NFL News & Analysis

2022 NFL Free Agency LIVE Deal Grader: Grading and tracking every free agent signing

Seattle, Washington, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) runs for yards after the catch against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The start of the new NFL season is all but underway, meaning extensions and deals with unrestricted free agents are coming in fast.

The PFF Free Agency Live Deal Grader will break down all the news using PFF’s play-by-play grading system along with team situations and contract details, and we'll give each deal one of five grades: poor, below average, average, above average and elite.

These ratings will be updated throughout the week as additional news comes in.

For even more information about the best free agents on the market, monitor PFF's free-agent rankings, which include contract projections, wins above replacement, PFF grades and analysis.

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ARIZONA CARDINALS

TE Zach Ertz: Three years, $31.65 million ($17.5 million guaranteed)

The Arizona Cardinals acquired Ertz at the trade deadline during the 2021 season. He was exactly what they’d hoped for, garnering 79 targets and hauling in 56 receptions for 574 yards over the final eleven games of the regular season. With Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku, Dallas Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz, and Miami Dolphins tight end/wide receiver Mike Gesicki all receiving the franchise tag, Ertz became the top free-agent option at tight end. 

He may not be the player he was at his peak in Philadelphia, but he earned a respectable 71.4 receiving grade with just two drops over his time in Arizona. With the possibility of wide receivers Christian Kirk and A.J. Green departing in free agency, Ertz provides another reliable target for quarterback Kyler Murray outside of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Grade: Below average

RB James Conner: Three years, $21 million ($13.5 million fully guaranteed)

The Pittsburgh product signed a one-year flier with the Cardinals for close to the minimum last offseason, but he now gets rewarded with a strong multi-year deal coming off a career-best 82.9 grade with an impressive 18 touchdowns as a member of a running back committee with Chase Edmonds — who now heads to the Miami Dolphins. 

Conner is a true three-down player, averaging over 10 yards per reception on his 37 catches in 2021 and earning a near-elite 88.5 pass-blocking grade, which will be important going forward to protect quarterback Kyler Murray. It’s fair to wonder if Arizona is buying high, but Conner will be only 27 years old for the 2022 season and figures to have a few good years left in the tank.

Grade: Below Average

QB Colt McCoy: Two years, $7.5 million

McCoy answered the bell when called upon for the Cardinals last season, winning two of his three starts for an injured Kyler Murray. He can deliver the ball accurately in the short passing game and provides a veteran presence that adds value in the quarterback room. That was enough for Arizona to bring him back to sit behind Murray on a fairly strong contract for a backup, even if McCoy doesn’t offer much in the way of arm strength or playmaking ability. 

Grade: Average

Edge Dennis Gardeck: Three years, $12 million

This is a projection signing with some value cooked in for Gardeck’s special teams prowess. The 2018 undrafted free agent has logged only 270 snaps on defense over the first four years of his career. However, those snaps have been efficient, with his 22.8% pressure percentage on 79 pass-rush snaps in 2020 a figure that would be among the league’s best for a full season. 

Gardeck has four straight seasons earning special teams grades above 70.0 and is the latest player to cash in for his high-level contributions in the third phase.

Grade: Average


ATLANTA FALCONS

CB Casey Hayward Jr.: Two years, $11 million

Hayward showed everyone that he can still play at a high level on a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. Hayward’s interception and pass-breakup numbers in 2021 won’t blow anyone away, but he was one of the best cornerbacks in the league at limiting production on a per-snap basis. He allowed just 30 receptions and fewer than 400 receiving yards into his coverage over the course of the regular season. 

The addition of Hayward opposite A.J. Terrell gives Atlanta two outside cornerbacks that they can rely on heading into 2022. Without the cap space to chase the younger high-end options like J.C. Jackson and Carlton Davis, this is one of the better outcomes for general manager Terry Fontenot and company. 

Grade: Above average

RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson: Two years, $10.5 million

At 31 years old, Patterson is on the older side for a “running back” to get a multi-year contract extension, but he isn’t just a running back. He did it all in Arthur Smith’s 2021 offense, notching 500-plus yards and five touchdowns both through the air and on the ground. His 91.4 PFF receiving grade ranked fourth among all players — behind only Cooper Kupp, Christian McCaffrey in limited action and Davante Adams.

It’s easy to expect Patterson to play a key role in an offense that could be devoid of talent again in 2022.

Grade: Above average

QB Marcus Mariota: Two years, $18.75 million

After losing out on their pursuit of Deshaun Watson and flipping Matt Ryan to the Colts, the Falcons will have Mariota slot in as their projected starter following his several seasons on the bench behind Derek Carr in Las Vegas. 

Mariota peaked as PFF’s 12th-highest graded quarterback in 2017 before sliding a bit in 2018 and losing his starting job to Ryan Tannehill with the Titans in 2019. Still, he showed in spot duty with the Raiders that he can pose a threat to defenses with his legs and get the ball out accurately. Mariota on this kind of deal makes sense as a bridge to Atlanta’s next franchise quarterback without there being many other appealing options to turn to in free agency.

Grade: Average


BALTIMORE RAVENS

S Marcus Williams: Five years, $70 million ($37 million guaranteed)

Williams has become one of the more underappreciated safeties in the NFL in recent seasons, with his costly miscue in the 2017 playoffs still impacting his public perception. However, he has one of the highest wins above replacement (WAR) values among all safeties since 2017, and he’s a consistent performer against both the run and the pass. 

The Ravens opted to spend up at safety, upgrading from DeShon Elliott to Williams at free safety. They could still stand to add another starting-caliber cornerback to pair with Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, but the return of Peters from injury and an overall healthier secondary in 2022 should get back to producing the kind of results Baltimore has grown accustomed to in recent years.  

Grade: Above average

T Morgan Moses: Three years, $15 million

Moses is PFF’s 14th-highest-graded right tackle over the past two seasons. He has graded out above 65.0 as a pass protector in every season since 2015, and he’s done the same as a run blocker in all but one of those years. Moses pairs that consistency with durability. He hasn’t missed a game since his rookie season. 

Given how the veteran starting tackle free agent market usually goes, this is a strong value signing for Baltimore and an upgrade over Ja’Wuan James at right tackle. The $5 million per year average lines up with right tackles like Jesse Davis and Zach Banner.

Grade: Above average

DI Michael Pierce: Three years, $16.5 million ($6.75 million guaranteed)

Pierce signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent in the 2020 offseason but opted out for the season. Then an injury kept him out from Weeks 5-12 of 2021, leading to his release. Pierce has been a very productive nose tackle when on the field, earning an 84.5 pass-rushing grade in 2021 with 16 quarterback pressures on just 123 pass-rush reps.

He isn’t an every-down player but is a force on the interior, never missing more than three tackles in a season and earning a 90.7 run-defense grade since 2016 that ranks sixth among interior defensive linemen.

Grade: Average


BUFFALO BILLS

WR Isaiah McKenzie: Two years, $4.4 million ($1.25 million guaranteed)

McKenzie has flashed in a limited slot role over the past three seasons, operating behind Cole Beasley in that capacity when needed. He’s earned PFF receiving grades of 75.0 or higher in each of the past two years on fewer than 300 total offensive snaps. 

The Bills aren’t necessarily committing to him taking over that role full time with this type of investment, especially given that McKenzie can also contribute in the return game, but it does give them the flexibility to cut ties with Beasley if needed for salary cap relief this offseason. Buffalo could save over $6 million in 2022 by releasing Beasley this offseason, per Over the Cap. 

Grade: Above average

C Mitch Morse: Two years, $19.5 million ($12 million guaranteed)

Morse agreed to a pay cut prior to the 2021 season to stay in Buffalo and went on to earn his lowest grade since 2017 at 63.4 overall. However, Morse has not graded below 60.0 as a run-blocker or pass-blocker in any season since 2017, and his high floor brings stability. Continuity along the interior may be especially important with the Bills deciding to release 2021 right guard Daryl Williams.

Grade: Average

DI Tim Settle: Two years, $9 million (up to $10.6 million)

Settle is one of the more intriguing interior defensive linemen in this free agent class. He has never logged more than 350 defensive snaps in a season while playing behind the likes of Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis. But he has delivered strong production in that limited action, particularly as a pass rusher, with 70.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grades in each of the past two seasons.

The addition of Settle could soften the loss of Harrison Phillips if the Bills aren’t able to re-sign him. And there’s potential upside baked in with the possibility of Settle taking the next step in his career in an increased role.

Grade: Above average

DI DaQuan Jones: Two years, $14 million ($10.6 million guaranteed)

The interior defensive line market has been strong out of the gate in free agency, and the 30-year-old Jones continues that trend. He’s earned pass rush grades of 65.0 or better in three straight seasons, with at least 20 quarterback pressures. 

Jones is a big presence on the interior, with at least 15 defensive stops in every season since 2015. He earns a nice pay raise over his one-year flier in 2021 with the Carolina Panthers.

Grade: Average

Edge Von Miller: Six years, $120 million

A lot of different teams were tied to Miller, who stood out as one of the best free agents on the market, regardless of position, after helping bring a Lombardi Trophy to the Los Angeles Rams. The Bills weren’t one of the teams mentioned at the top of that group of potential suitors, but they ended up landing the 33-year-old on a six-year deal.

It will be important to note the contract details as they come out, with it already being reported that the deal averages $17.5 million through the first four years. There are likely some team-friendly elements that make it more palatable from Buffalo’s perspective than it appears on the surface.

Miller showed in his return from injury in 2021 that he still profiles as one of the more dangerous pass rushers in the NFL off the edge. He earned an 88.1 pass-rushing grade last season and recorded 22 quarterback pressures during the Rams' postseason run.

Grade: Average

TE O.J. Howard: One year, $3.5 million (up to $5 million)

In brief stretches during his five seasons with the Buccaneers, Howard looked like the player they expected him to be when they made him their first-round selection in 2017, namely pre-injury in 2018 and 2020. But those stretches were much too few and far between. Howard averaged just over 0.1 wins above replacement per season over the course of his rookie deal.

He’ll now get an opportunity to stay healthy and put that behind him in Buffalo while competing for snaps with Dawson Knox. The Bills could look to get two tight ends — Howard and Knox — on the field more with the potential departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley.

Grade: Average

WR Jamison Crowder: One year, $2 million (up to $4 million)

Buffalo saved $6.1 million in 2022 cap space by releasing Cole Beasley, and they used a fraction of that space to bring in Crowder, who should provide similar if not better production than the 33-year-old Beasley in Buffalo’s offense.

Crowder earned PFF receiving grades above 73.0 in each of his first two seasons with the Jets (2019 and 2020) before falling back to 65.1 last season. That came despite one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL, with Jets quarterbacks combining for the 31st-ranked passing grade out of 32 quarterback situations since 2019. Crowder will certainly be happy to turn Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson into Josh Allen.

