The start of the new NFL season is underway, and news on extensions, franchise tags and new deals with unrestricted free agents is coming in fast.
The PFF Free Agency 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 assign each deal into one of six categories: Elite, Very Good, Above Average, Average, Below Average or Poor. It will be upgraded throughout the week as additional news comes in.
[Editor's Note: This was originally meant just to look at player signings and franchise tags, but with the trades that have taken place and changed the NFL landscape, we have added a section breaking down the deals for both teams. ]
Baltimore Ravens trade a fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for EDGE Calais Campbell
Jaguars: Below Average
Campbell’s career has followed an interesting trajectory. It began with the Arizona Cardinals back in 2008 with Campbell’s overall grades hovering around the 60’s, but he has continued to improve with age, becoming a force in his later years in Arizona. That progression only continued once he got to Jacksonville where he has earned three consecutive grades of 90.0. He was the recipient of this year’s Run Defender of the Year award here at PFF, and he adds an elite defensive lineman to the Ravens that can play on the edge or inside. Getting that for a fifth-round pick is almost stealing for the Ravens.
For the Jaguars, it’s a situation where it seems like they should have been able to get more, but they are in peak salary-shedding form, and getting Campbell’s contract off the books was the main driver in the deal. That’s what keeps this from poor territory, but you don’t want to make a habit of giving up players as talented as Campbell is for Day 3 picks.
Arizona Cardinals trade RB David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick to the Houston Texans for WR DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick
The most difficult question when it comes to evaluating this trade is where to begin. On the surface, this is one of the most one-sided trades that I can remember. The Cardinals receive an unquestioned top-5 wide receiver in the NFL and the league’s second most valuable wide receiver over the past five seasons. If you were starting an NFL franchise Hopkins wouldn’t be far down the list on the players that you would take outside of the quarterback position. Additionally, the Cardinals got off Johnson’s bloated contract that carries cap hits of over $11 million in 2020 and $9 million in 2021, per Over the Cap.
So, the Texans must have been getting a massive haul of picks, right? As it turns out, the only thing that the Texans got, ignoring the fourth-round pick swap, is a second-round selection. This is a team that just traded multiple first-round selections for the less valuable Laremy Tunsil. We’ve seen receivers like Odell Beckham Jr. and Stefon Diggs — both of whom aren’t quite on the same level as Hopkins — draw much better packages recently. Texans’ fans, I’m sorry, but this makes no sense whatsoever on the part of Houston. On the flip side, there can’t be anyone happier than Steve Keim, Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray in Arizona.
Minnesota Vikings trade WR Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills for a 2020 first-round pick, fifth-round pick and sixth-round pick in addition to a 2021 fourth-round pick
Bills: Very Good
Vikings: Below Average
All the not-so-subtle hints that he was unhappy, all the trolling and all the vague social media posts ultimately resulted in a new home for Diggs on Monday. The Vikings’ standout wide receiver will join John Brown and Cole Beasley in what becomes one of the better wide receiving corps in the entire NFL, fielding a diverse skill set between the three players. Diggs will give Josh Allen the No. 1 threat that he hasn’t had to this point in his career. He is one of the best route runners in the NFL, and he led the league last season in receiving yards on passes 20 or more yards downfield. Getting a receiver of that caliber is a big win for Buffalo.
On the other side, this wasn’t a terrible deal for the Vikings. Despite his talent, Diggs clearly wanted out of Minnesota, and unlike the Texans, the Vikings did get a first-round pick for Diggs along with several late-to-mid round selections. It’s hard to feel great about giving up a legitimate top-tier wide receiver, though, and now the Vikings are left with a glaring hole at the position with unproven depth behind Adam Thielen. In order to make this worth it, they’re going to need to hit on that first-round pick or turn it into multiple assets.
Baltimore Ravens trade TE Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round selection to the Atlanta Falcons for 2020 second- and fifth-round picks
Ravens: Above Average
With Austin Hooper signing with the Cleveland Browns on Monday on a deal that made him the highest-paid player at the tight end positon, the Falcons were in the market for a new tight end. They tagged Hurst, the 26-year old, third-year man out of South Carolina, as that replacement. Hurst was expendable to Baltimore with Mark Andrews comfortably taking over the No. 1 tight end role for the team, and he showed last season that he could be an effective receiving threat for the position. His 77.3 receiving grade in 2019 ranked 11th among 45 qualifying tight ends, making the most of his targets with a 127.3 passer rating when targeted. He should step into that Falcons’ offense and pick up where Hooper left off from a production standpoint.
As for the Ravens, they were able to return a second-round pick for Hurst, a position where they already had both Andrews and Nick Boyle. It was a strong return for a player who recorded a career-high 34 receptions for 402 receiving yards in 2019. Baltimore got the better end of the deal, but this can be viewed as a win-win, particularly if Hurst takes a similar jump in 2020 as the one he made from his rookie to second season.
Indianapolis Colts trade the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to the San Francisco 49ers for DI DeForest Buckner
Colts: Below Average
49ers: Very Good
It was no surprise that the Colts were in the market for an interior defender this offseason. Colts general manager Chris Ballard said during his end-of-the-year press conference, “The 3-technique drives this thing. It does. Every time I’ve been a part of this, the 3-technique drives this.” Buckner being the 3-technique that they ended up pursuing was a surprise, however. He is a very good player capable of disrupting the run game and putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Buckner ranks as the 12th most valuable interior defender in the NFL over the last three seasons, and he will undoubtedly improve the Colts’ defense.
At what cost, though? The Colts gave up a first-round pick that sits in the first half of the upcoming NFL draft (13th), and on top of that, it is reported that they are giving Buckner an extension that will pay him $21 million per year. That would put him into the second slot for average annual salary at the interior defender position behind only Aaron Donald. That’s a whole lot to invest in a player that is not among the league’s truly elite defensive linemen.
