It is nearly April, and while it seems the rest of the world is being put on hold due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, the NFL Free Agency went on without a hitch to the action. While still a few free agent dominoes have vet to fall (Jadeveon Clowney?) due to health concerns that are not able to be evaluated given social distancing measures currently in place, the bulk of free agency has already came and went. So which moves stuck out from each team? My takes are below.
*Can be any transaction that occurred since Free Agency: Signing, Trade, Franchise Tag. *Contract Details acquired from Spotrac.com, statistics brought to you by Pro-football-reference.com
Baltimore Ravens: Trading for DE Calais Campbell
Contract Details: 2yr $15 mil
The rich got richer in Baltimore acquiring Campbell, a Pro-Bowler in each of his last 3 seasons. The sweetener for the Ravens is that it took a mere 5th Round Selection to make it happen. Campbell joins an already loaded Baltimore defense that will pair him with fellow Pro-Bowler DE Matthew Judon.
Cincinnati Bengals: Placing a Franchise Tag on WR AJ Green
Contract Details: 1yr $17.8 mil
It cannot be overstated how important having an established receiver like Green will mean for presumptive #1 overall pick Joe Burrow. The decision to franchise tag Green, who did not see the field in 2019, minimizes long term financial risk for the Bengals while giving Green a large guaranteed payday while almost assuredly hitting the market again next season.
Cleveland Browns: Signing OT Jack Conklin
Contract Details: 3yr $42 mil
Part of a Titans line that helped plough the way for Derrick Henry’s dominance towards the end of last season, Conklin will look to sure up the Browns biggest weakness in 2020. A lineman very strong in the run game, the move should bode well for Nick Chubb’s chances of a repeat performance from 2019, where he finished 2nd only behind Henry.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Signing TE Eric Ebron
Contract Details: 2yr $12 mil
Ebron has a chance to look like a real bargain if a healthy Ben Roethlisberger is present next season. At only 6 million a year, being one year removed from a very strong Pro-Bowl season in Indy, Ebron adds a dimension at tight end to this Steelers offense that was previously very reliant on WR Juju Smith-Schuster.
Buffalo Bills: Trading for WR Stefon Diggs
Contract Details: 4yr $45.1 mil
The acquisition of Diggs is the obvious choice here. Though many are quick to criticize how much Buffalo surrendered for Diggs there are a few main justifications. One being that Diggs is still only 26 years old, while being on a reasonable contract for the next four seasons. On the field, Diggs joins a Bills offense that is different than the one he was part of in Minnesota last season but one that desperately required a true number one receiving threat to unlock its potential.
Miami Dolphins: Signing RB Jordan Howard
Contract Details: 2yr $10 mil
It is hard to put into words how inept the Fins’ ground game was last season. It can be summed up in one statistic: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick lead the team with 243 yards on the season. Howard is not the flashiest back you will find in the NFL, but he sure is consistent, racking up nearly 4000 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns across his four seasons.
New England Patriots: Resigning ST Matthew Slater
Contract Details: 2Yr $5.2 Mil
With Patriots legends QB Tom Brady and K Stephen Gostkowski out the door for next season an obvious leadership void is created in Foxborough. Enter Slater, a special teams ace who now becomes the longest tenured member of the club. Keeping Slater will be essential in helping Coach Bill Belichick navigate the Post-Brady Era.
New York Jets: Signing CB Pierre Desir
Contract Details: 1yr –currently unknown value
Although the Jets signed a bevy of offensive lineman this offseason, it is difficult to gauge the value each individual signing provides till we see the unit in action. Therefore, Desir is our pick due to a “prove-it” contract the Jets acquired him by. Still on the right side of 30, Desir is just one season removed from being a crucial component in a breakout Colts defense in 2018. He should help a Jets secondary that struggled against the pass in 2019 despite a strong run defense.
Houston Texans: Resigning TE Darren Fells
Contract Details: 2yr $6.3 mil
There’s plenty of jokes circling the internet about Texans Coach and de facto General Manager Bill O’Brien over the Deandre Hopkins trade, so lets not attempt to beat a dead horse! Fells is an underrated contributor that was brought back on a very reasonable contract. Fells made an impact in the red zone last season for the Texans, scoring 7 touchdowns.