Grade: Above average


CAROLINA PANTHERS

S Xavier Woods: Three years, $15.75 million

Woods is coming off the lowest PFF coverage grade of his career in his lone season with the Vikings last season, but he did produce grades above 85.0 as a run defender and tackler. He’s a versatile, well-rounded starting option at safety who doesn’t excel in any one area.

Looking at Carolina’s depth chart at the position, Woods makes sense as a starting option alongside Jeremy Chinn. That spot was split in 2022 by Sean Chandler, Myles Hartsfield and Kenny Robinson Jr. in 2021. There was room to upgrade with someone like Woods on a reasonable deal.

Grade: Above average

G Austin Corbett: Three years, $29.25 million

The offensive line, if not for the Sam Darnold mishap last year, would be the clear biggest need for the Panthers this offseason. Carolina could feasibly stand to upgrade all of its starting offensive line positions, save for Taylor Moton at right tackle. Signing a mid-level starting guard like Corbett is a good way to go about the rebuild in free agency.

The 26-year-old Corbett has earned PFF grades of 69.6 and 73.4 the past two seasons as the starter at right guard for the Rams, putting together a well-rounded grading profile in pass protection and gap and zone rushing schemes.

Grade: Above average

CB Donte Jackson: Three years, $35.1 million

As his bottom line in PFF’s free agent rankings states, Jackson has exceptional speed and athleticism but doesn’t possess the man-cover skills to match them. Jackson grades out in the 28th percentile of all qualifying cornerbacks in PFF coverage grade when isolated in single coverage. He can be a nice No. 2 option in a zone-heavy scheme, but this is a strong deal for a player with that kind of skill set. 

Jackson re-signing in Carolina now gives the Panthers a projected top three of Jackson, Jaycee Horn and C.J. Henderson at cornerback entering 2022 with Stephon Gilmore likely signing elsewhere.

Grade: Below average

C Bradley Bozeman: One year, $2.8 million ($1 million guaranteed)

After securing Austin Corbett earlier in free agency, Carolina makes another move to improve its offensive line for whoever ends up behind center in 2022. Bozeman is coming off a career-best 73.3 PFF grade in his first season at center for the Ravens last season. That’s likely where he will slot in for the Panthers, but he has full seasons of starting experience at both guard and center if Carolina wants to move him around. 

This is strong value for Carolina, adding a younger free agent offensive lineman with some positional versatility. Bozeman’s $2.8 million per year average slots in just 23rd among centers, per Over the Cap.

Grade: Elite

LB Cory Littleton: One year, $2.6 million

Things didn’t work out for Littleton in Las Vegas. He finished his two seasons with the Raiders with PFF grades of 47.1 and 48.3 following two very strong campaigns in coverage with the Rams before that. This is a low-risk move by the Panthers in the hopes that Littleton can get back to that form.

Grade: Average


CHICAGO BEARS

DI Larry Ogunjobi: Three years, $40.5 million ($26.35 million guaranteed)

Ogunjobi signed a one-year, $6.2 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals during the 2021 offseason and accumulated career-highs with 40 quarterback pressures and eight sacks, predominantly from a three-technique alignment. The Bears cut former nose tackle Eddie Goldman last week, as he represented a better fit in the 3-4 front that was a staple of Chicago’s defense for many years.

Ogunjobi will fill the role played by Grover Stewart in Indianapolis, where Bears head coach Matt Eberflus spent the past four seasons as the defensive coordinator. Nevertheless, Ogunjobi has three straight seasons with sub-60.0 grades, and this is a huge investment on defense for a team with a poor offensive line and no weapons to speak of outside of wide receiver Darnell Mooney.

Grade: Poor

C Lucas Patrick: Two years, $8 million ($4 million fully guaranteed)

Patrick logged over 900 snaps in 2020 and 2021 while starting primarily at right guard and center, respectively. His versatility along the interior brings a lot of value to a Bears offensive line in need of several reinforcements, and he reunites with new Chicago offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who was the Green Bay Packers passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Patrick earned a 67.3 pass-blocking grade and allowed just one sack in 2021, garnering high praise from quarterback Aaron Rodgers along the way.

Grade: Average

LB Nicholas Morrow: One year, up to $5 million

The Raiders were optimistic about Morrow’s continued growth since signing him as an undrafted free agent in 2017, eventually agreeing to a one-year, $4.5 million contract for the 2021 season. Morrow was coming off a career-best 63.7 overall grade with a 70.4 coverage grade, an interception and five pass breakups.

Unfortunately, injuries kept him off the field for the duration of the season. His versatility is a key part of his value, as he’s spent time at the Will and Mike spots, while also discussing a willingness to play the Sam position prior to 2021 in a crowded Raiders linebacker room. New Bears head coach Matt Eberflus needed to add at least one off-ball linebacker this offseason, and Morrow is a good start.

Grade: Average

WR Byron Pringle: One year, $6 million ($4 million guaranteed)

The Bears are desperate for wide receivers to pair with 2020 fifth-round pick and emerging young player Darnell Mooney, and new general manager Ryan Poles bringing in a familiar face in former Chiefs wide receiver Byron Pringle is definitely a start.

Pringle is coming off a career year with a 65.0 receiving grade and 568 receiving yards on 13.5 yards per reception, lining up in the slot on 61% of snaps in 2021. He’s a reliable No. 3 option who has the ability to break off big plays with regularity. Pringle had a reception go for at least 20 yards in eight games in 2021.

Grade: Average

DI Justin Jones: Two years, $12 million

Chicago quickly moved on after the failed physical for Larry Ogunjobi to sign Jones to man the interior on a cheaper deal. Jones started at defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Chargers for most of the past two seasons, earning PFF grades of 59.1, 70.6 and 57.9. That peak in 2020 came on the back of a 79.2 run-defense grade. 

The Bears will be hoping that level of play resurfaces in 2022 on an interior defensive line that is now a lot thinner than it was several seasons ago.

Grade: Average

EDGE Al-Quadin Muhammad: Two years, $10 million

Muhammad re-joins former defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to provide some depth and a potential starting option opposite Robert Quinn in Chicago’s edge defender rotation following the Khalil Mack trade. Muhammad logged at least 400 defensive snaps in each of the past four seasons for Indianapolis, topping out at 800 in 2021. He’s a steady performer against both the run and the pass but doesn’t offer much of a ceiling beyond being a stop-gap starter or rotational edge. Muhammad earned PFF grades between 61.2 and 66.2 every season from 2018 to 2021.

Grade: Average


CINCINNATI BENGALS

S Jessie Bates III: One year, $12,910,000 (franchise tag)

Bates and the Bengals went back and forth during the 2021 offseason, but Cincinnati was unwilling to step up and meet Bates’ asking price. The safety market took a major step forward with Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams and Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith signing market-topping deals, and more big deals could be coming for players like Tyrann Mathieu, Minkah Fitzpatrick and others. Bates was arguably the best player for the Bengals during their miraculous run to the Super Bowl, and he deserves to be compensated as such.

Grade: Above average

G Alex Cappa: Four years, $40 million

The Buccaneers will now be working to replace both starting guards from the 2021 season, with Cappa headed to the Bengals to help quarterback Joe Burrow stay upright. Cincinnati had a revolving door at the right guard position in 2021, with playoff starter Hakeem Adeniji earning three straight grades below 35.0 to finish out the season after allowing eight pressures and six sacks.

Cappa represents a huge upgrade at the position, coming off a career-best 74.2 grade with 70.0-plus marks as a run blocker and pass protector.

Grade: Average

G Ted Karras: Three years, $18 million

Karras is a valuable addition for a Bengals interior offensive line that was a revolving door in 2021, with the ability to play both center and guard. He played the majority of the 2021 season at left guard for the Patriots but also made two starts at right guard. His 72.8 grade this past year was his best since 2018, and he allowed just 11 quarterback pressures on 425 pass-block reps. 

Grade: Average

DI B.J. Hill: Three years, $30 million

The Cincinnati Bengals acquired Hill and a seventh-round pick from the New York Giants in exchange for center Billy Price last offseason, and that may have proven to be the most underrated heist of 2021. Hill put up a career-high 26 quarterback pressures in the regular season and tacked on nine more during the playoffs, including a huge sack of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship game. 

Hill could not have picked a better time to reach free agency, with a weak class of interior defender free agents moving his value up the board. This is definitely a strong offer for Hill’s services, but this just represents the 2022 market.

Grade: Average

CB Eli Apple: One year, $4 million

Re-signing Apple on this one-year deal gives Cincinnati the security of a player who they know can start outside, but it doesn’t keep them from looking for upgrades elsewhere.

Apple played a career-high 1,242 defensive snaps for the Bengals in 2021 across the regular season and postseason, allowing a 100.2 passer rating into his coverage while earning a 60.4 PFF coverage grade. He looks the part of an above-average starting cornerback with his size and athleticism, but that player still hasn’t materialized six years into his NFL career. 

Grade: Average

T La’el Collins: Three years, $30 million

Initial reports indicate that this contract is closer to a two-year, $20 million deal. Either way, it’s well worth the cost for Cincinnati to solidify the right tackle spot and add one of the better run-blocking tackles in the NFL up front. In his past two seasons of action, Collins earned a 91.6 PFF run-blocking grade that ranked second among all right tackles across the 2019 and 2021 campaigns, behind only Ryan Ramczyk.

With the Bengals adding three new starters up front over the past week, left guard remains the only real area of concern. Cincinnati will be hoping 2021 second-round pick Jackson Carman is able to step up in that spot next season, though. 

Grade: Above average


CLEVELAND BROWNS

TE David Njoku: One year, $10,931,000 (franchise tag)

Njoku had a career year playing on the fifth-year option in 2021 and is younger than recently extended tight ends such as Baltimore's Mark Andrews and Philadelphia's Dallas Goedert. Contracts last offseason for Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith probably made negotiations with Njoku difficult for the Browns, so a franchise tag to buy some more time became necessary. The question now becomes, what will happen with Browns tight end Austin Hooper?

Grade: Above average

WR Jakeem Grant: Three years, up to $13.8 million

Grant is coming off a Pro Bowl nod in 2021 as a kick/punt returner and can line up out wide and in the slot to bring a major speed/gadget element to any offense. The Bears even had him lining up in the backfield for a handful of snaps at the end of the 2021 season, as defenses must account for him wherever he is on the field. 

The Browns now have some serious speed at the wideout position with 2021 third-round pick and former track athlete Anthony Schwartz, Donovan Peoples-Jones capable of running in the 4.4s at 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, and newly acquired Amari Cooper also a 4.4 guy who will have a lot of room to operate with multiple speedsters around him. 