For the 49ers, it is a strong return for Buckner after getting several good seasons from their first-round pick. That extra first-round selection will allow them to continue to fill out their roster as they push for another Super Bowl appearance in 2020.
Tennessee Titans trade DI Jurrell Casey to the Denver Broncos for a seventh-round draft pick
Tennessee Titans: Poor
Denver Broncos: Very Good
Similar to what we saw transpire with Calais Campbell deal several days ago, the Broncos were able to pry away a talented defensive lineman for just a Day 3 pick. This deal took only a seventh-rounder, and you have to wonder how that is all the Titans were able to muster for Casey. Even in a down 2019 season, Casey picked up a 74.3 overall grade. He has graded above 70.0 in all nine of his NFL seasons with grades of 80.0 or higher in three of the past five years. This is one of the more talented interior defensive linemen in the NFL, and all the Titans were able to get was a seventh-round pick?
From the Broncos’ perspective, this is another example of a team wisely giving away late draft capital to acquire a high-level starter from a team that is looking to shed salary. The chances of getting a player like Casey in the seventh-round is slim to none, and he should step in and bolster their defensive line if they don’t end up retaining Shelby Harris or Derek Wolfe.
Jacksonville Jaguars trade QB Nick Foles to the Chicago Bears for a compensatory fourth-round draft pick
Jacksonville Jaguars: Above Average
Chicago Bears: Average
After his first season with the Jaguars — a year in which he lost the starting job to sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew not once, but twice — there is no positive spin on the contract that Jacksonville gave Foles last offseason. With all signs pointing to the Jaguars heading towards a tank in 2020, getting off Foles’ contract long term and cutting ties with the sunk cost seemed inevitable. The initial contract was a mistake, but getting a fourth-round pick to clear the books in 2021 and beyond is a reasonable outcome for Jacksonville.
From the Bears’ side, it has become clear that Mitchell Trubisky has worn out his welcome. Over the last three seasons, he ranks just 29th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks in PFF passing grade. Foles has shown high-level play at times, namely the 2017 postseason run with the Philadelphia Eagles where he recorded 90.0-plus grades in the NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl. That’s what the Bears will be trying to capture in Matt Nagy’s system. It’s a relatively low-risk move should it not work out, but it’s unlikely that this is when Foles becomes an above-average starter. At any rate, he should be an upgrade over Trubisky.
New England Patriots trade S Duron Harmon and a 2020 seventh-round draft pick to the Detroit Lions for a fifth-round selection
Patriots: Below Average
Lions: Very Good
Make that three members of the Patriots defense from a season ago that are now on Detroit. In addition to signing Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton, the Lions traded for Harmon to continue a trend of defensive improvement. Harmon has been a strong contributor in New England, grading between 66.5 and 77.7 in all seven of his seasons to this point. He has done so with his playmaking ability as one of only eight safeties to record 10 or more interceptions over the past three seasons. Adding a reliable playmaker at free safety for only a Day 3 pick swap is a great move for the Lions as they look to mitigate the loss of Darius Slay.
For a similar reason, this is a below average deal for the Patriots. They had the best defense in the NFL last season in terms of EPA allowed per play, but if they continue to lose starters like they have over the past few days, it is going to be tough to replicate that. Harmon has played 500 or more snaps for the Patriots in each of the past five seasons, and his steady presence and penchant for timely plays in the New England secondary will be missed.
Detroit Lions trade CB Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles for third- and fifth-round draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft
Eagles: Very Good
After much speculation and greasing of the wheels on Twitter, the Slay trade was announced early Thursday morning. For the Eagles, they get the No. 1 shutdown cornerback that they coveted. From a grading standpoint, Slay had a down season in 2019, but he was a top-10 cornerback from 2014 to 2018. That is made even more impressive by the fact that he routinely draws the opposing team’s best wide receiver in shadow coverage, a job that few NFL cornerbacks are capable of carrying out. Slay can stay in receivers’ pockets with the best of them, and acquiring him for a third- and a fifth-round pick is very strong for Philadelphia, even after making him the highest paid cornerback in football.
On the part of the Lions, Slay made it clear that he didn’t want to come back. It’s never going to feel good losing a player of his caliber, but considering that any team that traded for him also needed to pay him, the deal wasn’t terrible for Detroit. They also helped mitigate his loss by signing Desmond Trufant to a reasonable deal. All in all, the Lions made the best of a bad situation.
Saints sign QB Drew Brees to a two-year, $50 million extension
You may hear tales of Brees being “done”, but over the last three seasons his PFF overall grades of 89.5 (2017), 94.0 (2018) and 90.6 (2019) tell a different story. He did tail off towards the end of the 2019 season, but a three-game stretch of poor play isn’t enough to sound the alarms. Brees is consistently near the top of PFF’s accuracy and ball-charting rankings, getting the ball out quickly and accurately to his playmakers. If he remains at the elite level that he has played at throughout his career, this is a steal for the Saints. An average annual salary of $25 million does not even fall in the top 10 for quarterbacks.
Chargers sign T Bryan Bulaga to a three-year, $30 million extension
The Chargers’ trade with the Carolina Panthers — a deal in which they gave up Russell Okung for Trai Turner — left them needing two starting tackles heading into 2020. The right tackle spot is now accounted for after the Chargers brought in Bulaga on a deal that will pay out $10 million per year. That is certainly a fair number for a player who has been one of the top pass-blocking tackles in the NFL for much of his career.
Since 2014, 27 players have played at least 2,500 offensive snaps at right tackle. Among those players, Bulaga ranks second in pass-blocking grade at 83.4, trailing only Mitchell Schwartz of the Kansas City Chiefs. As long as he remains healthy, Bulaga will bring stability to the right tackle position and form a new-look right side with Turner that should help the transition for whoever is behind center in 2020.
