It feels like with each passing year, the NFL gets better and better at making their offseason events feel bigger than they might otherwise have previously been. The NFL Draft is probably their most shining example, as it has blown up in only a couple of decades from being held in hotel ball rooms to now being held in some of the nation’s biggest venues, in some of its biggest cities, during nationally televised prime time. Beyond the draft though, quietly within the last few years, the “Free Agency Frenzy” – as The Shield has dubbed it – has become one of the most attention grabbing events of the NFL offseason. This past Thursday had to have been the most chaotic and exciting yet, as teams were wheeling and dealing at a level not seen since Jordan Belfort. It was such a whirlwind that even Adam Schefter’s twitter fingers couldn’t keep up with it.
Since we now have this defined period of impactful transactions, I’m going to exploit it – something in fact that Belfort would be proud of…
My plan is to give you a living list of straight shooting reactions – a page that I will monitor daily going forward. I’m pulling no punches and will not go easy on crooked contract numbers or cap casualties. Below are my takes on the talent movement over the last few days. I will continue to update as the frenzy continues to unfold.
May 30th Updates:
Adrian Peterson signs with Saints (2 years, $7M; $3.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: AP joins a crowded backfield no question, but at that price tag the Saints are almost obligated to give him every chance to succeed. Also keep in mind that he is still the most talented back on the roster, so he should see a high volume of touches by default. If he can remain healthy, this split-carry situation may actually end up being what he needs the most to succeed in the twilight years of his career.
Johnathan Hankins signs with Colts (3 years, $27M; $14.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: Hankins is young, productive and crazy talented. The Giants are foolish for letitng him go, but I guess it just became a numbers game considering what the rest of that defense is making. Expect Hankins to join the Colts as arguably their best defensive lineman from day one, which alone makes him worth the money. Unfortunately for our purposes though, he should not be relied upon in any IDP formats.
Jamaal Charles signs with Broncos (1 year, $2.5M)
Analysis: With Charles' extensive injury history, the Broncos are getting him on a "prove it" deal for 2017. With players of his caliber, those type of signings usually work out, so I would say he's worth a flyer fantasy selection in most formats this season. Projecting forward, provided Charles is back to full health, he will be the best back on Denver's roster. That could end up meaning a lot in Mike McCoy's system.
LeGarrette Blount signs with Eagles (1 year, $1.25M; $400K guaranteed)
Analysis: Blount scored an NFL-high 18 touchdowns last season, so I'm not sure how he only ended up with a $1.25M contract. In any event, considering the pint sized backs up and down this Eagles roster, Blount will no doubt enter the season as the lead goal line back at the very least. Fantasy owners should take notice.
Ryan Fitzpatrick signs with Buccaneers (1 year, $3M)
Analysis: Fitz will serve as no more than Jameis Winston's backup. Considering that, the contract he received seems appropriate. I shouldn't have to say it, but he holds absolutely zero fantasy value this season.
Michael Floyd signs with Vikings (1 year, $1.14M)
Analysis: Floyd has loads of talent, but has been up and down production wise because of his off the field distractions. Hopefully a fresh start in Minnesota will be what he needs to succeed, but as of now I am not sold. Like many of the players above him, Floyd is being given the "prove it" deal.
Marshawn Lynch signs with Raiders (2 years, $9M; $2.35M guaranteed)
Analysis: It had become pretty clear over his final couple of seasons before retirement that "Beast Mode" was no longer the same player, but pretty devoid of reliable "featured" talent at the position, the Raiders actually got themselves a pretty sweet deal here. Don't expect Lynch to be rumbling over players and registering on the Richter scale anymore, but I believe that he will give the Raiders a reliable goal line and between the tackles presence in 2017.
March 17th Updates:
Latavius Murray signs with Vikings (3 years, $15M; $8.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: A deal I certainly hate; when are teams going to realize that overpaying for tailback help rarely works out? Look, if this were anyone other than Murray, I would likely give a more favorable grade here, but if you have been paying attention to anything I have written over the last two years, you would definitely know that Murray is my least favorite back in the league. He’s well built and crazy athletic, yet he frequently struggles to average over 4.0 yards per carry, despite running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines in the Raiders. Behind the Vikings offensive line going forward, he will realize how good he had it out in Oakland. Big mistake here for Minnesota.
Dontari Poe signs with Falcons (1 year, $8M)
Analysis: Poe is a mammoth nose tackle with incredible skills, is a two time Pro Bowler, a former All-Pro, and is still only 26. Sure he has struggled with back issues over the last couple of seasons, but the fact of the matter is that he will be joining a strong defense and will have the luxury of playing in a rotational role. Recency bias likely played a role in Poe’s decision, but the Falcons couldn’t care less. They will be getting an excellent talent, on an incredible bargain, with limited investment. What more can you ask for?
Lance Dunbar agrees to terms with Rams (1 year, $3M)
Analysis: This is exactly the type of back that the Rams need – a versatile option in the passing game to rotate in on third downs and two-minute drills. Dunbar has skills no doubt, but lost his role in Dallas after the arrival of Ezekiel Elliott. At this price and limited one-year investment, I contend that this deal is fair. Lets not forget two years ago when he basically single-handedly took down the Giants in Week 1.
Margus Hunt signs with Colts (2 years, $4.1M; $500K guaranteed)
Analysis: Hunt is a versatile defensive lineman who, while dripping with natural talent, has yet to put it all together. The belief here now is that in Indy he will have a set spot in their 3-4 defense, which will help fast track his development. In the worst case scenario, Hunt will remain a rotational defender, while he will continue to serve as one of the league’s best kick blockers due to his 6-foot-8, nearly 300 lbs frame.