Grade: Average

LB ANTHONY WALKER: One year, $5 million

Walker earned himself a raise in Cleveland after performing well on a modest one-year deal in 2021. His 69.1 overall grade was the highest of his career, as was his 78.2 coverage grade. The Browns still have several options at linebacker — one fewer now following the Mack Wilson-Chase Winovich swap earlier this week — but Walker should be in line to start next to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah again in 2022.

Grade: Average

QB Jacoby Brissett: One year, $4.65 million

The backup quarterback position for the Browns is a relevant position for the 2022 season with new starter Deshaun Watson still facing 22 civil lawsuits and a likely suspension from the league.

Brissett has shown throughout his career that he can provide serviceable play when called upon in stints with the Colts and Dolphins. He limits turnover-worthy plays and can move the ball with his legs, both on scrambles and as a quarterback sneak specialist. This contract is right about in line with what you would expect for one of the better backup options in the NFL.

Grade: Above average


DALLAS COWBOYS

TE Dalton Schultz: One year, $10,931,000 (franchise tag)

Schultz burst onto the scene in 2021, commanding over 100 targets in a high-flying Cowboys passing attack littered with quality receiving weapons. With questions about fellow tight end Blake Jarwin‘s long-term health, Dallas had no choice but to place the franchise tag on Schultz, especially with the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins already tagging David Njoku and Mike Gesicki, respectively. It's hard to find even an above-average tight end in the NFL, so when teams do have one, they'll be hard-pressed to let them test the open market.

Grade: Average

WR Michael Gallup: Five years, $62.5 million ($27 million guaranteed)

The news that the Cowboys were planning on releasing Amari Cooper, who was ultimately traded to the Cleveland Browns, signaled that they were choosing to invest in their other free agent receiving options (Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and Dalton Schultz) instead. Gallup was the headliner of that group, and Dallas was able to lock him in for the next five years at an average per year that is in line with the deal that Corey Davis signed last offseason with the Jets. 

Gallup can play either outside spot, and his strength comes in his ability to create separation with his footwork and route running down the sidelines. He’ll look to improve on a career-best 74.0 PFF grade and 1,107 receiving yards in 2019 without Cooper in the fold. 

Grade: Above average

Edge Demarcus Lawrence: Three years, $40 million ($30 million guaranteed)

Dallas has had to make some tough decisions on players under contract and free agents (Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson and likely La’el Collins, among others) due to their current cap situation, but this extension for Lawrence is a nice consolation prize. It appears to be one of the best deals of the day. Lawrence gets a high percentage of the deal guaranteed, and the Cowboys get one of the best edge defenders in the league under contract for less than $14 million per year. 

Lawrence hasn’t consistently produced the sack totals of an elite edge rusher, but he’s recorded five consecutive PFF grades of 85.0 or higher the past five years in Dallas. He’s one of the better run defenders at the position and gets into the backfield consistently as a pass rusher, even if it doesn’t always result in sacks.

Grade: Elite

S Malik Hooker: Two years, $8 million

The former first-round pick of the Colts battled injuries at the outset of his career but made the most of his opportunity with the Cowboys last season, earning a career-best 75.8 run-defense grade with 12 defensive stops. In coverage, Hooker allowed just nine receptions on 14 targets, notching an interception and a pass breakup.

Hooker also displayed more versatility in 2021, with his 140 snaps down in the box double his previous high in any season, while still showing off the playmaking range in the deep third that made him a star coming out of Ohio State. Still only 26 years old, Hooker could continue to get better as a pro if he can stay healthy.

Grade: Average

LB Leighton Vander Esch: One year, up to $3 million

Vander Esch had his fifth-year option for 2022 declined by the Cowboys back in 2020, and that would have been for $9.1 million fully guaranteed. Now, Dallas brings him back for a third of that price on a one-year flier. While he may not have lived up to his first-round billing, Vander Esch is a capable Mike linebacker who had a bounceback 2021 season, earning a 63.5 grade on 661 snaps. If Vander Esch stays healthy, this deal could end up as a steal.

Grade: Above average

EDGE Dorance Armstrong: Two years, $13 million

With Randy Gregory heading to the Denver Broncos after an 11th-hour contract issue, retaining Armstrong is even more important for Dallas’ defensive line. Armstrong actually out-snapped Gregory in 2021, logging 507 to Gregory’s 436, and earning a career-high 65.7 grade in the process.

Armstrong accumulated 35 total quarterback pressures, six sacks and 19 defensive stops while missing just one tackle attempt the entire season.

Grade: Above average

S Jayron Kearse: Two years, $10 million (up to $11 million)

Kearse proved to be the perfect matchup weapon at safety in Dan Quinn’s defense last season with the Cowboys. His 1,073 defensive snaps in 2021 were over twice his previous career-high mark, and he posted a strong 75.3 overall grade in that time on the field. Kearse has the size and coverage skills to match up with opposing tight ends in man coverage and was one of the better tackling safeties in the league. 

If he continues on his current trajectory in Dallas, this deal that pays out $5 million per year will look like a steal for an impact starter in the secondary.

Grade: Above average


DENVER BRONCOS

DI D.J. Jones: Three years, $30 million ($20 million guaranteed)

Jones had a breakout 2021 campaign that continued into the playoffs for the 49ers, with his late-game sack of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott a huge play to close out the team’s first playoff win. Only the great Aaron Donald made more tackles for loss or no gain in 2021 than Jones among interior defenders, with 17 to Jones’ 14.

The move also represents an immediate replacement for interior defender Shelby Harris, who the Broncos traded to the Seahawks in the Russell Wilson blockbuster.

Grade: Average

Edge Randy Gregory: Five years, $70 million ($28 million guaranteed)

This is a bet by Denver on the flashes that Gregory has shown over the past two years, even though he’s played less than 700 defensive snaps since returning from suspension in 2020. Those flashes are worth betting on, though. Gregory ranks in the 93rd percentile of qualifying edge rushers in PFF pass-rushing grade over the past two years. 

A healthy Gregory producing at that level over the course of a full season is a very valuable player who would make this contract look like one of the position’s better values. Denver was able to pry Gregory away from Dallas to add to a thin edge group outside of Bradley Chubb.

Grade: Above average

LB Josey Jewell: Two years, $11 million

Broncos general manager George Paton mentioned during his media availability at the 2022 NFL Combine that it would be difficult to re-sign all of Denver’s impending off-ball linebacker free agents. It appears as if the Broncos have prioritized Jewell from that group. The former fourth-round selection out of Iowa doesn’t excel in any one area, but he has been a reliable tackler and steady contributor in all facets when called upon in a starting role. Jewell earned run-defense and coverage grades above 65.0 in his lone full season as a starter in 2020. 

It remains to be seen who starts alongside Jewell at linebacker next season in his return from a torn pectoral injury that cost him nearly the entire 2021 season.

Grade: Average

CB K’Waun Williams: Two years, $5.2 million (up to $7 million)

With Bryce Callahan still a free agent, Denver decided to make a change in the slot and bring in one of the better nickel defenders in the NFL since 2014 — when Williams entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

Williams turns 31 in July and is coming off a career-worst 63.5 PFF grade in 2021. He’s likely on the downslope of his NFL career, but this is a reasonable price point for a slot starter who can still get downhill on underneath passes in zone coverage and defend the run at a high level for his position.

Grade: Average


DETROIT LIONS

S Tracy Walker: Three years, $25 million ($17 million guaranteed)

If Walker’s PFF grading profile over the course of his NFL career was viewed in reverse, this contract would look likely be seen as a steal. After earning an 82.5 overall grade across his first two years in the league, that mark has fallen to 57.1 over the past two years. He’s been at his best in coverage when operating from deep alignments as the free safety. The worst season of his career came in 2020 when he was asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage. 

With holes across the roster, Detroit opted to lock in one of its more productive defensive backs across the past several seasons. The team could still stand to add some more quality depth at safety in the coming weeks.

Grade: Average

WR D.J. Chark Jr.: One year, $10 million fully guaranteed (up to $12 million)

Chark missed the majority of the 2021 season with a fractured ankle, but there should be no long-term concerns, and he’ll still be just 25 years old in Week 1 of the 2022 season. Chark earned a career-best 75.8 receiving grade in his sophomore 2019 season, going over 1,000 receiving yards with just two drops on 114 targets.

The LSU product is every bit of 6-foot-4 and ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, a true big-bodied burner on the outside. He has skills that simply cannot be taught. The Lions did very well here to get him on a one-year flier, providing a huge boost to their offense. And now Chark can also play his way into a substantial multi-year deal next offseason.

Grade: Above average

Edge Charles Harris: Two years, $14 million

Harris put together a rewarding contract-year breakout for Detroit last season, earning a 78.7 PFF pass-rushing grade on 871 defensive snaps. It was the first time he cleared 500 defensive snaps in a season, and his 52 quarterback pressures were more than he recorded in his previous three seasons combined.

That kind of jump tends to be dangerous when it comes to contract extensions from the team’s perspective, but this looks to be a reasonable deal for Detroit. Harris can get to the quarterback from wide alignments, and the Lions aren’t exactly flush with pass-rushing options as of now.

Grade: Above average

CB Mike Hughes: One year, $3.5 million

Hughes is coming off a career-high 72.9 PFF grade across 609 defensive snaps in his lone season with the Chiefs last year. He started six games outside, with all but one coming late in the year. It was a much-needed bounceback for the former first-round pick after he earned just a 56.7 PFF grade on 673 snaps in his first three seasons with the Vikings.

Hughes will have an opportunity to earn a starting role in Detroit with a relatively young and unproven cornerback group. He played both in the slot and out wide in Minnesota but graded out significantly better on the outside.

Grade: Above average


GREEN BAY PACKERS

Edge Preston Smith: Four years, $52 million ($12.2 million guaranteed)

Smith agreed to a reworked contract before the 2021 season that, in theory, made him a cut candidate much like former Packers edge defender Za’Darius Smith. However, he played so well during the season that he became a priority to extend. 

Smith earned a career-best 80.8 grade and accumulated 62 quarterback pressures, and his four-year, $52 million extension represents a win for both parties. Packers interior defender Kenny Clark is already one of the highest-paid nose tackles in the NFL and 2021 breakout edge defender Rashan Gary will be looking for a major extension soon, and Smith’s deal for a solid No. 2 pass-rusher doesn’t complicate matters going forward. 

Grade: Above average

LB De’Vondre Campbell: Five years, $50 million

Campbell proved to be one of the better value signings of the 2021 offseason on a one-year, $2 million deal. He delivered All Pro-caliber play on that contract last season and was able to turn it into a strong, five-year extension in Green Bay. 