Chargers sign CB Chris Harris Jr. to a two-year, $20 million deal
The Chargers are putting together a strong start to the offseason, picking up their second “Elite” deal of the past few days. Harris has been one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL over the past decade, and he has been the best slot cornerback. Since entering the league in 2011, only Richard Sherman has generated more wins above a replacement level player than Harris has. It remains to be seen what the Chargers do in the secondary with Harris and Desmond King, both of whom have done their best work in the slot, but they will have the most talented secondary in the NFL no matter how they employ them. At just $10 million per year, this is a massive win for Los Angeles.
Cowboys sign S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a one-year, $4 million deal
Going into all this free agency madness, Clinton-Dix was the No. 31 free agent on the PFF Free Agency Rankings. To secure that player — at just 27 years old — to a one-year deal worth only $4 million is a great move for Dallas. Clinton-Dix has been a top-20 safety by PFF grade and a top-25 safety by PFF WAR in each of the past two years. Over the course of his six-year career, he has posted an overall grade below 70.0 just once, and that was in his rookie season where he ended the year with a 67.4 mark. Clinton-Dix is capable of making plays on the ball and limiting big plays for the opposing team. For a team that had a need at the safety position, this deal is about as good as the Cowboys could have hoped for.
Buccaneers sign QB Tom Brady to a two-year, $50 million deal
In a 2019 season where he completed just over 60% of his passes and averaged only 6.6 yards per attempt, Brady still performed at a relatively high level on a throw-by-throw basis. His PFF grade of 79.0 ranked 12th among 32 qualifying quarterbacks. A large portion of the blame statistically could be placed on offensive weapons that couldn’t get separation on their routes in New England. That is a problem that Brady won’t have in Tampa Bay. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are just one of five wide receiver duos since 2006 to both record receiving grades of 85.0 or higher in the same season.
Brady will be 43 years old at the start of next season, but he produced PFF grades of 90.0 or higher in each season from 2015 to 2018 before the slight downtick last year. There’s no reason to consider him done yet. At just $25 million per year, this move gives the Buccaneers a legitimate chance to chase a Super Bowl next season.
Saints sign WR Emmanuel Sanders to a two-year, $16 million deal
It seemed as if New Orleans might not go after a big name at wide receiver in free agency after they signed Andrus Peat to a massive five-year deal, but they ended up with one of the best players available in Sanders on a very reasonable deal.
Sanders completely changed the San Francisco 49ers offense after the midseason trade to acquire him, and since landing with the Denver Broncos in 2014, he has consistently been one of the league's better wide receivers. Sanders has picked up PFF grades of 77.0 or higher in five of those six seasons, and he is one of just five wide receivers since 2014 with 500 or more targets and 20 or fewer drops. The Saints desperately needed another option at wide receiver to complement Michael Thomas. Sanders fits like a glove in that role. The two-year, $16 million contract that secured him is just the icing on the cake.
After finishing the 2019 season as the NFL’s second-highest graded safety and the league’s most valuable safety per PFF WAR, the Broncos simply could not allow Simmons to hit free agency. Giving him a long-term contract that would have made him one of the highest-paid players at the position was also a risky proposition, given that Simmons earned just a 60.9 overall grade in 2018, almost 30 points lower than his 2019 mark. The franchise tag allows the Broncos to keep him under contract next season (at a reasonable price) while making him show that he can repeat what he did last season before committing long-term.
Vikings franchise tag S Anthony Harris
In a move that was somewhat unexpected, the Vikings used their franchise tag to keep Harris in-house and keep the safety duo of Harris and Harrison Smith intact. The cap situation is tough in Minnesota, but Harris has been outstanding over the last two seasons. He was a top-three safety in both 2018 and 2019 in terms of PFF grades, and he finished his 2019 campaign as the second most valuable safety in the NFL according to PFF WAR. His playmaking on the back end would have made him one of the most valuable players on the market across the league — he's the kind of player you want to keep from the open market, making this a good move for the Vikings.
Bengals franchise tag WR A.J. Green
All signs point to LSU standout Joe Burrow being the Bengals’ quarterback of the future, and the Bengals have ensured that he will have a legitimate No. 1 option at wide receiver by franchise tagging A.J. Green.
It may be easy to forget that Green is a borderline top-five wide receiver in the NFL when healthy; he's put up overall grades of 80.0 or higher in each season since his rookie year in 2011, and he can win in all areas of the field. Elite wide receivers like that are something that every team could use. The issue with extending Green on a multi-year deal is that he has missed significant time due to injury in three of the last four seasons — he notably sat out the entire 2019 season — and he will be 32 years old by the time the 2020 season starts. That’s what makes the franchise tag a strong play for the Bengals as they decide what step to take next.
Patriots sign S Devin McCourty to two-year, $23 million extension, $17 million guaranteed
McCourty has been a key, underappreciated piece of the Patriots’ defense over his ten-year career, and this extension ensures that he can finish that career in New England. Since 2012, McCourty has been the most valuable safety in the NFL and he has graded at 80.0 or higher in six of those eight seasons. The Patriots had the most efficient defense in the NFL in 2019 according to expected points allowed per play, and the play they got from players like McCourty was a big reason for that. At just over $10 million per year, this is a very good move for the Patriots.
Colts sign T Anthony Castonzo to two-year, $33 million extension, $17 million guaranteed
The Colts have built one of the best offensive lines in the NFL over the course of the last several seasons, ending the 2019 regular season ranked third in PFF’s offensive line rankings, and Castonzo has been the constant in that group since being drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft. Him deciding to stave off retirement and keep churning out above-average play from the left tackle position is a massive win for Indianapolis. His lowest overall grade since the 2012 season is 77.6, and he has been a top 15 tackle — among left and right tackles — in PFF WAR in each of the last three years. Castonzo would have been the top tackle available this offseason in free agency, but the Colts didn’t give other teams the chance.