Datone Jones signs with Vikings (1 year, $3.75M; $1.6M guaranteed)
Analysis: Make no mistake, the former first rounder has been a colossal disappointment so far in his career, however the Vikings are making the most of a youth upside signing here, as Jones comes in on a bargain and will hopefully bring along with him inter-division secrets. On top of his potential, divisional history, and still young age, Jones also is one of the more versatile defenders in the league, as he has experience playing linebacker, defensive end, and even some defensive tackle. With limited investment here, the Vikings made a rock solid signing here.
Brandon Carr signs with Ravens (4 years, $24M/ 2 years, $12M)
Analysis: First of all, the contract details are still very confusing, but the information I am getting says that, while the signed deal is 4 years for $24 million, the reality is that both parties are expecting 2 years for $12 million. The extra two years and $12 million are laden in incentives and performance bonuses. Having said all of that, $6 million per season is more than reasonable for Carr. Sure he can be beat deep from time to time, but the fact of the matter is that he has been a consistent number one corner throughout his nine-year career, and most importantly, during that span he has yet to miss a game. That’s right; Carr has played in 144 straight games. In today’s game, that may be one of the most important traits that one could possess. Carr is slated to slide in as the Ravens number two corner next season, which is the perfect spot for him at this point in his career.
Morris Claiborne signs with Jets (CONTRACT UPDATED 1 year, $5M; $2M guaranteed)
Analysis: And shocker, the Cowboys lose another free agent. Claiborne is the most recent of a long list of Cowboys to depart this offseason. It has gotten to the point that they now have lost their entire starting secondary (Carr, Claiborne, Church, Wilcox). But enough of that… The Jets got themselves a great player here believe it or not, as prior to the injury that forced him to miss nine games in 2016, Claiborne was ranked as PFF’s number one corner. Provided the Jets inked him to limited years and incentive bonuses, and provided Claiborne can prove to be healthy for a year, this match appears to be a good one – a rebuilding team/secondary and a player rebuilding his reputation.
Jared Cook signs with Raiders (2 years, $12.2M)
Analysis: Cook will go from one star quarterback to another here, but with his track record, that doesn’t guarantee much. Cook is undoubtedly one of the most inconsistent tight ends with talent in this league, so it will be interesting to see how he fits into this high-level Raiders offense. Regardless, considering his talent, the Raiders didn’t really overpay here. Now there is just one less position that they have to address in the draft.
Connor Barwin signs with Rams (1 year, $6.5M)
Analysis: Am I the only one who remembers that Barwin recorded 14.5 sacks two seasons ago? I can’t figure out, for the life of me, how the Rams pulled this bargain off. Barwin is a high-level pass rusher, who at 30 years of age brings experience and nuance to the Rams defense. Considering the already crazy amount of talent that the Rams have along their defensive line, there is no question that Barwin will slot in as a force in Wade Philips’ new 3-4 attacking defense.
Alex Okafor signs with Saints (1 year, $3M)
Analysis: I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but at his size/potential/production combination, Okafor is coming on a bargain here. He’s still only 26 years of age and is a guy certainly capable of double-digit sacks (8.0 in 2014) – provided he can stay healthy. Consider this Okafor’s “prove it” deal, as he will certainly get better offers if he plays up to his potential with the Saints in 2017.
Davon House agrees to terms with Packers (1 year, $3.5M)
Analysis: Considering House’s regression last season and the fact that he is coming on a one-year deal, I’m comfortable saying that this price-point is fair on the part of both parties involved here. With that, it should be noted that House will be a welcomed addition to this Green Bay defense in 2017. He A) is familiar with the scheme and city (played with Packers 2011-2014), and B) is joining a pass defense that finished 31st in the league last season. Green Bay will take all the help they can get, and at this limited investment contract, House will certainly bring some.
Eddie Lacy signs with Seahawks (1 year, $4.25M; $2.87M guaranteed)
Analysis: As frustrated as I am with Lacy and how fed up I am with his work ethic, I can’t help but see big upside for the Seahawks here. I mainly say this because they did a great job in this contract limiting their investment, while in the best-case scenario they get themselves a top-tier running back. My personal belief is that Lacy is finished and would rather be waiting in line at his local Golden Corral than running behind offensive lines, but if he can figure out a way to whip himself back into shape, his talent is great enough to play at a high level again. This contract is loaded with weight incentive bonuses, so Seattle knows well what they are getting themselves into here.
Cordarrelle Patterson signs with Raiders (2 years, $8.5M; $5M guaranteed)
Analysis: You will never convince me that Patterson has been anything but a bust so far in his career, but I will say that over the last couple of seasons, he has shown improvement as a receiver and has truly developed into one of the most dangerous return men in the game today. That is what the Raiders paid for here, and while it may have been above his true market value, there is no doubt that Oakland just became exponentially more explosive with this move here.
Jarvis Jones signs with Cardinals (CONTRACT UPDATED 1 year, $2.25M; $1M guaranteed)
Analysis: Another bust mentioned in this article here, so I won’t be surprised when this one-year deal is slotted in the “prove it” price range. I like Jones in the run game, but the Steelers didn’t draft him in the first round to post just six sacks in his first four years… Arizona will likely use him to replace the recently departed Alex Okafor as a rotational edge player, however I believe Jones offers less upside as a pass rusher. All things considered though, if the price remains low on the one-year deal, it is tough to criticize the Cardinals here.