Campbell’s 85.0 PFF grade in 2021 ranked second among qualifying off-ball linebackers, behind only Micah Parsons. The concerns will always be there for a player who delivered a massive contract year performance after plenty of underwhelming play, but Campbell is as durable as they come at the position and has been a strong tackler throughout his career. The Packers are banking on that following his Demario Davis-esque arc after he joined the Saints. 

Grade: Average

CB Rasul Douglas: Three years, $21 million (up to $25.5 million)

Much like with De’Vondre Campbell, Green Bay was able to keep another one of its productive 2021 additions in-house with a multi-year extension. Douglas stepped into a starting role for the Packers in Week 7 after he was signed off the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad, and he gave no reason for Green Bay to pull him. Douglas finished the 2021 season with a career-high 77.2 PFF coverage grade and a 43.7 passer rating allowed on throws into his coverage. 

Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Douglas project to enter next season as the top three cornerbacks on Green Bay’s depth chart. 

Grade: Average


HOUSTON TEXANS

G A.J. Cann: Two years, $10.5 million ($4.5 million fully guaranteed at signing)

Cann played fewer than 775 snaps for the first time in his seven-year career in 2021, with injuries derailing his contract campaign. Cann brings a high floor with him to Houston at the right guard spot, with just one season-long pass-blocking grade below 60.0 prior to 2021.

Grade: Average

C Justin Britt: Two years, $9 million

Britt battled back from an injury that kept him off the field for the 2020 season and earned a 70.5 run-blocking grade in 2021 — his best since 2016. Lining up under center for quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills, Britt is a savvy veteran at the line of scrimmage who was a major boost to the Texans' offense last season.

Houston gets him back in the fold for a few more years as its roster overhaul carries on, and there’s value in his continuity alone.

Grade: Average

DI Maliek Collins: Two years, $17 million ($8.5 million guaranteed)

Houston is keeping Collins in the fold on a defense that can use all the additional talent it can get in the coming weeks. Collins fits well with what Houston does defensively — he is a high-motor rotational player who has been able to generate pressure throughout much of his six-year career. Run defense has been the biggest problem area throughout his career, with Collins grading out in the first percentile among interior defensive linemen in PFF run-defense grade since he was drafted in 2016.

Grade: Average

CB Desmond King: Two years, $7 million

A few years ago, King looked to be one of the top slot cornerbacks in the NFL, beginning his career with two straight seasons with PFF grades north of 85.0. Things have trended in the wrong direction for King since that auspicious start, most recently resulting in a career-low 53.0 PFF grade with Houston in 2021. There’s still reason for the Texans to buy into his zone coverage ability and play in run support as the nickel at this kind of price point, however.

Grade: Average

LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Two years, $7.5 million ($5 million fully guaranteed)

Reeves-Maybin logged a career-high 615 snaps in 2021 for the Detroit Lions after taking on a starting role in Week 3 and has always been a very valuable special teams contributor, earning a 90.0 special teams grade in 2019. As we’ve seen already with deals for Carolina Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin, teams are willing to pay up for reliable special teams linebackers that can also be trusted to play a role on defense.

Grade: Average


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

TE Mo Alie-Cox: Three years, $18 million

Long-time Colts tight end Jack Doyle’s retirement removed the snap leader at the tight end position in 2021, but Indianapolis returns Alie-Cox on a three-year deal to pair with 2021 draftee Kylen Granson in the coming years. Alie-Cox provides a massive target with soft hands to whoever replaces Carson Wentz at quarterback. He has dropped just five of 107 targets over the past four seasons and is coming off a career-high four touchdown receptions in 2021. 

This deal puts him in low-end TE1/high-end TE2 range from a contract perspective. There’s a chance it could end up looking like great value if he takes a step forward in an expanded role now that one extra body is removed from a crowded tight end rotation.

Grade: Above average

LB Zaire Franklin: Three years, $12 million ($4 million guaranteed)

Franklin’s primary value to the Colts comes on special teams, where he earned an impressive 83.7 grade on 349 snaps in 2021. The former seventh-round pick out of Syracuse hasn’t looked out of place when he’s been called upon on defense, though. Franklin recorded a 71.3 PFF grade on a career-high 201 defensive snaps last season. Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke are still slotted in place ahead of Franklin on the depth chart, but he could see more opportunities moving forward.

Grade: Average

T Matt Pryor: One year, $5.5 million

Pryor logged over 400 offensive snaps as a swing tackle for the Colts last season across stints at both left and right tackle. He played well enough in that time (76.5 PFF grade) for general manager Chris Ballard and company to prioritize bringing him back, potentially as a starting option to replace Eric Fisher at left tackle. Pryor is likely best suited as a valuable depth piece, though. He logged snaps at every offensive line position except for center with the Eagles in 2020 prior to arriving in Indianapolis.

Grade: Average


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

CB Darious Williams: Three years, $30 million ($18 million fully guaranteed)

Williams was the only player in the NFL in 2021 to receive the first-round tender as a restricted free agent, signaling that the Los Angeles Rams thought teams may have been willing to sign him to an offer sheet with the risk of losing a second-round pick if they used the lower-round tender. 

The former undrafted free agent is undersized at 5-foot-9 but never let that stop him from being a very good No. 2 outside cornerback in a zone-heavy scheme. Williams’ 79.6 coverage grade ranks 18th among cornerbacks since 2019.

Grade: Above Average

T Cam Robinson: One year, $16,662,000 (franchise tag)

The Jacksonville Jaguars used the No. 45 overall pick in the 2021 Draft on tackle Walker Little, who impressed down the stretch last season earning a 68.6 overall grade on 225 snaps. While Jacksonville is smart to prioritize keeping franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence upright no matter the cost, it seemed as though they could have used this money better elsewhere. Getting Lawrence a top-end wide receiver that can get open, thus allowing him to get the ball out faster, can sometimes be just as helpful to a young quarterback. Jacksonville should have at least an average offensive line in 2022, but still, need to add several receiving weapons before Week 1, and this franchise tag doesn't exactly help with those efforts.

Grade: Below average

G Brandon Scherff: Three years, $49.5 million ($30 million guaranteed)

The first domino in Operation “Add more talent around Trevor Lawrence” falls. Scherff has been one of the better guards in football when healthy. He’s reliable in pass protection and a strong run blocker, particularly when on the move in zone schemes. He has graded out in the 93rd percentile of all qualifying guards in PFF run-blocking grade in zone schemes over the course of his NFL career. Health has been the primary issue for the guard, who hasn’t reached 900 offensive snaps played since his first two seasons in the league.

Scherff resets the market at guard with a $16.5 million per year average from Jacksonville with strong guarantees across three years. 

Grade: Average

LB Foyesade Oluokun: Three years, $45 million ($28 million guaranteed)

The Jaguars traded away linebacker Joe Schobert to the Steelers shortly before the 2021 season, with fellow Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack also among the highest-paid players at the position. Just one offseason later, the Jaguars once again have two off-ball linebackers getting paid among the top six players at the position. 

Oluokun was remarkably productive in 2021, notching 131 tackles, 47 assists and a missed tackle rate of just 8.7%. However, he earned a career-low 46.5 grade and surrendered 47 receptions on 58 targets into his coverage.

Grade: Poor

DI Folorunso Fatukasi: Three years, $30 million ($20 million guaranteed)

Fatukasi is coming off a down 2021 campaign after back-to-back 80.0-plus grades in 2019-20, but he represents a potentially strong value signing in Jacksonville. Fatukasi is your typical early-down run-stuffing defensive lineman and even tallied a career-best 16 quarterback pressures in 2021. His presence on the interior will free things up for edge defender Josh Allen and newly signed linebacker Foyesade Oluokun

Grade: Above average

WR Christian Kirk: Four years, $72 million (up to $84 million with incentives)

Kirk had a career year in 2021 after moving to the slot full-time. He will be best utilized in a vertical slot role to help stretch the field for Trevor Lawrence. He proved to be effective in tracking Kyler Murray deep balls and making catches through contact over the middle of the field the last few years in Arizona. That’s a skill set that Jacksonville needs in the offense, particularly with it looking unlikely that D.J. Chark will be returning.  

It’s not surprising to see the Jaguars being aggressive in adding talent around Lawrence, but it is surprising to see them be this aggressive on a player best suited as a complementary option in the passing game. The $18 million average per year puts him in line with the likes of Tyreek Hill and 2020 free agent Kenny Golladay.

Grade: Poor

TE Evan Engram: One year, $9 million (fully guaranteed; up to $10 million with incentives)

Engram was never able to live up to his first-round billing in New York, topping out at 722 receiving yards and six touchdowns in his rookie season back in 2017. Perhaps he can turn his career around while catching passes from Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville. Engram still has the combination of size and speed to be a matchup weapon over the middle of the field, but he’s never shown the blocking ability required for defenses to truly respect him as a tight end.

He joins Brandon Scherff, Christian Kirk, Foyesade Oluokun and Folorunso Fatukasi in what has been a busy opening day of free agency for Jacksonville. This is a reasonable one-year deal for Jacksonville to try to add more talent around Lawrence.

Grade: Average

WR Zay Jones: Three years, $24 million (up to $30 million with incentives)

Jacksonville continues to be the biggest spender of the day by a wide margin, adding another wide receiver for Trevor Lawrence after signing Christian Kirk to a massive deal earlier today. Jones is coming off a career season in Las Vegas, where he stepped up as the team’s top outside receiver following Henry Ruggs III‘s release. The former second-round pick dropped just one of his 77 targets over the course of the year and recorded a career-high 1.38 receiving yards per route run.

Jones was able to turn that season in Las Vegas into a strong, multi-year deal, capitalizing on a free-agent receiver class that is quickly thinning. No one can claim general manager Trent Baalke and company aren't taking shots early in free agency.

Grade: Below average


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

T Orlando Brown Jr.: One year, $16,662,000 (franchise tag)

The franchise tag seemed inevitable following the blockbuster trade that sent Brown from the Ravens to the Chiefs. Brown adjusted well to a full-time role on the left side in a very different offense, and the two sides have now bought themselves time to work towards a multi-year extension. The added leverage Brown has following the trade could mean the two sides still have to bridge the gap between their respective valuations.

Grade: Above average

S Justin Reid: Three years, $31.5 million ($20 million guaranteed)

It appears as if Kansas City has found its replacement at safety for Tyrann Mathieu. The Chiefs do get younger and more athletic by bringing in the 25-year-old Reid, but it’s going to be difficult for him to replace Mathieu’s production. His PFF grading profile has trended in the wrong direction since he recorded two seasons with 75.0-plus PFF grades to begin his career. Reid earned just a 45.3 coverage grade last season in Houston. 

The Chiefs will be hoping he can return to his 2018-19 form in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense next year. 

This contract might be a touch on the high side given Reid’s recent struggles, but it’s not a terrible risk for Kansas City as Mathieu moves on elsewhere.

