:
Does Wentz look like a much more mature player to you? Maybe it’s the Sean McVay effect, as this also happened to Baker Mayfield, but spending time with the Rams seems to have elevated Wentz from a mental perspective. He’s heading to another great QB tutor in Andy Reid, signing a 1-year, $3.325M contract with $2.2M guaranteed with the Chiefs to back up Patrick Mahomes (on Nick Foles’ recommendation). Is this an upgrade for KC? Uhh, yes; they had Blaine Gabbert before. On a contender, some say that the second-most important position is the backup QB, and Wentz should be able to hold down the fort if something were to happen to Mahomes.
Grade: A

April 5, 2024

Seahawks Sign WR/KR Laviska Shenault:
It’s hard to tell what to make of Shenault. A former 2nd-rounder of the Jaguars, he started off well with over 50 catches and 600 yards in each of his first 2 seasons. They gave up though and traded him to Carolina for peanuts in 2023. Shenault did next to nothing as a receiver for the Panthers but did return kicks decently. He’s now going to Seattle on a 1-year, $1.293M contract with $1.153M fully guaranteed. Among all the veteran minimum contracts we’ve seen, this is by far the largest guarantee. I expect Shenault to immediately become Seattle’s primary kick returner since DeeJay Dallas bolted for Arizona. Maybe there are plans to actually utilize him as a WR as well because he’ll likely be on the roster, though it wouldn’t be completely prohibitive to cut him.
Grade: B+

Chiefs Re-Sign DE Mike Danna:
Danna has drastically outperformed his 5th-round draft slot and won 2 Super Bowls along the way. It was surprising to see him remain a free agent for almost a month, but we have a proper ending: a reunion with the Chiefs. He agreed to a 3-year, $24M contract with $13M guaranteed. When I saw the $8M salary here, I immediately thought of DJ Wonnum, who signed for $7.25M annually. Like Wonnum, Danna was a day-3 pick in the 2020 draft who exceeded expectations before hitting free agency this offseason. Danna earned career-highs in tackles (50), PBUs (3), and sacks (6.5) in 2023, so he might continue to improve. Right now, I like the Wonnum deal better, but this is close. He’s also staying with his current team, increasing his odds of success.
Grade: A-

Browns Sign ST Justin Hardee:
Sources differ on whether Hardee’s true position is WR or CB, but given that he has played 0 snaps on offense or defense the past two years and a maximum of 8% in any season, I’m comfortable using the sole “ST” label. A Pro Bowler for the Jets in 2022, Hardee is leaving for Cleveland on a 1-year, $1.378M contract with $800K guaranteed. These cheap ST signings get better grades from me than the pricier ones because the returns are not much different in most cases. Getting a Pro Bowler for a near-minimum number certainly deserves to be lauded.
Grade: A

Panthers Extend DT Derrick Brown:
As with the WR market a few years ago, the DT market has erupted in the past year. A 4-year, $96M contract with $63.165M guaranteed would’ve seemed unthinkable for someone not named Aaron Donald, but now that’s only the 4th-highest annual average even with Donald retired! While he isn’t a major stat producer as a rusher, Brown has quietly improved in all facets each year since he became a first-round pick in 2020. Earning 103 tackles from the DT position, as he did in 2023, is insane. Normally, an interior lineman disrupts plays for others to finish off, but Brown is doing it all on his own. His low sack total of 2 doesn’t tell the whole story, as he earned 37 pressures despite an abnormally high double-team rate. To top it off, he has 21 career PBUs. I’d say he’s well worth this money, but once again, my grade for a contract this large can only go so high.
Grade: B+

April 4, 2024

Bills Sign OT La’el Collins:
It took long enough for someone to sign Collins. Yes, he has a dubious injury history, but he’s a good right tackle when he’s healthy. I assume Buffalo found this money from the Stefon Diggs trade, and Collins will be earning up to $6.25M on his 1-year agreement. He spent most of his career in Dallas, but by the metrics, his best year came in 2022 with the Bengals. However, Collins missed almost the entire 2023 season with torn ligaments in his knee. Now healthy, Collins can share time with Spencer Brown, be an elite swing tackle, or perhaps kick inside to guard. Whichever way this works out, Buffalo got a good player. A team with a bigger tackle need should’ve signed Collins, but you can never have too many quality linemen,
Grade: A

Texans Sign CB Myles Bryant:
Bill Belichick always did a great job developing DBs in New England, even if he wasn’t good at drafting them. As usual, Texans GM Nick Caserio’s Patriot roots made this signing of Bryant almost a foregone conclusion. This 1-year contract is worth $1.75M with $800K guaranteed. Originally a UDFA, Bryant steadily improved each year despite size limitations (he’s only 5’9″). Houston will have to play him in the slot or as a safety, but he is a willing tackler (77 in 2023) and has earned 1 INT each season. Bryant’s coverage skills have also improved, though bigger players will overpower him. As either a slot CB starter or a reserve, this is a plenty cheap price for a fundamentally sound cover man.
Grade: A-

Commanders Sign QB Jeff Driskel:
This signing is only notable because of how little the Commanders have at the QB position…for now. Driskel will be pushed to 3rd-stringer behind Marcus Mariota as soon as the #2 draft pick is spent. That’s reflected in this minimum 1-year, $1.25M contract with nothing guaranteed. It’s funny to me that Driskel has started a game in all but one of his 6 NFL seasons. A conspiracy theorist might wonder how everyone in front of him always goes down. As a practical matter, Driskel has good mobility and is sometimes safe with the football, so he’s a decent QB3. Washington just hopes he never plays outside of the preseason.
Grade: B

Steelers Sign DT Dean Lowry:
Lowry was used to being an every-game starter with Green Bay, but that changed last year in Minnesota. Unsurprisingly, his stats suffered, as he earned 0 sacks and just 14 tackles. Thus, it may be surprising to see that instead of the 1-year minimum, Lowry got a 2-year, $5M contract with $1.25M guaranteed. I believe the Steelers may be on to something. Lowry is only 29, and he’s a mere 2 years removed from a 5-sack season. He’s also good in run support. The more curious part of this to me is that the team already brought back Montravius Adams to play alongside Cam Heyward. This certainly makes more sense than the Adams deal, but I’m not sure what the Steelers’ plan is. I’ll let this move stand for itself though.
Grade: A-

Commanders Sign WR Olamide Zaccheus:
Our second consecutive former Eagles WR who had no shot at contributing, Zaccheus has actually put up a couple of good pro seasons. Both of those were in Atlanta, where he topped 400 yards in both 2021 and 2022, and that was without a quality QB in the latter season. Washington thinks they can bring him back to where he was, and they’re signing him to a 1-year, $1.293M contract with $380K guaranteed to do it. Unlike Quez Watkins below, Zaccheus’ opportunities may remain limited. Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson should take the lion’s share, and Washington’s future rookie QB may not go through his progressions well enough to reach WR3. However, I approve of adding weapons to surround a rookie signal caller.
Grade: B+

Steelers Sign WR Quez Watkins:
This WR signing makes more sense than the Van Jefferson move. Mostly a deep threat, Watkins has seen his numbers decline from their peak in 2021, when he had 647 yards. The Eagles declined to bring him back, but he isn’t going far, signing a 1-year, $1.293M contract containing $167.5K guaranteed with the in-state Steelers. Watkins’ declining target share unsurprisingly coincided with AJ Brown’s arrival, so I think he’ll have more opportunities with Pittsburgh. He’s a one-trick pony who can compete for the WR3 role, and that’s perfectly fine at this price tag and low guarantee.
Grade: A-

Eagles Sign WR Parris Campbell:
Another maddening player with loads of potential, Campbell has not faced struggles because of his own actions. Injuries have been his problem, and they wiped out almost the entirety of his first 3 years in the NFL. He and his 4.31-s 40 time came to play in 2022, when he had 623 receiving yards and 3 TDs for the Colts. However, he was a nonfactor with the Giants in 2023, and so he’s going to their division rivals on a 1-year, $1.293M deal with $417.5K guaranteed. I liked Campbell a lot coming out of Ohio State, but it’s fair to question whether he’ll ever reach his potential. The signs say no, but I like a playoff team giving him a shot on a minimum deal. Philly is the sort of team that could benefit most from Campbell’s emergence, even though it may not occur.
Grade: B+

Buccaneers Sign OLB Randy Gregory:
Randy Gregory is an enigma. Originally a 2nd-round pick, he faced substance abuse issues that marred several seasons before finally delivering on some of his potential with Dallas. His 2023 season in Denver was quite forgettable, though he played a bit better after signing with the 49ers. He’s now joining Tampa on a 1-year, $3M contract worth up to $5M. Clearly, consistency is an issue, so a 1-year deal was the right decision. Gregory’s upside seems to be 6 sacks and some decent run support, which is probably worth the $5M he’d make if he played up to expectations. Betting on him to do that has been a mistake for several teams though, so I’m not completely optimistic.
Grade: B-

Ravens Re-Sign OLB Kyle Van Noy:
After being a starter for most of the past decade, Van Noy signed with Baltimore and played a rotational role. Despite playing less snaps, he set a career high with 9 sacks and still earned 2 forced fumbles, 9 TFLs, and 4 PBUs. Baltimore smartly brought him back on a 2-year, $9M contract with an additional $1M in incentives per season. Van Noy’s role may grow with Jadeveon Clowney moving on, and even at 32, he can handle it. Someone this good in all three phases of the game deserves more per season, especially when he produces everywhere he goes.
Grade: A

Eagles Extend LT Jordan Mailata:
Nobody has allocated more dollars to their line this offseason than the Eagles, and why not when you have one of the best in the business? This time, they’re taking care of their left tackle with a 3-year, $66M extension that includes $48M guaranteed. There’s actually not too much to say about this. Mailata came over from Australia and morphed from a 7th-round pick to a standout tackle. This compensation is 4th in terms of annual value, and I definitely consider him a top-10 LT. Grades for non-bargain signings are capped, but keeping Mailata was always going to be smart…and costly.
Grade: B+

April 3, 2024

Texans Re-Sign DE Derek Barnett:
Barnett didn’t live up to first-round pick expectations with the Eagles even though he had 5+ sacks in 3 different seasons. In Houston last year, he wasn’t a starter, but he had 2.5 sacks in a timeshare. The Texans are re-signing him to a 1-year, $2M contract with $1M guaranteed. At that price, I understand the move. Barnett’s path to snaps is as murky as ever with Will Anderson and Danielle Hunter now manning the edges. Someone has to sub for them though, and I like that it’s a 27-year-old with fresh legs and a history of decent production. Another team could’ve offered him more, so this is a good value.
Grade: A-

Lions Re-Sign TE Brock Wright:
We actually knew the contract details for Wright a few days ago; we just didn’t know the team! The 49ers signed Wright to an offer sheet: $12M over 3 years with $6M guaranteed. It wasn’t a certainty that the Lions would match this offer, but they did in the end, thus retaining their RFA. In truth though, they probably shouldn’t have done so. Wright showed a little bit as a receiver in 2022, but he’s mostly a blocker who ceded any receptions to standout rookie Sam LaPorta last year. That type of TE doesn’t warrant $4M per season. San Francisco, where HC Kyle Shanahan demands blocking from his TEs, couldn’t even have justified that. Detroit, who has the league’s best offensive line and LaPorta, definitely can’t.
Grade: C-

Texans Re-Sign LB/ST Neville Hewitt:
Once upon a time, Hewitt was a tackling machine on defense who racked up 134 in one season with the Jets. The past few years in Houston, his defensive snaps have plummeted and he has taken his tackling ways to special teams. He finished 2023 as the ST tackle leader for the season, standing out as one of the best special teamers in the league. Houston is bringing him back on a 1-year, $2.3M contract with $1.95M guaranteed. I don’t love meaningful contracts for players who do nothing on offense or defense, and Hewitt played literally 0% of the defensive snaps last year (I considered removing “LB” from his position listing). However, he’s among the best at what he does, so I can’t complain too much.
Grade: B+

Colts Re-Sign S Julian Blackmon:
In normal offseason times, this is the kind of deal I’d give an instant A+ to. Blackmon did some of everything last year except rush the passer, earning 88 tackles, 4 INTs, and 8 PBUs. As a result, he’s re-signing on a 1-year deal worth up to $7.7M with $3.2M guaranteed. As I hinted at a few sentences ago, these are not normal times. Safeties are signing for dirt-cheap contracts, making this actually one of the higher ones in terms of annual value. Guys like Kamren Curl and Jordan Fuller got less per season, and they’re slightly better players. I still really like this contract and would love it even more if it had more years attached. It’s just not the extreme value you might have thought a month ago.
Grade: A-

April 2, 2024

Chiefs Sign WR?/RB?/KR? Louis Rees-Zammit:
You’ll notice my complete lack of knowledge about what position Rees-Zammit is going to play. In all likelihood, the Chiefs aren’t sure yet either, because this is a rugby player. A star on British rugby teams, he wanted to try his hand at football and took advantage of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program. His blazing speed and toughness got teams’ attention, and he wisely signed with the Super Bowl champs. The contract is interesting: $2.85M over 3 years with $250K guaranteed. Both the length and the guaranteed amount are unusual for players who have never dabbled in football, but we’ve essentially got a 1-year tryout with 2 years that benefit the Chiefs tacked on. The league’s new kickoff rules could make Rees-Zammit an immediate special teams contributor as a returner, and the team might try him in the gadget role that Mecole Hardman never really made work. Whatever this is, it’s brilliant from a financial perspective because Europeans might flock to the Chiefs to watch their man.
Maybe he’ll be good at football too, so it’s worth a shot to find out. I told you these later signings tend to do better!
Grade: A+

Eagles Extend S Reed Blankenship:
Fresh off a Performance-Based Pay bonus of $923,059, the second-most of any player, Blankenship is getting a new contract. Like the Raheem Mostert deal last week, this one overwrites the last season of an existing contract and then tacks on one more year. Blankenship is signing a 2-year, $3.925M fully guaranteed contract, which is quite a nice development for the 2022 UDFA. A reserve in year one, he played substantial snaps in his second season due to injuries in Philly’s secondary. He played out of his mind, racking up 113 tackles, 11 PBUs and 3 INTs. A player like this deserves a lot more, but weird restricted free agency rules get in the way. The Eagles would’ve tendered him in 2025 as an RFA, so they avoided any bitterness by signing him at a rate that is slightly above the tender—and fully guaranteed. Keeping good players happy while saving a fortune always makes sense.
Grade: A+

Chargers Sign CB Kristian Fulton:
Fulton seemed like a solid pick for the Titans, but he just couldn’t stay healthy over a full season. 2021 in particular was a stellar year, and he had 14 PBUs and 2 INTs during that campaign. Coming off an 11-game season, Fulton is being forced to sign a 1-year “prove it” deal worth $3.125M with $2.445M guaranteed. The Chargers lost Michael Davis, but they needed CB help even before that. Their JC Jackson signing exploded, and Asante Samuel Jr is best in the slot. For a potentially excellent CB, even one who might miss a chunk of the season, this is a very low price. When I saw the terms, I expected somewhere in the realm of $6M, so this is great value. Value meeting a need is the definition of a good signing.
Grade: A+

March 29, 2024

Dolphins Extend RB Raheem Mostert:
We have another extension where the last year of the player’s current deal gets ripped up. Mostert will make up to $9.075M over the next two seasons. It’s rare to see a 31-year-old RB get a deal for more than one season. It’s also rare for a 31-year-old RB to lead the NFL with 18 rushing TDs (21 total TDs) and remain one of the league’s fastest players while racing for 4.8 yards per carry. Mostert will likely remain in a timeshare next year with Jeff Wilson and De’Von Achane returning, but he’s the leading man. He came to Miami from SF along with HC Mike McDaniel, and he has been as explosive as ever. Based on the current RB market, $4.5M/year is totally fine. If we’re rating his pay by TDs, it’s much more than fine.
Grade: A

Colts Re-Sign DT Taven Bryan:
Why are the Colts hoarding DTs? They already re-signed Grover Stewart and brought in Raekwon Davis this offseason, and now they’re re-signing Bryan to a 1-year, $2M contract with $1.125M guaranteed. While not a success as far as being a first-round pick, Bryan has been serviceable in run support and is typically good for around 2 sacks a year. That sort of production warrants $2M. But why with the Colts? None of these DTs projects well to a move to the edge, so there’s a lot of redundancy here. The deal is good, but I have to consider the player-team fit, and that is very suspect in this case.
Grade: C+

Panthers Sign S Nick Scott:
Current Panthers DC Ejiro Evero knows Scott from their time together with the Rams. He’s hoping he gets that version of Scott in their reunion, because he was a train wreck for the Bengals in 2023. His numbers fell across the board, and he was particularly bad in coverage. Carolina is only paying him $1.293M for 1 year with $737.5K guaranteed, but if they want to get even that much value out of Scott, they need to keep him in the box as a pseudo-LB. His missed tackle rate (6.6%) is very low, so his path to playing time will go through run defense. I would grade this deal better for that reason if not for the guaranteed money.
Grade: C

Jaguars Extend LB Foye Oluokun:
The Jaguars are making sure that the most productive tackler in the NFL goes nowhere. Oluokun had 1 year remaining on his deal, and that has been overwritten by this 4-year, $45M contract with $22.5M fully guaranteed and a maximum value of $48M. His 173 tackles in 2023 were somehow his fewest in the past 3 years, though not by much. He has other skills, including as a rusher (6.5 sacks since 2021) and in coverage (6 PBUs and an INT in 2023). This $11.25M average ranks 8th among off-ball LBs, which seems like good value. I don’t believe there are 7 better MLBs out there, and Azees Al-Shaair got $11.333M per year from the rival Texans. Oluokun is vastly superior, which makes this deal look very good.
Grade: A

March 28, 2024

Commanders Sign C/G Michael Deiter:
Given that the team already gave good money to Tyler Biadasz, I’m guessing that Deiter will either start at guard or be a backup. At $1.8 for 1 year with $320K guaranteed, either scenario is plausible. His career got off to a solid start in Miami before fizzling out. He joined the Texans last year and started 10 games with middling results. I think he’d be a pretty good option off the bench, especially at this cost. As we saw in the playoff game between Houston and Baltimore though, he’s a bit overmatched as a starter when facing good teams. I’m grading this contract as a reserve signing, so the Commanders still do well.
Grade: B

Browns Re-Sign S Rodney McLeod:
If it’s hard being a premier safety in this market, it’s brutal to be an older one. McLeod, 33, is signing a 1-year, $1.378M contract with $767.5K guaranteed to return to the Browns. He appeared in 10 games for the team and started 5, marking his first season since 2018 without at least 13 starts. Because of that, I’m going to refer to his 2022 numbers, which were some of the best of his career: 96 tackles, 2 INTs, and 8 PBUs. He showed that year with the Colts that he still has something to offer a team, and I don’t think much has changed since. This is just another super cheap signing of a good safety.
Grade: A

Bills Sign C Will Clapp:
This would certainly be a low-cost replacement for Mitch Morse if Clapp does end up being the starter. Clapp started 11 games for the Chargers last year after Corey Linsley went on IR, and now that Bradley Bozeman is a Bolt, the center carousel spins for Clapp, who is signing a 1-year, $1.293 contract with $287.5K guaranteed. Most likely a reserve as he’s been for most of his career, Clapp can play guard as well, making him more versatile. A better pass protector than run blocker, he’ll make Josh Allen happy when he’s running around in the backfield like a madman.
Grade: B+

Broncos Sign WR Josh Reynolds:
I didn’t anticipate a substantial contract for Reynolds with how long he remained unsigned. The former Lion is joining Denver on a 2-year deal worth up to $14M. Detroit fans may say “good riddance” after he had two critical drops in the 2023 NFC Championship game, but that would be unfair. Reynolds was a plenty good WR3 for the team and sometimes even a WR2. He had 40 grabs for 608 yards and 5 TDs last season, and Denver needs receivers behind Courtland Sutton and Marvin Mims. I question the $7M valuation for a WR3, but as far as WR3s go, Reynolds is a good one.
Grade: B

Giants Re-Sign WR Isaiah Hodgins:
Hodgins couldn’t crack Buffalo’s roster as a 6th-round pick, but the Giants signed him off the Bills’ practice squad in 2022. When all the other receiving options were injured or ineffective, Hodgins got playing time and showed flashes of potential. He has earned 581 yards and 7 TDs over his year and half in New York. He’ll get a third year, agreeing to a 1-year, $1.035M contract with $325K guaranteed. There’s limited upside to Hodgins but also a reasonable floor. He seems well-suited to the WR3 or slot role, though he offers nothing on special teams. Unless the Giants bring in some WRs, Hodgins is among the best they’ve got.
Grade: A-

Jets Re-Sign DT Solomon Thomas:
A former #3 overall pick of the Niners, Thomas followed Jets coach Robert Saleh over from SF in 2022 after a 1-year stop in Vegas. As a reserve last year on NY’s elite defensive line, Thomas had his best season, earning 5 sacks and 31 tackles. The Jets lost Quinton Jefferson, so they pivoted to bringing back Thomas, who is signing a 1-year, $3M contract with $2.49M guaranteed. Therein lies the issue though: why pick him over Jefferson? The latter has a much longer track record of success, and the money is basically the same. I actually like the deal; a DT with interior rushing abilities usually costs more than a run stuffer. That limits how much I’ll ding the Jets, but I still would’ve rather re-signed Jefferson.
Grade: B

Ravens Sign OT Josh Jones:
Somebody had to replace the recently traded Morgan Moses at RT, and Jones may get the first crack at the job. A classic swing tackle, Jones started 3 games for the Texans last year while appearing in 13. He’s joining the Ravens on a 1-year, $1.79M contract with $665K guaranteed. Jones’ versatility makes him a good fit here. I called him a swing tackle, but he does possess experience at guard, which Baltimore also needs. Whether as a starter or a backup, getting a decent tackle for under $2M is commendable. The Ravens have much work left to do on their line, but this is a good start.
Grade A

Bills Sign S Mike Edwards:
Edwards has won 2 Super Bowls in his 5 pro seasons: one with TB and one last year with the Chiefs. It’s no wonder a team like Buffalo that can’t get over the hump wants him around. He seems like a savvy veteran, but he’s only been in the league 5 years. The Bills are signing Edwards to a 1-year, $2.8M contract with $1.6M guaranteed. Normally, I’d call a deal like this a coup. In fact, it’s still a good price. However, this is not a normal safety market, and this is Buffalo. The team released Jordan Poyer, who is a better player, and he only got $2M. It seems like keeping Poyer was the wiser move even if Edwards is a viable starter, if only for the locker room. Assign this contract to another team, and you’ve got an A. For Buffalo, it’s not quite as good.
Grade: B+

March 27, 2024

Panthers Sign DE Jadeveon Clowney:
I guess Clowney is ending his pursuit of a ring. He didn’t get one last year with Baltimore, and he most certainly won’t be winning one in Carolina. The former #1 overall pick is back home in the Carolinas, where his NFL journey started. Needing a replacement for the traded Brian Burns, the Panthers are signing Clowney to a 2-year, $20M contract with a max value of $24M. Statistically speaking, Clowney is likely to have a poor 2024 season. Year-to-year consistency has always eluded him, and he’s coming off a great year (9.5 sacks, 43 tackles, 5 PBUs) with a great team. He struggles a bit without a talented group around him, and Carolina doesn’t have one. However, perhaps playing home will inspire him, and his upside is definitely worth $24M.
Grade: B

Rams Sign CB Tre’Davious White:
It has been a rough 2.5 years for the former All Pro. White tore his ACL, returned for a few games, and then tore his Achilles, which he is currently recovering from. When in peak form, White was an elite CB1 for Buffalo. At 29, it’s not too late for him to rediscover that form, which is why the Rams are taking a shot on him with a 1-year, $8.5M contract with a maximum value of $10M. The Bills couldn’t rely on him on an expensive contract any longer, but this deal carries little risk for the Rams. A new training staff might help White stay healthier, which could make him the game-changing CB the Rams have been missing since they traded Jalen Ramsey. A team with playoff aspirations and maybe more can take swings like this, and the payoff might be immense.
Grade: A

Broncos Sign OT Matt Peart:
At this point in the free agency cycle, we’re getting to a lot of veteran minimum contracts where only the guarantees (and base values determined by service time) differ. In Peart’s case, his 1-year, $1.293M contract comes with $367.5K guaranteed. The question for Denver is this: did they think that grabbing a player who couldn’t even start for the Giants’ offensive line makes them better? As Evan Neal struggled mightily, NY still refused to put Peart in, which pretty much says it all. I don’t know who’s going to start at QB for Denver in 2024, but he’s hoping the Broncos don’t put Peart in either.
Grade: D-

Browns Sign RB D’Onta Foreman:
Can someone explain to me why Foreman can’t stick with a team? He was good as a rookie, got hurt, and then produced for every team he’s been on since. Foreman earned 400 yards or more for Tennessee, Carolina (914 yards there), and Chicago in 3 consecutive seasons at a solid 4.2 yards per clip. Yet he’s moving on to a 4th team that’s offering him just a 1-year, $1.293M contract with $335K guaranteed. That’s thievery to the point that it’s criminal. For Cleveland, Kareem Hunt is moving on, and Nick Chubb is returning from a major knee injury. And they got Foreman as their plan C for the minimum? Unreal.
Grade: A+

Chargers Sign C Bradley Bozeman:
When you start 17 games for one of the worst lines in football, like Bozeman did in Carolina, it’s not often you get signed before training camp. However, the contract tells the tale: 1 year, $1.125M, and no guarantees. These deals that have $0 in guaranteed money tells you that the signed players are far from roster locks, as they can be cut without penalty. A heart issue caused starting C Corey Linsley to miss 14 games last year, so maybe this is just insurance. That said, this is an experienced player. If he can return to his Baltimore-level of play from 2021 at 29 years old, this contract will look really good in the fall.
Grade: B+

Commanders Re-Sign WR Jamison Crowder:
Can you tell the Commanders had a batch of contracts drop? Crowder, a former 4th-round pick of the Commanders who has since been with the Jets and Buffalo, is coming back for a 2nd straight year in Washington on a 1-year, $1.26M contract. I don’t know what happened to his receiving production; it has taken a nose dive since 2019, and he has barely been a factor the past 3 years. I haven’t seen an appreciably different player, so that’s a bit concerning. On the other hand, the Commanders retained their punt returner, which is nice. I like Crowder, but this may not have been the ideal spot to sign.
Grade: B-

Commanders Sign CB Michael Davis:
Our second consecutive Washington CB signing, Davis is coming over from the Chargers on a 1-year, $3.2M contract with $1.38M guaranteed. This is the better of the two moves. Davis had a down year in 2023, but who didn’t under Brandon Staley except Khalil Mack and Keenan Allen? In 2022, he allowed less than 50% of passes thrown his way to be completed and gave up just 2 TDs all year. At 28 years old, there’s plenty of time for Davis to bounce back, particularly with a coaching upgrade in Dan Quinn. He’s not an equal replacement for Kendall Fuller, but he’s a quality pickup nonetheless.
Grade: A-