Eagles sign DI Javon Hargrave to a three-year, $39 million deal, $26 million guaranteed
Hargrave may not be a household name, but that is going to change soon. He has spent time as a rotational player on a talented Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive line, improving each year to this point in his career. He ended the 2019 season with an 83.4 overall grade that ranked among the top-10 interior defenders in the entire NFL, and he excelled as a pass rusher, generating a 14.2% pressure rate that ranked third at the position behind Aaron Donald and Chris Jones. By pairing Hargrave with Fletcher Cox on the middle of that defensive line, the Eagles have created a whole lot of headaches for opposing interior offensive lines in 2020.
Dolphins sign CB Byron Jones to a five-year, $85 million deal, $57 million guaranteed
After taking chances on a few young players improving earlier in the day, the Dolphins used some more of that league-high cap space to secure a cornerstone for their secondary in Jones. It’s easy to fixate on the lack of interceptions over the past two seasons, but Jones does everything else that you would want a top-tier cornerback to do. He has been a top-15 cornerback over the last two seasons by both PFF grade and PFF WAR, and he has excelled in press coverage over the course of his career. That’s something that Brian Flores and the Miami defense are in a good position to utilize. Paired with Xavien Howard, the Dolphins now have a quality outside cornerback duo to lock wide receivers down on the outside.
Cowboys sign WR Amari Cooper to a five-year, $100 million deal , $60 million guaranteed
The Cowboys saw one of their top free agents (Byron Jones) walk to the Miami Dolphins earlier in the night, but they secured the top wide receiver on the PFF Free Agent Rankings with a multi-year, $100 million deal that will make Cooper the second-highest paid wide receiver on a per-year basis. The trade for Cooper during the 2018 season helped kickstart the Cowboys’ offense. He has top-10 marks in both PFF grade and receiving yards per route run since joining the team, and he has staked his claim as one of the league’s best route runners. Keeping Cooper in Dallas gives Dak Prescott his No. 1 receiver back in 2020 and ensures the connection will remain intact for at least one more season.
Raiders sign LB Cory Littleton to a three-year, $36 million deal, $22 million guaranteed
Over the last two seasons, Littleton has been one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL. His two-year coverage grade across the 2018 and 2019 seasons of 90.6 ranks second at the position to only Lavonte David. That is the type of player that the Raiders could use more of. As a team, their linebackers recorded a coverage grade of just 38.4 last season (fifth-lowest in the NFL). Adding a player that can cover and tackle like Littleton, who had just one missed tackle in the entire 2019 season, is a win for Las Vegas. Pairing him with fellow free agent signing Nick Kwiatkoski will give them a new look at the linebacker position next season.
Colts sign QB Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25 million deal
After much deliberation, the Colts have put to rest the talk about who their starting quarterback in 2020 is going to be. Rivers will be the man for the job, changing teams for the first time since entering the league in 2004. This deal makes a lot of sense for Indianapolis on a couple of different levels. It is only a one-year deal at a reasonable price point that allows them to keep their options open in 2021. Additionally, Rivers has a legitimate chance to successfully lead this Colts’ offense to the playoffs in an AFC South division that gets weaker by the day.
Even if he plays as he did in 2019 (74.3 overall grade), Rivers would be a significant upgrade on their quarterback play from last season with Jacoby Brissett (59.2) at the helm. If Rivers creeps back towards his 2018 form (88.9), the gap would be even more pronounced. It can’t hurt that he will get to play behind one of the better offensive lines that he has seen in a long time, but even if the decline does continue for Rivers, then the Colts can simply search for a quarterback again in 2021. Rivers is the perfect middle ground for Indianapolis as they figure out the direction that their team is taking.
Bengals sign DI D.J. Reader to a four-year, $53 million deal
Reader and Javon Hargrave were listed as the 33rd and 34th best free agents (second- and third-ranked interior defenders behind Chris Jones) on the PFF Free Agency Rankings Page heading into this week. A day after Hargrave got a three-year, $39 million deal from the Philadelphia Eagles, Reader got a similar four-year, $53 million deal from the Bengals. Both of those moves were sound.
Reader has shown a propensity to stuff the run throughout his career, but it’s the development as a pass rusher that he showed last season that is really exciting. He recorded a career-high 36 pressures en route to an 85.5 overall grade that ranked seventh at the position in 2019. Paired with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap among others, the Bengals now have one of the more talented defensive lines in the NFL.
Panthers sign S Tre Boston to a three-year, $18 million extension
Ladies and gentlemen, he has done it. Boston has secured a multi-year deal. The fact that he had played each of the past three seasons on one-year contracts is baffling when you look at his coverage numbers. Over those three seasons, he ranks second in coverage grade at the safety position among qualifiers, and his 27 combined pass breakups and interceptions are fewer than only Kevin Byard. The guy has been one of the best free safeties in coverage in the entire NFL. That makes this an excellent move for the Panthers at just $6 million per year, a deal that doesn’t even make him one of the 20 highest paid safeties in the NFL.
Jets sign CB Brian Poole to a one-year, $5 million deal, fully guaranteed
There seemed to be a chance that some team might end up overpaying Poole based on a career year in 2019. Poole’s 80.0 coverage grade ranked eighth among all qualifying cornerbacks last season, and he kept nearly everything in front of him, allowing just over seven yards per reception and a passer rating of 71.6 on passes into his coverage. The Jets were able to secure his services for another year for only $5 million, however. It’s a key move for the secondary as they now appear to have the slot cornerback position — an undervalued commodity around the league — under control.