Grade: Average

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: One year, $3 million (up to $10.75 million with incentives)

This contract represents Kansas City buying low on Smith-Schuster following his three straight seasons with bottom-tier quarterback play in Pittsburgh. And if it doesn’t work out, the Chiefs don’t take on much risk due to the incentive-laden deal. 

JuJu has shown that he’s better suited as a complementary option rather than the true No. 1 some thought he could be following Antonio Brown’s departure in Pittsburgh, and the Chiefs already have two of those in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce anyway. Smith-Schuster just needs to play his role — a physical, sure-handed target over the middle of the field. The Chiefs now have three of the 10 NFL players with 200-plus slot receptions since 2017.

Grade: Above average

WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling: Three years, $30 million

The Chiefs weren’t going to just go out and replace Tyreek Hill’s skill set in the second wave of free agency or the 2022 NFL Draft. There is no one in the NFL with Hill’s blend of speed and short-area quickness. But Kansas City did waste little time in adding more speed to the team with this signing of Valdes-Scantling, who now transitions from Aaron Rodgers to Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. 

Valdes-Scantling will serve as the field stretcher for the Chiefs' offense following three consecutive seasons in Green Bay with an average depth of target over 16 yards downfield. He’s not going to be a high-volume chain mover, but MVS is a nice complementary addition projected to fill a similar role to the one he occupied with the Packers. He’s being compensated well by Kansas City to do so. 

Grade: Average


LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

ED Chandler Jones: Three years, $51 million

One offseason after bringing in Yannick Ngakoue in free agency, Las Vegas signs one of the top edge rushers on the market to replace him, pairing Jones with the recently extended Maxx Crosby. Las Vegas is now heavily invested at the position with over $40 million per year committed to Crosby and Jones. 

This is a nice upgrade for the Raiders. Jones graded out in the 90th percentile of all qualifying edge rushers in PFF pass-rushing grade in true pass-rush situations across his six seasons in Arizona, and he’s coming off an 87.7 pass-rushing grade in 2021. Jones has also been one of the better edge rushers in the NFL at converting his pressures into sacks over the course of his career. 

Las Vegas also added another potential starting option at cornerback (Rock Ya-Sin) as a result of the Ngakoue trade that followed the move. 

Grade: Above Average

CB Darius Phillips: One year, $2.25 million

This is a low-floor, high-ceiling signing by the cornerback-needy Raiders. Paying $2.25 million is a quality investment given the potential the former Bengals corner has shown. Phillips was unable to crack their cornerback rotation in 2021 after flashing in the previous two seasons. The 2018 fifth-rounder started nine games in 2019 and 2020 and played over 400 coverage snaps in that span. He earned a 74.3 coverage grade in those two seasons, making nearly as many plays on the ball (18) as first downs/touchdowns allowed (19).

Phillips played just 79 coverage snaps in 2021 and took over return duties until he had a multi-muff performance that ended in an injury in Week 14 against San Francisco.

Grade: Average

DI BILAL NICHOLS: Two years, $11 million ($9 million guaranteed)

Nichols may not be a high-end starter in the NFL, but he’s a capable starter along the interior of the defensive line that has taken snaps from the 0-tech alignment (over the center) out to 5-technique (over the tackles outside shoulder), where he’s a better fit. The former fifth-rounder is a bit undersized, but has 31 quarterback pressures in back-to-back seasons and can be relied upon to bring a high floor of play on a down-to-down basis. 

In Las Vegas, Nichols reunites with Raiders assistant general manager Champ Kelly, who was with the Chicago Bears for Nichols’ entire tenure. 

Grade: Above average

WR Davante Adams: Five years, $141.25 million

The Raiders’ top two outside wide receivers on the depth chart before this trade were Bryan Edwards and Tyron Johnson. There was a clear need to get Derek Carr more receiving talent if Las Vegas had any shot of competing in a suddenly stacked AFC West, and there was no better player to fill that need than Adams. His 1.4 wins above a replacement-level player over the past two seasons are over a quarter win more than any other wide receiver, per PFF’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric.

This deal certainly compensates Adams for the value that he brings, though. The $28.25 million per year gets past the $27.25 million average for DeAndre Hopkins that previously paced the market. Keenan Allen is next in line at “just” $20.025 million per year.

Grade: Average


LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

TE Gerald Everett: Two years, $12 million ($8 million guaranteed)

The Chargers had a big hole at their tight end position with incumbent starter Jared Cook hitting free agency. Everett gives Justin Herbert a younger weapon at tight end (7 years younger than Cook) and fills the athletic, up-the-seam type that this tight end room needs. Everett and Cook compare favorably, ranking  17th and 18th in YAC per reception in 2021, respectively. This deal is pretty solid for both sides: The $6 million APY puts Everett in line with guys like Mo Alie-Cox and Ian Thomas, but the Chargers guaranteeing 75% of the contract is a little out of market value, which only makes this an average signing for the Bolts.

Grade: Average 

WR Mike Williams: Three years, $60,000,000 (Extension)

The Chargers negotiated a four-year, $80.1 million extension with wide receiver Keenan Allen in 2020, and keeping Mike Williams' per year average below that number is a win. Navigating this tricky situation may be the hold-up with Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin, with Mike Evans also on the roster and widely considered to be the top receiver on the team. However, Williams gets a very strong $40 million in total guarantees and $28 million in first-year cash flow on a short, three-year extension. Williams & Co. did very well here, now the Chargers become the first team with two wide receivers making $20M+ per year.

Grade: Average

CB J.C. Jackson: Five years, $82.5 million ($40 million guaranteed)

The Chargers continue to attack Justin Herbert’s rookie window, bringing in Jackson the same week they traded for Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears. Jackson put any doubts to bed that his success was a product of playing alongside Stephon Gilmore with a career year in 2021 sans Gilmore. He has receiver-like ball skills in coverage, and his playmaking ability has resulted in the lowest passer rating allowed by any cornerback since entering the NFL in 2018 (45.7).

Even with this deal coming in at over $16 million annually for Jackson, it's great value for the Chargers. Jackson is a legitimate No. 1 cornerback who can stick with elite receivers in man coverage — a difficult skill set to find.

Grade: Elite

DI Austin Johnson: Two years, $14 million

Johnson took on a larger role with the Giants last season following the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson to the Vikings in free agency. That resulted in a career year as a pass rusher (21 pressures) but also a career-low 53.9 PFF run-defense grade. Johnson provided strong run defense in a rotational capacity with the Titans earlier in his career, and that’s what Chargers head coach Brandon Staley will be counting on in Los Angeles while Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack carry a heavy portion of the pass-rushing weight off the edge. 

Grade: Below average

DI Sebastian Joseph-Day: Three years, $24 million ($15 million guaranteed)

Joseph-Day following Brandon Staley from the Los Angeles Rams to the Los Angeles Chargers made too much sense for it not to happen. His run defense was a critical component to the success of the Rams' 2020 defense, allowing Staley to comfortably play lighter boxes behind him. Joseph-Day ranks in the 99th percentile of all interior defensive linemen in run-stop percentage since 2019.

That run-stuffing presence was noticeably absent for the Chargers in 2021. Their interior defensive line ranked 23rd as a unit in PFF run-defense grade. Joseph-Day should go a long way to improving that mark in 2022, and he’ll do so at a reasonable price point.

Grade: Above average


LOS ANGELES RAMS

T Joseph Noteboom: Three years, $40 million ($25 million guaranteed)

This is a big-time projection for Noteboom, who has played over 400 offensive snaps just once in his NFL career (2020). The Rams are banking on the strong play he has shown when called upon in relief of Andrew Whitworth at left tackle, including a near clean sheet in pass protection against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round last season. 

The tools are there, and Noteboom has graded out well in pass protection when on the field. Los Angeles saw enough to pay him legitimate starting left tackle money to presumably take over for the 40-year-old Whitworth at the position. There’s risk involved with this kind of money, though.

Grade: Below average

C Brian Allen: Three years, $24 million

The Rams have a lot of work to do to clear cap space before the 2022 season officially begins on March 16, and that was true even before they extended tackle Joseph Noteboom and now Allen on strong, three-year deals. 

Allen has dealt with ACL tears twice in his career thus far but is a very capable wide zone center when healthy. He clearly has a good rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Allen earned an 80.3 overall grade with a stellar 87.4 run-blocking grade in his first full season as the starter, and it appears Los Angeles didn’t want to mess with that success.

Grade: Average

WR Allen Robinson II: Three years, $46.5 million ($30.7 million guaranteed)

The Rams may have lost out on bringing back Von Miller, but they moved on quickly to secure one of the top free agents available and maintain one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL with Robinson joining Cooper Kupp and a healthy Robert Woods. Los Angeles got the deal done for less money per year and less guaranteed money than Christian Kirk is getting in Jacksonville. 

Robinson is coming off the least productive season of his career with Chicago in 2021, save a 2017 season where he played just three offensive snaps before a season-ending injury. Last season aside, he’s proven to be one of the more “quarterback-proof” wide receivers in the NFL, given his success with Blake Bortles and Mitchell Trubisky. Robinson was PFF’s 11th-highest-graded wide receiver in his first three seasons with Chicago from 2018 to 2020. Now, he joins by far the most talented offense of his career in the Rams’ pursuit of back-to-back Super Bowls. 

Grade: Above average


MIAMI DOLPHINS

TE Mike Gesicki: One year, $10,931,000 (franchise tag)

Gesicki fancies himself a “big slot” receiver, rarely lining up as a true in-line tight end and staying in to block. For this reason, a $10.931 million franchise tag at the tight end position is a huge bargain for the Dolphins.

Gesicki's fit in new head coach Mike McDaniel's offense — an offense that relies on tight ends to move people in the run game — remains to be seen. It's almost certain that a grievance will be filed with the NFL league office over the franchise tag value, and in the meantime, the two sides will have to work out a multi-year deal that suits both parties. This negotiation won't be over any time soon.

Grade: Above average

RB Chase Edmonds: Two years, $12.6 million ($6.1 million guaranteed)

Edmonds was one of the Cardinals running backs toward the top of this free agent class, and it looks as if he’ll be heading to South Beach rather than returning to the desert. His best role is as a change-of-pace back and receiving threat out of the backfield rather than a lead rusher. His 77.0 PFF receiving grade in 2020 was a top-10 mark among qualifying running backs. Edmonds’ success in zone rushing schemes in Arizona does lend itself favorably to new head coach Mike McDaniels' scheme in Miami, as well. 

This deal is roughly in line with the contract signed by former teammate Kenyan Drake last offseason on a per-year basis, but it’s easier for Miami to cut ties next offseason with less guaranteed money ($6.1 million) than Drake’s deal in Las Vegas.