Commanders Sign CB Noah Igbinoghene:
The Dolphins whiffed on this 2020 first-round pick and traded him to Dallas last year. At least Igbinoghene played special teams for them. He’ll now try to revive his career by following Dan Quinn to Washington on a 1-year, $1.292M deal with $200K guaranteed. I’m a little conflicted here. On the one hand, Igbinoghene was so unplayable that he couldn’t even top 40% of the snaps when his team had a multitude of CB injuries. On the other hand, he clearly has talent if he was drafted 30th overall, and who better than Quinn to try and unlock it? As the price is minimal, I’ll give the Commanders a shot with this flier.
Grade: B

Steelers Sign WR Van Jefferson:
Maybe it’s because his dad Shawn is a WR coach, but Jefferson seems to have more lives in the league than similar players. He had a great 2021 with the Rams (802 yards, 6 TDs) but fell off a cliff from there, and he did nothing last year for Atlanta (101 yards in 12 games). The Steelers, a receiver-needy team, handed him a 1-year, $1.293M contract with $167.5K guaranteed. That’s a very low number, but I still question the value here. His roster spot would be better off going to a young player with upside. Jefferson is at best a WR4 who struggles to get open.
Grade: C-

Rams Re-Sign LB Christian Rozeboom:
In his first year playing meaningful defensive snaps (49% of the total), Rozeboom put together a very solid campaign. He earned 79 tackles, an INT, and 4 PBUs. The Rams wanted him enough to fully guarantee his 1-year, $1.4M deal. I can’t say I blame them. Rozeboom has been in their system for 3 years now, and he fits as a spot starter, high-end reserve, and core special teamer. The money is minimal, but at just 26 years old, Rozeboom could still be getting better. Keeping homegrown talent at a low price is how good teams are built.
Grade: A

Buccaneers Sign CB Bryce Hall:
Nobody should have to confuse the two Br. Halls on the Jets anymore. RB Breece is staying, while CB Bryce is joining Tampa on a 1-year, $1.125M contract with $0 guaranteed. Honestly, I wouldn’t have cared if the entire sum were guaranteed. Hall’s snaps were limited as a result of being on a team with Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed, but I loved what I saw when he did play. He earned an INT, returned a fumble for a TD, and allowed just 50% of passes to be completed against him for 39.6 passer rating. With Carlton Davis gone, Hall may start for Tampa, and I think Buccaneers fans are going to be very pleasantly surprised.
Grade: A+

Ravens Re-Sign CB Arthur Maulet:
Joining the Ravens just last year, Maulet had one of his better seasons, earning 37 tackles, an INT, 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 sacks as the slot CB. The Ravens liked him enough that they signed him to a 2-year, $4M contract with $500K guaranteed to return. Maulet plays between 40% and 50% of the snaps each year on both defense and special teams, but one stat highlights what the Ravens saw: his completion percentage allowed as the nearest defender. That number sank to 55.1%, easily the best of his career. If that continues, the Ravens will be very happy. Even if not, this is still a cheap deal for a reserve/special teamer.
Grade: A

March 26, 2024

Bears Sign QB Brett Rypien:
And our streak ends at 3. If this signing weren’t so terrible, I’d hardly consider it notable enough to grade. The only good thing is the low cost: $1.125M for 1 year with nothing guaranteed. Caleb Williams should be joining the team once they make the first pick of the draft, so hopefully Rypien never sees the field. He has less upside than current second-stringer Tyson Bagent, but I could insert almost any name in for Bagent and have that statement be true. The Rams were so underwhelmed by his backup skills that they signed Carson Wentz midseason. Minimum signings rarely get F grades. You’re witnessing a special occasion.
Grade: F

Raiders Re-Sign DT Adam Butler:
Rarely a starter but good for 40-50% of his team’s snaps this year, Butler is more of a pocket pushing DT, though he’s no slouch against the run. He had 5 sacks last year for the Raiders and averages 3.67 per season. Butler also has an uncanny ability to swat passes at the line, earning 4 PBUs in 2023. For $1.8M with $1.1M guaranteed on a 1-year deal, you can’t do much better than this. His snaps may decrease with Christian Wilkins in the fold, but he’s still going to be a valuable part of the rotation. The contract would be good if he only played the run, but an interior pass rusher is even more coveted. Our A+ streak extends to 3!
Grade: A+

Packers Re-Sign LB Eric Wilson:
Wilson has been a starter in just 1 of his 7 NFL seasons. Based on that one 2020 season (122 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 INTs, 8 PBUs), that’s wild to me. He has mostly been a special teams contributor since then, but with Green Bay releasing De’Vondre Campbell, I wonder if that’s about to change. As the Packers are paying him just $1.378M for 1 year with $167.5K guaranteed to return, it doesn’t really matter how big a role he has. At best, he replaces Campbell for pennies on the dollar. At worst, he remains a core special teamer yet remaining a bargain. That’s an all-upside signing.
Grade: A+

49ers Sign CB Isaac Yiadom:
A member of 5 teams over his 6 pro seasons, Yiadom isn’t the lackluster journeyman you may envision. Despite starting just 8 games for the Saints in 2023 (while appearing in all 17), he had an absurd 14 PBUs to go along with 37 tackles and an INT. I can’t even call these numbers career outliers, as they’re in line with what he normally gets when he plays significant snaps. For SF, nabbing him on a 1-year, $1.9M contract with $1.375M guaranteed is incredible value. When members of the Niners’ secondary got hurt, the team suffered. In particular, Ambry Thomas was picked on relentlessly by opponents. That won’t be possible with Yiadom, who plugs one of the few holes on a Super Bowl contender.
Grade: A+

Cardinals Sign WR Chris Moore:
As a WR3 for Tennessee last year and Houston prior to that, Moore seemed to have a knack for coming up with splash plays. He’s a vertical threat who uses his size (6’1″) to wrangle in high throws. Arizona is signing him for 1-year and $2M with $750K guaranteed. Moore has earned over 400 yards receiving in each of the past 2 seasons, suggesting that he’ll produce with opportunities. The Cardinals conveniently also need a deep threat, having seen Marquise Brown walk and trading Rondale Moore. At 30 years old, Moore’s speed might not be special for much longer, but on a 1-year deal for a team in transition, that’s no issue.
Grade: A-

Chargers Sign LB/ST Troy Dye:
Mostly a special teamer during his 4 years in Minnesota, Dye is sorely needed for LAC’s coverage units. New HC Jim Harbaugh likely pushed for this 1-year, $1.79M contract with $665K guaranteed. The Chargers are good at kicking and returning punts but not a lot else on special teams. Dye will instantly bring some credibility to the unit at a low price tag. Most of these ST signings are fairly similar, so I’m inclined to give better grades to the cheaper ones. This is certainly a low-cost move, though I don’t anticipate many defensive snaps.
Grade: B+

Steelers Sign RB/KR Cordarrelle Patterson:
The day we get a new rule designed to force more kick returns, an elite returner gets signed. Patterson is coming over from Atlanta on a 2-year, $6M deal. A former first-round WR, Patterson actually found his most success on offense as an RB. His first year with the Falcons, he smashed his career high with 1166 scrimmage yards (618 rushing) and 11 total TDs. He has been phased out in favor of Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson, but his new team is likely more interested in his return skills. Patterson is a 4-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro as a KR, always a threat to take one to the house. At just $3M per season, he’s adding an entirely new element to the Steelers at a time when his skills truly matter again.
Grade: A+

Titans Extend CB L’Jarius Sneed:
Trade, then extend. That’s how it goes with big-time acquisitions, and Sneed is being locked in with a 4-year, $76.4M contract with $55M guaranteed. The price is a total of $400K more than the Bears paid Jaylon Johnson, and it’s the largest CB deal this offseason. With that said, Sneed is definitely worth it. He has been a shutdown corner who produced 5 INTs and 25 PBUs over the past two seasons while adding 186 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Sneed can do everything, and he’s only 26. I still am not fond of Tennessee’s strategy since they won’t be contenders for several years, but this is still fine because Sneed should remain great throughout the whole duration of this contract. Plus, it’s not overpriced at all, which is a pleasant surprise.
Grade: A-

Packers Sign K Greg Joseph:
Maybe Green Bay has buyers’ remorse about Anders Carlson. The 6th-round rookie missed 5 PATs (at inopportune times) and converted just 7 of 13 FGs from 40 yards or more. That likely led to this decision to sign Joseph to a 1-year deal worth up to $1.295M. Adding some competition is good, but is another inaccurate long-distance kicker who your division rival just let walk the right choice? Other veterans are available, and Joseph is essentially an older Carlson. In that case, I’d rather see if the young guy can improve before signing someone during training camp.
Grade: C-

49ers Sign LB De’Vondre Campbell:
Once simply a decent LB, Campbell joined the Packers in 2021 and exploded, becoming a first-team All Pro. The team rewarded him with a 5-year, $50M contract but cut him after just 2 seasons of that deal. Now, the 49ers are bringing him in on a 1-year, $5M agreement with $4.56M guaranteed. This is another contract with void years attached for cap purposes, and there are 4 of them. I don’t think Campbell’s play fell off much the past two seasons, though he was injured for a good chunk of 2023. His pass coverage abilities, as well as his tackling, make him a fantastic interim replacement for the injured Dre Greenlaw and an excellent reserve/3rd MLB when he returns.
Grade: A+

Bengals Sign OT Trent Brown:
I’ll assume that Brown will be playing RT with another Brown (Orlando Brown Jr; unrelated) locked in on the left side. Trent will be replacing Jonah Williams, which may be addition by subtraction. Brown is a gargantuan tackle at 6’8″ and 370 lbs. He has also dealt with numerous injuries, rarely playing a full season. When he’s on the field though, he’s well worth the 1-year, $4.75M contract with $2M guaranteed that the Bengals are giving him. He was one of the few bright spots for the 2023 Patriots, and he’ll be an upgrade on Williams. I still suggest adding another tackle due to Brown’s durability concerns, but Joe Burrow will be happy nonetheless (and hopefully upright as well).
Grade: A-

Titans Sign DT Sebastian Joseph-Day:
As I discussed in my grade for Austin Johnson, the Chargers had two large DTs known for their run defense (Joseph-Day was the other) yet could not stop opposing ground games. Tennessee seems to want him to do so for them, signing him to a 1-year, $4M contract with $3.575M guaranteed. I also mentioned in the other grade that I blame former LA HC Brandon Staley for most of the team’s failures. Joseph-Day has been a steady producer pretty much everywhere else, and he is usually good for 2 or 3 sacks per season as he’s a decent pocket pusher. That makes this a fair deal, and I think he’ll do better with a real head coach.
Grade: B+

March 25, 2024

Texans Sign DE Mario Edwards Jr:
Once a promising 2nd-round pick, Edwards never put up big numbers in the sack department and has thus bounced around the league. He was most recently with the Seahawks, where he had 2 sacks and 21 tackles. Houston is bringing him aboard on a 1-year deal worth $1.65M with $500K guaranteed. At 29, he should have plenty left in the tank. The question is how full that tank was to begin with. His role should be a rotational DE who keeps Will Anderson and Danielle Hunter fresh. It’s a very steep drop-off from those two though, so even though the contract is cheap, I’m not sure he helps the Texans all that much.
Grade: B-

Seahawks Sign DT Johnathan Hankins:
Nose tackle and safety might be the two deepest positions in this free agency class, and the Seahawks just signed one of each. This is the type of deal I expected most of these guys to get: $2.05M over 1 year with $300K guaranteed. The thing is, Hankins isn’t just a run stopper. Yes, he’s 320 lbs and excels in that role, but he also had 3 sacks for the Cowboys in 2023, albeit in a rotation alongside some elite players like Micah Parsons. Given Dallas’ run problems, one can argue that Hankins should’ve played more than 40% of the snaps. Seattle can slot him in next to Leonard Williams or use him as a sub, and this contract should be well worth it.
Grade: A

Seahawks Sign S K’Von Wallace:
Surprise, surprise: another cheap safety. For Seattle, first it was Rayshawn Jenkins, and now it’s Wallace. The pair of Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs has been officially replaced. Wallace is coming over from Tennessee on a 1-year, $1.5M deal with $205K guaranteed, but he actually played for 2 teams last season. He started with Arizona before he was inexplicably waived. Wallace had been playing fine and basically duplicated his numbers during the second half of the season with the Titans. Personally, I’d rather have Diggs. However, this is far cheaper, and for the price, it’s an excellent value.
Grade: A

Texans Sign DT Folorunso Fatukasi:
A bloated salary was a bigger reason for Fatukasi’s release from Jacksonville (on the poor guy’s birthday no less) than his play. Perhaps that bit of ill timing spurred his decision to remain in the AFC South, signing with the Texans on a 1-year, $5.125M contract with $4.625 guaranteed and 2 void years attached for cap purposes. Fatukasi is making a little more than half of his previous number, but it’s still a little too high for a pure run stuffer. He’s good at that role and really did well at it for the Jaguars, so I get why Houston would want him. But if a DT was their goal, why not just hold onto Maliek Collins, who could also rush the passer for a tiny bit more money? The signing itself is fair, but the overall plan is not great.
Grade: C+

Colts Re-Sign G Danny Pinter:
Pinter has been a valuable reserve for the Colts over the last 3 years, and they want him for a 4th, signing him to a 1-year, $1.223M contract with $500K guaranteed. He’s most notable to me for his play in 2022, when the team’s offensive line had an uncharacteristically poor stretch. Pinter was one of the only players who was an asset to the revolving door of QBs. Seven starts over 3 years isn’t a lot, but his 20% and 15% marks for snaps on offense and special teams over his career are not insignificant. Nowhere does attrition hurt worse than the offensive line. Signing a player who can step in seamlessly off the bench and who you know is good in your system is an easy move to make. Credit Indy for making it.
Grade: A+

March 23, 2024

Bills Sign DT Austin Johnson:
The Bills seem to be taking a committee approach to their DT-based run defense issues, and the next step is signing this former Charger. Johnson is signing a 1-year contract worth up to $4M. Once again, we’ve got a pure run-stuffing DT. He had 0 sacks last year but 46 tackles. My concern is that even with those tackles, the Chargers were a sieve in the run game. I can chalk some of that up to Brandon Staley’s awful coaching, but two monstrous nose tackles like Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day should’ve done more. Therefore, this slightly above-average salary looks a little worse, but it’s only a 1-year deal.
Grade: B-

Lions Sign G Kevin Zeitler:
We finally got the contract details on this one, and the money is lower than I thought. At 1 year for $6M, I can’t believe Baltimore didn’t bring Zeitler back, especially given their other offensive line losses. For Detroit, this is a seamless replacement for Jonah Jackson, who signed with the Rams. Zeitler is a bit older at 33, but he’s as good as ever, having just made the Pro Bowl. In fact, he could be an upgrade over Jackson at a much lower price. This signing insures that Detroit once again has 5 good starters on their line, keeping it the league’s best. You can’t do any better than that.
Grade: A+

Texans Sign CB CJ Henderson:
It’s not often you see a former top-10 pick joining his 3rd team heading into his 4th season without off-field concerns attached, but that’s the case for Henderson. He didn’t perform up to expectations with the Jaguars, who traded him to Carolina. Following a nondescript 2023, he’s back in the AFC South on 1 -year, $3.25M contract. Henderson definitely has talent, but putting it all together has been a struggle. I’d imagine this is his best chance to do so given that he’ll be the CB2 behind Derek Stingley and have DeMeco Ryans coaching him. Taking a chance on a player with top-10 ability, one who is only 25 by the way, is smart.
Grade: B+

March 22, 2024

Dolphins Re-Sign OL Isaiah Wynn:
After losing Robert Hunt to a ridiculous contract, re-signing Wynn became a priority. He started 7 games at guard for the team last year, but the same thing as usual stifled him: injuries. Originally a first-round pick at tackle, Wynn simply could not stay healthy with the Patriots, impacting his development and eventually his outlook. Until he can prove that he can play a full season, he’s going to have to keep signing prove-it deals like this 1-year, $1.885M pact with $1M guaranteed. Him remaining healthy is becoming a matter of “if”, not “when” though. I’m hoping this is more of a depth signing, as Miami can’t count on Wynn over the course of an entire campaign. If that’s the case, I’ll view this contract more favorably.
Grade: B

Jaguars Sign K Joey Slye:
I guess Brandon McManus and Slye swapped places, with the former Commander now heading to Jacksonville. Slye agreed to a 1-year, $1.293M contract with just $25K guaranteed. He has one of the biggest legs in the game, as evidenced by his career-long 61-yard FG this past season. However, he’s also among the least accurate kicker, converting just 79.2% of his FGs in 2023. Worse still, he has a career PAT percentage of just 88.5, so his extra points are far from automatic. It looks like Jacksonville just replaced McManus with an inferior version of him. I suspect he won’t win the starting job based on this minimal guarantee, so I’m not going to be as harsh with this grade as I would be had more of the deal been set in stone.
Grade: D+

Chargers Sign DT Poona Ford:
Ford barely saw any action on a deep Buffalo line last year, but he had been a major run stuffer in Seattle due to his 310-lb frame. Now, he’ll replace Sebastian Joseph-Day in that role for the Chargers on a 1-year, $1.79M deal with $665K guaranteed. Ford was good for a couple of sacks each year with the Seahawks, so he can push the pocket as well. This is a good deal for a pure run stopper. For a player that’s not merely one-dimensional, it’s even better. It’s like Ford is over the hill; he’s only 28. The days of running freely on the Chargers could soon be coming to an end.
Grade: A+

March 21, 2024

49ers Re-Sign WR Chris Conley:
Surprisingly, Conley had just 3 catches all of last year. He didn’t fall below 300 receiving yards in any of the prior 4 seasons. Simultaneously, his ST snap share more than tripled, and that’s where his value seems to lie for the Niners. In playoffs, he made some ridiculous plays in punt coverage, whether downing the ball or leveling returners. That helps explain his 1-year, $1.155M contract with $460K guaranteed that he’s getting to re-sign. With that guarantee, I’m guessing Conley will be a core special teamer next season. I’d prefer it if he got some WR snaps as well, but it’s still a pretty good deal.
Grade: B+

Chargers Sign TE Hayden Hurst:
I’ve had a hard time tracking down an answer to one question: is Carolina paying the bulk of Hurst’s salary? Based on the fact that his 1-year, $1.125M contract has no guaranteed money, I’m guessing that they are. After all, he had 2 years left on his deal with one of those seasons guaranteed when the Panthers cut him. Whatever the situation is, this is a steal for the Bolts. Hurst did nothing in Carolina, but who did in 2023? Go back to 2022, and you’ll see he had 52 catches for 414 yards with the Bengals. A legitimate QB like Justin Herbert can return him to those types of numbers, and given all the turnover among the Chargers’ pass catchers, Hurst’s role might end up bigger than expected.
Grade: A+

Saints Sign QB Nathan Peterman:
Please tell me Peterman is just a camp arm. His most notable stretch of play came earlier in his career with Buffalo, when he replaced a benched Tyrod Taylor only to throw 5 INTs in a half and cede the job right back. Since then, he’s been a completely pedestrian QB. In Chicago last year, he was considered a much worse option than UDFA rookie Tyson Bagent, who came from D-2 Shepherd. Peterman is only getting a 1-year, $1.293M contract with a paltry $87.5K guaranteed, so I can’t really fail this signing. But it’s close; just about any other QB would be an upgrade.
Grade: D-

Panthers Re-Sign PR Ihmir Smith-Marsette:
Smith-Marsette bounced around the league for 2 years before Carolina acquired him from the Chiefs before the 2023 season. He has done nothing of note as a receiver (183 career yards), so I’m listing him as a pure punt returner. His new 1-year, $1.41M deal with $395K guaranteed reflects this evaluation. In that role, Smith-Marsette had a bunch of middling returns but one 79-yard TD that remained one of the only such scores all season. That sort of speed means something at least, and on a roster as poor as Carolina’s, any high-end physical traits are worth keeping around.
Grade: B

Chargers Re-Sign QB Easton Stick:
With Justin Herbert’s tendency to play even when hurt, Stick has appeared in just 6 career games with 4 starts. Those 4 starts came last year, so we got a chance to see what his prior 3 seasons of development produced. In short: not much. Aside from one game against the Raiders where Stick put up garbage time numbers in a 63-21 loss, he threw 0 TDs and lost every start. He’s still young and came from an FCS school (ND State), so you might argue that he has upside. I really don’t think so. This 1-year, $2.668M contract with $1.415 guaranteed almost certainly stems from familiarity, but it’s a pointless signing. If Herbert gets injured, Stick will not keep the Chargers remotely competitive.
Grade: F

Vikings Sign DE Jonah Williams:
No, you’re not seeing double. There really were two free agents with the name Jonah Williams. This one is a DE from the Rams though, and he’s signing a 1-year, $1.5M contract with $350K guaranteed in Minnesota. The Vikings replaced Danielle Hunter with Jonathan Greenard, but they really didn’t have a replacement for DJ Wonnum until now. By that I mean a DE who is strong against the run and can set the edge. Williams had 49 tackles in 16 starts last year but only 2 sacks, so he definitely fits the bill. Edge players who stop the run are becoming more rare, so it’s nice that Minnesota didn’t have to overpay for one.
Grade: B+

Saints Sign WR Cedrick Wilson:
Woefully underutilized in Miami the past two seasons, Wilson developed into a high-end WR with Dallas and played well when given the chance with the Dolphins. He’s now going to the Saints on a 2-year, $5.75M contract with $2.85M guaranteed, where he can stake a claim to a possible WR2 job. Michael Thomas has been released, so the Saints really have nothing but Chris Olave and deep threat Rashid Shaheed to speak of. A reliable receiver with some vertical ability, Wilson gives New Orleans a veteran option with solid hands to help Derek QB Carr out in his second season with the team.
Grade: A

March 20, 2024

Bengals Re-Sign TE Tanner Hudson:
Surprisingly, the best TE on Cincinnati’s roster last year was Hudson. Granted, the other options were Irv Smith and Drew Sample, but still. We’re talking about someone who has played for 4 teams in 5 seasons. Hudson started producing in week 9, and he had good chemistry with backup QB Jake Browning, earning 352 receiving yards. I’m highly in favor of bringing him back, especially at the price of $1.125M for 1 year with just $165.7K guaranteed. Maybe his second half of 2023 is a sign of things to come. Even if it was just a flash in the pan, the Bengals are risking next to nothing to find out.
Grade: A

Browns Re-Sign P Corey Bojorquez:
I always preach re-signing your good specialists. The problem in this case is that Bojorquez is merely average. His net yards per punt are fine at 42.2, but he has a very high touchback percentage at 10.3%, which is 8th-highest in the league. That would be alright if he were booming most of his punts like Ryan Stonehouse, but he’s not. This new 2-year, $4M contract with $2.75M guaranteed is an overpay to me. It’s not terrible, but it is more than double a rookie’s salary. If I were the Browns, I’d have gone that route because “average” is not good enough to commit significant resources to.
Grade: C

Giants Sign WR/Returner Isaiah McKenzie:
Mostly known for his return skills, McKenzie could’ve been a mainstay in Denver if not for some fumbling issues. He’s shifty and quick, making people miss with ease. Those fumbles led to his departure, and he has been with a couple of teams since. McKenzie is now joining the Giants on a 1-year, $1.378M contract with $75K guaranteed. In 2022 with Buffalo, he had a career-high 423 receiving yards. That did not follow him to the Colts in 2023. However, with the poor state of NYG’s receiving corps, he might be able to contribute there from the slot. That would make this contract better than it appears at first glance.
Grade: B+

Rams Sign QB Jimmy Garoppolo:
Since we don’t know if/when Stetson Bennett will return, the Rams needed a better backup than Bryce Perkins. This will most certainly do. I’m not holding Garoppolo’s lone season with the Raiders against him; Josh McDaniels made a mess of everything. Sean McVay is the exact opposite: he makes QBs much better. Look at what he did with Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff. Garoppolo is coming into LA better than either of them did. He’s signing a 1-year, $4.5M contract with $7.5M more available in incentives, which he’ll only meet if Matthew Stafford gets badly hurt. Garoppolo instantly becomes one of the best backups in the NFL, and the Rams aren’t paying that sort of price tag for his services.
Grade: A+

Browns Sign LB Devin Bush:
Bush was supposed to be the next great Steelers linebacker. Instead, he’ll play Pittsburgh twice a year after coming over from Seattle. When a 2019 1st-round pick gets just a 1-year, $1.5M deal with $500K guaranteed, you know his career hasn’t gone well. He started just 3 games in 2023 but appeared in 13, making 37 tackles but earning 0 sacks or PBUs. That’s a far cry from the do-it-all LB he was projected to become. I don’t mind Cleveland kicking the tires here for some unseen upside; he’s only 25 years old. It just seems to me that the scouts missed on this one and Bush is a backup-caliber player.
Grade: B-

Eagles Sign C/G Matt Hennessy:
Is this the Jason Kelce replacement or merely depth? This one-year, $1.75M contract with $1.25M guaranteed suggests the latter, but perhaps that has more to do with Hennessy missing the entire 2023 season with an injured knee. He played pretty well with the Falcons, particularly in 2021, when he started all 17 games. The question becomes what to do with Cam Jurgens, who was a college center but switched to guard in the NFL. With Kelce retired, who plays where will be an interesting subplot. Either way, this is an extreme “buy low” proposition that could really pay off.
Grade: B+

March 19, 2024

Eagles Sign LB Oren Burks:
Burks has played a rotational rule for the 49ers the past two years, so his playing time has been limited. If that’s all there was to say, I wouldn’t grade this 1-year, $2.5M contract. However, he earned more opportunities in the playoffs once Dre Greenlaw got hurt, and he impressed me. Most apparent on tape was his athleticism, as he was flying everywhere. Burks covered surprisingly well for an LB while also making tackles on both sides of the field. At 28 years old, Burks may not have a ton of upside left, but his production might improve simply by playing more. I anticipate him carving out a role in Philly, especially on special teams.
Grade: A

Vikings Sign CB Shaquill Griffin:
Griffin has basically experienced two careers: one during his first 4 years with Seattle, and then another after that. Unfortunately, the second version of Griffin has been much worse. In fact, last year went so poorly that the Texans released him, and he ended up playing part of the season with Carolina. Vikings DC Brian Flores must see something in him to sign him to a 1-year contract worth up to $6M. Griffin has 1 INT in the last 3 years, and he hasn’t tackled well since his Seattle days. There’s a chance he turns things around, but that only feels likely as a Seahawk. I suppose Minnesota could do worse on a flier to help their perennially beleaguered secondary, but this is an overpay.
Grade: C+