Indianapolis Colts: Resigning OT Anthony Castonzo
Contract Details: 2yr $33 mil
Don’t feel too strongly about the Deforest Buckner trade or the Phillip Rivers signing, so the selection here is Castonzo, an anchor along the offensive line. Rivers is among the most immobile signal callers in football, requiring premium pass protection to succeed. The Colts on paper have the talent to do just that, especially by bringing back solid blindside protector Castonzo. The longtime Colt has started 132 games for the franchise.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Signing TE Tyler Eifert
Contract Details: 2yr 15.5 mil
Not in love with much of what the Jags have done so far this offseason, with an obvious throwaway season coming in 2020. Still, Eifert provides some intrigue to the team’s passing game and came cheaper than what the Bears payed for a shell of Jimmy Graham. Eifert has missed plenty of action in his seven NFL seasons but has been productive when present on game day. In fact, last season in Cincinnati, he appeared in every game. A two year deal means theres little risk to Jacksonville, who at least can now claim to be giving second-year starting quarterback Gardner Minshew something to work with.
Tennessee Titans: Franchise Tagging Derrick Henry
Contract Details: 1yr 10.2 mil “
Do not pay runningbacks”. That’s a popular sentiment among some segments of football fans who argue that the position is relatively easy to replace. However, for backs such as Henry, who almost pulled Tennessee to the Super Bowl last season, it may well be worth it if it is a shorter term deal. We are in the midst of a litmus test on that hypothesis in the NFL in 2020, where a few teams, such as the Cowboys with Ezekial Elliott, are seeing their returns on their longterm investments in their prized backs. Recently, the Rams released Todd Gurley before his contract even began, adding to the devaluation of runningbacks. Given this, the Titans smartly franchised tagged their star instead of awarding a top runningback salary.
Denver Broncos: Trading for DT Jurrell Casey
Contract Details: 3yr $47.3 mil
The good news? It only cost Denver a 7th round pick. The bad news? The Broncos will now be saddled with the contract of Casey for the next three years. Yet Casey is still a pro bowl level player at age 30 and his departure from Tennessee largely was a result of the Titans salary cap situation than anything. Casey will likely provide a major boost to Denver’s interior while taking some pressure off star OLB Von Miller.
Kansas City Chiefs: Franchise Tagging DT Chris Jones
Contract Details: 1yr $16.1 mil
Another essential Franchise Tag decision as the Chiefs need to bring back the extremely productive defensive tackle. The 25 year-old made his much deserved first Pro Bowl selection this past season and anchored a much improved Chiefs defense to a Super Bowl title. This is the first in the line of several important contract decisions for the Chiefs in the coming years, as QB Patrick Mahomes’ rookie deal winds down, so Kansas City has to decide if they are to pay up for Jones, who will command a major salary.
Las Vegas Raiders: Signing LB Cory Littleton
Contract Details: 3yr $35.2 mil
The Raiders have made incredible strides rebuilding their roster over the past few seasons, especially thanks to a standout 2019 rookie class led by RB Josh Jacobs. On defense, rookie defensive linemen Max Crosby and Clelin Ferrell will be joined by Littleton, who has become an above average coverage linebacker over the past few seasons with the Rams.
Los Angeles Chargers: Signing CB Chris Harris
Contract Details: 2yr $17 mil
Much of what the Chargers have done this offseason has gotten positive attention: fortifying the offensive line, keeping TE Hunter Henry and getting younger at quarterback. However, one could easily go a bunch of different ways with this pick, but we’ll go with Harris, consistently one of the best corners in the game, especially in the slot. While Harris is aging, the short-term contract protects the Chargers from long term repercuions while stealing away a quality starter from the rival Broncos.
Chicago Bears: Trading for QB Nick Foles
Contract Details: 3yr $56.9 mil
Given how much QB Mitchell Trubisky struggled last season, bringing in competition like Foles was a must. The veteran quarterback is an ideal fit for this situation given that he is capable of playing if Trubisky’s struggles continue but has proven in the past that he is very much comfortable in a backup role as well. While the contract might seem like a red flag, there is a potential out in the contract after one season for a dead cap hit of 5 million, per Spotrac.