Grade: Average

WR Cedrick Wilson: Three years, $22.8 million ($12.75 million guaranteed)

Wilson ended up pricing himself out of Dallas even after the Cowboys agreed to trade wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, inking a solid multi-year contract coming off a career year. He represents a strong option in the slot for Miami and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa coming off a year in which he had more receptions and yards than his entire career prior to 2021.

Wilson earned a 73.0 receiving grade and put up 1.74 yards per route run, no small feat with so many other quality receiving weapons in the fold.

Grade: Average

QB Teddy Bridgewater: One year, $6.5 million (up to $10 million with incentives)

With quarterback dominos beginning to fall, Bridgewater landed in a backup role with the Dolphins following two “bridge” seasons as a starter in Carolina and Denver. But there is a potential path to a starting role with the Dolphins for Bridgewater if things go south with Tua Tagovailoa in his third season out of Alabama. 

Bridgewater projects as one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. He fits the mold of a QB who isn’t going to lose your team many games, ranking in the 84th percentile of all qualifying quarterbacks at avoiding negative grades over the past three seasons. The flip side is that he won’t win too many games single-handedly, either, with a 7th percentile finish in positively graded throw rate. That’s an easier profile to accept from a quarterback coming off the bench than a starter.

Grade: Above average

WR Preston Williams: One year, Up to $1.99 million

Williams showed some promise as an undrafted rookie out of Colorado State in 2019, but things have been downhill since then, with injuries keeping him off the field for the majority of his three seasons in the NFL. There isn’t much risk here for a potential No. 5 option in the passing game behind Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki and free agent signing Cedrick Wilson who could contribute if he’s able to stay on the field in 2022.

Grade: Average

G Connor Williams: Two years, $14 million ($7.5 million fully guaranteed)

Williams struggled a bit out of the gate in 2021, which led to him getting benched in Week 7, but he bounced back and earned a career-best 76.1 grade. Williams allowed just 13 quarterback pressures on the season after surrendering 30 pressures in 2020.

The former second-round pick in 2018 will be just 25 years old for the duration of the 2022 season and could hit the market again before he turns 27. Given the Dolphins’ struggles in pass protection in recent years, Williams could resemble a great value addition at left guard in new head coach Mike McDaniels’ offense.

Grade: Above average

RB Raheem Mostert: One year, $3.125 million

Mostert reunites with Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who he spent five seasons with playing for the 49ers. Mostert is a perfect fit in McDaniel’s outside zone rushing attack and will benefit from being in a committee with fellow free-agent acquisition Chase Edmonds.

Mostert missed most of the 2021 season to injury but was coming off back-to-back seasons with rushing grades of 77.0 or better, forcing 41 missed tackles on 241 carries and averaging 5.36 yards per attempt.

Grade: Average

TE Durham Smythe: Two years, $8 million

The Dolphins ran over twice as much 12 personnel than any team in the NFL last season (62%), largely because Mike Gesicki is still classified as a tight end even though Miami utilizes him more as a wide receiver. 

Smythe’s 521 offensive snaps from in-line tight end alignments in 2021 were comfortably the most on the team, making it important for Miami to work out an extension with new head coach Mike McDaniel taking over the offense. Smythe earned a 63.4 PFF grade on just over 1,000 offensive snaps over the past two seasons with the Dolphins.

Grade: Average

T Terron Armstead: Five years, $75 million ($43.37 million guaranteed)

It’s rare that a player of Armstead’s talent level at the left tackle position reaches free agency, and the Dolphins were able to sign him without cracking the top 10 in average annual value at the position. There are reasonable injury concerns for a 30-year-old — Armstead missed eight games in 2021 with a knee injury and has missed time in the past — but new Jacksonville Jaguars guard Brandon Scherff is the same age with the same injury concerns and became the highest-paid guard in the NFL this offseason.

Armstead has graded out above 85.0 as a pass blocker in four straight seasons, exactly what a Dolphins offensive line that led the league in quarterback pressures allowed in 2021 needed. This could very well end up being the best signing of the 2022 offseason.

Grade: Elite

WR Tyreek Hill: Four years, $120 million ($72.2 million guaranteed)

The Dolphins pulled off the latest blockbuster trade of the 2022 offseason in acquiring the dynamic, lightning-fast Hill. In the process, Miami made him the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL at $30 million per year — though much like Davante Adams’ new deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, the real figures are a bit lower.

Nevertheless, big money is headed Hill’s way. And he’s worth every penny. He’s averaged over two yards per route run in every season of his career thus far and has at least one reception of 75-plus yards in four out of the past five seasons. He’s a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the football, and even when he isn’t getting targeted, defenses must account for him at all times.

Grade: Above average


MINNESOTA VIKINGS

QB Kirk Cousins: One year, $35 million fully guaranteed

Cousins wasn’t a free agent this offseason, but the Vikings tacked on another year of fully guaranteed security to his future in Minnesota amidst speculation that the team could be looking in a different direction with a coaching staff and front office change. 

Cousins is one of the most divisive quarterbacks in the league due to his playstyle and the gap between his passing numbers and his team’s success. When everything is as it should be, Cousins looks and grades like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He has a top-five PFF passing grade from a clean pocket since joining Minnesota. It’s when things start to break down and Cousins has to make a play that his numbers start to fall closer to the middle of the pack. This deal indicates that the Vikings still have the belief they can make that work in the next two years. 

Grade: Below average

DI Harrison Phillips: Three years, $19.5 million

The Vikings made big acquisitions at nose tackle during the 2020 and 2021 offseasons, signing Michael Pierce and Dalvin Tomlinson, respectively. Tomlinson struggled in 2021 while playing out of position as more of a three-technique, but Minnesota apparently wants to add more beef along the interior defensive line.

For the team, this deal would grade out to “below average,” given the context, but this is a solid value for Phillips the player. He earned a strong 77.4 overall grade and 79.8 run-defense grade for the Bills in 2021, tallying a career-high 21 quarterback pressures.

Grade: Average

LB Jordan Hicks: two years, $10 million ($6.5 million guaranteed)

Hicks’ play in Arizona didn’t quite live up to the promise he showed early in his career with the Eagles, but his play was reliable enough to notch over 1,000 defensive snaps in each of the last three years, despite the Cardinals drafting two first-round linebackers. His 57.6 PFF grade over the last three years ranks 47th among 94 qualifying off-ball linebackers. Hicks now steps in as the favorite to start alongside Eric Kendricks in nickel with both Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil potentially leaving Minnesota in free agency.

Grade: Average

EDGE Za’Darius Smith: Three years, $42 million (up to $47 million)

Smith had reportedly agreed in principle to a four-year, $35 million contract with the Ravens before the deal fell through, and he ultimately landed more money over fewer years with the Vikings. A back issue kept Smith off the field for almost the entirety of the 2021 season, but he earned back-to-back pass rush grades above 85.0 in the two seasons prior.

New Denver Broncos edge defender Randy Gregory also signed for $14 million per year this offseason and is just two months younger than Smith. And Smith tallied more quarterback pressures over the 2019-20 seasons than Gregory has amassed in his career to date.

Grade: Above average


NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

RB James White: Two years, $5 million

It’s been a couple of seasons since White has fully contributed to New England’s offense. It’s easy to imagine that the Patriots are eager to get him back in 2022 as an outlet for Mac Jones out of the backfield, and there’s plenty of reason to believe White is still one of the more effective receiving backs in the NFL with his combination of route running and elusiveness after the catch. That ability paired with Jones’ underneath accuracy could lead to a strong bounce-back campaign next season coming off a hip injury that limited him to fewer than 100 offensive snaps in 2021.

Grade: Above average

LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: Two years, Up to $9 million

Bentley took a nice step forward in his second season as a starter in the Patriots' defense in 2021, improving his PFF grade from 53.2 in 2020 to 65.1 last year. He’s a downhill thumper whose job is to bring physicality, stop the run and get to the quarterback on the occasional blitz. The Patriots can also rely on Bentley to finish a high percentage of his tackles — an area of strength for him since stepping in as the starter.

The full contract details aren’t out yet, but this looks like a strong deal on the surface for New England with a maximum of $4.5 million per year for an improving 25-year-old linebacker.

Grade: Above average

T Trent Brown: Two years, $13 million (up to $22 million; $4 million guaranteed)

It’s not surprising to see Brown’s new contract be heavy on incentives, given his troubles staying on the field throughout his career. The last time he played more than 600 offensive snaps in a season was in 2018 with the Patriots.

Brown now returns to slide in as the presumptive starting right tackle. He’s one of the largest players in the NFL, which leads to a high rate of positively graded blocks in the run game. But most of his value has come as a pass protector, with him recording  70.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grades in every season since 2017. There’s legitimate upside for the Patriots at this price point if Brown can stay healthy because that makes him worth more than this base value of $6.5 million per year.

Grade: Above average

CB Malcolm Butler: Two years, up to $9 million

New England’s quarterback situation was far from ideal before this reunion with Butler, particularly for a team that wants to live in man coverage. It remains to be seen how much the 32-year-old Butler, who retired prior to the 2021 season, will move the needle.

Butler’s last full season of action resulted in an impressive 75.8 PFF coverage grade with the Titans in 2020, and he has familiarity with New England’s defense from his time playing under Bill Belichick during his first four NFL seasons. He’ll compete with fellow free agent acquisition Terrance Mitchell and Jalen Mills for starting snaps on the outside as things stand right now.

Grade: Average


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

S Marcus Maye: Three years, $28.5 million ($15 million guaranteed)

The Saints used the franchise tag on free safety Marcus Williams for the 2021 season, and he played his way into a five-year, $70 million deal with the Ravens.

Maye also played the 2021 season on the franchise tag but suffered an unfortunate Achilles injury that ended his season prematurely. However, he earned coverage grades above 75.0 in back-to-back seasons in 2019-20, buoyed by three interceptions and 13 pass breakups. The Saints find an immediate replacement at a lower price tag.

Grade: Average

QB Jameis Winston: Two years, $28 million ($21 million guaranteed)

The Saints decided to turn back to Winston on a two-year deal after starting the season with him under center in 2021 prior to his season-ending injury. Winston's warts are known at this stage of his career. He’s going to put the ball in harm’s way. However, he has also recorded positive PFF passing grades at one of the highest rates of any quarterback in the league since being drafted in 2015 due to his willingness to push the ball downfield. New Orleans’ top priority now has to be putting more weapons around him alongside Michael Thomas.

This contract fits somewhere into the middle ground at the quarterback position below the locked-in “franchise” quarterbacks but above the one-year bridge starters, rookie deals and backup options.

Grade: Average


NEW YORK GIANTS

G Mark Glowinski: Three years, $20 million ($11.4 million guaranteed)

Glowinski has been a solid starter at guard in Indianapolis over the past four seasons, featuring on one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. He’s earned PFF grades of at least 65.0 in three of the past four years with the Colts and is a good athlete who can create movement in the run game. 