Browns Sign DT Quinton Jefferson:
Reports say that the Jets had every chance to match this 1-year, $3.6M contract. They never got back to Jefferson, and that was really stupid. I can’t understand why Jefferson is joining his 5th team in 5 years. He’s productive wherever he goes. Nowhere was that more true than in New York, where he had 6 sacks (career high) and 34 tackles. Most DTs we’ve seen hit free agency are run stuffers because the good pass rushers are rarely let go by their teams. Jefferson is the rare exception, and slotting him alongside Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith on the Browns’ defensive line would be stellar.
Grade: A+

Jets Sign WR Mike Williams:
We knew from the start that Williams had to take a 1-year deal. He has suffered too many major injuries for any longer commitment. However, when he’s healthy, he’s a major threat. Williams has two 1000-yard seasons on his resume and got off to a blistering start in 2023 (249 yards in 3 games) before tearing his ACL. The Jets, desperate for a big-time WR opposite Garrett Wilson, are signing Williams to a 1-year, deal worth up to $15M. I’m a fan of this move. New York is obviously all-in on 2024, so any players who could get them over the hump are welcome. Williams will take attention away from Wilson with his downfield ability. He’s a big and fast WR who can go the distance on any play. Durability issues make this price tag a little high, but it’s well worth the risk for a team with their sights on the Lombardi trophy.
Grade: A-

Cardinals Sign C/G Evan Brown:
Centers who started 16 games the prior season usually aren’t available this late in free agency unless they were terrible, but Brown is not bad at all. His problem is that Nick Harris was just signed to replace him in Seattle, leaving him to take a 1-year, $2.35M contract with a max value of $2.9M in Arizona. Brown has plenty of versatility, with starts at both guard and center in his career. He also played fine the past 3 years, so this contract is a little on the low end. Arizona probably needs him at whatever position he ends up playing, making this a sneakily critical signing.
Grade: A+

Browns Extend WR Jerry Jeudy:
As always, when you trade for a player on an expiring deal, you need to extend him quickly or else the price might go up. In Jeudy’s case though, this price is already rather exorbitant. He’s signing a 3-year extension worth up to $58M with $41M fully guaranteed at signing. I don’t know the exact incentives, but $41M is a good starting point to talk about. Talent-wise, Jeudy is worth it. The Broncos thought enough of him to pick up his 5th-year option, and he is a former 1st-round WR out of Alabama. The problem is that he just hasn’t been consistent enough to justify this deal. Jeudy had 758 receiving yards and 2 TDs last year, and he has no 1000-yard seasons to his name. This deal could easily work out, but I’d have waited to see him in my system and find out how he produces before making this large of a commitment.
Grade: D+

Giants Sign TE Jack Stoll:
The Eagles took Saquon Barkley, so the G-Men took Jack Stoll. That’s fair right? No, I imagine Giants fans won’t feel that way. Stoll is a quality blocking TE (you may have spotted him during a few tush pushes). He gives you absolutely nothing in the receiving game, but that’s alright when he’s only getting a 1-year, $1.105M deal with $327.4K guaranteed. The better part of this move is that Stoll might have some intel about the Eagles’ offense. Stealing a player directly from a division rival is always nice, even if this signing is likely to be little but a footnote by season’s end.
Grade: B

Titans Re-Sign WR Nick Westbrook-Ikhine:
A consistent WR3, Westbrook-Ikhine earned approximately 400 receiving yards and 3 or 4 TDs in each of his past 3 seasons with Tennessee. That sort of production is worth the 1-year, $2M contract with $750K guaranteed that he’s signing to return. Just 26 years old, Westbrook-Ikhine might still be able to improve, and he has made his share of good catches already. He also comes with good YAC capabilities, making him a nice complement to Calvin Ridley and Treylon Burks. Now that the Titans are breaking in a young QB (Will Levis), Westbrook-Ikhine is someone to keep around.
Grade: A

Giants Sign CB/S Jalen Mills:
This is certainly a downgrade from Xavier McKinney, but not as much of one as you might think. Mills is listed as a CB, but he can easily shift to S as he has done so before. I’m expecting that to happen again given the Giants’ needs. A 1-year, $1.378M contract with $467.5K guaranteed is a low price tag for someone who contributed nicely over the past 3 seasons in New England’s secondary. His snaps dipped this past season, which likely led to him moving on, but he can play on either side of the defense or in the slot. Quality corners are not a dime a dozen, so the Giants should be commended for adding one on the cheap.
Grade: A+

Raiders Re-Sign DT John Jenkins:
Jenkins had an odd season. He made a career-high 61 tackles in his usual run stuffing role, but he also batted down 4 passes at the line of scrimmage and took a fumble for a memorable 41-yard TD. The big man showed some surprising athleticism, and it may have allowed him to continue with the Raiders. The team is signing him to a 1-year, $1.318M contract with $76,250 guaranteed, and that’s a bargain for someone who is clearly explosive. This won’t go on forever given that Jenkins is 34 years old, but I think we learned that he has something left in the tank. Bringing him back at this price is a no-brainer.
Grade: A

Cowboys Re-Sign RB Rico Dowdle:
Good news Cowboy fans: you signed an RB. Bad news: it’s not a new one. Dowdle is returning to the team on a 1-year, $1.255M contract with $200K guaranteed. He finally got a chance in 2023 with Ezekiel Elliott gone, taking 86 carries for 361 yards and 2 TDs. His opportunities should increase with Tony Pollard gone, but probably for a limited time. Dowdle is a fine 3rd back, but he’s not a premium starter. Look for the Cowboys to draft an RB in the middle rounds of the draft to pair with him and Deuce Vaughn.
Grade: B

Browns Sign QB Tyler Huntley:
The Browns signed a former Raven QB after all! It was just Tyler Huntley, not Joe Flacco. Huntley is a former Pro Bowler (seriously, this is a thing that happened), but he’s a very conservative passer who provides some running ability. His yards per attempt have never exceeded 5.9, showing that he takes check-downs but does not open up an offense at all. This 1-year, $1.08M veteran minimum contract feels about right. Huntley is going to be the 3rd stringer behind Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston, so you don’t want to pay much for that role. He’s definitely worthy of it though.
Grade: A-

Steelers Re-Sign ST/DB Miles Killebrew:
We’ve got ourselves another pure special teamer, but this might the best one to have signed so far. Killebrew is the reigning first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl special teamer who had 26 tackles and a blocked punt. Pittsburgh is re-signing him to a 2-year, $6.5M contract with $2.09M guaranteed. Curiously, his 10% snap proportion on defense is his highest in 6 years, so maybe a bigger role is planned for him. Assuming that’s not the case, this is a common contract value that players have been signing. When you’re really good at your role, the numbers look a little better. I still might not devote this amount to a non-specialist, but there’s no doubt that he’s one of the best in the business.
Grade: B+

Seahawks Sign LB Tyrel Dodson:
Buffalo started giving Dodson more playing time when Matt Milano was lost for the season, and he took full advantage. His athleticism really showed itself as he made 74 tackles and notched 2.5 sacks and 2 PBUs over 10 starts (17 appearances). Seattle is signing him to a 1-year, $4.2M contract with a weirdly specific max value of $5.51M. The Seahawks just smartly added Jerome Baker, and I think they’re making another great move here. The former UDFA has untapped potential and is a mere 25 years old. With Mike Macdonald’s coaching, Dodson could take another step forward and make this contract look fantastic.
Grade: A

Broncos Sign LB Cody Barton:
No, this is not a 1-to-1 replacement for Josey Jewell. The former Commander isn’t a bad option though. Barton is primarily a 2-down linebacker, but he played many third downs in 2023. He’s joining Denver on a 1-year, $3.5M contract with a max value of $4M. Barton has 3 INTs in the last two seasons, but his forte is playing close to the line of scrimmage. He earned 121 tackles last year, which was his 2nd straight season going over that mark. Denver still needs a coverage LB, but this is a fine price for a 2-down player if he’s really good at that role. Barton is just that, so Broncos fans should be pleased if not overwhelmed.
Grade: B+

Panthers Sign OT Yosh Nijman:
Nijman is a swing tackle who has 22 starts to his name with the Packers. His 2-year, $8M contract with $4M guaranteed a maximum value of $15M is being billed as a “depth signing”, but I question that for two reasons. 1. This line was so bad that other team’s backups could easily start. 2. Why would Nijman sign a contract with $7M in incentives if he didn’t expect to play enough to earn them? He had an up-and-down stretch with Green Bay, who benched him to finish 2023. Nijman is only 27 though, so he may be able to return to his prior form. At $4M per season, it’s worth a gamble for a team needing linemen.
Grade: B

49ers Sign QB Joshua Dobbs:
The Passtronaut is landing with the Niners. Minnesota’s folk hero turned scapegoat turnover machine is joining SF on a 1-year, $2.25M fully guaranteed deal with an additional $750K in incentives. San Francisco needed a new backup after Sam Darnold went to Minnesota, so it’s only fair that they’d poach a Viking to replace him. Darnold is a much more high-end player, but Dobbs proved last year that he could learn a system in an extreme hurry and execute an offense. He can even win a game or two if things go his way. If Brock Purdy goes down, Dobbs isn’t saving the team, but he’s a fine backup option in case of emergency.
Grade: B+

March 18, 2024

Saints Sign DE Chase Young:
The 2020 #2 overall pick has found a new home. Young, who made the Pro Bowl with Washington as a rookie but saw injuries derail his next two seasons, was traded in year 4 to the Niners, where he did next to nothing. Some blame injuries, others consider him overrated, and others still question his work ethic. Whatever it is, the guy had the talent to go 2nd overall, so somebody is going to want to try and extract it. This is a great spot for Young, who can learn from a vet like Cam Jordan, who we know is kind and willing to teach. What I don’t like is the contract: $13M fully guaranteed for 1 year. The length is risk-averse, but the value is not. Young has two seasons with 7.5 sacks each and two others that are duds. His run defense is also poor, so I wouldn’t have given him this kind of money unless more years got put on the deal. The term limits the damage that could be inflicted if things go south, but for a team with cap constraints, this was a questionable move. It’s great for Young, not NO.
Grade: C

Colts Re-Sign S/LB Ronnie Harrison:
Some of these signings were announced days ago but I had to wait on contract details to be announced. This is one such case, with Harrison returning to the Colts on a 1-year, $1.293M contract with $167.5K guaranteed. In his first year with Indianapolis, Harrison produced despite only being with the team for 7 games and having his position switched to LB. Most notably, he picked off 2 passes, which is where he shines (he has 7 career INTs). I don’t mind the Colts bringing him back to see if he sticks at his new position. Almost none of this deal is guaranteed, so it’s all upside.
Grade: A-

Vikings Sign K John Parker Romo:
We’ve got an XFL signing! Notably, that league has no PATs, so we can only judge him on field goals. He went 17/19 on FGs for the San Antonio Brahmas, including 2/3 from 50+ and a long of 57. That last stat is the one that has me curious. The Vikings’ current kicker, Greg Joseph, is weakest from long range (8/17 from 50+ over the last 2 years). However, this 1-year, $795K contract (with an RFA option for 2025 valued at $965K) including nothing guaranteed suggests that they aren’t just handing the job to Romo. In an open competition, I might pick Romo to win the job. The veteran usually has an advantage on a competitive team, but this one lost Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter. They might (wisely) start over with someone new, and this is ultra cheap.
Grade: A

49ers Re-Sign DT Kevin Givens:
One of the many rotational defensive lineman that the Niners seem to love bringing in, Givens appeared in all 17 games last year but only played 36% of the snaps. He had 22 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2023, but he’ll have a chance to increase those numbers on his new 1-year, $2.068M contract with $2M guaranteed (basically all of it). I suspect his snap share will remain similar with all of the coming and going on that defensive unit. With that in mind, $2M guaranteed is a bit much. Erase the guarantees, and I’m happier with the deal. It’s still not terrible, just a little shaky.
Grade: B-

Lions Re-Sign OT Dan Skipper:
Best known for the “reporting as eligible” debacle last season against Dallas, that’s not very fair to Skipper. While he isn’t necessarily starting-quality (though could be on some lines), he’s a valued swing tackle who can fill in on either side for the league’s best offensive line. His new contract, 1 year and $1.15M, is nothing for someone who appeared in 27 games over the past two seasons. Skipper is also versatile enough to play guard, which he did in 2022. Line depth is one of the most underrated aspects of roster construction, but the Lions get it. Their grade reflects that.
Grade: A+

49ers Re-Sign G Jon Feliciano:
Feliciano is an excellent reserve guard or spot starter, but I’m worried that Kyle Shanahan plans to start him regularly…again. The right side of the Niners’ line cost them the Super Bowl. It had no answers for Chris Jones or George Karlaftis and left QB Brock Purdy under pressure all game against the Chiefs. The contract Feliciano is signing, $2.75M for 1 year with $2.15M guaranteed, would be very good for most teams, as it’s really a backup-type deal. While his familiarity with Shanahan’s system matters, I (and Purdy) will feel much better about this if the team drafts a guard upgrade next month.
Grade: C+

Bills Extend CB Taron Johnson:
Kenny Moore held the title of “highest-paid nickelback” for less than a week. Johnson has now surpassed him, signing a 3-year, $31M extension. The reigning second-team All Pro at his position, Johnson very much earned his deal. He did a bit of everything, making 98 tackles, forcing 3 fumbles, and breaking up 8 passes. The only thing he doesn’t do often is intercept the ball, but his sticky coverage makes that forgivable. As you’re aware, I don’t give record contracts A grades, but this is a fair deal. Buffalo is signing an excellent 27-year old corner who should remain in his prime throughout the deal.
Grade: B+

Patriots Sign WR KJ Osborn:
The Patriots keep adding low-price weapons for their future QB, but I’m still waiting for them to bring in a star. Osborn played the WR3 role in Minnesota and was remarkably consistent at it, earning between 500 and 660 yards in each of the last 3 seasons. New England is bringing him in a 1-year, $4M contract with a max value of $6M. He’ll likely compete for the WR2 role in his new home, which he probably wanted. I think he can be decent as the 2nd option but not as good as he has been going against lesser corners. There’s no real downside to this one-year deal, but it’s easy to feel uninspired with how NE has rebuilt their WR room.
Grade: B-

Chargers Sign LB Denzel Perryman:
A smaller LB who throws his body around with reckless abandon, Perryman is changing teams again not because of his play but because of durability issues. He played in only 12 games for Houston last year, and that’s sadly his norm. That limited his market, and he’s signing a 1-year, $3M contract with the Chargers, the team that originally drafted him. Perryman played 6 years with the Bolts, but this is a new regime. Still, they should welcome his physicality in the run game, which the team has sorely lacked for years. At this price, it’s hard to dislike this signing given how many veterans the Chargers are dumping.
Grade: A-

March 17, 2024

Bills Sign LB Nicholas Morrow:
It took quite a while to get the terms on this deal, but both that lack of media interest and the low value of the deal, $1.5M for 1 year with $750K guaranteed, are quite undeserved. Tackles aren’t a supreme metric, but he did have 95 last year to go along with 3 sacks and 5 PBUs. The latter two figures are the impressive numbers, showing just how versatile Morrow is. The Bills lost Tyrel Dodson, so they went with this highly underrated former Eagle to fill the void. I honestly expect Morrow to start in this LB corps, which would make his deal one of the premier values of free agency.
Grade: A+

Lions Re-Sign WR Donovan Peoples-Jones:
Did something happen to Peoples-Jones? His production was trending upward each season, peaking in 2022 with 839 yards. Then, it cratered, even after Cleveland traded him to Detroit. Peoples-Jones earned just 155 receiving yards between both teams, basically becoming a nonfactor. He’s getting a 1-year, $2M contract to return to Detroit, and that cash sum doesn’t suggest a large role. It does, however, suggest some role, which is more than he had last year. Perhaps he’ll replace the currently unsigned Josh Reynolds as the WR3 behind Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jameson Williams. If not, I don’t know why the team signed him.
Grade: B-

Broncos Re-Sign TE Adam Trautman:
Sean Payton can’t quit Trautman. It feels like this is another of his pet projects, though nowhere as successful as Taysom Hill. Trautman has never earned more than 263 receiving yards in a season, so I sense that his value must lie in his blocking. While not a great blocker, he’s at least decent. Does that justify a 2-year, $7.5M contract with $5M guaranteed? To me, the answer is no, and it’s the guarantees that concern me. That’s simply more than I’d pay for a blocking TE, though not outrageously so.
Grade: C

Jaguars Re-Sign RB D’Ernest Johnson:
Why did the Jaguars re-sign Johnson with Travis Etienne and Tank Bigsby on the roster? Granted, I’ve liked Johnson since he was an Orlando Apollo in the AAF, and he did well when he got an opportunity and Cleveland. A 1-year, $1.275M contract with $225K guaranteed is next to nothing for a quality rotation back with little wear and tear on him. However, he barely got any work last season, and that feels likely to be the situation again unless one of the other two RBs gets hurt. You always want a large stable of backs to cycle in and out, but I wish Johnson could play for a team that would give him a good chunk of carries. The Jaguars’ gain here is to Johnson’s detriment.
Grade: B

Dolphins Re-Sign WR/Returner Braxton Berrios:
I consider Berrios underutilized in the slot, as he has good hands and route running. However, at up to $3M for 1 season, I don’t really care if he’s only used on special teams. Berrios returns both kicks and punts, and he’s good at both, making the All Pro team in 2021 and this site’s list in 2023. A good return makes life easier for your offense by flipping the field. Someone who can do that consistently like Berrios can is a real asset. His WR abilities make this deal even better, but Miami would have to use him more in that role to take advantage of his full skill set.
Grade: A

Seahawks Sign LB Jerome Baker:
It appears that Jordyn Brooks and Baker simply swapped places. Miami signed Brooks away from Seattle, so the Seahawks are returning the favor and signing the former Dolphin to a 1-year, $7M contract. Baker is coming off an injury that ended his season, but he’s expected to be fine, and when he’s fine, he’s good. He had 78 tackles, 2 INTs, and 1.5 sacks in 13 games last year, and he can do pretty much everything. His speed lets him cover well, but he’s explosive enough to blow up running lanes and rush the passer. A player of Baker’s caliber shouldn’t come this cheap, but the Seahawks will be glad that he did.
Grade: A+

Broncos Re-Sign K Wil Lutz:
Lutz seemed to agree to a 3-year deal to join the Jaguars early in the day, but nothing could be officially signed during the early negotiating window, as we saw with Eric Kendricks. Lutz appears to be the second player to change his mind, and he was convinced by HC Sean Payton to remain in Denver on a 2-year, $8.4M contract with $4.51M guaranteed. After a down year with the Saints in 2022, Lutz reunited with Sean Payton and returned to his normal level in 2023, with an FG percentage of 88.2. Assuming that the 2022 campaign was a mere blip, this is a fine contract. Lutz isn’t quite at the level of someone like Jake Elliott who signed earlier, but he’s a very good and reliable kicker.
Grade: B+

March 16, 2024

Jets Sign LT Tyron Smith:
The Jets have completely remade their offensive line, and not a moment too soon. If Aaron Rodgers didn’t tear his Achilles 4 snaps into his Jets debut, his blockers would’ve gotten him killed some other way. Two former Ravens have upgraded the right side of the line, and now NY has landed their biggest fish of all: former Cowboy Tyron Smith. He is signing a 1-year deal with a base value of $6.5M but incentives that can push the compensation all the way to $20M. Playing time incentives start at 38% of the season snaps, and those plus other incentives account for $13.5M of the contract. This is so good that even the Jets are surprised he took the offer. Smith is an incredible LT but has major trouble staying healthy. This deal mitigates all the risk. If he reaches every incentives, that would mean he played every game, and he’d be well worth $20M in that scenario. Otherwise, the Jets are paying only a portion of that amount, so they’re getting great value either way.
Grade: A+

Cardinals Re-Sign P Blake Gillikin:
In his first year with the Cardinals, Gillikin had a great season. His 50.6 yards per punt shattered his previous best with the Saints, and he had a superb 3.9% touchback rate. Arizona is bringing him back on a 2-year contract worth $3.7M with $1.2M guaranteed. That’s lower than almost any other punter’s deal thus far, and there’s no real reason for that. Gillikin is better than Jake Bailey and just as effective as Rigoberto Sanchez, so I have to consider this a value signing. I’d say a punter isn’t as important for a team that won’t sniff the playoffs, but he’ll actually be doing a lot more work than most!
Grade: A

Ravens Re-Sign QB Josh Johnson:
This has to be the first time Johnson has been with the same team for two consecutive seasons in over a decade. Famously the most well-traveled QB of all time, Johnson comes with plenty of experience, making him perfect for the backup role. Baltimore is giving him $1.153M guaranteed on his $1.378M, 1-year contract, so he’s a virtual lock to make the roster in some form. Though Tyler Huntley made a Pro Bowl for some unknown reason, he hasn’t been very effective. The veteran Johnson is much smoother running an offense and is a better option if Lamar Jackson gets hurt, but remember: he’s been on so many teams for a reason.
Grade: A-

Texans Re-Sign OT Charlie Heck:
Injuries ravaged Houston’s line last season and led to their demise against Baltimore in the divisional round. Increasing the depth in front of CJ Stroud was a priority of GM Nick Caserio, and that starts with retaining one of their own. Heck is re-signing on a 1-year deal worth a maximum of $3.5M. He has started 21 of 41 career games with the Texans and may be in line to start some more due to George Fant’s departure. Injuries limited his availability in 2023, but he has otherwise been a solid swing tackle. Versatility is key in your line reserves, so I’m a fan of this signing.
Grade: B+

Steelers Re-Sign DT Montravius Adams:
Another of our many nose tackles on the market, Adams is going back to Pittsburgh on a 2-year, $5.25M contract with $1.75M guaranteed. Though that price tag is low, I’m not sure why the Steelers sought to re-sign him. He offers pretty much nothing as an interior rusher (0 sacks since 2018), and he was part of a Steelers unit that got repeatedly gashed on the ground. The team isn’t spending a lot, and Adams knows the system, but I fail to see the benefits here. I imagine they could’ve replaced his 24 tackles with a player on a minimum contract.
Grade: C

Cowboys Re-Sign CB Jourdan Lewis:
The emergence of DaRon Bland has led to decreased starts for Lewis, but his snap count remained pretty steady at 73%. He has a knack for being around the ball, generating 5 PBUs, an INT, 3 forced fumbles, and 52 tackles last season. Lewis must’ve wanted to remain in Dallas, as he signed a 1-year, $2.83M contract. That’s an incredibly low number, so the Cowboys must be thrilled they got him back. Stephon Gilmore remains a free agent, so Lewis should still earn plenty of snaps, even when Trevon Diggs returns from injury. Someone this productive could’ve easily earned a 2-year, $14M deal instead, so I love this move.
Grade: A+

Eagles Sign LB Zack Baun:
Baun was considered a steal when he fell to the 3rd round of the 2020 draft, but the Saints learned that wasn’t true. He played in a lot of games but didn’t have a great impact. Baun’s most productive year came in 2023, when he had 30 tackles, an INT, and 2 sacks while playing 83% of the team’s ST snaps. That last nugget is what makes Philly signing him to a 1-year, $1.2M contract worth it. At age 27, we probably know what Baun is at this point, but this is an incredibly cheap price for a special teamer who can also provide some decent defensive snaps.
Grade: A

March 15, 2024

Packers Re-Sign RB AJ Dillon:
Coming off his worst year, Dillon wasn’t expected to re-sign with GB once they signed Josh Jacobs. It turns out the Packers had a rare cap mechanic up their sleeve. It’s called a “four-year qualifying contract” that doesn’t count $1.45M of a contract against the salary cap when the player has been in the league for 4 years, re-signs with his current team, and signs a 1-year deal worth no more than $1.45M above the veteran minimum. That led to this 1-year, $2.743M agreement. Dillon ran for 3.4 yards per carry last year, but he had prior success. He’s a bruiser who picks up the tough yards, so he’s useful to have around to spell Jacobs. I wouldn’t expect any big runs but 3 rather yards and a cloud of dust, as they say.
Grade: B

Buccaneers Sign G Ben Bredeson:
How to improve your offensive line: sign players away from the…Giants? No, that can’t be right. But Tampa did sign Bredeson to a 1-year deal worth up to $3.5M, so maybe they think it is. To be fair, Bredeson was one of the better NY linemen, but that’s not saying a whole lot. He started 16 games for NYG last year, but he might not do that in 2024. Bredeson is a run-of-the-mill guard who pass protects better than he run blocks. This is a reasonable deal for a depth signing like this.
Grade: B

Panthers Sign OLB K’Lavon Chaisson:
You know how I said a couple signings ago that the grades are getting better? Well that’s not a universal rule. Take this agreement: the Panthers signing Chaisson to a 1-year, $5M deal. A former first-round pick of the Jaguars, Chaisson could never break into the starting lineup and has just 5 career sacks. It seems as though he’s simply a bust, and there’s not a whole lot of upside. I like Carolina using a rebuilding year to test out players who could stick around for the long haul, but this probably isn’t it. Carolina needed rushers, and in my opinion, they still do.
Grade: C-

Cowboys Sign LB Eric Kendricks:
Here is one issue with the early negotiating window. Players aren’t actually signing anything, so they’re allowed to change their minds. This is rare, but it happened in this case. Originally agreeing to a deal with San Francisco, Kendricks ended up signing a 1-year, $3.5M contract with $2.5M guaranteed and $500K in incentives with the Cowboys. Yes, the former Charger is the first Dallas signing of any kind. He probably switched his choice because he was with Dallas’ new DC, Mike Zimmer, for multiple seasons. That familiarity tells me he’s going to fit well, and though his pass coverage has declined slightly with age, he’s still great in the box, as he proved with 117 tackles and 3.5 sacks last season. The Cowboys need run defense, and this is a start.
Grade: A

Dolphins Sign LB Anthony Walker:
You may have noticed that the grades are getting better. That usually happens during the later waves of free agencies, as the prices are lower and smart, patient teams are finding values. Here’s another. Walker has been a very good linebacker for the Browns, playing well against the run and pass. His contract, for 1-year and $1.378M with $917.5K guaranteed, is quite low for a player of his talent. The problem is that Walker can’t stay healthy. He hasn’t played a full season since 2020. That means this deal has plenty of upside but also considerable bust potential. There’s no risk due to the cost and duration, so Miami is making a good move by bringing Walker in. At worst, he can’t play, but at best, he can be a force.
Grade: A

