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Examining how high-priced free agents have performed in the past

Bills Von Miller rushes around the end against the Packers.

  • Von Miller: The Buffalo Bills edge defender was outstanding to start his tenure, but a torn ACL could be changing Miller and the team's fortunes.
  • Joe Thuney: The Kansas City Chiefs guard has missed a couple games since joining the team, but he's been proven to be a huge upgrade for Kansas City's offensive line.
  • Terron Armstead: The Miami Dolphins left tackle has been hit with injuries, but he's been awesome when on the field.
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

As we’re getting deep into the 2023 NFL free agency period, let’s take a look back at how some of the past couple offseasons' biggest free agent signings have impacted their teams so far.

EDGE Von Miller, Buffalo Bills

  • When: 2022
  • From: Los Angeles Rams
  • Contract: Six years – $120 million; $51.4 million guaranteed

As the biggest free agent signing over the past couple off-seasons, Miller had a tremendous impact on Buffalo’s defense before going down with an ACL tear in Week 12, which cost him the rest of the last season and leaves him as a bit of an unknown heading into next season, when he’ll be 34 years old.

When Miller was on the field this past seasons, he racked up pressures at a 17.4 percent clip, the third-best rate among edge defenders, as the Bills went from having an above-average pass rush with the future Hall of Famer to a middle-of-the-road pass rush without him. Through the first 12 weeks, Buffalo ranked eighth among teams with a 27.8 pass-rush productivity rating (PRP) and their 8.3 percent sack rate ranked seventh. From Weeks 13 through the end of the season (playoffs included), Buffalo ranked 23rd with a 22.1 PRP while its 5.2 percent sack rate dropped down to 24th.

Miller’s signing had looked like a home run before he tore his ACL, so his ability to bounce back will ultimately dictate how that signing goes down in Bills history.

G Joe Thuney, Kansas City Chiefs

  • When: 2021
  • From: New England Patriots
  • Contract: Five years – $80 million; $48 million guaranteed

Thuney started every possible game for the Patriots during his first seasons in the league before signing one of the largest contracts ever handed out to a guard in the 2021 offseason.

Thuney hasn’t been quite as reliable for the Chiefs – he missed two games this past season – but with that said, he still ranks second among all guards with 2,584 offensive snaps played since he signed with Kansas City, and he’s performing as a top player at the position. Thuney ranks sixth out of 65 guards who’ve played at least 1,000 snaps over the past two seasons with an 82.1 overall grade, and he leads all guards with a 91.7 pass-blocking grade. Thuney has dropped back into pass protection 1,755 times over the past two seasons – more times than anyone else other than his teammate, Trey Smith – while his 2.3 percent pressure rate ranks first.

You couldn’t have hoped for more out of this signing if you’re a Chiefs fan.


LT Terron Armstead, Miami Dolphins

  • When: 2022
  • From: New Orleans Saints
  • Contract: Five years – $75 million; $43.4 million guaranteed

Armstead spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Saints, the team that drafted him 75th overall back in 2013, and over those first nine seasons, he earned a 91.9 overall grade, sixth out of 55 offensive tackles who played at least 4,000 snaps during that stretch.

In last year's offseason, the Miami Dolphins were able to lure Armstead away from The Big Easy with a relatively team-friendly contract given his production at a cornerstone position throughout his career.

Armstead was a huge upgrade for Miami in Year 1. In 2021, the Dolphins' left tackle position ranked dead last in the NFL, earning a 51.0 overall grade throughout the season with Liam Eichenberg and Austin Jackson rotating throughout the year. In 2022, Armstead ranked eighth among left tackles with a 77.5 overall grade. Armstead ranked third among left tackles last season with a 3.5 percent pressure rate, the Dolphins allowed pressure off left tackle at a 10.4 percent rate in 2021.

WR Kenny Golladay, New York Giants

  • When: 2021
  • From: Detroit Lions
  • Contract: Four years – $72 million; $40 million guaranteed


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