Competent starters are exactly what the Giants need on the interior offensive line. He should step right into the starting right guard spot that was manned by Will Hernandez in 2021.

Grade: Average

QB Tyrod Taylor: Two years, $11 million

Bad luck once again found Taylor in 2021. Following an efficient offensive showing in the season opener for Houston, Taylor injured his hamstring in Week 2 and ceded the starting job to Davis Mills, just as he did to Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert following injury.

Taylor offers a high floor as a backup or bridge starting option with his rushing ability and avoidance of turnover-worthy plays. He’s clearly coming into New York to play behind Daniel Jones, but that doesn’t mean he won’t see the field at some point next season if Jones isn’t able to show any signs of improvement in first-year head coach Brian Daboll’s offense.

Grade: Average


NEW YORK JETS

G Laken Tomlinson: Three years, $40 million ($27 million guaranteed)

Jets head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have a relationship with Tomlinson from their days spent in San Francisco, and the team had a clear need at guard opposite 2021 first-round selection Alijah Vera-Tucker. The interesting component of the Tomlinson signing is that one of Vera-Tucker or Tomlinson will have to kick over to the right side. However, Tomlinson hasn't played regularly at right guard since college. 

Regardless of who ends up playing on the right side, New York is getting a strong starting option for its interior offensive line. Tomlinson has generated one of the highest percentages of positively graded run blocks in the NFL to go along with solid pass-blocking grades throughout his career. This deal comes in below recent contracts for guards Wyatt Teller, Joel Bitonio and Joe Thuney.

Grade: Average

WR Braxton Berrios: Two years, $12 million ($7 million fully guaranteed)

Berrios made the NFL All-Pro list as a returner in 2021 and also showed flashes with a larger role in the offense. His 30.43-yard kickoff return average was the top mark in the NFL, and he finished the campaign with a bang, hauling in eight receptions and a touchdown while earning an 89.9 grade in Week 17 against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad that still had playoff positioning to play for late in the season. 

Grade: Average

TE C.J. Uzomah: Three years, $24 million

The Jets are giving quarterback Zach Wilson a big target over the middle of the field. Uzomah has had moments throughout his career, like in two 90-yard, two-touchdown performances in 2021, where he looks like a legitimate difference-maker. But those moments have been too few and far between for him to be considered much more than a middling to low-end starting option. This deal reflects that, with the upside for New York being that those moments come more consistently for Uzomah in a new offense.

Grade: Average

CB D.J. Reed Jr.: Three years, $33 million

The Jets couldn’t go into the 2022 season with the cornerbacks currently on their roster. Reed provides Robert Saleh’s defense with a 25-year-old cornerback with multiple years of strong production in a starting role. Reed is coming off back-to-back PFF grades above 75.0 and a passer rating allowed below 80.0. He may be undersized, but he’s a physical corner who was excellent in run support in his time with the Seahawks. 

This signing is a good start for a Jets team looking to overhaul their secondary through the draft and free agency.

Grade: Above average

CB Jordan Whitehead: Two years, $14.5 million

The Jets continue to add to their secondary with one of the best young box safeties in the NFL. Whitehead excels getting downfield and has consistently improved against the run in his four seasons in the NFL: His 37 run stops over the past two seasons are fewer than only Jeremy Chinn, Vonn Bell and Adrian Phillips at the position.

This is a strong deal for both sides on a player who turns 25 in a few days. Whitehead can be a piece for Robert Saleh and company to build around on the back end alongside Reed.

Grade: Above average

Edge JACOB MARTIN: Three years, $13.5 million ($6 million guaranteed)

Martin will slot in as the third edge defender behind Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers, but brings a different skill set as a smaller outside linebacker type. Martin has experience playing in 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts and had an under-the-radar breakout in 2021 in his first season logging over 375 snaps. 

Martin generated a career-high 38 quarterback pressures earning a 69.9 pass-rush grade, and had 15 defensive stops as well. His highlight play of the campaign was a safety recorded on Arizona Cardinals elusive quarterback Kyler Murray. He’s an interesting fit in Robert Saleh’s Jets defense but brings another pass-rush element the defensive front needs.

Grade: Average


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Edge Haason Reddick: Three years, $45 million ($30 million fully guaranteed)

It’s never easy to sign a pass-rusher coming off back-to-back 13-plus sack seasons to any deal below the top of the market, so from that perspective this is a solid contract for the Philadelphia Eagles. Reddick returns to Philadelphia where he played college football at Temple and will presumably replace the Eagles’ 2017 first-round edge defender Derek Barnett, who is also a free agent. Reddick was drafted one pick before Barnett in 2017 at No. 13 overall. 

How Reddick is deployed by defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon will be interesting, as Barnett is 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, while Reddick comes in at 6-foot-1 and 235. He’ll certainly find a way to utilize a guy who has 100 combined quarterback pressures over his first two seasons truly playing as a pass rusher and not at off-ball linebacker.

Grade: Average

S Anthony Harris: One year, $2.5 million

It’s been downhill for Harris since he posted a career-high 91.1 PFF grade with six interceptions and five pass breakups in 2019 with the Vikings. His overall grade has fallen to 66.2 and 61.6 in the two years since — the latter being his first season in Philadelphia. 

Harris is a fine starting option again for Philadelphia in 2021, and this contract certainly isn’t prohibitive as the Eagles look to build out the rest of its roster. 

Grade: Average


PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QB Mitchell Trubisky: Two years, 14 million

The contenders in the Steelers' quarterback competition for 2022 are likely set now with Trubisky joining a quarterback room that already included Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins. Pittsburgh will give Trubisky every opportunity to win the job with this kind of investment.

There was a lot of buzz the past few weeks surrounding the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft following a season backing up Josh Allen in Buffalo. But there isn’t much evidence to suggest Trubisky is going to make a Ryan Tannehill-esque jump in a new offense. The only quarterback to grade lower than Trubisky across his four years as Chicago’s starter from 2017 to 2020 was Sam Darnold. We all saw how his reclamation project went last year in Carolina.

Grade: Average

T Chukwuma Okorafor: Three years, $29.25 million

Okorafor is coming off a career-best 63.6 grade and will still be just 25 years old for the duration of the 2022 season. After a bit of a slow start out of the gate, the 2018 third-rounder took a major leap in 2022, with a 65.9 run-blocking grade that was almost 10 points better than his previous high to go along with a pressure allowed percentage of just 3.3% — which ranked 10th among tackles. 

He may have been protected a bit by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s lightning-quick average time to throw, but Pittsburgh sees promise in the young tackle now set to protect quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. It remains to be seen if they’re seeing things in practice that aren’t quite translating to Sundays just yet, which does happen with young tackles. 

Grade: Average

C Mason Cole: Three years, $15.75 million

Cole can play at either guard or center for Pittsburgh, boasting starting experience at both spots over the course of his four NFL seasons in Arizona and Minnesota. It’s likely that Pittsburgh will opt to start him at center and move 2021 third-round pick Kendrick Green to guard following his rocky rookie season at center.

Cole has endured a fair share of struggles throughout his career in pass protection, grading in the 12th percentile of his position in PFF pass-blocking grade since 2018. That could become an issue with a new quarterback who doesn’t get the ball out quickly. However, Cole did show some promise as a run blocker last season in Minnesota, recording a career-best 75.2 PFF run-blocking grade.

We’ve seen interior offensive linemen make strides five-plus years into their NFL careers before. Pittsburgh will be hoping Cole is among that group.

Grade: Below average

DI Montravius Adams: Two years, $5 million

Pittsburgh’s interior line depth has started to thin out over the past few years with the departure of Javon Hargrave in free agency and the uncertain status of Stephon Tuitt following his absence in 2021. Their two best players along the defensive line excluding Tuitt — Cameron Heyward and Tyson Alualu — will both be at least 33 years old by the start of next season. 

It’s not surprising that Pittsburgh opted to bring back Adams, who flashed as a pass rusher (76.1 pass-rushing grade) in six appearances for the team last year following his signing off the New Orleans Saints' practice squad. The former third-round pick provides depth and is a potential starting option if he continues to develop.

Grade: Average

G James Daniels: Three years, $26.5 million

Following two somewhat underwhelming moves — bringing back Chukwuma Okorafor at right tackle and adding Mason Cole to compete for a starting interior offensive line spot — this is what Steelers fans were waiting for along the offensive line.

Daniels is still just 24 years old with four years of starting experience, including stints at both guard spots and center. He’s best utilized in a zone rushing attack and has been reliable in pass protection since entering the league. This is a very strong deal for Pittsburgh as the team secures one of the better interior offensive linemen still on the market.

Grade: Elite

CB Levi Wallace: two years, $8 million

With it becoming clear Joe Haden would not be returning to Pittsburgh in 2022, cornerback became one of the biggest areas of need on the Steelers roster. Wallace raises the floor of the secondary as a serviceable No. 2 option outside — a role he has filled for Buffalo the last three-plus seasons. Wallace is coming off three straight years with PFF coverage grades of 63.0 or higher. 

This move also could allow Cameron Sutton to kick back inside to the slot where he’s been more effective throughout his career, depending on what else Pittsburgh does outside this offseason. Re-signing Ahkello Witherspoon should remain a priority.

Grade: Above average

LB Myles Jack: Two years, $16 million

The Steelers now have Jacksonville’s 2020 starting linebacker duo both under contract for next season, though it remains to be seen if that’s the case by Week 1; Pittsburgh is able to save over $7 million against the 2022 cap by releasing Joe Schobert.

Jack’s play has been up and down in Jacksonville, with him earning three PFF grades above 68.0 and two below 46.0 in his five seasons with 500 or more defensive snaps. At just 26 years old, there’s still plenty of reason for the Steelers to bet on Jack’s physical tools and high-end play on tape. This is a reasonable price point for them to do that at.

Grade: Average

CB Ahkello Witherspoon: Two years, $8 million

The Steelers have done a good job of turning their early free agency period around after several questionable moves to start things off. Witherspoon ended up signing for the same two-year, $8 million contract that Pittsburgh extended to Levi Wallace yesterday, giving Pittsburgh their presumptive starting duo outside with Cam Sutton kicking back inside to the slot. 

Witherspoon delivered several impressive performances for Pittsburgh late in the 2021 season once he got the starting nod. He allowed a completion percentage below 50% with a passer rating allowed of 48.0 on 35 total targets last season. Given Witherspoon’s measurables and stretches of high-end play, this move has a little more upside than the earlier Wallace signing. 