Panthers Sign S Jordan Fuller:
Another day, another value safety signing. The Rams replaced Fuller with Kamren Curl, so the former had to go elsewhere. That somewhere is Carolina, where he himself will be replacing a departed safety in Jeremy Chinn. Fuller is a jack of all trades who is pretty good at all of them. He earned 94 tackles in run support, broke up 8 passes, and picked off 3 more in 2023. All it took to sign him was a 1-year deal worth up to $5.25M. I prefer longer-term deals for younger players on rebuilding teams (Fuller is only 25), but Fuller probably wanted to rebuild value in a down year for safety contracts, so I won’t hold that against the Panthers.
Grade: A+

Bengals Re-Sign WR Trenton Irwin:
The Velveeta kid is back in Cincinnati! I tease him, but he has actually developed steadily over his first 4 years in the league. He had 25 catches for 316 yards last year. Both of those numbers are career highs even though the Bengals drafted 2 WRs in the 2023 draft. Irwin is returning on a 1-year, $2M contract. Like Brandon Powell of the Vikings (discussed below), I think Irwin is a WR4 who could produce more in a WR3 role. Tyler Boyd remains unsigned, and Tee Higgins wants a trade, so those opportunities could come. This low signing price makes it a no-brainer to bring him back.
Grade: A+

Rams Sign S Kamren Curl:
I realize that there’s a glut of good safety talent, but these are really cheap deals. Curl is a high-quality starting safety who had 116 tackles and 5 PBUs last season. All it took to sign him was a 2-year contract worth up to $13M? I don’t know why the team didn’t re-sign Jordan Fuller (I’ll grade him shortly), but this is a more than adequate replacement. Curl brings veteran experience and good play to the Rams’ defense, which is more necessary than ever in the wake of Aaron Donald’s retirement. It seems as though safeties are the new running backs in terms of compensation.
Grade: A+

March 14, 2024

Chiefs Sign WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown:
Where did the Chiefs have this cap space? L’Jarius Sneed hasn’t been traded yet, but Brown is coming on a 1-year deal worth $11M. The former Raven and Cardinal replaces Marquez Valdes-Scantling as the deep threat, and he’s a definite upgrade. Brown is arguably a one-trick pony, and he only had 574 yards in 2023. However, he hasn’t played with a good quarterback, and now he’s going to the best one. Kansas City won a Super Bowl with basically nothing but Rashee Rice at receiver, and now they have a legitimate option beyond him and TE Travis Kelce. Who knows if Brown will suddenly deliver on his first-round promise? If he’s ever going to do so, this is the year.
Grade: A-

Vikings Sign WR Trent Sherfield:
A single good year in Miami has kept Sherfield’s career going. He earned 417 receiving yards with the Dolphins in 2022 before signing with Buffalo last season. While he’ll be remembered fondly by Bills fans for an amazing toe-dragging TD catch against the Fins in week 18, his season was like 3 of his 4 previous campaigns: under 100 yards total. Minnesota is now giving him a 1-year, $1.79M contract with $400K guaranteed. I presume the Vikings want him as a blocking receiver who can contribute on special teams. Even then, he may not make this roster over Brandon Powell. The guarantees here have me scratching my head.
Grade: C-

Dolphins Re-Sign RB Salvon Ahmed:
Can Miami save any speed for the rest of the league? This 1-year, $1.293M minimum contract is going to end up being irrelevant, which is a shame. Ahmed has produced in a change-of-pace role, but he’s RB4 at best on this Miami team. That’s not his fault; most average RBs would be behind Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and De’Von Achane on a depth chart. I’d like to have seen Ahmed join a team that could give him snaps and see what he can do. The familiarity here is nice, and Ahmed can always step in if an injury occurs, but there’s not much else beneficial about this signing.
Grade: C

Eagles Sign LB Devin White:
I was wondering what might happen with White. Selected #5 overall by Tampa in 2019, he was billed as a player who could do everything. I believe he has shown us that he really is capable of doing every possible LB role…just not all in one season. Consistency issues have plagued White. He had 9 sacks in 2020 but never topped 6 again. His 6 PBUs in 2023 were his personal best, but those came with a career-low 83 tackles. The Bucs had enough, but Philadelphia, whose linebacker play has been rather poor for a while now, needs his services. White will join the Eagles on a 1-year deal with a max value of $7.5M. This is a smart move by a contender. White is clearly talented, and he’s plenty young enough to figure things out. Shielded by Philly’s excellent defensive front, maybe he’ll think less and react more, because that’s when he really shines. There’s no risk to this one-year deal, and White has the ability to greatly outplay its value.
Grade: A+

Dolphins Re-Sign P Jake Bailey:
The Dolphins replaced Thomas Morstead with Bailey last season, and I thought they’d have buyers’ remorse. Bailey was not nearly as consistent, and he could only muster a 40.7 net punting average. Miami still wanted him back, giving him a 2-year, $4.2M contract with $2.225M guaranteed. This is probably my least-favorite punting signing so far. Bill Belichick, who prizes specialists, didn’t feel inclined to retain Bailey because he saw what I saw: a below-average punter. Think about this: Bailey is getting more of Stephen Ross’ money than Jordan Poyer is! No, that does not help the grade.
Grade: F

Vikings Re-Sign DE Jonathan Bullard:
One Viking defensive lineman is actually coming back! Bullard will play his 3rd season in Minnesota after signing a 1-year contract worth a maximum of $3.25M. He got his most extensive starting experience during his age-30 season, and it showed. Bullard set career highs in sacks (2) and tackles (44). Listed as a DE, he plays much more like an outside DT, mostly excelling at stopping the run with his 290-lb frame. This signing at least keeps a little continuity on the line, and it beefs up the run defense after pure pass rushers like Jonathan Greenard joined the team. I think DC Brian Flores will benefit from having him around.
Grade: A-

Commanders Re-Sign ST Jeremy Reaves:
This time I’m not even bothering to put “DB” or “S” in the heading. Reaves is a pure special teams guy, and a very good one at that. Washington is bringing him back on a 2-year, $6M contract with $2.625M guaranteed. $3M per season is on the high end for an exclusive special teamer, but Reaves was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All Pro in 2022. With Washington since 2018, you can basically call him their version of Matthew Slater. I still think this deal is a bit rich, but it’s alright for this particular team. These one-team fits have two different grading curves: one for their current team and one for everyone else. That boosts this grade.
Grade: B+

Dolphins Sign DL Neville Gallimore:
Our second consecutive nose tackle signing, Gallimore and Settle are extremely similar. The former is about 10 pounds lighter, and he plays a smaller snap share. Thus, his deal is also for less money, coming in at $1.79M fully guaranteed for 1 year. Any Dolphin fans who were expecting a splashy Christian Wilkins replacement are probably disappointed, but that was never in the cards. With Miami’s cap constraints, low-level fliers are going to be their best option until the draft. I’m curious to see what Gallimore can do with more snaps. He seemed to be mildly productive when he played, so this could be a sneaky signing.
Grade: B

Texans Sign DT Tim Settle:
Houston is trying to add more beef to their defensive front after trading Maliek Collins. Settle had one good year as a pass rusher, but that 2020 5-sack season is definitely an aberration. He is simply a big run stopper, so this 2-year, $7M contract makes sense for the former Bill. Somewhere between $3M and $4M per season appears to be the going rate for 2-down DTs, and we’re right in the middle here. Settle isn’t a high-end player but rather a rotational guy, so I wouldn’t have paid any more than this. The Texans are going to need a few players at this level to replace Collins.
Grade: B-

Bills Sign WR Curtis Samuel:
Did the Bills think they were signing Deebo Samuel? That could make sense I suppose given his recent number change. All kidding aside, Buffalo is actually signing Washington’s Curtis Samuel as their replacement for Gabe Davis. He’s coming aboard on a 3-year, $24M contract with $15M guaranteed and a maximum value of $30M. Samuel is a fine gadget player and may even be a viable WR2; he has four 600-yard seasons with subpar quarterback play. However, this isn’t a case of Buffalo buying low. This is above Samuel’s pay grade. Buffalo might be happy with what they get, but they didn’t need to pay this much.
Grade: C+

Texans Extend RB Joe Mixon:
When you trade for a player on an expiring contract, it’s wise to quickly come to an agreement on an extension. In this case, maybe that advice isn’t true. Mixon is actually getting a pay raise here, signing a 3-year, $27M extension with $13M guaranteed. The Bengals didn’t think he was worth $6.5M per year, but the Texans must think that $9M is his correct value. Mixon is a well-rounded back, but this deal takes him past his age-30 season, at which point he may not be the same back. Also, with this contract, why trade for Mixon? Had they let Cincy release him, nobody would’ve outbid Houston. Players like D’Andre Swift ($8M) and Aaron Jones ($7M) got less money person season, and they’re better players. This is all a bit odd to me.
Grade: D+

Panthers Sign DE DJ Wonnum:
What took so long for a team to sign Wonnum? In his 4 years with the Vikings, he started in two different seasons; he had exactly 8 sacks in each of those, including in 2023. Carolina, who just traded Brian Burns, need young talent to rebuild their roster. In giving Wonnum a 2-year, $14.5M contract, they’re acquiring just that: a young (26), talented player. As if his pass rushing skills weren’t enough to draw interest, he had a career-high 62 tackles last year, really improving his run defense. I think Wonnum is going to get even better as he earns consistent starts, even if he no longer has the benefit of Danielle Hunter on the other side of the defensive line. The Panthers somehow signed a plus edge rusher under $8M per season. Well done.
Grade: A+

Jaguars Sign DT Arik Armstead:
I expected Armstead to be signed very quickly once the 49ers officially released him. He found a new team in under 24 hours. Refusing to take a pay cut was a wise decision, as Jacksonville is handing him a 3-year, $51M contract. One of the better DTs to reach free agency this season, Armstead is good against the pass (5 sacks) and the run. Jacksonville needed help in both areas, and they used some of the money earmarked for Calvin Ridley to bring Armstead in. My lone concern is what happens when he’s not part of an elite line. Josh Allen is great, but the rest of the defensive front is not what Armstead is used to from his SF days. I suspect he’ll still be really good, but the contract is not a bargain. It is necessary though.
Grade: B
+

Vikings Sign DT Jerry Tillery:
Tillery was a complete bust of a 1st-round pick for the Chargers. He was supposed to be an explosive interior rusher, but after a 4.5-sack season in 2021 that showed promise, he did nothing in 2022 and basically forced his way out. The Raiders scooped him up, and he looked a little better. He showed enough hope that the team is bringing him back on 1 -year deal worth up to $3.75M. His biggest improvement has come as a run defender; he seems more willing to shed blocks than before. I might not have paid him this much money, but the base value is probably lower. If that’s the case, this is a fine depth signing.
Grade: B

Falcons Sign WR/Returner Ray-Ray McCloud:
As the Falcons just traded for Rondale Moore, I am even more convinced that McCloud is signing almost exclusively for special teams. That makes sense, as that’s the role he has played for the Niners the past two years. He’s not a bad receiver; he actually has two 200-yard seasons under his belt as a WR4. It’s just that you’re signing him to a 2-year, $6M deal for his return ability. Both a kick returner and a punt returner, McCloud is good at both roles but better in the punt game. Never a threat to take one to the house (0 career return TDs), he employs a conservative approach to maximize his returns and never put up any duds. That’s not everyone’s style, but I like it. He consistently improves his team’s field position, which is really what you’re looking for.
Grade: A-

Steelers Sign S DeShon Elliott:
Had Elliott received this 2-year, $6M contract after his 2022 season with the Lions, it would’ve been an easy A. As it stands, he’s coming off 2023 season with the Dolphins, where he wasn’t nearly as good. Playing as the 3rd safety, he was his usual self in run support (82 tackles) but struggled in coverage. Elliott has covered well in the past, so this could be a scheme issue. If in fact he is only going to be good in the run game, that still very much helps the Steelers, but this signing won’t feel like as much of a bargain. The upside is definitely worth $3M a year though, so it’s still a very solid deal.
Grade: B+

Lions Sign DT DJ Reader:
This is an example of a contract that seems large but then makes sense when you look at the team fit. Reader is not a stat compiler; he is a very large man (335 lbs) who clogs running lanes and bowls over interior linemen to generate pressure. He did that role very well over the last 2 seasons with Bengals, letting them employ their favorite 3-man front. However, he tore his quad late in the season, so a 2-year, $27.5M contract with over $9M guaranteed might feel too high. There are a couple of reasons it’s not. First, he tore his other quad once and came back just as good. Second, the Lions are desperate for run stoppers, and this is one of the best you can get. Lining Reader up next to Aidan Hutchinson is a tantalizing prospect, and it helps mitigate one of the few big weaknesses on Detroit’s roster. As a Super Bowl contender, the Lions should make these types of additions.
Grade: A

Dolphins Sign CB Kendall Fuller:
The best FA CB available (unless you count the tagged Jaylon Johnson), Fuller still took a while to sign. He has played really well over the last 4 years in Washington, earning 10 INTs over that span while also being a willing and able tackler. Miami is getting him at a relative bargain: $16.5M over 2 years. Xavien Howard has been injured and less effective recently, so the Dolphins cut him. Fuller, who is only 28 years old despite 8 pro seasons, should be an upgrade at this point in their respective careers. He also won’t have to be a CB1 anymore, with Jalen Ramsey in that role for the Dolphins. Miami’s secondary is suddenly amazing on paper, with Ramsey, Fuller, Jevon Holland, and Jordan Poyer as starters. Very nice unit for new DC Anthony Weaver.
Grade: A

Seahawks Sign OT George Fant:
We’ve got another reunion, as Fant started his career in Seattle. Now the Seahawks have two (unrelated) Fants (him and Noah). George has been in a couple other places since his 3 years in Seattle, most recently Houston. He actually played best with the Texans, manning the right side and doing a good job. Seattle is bringing him on a 2-year, $14M contract. Is there something we don’t know about Abraham Lucas’ health? The Seahawks wanted to go forward with their two young, promising tackles (Lucas and Charles Cross), but Lucas was injured much of last season. Bringing in Fant at $7M per season to be a backup seems odd. If he is supplanting Lucas because the latter can’t say healthy, I’d understand this much more, as Fant is worthy of this contract given his pass protection skills.
Grade: B-

Bears Sign LB Amen Ogbongbemiga:
Ogbongbemiga has appeared in 47 games with the Chargers but only started 2 of them. He actually did next to nothing in those games, with just 36 career tackles. If the Bears had signed him to a minimum deal with no guarantees, I wouldn’t bother grading it. However, they have him a 1-year, $2.1M contract with $1.1M guaranteed and a max value of $2.5M. I’m fine with the incentives, but $1.1M guaranteed for a player with 10 tackles in the last 2 years? Granted, he had 2 fumble recoveries because he plays a lot of special teams, but that seems more like luck than anything else. Perhaps he’ll surprise people with more playing time, but that’s not how you spend guaranteed dollars.
Grade: D

Bengals Sign S Vonn Bell:
Cincinnati really missed their safeties, Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, when they left for Atlanta and Carolina, respectively. The former is going nowhere, but Bell became available upon his release from the Panthers, and the Bengals pounced. He’s signing a 1-year, $6M fully guaranteed contract, but due to offsets, the Bengals are only paying the league minimum while Carolina pays the rest. He didn’t have his best year with the Panthers (he was affected by an injury) but was stellar in Cincinnati. I expect him to rebound nicely in his new (old) home, and you can’t get a better value than a minimum contract.
Grade: A+

Chiefs Re-Sign S Deon Bush:
Bush is definitely going to be a reserve next year with Justin Reid and Bryan Cook starting, but he’ll remain famous in KC for his game-changing INT of Lamar Jackson in this past AFC Championship game. He can probably already eat free for life in the city, but he’ll also be back on the team, signing a 1-year, $1.378M contract with $500K guaranteed. That guarantee tells me that he’s going to be a key depth piece and might see more playing time. He barely played at all in 2023, but he played a lot more in prior seasons and did fine. The defending champs know you can never have too much depth, and this is one such example.
Grade: B+

Seahawks Re-Sign CB Artie Burns:
This time, I’m only grading a deal to rant. Why do teams keep signing Burns? His main skill is an uncanny ability to get torched in coverage. The Steelers, to their regret, drafted him in the first round but got little return. He has been a Seahawk reserve the past two years, mostly getting picked on when he comes into the lineup. I really don’t care that this is a minimum 1-year, $1.08M contract. Only opposing QBs are going to celebrate. Seattle should make better use of their roster spots.
Grade: F

March 13, 2024 — NEW LEAGUE YEAR BEGINS AT 4 PM EDT

Bengals Sign DT Sheldon Rankins:
DJ Reader tore his quad, and the Bengals let him walk. Now, they’ve got Rankins to take his place. Coming over from Houston, he will earn $26M over 2 seasons. Rankins is a well-rounded DT, which makes sense for a former first-round pick. He earned 6 sacks while also making 37 tackles in the run game last season. An explosive player up the middle, he’ll slot in very nicely alongside Trey Hendrickson. DC Lou Anarumo’s defense is at its best when he can rush 3 and put 8 in coverage. Rankings gives him a chance to do just that, as the Bengals will no longer need to send fire blitzes. That’s a game-changer, even if it’s pricey.
Grade: A-

Cardinals Sign OT Jonah Williams:
Just like that, the A grade streak comes to an end. Williams was taken in the first round by the Bengals despite having short arms. They tried to make him fit at LT, but he was a turnstile. His play at right tackle was better, but Cincy wisely replaced him at LT with Orlando Brown Jr. Arizona wants to pair him with Paris Johnson at one of the tackle spots, and I hope Williams isn’t on the left side. Based on this 2-year, $30M contract with $19M guaranteed, they may be doing just that. This is a downgrade from DJ Humphries, who was released in a corresponding move. I’d feel better about this if Williams ends up on the right side, where he’s more natural. Putting him at LT would earn a very poor grade, so I’ll split the difference.
Grade: C

Colts Sign QB Joe Flacco:
Browns fans just can’t have nice things. They wanted Flacco back so badly after his heroic late-season run, but that would’ve been awkward for golden boy Deshaun Watson. Indianapolis, who lost Gardner Minshew to the Raiders, needed a new backup and thus handed Flacco a 1-year contract worth a maximum of $8.7M with $4.5M guaranteed. That’s not bad for Flacco, who was nearly out of the league, but it’s a steal for the Colts. Flacco showed that he has plenty left in the tank, and he was better than Watson last year. Should Anthony Richardson get hurt again or burst, he’ll keep the Colts competitive. Four A’s in a row!
Grade: A+

Seahawks Sign S Rayshawn Jenkins:
Jenkins had a good couple of years with Jacksonville, and they downgraded with Darnell Savage. Seattle just released two safeties (Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs), and they’re trying to move in the opposite direction. They’re signing Jenkins to a 2-year, $12M deal. He totaled 5 INTs and 217 tackles over the past two seasons, so he’s playing at his peak. This is not an expensive contract for someone with his coverage capabilities, though I still would’ve retained Diggs. That isn’t part of this grade though; Seattle just gets credit for making a good signing.
Grade: A

Commanders Sign LB Bobby Wagner:
I didn’t see the Commanders in Wagner’s future, but maybe I should have. Wagner was with Dan Quinn in Seattle, as well as Ken Norton Jr, both of whom are now Washington coaches. They’re reuniting with Wagner on a 1-year, $8.5M contract that includes $6M guaranteed. Somehow, Wagner hasn’t lost a step at age 33. He’s still a field-covering force, setting a career-high with an insane 183 tackles, which led the league. Wagner may not be elite in coverage anymore, but he’s still good, and he’s stellar at everything else. Washington has their best linebacker in years, and their free agency class is looking great.
Grade: A+

Titans Re-Sign K Nick Folk:
The Titans sure got busy once the new league year officially started! This is their best move of the past three. Folk led the entire league with a 96.3 FG percentage. He doesn’t have the strongest leg (long FG=53 yards), but he didn’t miss a single kick under 50 yards. At age 39, he’s probably year to year now, and Tennessee if giving him a 1-year deal worth $3.755M with a maximum value of $4.13M. This is an excellent signing. I’d prefer to see Folk on a probable playoff team, but the Titans are getting a really good kicker at a more than fair price.
Grade: A+

Titans Sign WR Calvin Ridley:
Our first major shocker! We had heard that Ridley was waiting until 4 PM today to re-sign with Jacksonville so that they would only owe Atlanta a 3rd-round pick and not a 2nd-rounder. A few other sources thought he could sign with New England. There was no conditional pick drama after all, just classic “mystery team” happenings! The Jaguars’ division rival stole Ridley with a 4-year, $92M contract containing $50M fully guaranteed. That’s a good chunk of change for a player who missed a whole year due to personal issues and a gambling suspension. He had a good year in 2023, his one and only season with Jacksonville, earning 1016 receiving yards and 8 TDs. However, he did struggle a bit with drops. The connection here is that new Titans OC Nick Holz was in Jacksonville with Ridley, though how much that had to do with this signing remains to be seen. Tennessee badly needed a receiver (as shown by this huge deal), but there’s plenty of risk in this deal. Ridley is a great player, but his reliability is unproven.
Grade: B-

Titans Sign QB Mason Rudolph:
My how fortunes can change. Rudolph was nearly out of the league in 2022 but managed to make the Steelers’ roster as a 3rd-stringer this past year. The former 3rd-round pick didn’t show us much in his first few years, but he had a new chance in 2023. Kenny Pickett was hurt and struggling, while Mitchell Trubisky was terrible. Rudolph got a start and won, then won twice more, leading Pittsburgh to the playoffs. Cast aside for Russell Wilson, Rudolph is joining the Titans on a 1-year deal worth up to $3.62M. I’m not sure if the Rudolph we just saw was a mirage, but he’s certainly a better option than Malik Willis behind Will Levis. That alone is worth taking this chance, as no Titans fans want to see Willis again.
Grade: A-

Jets Re-Sign P Thomas Morstead:
He’s not on steroids, but Morstead did something. At age 37, his yards per punt (48.8) reached its highest level in over a decade. I tease, but he really did have an excellent year, downing a career-high 36 punts inside the 20. Believe me: with Zach Wilson at QB, Morstead got a LOT of work. The Jets are bringing him back on a 2-year contract worth a little more than $5M (I don’t have the exact figure but this is close enough). For a high-end punter, this is below average money. That’s all that needs to be said.
Grade: A

Panthers Sign CB Dane Jackson:
Having just traded Donte Jackson to the Steelers, Carolina needed a corner and brought Dane Jackson (no relation) in from Buffalo on a 2-year death worth up to $14.5M. A starter in 2022, Jackson put up some good tape, but his play declined considerably in 2023. Even though the Bills had a decimated secondary, Jackson played around half the snaps. Those snaps did not go well; when he was the nearest defender, he allowed a 109.6 passer rating and a 74.3% completion percentage. Yikes. Buffalo didn’t even try to re-sign him, so I don’t know why Carolina would pay him this much money. Oh, right; they’re the Panthers.
Grade: D-

Buccaneers Sign S Jordan Whitehead:
This is Tampa’s first external free agent signing! Sort of. Whitehead was a Buc from 2018-2021 after all. He was with the Jets the past two years and played really well. The Buccaneers are bringing him back on a 2-year, $9M contract with $1.5M available in incentives. Whitehead had 4 INTs last year, but that’s a little skewed by a ridiculous 3-INT game in week 1 versus Buffalo. A head-hunting SS, Whitehead had 97 tackles in 2023, which was a new career high. We also know that he can play in Tampa’s system based on his prior experience there. Therefore, this is a great value, and Tampa’s safety tandem of Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr will be among the league’s best.
Grade: A+

Raiders Sign TE Harrison Bryant:
Following a promising start to his career, Bryant found himself stuck in a crowded Browns TE room. He didn’t get to play too much with David Njoku and Austin Hooper around, especially since he’s a pure receiver and not a blocker. His worst season came in 2023, when he had just 81 yards on 13 receptions. Interestingly, he still had 3 TDs, a mark he has hit in 3 of his 4 pro seasons. The Raiders must view this as a sign that he’s a red zone threat, as they’re signing him to a 1-year, $3.25M contract with $750K in incentives. Michael Mayer, last year’s 2nd-round pick, is supposed to be the main TE and red zone weapon. Thus, he’ll be expected to replace Hooper, who just departed. Bryant has athletic upside, so this isn’t a bad gamble despite his lack of production.
Grade: B-

Broncos Re-Sign WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey:
Yes, I’m pretty much only grading this deal because I like the name. This is a 1-year, $1.125M contract, a minimum deal, for a WR4 or WR5. That said, I saw some flashes from Humphrey when injuries hit Denver’s roster. In particular, a 69-yard game in week 16 showed me that in addition to his 6’4″ frame, Humphrey has some surprising speed. Jerry Jeudy is out of the picture, so more snaps are available. Maybe Humphrey can build on his good game. The team isn’t paying much at all to find out.
Grade: B

Eagles Extend K Jake Elliott:
We’ve got big-time kicker news! Elliott is staying with the Eagles on a 4-year, $24M contract including $14.2M guaranteed, tying Justin Tucker for the highest kicker salary in NFL history. If anyone deserves that distinction, it’s Elliott. He was sensational last year, converting 93.7% of his FGs, including 7/8 from 50+ and a long of 61. High-pressure kicks didn’t faze him, and whenever the Eagles needed him to bail them out, he delivered. I won’t give you another soliloquy about why signing good kickers is so necessary. Just know that this is a top kicker being paid top kicker money, and I have zero problems with it.
Grade: A

Bills Sign WR Mack Hollins:
This is a slightly underwhelming replacement for Gabe Davis. Hollins had one strong year out of nowhere for the Raiders in 2022 (690 yards, 4 TDs) but has otherwise done little. That includes 2023 with the Falcons, where he had 251 yards and no scores. The biggest difference is that Hollins started in 2022 but hasn’t done so in any other season. The Bills are taking a flier on him with a 1-year, $3M contract. I think this is a reasonable roll of the dice, but Hollins is best suited for a WR3 role, as better CBs shut him down. The cost is minimal, but I expect this signing to be fairly irrelevant after the draft.
Grade: C+

Seahawks Sign C Nick Harris:
Harris appeared in 40 games for Cleveland, mostly as a reserve. Injuries gave him playing time, but a major injury wiped out his own 2022 season. That stifled his development, but he looked better in 2023, appearing in all 17 games. The Seahawks, who need interior linemen, are signing Harris to a 1-year, $2.51M contract with a maximum value of $3.26M. I consider this a low-risk signing with a chance at a massive payoff. Before the injury, I liked how Harris played. If he continues trending the way he was, he’ll be a starting center. At this price tag, Seattle hopes they found a diamond in the rough, but he needs a bit of time.
Grade: A-