Rex Burkhead signs with Patriots (1 year, $3.15M; $1.1M guaranteed)
Analysis: Burkhead is nothing special in my eyes, but the Pats signed him, so I’m sure he will become a future hall of famer. All joking aside, Burkhead fits the mold of what the Pats like to do on offense out of the backfield. He’s a spell back at best, however offers a well-rounded skillset in doses. They overpaid a bit here, but at just one year there is little risk involved.
Andre Smith signs with Bengals (CONTRACT UPDATED 1 year, $3.25M; $1.55M guaranteed)
Analysis: Another deal without money confirmed, however at just one year, I would expect the 30 year old to be looking at somewhere in the $5 million range. Considering his career resume, I would say that he’s worth that hypothetical price point, especially if he is brought in to replace the recently departed Andrew Whitworth on the blind side.
Justin Hunter agrees to terms with Steelers (CONTRACT UPDATED 1 year, $855K; $30K guaranteed)
Analysis: Big Ben can make just about any receiver work; so adding a talent like Hunter’s (6-foot-4, 201 lbs) can only mean good things for the Steelers. For now he will slot in as Pittsburgh’s fourth receiver, but if Martavis Bryant doesn’t come back as the same player and Darrius Heyward-Bey continues to serve as the league’s biggest enigma, there is no reason that Hunter can’t emerge as the Steelers number two behind Antonio Brown.
March 14th Updates:
Kelvin Beachum signs with Jets (3 years, $24M; $12M guaranteed)
Analysis: It's no secret that the Jets desperately need offensive line help, but I have to question their choice here. On the surface, the deal looks pretty reasonable – getting a potentially starting tackle for less than $9 million a season – however the details of the contract actually grab the Jets by the balls in more ways than one. First of all, without frontloading the deal, the Jets will be on the hook for most of this money beyond the first season, as nearly $9 million of the contract is “dead money” after year one. Secondly, there is very little guarantee that Beachum will be the player that he once was. This contract pays the 27 year old tackle for what he was with the Steelers a few seasons ago, not the player that he proved to be with Jacksonville last season – a barely serviceable starting left tackle. He’s had injury issues over the last few years, and his once high potential may never be realized if he continues to trend the way that he did in 2016. Considering all of this however, the structure of the deal somehow gives Beachum all of the power. If he plays poorly or gets injured, the Jets will still be on the hook for most of the three years. Contrarily however, a provision in the deal states that if he makes the Pro Bowl in either year one or two, Beachum can void the 2019 year on his contract, giving him the chance to exploit free agency once again for a better deal. The Jets got bent over here because of their desperate need for line help and the overinflated state of the offensive tackle market.
Markus Wheaton signs with Bears (1 year, $6M)
Analysis: I can’t believe my eyes here. In what world should Markus Wheaton – a player with just four catches last season and who finished the year 14 weeks too soon with a serious shoulder injury – make more money than Brandon Marshall – one of the top receivers of the last decade? I’m trying to come up with things to say, but I am just at a loss… Bold move Chicago, bold move.
Marcus Cooper signs with Bears (3 years, $16M; $8M guaranteed)
Analysis: A lot of people are crapping on this deal, however I don’t think it’s so bad. He’s slotted to make just over $5 million per year, which is the going rate for a second corner, and there is no doubt that his skillset fits the Bears scheme. In 2016 Cooper had his best season yet, as he flashed terrific ball skills with his four interceptions, while his excellent size (6-foot-2, 200 lbs) was utilized to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. With the Bears emerging 3-4 attacking defense, that type of play style is exactly what Chicago will need out of their corners. I honestly think he will be a better fit for this defense than fellow recently signed corner Prince Amukamara, yet they managed to get him for less money annually.
Ted Ginn signs with Saints (3 years, $11M)
Analysis: Look, the Saints needed a replacement for Brandin Cooks. In that I mean they needed a new burner that can stretch the field and take the top off the defense – a position that is vital to how they run offense. While there are few as dynamic as Cooks in the game, there is no doubt that Ginn is still one of the most explosive receivers that the NFL has to offer. Ultimately they overpaid here for a receiver that I really don’t like. He’s got stone hands and will disappoint on a weekly basis, but I guarantee that Drew Brees will make this work.
Nick Foles signs with Eagles (2 years, $11M)
Analysis: Foles was successful in Philly in his first go around and fits the Eagles current offensive scheme. He was paid the going rate for a good backup quarterback and that is the role that he should serve going forward. Should, God forbid, Carson Wentz get injured, the Eagles will have a reliable option coming out of the bullpen. What else can you ask for in a move like this?
Marshall Newhouse signs with Raiders (2 years, $3.5M)
Analysis: Newhouse – a former starting tackle in 2016 with the Giants – will take a lesser role and serve as the Raiders swing tackle going forward. Luckily the Raiders managed to appropriately pay him as such, thus I am going to applaud the move here. He will provide excellent insurance for what is already one of the best offensive lines in the league.
March 12th Updates:
T.J. Lang signs with Lions (3 years, $28.5M; $19M guaranteed)
Analysis: Lang is unquestionably one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, so considering the Lions got the 29 year old guard at a mere $19 million guaranteed, you could say they made out like bandits here. In this move the Lions have now turned a weakness into one of their strengths. Adding Lang – arguably the league's best guard – and Rick Wagner – the best tackle on the market – within just days of each other gives them one of the more formidable offensive lines in the league going forward.
D.J. Fluker agrees to terms with Giants (1 year, $3M)
Analysis: The 6-foot-5 339 pounder is a behemoth at the left tackle position no doubt, however since being drafted 11th overall in the 2013 draft he has hardly played up to his intimidating potential. All things considered though, Fluker is still loaded with talent and will bring an immediate upgrade to the Giants offensive line, which is something that they desperately need. At still only 25 years of age, there is a good chance that Fluker will further develop and soon realize his potential. If he can accomplish that this season, then his mere $3 million price tag will have been more than worth it for the G-Men.