Grade: Above average


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

CB Charvarius Ward: Three years, $40.5 million ($26.7 million guaranteed)

With J.C. Jackson and Carlton Davis coming off the board earlier on Day 1 of the legal tampering period, Ward became one of the best young cornerbacks available on the market and one of few who could thrive in a man-heavy system. San Francisco doesn’t exactly project as one of those defenses, but it’s never a bad thing to add cornerbacks who offer the flexibility to play more man coverage when necessary. The 49ers had a need at cornerback with Jason Verrett and K’Waun Williams hitting free agency, as well. 

Ward’s 49.8% completion rate allowed over the past three seasons as a starter in Kansas City ranked lowest among all cornerbacks with at least 100 targets into their coverage. 

Grade: Average

S George Odum: Three years, $10.95 million

Odum is coming off a career-high 472 snaps on defense with 36 tackles and just four missed attempts all season. He’s most known for earning a first-team All-Pro nod in 2020 when he earned a 91.0 special teams grade, and he followed that up with an 84.8 special teams grade in 2021.

One of the better players in the third phase of football, Odum showed last season he can also be relied upon to play free safety for stretches.

Grade: Average


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

S Quandre Diggs: Three years, $40 million

Seattle has a relatively large number of key in-house free agents to make decisions on, and this extension shows that Diggs was a priority among that group. The Seahawks will maintain continuity with the Diggs-Jamal Adams safety tandem and are heavily invested in both. 

This is a strong deal for Diggs, who has become a leader on Seattle’s defense and ended the 2021 season on injured reserve with a dislocated ankle. Diggs’ recognition, instincts and range from his free safety position have netted him at least three interceptions in each of the past five seasons. His 19 total interceptions over that stretch rank fourth among all defensive backs.

Grade: Average

CB Sidney Jones: One year, $3.6 million (incentives up to $4.4 million)

Jones played well in his first full season as a starter, earning a career-best 70.2 grade on a career-high 730 snaps. The former second-round pick of the Eagles will be just 26 years old in 2022 as he enters his sixth season, and a one-year flier deal here presents a solid opportunity for Seattle to cash in on Jones’ upside. 

Grade: Above average

DI Al Woods: Two years, $9 million ($4.75 million guaranteed)

Woods has only gotten better with age, recording two of the better seasons of his career at 32 and 34 years old sandwiched around a 2020 opt-out. This deal likely means the 330-pound run stuffer will close out his career with the Seahawks. He’s not going to offer much at all as a pass-rusher, but Woods has graded out in the 93rd percentile among all interior defensive linemen in PFF run-defense grades across the 2019 and 2021 seasons. There’s a chance his play begins to fall off as he pushes past 35, but this is a relatively low-risk contract. 

Grade: Average

TE Will Dissly: Three years, $24 million

The Seahawks acquired tight end Noah Fant — a 2019 first-round pick — from the Broncos in their blockbuster trade that sent quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver and now turn around and sign Dissly to a strong three-year deal. Dissly has battled injuries during his career but has been solid when on the field, particularly as a run blocker, where he’s coming off a career-best 69.8 grade in 2021. 

The fourth-rounder in 2018 has never eclipsed 275 receiving yards in a full season, but this signing is a bet on him getting back to form. He did earn a career-best 87.1 receiving grade in 2019 before injuries derailed a promising start to his NFL tenure.

Grade: Below average

Edge Uchenna Nwosu: Two years, $20 million ($10.5 million guaranteed)

Nwosu was one of the top edge defenders in his class when it came to providing the ability to drop into coverage when needed, and a high motor helped lead to a career-high 40 pressures in 2021. He’s not elite in any regard, but he showed this past season in Los Angeles that he can be a solid No. 2 starter on the edge. 

Seattle was in need of some kind of pass-rushing spark off the edge following a 2021 season in which they finished 30th out of 32 defenses ahead of only Detroit and Atlanta in team pressure rate (27%). They’ll be hoping Nwosu can help turn that around in 2022. 

Grade: Average

DI Quinton Jefferson: Two years, $9.5 million

Jefferson returns to the Seahawks, where his former defensive line coach — Clint Hurtt — was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason. Jefferson is coming off a season with career-highs of 46 quarterback pressures and six sacks, and he was one of the better pass-rushing three-techniques available this offseason.

Seattle continues to tweak its defensive line after adding edge defender Uchenna Nwosu and releasing edge defender Carlos Dunlap. Jefferson brings an interior pass rush element the Seahawks were missing with a couple of stout nose tackles in Poona Ford and Al Woods.

Grade: Above average

RB Rashaad Penny: One year, $5.75 million

Penny earned himself some money with his play down the stretch for the Seahawks last season, and now he gets another chance to stay healthy and show what he can do on a one-year, “prove it” deal to remain in Seattle. 

Penny’s 90.3 PFF grade over the final five weeks of the 2021 regular season was over seven points higher than any other running back. That’s who the Seahawks thought they were getting when they selected him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but that version of Penny took years to materialize due to a number of injuries across his first few seasons in the NFL. His combination of size and speed still makes him a dangerous runner if he can remain healthy.

Grade: Average


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

WR Chris Godwin: Three years, $60 million ($40 million guaranteed)

The franchise tag proved to just be a way for both sides to buy more time before coming together on this deal that resembles the contract Mike Williams recently signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Tampa Bay is fully back in the Super Bowl contender picture following Tom Brady’s return and the moves that have followed to bring back Ryan Jensen and Carlton Davis and add players like Shaq Mason and Russell Gage. Godwin, now playing with some long-term security, will be a big part of those Super Bowl aspirations. He’s earned PFF grades of 75.0 or higher in all five of his seasons in the NFL and has recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last three years (postseason included). 

Grade: Average

C Ryan Jensen: Three years, $39 million ($23 million guaranteed)

Jensen was the top center expected to reach free agency this offseason — and PFF’s No. 12 overall free agent — and was reportedly expected to yield offers of up to $15 million per year. The return of quarterback Tom Brady likely helped the Buccaneers get this deal over the finish line, and anything short of re-setting the market at center should be viewed as a win.

Jensen has played over 1,000 snaps in five straight seasons despite being one of the nastier players in the league, earning a run-block grade above 70.0 in four of the last five seasons. 

Grade: Above average

CB Carlton Davis: Three years, $45 million ($30 million guaranteed)

It’s easier to return to Tampa Bay when you know Tom Brady is on your side for at least 2022. Re-signing Davis is a big get for the Buccaneers' defense, as he was one of the few young cornerbacks on the market who profiled as a No. 1 option in a secondary. No cornerback has forced more incompletions than Davis (44) over the past three seasons. 

His $15 million average per year comes in just under $1 million shy of the deal just signed by J.C. Jackson in Los Angeles. It’s a strong contract for both sides as the Buccaneers look to continue to push their Super Bowl window following Brady’s return. 

Grade: Above average

WR Russell Gage: Three years, $30 million ($20 million fully guaranteed)

It’s a tall order for Gage to replace the production Tampa Bay was hoping it would get from Antonio Brown alongside Mike Evans and Godwin, but Gage filling the WR3 role does look to be a nice fit for both sides. He’s actually averaged more receiving yards per route run than recent Jaguars’ free agent acquisition Christian Kirk since 2020. Gage has also had success both in the slot and outside, which allows the Buccaneers to move him and Godwin around.

This isn’t an insignificant deal for a No. 3, but the injuries the Bucs sustained at receiver last season highlighted the importance of having reliable depth like Gage beyond Evans and Godwin on the depth chart.

Grade: Average

RB Leonard Fournette: Three years, $21 million ($11 million guaranteed)

Fournette had a career year in pretty much every way in 2021 following his playoff heroics in 2020 that earned him the nicknames “Playoff Lenny” and “Lombardi Lenny.” Not only was his 79.2 rushing grade a career high, but he also hauled in 69 receptions for 454 receiving yards — with 458 yards after the catch. 

Fournette became the workhorse back in Tampa Bay and quarterback Tom Brady’s security blanket for checkdowns and dump-offs if downfield options weren’t open. The former top-five back is tough to bring down in the open field, forcing 40 missed tackles in 2021.

Grade: Average


TENNESSEE TITANS

C Ben Jones: Two years, $14 million

The top free-agent center option following Ryan Jensen’s extension in Tampa Bay is back off the market. Jones is coming off a 2021 season where he ranked tied for fourth among centers in PFF’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) metric, and he’s been a reliable starter for Tennessee since joining the team in 2016. This is a reasonable deal for an underrated center, helping maintain continuity on an offensive line that still has some question marks entering the 2022 season. 

Grade: Above average

TE Austin Hooper: One year, $6 million

Hooper never lived up to the big deal he signed with Cleveland two offseasons ago, but this is a much more reasonable contract for Tennessee to add a complementary option in the passing game and a middle-of-the-road run blocker. He joins the recently extended Geoff Swaim atop Tennessee’s tight end depth chart.

Drops were much more of an issue for Hooper in his two seasons with the Browns than his final two seasons with Atlanta. He dropped just four of 179 targets across the 2018-19 seasons with the Falcons compared to 11 on 123 targets the past two years in Cleveland.

Grade: Above average


WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

S Bobby McCain: Two years, $11 million

McCain signed a four-year, $27 million deal with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 coming off a 76.4 overall grade and 78.9 coverage grade with two interceptions and another four pass breakups. After signing a one-year flier with the Washington Commanders for the 2021 season, McCain had four interceptions with five pass breakups and played his way into a solid multi-year deal. 

McCain is still just 29 years old and has one season since 2016 with a coverage grade below 60.0, logging at least 540 snaps each year.

Grade: Average

RB J.D. McKissic: Two years, $7 million

McKissic had a change of heart and will return to Washington rather than join Devin Singletary in the Buffalo Bills backfield. McKissic has been one of the most prolific receiving backs in the NFL over the last two seasons in Washington, trailing only Alvin Kamara and Austin Ekeler in total receptions over that stretch. This is a reasonable deal for a player who provides that kind of value as a receiver out of the backfield. 

This move back to Washington also means that Antonio Gibson’s role will likely remain unchanged following some buzz that he may get more receiving opportunities following the announcement of McKissic’s initial commitment to Buffalo.

Grade: Average

T CORNELIUS LUCAS: Two years, $8.2 million

Lucas has seen a lot of action for a swing tackle who wasn’t in place as the Week 1 starter in any of the last three seasons. He logged over 500 offensive snaps each of those years with time spent at both right tackle (1,038 snaps) and left tackle (608 snaps) since 2019. Lucas has delivered when called upon, as well. He hasn’t graded below 72.0 in any season over the last three years. 

His role will likely be to remain a swing tackle behind Charles Leno Jr. and Samuel Cosmi in Washington, but we’ve seen in recent years that there is value to that role. And this is a reasonable price point for a player who Washington can feel confident about starting on either side.

Grade: Above average


 

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