Patriots Re-Sign LB Anfernee Jennings:
Incentive-based contracts seem to be New England’s style this year. Like Josh Uche, Jennings is returning to the team on a deal that is just $12M over 3 years but has a maximum value of $24M. That’s literally double the base contract. A former third-round pick, Jennings became a full-time starter last season, and he earned 66 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He has mostly been a run-stopping LB with some slight coverage work. I like the way they’re doing these deals: taking players they’ve developed slowly and signing them to team-friendly contracts with a chance to earn a lot more if they ball out. That’s a novel approach.
Grade: B+

Jets Sign DT Leki Fotu:
Foku has been a part-time starter for the Cardinals since 2020, and we know what he is at this point: a monstrous lane-clogging nose tackle. Clocking in at 330 lbs, he doesn’t pressure QBs much, but he does stuff running lanes due to his sheer size. The Jets, who struggled at times against the run last year, are giving Fotu $2.5M for 1 year to help with that. When I say that a player is a pure run stuffer, this is more of the type of deal I’m envisioning or even a little more. I think this is about right for him, as he’ll be asked to do less in NY. I’d be even higher on the deal if the team hadn’t just signed another DT (Javon Kinlaw).
Grade: B

Vikings Re-Sign WR Brandon Powell:
Stuck behind Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and KJ Osborn on the depth chart, Powell hasn’t had much of a chance to stand out. Minnesota still wanted him back, signing him to a 1-year, $2M contract. I wish he’d have gone to another team, as he still isn’t likely to receive good playing time. Based on his 2023 season, he deserves it. He only had 324 yards, but when Jefferson and other were injured, he really stepped up. That was done without Kirk Cousins, who had already torn his Achilles. Powell should at least be a WR3 somewhere, but the Vikings are fine having him return on such a bargain of a contract.
Grade: A+

Cardinals Sign RB/KR DeeJay Dallas:
This signing was only announced as an RB deal, but I have to believe special teams is playing a role. Dallas never had more than 200 rushing yards in a season with Seattle, but he did return kicks rather well. He got more punt returns last season and was good at that, too. Maybe that’s why Arizona is giving him a 3-year, $8.25M contract with $2.4M guaranteed and a maximum value of $10.5M. From an offensive perspective, this is terrible. Looking at it from a pure ST perspective, it’s actually decent. We’re talking about less than $3M per year and a player stolen from a rival. That makes this deal much better.
Grade: B

Patriots Sign TE Austin Hooper:
I’m sorry to say that I actually forgot about Hooper. He seemed on his way to stardom in Atlanta, but he did much worse at every other stop. Last season with the Raiders, he was completely invisible, with just 234 yards and 0 TDs. The Patriots think he’s an upgrade over Mike Gesicki, as they’re giving him a 1-year, $4.25M contract, which is more than Gesicki got with Cincinnati. One-year signings aren’t risky, and contracts under $5M are hard to hate. Still, I’m not a fan of this. At this point, Hooper is a generic TE, and he isn’t adding much in New England. I won’t go super low because of the cost, but it’s a fairly poor deal.
Grade: C-

Commanders Sign DE Clelin Ferrell:
Ferrell gets a bad rap for not panning out as a former #4 overall pick. That’s not his fault though; only the Raiders had him graded that highly. Always a bit limited for the NFL, he has started to carve out a bit of a role for himself as a rotational rusher. He got decent playing time last year for the 49ers and earned 3.5 sacks. Now, he’s joining the Commanders on a 1-year, $3.75M contract with $3.05M guaranteed. I suspect he won’t be starting in Washington either. The money and his level of play dictate that. For a reserve, this is a fine contract. Ferrell is decent in run support, so he can come in on any down. Adding depth is always good.
Grade: B

Jets Sign DT Javon Kinlaw:
I guess the 49ers’ release of Arik Armstead didn’t help Kinlaw stick around after all. He’s moving on to the Jets, signing a 1-year, $7.25 contract with $6.9M guaranteed (practically all of it). A former first-round pick, Kinlaw was never able to become a consistent starter. Injuries slowed him, and he played just 10 games from 2021-2022. There were flashes of potential last year though, as he earned 3.5 sacks in a rotational role. He won’t have to start for the Jets either, and he now gets to line up next to Quinnen Williams in a superior rotation. New York is getting plenty of upside here, and HC Robert Saleh knows him from their time with the Niners. I’d tamper my expectations though, and I’m not crazy about the guarantee.
Grade: B-

Patriots Sign OT Chukwuma Okorafor:
Okorafor played 6 seasons with the Steelers, and he had some good moments. Most recently, he was part of a poor line, and that dragged down his level of play. I think he’s an average starting RT or a very good reserve. The Patriots are paying him as such, with a 1-year, $4M contract containing $3.125M guaranteed. New England needs all sorts of offensive line help, as that unit was part of the problem that led to the team’s inability to score. Okorafor isn’t going to change that, but he is better than what they had. At this cheap price, it’s a good signing that provides a stopgap solution depending on what happens in the draft.
Grade: B+

Steelers Sign P Cameron Johnston:
Poor Cameron Johnston didn’t do anything to lose his job in Houston; Tommy Townsend simply became available to the Texans, and they pounced. Johnston actually had a good year, with a 43.7-yard net punting average. Pittsburgh is signing him to a 3-year, $9M contract, which ironically gives him the same average annual salary that Townsend got to replace him in Houston. This signing is actually better, as the Steelers aren’t replacing a good punter. Pressley Harvin III was arguably the league’s worst punter, so this is a massive upgrade. At just $3M per season, a playoff contender should always make this type of move.
Grade: A+

Eagles Sign DB Chauncy Gardner-Johnson:
Welcome back to Philly! Gardner-Johnson played for the Eagles in 2022 and had a good year before signing with Detroit. His 2023 campaign was a wash, as he missed most of the year with injury. This time around, he’s getting a much more substantial contract: 3 years and a maximum value of $33M. Gardner-Johnson has been hurt before; in fact, he has never played a full season. That makes me skeptical of this deal. He was a ball hawk with the Eagles, earning 6 INTs in his lone season there. I consider him a good player overall, though he always earns penalties for fighting with opponents. I just wouldn’t have committed this salary or 3 years until he proves he can stay healthy. This signing could work out, or Philadelphia could end up frustrated.
Grade: C

Saints Sign LB Willie Gay:
Don’t look now, but the Saints suddenly have a formidable LB group. They previously re-signed Demario Davis, and now they’re adding Gay from the Chiefs on a 1-year, $5M contract. His numbers took a bit of a hit last year, but he was still extremely valuable to the Super Bowl Champions, just apparently not quite as valuable as Drue Tranquill. Gay is best in run support, but he’s not bad in coverage and is faster than expected. He did well as a Lamar Jackson spy (along with Nick Bolton), suggesting that the NO can deploy him in multiple ways. I wish the contract were longer, as Gay as just 26, but that’s my only quibble.
Grade: A

Dolphins Sign S Jordan Poyer:
What???? The Dolphins signed Poyer for just $2M on a 1-year deal? Either he really wanted to stick it to Buffalo or the rest of the league got caught napping. After losing Brandon Jones early in free agency, the Fins needed a replacement to play alongside Jevon Holland. Now they’ve stolen one from a division rival, and I really mean “stolen” here because this deal is a joke. Poyer was as good as ever last year, producing an even 100 tackles while playing good coverage. Miami got an upgrade at 1/3 of the cost. Is 32 years old suddenly over the hill for a safety? If so, I wasn’t made aware of that, nor do I agree with it. This is the biggest bargain of the week, and I’m not sure it’s close.
Grade: A+

Texans Sign DE Danielle Hunter:
THIS is a viable replacement for Jonathan Greenard, who is actually just swapping places with Hunter on the Vikings. Hunter is coming with a premium price tag: 2 years and $49M with $48M guaranteed and a maximum value of $51M. I normally downgrade these large commitments, but Hunter is worth it. Returning to his home state, Hunter has been one of the steadiest producers in the league. He earned a career-high 16.5 sacks in 2023, which came after a 10.5-sack 2022 campaign. This type of signing fits a team with a QB on a rookie contract that wants to win now, and Houston qualifies. Hunter is also only 29 years old, so he’s not slowing down any time soon. He and Will Anderson will form a crazy-good edge rushing tandem.
Grade: A+

Colts Sign DT Raekwon Davis:
If it feels like the Colts already signed a large, run-stuffing DT who pushes the pocket, you’re not crazy. They did just re-sign Grover Stewart to fill that role. Now they’re doubling down, signing Davis to a 2-year, $14M contract with $7M guaranteed. Davis’ impact is tough to quantify because he doesn’t compile stats. His job is to make the other players around him better, which I think he did rather well with Miami. I don’t mind this type of contract even if the average salary is a little high, but the redundancy with Stewart is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Grade: B-

Bears Sign S Jonathan Owens:
Better known as Mr. Simone Biles, Owens signed with Green Bay last year on a minimum deal to be a reserve. Injuries in the backfield led to playing time, and he did surprisingly well. He had 84 tackles and a fumble return for a TD. That enabled him to increase his price, and he’s going to the Bears on a 2-year, $4.75M contract with $1M guaranteed. I really like this. The Bears have dramatically improved their front seven, but aside from Jaylon Johnson, the secondary is wide open. Owens has played well in the past 2 seasons, i.e., his only seasons with real opportunities. This contract suggests he’ll get a chance to contribute earlier in the season in 2024, and I expect him to outperform his deal.
Grade: A

Buccaneers Re-Sign LB Lavonte David:
Tampa is determined to have David play his entire career with them, and love it. What freaks me out about David is that despite being 34 years old, you can argue that he’s playing better than ever. He still flies around the field in coverage and against the run; he earned 134 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 5 PBUs, all of which were his highest totals in several years. To retain him, all the Bucs had to do was sign him to a 1-year, $9M contract with an additional $1M in incentives. David’s age and a hometown discount assuredly lead to such a bargain. He remains one of the best LBs in the NFL, but he understandably didn’t want to play anywhere else. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if his 13th season becomes equally great. Two A+ signings in a row!
Grade: A+

Panthers Sign LB Josey Jewell:
Finally! The Panthers made a decent signing! Jewell has become a stalwart defender with the Broncos, and based on the 3-year, $22.75M contract he’s signing with Carolina, I don’t know why they couldn’t/wouldn’t keep him. Jewell can really do it all; he had 108 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 PBUs in 2023. A true 3-down LB, his value gets diminished because he’s not a pass rusher, but it shouldn’t be this low. Not even close. Had the Panthers given Jewell one of the 3-year, $33M contracts that seem to be going around, I’d still have given them a good grade. At this price, Jewell is a huge steal. This almost makes up for letting Frankie Luvu walk (imagine if they had both!).
Grade: A+

Commanders Sign S Jeremy Chinn:
Chinn’s career got off to a really good start, as he earned 117 tackles and scored 2 defensive TDs. He has been on the decline in Carolina ever since, seeming to fall out of favor with DC Ejiro Evero. His playing time and production dropped each successive season, but his rookie contract is finally over. Washington is giving him a shot with a 1-year deal worth up to $5M. Chinn’s weakness is his coverage ability, as he acts more like an SS/LB hybrid. That didn’t fly in Carolina, but Dan Quinn can utilize him more effectively. He’s a very good athlete, and keeping him in the box to wreak havoc would be ideal. A less creative defense mind would have me giving this signing a poor grade, but I trust Quinn to properly deploy him.
Grade: B+

49ers Sign DT Jordan Elliott:
This wasn’t a very notable FA to me, but the contract, 2 years and $10M, convinced me to grade it. Elliott played the first 4 seasons of his career with the Browns, and I think he’s getting a bit too much credit here for his team’s success. He pushes the pocket a bit (2.5 sacks in 2023), but not enough to overcome his subpar run defense. This contract is definitely an overpay, but it’s not large enough for me to fail SF. That said, the Niners are making some curious decisions along the defensive line. Aside from bringing in Leonard Floyd, I haven’t liked their DL moves.
Grade: D+

Eagles Extend P Braden Mann:
Mann’s first season in Philadelphia was a stellar one, and he’s being extended as a result. He is signing a 2-year, $4.2M contract with $800K in incentives and $2.78M in guarantees. Mann shattered his career bests in several categories, including average punt (49.8), net yards per punt (43.8), and touchback percentage (2.3%). A deal this inexpensive suggests an average punter, but Mann was much better than average in 2023. The Eagles seem glad to keep him around, as they should.
Grade: A+

March 12, 2024

Eagles Sign WR DeVante Parker:
Parker had so much promise once upon a time; the former first-round pick of the Dolphins had 1202 yards and 9 TDs in 2019, showing glimpses of what he could become. Countless injuries have sapped some of his athleticism though, leading New England to release him this offseason after a career-worst season that included 0 TDs. The Eagles will now kick his tires; his deal looks like a 1-year, $4.69M fully guaranteed contract, but Philly is only on the hook for $1.2M due to offsets. Parker’s struggles last year can be partially chalked up to the Patriots’ overall offensive ineptitude. As the potential 3rd receiver in Philadelphia behind AJ Brown and Devonta Smith, Parker will have a chance to work against lesser corners. That alone should improve his production, and any contribution will make this minimum contract worth it. This is a flier that could really pay off.
Grade: A-

Panthers Sign DT A’Shawn Robinson:
I’m going out on a limb and saying that Robinson is signing with Carolina because of his time with DC Ejiro Evero as a Ram. Otherwise, this signing would be rather weird. Most recently a member of the Giants, Robinson is signing a 3-year, $22.5M contract. As I’ve said numerous times in the past couple of days, paying big money to pure run-stuffing DTs is unwise. At least Robinson is good at that role though; he notched 62 tackles last year while stuffing the interior. That makes this contract a bit better than a few of the other overpays, especially since Robinson will be good in Evero’s system.
Grade: C

Packers Re-Sign CB/Returner Keisean Nixon:
Coming in at #2 in my most recent returner rankings, Nixon is clearly a stellar kick returner. He led the league in KR yards in both 2022 and 2023. Green Bay is bringing him back on a 3-year, $18M contract with $1.2M in incentives. As good as Nixon is, that number would be very high for a pure returner. However, unlike some of the other return specialists whose deals I’ve graded, Nixon is actually involved in the Packers’ defense. He earned 80 tackles as a slot corner, and he broke up 6 passes. With more snaps, he might play even better, which would make this contract look exceptional. As it stands, it’s $6M for a 2-time first-team All-Pro returner with potential upside at CB. How can you not love this one?
Grade: A+

Patriots Re-Sign LB Josh Uche:
Uche has not started much for the Patriots, but the former second-round pick is a well-regarded player. Perhaps his role is going to grow, as his 1-year, $3M contract with $2.3M guaranteed also comes with $5M in incentives. One season in Uche’s career stands out: his 2022 campaign, when he earned 11.5 sacks as a role player. His other 3 seasons suggest that this was an outlier, but New England obviously wants to see if he can return to that form. Uche also wanted to return, and he should help new coach Jerod Mayo implementing his culture. If Uche excels, even the max value of $8M will be worth it. Otherwise, the Patriots are taking on no risk, so this deal is all upside.
Grade: A-

Colts Re-Sign CB Kenny Moore:
In yet another re-signing, the Colts have made Moore the highest-paid slot CB ever. The longtime Colt is signing a 3-year, $30M contract to return to the team. Strong in both coverage and run defense, Moore racked up 93 tackles last year, which is a very high number for a corner. He added 3 INTs, 2 of which were returned for CBs. In an otherwise questionable secondary, Moore is the standout. The team couldn’t afford to see him walk out the door, and I’m not sure his teammates would’ve allowed it either. Therefore, I’m in favor of this deal. $10M per season isn’t all that bad, and Moore is worthy of his new highest-paid status.
Grade: A-

Bears Sign TE Gerald Everett:
Chicago is continuing to add weapons in advance of Caleb Williams’ likely arrival. Everett has been a steady player for both LA teams, most recently the Chargers. He’s usually good for 400-500 yards and a few TDs per season. That continuity appealed to the Bears, who are signing Everett to a 2-year, $12M contract with $6.1M fully guaranteed and a maximum value of $14M. This would be a solid signing for many teams, but why are the Bears paying this sort of money to a second TE? Cole Kmet is already on the team, so Everett’s opportunities will be limited. I like the player, and the contract itself isn’t bad, but the team fit is a little questionable. As usual though, I’m giving extra points to a team providing options for an impending rookie QB.
Grade: B-

49ers Extend S/ST George Odum:
This is not the kind of deal you give to a special teamer. Odum has not played meaningful defensive snaps in his 2 seasons with the Niners, yet they’re giving him a 2-year deal worth up to $10M. Admittedly, Odum is very good at special teams; he was a first-team All Pro in 2020 with the Colts. However, at $5M per season, a player needs to provide something more. With Talanoa Hufanga returning from injury, I see even less of an opportunity for Odum to provide safety snaps. This is clearly a guy SF wants to have around, but I don’t think were in any sort of bidding war for his services, and he had a year left on his deal anyway.
Grade: D

Lions Sign CB Amik Robertson:
A four-year player who infrequently started for the Raiders, Robertson was miscast as an outside CB. At 5’9″, he belongs in the slot, which is where he produced his best tape. As it so happens, the Lions need a slot corner (or any corner really), so they’re signing him to a 2-year, $9.25M contract with $1.5M available in incentives. This is a fine depth move, and Robertson can probably even start some games. He’ll be more involved in subpackages, as he plays sticky coverage; he totaled 15 PBUs over the past 2 seasons. Robertson is also a willing tackler, with 50 of those in 2023. I think any decent CB is a good thing for Detroit, so even if this isn’t a splashy move, it helps the overall roster.
Grade: B+

Giants Sign QB Drew Lock:
None of the veteran players who went to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade are with the Seahawks anymore except Noah Fant. Lock is heading to NY to back up Daniel Jones on a 1-year, $5M contract with $4.95M guaranteed. So…all of it is basically guaranteed? That contractual quirk aside, Lock is a rather pedestrian QB. He hasn’t been able to take hold of a starting job in either Denver or Seattle, and his one shining moment is a comeback in relief of Geno Smith last season. This is an average backup QB who shouldn’t see the field as the Giants evaluate Jones. I think Tyrod Taylor was a better option, but this signing probably doesn’t matter in the context of the 2024 season.
Grade: B-

Steelers Sign LB Patrick Queen:
Queen had a slow start to his career, leading some to worry about his future. Roquan Smith’s arrival in Baltimore really changed things for him, and his last two years have been excellent. In 2023, he earned 133 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 6 PBUs en route to his first Pro Bowl. Cap constraints led him to depart the Ravens, and he chose the archrival Steelers, signing a 3-year, $41M contract. Since Ryan Shazier had a career-ending injury, Pittsburgh has been looking for a sideline-to-sideline LB. Various patchwork solutions haven’t worked, but this move is likely to stick. Queen is a better player than he was 2 years ago; he doesn’t need Smith next to him to be effective. Add the fact that they’re stealing a valuable player from a hated for, and the Steelers can feel very smug about this signing.
Grade: A+

Browns Sign QB Jameis Winston:
I thought Cleveland might’ve waited out Joe Flacco and brought him back if he couldn’t find a starting job. That was my ideal scenario, but then I realized something: what would the fans do if Deshaun Watson played poorly with Flacco still on the roster? I think they might revolt. The team averted that scenario by signing Winston instead. He’s not as cheap, as he’ll cost $8.7M on a 1-year contract with a $4M base and $1.21M guaranteed. However, he’s a highly capable backup, as he showed with the Saints. Winston will always be an INT risk, as he’s a gunslinger at heart. Among the league’s current backups though, he’s one of the better options if you need to go win a game in a pinch. The deal is ironically better if he doesn’t play, as it becomes a lower-cost proposition. That would also mean that Watson is playing well and staying healthy, which Browns fans would adore.
Grade: A

Colts Re-Sign P Rigoberto Sanchez:
The Colts continue to re-sign their own. This time, they take care of their punter, bringing Sanchez back on a 3-year, $7.5M contract. Sanchez had been an approximately average punter over his time with Indy, but his 2023 season was different. He set a career high with 42.8 net yards per punt, and he had an unreal 0% touchback rate. That means when he tried corner kicks, he hit them without fail. Field position still matters greatly, even in today’s offense-driven NFL. Keeping your own specialists when you like them is a tenet of mine, and $2.5M per year is a good value.
Grade: A

Broncos Sign DT Malcolm Roach:
Roach has done well for himself since signing with the Saints as a UDFA in 2020. He is a massive nose tackle who earns no sacks but plays the run very well. Now, he’s following his former coach (Sean Payton) to Denver on a 2-year, $8M deal. I am not fond of large contracts for pure run stuffers, but as you can see, this is not a large contract. Furthermore, the Broncos’ biggest defensive weakness is their inability to stop the run. Roach plugs a large hole on the defensive front, which should balance the defense. He isn’t a future star or anything, but he’s a good signing who makes Denver better at the point of attack.
Grade: B+

Chiefs Sign TE Irv Smith Jr:
The defending champs have a new TE. I’m sort of kidding; although Smith is new to the team, I doubt he’ll have much of an impact. He’s signing for 1 year and $1.292M, i.e., the veteran minimum. Surprisingly, $384K is guaranteed. I don’t know what KC sees in him. Smith did nothing for the Bengals, with just 115 receiving yards. In fact, the former 2nd-round pick has never reached 400 yards in a season. He’s not even a stellar blocker. While this deal is as cheap as can be, it’s still a wasted roster spot, so I can’t give it a good grade. Blake Bell is still the better secondary TE in Kansas City.
Grade: D-

Ravens Sign RB Derrick Henry:
This is a move that the rest of the AFC feared. Henry, the best RB in Titans history, is moving on after 8 seasons. Baltimore is nabbing him with a 2-year, $16M contract that includes $9M fully guaranteed and a maximum value of $20M. The Ravens wanted him during the 2023 season but couldn’t reach a deal to trade for him. Now they get their man, who against all odds still looks as good as he always has. Henry’s production dripped in 2023, but he still finished with 1167 yards and 12 TDs. The main problem was a lack of a passing attack, allowing teams to stack boxes and focus on Henry. In Baltimore, teams will have to deal with Lamar Jackson’s running threat. That should create open lanes, which Henry hasn’t seen in years. Henry is also far more durable than the revolving cast of backs the Ravens have recently deployed. The league’s best rushing attack now looks downright unstoppable, and I would hate to be an opposing DC who has to plan for it.
Grade: A+

Dolphins Sign OLB Shaq Barrett:
As great as Barrett’s 3-year stretch from 2019 to 2021 was, he hasn’t been at quite that level since. He only had 7.5 sacks over the past two seasons combined. Part of that is defenses giving him more attention than they used to. His tape looks better than the stat sheet, and that’s probably why Miami gave him $9M on a 1-year contract. There’s still juice in the tank, and I think playing on a team with Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips will help him immensely. Those two players are coming off serious injuries though, which makes it even more important to have someone like Barrett on the team. He’ll hold down the fort until the others are back at full strength, at which point they’ll make a fearsome pass rushing attack.
Grade: B+

Falcons Sign WR Darnell Mooney:
I view Mooney much like Gabriel Davis: a deep threat who sometimes posts big games but often vanishes. In Mooney’s case though, he has the excuse that Justin Fields was his QB in Chicago. He earned 1055 yards in 2021, but he didn’t reach 500 yards in either of his two subsequent campaigns. Atlanta likes the potential enough to give Mooney a 3-year, $39M contract with $26M fully guaranteed. That’s quite a high price tag for a mere gamble on a skillset. Could Mooney produce much more with Kirk Cousins as his QB? Of course, and I expect him to be much better than he has been with Fields. I’m just not sold on $26M in guarantees for someone so unproven. This can work out, but it’s a needlessly risky deal.
Grade: C

Browns Sign RB Nyheim Hines:
Teams continue to pay Hines as an RB. The former Colt and Bill missed all of least year after tearing his ACL in a freak off-field accident, but before the injury, he was really struggling. He averaged just 1.4 yards per carry in 2022, so I’m guessing the Browns acquired him as a returner. During that otherwise dreadful 2022 season, he returned two kickoffs for TDs, leading the league. That puts his new 1-year, $3.5M contract in a better light. The Browns need help in the return game as Jakeem Grant suffered too many catastrophic injuries to be of service. From that perspective, the deal is much more reasonable, but expecting an equally explosive player coming off a torn ACL is a risk…just not a high risk at this price.
Grade: B-

Bengals Sign TE Mike Gesicki:
Gesicki didn’t have a good year with the Patriots, but honestly, who on that offense did find success? He had a pair of 700-yard seasons in Miami before Mike McDaniel came in with an offense that didn’t fit him. Now, he’ll look to bounce back on a 1-year, $3.25M contract with the Bengals. This is a team starved for a receiving weapon at TE. When Hayden Hurst left, that room was practically empty. Gesicki cannot block (it’s really not pretty, sort of like his Griddy), but he’s a big-bodied, athletic TE that essentially functions as a large WR. With the receiving situation in Cincy still in flux, adding weapons is a good idea. At such a low cost, it’s hard not to approve of this move.
Grade: A

Commanders Sign QB Marcus Mariota:
Signing a veteran QB in anticipation of drafting a rookie passer #2 overall in the draft is good. Signing Marcus Mariota to be that veteran is not good. He hasn’t been good or even viable in a while. Mariota flamed out with the Falcons and then nearly lost the backup job to 6th-round rookie Tanner McKee in Philly this past year. Yet the Commanders thought a 1-year, $6M with a maximum value of $10M was appropriate here. What purpose does Mariota serve here? He’s sloppy with the football, inaccurate, a downgrade from Sam Howell. Howell at least has nice upside; he should be the QB retained to compete with the incoming rookie. Mariota will be the 3rd-best QB on the roster shortly, and he’s being paid like a premium QB2.
Grade: F

Patriots Re-Sign WR Jalen Reagor:
If Reagor hadn’t been a first-round pick taken one slot ahead of Justin Jefferson, we wouldn’t be talking about him. His 1-year, $1.3M contract tells you what the league thinks of him. As a receiver, we can safely call Reagor a bust. He had just 138 yards in 11 games as part of a talent-starved receiving group. The reason we’re discussing him is that he showed us a little something as a kick returner, most notably on a 98-yard TD. New England loves special teams, and if Reagor can contribute there, his salary is so low that it would justify the deal. Nothing is guaranteed in this contract, so the Patriots are justified in taking a flier.
Grade: B

Bills Re-Sign DT DaQuan Jones:
I am fully aware of the value of run-stuffing nose tackles. Two years and $16M with $10.5M fully guaranteed and $2M in incentives is not that value. The Bills are much better against the run when Jones is on the field. However, he offers almost nothing in the passing game. Older DTs also tend to decline a bit, and Jones is 32, so he is probably no longer in his prime. The contract isn’t egregious at least, and we know that Jones meshes well with Sean McDermott’s scheme. $8M per season is just a steep price to pay when so many bargains were available.
Grade: C-