Detroit Lions: Signing LB Jamie Collins
Contract Details: 3yr $30 mil
Crucial year coming up in Detroit for Coach Matt Patricia’s team, and Collins’ signing will likely be critical in the outcome. While Matt Stafford and the Lions offense looked to be on track prior to the quarterback’s injury, Detroit’s defense–Patricia’s discipline–struggled mightily in year two, surrendering the league’s most passing yards. In a year where Organized Team Activities look to be heading towards cancellation, bringing in an experienced player like Collins, who comes from the New England defensive scheme that Patricia coaches, could be advantageous.
Green Bay Packers: Signing WR Devin Funchess
Contract Details: 1yr $2.5 mil
Quiet offseason so far for the Packers, a franchise infamous for valuing the draft over free agent additions. Unlike last season when the Pack finally made a big free agent splash, signing DE Za’darius Smith, not many of the team’s moves to date have inspired much confidence. That being said Funchess to Green Bay on a prove it contract might assist in unlocking a passing game too dependent on star wideout Devante Adams.
Minnesota Vikings: Signing DT Michael Pierce
Contract Details: 3yr $27 mil
The Vikings have had plenty of turnover this offseason, from trading WR Stefon Diggs, to cutting longterm players CB Xavier Rhodes and DE Everson Griffen to extending polarizing QB Kirk Cousins. Among the noise was the great signing of Pierce, a strong run-stuffer that helped lead the Ravens to a top-5 run defense last season, an area where the Vikings ranked around the middle of the pack.
Dallas Cowboys: Franchise Tagging QB Dak Prescott
Contract Details: 1yr $26.8 mil
The Cowboys provided plenty of options for this section, but the most important of which was slapping the Franchise Tag on Prescott. A polarizing QB who had a statistical career-best season in 2019 only to falter down the stretch and miss the playoffs, Prescott is once again put on the clock in a contract year in 2020. What not so distant examples teach us– such as the Ravens making Joe Flacco the NFL’s highest paid signal caller in 2013–committing longterm money at the quarterback position to mainly average players can drag a team down financially for years. The Cowboys are still making that evaluation, and should have a better idea of Prescott’s value after a 2020 season that will take place after the loss of key contributors C Travis Frederik and WR Randall Cobb.
New York Giants: Signing CB James Bradberry
Contract Details: 3yr $43.5 mil
While many have questioned the money that Giants GM Dave Gentleman dished out for the cornerback, the Giants struggled significantly against the pass last season, placing in the bottom five. Cornerbacks have raised in value significantly over the past few seasons, meaning acquiring the services of a reliable starter costs much more than many are comfortable with. In the long-run this may seem like a slight overpay, but if the Giants opt to draft top cornerback Jeff Okudah at #4 overall, they will have a rock solid tandem on the back-end.
Philadelphia Eagles: Signing DT Javon Hargrave
Contract Details: 3yr $39 mil
The Eagles on paper have had a very strong offseason, such as adding Pro Bowl corner Darius Slay. While one could easily go with that addition as well, Hargrave is our selection. Coming over from Pittsburgh, Hargrave has quickly become one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL, with a rare ability to be a strong run-stopper while getting after the quarterback from the interior. In Philly, this must be music to the ears of star defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who undoubtedly will get less offensive attention with the arrival of the new defensive lineman.
Washington Redskins: Franchise Tagging G Brandon Scherff
Contract Details: 1yr $14.7 mil
Quiet offseason in D.C with new Coach Ron Rivera likely looking at using this year to fully evaluate his roster. Washington has some intriguing building blocks, especially along their lines. Scherff is Washington’s best player and quietly among the best offensive linemen in football, particularly in the run game. It was crucial for the Redskins to keep their star guard in house, as they attempt to improve the offense around young quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Atlanta Falcons: Signing RB Todd Gurley
Contract Details: 1yr $6 mil
A few choices here for the Falcons, who were busy to start the free agent period. Gurley provides the most intrigue though, given the mystery surrounding his health. Is he completely shot? He had a significant decline in 2019, but it is worth noting that Gurley had an arguably worse season in 2016, where he averaged a paltry 3.2 yards per carry. Regardless, on a one year deal it is worth finding out for Atlanta, who also reaps the publicity benefits of bringing home a local college star.