Bengals sign CB Mackensie Alexander to a one-year, $4 million deal
After overpaying for Alexander’s teammate last season, Trae Waynes, the Bengals got a steal with Alexander signing to a one-year, $4 million contract that gives them their answer at slot cornerback. His peak came in 2018 when he ended the year as a top-20 cornerback overall in PFF grade (78.1), and over the course of the past two seasons, Alexander has graded out as a middle-of-the-pack option in the slot among qualifiers. He has done a good job of getting his hand on the ball and forcing incompletions as well, recording the fourth highest forced incompletion rate in the slot over the last two years. This is great work by the Bengals to address an area on the cheap after Darqueze Dennard left in free agency.
Browns sign DI Andrew Billings to a one-year, $3.5 million deal
This Billings contract looks to be one of the better deals of free agency to this point. He has played 600 or more defensive snaps — a sizable amount for a nose tackle — and recorded overall grades of 69.0 or higher in each of the past two seasons. Unlike a lot of men that large, he has also shown a little bit of juice as a pass rusher over center. Billings has recorded the tenth-highest pass-rushing grade (70.9) out of 30 interior defenders with 150 or more pass-rushing snaps lined up over center in the past two seasons. The Browns did well to get a solid 25-year old nose tackle at just $3.5 million given his recent performance and deals given out to other similar players.
Steelers sign TE Eric Ebron to a two-year, $12 million deal
The Steelers needed some reinforcements at the tight end position after Vance McDonald battled injuries in 2019 and struggled to make an impact when he was on the field with just 0.69 receiving yards per route run. Ebron gives another receiving option to the returning Ben Roethlisberger. He is coming off five seasons of solid grading, recording overall grades of 65.0 or higher each year since 2015 . When you consider that he actually landed above Austin Hooper on the PFF Free Agency Rankings coming into the week, this deal looks even better. Pittsburgh was able to land Ebron for a similar average value to guys such as Nick Boyle and former Steeler Jesse James.
Steelers sign G Stefen Wisniewski to a two-year, $2.85 million deal
With Ramon Foster retiring and B.J. Finney signing with the Seattle Seahawks, the Steelers needed to address the interior offensive line. This was about as good of a deal as they could have hoped for. Wisniewski has recorded a PFF grade of 70.0 or higher in seven of his nine NFL seasons, including last year as he filled in the starting left guard spot on the Kansas City Chiefs as they made their Super Bowl run. At worst, he provides valuable depth if Pittsburgh decides to find a starting left guard in the draft, but Wisniewski is fully capable of starting if called upon. For a little over $1 million per year, that is a strong move for a Steelers team tight on cap space.
Browns sign S Karl Joseph to a one-year, $2.5 million deal
Similar to the Andrew Billings deal, the Browns pick up a young player here with a history of solid play on a cheap one-year deal. Joseph never found his fit with the Las Vegas Raiders after being drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he was a consistent contributor, earning overall grades between 67.0 and 75.0 in each of his four NFL seasons on 500 or more defensive snaps every year. The splash plays haven't quite been there, but getting Joseph on a prove-it deal for just $2.5 million dollars is good business by Cleveland.
Panthers sign WR Robby Anderson to a two-year, $20 million deal
There were plenty of teams that figured to have interest in Anderson's talents as one of the top wide receivers remaining on the market, but the Panthers were not on most people's radar. The signing of Anderson now gives them a talented trio at wide receiver consisting of D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Anderson to go along with Christian McCaffrey, arguably the league's best receiver at the running back position.
Anderson is known for his speed and deep threat ability as one of just six wide receivers to draw 100 or more targets 20-plus yards downfield since 2016, but he has developed into more than just that deep threat, improving over the middle of the field and in the intermediate range over the last two seasons as well. He gives Teddy Bridgewater another weapon on a strong deal for Carolina.
The Cowboys had three valuable players set to enter free agency in Prescott, Amari Cooper and Byron Jones, and it was most important to keep Prescott from walking. Last season, he was a top-10 quarterback in terms of PFF grade and was the third most valuable quarterback in terms of PFF WAR, and he led one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL.
It was a significant bump from the two prior seasons, but even in those campaigns, Prescott showed the ability to be a competent starter. Using the tag on Prescott rather than a long-term deal could end up hurting Dallas through the loss of Cooper to free agency, or it could force the team into a more expensive deal with Prescott following a Patrick Mahomes extension. Having said this, securing Prescott for at least 2020 was a good move for the Cowboys.
Chargers franchise tag TE Hunter Henry
Henry was easily the top tight end on the market, coming in at 15th overall on PFF's list of the top free agents available this offseason, so the Chargers being able to retain him for the 2020 season is a win. He is a legitimate receiving threat who can win both in-line and in the slot, and he has earned the NFL's fourth-highest overall grade among tight ends — behind only George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski — since entering the league in 2016. The biggest issue with Henry is injuries, which is likely why he got the tag rather than a long-term deal. But if he provides a healthy season in 2020, he will get that lucrative long-term deal sooner rather than later.
Buccaneers franchise tag EDGE Shaquil Barrett
Barrett did well for himself in 2019, and it wasn’t that he performed at a significantly higher level than he did in the early portion of his career with the Denver Broncos. Yes, the 20 sacks Barrett had by PFF’s count were 14 more than he recorded in any previous season, but he had consistently produced PFF grades between 75.0 and 85.0 with the Broncos. That allowed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to get a steal on an under-appreciated pass-rusher who had to share the field in Denver.
His sack total made sure that wouldn’t be the case again this offseason. Tagging Barrett with the hope of him producing elite pass-rushing numbers again in his second full-time season as a starter before committing long-term is a sound move by the Buccaneers.