Rams Sign CB Darious Williams:
Williams spent the last two years in Jacksonville, but he won a Super Bowl with the Rams. The reunion will cost LA $22.5M over 3 years, with $7.5M available in incentives. He happens to be coming off his best pro season as the only member of the Jaguar secondary who had a good year. Williams earned 4 INTs (1 pick six), 2 forced fumbles, and 53 tackles. We already know he plays well for the Rams because we’ve seen it before. The contract is reasonable, and he’ll provide a veteran presence for a very young defense. Fit matters in free agency, and the two sides here fit like a glove.
Grade: A

Vikings Sign RB Aaron Jones:
Do you think Jones was mad at the Packers for releasing him yesterday and replacing him with Josh Jacobs? He signed a 1-year, $7M contract with the rival Vikings under 24 hours later. Minnesota is surely pleased about this. Despite his injury-plagued 2023 season, Jones still had over 800 yards from scrimmage. He’s a complete back who has never averaged less than 4.6 yards per carry, runs with great vision, and is an asset in the passing game. For the Vikings, he’s a gigantic upgrade over Alexander Mattison, who the team made the starter last season to poor effect. An extra motivated Jones is even scarier. On a cheap contract with no risk, this is one of the best signings of the week.
Grade: A+

Cardinals Sign DT Justin Jones:
Arizona is back spending big money on the front 7, but this is their worst signing on the bunch. He set a career high with 4.5 sacks as a member of the Bears in 2023, but that only became possible once Montez Sweat joined the team via trade. On his own, he’s a much more pedestrian defensive tackle. The Cardinals are giving him a 3-year, $30.1M contract, basically throwing cash at their poor run defense and hoping it gets fixed. Sure, Jones is an upgrade over what Arizona had, but they could’ve found an upgrade for half this cost. Good work by Jones’ agent, but less impressive for GM Monti Ossenfort.
Grade: D+

Vikings Sign QB Sam Darnold:
Forced to quickly pivot after losing Kirk Cousins, the Vikings quickly went out and signed Darnold to a 1-year, $10M deal with $8.7M guaranteed. We don’t know yet if Minnesota plans to draft a rookie QB, but regardless, this is a good plan B for Cousins. Darnold showed flashes but was sabotaged by typical Jets mismanagement. This past year, he backed up Brock Purdy in San Francisco and spent a season learning from Kyle Shanahan. When we saw Darnold on the field, he looked pretty good, suggesting that his new tutor was helping him. $10M is minimal starter money, and Darnold now has a chance to completely revive his career. I don’t think a better FA signal caller was available when Minnesota made this move aside from Joe Flacco, whose age doesn’t fit the Vikings’ plans. Whether he acts as a bridge to a rookie QB or starts the whole year, this was the best Minnesota could hope for after Cousins left them stranded, and they did well to make a swift decision.
Grade: A

Bills Re-Sign DE AJ Epenesa:
Doing nothing over his first two years, Epenesa looked like a certain 2nd-round bust. Then, while remaining in a limited rotational role, he posted back-to-back 6.5-sack seasons. That prompted Buffalo to re-sign him to a 2-year, $12M contract with a maximum value of $20M. The $8M in incentives are interesting, as they tell me that Buffalo isn’t fully sold on Epenesa yet. Neither am I. As part of a talented defensive line group, he did well. However, he has less surrounding talent now due to the Bills’ cap purge, and he was always a player with a lower ceiling. I’d say that this is a fair contract. It pays him an average rate for a part-time edge rusher who doesn’t contribute too much in the run game.
Grade: B

Commanders Sign G Nick Allegretti:
Allegretti played all 5 of his pro seasons in KC, mostly as a backup. He is best known for his most recent stretch: filling in for an injured Joe Thuney during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl run. His performance throughout the playoffs earned him a 3-year, $16.5M contract to finally start in Washington. This opportunity is long overdue. Allegretti played great in his short starting stint, and that came against playoff defenses. I think he’ll be a tremendous upgrade for the porous unit Washington calls an offensive line. Due to his relative lack of experience, he comes cheap, and that puts the “+” on a grade that was already an A.
Grade: A+

Jets Sign QB Tyrod Taylor:
The Jets finally got a real backup. Taylor gets to stay at MetLife; he just shifts over from the Giants’ side. I don’t need to tell you what the Jets endured with their backup QBs last season. The 2-year, $18M contract given to Taylor is simply the price for Jets fans to never have to see Zach Wilson or Trevor Siemian in green ever again. Taylor is a very reliable backup. His injury issues aren’t as meaningful if he’s not the starter, and the Giants were a notably more competitive team with him under center than with Tommy DeVito or even Daniel Jones. The Jets are in a much better place should Rodgers get hurt again, and that’s worth the price of this contract.
Grade: A

Titans Sign LB Kenneth Murray:
It was a reach when the Chargers drafted Murray in the first round a few years ago. They learned their lesson and declined to re-sign him. Tennessee is now the one reaching, signing him to a 2-year, $15.5M contract with a maximum value of $18M. A bit undersized, Murray earned a lot of tackles mostly because nobody else was doing much in LA’s off-ball LB corps. He was also burned repeatedly in coverage. We have to assume that he’s going to be a 2-down linebacker based on that last point. He’s young enough (25) to improve, but it’s telling that his original team gave up on him despite investing a first-round pick.
Grade: C-

Jets Sign G John Simpson:
The first order of business this offseason was always to protect Aaron Rodgers. It took a bit of time, but the Jets have finally signed a lineman. John Simpson comes over from Baltimore on a 2-year, $18M contract. I’m a little disappointed that NY didn’t go all in on an elite guard, but Simpson is more than serviceable. He played well on the Ravens’ strong line last season, and the Jets aren’t taking a big risk with this 2-year commitment. Aside from depth, NYJ should be set at guard now with Alijah Vera-Tucker returning from injury. Keeping Rodgers upright will determine the fate of the team’s entire season.
Grade: B+

Panthers Sign G Damien Lewis:
Never in my life have I seen a team spend so much money on other teams’ guards. After signing Miami’s Robert Hunt for $100M, the Panthers are adding Seattle’s Damien Lewis on a 4-year, $53M contract with $26.2M fully guaranteed. Once again, I love the intention here. Carolina is committing to not getting Bryce Young killed anymore, which is their most urgent need. I’m just in shock at how much they’re paying to do it. They brought this upon themselves by whiffing on so many linemen, forcing them to go shopping in bulk at high free agent prices. This is a better contract than the Hunt deal, though it’s still a high number. Lewis is an above-average guard, not a top-tier one. When you’re 2-14 though, you have to pay an inflated rate to get people to play for you.
Grade: C+

Seahawks Re-Sign TE Noah Fant:
Part of the Russell Wilson trade, Fant was basically Seattle’s only receiving option at TE last year. He has never quite lived up to his second-round promise (or the label of being an Iowa TE), but Seattle still re-signed for $21M over 2 years. Concerningly, his two worst years have been his pair of seasons in Seattle; he didn’t hit 500 yards in either of them. Even worse, he had 0 TDs for the first time in his career, so you can’t even call him a great red zone threat. I’m not sure what prompted the Seahawks to give Fant more than $10M per season, but it wasn’t logic and reason. Fant is best as a secondary option at TE, but he’ll likely disappoint if he remains Seattle’s TE1.
Grade: D

Jaguars Sign CB Ronald Darby:
Darby has bounced around quite a bit. It’s not because of his play, as he’s a pretty good nickelback. He just doesn’t play all that often. Last season with Baltimore was one of his healthier campaigns, but he normally misses multiple games each year. That fact limited him to a 2-year, $10M contract. If the Jaguars didn’t need so much secondary help, I might criticize this risky deal. However, they do in fact need a lot of pass defense assistance, and Darby can provide some if he remains uninjured. Like I said, he’s a quality slot CB. The contract isn’t terribly large, so I can live with it. The team just needs to hope that he actually plays.
Grade: B-

Commanders Sign K Brandon McManus:
The Commanders had to endure a roller coaster ride with K Joey Slye last season. Apparently, their response to that was to look over at Jacksonville and take their kicker, who had an equally shaky season. A previously (somewhat) reliable kicker with Denver, McManus struggled as a Jaguar, missing half of his 10 attempts beyond 50 yards. In spite of that, Washington is giving him a 1-year, $3.6M contract. This is a case where I’d rather go with a rookie kicker. McManus has a history of odd misses, and he’s not the same outside of Mile High. The contract isn’t for a lot of money, but it’s a decent amount by kicker standards. This wasn’t the kicker to give it to. McManus can bounce back, but he’s an 81.4% lifetime FG kicker. He’s not an elite weapon.
Grade: D

Bengals Sign RB Zack Moss:
The writing was on the wall for Joe Mixon when he was forced to take a pay cut before last season. Now, Mixon has been traded, and Zack Moss is coming from Indianapolis to take his place. He’s signing a 2-year, $8M contract with the Bengals. As I said about Devin Singletary, RBs improve when they leave the Bills. Moss filled in last year for an injured Jonathan Taylor and was excellent. He had plenty of burst and ran through contact, finishing with 794 yards and 5 TDs. Moss also caught the ball well and blocked adequately. He’s basically Mixon at a lower price tag, which is ideal for a team trying to sign all of its receivers to new contracts. The Bengals needed the cap space, and the bruising Moss will pair really well with the smaller Chase Brown.
Grade: A+

Patriots Sign LB Sione Takitaki:
Possessing a name that always reminds me of a certain DJ Snake song (make of that what you will), Takitaki isn’t nearly as exciting on the field. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. He was a reliable player for a stout Browns’ defense, earning 65 tackles and 2 sacks. New England wanted that production, so they signed him to a 2-year, $6.5M contract with a maximum value of $10M. This signing is fine, but it’s nothing special. Takitaki is an average starter, and this is a cheap contract. He’ll cycle in on the Patriots’ defense, but he won’t stand out. The value is fine, but there’s little to be excited about.
Grade: B-

Chargers Re-Sign S Alohi Gilman:
Having played 4 years for the Bolts, Gilman got better each season. In his first year as a starter in 2023, he played his best, earning 73 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 INTs. That led the new Chargers brain trust to keep him around, signing him to a new 2-year, $11M contract. Safeties aren’t being highly valued, so this is actually mid-tier money. I think it’s well-deserved. You want to reward home-grown talent, and Gilman has shown that he can continue to improve. If he gets even better, this contract will look amazing. Even if he has peaked, I think LA is retaining him at a strong value.
Grade: A

Texans Sign P Tommy Townsend:
This was all it took to get Townsend? Two years and $6M for an All-Pro punter? I know Matt Araiza is even cheaper and comes with the “Punt God” moniker, but I can’t believe KC didn’t keep Townsend at this price. Their loss is Houston’s gain. Cameron Johnston was a good punter, but he’s no Townsend. The latter is a real weapon, even though his 2022 season was better than his 2023 campaign. He comes with a track record of success and a Super Bowl pedigree. As Rich Eisen would say, punters are people too. Houston just isn’t paying Townsend enough to back up that saying. I think they’ll be alright with that.
Grade: A

49ers Sign DE Yetur Gross-Matos:
I had to double-check the stats here. Though Gross-Matos was a former 2nd-round pick by Carolina, I distinctly remembered him doing next to nothing for the Panthers. Upon review, I was right. He has 13 career sacks across 4 seasons, and he isn’t a special run defender. Thus, it’s baffling that SF would give him $9M per season on a 2-year, $18M contract. The Niners just signed Leonard Floyd to replace Chase Young, so at best Gross-Matos is looking at a rotational role. Based on his play, I’m not expecting a high snap count. This is way too much money and will cost San Francisco a better player due to the cap charge.
Grade: F

Dolphins Sign C Aaron Brewer:
Things were ugly when Connor Williams tore his ACL late in the season. The Dolphins were forced to play Liam Eichenberg at center, which led to numerous botched snaps. It was ugly. Let go by Tennessee, Brewer can bring some stability to the position. He’s also not expensive, signing a 3-year, $21M contract. Based on a few of the center deals we’ve seen, this is on the low end. There’s not much reason for that; Brewer played quite well for the Titans, and he’s probably a more consistent player than Williams. The latter is more natural as a guard anyway, so the Dolphins could upgrade 2 spots here if they re-sign Williams and slide him over. Regardless of those negotiations, Brewer is a great signing.
Grade: A+

Browns Sign LB Jordan Hicks:
These mid-level free agent signings are usually the ones that look best in hindsight. Hicks is one such player, coming over from Minnesota on a 2-year, $8M contract. The Browns just lost Anthony Walker, so they needed a replacement. They arguably got an upgrade. At the very least, Hicks is more durable, and he has earned 100+ tackles in each of the past 5 seasons. He’s also no slouch in pass coverage. Obtaining a 3-down LB for just $4M per season is ridiculous. It kind of makes you wonder what other teams around the league are doing, doesn’t it?
Grade: A+

Seahawks Re-Sign DT Leonard Williams:
If you trade for a player on an expiring contract at the trade deadline, you have to re-sign him. Otherwise, you risk looking very foolish. Seattle avoided that fate by bringing Williams back on a 3-year, $64.5M contract. Williams is literally a big presence on the defensive line. His sack totals ebb and flow, but his pressure rate remains pretty consistent, and he helps against the run. After earning just 1.5 sacks with NYG last season, he notched 4 in 10 games with the Seahawks. This contract is large, but it looks more reasonable in light of some recent DT deals. Williams is a high-impact player, and the money reflects it.
Grade: B+

Patriots Sign QB Jacoby Brissett:
Drafted as a 3rd-rounder by the Patriots, Brissett is back where it all started after a bit of a whirlwind tour around the league, most recently in Washington. He’s getting a 1-year contract worth $8M to be the bridge QB to whoever the team drafts with the 3rd pick in the draft. It’s a great move. He played well in spurts with the Commanders, and he’s familiar with the Patriots. Brissett can start until the rookie is ready or provide a good veteran presence to help him grow on the job. A low-end starter, Brissett is better in the high-end backup role, which is his likely spot on the Patriots. Anything that helps the new rookie QB is laudable.
Grade: A

Patriots Re-Sign G Mike Onwenu:
Not tagging Onwenu worked out for the Patriots after all! Their prized guard is staying home on a 3-year, $57M contract with $38M guaranteed. One of New England’s major problems (among many) last season was poor blocking. The only person who can’t be blamed for that is Onwenu. A highly durable starter, he also played well for the Patriots, particularly in the run game. More importantly, the QB the Pats draft at #3 overall will need to be protected. The team doesn’t want a Bryce Young situation. Bringing back Onwenu is a good start, even if it’s not a bargain. Now it’s time to fetch some tackles.
Grade: B+

Cardinals Sign CB Sean Murphy-Bunting:
The Cardinals didn’t overpay someone at long last. Murphy-Bunting is coming over from Tennessee to help one of the league’s worst secondaries. He’s a slot corner, but any position would’ve been welcomed. SMB is signing a 3-year contract worth $17.4M, but it has a maximum value of $25.5M. I imagine this incentive-laden deal is a product of his inability to stay healthy over the past few years. When he’s on the field, he’s a very good player. A full 17-game season would make this contract a steal. I just don’t think it’s safe to count on that type of durability based on what we’ve seen. Thus, this is a good contract but not amazing.
Grade: B

Texans Sign LB Azeez Al-Shaair:
The best thing I can say about this deal is that the Texans poached a player from the division-rival Titans. Other than that, this signing is a flop. Al-Shaair is signing a 3-year, $34M contract despite posting just 2 sacks in 2023. The reason he’s getting this money is his 163 tackles. Those are fairly inflated numbers, but they do show that he’s a quality run defender. You just don’t pay that type of player more than $11M per season. I don’t think the Texans will regret the move if Al-Shaair continues racking up tackles, but they let a better, home-grown player walk out the door in Blake Cashman, and the latter didn’t even get close to this amount of money! That’s not a good look in the locker room, nor is it smart business.
Grade: D

Dolphins Sign LB Jordyn Brooks:
It’s hard to reward a team for filling a void at a position when the team deliberately created that void. Miami did so by releasing Jerome Baker for cap reasons, but now they’ve turned around and signed Brooks away from Seattle for basically the same annual salary. Brooks will be making $30M over 3 seasons. He’s a tackling machine; his 111 last year stand as his worst output in the past 3 years. However, his 4.5 sacks were his best mark. Brooks doesn’t provide much in coverage, so that limits his value somewhat. I’m not upset at the slight overpay here, but why pay him and not Baker or Andrew Van Ginkel? Those are players who you know fit Miami’s system and could produce. Brooks just doesn’t have the same upside. The contract is mediocre, but the player swap is what hurts here.
Grade: C-

Commanders Sign RB Austin Ekeler:
I don’t quite know what to make of Ekeler. Over his time with the Chargers, he was a TD scoring machine. He ran well while also being a great receiving outlet of the backfield. I imagine he was also the #1 overall pick in your fantasy league last year. If he was, then you know where I’m going with this. Ekeler had a disastrous 2023 season. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry, a full yard below his 2022 average, and he had 6 total TDs, a far cry from his 18 in 2022. Washington smartly decided to buy low, signing Ekeler to a 2-year, $11.43M contract. He got hurt in week 1, and I’m not sure he was ever right last season. There’s plenty of reason to believe that he’ll bounce back immediately, as he’s only 28 years old. This should be an upgrade over Antonio Gibson in the passing game and maybe over Brian Robinson as a rusher. The Commanders should be commended for another value signing.
Grade: A+

Giants Sign OT Jermaine Eluemunor:
Now on his 4th team, you’d think that Eluemunor was a poor journeyman blocker. That’s not actually true; he has been at least moderately effective at all his stops, and he played his best just last year with the Raiders. The Giants, who need as many quality linemen as they can get their hands on, are signing Eluemunor to a 2-year, $14M contract. He provides versatility as he can play both G and RT, but the fact that he was best in 2023 at RT is stellar for the Giants. Former 1st-round RT Evan Neal has struggled mightily and may need be moved to guard. Signing Eluemenor allows the team to do so. He projects as an average player at worst, which would still be an upgrade. For the price, I see no downside to this contract.
Grade: A+

Chargers Sign RB Gus Edwards:
The Chargers are conceding that Austin Ekeler is out the door, so new coach Jim Harbaugh is going to a familiar well: his brother John. The former Raven is signing a 2-year, $6.5M contract with $3.37M guaranteed. Last season was Edwards’ first with under 5 yards per carry (4.1), but it was also his most extensive action. He had a career-high 198 carries but also scored a personal-best 13 rushing TDs, matching his total from his first 4 seasons combined. I worry a little about how he’ll do without the running threat of Lamar Jackson or the Ravens’ good line, but his production has been consistent enough that I think he’ll be fine. This is a pretty low-end contract for a potential starting LB, so I have to grade this deal kindly.
Grade: B+

Titans Sign CB Chidobe Awuzie:
Awuzie has been a good CB in two different sports, first in Dallas and then in Cincinnati. He tore his ACL with the Bengals in 2022 and was still knocking off the rust last year. It took time for him to return to form, so while 2023 was a down year overall, he started looking a lot better in the latter half of the season. Tennessee saw enough to hand him $23M guaranteed as part of a 3-year, $36M contract. Awuzie doesn’t intercept many passes, but he plays great in coverage and is also reliable in run support. The Titans, who needed help all over the secondary, are getting a strong upgrade here. They’re getting a player with only one serious injury, and he can help shut down divisional receivers such as Michael Pittman. This is a very good signing.
Grade: A-

March 11, 2024

Giants Extend OLB Brian Burns:
When trading for Burns from Carolina, the Giants had to extend him as part of the deal. The terms are in, and he’s getting a 5-year, $150M contract with $87.5M guaranteed. That salary is second among all edge rushers, trailing only Nick Bosa. As we discussed below when Carolina tagged Burns, he is a very good pass rusher who has never had less than 7.5 sacks in a season. He makes the Giants’ defensive line scary, with Dexter Lawrence and Kayvon Thibodeaux lining up adjacent to him. Burns is as consistent as it gets, and he’s very durable. His only weakness is that he’s not the best in the run game, though he has improved. New York mainly wants him as a rusher. While the money is high to me, Burns may very well prove worth it, so I’ll withhold judgment for now. The Giants got better, though they paid plenty for that privilege.
Grade: B

Lions Sign DE Marcus Davenport:
New Orleans once traded an extra first-round pick to move up and draft Davenport, but he has never delivered on his great promise. Outside of one 9-sack season with the Saints, he has underwhelmed. That was particularly true last season in Minnesota, where he had just 2 sacks before going on IR in week 6. The Lions are the latest team to take a flier on Davenport, signing him to a 1-year, $6.5M deal with $4M more in incentives. He’s back with Aaron Glenn, who coached him with the Saints. This is a low-risk deal, but Detroit is likely to be another disappointed team. Davenport hasn’t developed as expected, and even with a star edge rusher like Danielle Hunter across from him, he couldn’t produce. I wouldn’t have paid more than half this sum.
Grade: D+

Browns Re-Sign DE Za’Darius Smith:
Smith’s first year in Cleveland was a down season by his standards, as he had 5.5 sacks after reaching double-digit sacks in the last 3 full seasons he played. Playing opposite Myles Garrett, Smith may not get as many sacks as he’s used to be Garrett closes on so many plays. His presence helps Garrett though, and that’s probably why the Browns are re-signing him to a 2-year, $23.5M contract with a maximum value of $25M. Sacks come with some variance, so Smith could easily rebound next year. If you watch the tape, he doesn’t look any different, just a bit less lucky. This is still a high-quality edge rusher who greatly contributes to one of the league’s best defenses. The Browns didn’t overthink this, and neither should we.
Grade: A-

Cardinals Sign LB Mack Wilson:
Arizona is certainly spending on their front 7. Wilson had a good rookie year with Cleveland, greatly regressed, and then got traded to New England, where he found his rhythm again. As a role player, he earned 5 sacks, 73 tackles, and 3 forced fumbles over 2 seasons with the Patriots. The Cardinals appear to want to give Wilson a bigger role, as they’re signing him to a 3-year, $12.75M contract with a maximum value of $15M. At just 25 years old, he possesses some upside, but expecting him to suddenly find it in year 6 might be a bit too much to ask. He’ll provide some valuable snaps, just likely not enough to justify this deal. It’s only a slight overpay, but players tend to do worse upon leaving Bill Belichick.
Grade: B-

Browns Re-Sign DT Maurice Hurst:
I remember when Hurst fell to the 5th round in the draft because of a heart condition. His play may back up that 5th-round selection, but his 4th team wants to keep him around for another year. Cleveland is re-signing Hurst to a 1-year, $3.2M contract. He only had 1.5 sacks last year, but he was solid in run support and pushing the pocket as part of the Browns’ defensive line rotation. Should his snaps meaningfully increase, it would mean that something went wrong because he’s not a starting type of a player. He’s a depth piece and a decent one at that, and this contract reflects this status.
Grade: B

Commanders Sign LB Frankie Luvu:
Luvu was one of the few really valuable Panthers over the last two years, so of course they didn’t keep him. During that stretch, he had 12.5 sacks, 236 tackles (29 TFLs), and 9 PBUs. Washington is poaching him with a 3-year contract that has a maximum value of $36M. This is a large salary for an off-ball linebacker, but Luvu is one player who deserves it. He can really do a bit of everything, from rushing the passer to stopping the run and playing coverage. He’ll be a great chess piece for Dan Quinn and will allow him to unlock the defense. Such versatility doesn’t come cheap, but this is one non-bargain that deserves an A.
Grade: A

Chargers Sign TE Will Dissly:
Former Seattle TEs are getting paid today. First, Colby Parkinson was grossly overpaid. Now, Dissly is being somewhat overpaid. This deal is for 3 years and $14M with $10M fully guaranteed. Dissly is the better of the two Seahawks, but he’s still not much of a receiving threat. He’s a serviceable option whose value comes from blocking, but the Chargers actually need that. Their blocking was poor last year, so every bit helps. Once again, the money is a bit high for my taste, but this is a minor overpay. Dissly has produced some timely catches with Seattle, so maybe he’ll do the same for Justin Herbert.
Grade: B-

49ers Sign OLB Leonard Floyd:
Floyd seems to produce for whatever team has him, except ironically the team that drafted him (Chicago). Since then, he has played for the Rams and Bills, and he has posted 9+ sacks in each of the past 4 seasons. Last year in Buffalo, he had 10.5 sacks, tying a career high. Clearly, he can get after the quarterback, and he’ll be great opposite Nick Bosa in SF. The Niners are signing him to a 2-year, $20M contract with a maximum value of $24M, and that’s cheap for a premium rusher. Floyd is a proven QB hunter who will get great matchups due to Bosa’s present. Another double-digit sack season is likely, and he’ll be much better than Chase Young for the 49ers in 2023.
Grade: A+

Jaguars Sign WR/Returner Devin Duvernay:
Baltimore is hemorrhaging players, and this time it’s Duvernay, who is joining Jacksonville on a 2-year, $8.5M contract with a maximum value of $12.5M. The incentives are based on his role as a receiver, but I doubt he hits them. With the Ravens, he had almost no offensive snaps, catching 4 passes for 18 yards last year. His value is completely as a returner, where he has been a Pro Bowler and an All Pro. Paying him $4.25M as a returner is fine, but why the Jaguars? Are they dumping Jamal Agnew? These two are basically the same except that Agnew provides a little bit on offense. If another team signed Duvernay, I’d be all for it. Jacksonville is just one of the few teams that didn’t need to do so.
Grade: B-

Raiders Sign QB Gardner Minshew:
Rather than trade for Justin Fields, the Raiders appear to be planning to draft a QB and using Gardner Minshew as the bridge. That was the Colts’ plan as well, but Minshew played most of the 2023 season after Anthony Richardson got hurt, nearly leading Indy to the playoffs. He’s getting a decent pay raise here, signing a 2-year, $25M contract with $15M fully guaranteed. Reportedly, he will compete with Aidan O’Connell for the starting job. He should win that battle, and the contract suggests that the team believes he will as well. A rookie to be drafted next month might supplant them both, but a quality insurance plan is in place. Minshew is a low-end starter and premier backup, so he can fill whatever role the Raiders require.
Grade: A

Texans Sign CB Mike Ford:
Ford isn’t know very much as a corner, though he does play the position and had 28 tackles for the Browns last year. His value lies in his special teams ability, particularly in coverage. That’s the one area of special teams that Houston struggled with, so they’re signing Ford to a 2-year, $4.5M contract to help. It’s a solid move. The price is low enough for a special teamer, but Ford has played corner for several teams and has been a viable reserve. The Texans’ roster, while ahead of schedule, lacks good depth. This type of signing helps rectify that issue.
Grade: A-