Carolina Panthers: Signing QB Teddy Bridgewater
Contract Details: 3yr $63 mil
Love it. Love the fit and for the right price at that too. Bridgewater has been fighting tooth and nail for a full-time starting job since his horrific knee injury in the offseason of 2016. He has been backing up Drew Brees for the past few years in New Orleans, and saw significant action when the Hall of Fame QB went down to injury last season. Bridgewater responded by going undefeated in five starts with 9 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions while completing nearly 68% of his passes. For Carolina, it is likely bound to be a building year in tough division, but the future looks bright with key pieces in place on offense for new Coach Matt Rhule.
New Orleans Saints: Signing WR Emmanuel Sanders
Contract Details: 2yr $16 mil
Another obvious selection here. In what should amount to a home-run signing, the Saints add the savvy veteran Sanders who should seamlessly compliment All-Pro WR Michael Thomas. The Saints roster did not enter the offseason with many roster holes, but the starting receiving role opposite Thomas was often questionable in recent years. Many of the options the Saints have are better suited to depth roles and now with the addition of Sanders, they can be just that. While getting up there in age (33), Sanders’ strong route-running ability should allow him to age rather well.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Signing QB Tom Brady
Contract Details: 2yr $50 mil
No brainer here, as the pick is the GOAT. Brady replaces the reckless Jameis Winston and his decision making should make all the difference on a loaded Tampa Bay offense featuring Pro-Bowl receiving tandem Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Though he is now 43 and outside the confines of the Patriots’ organization, Brady brings with him a cache of respect and football IQ that is unmatched. If things break right, this could be a franchise altering move for Tampa Bay.
Arizona Cardinals: Trading for WR DeAndre Hopkins
Contract Details: 3yr $40 mil
Hopkins is a Top 5 wide receiver in the NFL. Wait, the Cardinals only gave up a 2nd Round pick AND got rid of the team’s most infamous bad contract in the process? Seriously, what a steal for Arizona. The Cards looked like a legit NFL offense at times last season and they should be on everyone’s radar now with QB Kyler Murray and Hopkins teaming up. Hopkins enjoyed yet another stellar season in 2019, racking up 1165 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Los Angeles Rams: Resigning OT Andrew Whitworth
Contract Details: 3yr $30 mil
No standout additions for the Rams this offseason as the team is navigating with little salary cap space. Resigning the ageless Whitworth (38) to continue to anchor the left tackle spot was the smartest move so far. Despite his advanced age, Whitworth continues to be an above average starting tackle despite a poor showing overall for the Rams last season on offense. The three year deal for a 38 year-old might raise some eyebrows but Whitworth has shown to be remarkably durable, so doubt him at your own cost.
San Francisco 49ers: Resigning DE Arik Armstead
Contract Details: 5yr $85 mil
Armstead got PAID, there is no denying that. Yet the situation the 49ers are in with their loaded roster makes this deal look better the more you look at it. Entering this offseason, the 49ers all-world defensive line was becoming expensive, so realistically the club could not retain all five of the unit’s standouts. The 49ers were proactive, trading DeForest Buckner to Indy for a 1st Round selection in April’s draft. Indy then proceeded to hand Buckner a deal worth more annually ($21 million) than what the 49ers gave Armstead ($17 million). With this first round pick, the 49ers get a cost-controlled asset while being able to keep Armstead, a core piece of their elite defense.
Seattle Seahawks: Signing TE Greg Olsen
Contract Details: 1yr $7 mil
The Seahawks had a cluster injury at the tight end position last season, leaving the team down to untested Jacob Hollister by seasons end. While Hollister performed admirably, Olsen represents a major upgrade for Seattle’s offense. While he has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, the former Panther will no doubt be productive if he can stay on the field as he pairs up with star QB Russell Wilson. A worthy one year flier for the Seahawks.