Chiefs franchise tag DI Chris Jones
This could play out similarly to last year's Dee Ford situation, with the Kansas City Chiefs tagging then trading Jones. The Chiefs simply can’t allow a player of Jones’ caliber to walk in free agency with only a compensation pick in return. Jones has been one of the most disruptive interior defenders in the NFL, earning the third-highest pass-rushing grade among interior defenders since entering the league in 2016 (behind only Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox). By tagging Jones, Kansas City ensures that it at least gets fair compensation should he leave — a good move on the Chiefs' part.
Raiders sign LB Nick Kwiatkoski to a three-year, $21 million deal, $13.5 million guaranteed
Without a full-time starting role to this point in his career, there is some guess work being done with Kwiatkoski on the part of the Raiders. His 512 defensive snaps in 2019 were a career-high mark, and his 72.6 overall grade in those snaps ranked 15th at the linebacker position, coming from a well-rounded performance in run defense and coverage. He played just 112 snaps the previous year, but his 2019 play aligns with what we saw in limited action in 2017. That year, Kwiatkoski earned an overall grade of 80.5 with grades of 74.0 or more in run defense, coverage, as a pass rusher and as a tackler. With an obvious need at linebacker, this modest deal could end up looking pretty good for Las Vegas.
Browns sign T Jack Conklin to three-year, $42 million deal, $30 million guaranteed
After Castonzo re-signed with the Colts, Conklin was the No. 1 tackle on the PFF Free Agency Rankings, and perhaps no team had a stronger need at tackle than the Browns. It’s hard to argue against teams filling areas of need with talented players, and that’s what the Browns did. Conklin was one of the best run blockers in the NFL on zone plays in 2019, a favorite of Kevin Stefanski’s offense with the Minnesota Vikings. That helped contribute to him ending the season as the fourth-most valuable tackle in the league per PFF WAR. The reason this deal isn’t listed any higher is that Conklin has been merely average in true pass-blocking sets over the last several seasons, benefitting from a healthy dose of double teams and chip blocks with the Titans.
Browns sign QB Case Keenum to a three-year, $18 million deal, $10 million guaranteed
Backup quarterback moves aren’t necessarily the most exciting news to break during the free agent frenzy, but as we saw last season with the Tennessee Titans and Ryan Tannehill, they can be important. Keenum showed the high end of his spectrum back in that 2017 run with the Minnesota Vikings, producing an 81.4 overall grade that ranked seventh among qualifying quarterbacks that year. Baker Mayfield is still the unquestioned starter, but should he get injured or should things continue to go off the rails in Cleveland, Keenum is capable of stepping in and delivering serviceable play.
Chargers sign RB Austin Ekeler to a four-year, $24.5 million extension, $15 million guaranteed
When it comes to second running back contracts, this is about as good as it is going to get for one of the best and most versatile receiving threats at the position. Ekeler’s receiving grade of 93.6 in 2019 was the second best mark for a running back since the PFF era began in 2006, and he did it from a number of alignments, showing the ability to produce when moved out of the backfield to wide receiver. Good things happened when the Chargers got him the football. His 124.1 passer rating when targeted was tops among all running back seasons since 2006 with 75 or more targets. You’re not going to see many second running back deals get placed in “Above Average” territory, but in the landscape of the running back market, this was a strong deal for the Chargers.
49ers sign S Jimmie Ward to a three-year, $28.5 million extension
Last season, Ward recorded an 84.9 overall grade that ranked sixth at the safety position, and he also finished the year as a top-10 player at the position in wins above replacement. He patrolled the back end of a talented 49ers’ secondary that was the best group in the NFL at limiting production downfield in 2019, allowing a league-low 10 completions 20 or more yards downfield all regular season. On just that information, this contract looks like an absolute steal for San Francisco, and it may well end up being that. However, Ward’s career prior to last season was filled with injuries and up-and-down play as he moved from position to position. The 49ers will be hoping he settled in at free safety and can remain healthy in 2020 and beyond.
Panthers sign QB Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $60 million deal
A big quarterback domino has fallen with the Panthers announcing that they are letting Cam Newton pursue a trade while reports swirl about a three-year, $60 million deal for Bridgewater to join the Panthers as their new starting quarterback. Taking over for the injured Drew Brees in 2019, Bridgewater showed that he could still be a solid NFL starter and string together wins. Over his last three starts with the Saints, Bridgewater put together an 83.0 overall grade and showed more comfort in pushing the ball downfield. There still isn’t a large sample size to base off when evaluating Bridgewater, but at $20 million per year, the contract isn’t going to cripple the Panthers if things don’t work out.
Titans sign T Dennis Kelly to a three-year, $21 million deal, $8.75 million guaranteed
When you look at the offensive tackle market and the kind of deals that players are getting who have any sort of starting experience, this modest deal that Kelly signed (presumably to take over at right tackle for Jack Conklin) looks like a solid deal. He has made several spot starts over the last two seasons for Tennessee, ending both seasons with 70.0-plus overall grades and 75.0-plus pass-blocking grades. It remains to be seen if he can maintain that grading profile in a full-time starting role, but at $7 million per year, it's a good bet by the Titans.
Redskins sign CB Kendall Fuller to a four-year, $40 million deal
It’s a reunion for Fuller and the Redskins following his inclusion in the deal that sent Alex Smith to Washington. After turning in an elite 90.6 overall grade in the slot for the Redskins in 2017, a season in which Fuller allowed a passer rating of just 56.7 into his coverage, he never quite reached those heights with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fuller remained in the slot for Kansas City for the 2018 season but ultimately ended up moving to safety during their Super Bowl run this past season. He recorded grades above 70.0 in each of the last two seasons, showing the ability to provide strong play from multiple positions in the secondary. This signing adds a versatile coverage defender on a reasonable deal to a Redskins’ secondary that could use some help.