Bengals Sign S Geno Stone:
Ever since losing Jesse Bates and Vonn Bell, the Bengals have suffered at the safety position. This past year, their safety play left much to be desired, so they have poached a player from the rival Ravens. Stone, who was 2nd in the league with 7 INTs last year, is signing for 2 years and $15M. More of a free safety who struggles a bit in run support, Stone still had 68 tackles last year to go with his picks and 9 PBUs. His coverage is his calling card. A young, ascending player, Stone can continue to get better, and he’s already good enough to be well worth this money. Plus this signing weakens a divisional foe? Nicely done.
Grade: A+

Colts Re-Sign DT Grover Stewart:
Not enough people know about Stewart. DTs who play mostly against the run and don’t compile sacks don’t get recognition. However, the Colts know what Stewart means to them, and they’re paying him $39M over 3 years to stay. The offseason strategy for the Colts has been to re-sign their own, and that’s laudable. You always want to keep home-grown talent. Stewart is one of the best run defenders in the entire league, and he pushes the pocket to help DeForest Buckner next to him. $13M per season is rather high for that type of player though; it would make more sense if Stewart could apply pressure and get to the QB himself. Still, he’s a valued part of the defense, and it wouldn’t be the same without him. Thus, he had to be retained regardless of price.
Grade: B+

Giants Sign RB Devin Singletary:
Upon losing Saquon Barkley, the Giants pivoted to plan B. That would be Singletary, who revived his career in Houston last year. It seems that RBs get better after leaving Buffalo. He is receiving a 3-year, $16.5M contract from New York with $3M more in incentives. Singletary is a downhill, no-nonsense runner who averages more than 4 yards per carry every year. He set a career high with 898 yards last season while splitting time with (and eventually displacing) Dameon Pierce. I imagine Singletary will be far more reliable than Barkley, simply because he never misses games. That should please Giants fans. Other than that, this is a mid-tier contract for a mid-tier back. There’s not much more to it.
Grade: B

Packers Sign S Xavier McKinney:
McKinney is a great safety when he’s healthy. The problem is that he has been healthy for just 2 of his 4 NFL seasons with the Giants. Luckily for him, his contract year was one of those seasons, and he balled out. He had a career-high 116 tackles to go along with 3 INTs and 1 PBUs. Green Bay, who just lost Darnell Savage, went for a big upgrade in signing McKinney to a 4-year, $68M contract. I’d say this is a great deal if I knew that McKinney would be healthy throughout the length of the deal. Unfortunately, I can’t say that. While the Packers have him, they’ll be glad they signed him. Hopefully he won’t miss too many games.
Grade: B

Texans Sign DE Denico Autry:
Autry has long been an underrated player. He had a slow start to his career, but curiously, he took off in 2020 and has not had fewer than 7.5 sacks in a season since. Those 4 years came with Houston’s rivals (Indianapolis and Tennessee), and he set a career high with 11.5 sacks last season for the Titans. Houston, who lose Jonathan Greenard earlier in the day, wanted some of that pass rushing, so they signed Autry for 2 years and $20M. He’s much older than Greenard at 34, so this is probably a downgrade in the long term. Right now though, Autry shows no signs of slowing down, and I think he’ll be a great running mate for Will Anderson.
Grade: A

Falcons Sign TE Charlie Woerner:
Another blocking TE, but this one is even more extreme. Woerner had just 120 receiving yards over 4 seasons in San Francisco, so I’m treating him as a 6th lineman or even a fullback. Atlanta is not though, handing him a 3-year contract worth $12M. This isn’t a large contract by any means, but it does feel rather wasteful. Pure blocking TEs are common, so committing any significant resources toward one isn’t ideal. It’s not a large enough contract for me to go crazy with the grade, but new QB Kirk Cousins isn’t going to cheer about it. Neither am I.
Grade: C

Texans Sign CB Jeff Okudah:
Injuries have slowed this former #3 overall pick, and that’s the reason Okudah is now joining his 3rd team since 2022. His play hasn’t been terrible when he has been on the field, but he has played so infrequently that he could never develop consistency. Teams still want his talent though, and the Texans are signing him to a 1-year, $4.75M contract with $2.5M guaranteed and a maximum value of $6M to extract that talent. It’s a low-risk deal, but what can the Texans reasonably expect? Atlanta, who has CB issues, didn’t seem to even try and re-sign him. That tells me a lot, but if anyone can get the best out of him, it’s probably Houston HC DeMeco Ryans. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but I don’t have to love the signing (especially the guarantees).
Grade: C+

Panthers Sign G Robert Hunt:
Holy cow. Hunt is a good guard, but $20M a year good? The former Dolphin is being signed to a 5-year contract worth a whopping $100M with $63M guaranteed. This is one of the only $100M guard contracts in NFL history, and it was surely given to address Bryce Young’s terrible blocking. I want to give Carolina a ton of credit for obtaining a high-quality lineman to help their 2nd-year QB who badly needs it. However, it’s such a bad overpay that I’m stunned. Both of the Lions’ guards got less, and they’re better players. Carolina could’ve added one of the many great centers in this free agent class. Hunt is definitely good, and Young will thank the heavens for his arrival. It’s just bad business.
Grade: C

Cardinals Sign DT Bilal Nichols:
This is a classic nose tackle who is great in run support but offers nothing as a rusher. As it happens, the Cardinals were putrid against the run, so this former Raider may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Arizona is giving him a 3-year, $21M contract with $14.4M guaranteed to plug their leaky run defense, and it’s quite possible that he can. Nichols had 48 tackles last year, which is really good for a DT. It shows that he is very active in the run game, which is clearly an area of need. This is a bit too much money for such a one-dimensional player, but based on the Cardinals’ desperation, I’m fine with it.
Grade: B+

Vikings Sign LB Blake Cashman:
Minnesota is giving DC Brian Flores a lot of new toys to play with on defense. The latest is Cashman, a Texan who exploded out of nowhere in 2023. He posed 106 tackles and 5 PBUs, playing all over the middle of the defense. The Vikings think he can do it again and are signing him to a 3-year, $25.5M contract. He and fellow former Texan Jonathan Greenard should really upgrade this defense. Cashman developed slowly but surely, looking particularly stout when he finally got his chance to chine. An LB who can cover is highly necessary in today’s NFL, and this is a case of a team paying for future production, not past play. The Vikings would be crushing free agency if not for Kirk Cousins’ departure.
Grade: A-

Colts Re-Sign DE Tyquan Lewis:
A player who started 0 games in 2023 but played in all 17, Lewis was surprisingly well-regarded by several teams. The Colts had to fight to retain him, ultimately giving him a 2-year, $12M contract with $7.7M guaranteed. Injuries have plagued Lewis, but he showed some flashes when healthy. Last year, he had 4 sacks and 25 tackles, with 9 of those tackles being for loss. Indy is projecting that he’ll be better with more playing time, but this would be awfully rich for a pure projection. We need to look deeper, where we see that he had 37 pressures (3rd on the team) despite his limited snap count. I think the Colts know what they have, and they’re comfortable with viewing him as a versatile piece on the defensive front. I’ll take their word (cash in this case) for it.
Grade: B

Vikings Sign OLB Andrew Van Ginkel:
Miami has cap problems, but I have no idea why they couldn’t match this one. Minnesota is signing Van Ginkel to a 2-year, $20M contract with $14M guaranteed. This is one of the steals of free agency. Van Ginkel set a career-high with 6 sacks last year, and he would’ve had more if he got more pass rushing snaps early in the season. He added 69 tackles in run support, and he even covered well, with an INT and 8 PBUs. His sort of versatility normally demands way more money than this. The Vikings are spending their Kirk Cousins money well, and this signing is a model of how free agency should be done.
Grade: A+

Giants Sign G Jon Runyan:
Few teams need line help more than the Giants do. Therefore, they did the smart thing and went to Green Bay’s lineman factory and signed Runyan to a 3-year, $30M contract with $17M guaranteed. He ranked 9th among guards in pass block win rate, which is something Daniel Jones has been praying for. His run blocking is a little weaker, but anything helps this poor unit. Runyan is automatically better than anyone the Giants had at the position, and the contract isn’t extreme. His dad is completely useless though.
Grade: B+

Patriots Sign RB Antonio Gibson:
The Commanders never seemed to fully trust Gibson, and that’s probably because he had a fumbling issue. His best year was 2021, when he surpassed 1000 yards rushing. Since then though, he has mostly been a receiving back, which is his specialty. I imagine that’s why New England signed him, since they don’t have a player like James White used to be. They’re giving Gibson a 3-year, $11.25M contract with $5.3M fully guaranteed. That’s cheap enough for a role player, which Gibson will be. I expect him to be a safety valve for the QB they draft at #3 overall, which will be a great comfort to him. This signing may only serve to help develop that QB, but that alone would make it worth the money.
Grade: B+

Eagles Sign RB Saquon Barkley:
We just did two great grades, but the streak ends here. While Eagles fans might be feeling some schadenfreude over Philly poaching Barkley away from the hated division rival Giants, they’re paying way too much to do so. The Eagles gave Barkley the longer-term deal he wanted, signing him for $37.75M over 3 years. $26M is fully guaranteed, and the deal can reach $46.75M with incentives. Putting some money into incentives is a good idea with someone like Barkley who possesses a dubious injury history. However, even the base amount is ridiculous. Barkley is a good, explosive runner, but he’s always hurt. Playing behind a superior offensive line should help, but he won’t get MORE durable as he gets older. This is the exact reason why the Giants wouldn’t give him a long-term contract. And you know what? They were right.
Grade: D

Falcons Sign QB Kirk Cousins:
The biggest domino of free agency has fallen. Cousins, fresh off a good run with Minnesota but one that ended this past season with a torn Achilles, is leaving for the Falcons. As usual, Cousins wanted to maximize his earnings, and Atlanta made it clear that they would outbid anyone. Despite the injury and Cousins’ age, (36 when the 2024 season starts), the Falcons handed him a 4-year, $180M contract with $100M guaranteed. That will certainly be the largest contract handed out this free agency, and Atlanta really had no choice. Since Matt Ryan left, the Falcons have bungled the QB position. Their defense has gotten better, and they have drafted some intriguing skill pieces, so it really feels like they’re a QB away from competing. Now, they have their QB. Cousins led the league in passing TDs at the time of his injuries, and he has shown that he can consistently get the ball to his top playmakers. Kyle Pitts and Drake London are probably celebrating somewhere. This changes the entire league, as the Vikings are in shambles, the Falcons are no longer considering a QB with the #8 pick in the draft, and most importantly to owner Arthur Blank, Atlanta is the clear favorite to win the NFC South. They can even make some noise in the NFC playoffs. $45M per year is a lot (though not the most among QBs), but Cousins is a proven commodity who is better than any QB in the upcoming draft, at least right now. Blank wants to win, and now is his chance. I love this signing.
Grade: A+

Commanders Sign DE Dorance Armstrong:
A member of Dallas’ feared pass rushing rotation, Armstrong rarely started for the Cowboys. Regardless, he excelled in new Commanders HC Dan Quinn’s defense, earning 8.5 sacks in 2022 and another 7.5 sacks in 2023. Doing that while playing so few snaps is impressive, and Quinn agreed, bringing him to Washington on a 3-year deal worth up to $45M. The expectation is obviously that he will produce even more if given more snaps. Washington badly needs him to play those snaps, as Chase Young and Montez Sweat are both gone. If we extrapolate Armstrong’s production, he should produce double-digit sacks each year. That makes $15M per season feel low, which is a sign that the Commanders struck a good bargain.
Grade: A

Packers Sign RB Josh Jacobs:
I’m confused. Of all teams to sign Jacobs, why the Packers? To make this move, they had to release Aaron Jones, who is the more explosive runner and a better pass catcher. For this privilege, Green Bay is giving Jacobs a 4-year, $48M deal. If we based this on Jacobs’ 2022 season, when he lead the league with 1653 rushing yards, ran for 12 TDs, and earned 400 receiving yards, I could see it. However, he’s coming off his 2023 season, which featured a poor 3.5 yards per carry average. Jacobs has been closer to the 2023 version than the 2022 version over the course of his career, yet he’s being paid elite RB money. Combine that with the fact that the Packers’ superior RB was released to facilitate this signing, and you’ve got the recipe for an easy F.
Grade: F

Eagles Sign OLB Bryce Huff:
This is quite a nice payday for a former UDFA! Huff, a pure pass rushing specialist, developed well with the Jets, earning 10 sacks last year in a part-time role. Philly wants him to replace the likely-to-be-traded Haason Reddick, and they’re paying him $51.1M over 3 years (with $10M available in incentives) to do so. He and Reddick profile similarly: they’re both undersized edge rushers who win with quickness but can be pushed around in the running game. Another parallel is that they both improved their run defense in 2023. Huff wants to play all 3 downs, and he could only get his wish by leaving New York. He’ll provide some nice juice in Philadelphia with a higher snap count. My only concern is that we know how well Reddick plays for the Eagles, so why make this move? The odds of it being an upgrade are low, but Huff can still pan out.
Grade: B

Rams Sign TE Colby Parkinson:
I did a double-take when I saw this one. Did the Rams sign a blocking TE with 247 receiving yards last year to a 3-year, $22.5M contract with $15.5M guaranteed? At those numbers, the Seahawks are probably glad their division rivals poached Parkinson! This is at least double what Parkinson should have received. I am not a fan of what GM Les Snead is doing in terms of blockers this free agency period. LA just got out of salary cap purgatory, and these types of contracts are going to send them right back down. The Rams aren’t gaining anything here; in fact, they’re hurting themselves.
Grade: F

Rams Sign G Jonah Jackson:
Compared to the other Lions guard who got signed (Graham Glasgow), Jackson received a lot more money. He’s being paid $51M over 3 years, with $34M guaranteed. I’m not sure why the contracts are so different. Both are very solid players who are adequate as pass protectors but excel in the running game. If anything, Glasgow had the better 2023 season, as Jackson dealt with injuries. Like with the Kevin Dotson deal, I think the Rams are severely overpaying. Protecting QB Matthew Stafford is always nice, but this is a somewhat crippling contract as far as the cap is concerned. Jackson will play well, but not $17M/year well.
Grade: D+

Jaguars Sign S Darnell Savage:
A former first-round pick, Savage had a good start to his career in Green Bay before struggling. Something clicked though, and he stopped getting burned in coverage in 2023. That was fortuitous timing, as he parlayed his good season into a 3-year, $21M contract with $12.5M guaranteed. Is Savage significantly better than the safety Jacksonville released (Rayshawn Jenkins)? Perhaps not, but they’re similar enough that this is a reasonable move. Despite having a better season from a big play standpoint last year, he still wasn’t as good as he was as a rookie. That makes me wonder what the Jaguars are getting, and I question if it’s a flier worth taking for a team with a leaky secondary. They can cut bait after 2 years if desired, but I worry that the ceiling with Savage is not what the team envisions.
Grade: C

Commanders Sign C Tyler Biadasz:
It wasn’t going to be long before new HC Dan Quinn took some players with him from Dallas. First up is the Cowboys’ center, who joins Washington on a 3-year, $30M contract. Biadasz performed admirably replacing Travis Frederick, who retired before his arrival. $10M per season is just a very high number. That feels like the type of tax a bad team is forced to pay to convince a coveted free agent to pick them. Frankly, the Commanders need several more lineman even after this signing, so they had to start somewhere. Given that I just graded the Cushenberry deal though, that one seems better than this signing, as Cushenberry is a better player than Biadasz.
Grade: B-

Titans Sign C Lloyd Cushenberry:
One mandate for the Titans this offseason was to improve their awful blocking. It got Ryan Tannehill injured and now threatens Will Levis’ development. Their new center should help somewhat. Cushenberry comes over from the Broncos on a 4-year, $50M contract with $26M fully guaranteed (a center record). He is a very good center, but 3rd-highest paid among all centers? I’m not so sure about that, and he may not be THAT much better than the departing Aaron Brewer. I am not penalizing Tennessee too harshly for overpaying because any lineman is a probable upgrade, and all good linemen are sorely needed. Cushenberry is immediately the best blocker the Titans have, and that’s worth something.
Grade: B+

Raiders Sign DT Christian Wilkins:
I knew as soon as Miami declined to franchise tag Wilkins that he would break the bank. The Raiders ponied up, handing him a 4-year, $110M contract with $84.75M guaranteed. On paper, this LV defensive front looks juicy, with Wilkins slotting next to star DE Maxx Crosby. Both have relentless motors, and Wilkins has his best year as a pass rusher in 2023 (9 sacks) while remaining strong against the run. Miami had no interest in losing him, but their cap situation wouldn’t allow a reunion. It’s easy to see why: Wilkins is now 3rd among DTs in average annual salary. That feels rather rich, especially considering that players like Quinnen Williams and Daron Payne are well below him. The Raiders knew that an overpay was required to poach Wilkins, and without a highly paid QB on the roster, it’s a move they could afford to make. I don’t think he makes the Raiders contenders though.
Grade: B

Bills Re-Sign CB Cam Lewis:
Buffalo has released most of its secondary, so SOMEBODY had to return. That somebody is Lewis, who is back on a 2-year, $4M contract. I don’t think his production as a corner warrants that money, as he barely played on defense last year. In fact, if I were judging him as a pure CB, I probably wouldn’t grade this signing at all. However, Lewis is an excellent special teamer. His 21 tackles in his limited snaps suggest that he is capable of more, and I don’t mind a team spending $2M per season on a special teams player anyway.
Grade: A-

Broncos Sign S Brandon Jones:
When the Broncos cut Justin Simmons, I did not anticipate them signing another safety to a deal worth more than $6M per season. That’s exactly what they’ve done though, signing Jones to a 3-year, $20M contract. The deal itself is not terrible; Jones is a quality cover man (he had 2 INTs last year) and provides some run support. My issue is that he’s a downgrade from Simmons without enough financial savings to justify it. Jones will be fine for Denver, but this defense is not better than it was a week ago based on the team’s safety swap. That puts a damper on this deal, and it’s not really Jones’ fault.
Grade: C+

Jaguars Sign WR Gabriel Davis:
A quick look at the stats tells you that former Bill was reasonably productive. Davis caught 7 TDs in each of the past 2 seasons, and he earned 746 yards last year. Jacksonville clearly saw enough to give him a 3-year, $39M contract with a maximum value of $50M. The tape tells a different tale. Occasionally, Davis looks like a monster deep threat who is unstoppable. Other times, he goes invisible, doing nothing for quarters at a time. The contract structure suggests that Jacksonville wants more consistency to give him the full $50M, and that is smart. What Davis is not is a viable Calvin Ridley replacement should the latter depart in free agency. QB Trevor Lawrence should still enjoy Davis and the vertical field stretching he provides. I think this is a nearly reasonable contract that is only a little above market value.
Grade: B

Bengals Re-Sign TE Drew Sample:
Spending a 2nd-round pick on Sample wasn’t wise in retrospect. He has mostly been a pure blocking tight end, and he hasn’t contributed much in the receiving department. Sample has 621 yards and 3 TDs total over 5 pro seasons. Thus, I have to grade his new 3-year, $10.5M contract with the assumption that he’s a blocker. Luckily for Cincinnati, this isn’t a hefty price tag for a blocking TE. I still think that position needs a major upgrade, but paying $3.5M per season to boost your blocking isn’t a poor way to spend money. It’s just pretty nondescript.
Grade: B

Cardinals Re-Sign OL Trystan Colon:
Colon wasn’t even supposed to play last year. He was a reserve lineman but played multiple games at guard due to injuries. I guess he acquitted himself well enough, as Arizona has now brought him back. His deal is for 1 year and $1.75M, with $450K guaranteed and $250K available in incentives. The key to this signing is versatility. You want your backup linemen to be able to fill in at as many spots as possible. Colon can play both guard positions as well as center. There’s nothing flashy about this signing, just good depth. Every team needs that.
Grade: B+

Titans Sign RB Tony Pollard:
I guess Derrick Henry is out the door. Tennessee is replacing The King with Pollard, who Dallas declined to franchise tag for the second straight season. Like D’Andre Swift’s deal reported earlier, Pollard is earning $24M over 3 seasons. Born and raised in the Memphis area, Pollard also went to the University of Memphis and now returns home, which is always cool. The fit seems a bit odd though. Pollard is replacing a bruising power back, and he seems a bit redundant given the presence of 2nd-year player Tyjae Spears. There’s no denying that he’s explosive though. He ran for 1007 yards and 9 TDs in 2022, reaching the Pro Bowl despite not even being the starter. However, he suffered a broken leg late last season, and he seemed to still be recovering from that in 2023 while playing on the franchise tag. Despite the down year, he reached 1000 yards again, just less efficiently than before. I expect better play in Tennessee now that he’s further removed from the injury. That said, Tennessee has many more pressing needs.
Grade: B-

Vikings Sign DE Jonathan Greenard:
I guess Danielle Hunter is out the door. Perhaps anticipating the loss of their longtime star edge rusher, the Vikings pounced on another premium free agent, handing the former Texan a 4-year, $76M deal with $42M guaranteed. Greenard picked quite a time to break out. During his contract year, he exploded with 12.5 sacks, more than he totaled in his first 3 NFL seasons combined. He also had a career-high 52 tackles. The price of this contract is very reasonable for a star edge rusher, but there is one major concern: is Greenard going to produce like this every season? He showed flashes in 2021 with 8 sacks, and his 2023 campaign looked real. I think the $42M guaranteed tells us that this is really a 2-year commitment, so the Vikings aren’t risking too much. Greenard is also much younger than Hunter, which aligns more with their new plans in a post-Kirk Cousins world.
Grade: A-

Saints Extend LB Demario Davis:
This is partially an extension and partially a restructure, as the last year of Davis’ contract was ripped up and replaced with this 2-year, $17.25M pact that comes with $13.25M fully guaranteed. You can argue that at age 34, he was as good as ever last year. He had 121 tackles (12 for loss), 6.5 sacks, 4 PBUs, and a forced fumble. That can’t continue forever, but a 2-year contract minimizes any risk. Besides, he’s a great leader of the Saints’ quality defense, and the fact is that he remains a major producer. He can probably finish his career in New Orleans now, staying in the place he has called home since 2018. I’m not sure this brings the Saints any closer to winning meaningful games, but Davis is certainly a great player being signed at a bargain.
Grade: A

Bills Extend LT Dion Dawkins:
He got me. He got a lot of people, I imagine. Dawkins tweeted earlier in the day, saying farewell to the Bills. It turns out he was just trolling us, as he actually signed a 3-year, $60.5M extension that makes him the league’s 4th-highest-paid tackle. QB Josh Allen seems to have forever to throw at times. Some of that is his mobility, but a lot of it is protection from guys like Dawkins. A stalwart LT who is only 29 years old, Dawkins would’ve been extremely difficult to replace. Instead of 2024 being a contract year, he is now linked to the Bills for 4 seasons. The money is high, but Josh Allen can sleep easy, and that’s priceless.
Grade: A-

Colts Extend WR Michael Pittman Jr:
Another tagged player is under contract beyond 2024. Pittman and the Colts reached agreement on a 3-year, $70M contract with $46M guaranteed and $1.5M more available in incentives. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not of the opinion that Pittman is an elite WR1. He’s a high-volume pass catcher and the Colts had next to nothing if they didn’t retain him, but he isn’t what I think of when I consider the best receivers in the league. Pittman is definitely consistent and a good bet for a 1000-yard season, but QB Anthony Richardson is likely to shift this team even more toward the run, which has me wondering if this is the best use of money for the Colts. Other receivers were available, such as Calvin Ridley and maybe even Tee Higgins. I’d have preferred a few less expensive targets given how shallow Indy’s WR room is.
Grade: C+

Bears Sign RB D’Andre Swift:
The Swift Philadelphia got last year is the one the Lions wished for when they drafted him. His career year is now earning him a 3-year, $24M contract with $15.3M guaranteed. He ran for his first 1000-yard season (1049 to be exact), but I’m curious about how he’ll do without the Eagles’ stout line. Chicago’s unit is improved, but it’s not amazing. Swift has also dealt with injuries, although he stayed mostly healthy in 2023. If that Swift is the one Chicago is getting, this is a more than fair price. The risk makes me a little hesitant though considering that this was only his first premium season in 4 tries.
Grade: B

Eagles Extend G Landon Dickerson:
Our second record-setting contract in the past two days, Dickerson now has the highest ever average annual salary for a guard at $21M. His full contract is for 4 years and $84M with $50M guaranteed and $3M more in incentives. A former center at Alabama, he transitioned to guard for the NFL and flourished. He is a 2-time Pro Bowler on a great offensive line, and he absolutely had to be retained for the long term. This is a good bit more than I would’ve paid, but the quality of the player is at least extremely high. As you know, I don’t give A’s to market-shifting contracts, but this is too high for that anyway.
Grade: B

Buccaneers Re-Sign K Chase McLaughlin:
You can pretty much echo most of my points from my Zuerlein grade. The contract is a little different at 3 years and $12.3M, but the average of $4.1M is nearly identical. McLaughlin bounced around the league before signing with Tampa, and unlike most kickers who join the Bucs, he had his BEST year. He converted 93.5% of his FGs, 7 of 8 FGs from 50+, and all 33 of his PATs. None of it felt fluky either, and since he’s remaining with TB, he will likely continue to perform well. Arguably the best kicker in the NFC South, McLaughlin will be a key piece if the Buccaneers hope to remain NFC South champions.
Grade: A+

Jets Re-Sign K Greg Zuerlein:
Almost all of the Jets’ offense last year came from special teams, and Zuerlein is largely to thank for that. You know how strongly I advocate for keeping a kicker you like, and the Jets have heeded those words, agreeing to a 2-year, $8.4M deal. After a couple of down years, Zuerlein had his best season since 2017, making 92.1% of his FGs (including 5/6 from 50+). Greg the Leg still maintains that power, with a range few other kickers can reliably match. $4.2M is not expensive, and it’s not like the Jets have all these other weapons to spend their money on yet. With Aaron Rodgers back, this team will be thinking playoffs, and any contender needs a rock-solid kicker. Ask the Chiefs.
Grade: A+

Lions Re-Sign G Graham Glasgow:
Detroit could only afford to keep one of their two guards (the other being Jonah Jackson), and they opted with the cheaper option. That’s wise because I don’t really see much difference between the two. Glasgow is re-signing on a 3-year, $20.5M contract with $9.5M guaranteed. That’s essentially a 1-year deal given the relatively low percentage of guaranteed money. Glasgow is an absolute mauler in the rushing attack, springing David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs to great seasons in 2023. Based on the contracts being handed out, this is pretty cheap. It also maintains some continuity along arguably the best offensive line in football. He’s not an elite pass blocker, but he’s plenty good enough, especially at this price.
Grade: A