Kendall Wright agrees to terms with Bears (1 year, $4M)
Analysis: This is a move I really like because it makes sense for both parties. Wright is a former first round pick in 2012 with suddenly underrated talent. Keep in mind that it wasn't too long ago that (2013) he hauled in 94 catches for 1,079 yards. His main problems of late are that he cannot stay healthy and that he no longer fits into the Titans offensive scheme. In this deal, he goes to a rebuilding Bears offense looking to throw the rock. For his talent he comes at a bargain and his one year deal leaves the Bears with limited investment with reasonable upside. Expect him to slide into the starting slot role for the Bears from day one and see a heavy dose of targets, provided he can remain healthy.
March 11th Updates:
J.J. Wilcox agrees to terms with Buccaneers (2 years, $8.5M)
Analysis: In this move Dallas loses another critically impactful defensive back. Wilcox will join the Buccaneers as likely their starting strong safety, as his strength is playing in the box, however he has experience in high zone coverage, which makes him worth the money based off of versatility. While Wilcox is far from the second coming of Ronnie Lott, the Buccaneers filled a need here, as their depth at the safety position was previously laughable.
March 10th Updates:
Mike Glennon agrees to terms with Bears (3 years, $45M; $19M guaranteed)
Analysis: People may complain about the money here for a guy who has never won and maintained a starting job, but the fact of the matter is that his average of $15 million per year makes him the league’s lowest paid “starting quarterback” not on a rookie deal. In my eyes, that’s fair. Also throw into consideration that Glennon’s deal is frontloaded, and now you can make the argument that this is actually a team friendly deal. In terms of his on field impact, that remains to be seen… He’s a guy who league scouts have always gushed over in terms of potential, but I remain skeptical considering he has never completed over 60-percent of his passes in a season (minimum 100 attempts). Ultimately though, the Bears are looking to turn the page from the Jay Cutler era and investing in a young and talented quarterback is the best way to start.
Brian Hoyer signs with 49ers (2 years, $12M; $10M guaranteed)
Analysis: Hoyer comes at a fair price, but I have to question the 49ers brass here. Not only did they ink an underwhelming journeyman to lead their rebuild project, but also in the same day they undermined the singing by agreeing to terms with another disappointing, well traveled, backup in Matt Barkley (see below). Assuming Hoyer wins the starting job and the Niners don’t draft a quarterback, I can see him leading this squad to a maximum of six wins. Move along now – nothing much else to see here.
Matt Barkley agrees to terms with 49ers (2 years, $4M; $500K guaranteed)
Analysis: Barkley joins the Niners on the same day that his former Bears teammate Brian Hoyer does (see above), which in my book is the epitome of a parallel move. He seems content remaining a career backup, which I’m not here to judge, having said that though, that doesn’t mean I’m going to waste my time delving into his whereabouts. He joins the club as a formidable backup and nothing much more.
Kyle Juszczyk signs with 49ers (4 years, $21M; $10.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: Never in a million years did I think that I would lead off this section with a fullback, however that is today’s reality. For a couple of reasons I will include Juszczyk here… First of all, he’s really good and most importantly, fantasy relevant. He not only is an excellent blocker, but he also is an impactful receiver out of the backfield in ways that no other FB in the league is. Secondly, the money that Juszczyk scored on Thursday may end up being the pinnacle of this running back class. Yes you read that right; a fullback will likely end up making more money this offseason than any tailback. He joins a team that had money to throw around and he had no problem cashing in. Juszczyk will fit in well in Kyle Shanahan’s offense and I assure you that Carlos Hyde will be most grateful for this signing.
Danny Woodhead agrees to terms with Ravens (3 years, $8.8M; $4.25M guaranteed)
Analysis: Losing Juszczyk was tough on the Ravens, as Joe Flacco was slated to head into the season without a security blanket to dump it off to. Understanding this, the Ravens decision makers went out and invested in one of the league’s best pass catching backs to replace Juszczyk in Danny Woodhead. Until the money is disclosed, it is tough to tell if this is a reasonable deal, but considering the team’s need for a versatile back – especially in the wake of losing Juszczyk and now Kenneth Dixon to a PED suspension – I’m sure the price will be right up to a higher than expected threshold.
Kenny Britt signs with Browns (4 years, $32.5M; $17M guaranteed)
Analysis: He’s well built and talented, sure, but boy did the Browns go out on a limb giving Britt that kind of money. Historically, Britt has been an underachiever and an adequate performer only when backed into a corner (see: last year’s contract-year stats). I wouldn’t have shelled out that kind of cash to an eight-year vet with only one 1,000-yard season under his belt, and I’m sure there were a good 25 other teams that wouldn’t have either, but that is why the Browns are the Browns I guess.
Brandon Marshall signs with Giants (2 years, $12M; $5M guaranteed)
Analysis: The Giants may have over paid a bit here in relation to his real market, however there is no doubt that this is the most impactful transaction of the offseason thus far. When you are looking to put your team over the top, overpaying a bit is sometimes warranted. With the addition of Marshall, the Giants have become legitimate Super Bowl contenders, as his presence adds a dynamic to this offense that they were sorely lacking last season. Marshall will not only pull defenders away from consistently doubling and bracketing Odell Beckham, but also he now gives Eli a legitimate red zone threat to throw it up to. In this move, the Giants are clearly going for it in 2017.