Jets sign C Connor McGovern to a three-year, $27 million deal, $18 million guaranteed
The switch to center did McGovern good in Denver. His only full season as a starter at the position — the 2019 season — McGovern graded out as the 11th best player at the position with a top-5 pass-blocking grade among qualifying centers. The Jets have made the offensive line a priority, signing George Fant and re-signing Alex Lewis to three-year deals, but McGovern is easily the best move they have made up front so far. Ryan Kalil and Jonotthan Harrison graded out as the 35th and 38th best players at the center position last season out of 38 qualifiers. McGovern figures to be an instant upgrade on a reasonable contract.
Cowboys sign DI Gerald McCoy to a three-year deal, $20.25 million max value
Outside of their three big free agents that were set to hit the market, one of the Cowboys’ biggest needs heading into 2020 was help inside on their defensive line. Maliek Collins, the interior defender that played the most snaps for the team and easily their best interior pass rusher last season, is signing with the Las Vegas Raiders, leaving the group even more thin.
McCoy is certainly not the same pass rusher that he was in his prime with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he can still get after the quarterback. He’s been playing as well as ever in run support, as well. His 77.1 run-defense grade in 2019 was the third-highest mark of his career. McCoy should provide some stability on that Cowboys’ defensive line as they look to return to the postseason next year, and the contract is certainly fair.
Eagles sign S Rodney McLeod to a two-year, $12 million extension
McLeod has been a strong coverage safety for much of his career, earning coverage grades of 70.0 or higher in each of the past six seasons between his time with the Los Angeles Rams and the Eagles. He’s not an elite playmaker, but he is reliable. That is one of the highest compliments that you can give a free safety that is often the last line of defense. On a modest contract, this makes a lot of sense for Philadelphia to bring him back as they look to improve on their results in the secondary from a season ago.
Jaguars sign CB Darqueze Dennard to a three-year, $13.5 million deal
The value is here for the Jaguars on this Dennard deal. Over the last three years, he owns the 12th best slot coverage grade among qualifiers, and he has finished as one of the 30 most valuable cornerbacks in the NFL in two of those three seasons. At a contract with an average annual value of under $5 million per year, that is a strong get for the Jaguars.
The questions come with his fit. Mark Long reported that Jacksonville signed him to compete for an outside spot with D.J. Hayden already manning the slot, but Dennard’s career high in wide snaps in a season came in 2017 when he played 291 of 900 snaps outside. The last time he played the majority of his snaps wide was 2015. The cheap price makes it worth a shot though.
Saints sign S Malcolm Jenkins to a four-year, $32 million deal, $16.5 million fully guaranteed
Jenkins was a different player with the Philadelphia Eagles than he was with the Saints, not truly recognizing his first-round potential until he arrived in Philadelphia in 2014. He rattled off six straight overall grades better than 70.0 in the last six seasons, serving as an iron man on that Eagles defense with 1,000 or more snaps played each year.
One of his biggest strengths is his versatility. Jenkins is capable of lining up deep, in the box, in the slot and even off the edge. The downside here is that he is coming off his worst season in over five years in 2019, and at 32 years old, there is a possibility for decline over the course of this deal. That aside, it is still a strong move to maximize their championship window with Drew Brees at quarterback.
Lions sign CB Desmond Trufant to a two-year, $21 million deal, $14 million guaranteed
The Lions have put some serious work into reshaping their defense over the past few days, and unlike some of their prior moves, this one does not involve a former member of the New England Patriots. Trufant should fit nicely into a Lions’ secondary that runs a lot of press man coverage. He has picked up a 70.0 overall grade in six of his seven NFL seasons, just missing the mark in the other campaign. With uncertainty hanging around standout cornerback Darius Slay’s future, Trufant provides quality insurance on a nice deal for Detroit.
Rams sign T Andrew Whitworth to a three-year, $30 million extension, $12.5 million guaranteed
The initial reports that the 38-year old Whitworth was receiving a three-year extension were a bit jarring, but the deal makes more sense when you see how the contract is structured. It is essentially a one-year deal that gives Whitworth a little over $2 million in guaranteed money in 2021 even if he retires following next season. It also leaves the door open for a return.
Whitworth may have taken a step back last season, dropping from the third most valuable tackle in the NFL per PFF WAR in 2018 to 27th in 2019, but he was still easily the Rams’ best offensive lineman on the season. This is a good move by Los Angeles to keep continuity at the position at a reasonable price point as they look to rebuild the group up front.
Bills sign DI Quinton Jefferson to a two-year, $13.5 million deal
The first thing that Jefferson’s signing adds to the Bills defensive line is versatility. Jefferson showed with the Seattle Seahawks that he could play outside at edge and kick inside on the interior, and he is coming off a breakthrough year in that role last season. He finished the 2019 campaign with a 73.2 overall grade on 659 defensive snaps. It came on the back of improvement as both a run defender and pass rusher. Jefferson still managed only a 63.0 pass-rushing grade last season, but there is reason to believe that he can continue to improve while already playing at a high level against the run.
Browns sign CB Kevin Johnson to a one-year, $3.5 million deal
These are the types of deals that you like to see for teams that don’t want to spend big money at the cornerback position. Johnson is a former first-round pick for the Houston Texans back in 2015, but he has struggled to find any sort of footing in the NFL to this point in his career, struggling through up-and-down play and a string of concussions. He was able to make it through the entire season in a part-time role with the Buffalo Bills in 2019, and Johnson played well, earning a 71.9 grade on the year. He can play either in the slot or out wide. This is a strong depth signing at a cheap price that could end up paying off big if Johnson stays healthy and builds on last season.