Jaguars Sign C Mitch Morse:
It didn’t take long for Morse to find a new home. Just released by Buffalo, Morse is going to be Trevor Lawrence’s pivot in Jacksonville on a 2-year, $10.5M deal with $7M guaranteed. The Jaguars desperately needed upgrades all along their offensive line, as it was causing issues in the run game and struggling to protect Lawrence. Morse isn’t a top-5 center, but he’s a quality option at a very reasonable cost. Jacksonville can’t let this be the last line-related move they make, but it’s a good start.
Grade: A-

Colts Extend LB Zaire Franklin:
A tackling monster is remaining with the Colts. Franklin, who earned a career-high 179 tackles in 2023 (beating his prior record of 167 in 2022), is coming back on a 3-year, $31.26M contract. An LB who does nothing but tackle is not worth more than $10M per season. However, Franklin also covers reasonably well, with 6 PBUs each of the past 2 seasons. A paragon of consistency, he also recorded 2 forced fumbles in both 2022 and 2023. This is a key member of Indy’s defense, and I think this is fair market value for a homegrown player. Maybe the money is still a little high, but I wouldn’t call it an overpay.
Grade: B+

Steelers Sign QB Russell Wilson:
Just after the clock struck midnight, we got a bombshell: Wilson is joining the Steelers. His contract with Denver had offset language, meaning that he can’t double dip. Thus, he’ll be paid just $1.2M by Pittsburgh while Denver pays him another $38M. This is a fantastic move. Someone had to be brought in to compete with or ideally replace Kenny Pickett, and short of signing Kirk Cousins, who was never in the Steelers’ salary range, this is the best option. Wilson was actually efficient last year for Denver if not his former Seattle self. There is absolutely no harm in taking this flier and seeing if new OC Arthur Smith can get something out of him. I also expect a humble and hungry Wilson who wants to prove his doubters wrong. This deal is 100% upside and no risk, so it can’t earn anything but an A+.
Grade: A+

March 10, 2024

Patriots Re-Sign WR Kendrick Bourne:
When Bourne tore his ACL in week 8 last season, I thought his time with New England was at an end. Instead, he is re-signing on a 3-year, $19.5M contract. I imagine that this is because of the injury, but his contract is very incentive-based; it can max out at $33M. In a receiving room absent of many weapons, Bourne was one of the better ones. He caught 37 passes for 406 yards and 4 TDs in just 8 games after not being a starter for most of the prior two seasons. I’m a little torn, because this is an overpay for a WR3 coming off a bad injury. On the other hand, Bourne has shown playmaking ability as recently as 2021 (when he had 800 yards), so there is upside here. The key is that if he reaches his incentives, i.e., if he plays well, the contract is going to balloon. However, I imagine the Patriots won’t mind paying it if he produces at a high level. Thus, this is a measured approach.
Grade: B

Raiders Re-Sign C Andre James:
Teams’ top center target is off the board. Las Vegas made sure that James couldn’t negotiate with other franchises by signing him to a 3-year, $24M contract with $16M guaranteed. That’s 7th in the league among centers in terms of average annual value, and I’m fine with that. Better in the passing game than as a run blocker, James had a 96.5% pass block win rate last season. He helped anchor one of the sneaky good lines in the NFL. As always, I’m a proponent of paying up for interior linemen, as they’re critical in both phases of offensive football. Though I wish he opened a few more rushing lanes, the guards are really more to blame for that as far as the Raiders are concerned.
Grade: A-

Bears Sign S Kevin Byard:
Once considered the best safety in the NFL, Byard was traded to Philly during last season once Tennessee was out of the playoff picture. He set a career-high in tackles (122), but it was his first year without an INT since his 2016 rookie campaign. The Eagles’ defensive backfield was horrendous, so the move didn’t pay off. Chicago, who needs a safety, is betting on a bounce-back campaign with a 2-year, $15M commitment. I think that’s a quality gamble. At 30 years old, Byard is young enough to play at a high level given his position. He also wasn’t even close to the primary culprit for the Eagles. The Bears aren’t splurging on this signing, and the risk is minimal.
Grade: A

Buccaneers Re-Sign QB Baker Mayfield:
All sides wanted this to happen. Even recently re-signed WR Mike Evans chimed in to say that he expected a deal to get done. Now it has. Mayfield is returning to Tampa on a 3-year, $100M contract with $50M guaranteed and $5M per season in incentives (making the maximum value $115M). Replacing Tom Brady was no easy task, but Mayfield beat out Kyle Trask and did the job with aplomb. He set career-highs in yards (4044), TD passes (28), and completion percentage (64.3%) while guiding the Bucs to an NFC South title and a wild card game win. That made him want to come back and made the team want him just as much. He finally has a home, and this is a fair price. Mayfield has a reasonable floor, and this ceiling is worth $33.3M per season because that’s simply the going rate right now. Top QBs are earning $50M or more per year, so I can’t complain with this compensation, especially with only half of it guaranteed.
Grade: A-

Chiefs Re-Sign DT Chris Jones:
Rocky negotiations and a holdout last season must not have ruined Jones’ chances for a reunion this time around. The exact numbers are a bit tricky to track down, but the consensus seems to be that he is getting a 5-year, $158.75M contract with $95M (almost the entirety of the first 3 seasons) fully guaranteed ($101M in total guarantees). Obviously, this is a ton of money. In fact, it’s the highest total value and average annual salary ($31.75M) for a DT in NFL history, barely surpassing Aaron Donald’s deal ($31.667M per season). The first 3 years seem to be identical to Donald’s, though Jones is a year younger than Donald was when the latter signed his extension. Jones clearly needed to be retained. The Chiefs wouldn’t have won another ring without him, and the man has earned 7.5 sacks or more in each season since 2018, with 10.5 last year. I just can’t grade a record-setting, market-defining deal in the A range. This is not a value whatsoever, but Jones is almost certainly worth this money. Call it a necessary evil, but KC will call it their best chance at a 3-peat.
Grade: B+

Broncos Re-Sign S PJ Locke:
Not headhunting people is good for business, at least if you’re Locke. Winning one of the last roster spots at safety last year, Locke was the backup to Kareem Jackson before the latter was suspended twice for nasty hits and ultimately released. Locke took his new starting job and ran with it, earning 53 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, an INT, and 5 PBUs. Now, he’ll be back for 2 more years on a $7M contract that is worth up to $9M. I’ll grade this independently of the fact that I hate Denver’s release of Justin Simmons. Locke himself is worthy of this deal and then some, so it’s great move to re-sign him.
Grade: A+

March 9, 2024

Eagles Re-Sign DE Brandon Graham:
One last ride for the longtime Eagle. Graham has stated that he wanted to play 15 years in the league, and this 1-year, $4M contract will get him there. That would leave him with the most seasons played in franchise history, passing hall of famer Chuck Bednarik. Though he hasn’t started in over 2 years, Graham has become a key rotational rusher as he has gotten older. Last year, he earned 3 sacks, plus one more in the team’s wild card loss. I’m all in favor of this new deal. Graham is a glue guy in the locker room, and retaining him has major team culture implications. He also remains productive when he’s on the field. All of that for $4M? Money well spent.
Grade: A+

49ers Extend RT Colton McKivitz:
Last offseason, RT Mike McGlinchey left for Denver in a big free agent deal. That prompted the Niners to replace him with another Mc, but it didn’t go very well. While Trent Williams was the league’s best on the left side, McKivitz was often a turnstile, and that was most apparent in the Super Bowl. Chiefs edge rushers harassed QB Brock Purdy all game long, almost exclusively from the right side. In fact, had the team found a better tackle, the 49ers might have the Lombardi trophy. Thus, I’m shocked that the team would hand McKivitz $7M to return for another season. This isn’t high-end tackle money by any stretch, but it implies that the team at least has a sizable role for him. GM John Lynch should not let this preclude him from finding an upgrade.
Grade: D

March 8, 2024

Ravens Extend DT Justin Madubuike:
These franchise tagged players are signing quickly! Madubuike is getting a 4-year, $98M contract with $75.5M guaranteed after his breakout season. First, I hate this guarantee structure. The team is not protected much here at all. My next quibble is that his average annual value is second only to Aaron Donald’s now. That means he’s being paid more than Quinnen Williams and Jeffery Simmons. Other than that, the deal is alright, as Madubuike definitely played up to this level last season. The likelihood of him doing so again is reasonably high, so even if I don’t love the deal, I can’t complain too much.
Grade: B-

Patriots Re-Sign TE Hunter Henry:
My first thought when I saw that Henry had re-signed was “why didn’t he test the market?” Now I know the answer. New England is re-signing him to a 3-year, $27M deal with $3M available in incentives. Is this the same Hunter Henry who had a career-low 419 receiving yards last year? I get that the QB play was atrocious, but it’s not like he flashed on film and was constantly open. Instead, I saw a player who was struggling to separate and really only made plays when boxing out defenders or losing them completely in coverage busts. That doesn’t strike me as a $9M per season TE. The Patriots have plenty of cap space, and based on the state of the roster, Henry was one of the few skill players who produced anything. This contract slots him above the Rams’ Tyler Higbee, who produced just as much despite battling an injury all year. Poor start for the new Pats regime.
Grade: D-

March 7, 2024

Chiefs Re-Sign LB Drue Tranquill:
Tranquill joined the linebacker rotation last year, starting approximately half of the team’s games but playing often. He earned 78 tackles and 4.5 sacks, which in turned earned him a new deal: $19M over 3 years with $13M guaranteed. This is an average contract for a run-stopping LB who plays off the ball, and it would be well-deserved. However, Tranquill showed us a previously unknown pass rushing ability, and he is strong in coverage. His arrival was not inconsequential to the Chiefs’ defensive improvement this pass season. Given those added skills, this contract becomes a steal. Did Tranquill give the team a discount to continue competing for Super Bowls? Maybe, but KC definitely won’t complain.
Grade: A+

Rams Re-Sign G Kevin Dotson:
Handing a 3-year, $48M contract with $32M guaranteed to Dotson would’ve been unthinkable a year ago. A former Steelers’ draft pick, Dotson never seemed to develop in Pittsburgh, failing to adequately open up running lanes or block pass rushers. He signed for cheap last season with LA, and he suddenly became a top-5 guard. Dotson was instrumental in the great years that QB Matthew Stafford and RB Kyren Williams had. Despite that, I’m a bit hesitant about this contract. This is ELITE guard money, tied for 5th-highest in the league. I would rather have franchise tagged him for a similar number and waited to see if he could repeat his performance. If Dotson has truly turned the corner, then the contract is fair. It’s not a value by any stretch, but it would be money well spent. I just think this is money being spent too early.
Grade: C+

Saints Extend S Tyrann Mathieu:
New Orleans signed Mathieu two years ago to a 3-year deal, but they’re replacing the last year of that contract with a new 2-year pact. The agreement is worth $13.75M with $10M guaranteed. If he were a corner, I’d be a bit concerned about his age (31). However, as a safety, that’s just fine, and he’s playing as well as ever. Mathieu notched 75 tackles, 4 INTs, and 9 PBUs last season, which undoubtedly convinced his hometown team to retain him. The new deal lowers his cap number (always a concern in the Big Easy) while paying him at a bargain rate. Safeties continue to remain undervalued, but the Saints will be happy in this case.
Grade: A+

Bears Extend CB Jaylon Johnson:
That was quick. Just tagged two days ago, Johnson is sticking with the Bears for the long term, signing a 4-year, $76M contract with $54M guaranteed. At $19M per season, this is almost exactly equal to the franchise tag number, and it’s good for 8th-highest in the NFL among CBs on an annual basis. Johnson certainly played like a top-10 CB last season, becoming a Pro Bowler and a second-team All-Pro. It’s not like he just became good; he was at least solid in all 3 of his prior seasons. Thus, it’s a reasonable bet for a team bereft of talent and high on cap space to expect Johnson to continue at his new higher level. If that holds, this contract will look good. Otherwise, it’ll only be a minor overpay.
Grade: A-

Dolphins Sign TE Jonnu Smith:
Miami possessed a TE in Durham Smythe who mainly blocks. Now, they’ve acquired a receiving option in Smith. The two sides agreed to a 2-year, $10M contract. Smith is coming off his best season, catching 50 passes for 582 yards in Atlanta. I imagine the only reason he isn’t being re-signed there is that he takes away opportunities from Kyle Pitts. The 2024 draft is not a great TE draft unless you get Georgia’s Brock Bowers, and Miami probably picks too late (21) to nab him. Thus, the team had to look to the free agent market. I don’t think a better affordable option was out there, and Mike McDaniel doesn’t run a TE-heavy scheme anyway unless he has someone like George Kittle. Thus, this is a quality signing at a fair price.
Grade: B+

Jaguars Re-Sign G Ezra Cleveland:
Acquired from the Vikings last season for a 6th-round pick, Cleveland instantly became the best player on Jacksonville’s otherwise porous line. That’s more of an indictment of the rest of the line, as he didn’t have his best season. Instead of treating Cleveland as a rental, the Jags are signing him to a 3-year, $28.5M deal with $14.5M guaranteed. I suspect that the team believes he’ll bounce back to his 2022 level, when he was a top-10 guard in all of football. A shade under $10M per year is low for a top-shelf guard, and I value the interior of the offensive line higher than most do. Thus, I’m a fan of this signing so long as the blocking scheme isn’t what held Cleveland back last year.
Grade: B+

Bills Re-Sign S Taylor Rapp:
The incredibly busy Bills let Jordan Poyer go and but are retaining one of his stablemates. On the one hand, I understand a team going younger at a position while saving some money. Rapp is going to earn up to $14.5M over 3 seasons. On the other hand, a team like Buffalo who is in win-now mode needs to prioritize the players who are better today. Poyer remains better than Rapp, who did far less for the Bills than he did in his 4 seasons with the Rams. This swap is a downgrade, and despite the cap savings, it’s still an overpay. I’d have let Rapp’s contract come off the books while keeping Poyer in the fold.
Grade: C-

Bills Sign QB Mitchell Trubisky:
Things didn’t work out at all in Pittsburgh, so Trubisky is back in Buffalo, who he played for in 2021. That stint went well, which is what made the Steelers want him to begin with. However, we’ve learned that he is no more than a backup, which is what he shall be to Josh Allen. Trubisky is getting a 2-year, $5.25M contract with $2.7M guaranteed. That’s really cheap for a quality veteran backup. His level of play in 2023 doesn’t warrant any contract, but we know he fits better with the Bills, so the team can be confident should Allen miss time.
Grade: A

March 6, 2024

Bills Re-Sign G David Edwards:
It seems as though this was the backup guard the Bills wanted to keep, not Ryan Bates. Edwards came over from the Rams last season on a 1-year deal, and I guess Buffalo liked what they saw. They are re-signing Edwards to a 2-year, $6.8M contract with $2.95M guaranteed. That’s essentially a 1-year deal with a team option based on the guarantee structure. I’m fond of this agreement. Edwards was a multiyear starter in LA, who drafted him in the 5th round in 2019. Quality lineman can never be too plentiful, and $3.4M per season is pretty cheap. This deal would look even better if Edwards became the starter, as we know he is capable of doing, but even for a backup, this is a reasonable value.
Grade: A-

Commanders Sign TE Zach Ertz:
I’ll be brutally honest here: I didn’t envision anyone having interest in Ertz at just about any price, let alone a deal worth up to $5M for one season. Yet the Commanders just gave Ertz that very contract. He’s not too old at 33, but he still seems to be a shell of his former self. His numbers have been declining since he joined the Cardinals in 2021, hitting their nadir last season. Ertz caught just 27 passes for 187 yards and 1 TD. He struggled to get open and isn’t moving well, leading to his release and subsequent signing with the Lions’ practice squad during the most recent playoffs. I guess new Washington OC Kliff Kingsbury, who was the HC in Arizona, wanted him to replace the released Logan Thomas. This is a downgrade, and Ertz has been injured often lately, so he may not even be consistently available. Consider TE a hole that remains unfilled on the Commanders’ roster.
Grade: F

Texans Re-Sign K Ka’imi Fairbairn:
The way I evaluate kicker deals is as follows: if a team has a top-tier kicker, I’m not going to complain about any price tag as long as it’s not obscene. Otherwise, I’ll advocate for choosing a rookie or veteran upgrade. Fairbairn is definitely a high-end kicker. He made 96.4% (27/28) of his FGs last year despite missing a few games. His new deal is for 3 years and $15.9M, which ranks 4th among kickers in terms of average annual salary. I’m comfortable calling Fairbairn the 4th-best kicker, as he is generally reliable, including from 50+. As always, if you like your kicker, keep him.
Grade: A

March 5, 2024 — Franchise Tag Deadline Day

Colts Franchise Tag WR Michael Pittman Jr:
Back to our regular franchise tags, the Colts beat the 4:00 deadline and tagged Pittman for $21.816M. WR contracts have skyrocketed in recent years, which explains this high tag price. Still, this is top-10 money, and it puts Pittman ahead of DJ Moore, Amari Cooper, and Keenan Allen, all of whom are true WR1-caliber players. Pittman is more of a possession receiver, who is a reliable option but not a big play threat. He caught 109 passes for a career-high 1152 yards last year, but he still only had 4 TDs. I get the reasoning behind this: if Indy loses Pittman, they have nothing in the pass catcher department. That’s more of an indictment of GM Chris Ballard’s drafting than it is praise of Pittman. These are the moves teams that strike out have to make to keep the few options they have, but it’s a necessary evil, not a strong decision.
Grade: C+

Patriots Transition Tag S Kyle Dugger:
Here we have our only different tag of the day. That’s because New England chose the transition tag, which pays a lower guaranteed 1-year amount ($13.8M) but comes with less protection. Any team can sign Dugger to an offer sheet, and unless the Patriots match, they lose him for nothing. With a franchise tag, the team losing the player would receive 2 first-round picks or other agreed-upon compensation. I actually think this is the correct choice. The franchise tag number for safeties ($17.123M) is far too high for someone who isn’t as sensational as Antoine Winfield Jr. However, Dugger just had his best season, with 109 tackles, 7 PBUs, and 2 INTs. Therefore, he’s well worth the transition tag amount as the sides work on a long-term deal. My bigger problem is that the use of this tag precludes NE from tagging G Mike Onwenu, who is the superior free agent. The one great player on a shoddy line can’t be allowed to leave, and the Patriots are risking that. They do have ample cap space though, so perhaps their strategy will work out in the end.
Grade: B

Bears Franchise Tag CB Jaylon Johnson:
I doubt Chicago anticipated making this decision at this time last year. Johnson was always a solid corner, but the team sought upgrades and was prepared to let him walk once his contract ended. Fast forward, and they’re handing him $19.8M guaranteed. What changed? Well, for starters, he had a career-high 4 INTs. Johnson also played at the level of a shutdown CB and made it to the Pro Bowl. He always seemed like he had this type of skill, but he didn’t generate turnovers. Now that he does, he’s far more valuable. Like Carolina, Chicago really needs to make a decision: keep Johnson for the long haul or move him now. The Bears aren’t going to be good unless their new rookie QB is an instant success, so it’s time to decide who else is going to be part of the team’s nucleus. I for one think Johnson should be such a player. With Chicago’s cap space, it would be easy to do. The franchise tag is a nice starting point, but more is necessary.
Grade: A-

Jaguars Franchise Tag OLB Josh Allen:
As with Brian Burns below, the franchise tag number is $24.007M for edge rushers. Unlike with Burns, the Jaguars had plenty of reason to do this. Allen had been a consistent rusher over his first 4 seasons, with 7.5 and 7 sacks in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Then, he exploded, earning 17.5 sacks in 2023, looking the like the dominant player the team envisioned when they drafted him 7th overall in 2019. This improvement seemingly came out of nowhere, as it appeared as if Allen had peaked. The Jaguars now have the option to gamble, paying him with the thought that his best is yet to come, or letting him prove himself again on this one-year pact. I think that’s the right approach to take, and if 17.5 sacks is his benchmark, $24M doesn’t pay for that type of pass rusher, particularly on the open market.
Grade: A+

Texans Re-Sign TE Dalton Schultz:
A rare non-tag-related signing on franchise tag deadline day! Too bad it’s an overpay. Schultz is receiving $36M over 3 years, with $23.5M fully guaranteed. Don’t get me wrong: Schultz is a fine receiving TE who should make life easier for rising star QB CJ Stroud. However, his career-high is 808 receiving yards. And yet, he’s making within $2M of the salaries of Mark Andrews and David Njoku (per season), who are superior options. This isn’t egregious, as it’s just outside the top 10 salaries among all tight ends. I just don’t think he warrants this kind of money given that he isn’t even an elite red zone threat.
Grade: C

Buccaneers Franchise Tag S Antoine Winfield Jr:
The Bucs reached a deal with Mike Evans yesterday, and they’re now ensuring that another star doesn’t walk out the door. They’re paying Winfield $17.123M guaranteed on this tag, and that’s a very high number for a safety. However, it doesn’t account for the fact that Winfield does everything for Todd Bowles’ defense. He set career highs in INTs (3), forced fumbles (6), tackles (122), and sacks (6), earning a first-team All-Pro nod. The son of a great safety, Winfield came into the league ready to go, and he has only gotten better since. Tampa couldn’t let him leave, but I’m only giving this a positive grade with the assumption that a long-term deal is reached. TB needs him badly.
Grade: A

Ravens Franchise Tag DT Justin Madubuike:
Formerly a decent run-stuffing DT with potential, Madubuike earned 5.5 sacks in 2022, showcasing what he could be. Everything clicked in 2023, and he put up an astonishing 13 sacks. They didn’t feel fluky either, as he maintained remarkable consistency throughout the season as a key cog in the #1-ranked defense. He also set career-highs in tackles (56) and TFLs (12). This is exactly the type of situation that a franchise tag is for. When someone breaks out in a contract year, you want to know whether he can repeat that performance the following year. At the same time, a contender like Baltimore couldn’t afford to lose Madubuike. His salary is almost multiplying by 10, from $2.7M to $22.1M guaranteed on the tag. Should he excel in 2024, his next contract will be longer and fatter…assuming the sides don’t reach a deal by July.
Grade: A+

Panthers Franchise Tag OLB Brian Burns:
Burns was probably going to leave Carolina if he reached the open market next week. Think about it: if you had two similar offers, would you stay on the league’s worst team? The Panthers needed to retain him if only because he’s one of the only building blocks on the entire roster. Burns is a sack machine, with 20.5 over his last two seasons and never less than 7.5 in any campaign. A 1-year, $24.007M fully guaranteed deal is rich, but it’s fair value for a premium edge rusher. The question is what comes next. Burns wants a long-term deal with someone, even if it’s Carolina. The Panthers are hesitant to do that for some reason, which makes this feel like they’re paying good money for a good player only to waste him on one bad season.
Grade: B-

March 4, 2024

Chiefs Franchise Tag CB L’Jarius Sneed:
Our second franchise tag is an interesting one, as the Chiefs may not be using it for themselves. Sneed is guaranteed $19.8M for one year, but sources suggest that KC may be doing this to receive draft capital should he leave the team. That would be suboptimal, as Sneed is a legitimate shutdown corner on one of the league’s best young secondaries. I have no issue with the price tag, and it’s smart to retain his rights even if you can’t ultimately keep him. The question becomes what to do with elite DT Chris Jones, who can now hit the open market. Yes, $32M would’ve been tough to absorb from a cap perspective, but losing him altogether would be devastating. I’m giving this a positive grade with the expectation that the Chiefs keep at least ONE of Sneed and Jones, as I think they can afford the other if one walks. As far as the one-year tag itself, it’s a great deal.
Grade: A-

Buccaneers Re-Sign WR Mike Evans:
This one felt like it had to happen. Evans has been the heart and soul of the Bucs offense since he was drafted in 2014. He has posted a 1000 yard season every single year, and he led the league with 13 receiving TDs a season ago. I’m mildly surprised that we’re talking about a 2-year deal. It’s worth $52M with $35M guaranteed. That puts Evans at $26M per season, which is 4th among WRs. The Buccaneers also hedge against some regression due to the fact that Evans is 31 years old. I love it when a player stays with one team his whole career, and Evans might be able to do just that. Tampa meanwhile retains their offensive centerpiece who has good chemistry with the likely to be re-signed Baker Mayfield. The price is fair, and it might even be a bargain given the length of the deal.
Grade: A+

February 27, 2024

Lions Extend Special Teamer/LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin:
I list Reeves-Maybin as an LB as well because that is technically his defensive position, and he earned 20 tackles. However, he is almost exclusively a special teams player, which makes his 2-year, $7.5M contract with $500K in incentives and $5.245M guaranteed the largest ever for a core special teams player. This isn’t coming out nowhere, as Reeves-Maybin earned a Pro Bowl nod for that role in 2023. Coach Dan Campbell called him the best special teamer in the league, and while that may be a stretch, he is in the upper echelon. I’m more in favor of spending on special teams than most; ask the Chiefs how much an elite ST unit matters. I consider this contract an overpay, but not by as much as you might think. It’s almost fair market value for a good player.
Grade: B-

February 24, 2024

Bengals Franchise Tag WR Tee Higgins:
Our first franchise tag of the offseason comes from the Bengals. The tag gives Higgins $21.8M guaranteed for 1 year and keeps him off the free agent market. That latter part is Cincinnati’s concern, as the team knows it can’t outbid rivals who would likely offer Higgins WR1 money. This makes sense, as Higgins would be WR1 for many teams. His 2023 season (656 yards, 5 TDs) was a bit injury-plagued. However, he topped 900 yards and 6 TDs in each of his other 3 campaigns. A big-bodied wideout with downfield ability, Higgins is not someone Cincy wanted to lose. They’re now paying him a premium, and this may only be a 1-year solution. It does keep Joe Burrow’s top targets in town for a potential Super Bowl run though. I imagine that’s what the Bengals care about most.
Grade: B+

Rams Re-Sign WR Demarcus Robinson:
An afterthought signing last year, Robinson ended up replacing an unrelated Robinson (Allen) and playing rather well. He only had 371 yards and 4 TDs, but his progression with the team is what matters here. Robinson did next to nothing for most of the season before taking off late, earning 40 or more receiving yards in each of his last 6 games (including the Rams’ playoff loss). His connection with QB Matthew Stafford grew as the season went on, and bringing him back on a 1-year, $5M contract to be the team’s 3rd WR is a very reasonable move.
Grade: A

Chiefs Sign P Matt Araiza:
The “Punt God” is back. Originally drafted in the 6th round by Buffalo in 2022, Araiza never appeared for the team after being accused of rape. He was quickly released, and that was a terrible move as he was since proven innocent, and the last lawsuit against him was recently dropped. Almost 2 years later, Kansas City is taking a chance on him with a 1-year, $915K contract. This is a minimum deal with an injury split, so there is 0 risk. KC has the reigning first-team All-Pro punter in Tommy Townsend, but he’s a free agent the team might not be able to afford. As insurance, the Chiefs now have a (motivated) Araiza, who could somehow even be an upgrade.
Grade: A+


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