Pierre Garcon signs with 49ers (5 years, $47.5M; $17M guaranteed)
Analysis: Once again the thought process of this new 49ers management dumbfounds me. By no means is Garçon a true number one receiver, however they paid him as such. This is all not to mention they inked him for five years, which would in theory keep him on board until he’s nearly 36 years old. The guaranteed money isn’t too bad, but with his front loaded deal, he’s going to be paid way too much to make too little impact on a bad team. I guess with all of that cap space though the Niners had to spend it somewhere.
Robert Woods signs with Rams (5 years, $39M; $15M guaranteed)
Analysis: What the F***??? And here I am thinking that Garçon got overpaid… In his four-year career, Woods has A) never caught over 65 passes B) recorded over 700 yards and C) caught more than five touchdowns in a single season. He is consistently a fantasy afterthought and is constantly injured. He will not be a factor going forward and the Rams will live to regret this contract.
Alshon Jeffery signs with Eagles (1 year, $14M)
Analysis: This is a perfect match. A one-year “prove it” deal for an incredibly talented receiver who has had trouble staying on the field. He joins an Eagles offense that is on the rise featuring a young quarterback who was longing for a true number one wide receiver. Jeffery serves that purpose without many strings attached. Well-done, Philly.
DeSean Jackson signs with Buccaneers (3 years, $35M, $20M guaranteed)
Analysis: D-Jax is the exact type of receiver that can transform this Buccaneers offense. The combination of Jackson’s game breaking deep threat ability and Mike Evans’ physical dominance at the point of attack will keep defensive coordinators up at night and Jameis Winston happier than a pig in slop. Sure Jackson has injury issues and is now on the wrong side of 30, but his mere three years and $20 million guaranteed is hardly a steep investment for a legitimate deep threat.
Marquise Goodwin signs with 49ers (2 years, $8M)
Analysis: Another lateral move here for the Niners, as they shed the contract of lightning fast, yet inept receiver Torrey Smith, yet within minutes ink essentially the same guy – Marquise Goodwin – to an $8 million contract. Positively though, at least Goodwin will help out on special teams.
Torrey Smith agrees to terms with Eagles (3 years, $15M)
Analysis: Look, I know I just trashed Smith above, but paired with a good quarterback and slotted behind a true star receiver in Alshon Jeffery, there is a chance that Smith may end up being an important piece to this emerging Eagles offense. Smith – if nothing else – will stretch the field for Carson Wentz and give him a legitimate deep threat, while he will also create room for newly acquired Alshon Jeffery to get open. I don’t love the move but I get it, and most importantly they didn’t really overpay.
Tyrelle Pryor agrees to terms with Redskins (1 year, $8M)
Analysis: Pryor was a matchup nightmare last season – his first full one as a wide receiver – and he was certainly worthy of a payday. Unfortunately for him and fortunately for the Redskins, he didn’t get one and instead he was a bargain bin coup for a team needing some wideout help after losing their top two options just yesterday. TP is joining a division that is probably the most wide receiver rich – in terms of talent – in football. With his build and natural athleticism, Pryor only adds to that lead for the NFC East.
Patriots acquire Brandin Cooks from Saints
Analysis: There is no questioning two things in relation to this deal: The intelligence of Bill Belichick and the talent of Brandin Cooks. Having said that, I’m trying not to overreact to this move. However, first of all, the Pats had to give up a lot to get Cooks (1st and 3rd rounder) and secondly I’m struggling to find his fit in this offense. Considering his biggest asset is speed and subsequently his deep threat capabilities, how does he help a New England offense predicated almost solely on short passing? Let me stop myself though before the Patriots make a fool out of me, once again redefine how NFL offenses are run, and hoist another Lombardi Trophy next February.
Logan Paulsen signs with 49ers (1 year, $1M; $125K guaranteed)
Analysis: The 49ers appear again here and without confirmed particulars in the contract, I can’t really comment. I will say that Paulsen is a warm body – something that San Fran needs at the position – and is not someone who you can really criticize. Provided they didn’t wildly overpay for him, Paulsen should be a welcomed addition to the Niners roster.
UPDATE: With the contract details released, I can say that I'm a fan of the deal. Paulsen is getting paid dirt and has proven in previous years of his career that he can be a servicable second tight end.
Dion Sims agrees to terms with Bears (3 years, $18M; $10M guaranteed)
Analysis: The general rule is that when you commit to building around a quarterback, you then have to actually… commit to building around the quarterback. This is something that the Jets have struggled with for years. Criticize the Bears for the money here all you want, but at least they are doing all they can to build around their newly acquired QB in Mike Glennon. Look, Sims is not the second coming of Antonio Gates, but he’s a good blocker and caught four touchdowns in his final six games last season. Paired with Zach Miller, Sims will provide excellent balance in two TE sets and most importantly Mike Glennon with a legitimate target in the red zone.
Rhett Ellison agrees to terms with Giants (4 years, $18M; 8M guaranteed)
Analysis: Largely known for his run blocking, Ellison is an H-Back that can be moved successfully all around the formation. Having said that, it is fair to say that the Giants overpaid a bit here. My only thought on New York’s reasoning is that they brought Ellison on board as an incentive to lure Adrian Peterson. Ellison has been blocking for AP since 2012. Aside from that, Ellison will be a valued piece even without the addition of Peterson, but at nearly $5 million per year, I’m kinda scratching my head here.
Anthony Fasano agrees to terms with Dolphins (CONTRACT UPDATED 5 years, $2.75M; $1.25M guaranteed)
Analysis: As of now, the money is unknown in this deal, so my reaction may change drastically. I’m thinking it is going to look similar to what Ellison got (above) but maybe slightly more expensive, which again will have me questioning decision makers in this league. I get that Fasano is one of the best run blockers in the game, but I just can’t comprehend how he convinced the Dolphins to give him five years after just posting a mere eight catch season. It should go without saying that this move has zero fantasy implications.
Martellus Bennett agrees to terms with Packers (3 years, $21M; $7.2M guaranteed)
Analysis: After proving to be a colossal disappointment for the Cowboys in his rookie deal, Bennett has done nothing but fight that narrative in each season since, as he has proven to be an excellent weapon for several top-tier quarterbacks over the last few years. I’m sure we can add Aaron Rodgers to the list of future hall of famers who will have thrown to Marty-B, as he signed with the Packers on Friday night. This move has massive fantasy implications and is certainly worth it, as Bennett will come at a price that will only pay him as the 12th highest paid tight end in the league annually.
Matt Kalil signs with Panthers (5 years, $55M; $25M guaranteed)
Analysis: So the Panthers decided to play a little Russian roulette here, as they went with the high potential signing despite Kalil’s history of being a turnstile at left tackle. The money is a bit crooked, but the reality is that you can’t find a cheap LT these days. In this move the Panthers are looking to give their offensive line a face-lift, while pairing Matt Kalil with his brother Ryan (center) on the same offensive line. If nothing else, communication should improve up front for Carolina, which is something that Cam Newton will greatly appreciate.
Kevin Zeitler signs with Browns (5 years, $60M; $31.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: While an expensive deal, the Browns by no means overpaid. It is certainly arguable that Zeitler is the best guard in football and now he will be compensated as such during his prime years. Without many flaws in his game, he will bring excellent balance to the Browns offensive line, as his placement at right guard will be the yin to left tackle Joe Thomas’ yang for years to come.
J.C. Tretter signs with Browns (3 years, $16M; $10M guaranteed)
Analysis: Tretter was ranked as PFF’s (Pro Football Focus) ninth best center last season and seems to only be getting better at just 26 years of age. The main knock on the young lineman is that he has yet to prove healthy in his four-year career. This is a high-potential signing for Cleveland without much risk however, despite his extensive injury history, as Tretter’s $5.3 million per year and $10 million guaranteed investment isn’t too much for the position considering his high-level of talent.
Russell Okung agrees to terms with Chargers (4 years, $53M; $25M guaranteed)
Analysis: Props to Okung here, as he landed this huge contract despite struggling last season, having an extensive injury history, and representing himself as his own agent in negotiations. That should tell you all you need to know about the blindside tackle market this offseason. He’ll be fine in San Diego, but he will not be worth the money owed in this financially inflated tackle market.
Riley Reiff agrees to terms with Vikings (5 years, $58.75M; $26.3M guaranteed)
Analysis: This is another deal that I cannot make heads or tails of just yet because no details have been disclosed yet. On the surface, this makes sense because the Vikes have a huge tackle void after yesterday’s departure of Matt Kalil. Reiff is reliable and versatile, so provided they didn’t go crazy and break the bank for him, I’m sure this will be well received by the masses in Minnesota.
UPDATE: Well with the details just being released, it turns out that they did break the bank for Reiff... It's disappointing to see because now the Vikes will be hamstrung on this deal for years to come for a guy who is going to be underwhelming at worst and mediocre at best. It is tough to hate on them for this move though because what else were they to do? The tackle market is heavily inflated and there aren't much better options in the draft this season.
Chance Warmack agrees to terms with Eagles (1 year, $1.5M; $500K guaranteed)
Analysis: Warmack is still young and is a former 10th overall pick. Considering the Eagles got him at a mere $1.5 million is mind-boggling to me. He will look to battle for a job in camp, but is likely to begin as Philly’s swing guard for 2017.
Larry Warford agrees to terms with Saints (4 years, $34M; $17M guaranteed)
Analysis: Warford was in that same first round with Warmack in fact, and while he was taken after Warmack, he ended up being the better, more reliable player. His new contract reflects it and he will be a cherished addition to the Saints offensive line, as he will be tasked with making them a more physical run-blocking team.
Ronald Leary agrees to terms with Broncos (4 years, $35M; $20M guaranteed)
Analysis: Despite shuffling back and forth within the starting lineup for Dallas over the last few years, make no mistake; Leary was an integral piece to what is now the most feared offensive line of the last decade. There is no doubt that Leary will be a huge upgrade to an otherwise underwhelming Broncos offensive line, but the ulterior thought process for Denver may be to bring in a familiar face for Tony Romo to recognize when he is considering his options this offseason. Either way, great haul for the Broncos despite slightly overpaying.
Rick Wagner agrees to terms with Lions (reported $9M per season)
Analysis: Boy did Wagner get paid here, as he will now be the second highest paid right tackle in the NFL despite never making a Pro Bowl. Some consider him overrated because he has played next to Marshall Yanda – arguably the league’s best guard – for most of his career, but I’ll hark back to my point of how dry this tackle market is as to why the contract numbers seem so crooked. The Lions needed to replace Riley Reiff who just departed on Thursday and in this move I would argue that they upgraded. What more can you ask for from an offseason move?
Andrew Whitworth agrees to terms with Rams (3 years, $33.75M; $15M guaranteed)
Analysis: The important thing to focus on here: In the last eight seasons, Whitworth has only missed two games. That type of blindside consistency is exactly what young quarterbacks need. The money seems right and so do the years for the veteran mainstay. Good move from the Rams here.
Mike Remmers signs with Vikings (5 years, $30M; $10.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: After losing Matt Kalil to the Panthers, the Vikings went out and snagged the Panthers free agent tackle in Remmers. An unintentional trade here occurred, where the Vikings shed salary and potentially upgraded at the position.
Interior Defensive Line
Chris Baker signs with Buccaneers (3 years, $15.75M; $9M guaranteed)
Analysis: This is likely the best value signing of the frenzy so far, as the Bucs got their hands on one of the top interior presences on the market, and they got him for a bargain. He’s a wall in the run game and worked his tail off during pass rushing situations for an impressive 4.5 sacks last year as well. With him and Gerald McCoy manning the DT spots next season, offensive coordinators better take notice.
Terrell McClain signs with Redskins (4 years, $21M; $11M guaranteed)
Analysis: It could be argued that McClain was the Cowboys best defensive lineman last season, and while on the surface that isn’t saying much, he anchored what ended up being the league’s number one ranked rush defense. The Redskins on the other hand finished 23rd in the league, which is unacceptable for any team looking to make the playoffs. Thus the plan with this signing was clear, however I still struggle with where he will fit in their 3-4 scheme, as McClain is pretty exclusively a 4-3 one-technique.
Calais Campbell signs with Jaguars (4 years, $60M; $30M guaranteed)
Analysis: Campbell was pretty clearly the best defensive player on the market this offseason and he quickly jumped on board with the suddenly playoff contending Jaguars. In terms of dollars and cents, the hefty price tag was certainly warranted here, as Campbell has been one of the league’s most disruptive interior defenders over the last half decade. He was an All-Pro last season with his eight sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and one interception, so there is no doubt that the Jaguars are getting a difference maker here. At 30 years old, this contract will likely play out through Campbell’s remaining prime years.
Barkevious Mingo signs with Colts (1 year, $2.5M; $500K guaranteed)
Analysis: Mingo maintains his high potential, as he has crazy athleticism, excellent size, experience, and is still only 26 years of age. He has just yet to put it all together. The Colts got him on a bargain “prove it” deal in hopes of tapping some of that aforementioned potential. If nothing else, he will serve as a quality special teamer.
Julius Peppers signs with Panthers (1 year, $3.5M)
Analysis: It’s not a secret that J-Pep is no spring chicken, but there is also no doubt that he has plenty left in the tank to harass quarterbacks. His deal is on the side of “home town discount” for one year, which is incredibly team friendly for a guy who registered 7.5 sacks last season in a rotational role. He expects to do the same for Carolina in 2017.
Patriots acquire Kony Ealy from Panthers
Analysis: Ealy is a talented pass rusher who put his skills on display a couple of years ago against the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Considering the Pats gave up essentially nothing to get him, I can’t find a downside here. Classic Belichick outsmarting the masses.
Jabaal Sheard agrees to terms with Colts (3 years, $25M; $12.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: Sheard joins his teammate from New England last season – Barkevious Mingo – in Indy once again this offseason, as the Colts appear committed to rebuilding this defense. Sheard is a former first round pick and seems to always be good for around 5-10 sacks per season. The money seems fair considering the priority put on edge rushing nowadays, so while you come to this article expecting “hot takes” I cannot give you one in this instance… Fair deal all around.
Malcolm Smith signs with 49ers (5 years, $26.5M, $11.5M guaranteed)
Analysis: We all know that Smith is a former Super Bowl MVP, but that feels like forever ago considering how much has changed for him over the last few years. First of all, he now grades out better as a run stopper rather than a coverage linebacker, which used to be his calling card. Secondly, Smith has been playing out of position as an inside backer in a 3-4 defense for the Raiders over the past few years. However now it appears that he will transition back to his preferred will linebacker position, which bodes well for his overall production. I do believe that the Niners overpaid here, but what else is new? They had tons of cap space and had to spend it somewhere.
Paul Worrilow signs with Lions (1 year, $3M; $2.75M guaranteed)
Analysis: Worrilow is an experienced player who will bring much needed toughness to this sorry Lions linebacking corps. He’s talented and will likely find a starting spot, however he by no means solves the Lions issues at the position. Expect this to be the first of many defensive transactions for Detroit going forward.
A.J. Klein signs with Saints (4 years, $24M; $9.4M guaranteed)
Analysis: The Saints must see something in Klein beyond his tape, because last I checked, there isn’t much of it, yet they still justified giving him a $24 million contract. He played solidly in place of the injured Luke Kuechly last season, but I still just don’t understand paying him this amount of money. Hopefully he brings with him to the Saints some of his former team’s defensive secrets because otherwise the numbers here just don’t add up.
Lawrence Timmons signs with Dolphins (2 years, $12M)
Analysis: While Timmons is 30 years old, he’s also an accomplished and versatile linebacker with plenty left in the tank. In this deal he is coming at the right price and the Dolphins should be excited to add his talent to their emerging defense. I have nothing bad to say about this deal. Bravo, Miami.
A.J. Bouye signs with Jaguars (5 years, $67M; $26M guaranteed)
Analysis: Wow. Bouye ends up getting the most money out of any free agent this offseason and I bet there is a good chance that you didn’t even know his name going into last season. The Jags had plenty of cap space and weren’t afraid to spend it on Thursday, that’s for sure… Bouye joins a revamped Jacksonville defense and will play across rookie standout corner Jalen Ramsey for the foreseeable future. Many will shout, “one year wonder” from the rooftops, but the fact of the matter is that Bouye was PFF’s third ranked corner in 2016. His skills are legit and he proved it last year by anchoring the back end of one of the league’s best defenses. We may look back at this similarly to the Josh Norman signing last offseason – slight overpay, but worth it for defensive identity.
Stephon Gilmore signs with Patriots (5 years, $65M; $40M guaranteed)
Analysis: This weekend is beginning to feel like a bizzaro world, as the Jaguars defense looks more stacked than the 2000 Ravens and the Patriots are incredibly active during the free agency frenzy. If I were to tell you a signing that was more surprising than any, it is this one, as it is very rare for the Pats to overpay for anyone, let alone an outsider who has had an incredibly inconsistent career. Apparently this is what Trump’s America has brought us… Politics aside, as I said earlier, I am reluctant to question coach Belichick, so I will trust him here, but if you ask me they were better suited sticking it out with Logan Ryan going forward rather than paying out the ass for the enigmatic Gilmore. The only thing I can think of is that adding the longer and more physical corner allows them to play more press-man on the outside, but right now it is tough to tell.
Micah Hyde signs with Bills (5 years, $30.5M; $14M guaranteed)
Analysis: While the Bills lost Gilmore to the Pats, they received a consolation prize in the addition of Hyde, who is a hard-nosed football player and most importantly is as versatile as they come. He has experience playing safety, outside corner, slot corner, and is a star on special teams. He’ll prove to be worth his contract the minute he walks into the team facility.
Antoine Bethea signs with Cardinals (CONTRACT UPDATED 3 years, $12.75M; $4M guaranteed)
Analysis: The Cards lost Tony Jefferson on Thursday and thus needed to fill the void quickly. Bethea is not quite the player Jefferson is, but he also will not make quite the money that Jefferson will in Baltimore (below). He will serve as the thumper and sure tackling safety (110 tackles last season), while Tyrann Mathieu can continue to serve as one of the league’s best coverage safeties going forward. Reasonable replacement plan for Arizona here.
Tony Jefferson signs with Ravens (4 years, $36M; $14M guaranteed)
Analysis: Quietly, in 2016 Jefferson became the game’s best box safety, as he received a near perfect (98.0) run-defense grade according to PFF. He was destined to make good money on the open market this offseason and the Ravens didn’t disappoint. Jefferson will slot in perfectly alongside Eric Weddle as the fearless SS and should bring immediate change to this Ravens defense.
Quintin Demps agrees to terms with Bears (3 years, $13.5M)
Analysis: Demps is Honey Nut Cheerios… nothing special, but rock solid. To keep it brief here, Chicago added a good player at a fair price. Nothing much more to say here.
Johnathan Cyprien agrees to terms with Titans (4 years, $25M; $9M guaranteed)
Analysis: Cyprien has been all the Jags could have asked for since they drafted him in the second round of the 2013 draft, however after his rookie contract expired, he seemed to fall slightly out of their price range. The Titans were happy to pick up the bill here, and in doing so they will be adding a downhill playing box safety, who seems to be running shot out of a cannon at all times. A bit pricey for my taste, but I tend to be ultra-conservative when it comes to team building.
Barry Church agrees to terms with Jaguars (reportedly 4 years, $24M)
Analysis: As I said above, Johnathan Cyprien has been a good player for Jacksonville since the day he was drafted, but the fact of the matter is that the Jags managed to upgrade at the position while shedding salary. Barry Church has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys secondary for the past few seasons, and his impact plays never went unnoticed. Jacksonville added a defensive leader here and a player whose nose is always around the football. What else can you ask for from a box safety?
D.J. Swearinger agrees to terms with Redskins (3 years, $13.5M; $9M guaranteed)
Analysis: A third box safety in a row comes off the board here, as Swearinger fits the mold of both Barry Church and Johnathan Cyprien. Of the three though, Swearinger may play with the biggest mean streak. That can work two ways… He can make big plays with impact hits, or he can give up plays with critical whiffs. The risk reward imbalance is why his contract is the least player friendly of the three box safeties.
Logan Ryan agrees to terms with Titans (3 years, $30M)
Analysis: Ryan is coming off his second Super Bowl victory in four years and along the way has proven to be one of the game’s best off-ball corners. His lack of ideal height and speed is why his contract is rather underwhelming for the position and his reputation, but hey, $10 million a year is nothing to sneeze at. He will prove to be an instant upgrade to this Titans ever-improving defense.
Prince Amukamara agrees to terms with Bears (1 year, $7M)
Analysis: Amukamara is a classic case of talented and injury prone. While talent at the cornerback position usually can get you money no matter what in this league, the injury prone moniker will serve as kryptonite to any Supermanish talent. Thus, Prince is forced to reluctantly sign on the dotted line for only one year at $7 million. If he can prove to stay healthy, then this deal would have made sense for him, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Nolan Carroll signs with Cowboys (3 years, $10M)
Analysis: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em I guess…” This has to have been Carroll’s thought process, as Dallas historically has torched him over the years. Particularly Dez Bryant has been a thorn in Carroll’s side, but now that will be reserved for practice only as the Cowboys inked the former Eagles CB on Friday night. Look, Carroll is nothing special, but rather, “serviceable” is a term that I would use for him. Considering the Cowboys lost damn near every defensive free agent they had this offseason within the first 48 hours of the frenzy, Carroll’s signing almost became a necessity. Cowboys fans should just be happy that he came at a reasonable price.
Robbie Gould signs with 49ers (2 years, $4M; $1M guaranteed)
Analysis: The 49ers cut ties with relic Phil Dawson to “kick” off free agency on Thursday… Come on, give me a break here; I know the pun was weak, but how am I supposed to have a “hot take” on a kicker transaction? In any event Robbie Gould will replace Dawson in San Fran, proving that special teams will be the least of worries for the league’s future worst team.
Steven Hauschka agrees to terms with Bills (reportedly 4 years, $12.4M)
Analysis: Hauschka is a middle of the road place kicker at best who missed six PAT’s last year, yet somehow he is set to make more money than a lot of NFL running backs going forward…. His agent is doing something right for sure.