Raiders sign QB Marcus Mariota to a two-year, $17.6 million deal
The relationship between Derek Carr and the Raiders has seemed a little tenuous over the past several months, making Mariota a smart insurance policy on their part in case things bottom out in 2020. Struggles led to his benching last season, but Mariota showed that he could be a quality starter in 2017 and 2018, finishing both years as a top-20 graded quarterback in the NFL. On a modest deal that is reported to be laden with incentives, this is a move that makes sense for both sides, and it gives Mariota a chance to potentially carry out a similar script to the one that Ryan Tannehill executed to unseat him.
Vikings sign QB Kirk Cousins to a two-year, $66 million extension
It’s hard to tell exactly how to feel with the Cousins extension. On one hand, he finished the 2019 season with an 84.1 overall grade that was one of the better marks among quarterbacks across the league. He led an efficient offense and took advantage of the play action and designed rollouts the Vikings ran at a high rate. He has shown throughout his career that he is a mid-tier starter who can have success in the right environment. But, at this point, it seems unlikely that Cousins will be the guy to elevate an offense regardless of the talent around him. Maintaining the status quo with Cousins will likely keep the Vikings in contention, but it isn’t going to push them to the next level offensively.
Redskins franchise tag G Brandon Scherff
Scherff is a quality player, coming in at 22nd overall on the PFF free agency rankings leading up to the start of the tampering period and league year. He has finished each of the last three seasons as a top-15 guard in PFF grade, but he has also dealt with his fair share of injuries recently that have limited his availability. It’s difficult to fully get behind paying top-of-the-position money to a guard with injury concerns who hasn’t quite been in the same tier as the elite players such as Quenton Nelson and Zack Martin. That holds this deal down to “Average” territory despite Scherff rating out as one of the top options available when on the field.
Patriots franchise tag G Joe Thuney
The expectation was not that the Patriots would tag Thuney, and with the quarterback situation still in flux there is a chance that Thuney ends up elsewhere in 2020. He would have been one of the top free agent guards on the market, thanks largely to his outstanding work as a pass protector. Last season, he allowed just 16 pressures on 693 pass-blocking snaps, ending the season with the third-highest pass-rushing grade in the NFL (87.4). The tag is a steep price to pay for his services, but the Patriots can feel comfortable that he will protect the quarterback – whoever that is – if he remains on the team.
Jaguars franchise tag Yannick Ngakoue
The ongoing saga between the Jaguars and Ngakoue coupled with the moves the Jaguars have been making to shed salary makes it a foregone conclusion that they will attempt to deal the disgruntled edge rusher, and he should fetch a decent return for Jacksonville. But prospective suitors must realize that Ngakoue is a pass-rushing specialist with little interest in defending the run. Over the last three seasons, he ranks 11th among 100 qualifying edge defenders in pass-rushing grade while finishing 95th among the same group in run-defense grade. The Jaguars tagging Ngakoue allows them to pursue a better return via trade than the compensation pick they would have gotten had he walked in free agency.
Cardinals sign LT D.J. Humphries to a three-year, $45 million deal, $29 million guaranteed
Humphries didn’t have to wait until this week to find out he was receiving a three-year extension with the Cardinals, as the news of his deal broke nearly a month ago. The contract that will pay him $15 million per year on average is based on projection. Humphries’ career-high PFF grade on significant snaps came at 70.1 in 2018, but he did end the season with a solid 76.3 grade in pass protection in 2019. The hope is that a young, first-round talent at tackle who has dealt with injuries is starting to figure things out, as his improvements in pass protection might signal.
Texans sign CB Bradley Roby to a three-year, $36 million deal
At various points in his career, we have seen high-level play in coverage from Roby. In 2015, Roby earned a 75.0 overall grade in 784 defensive snaps, and he finished the 2017 campaign with a grade of 78.3 on 674 snaps. The problem is that he has followed those campaigns up with two shaky seasons in 2018 (59.9 grade) and 2019 (63.9 grade). Regarding this contract, the move makes sense for the Texans as a team that is in desperate need of competent play in the secondary. There is some risk that Roby never recovers that form from earlier in his career, but from a financial perspective, the Texans aren’t tied to too much guaranteed money.
Bears sign LB Danny Trevathan to a three-year, $21.75 million deal, $14 million guaranteed
It was not Trevathan’s year in 2019 as he struggled in coverage (50.3 coverage grade) and had his season end prematurely due to an arm injury. During the four prior seasons, however, he graded above 65.0 each year with three of those coming at 73.0 or higher. Trevathan showed the ability to be a solid three-down linebacker who could provide decent play in run defense and coverage, also proving to be an effective blitzer the last three years. It’s not an overly exciting deal, but it’s an all-around solid move for the Bears to keep Trevathan in Chicago.
49ers sign EDGE Arik Armstead to a five-year, $85 million deal
After struggling to find his footing early in his career with San Francisco, Armstead has begun to step into a larger role and flourish over the last two seasons, especially this past season. His 89.6 overall grade ranked sixth among edge defenders and he finished in the top-10 at the position in wins above replacement. Most importantly, he showed significant improvement as a pass rusher where his 62 regular season pressures were 25 more than his previous career high. The concern is that the 49ers are overpaying after a contract year spike in performance, but if Armstead continues to improve and perform like he did last season, he will continue to bring value to that defense.
Bills sign G Quinton Spain to a three-year, $15 million deal
If you’re looking strictly at overall grade, Spain’s last several seasons aren’t all that impressive. That is largely due to struggles in the run game, however. Spain has recorded a pass-blocking grade of 70.0 or higher in each of his five NFL seasons, including grades of 75.0 or higher in four of those five years. He showed that he could provide positive play in the run game as well back in 2016 (80.8 run-blocking grade), but that is looking more and more like a mirage with each year that passes. At any rate, locking down a starting guard that is a quality pass protector for $5 million per year is a solid deal for the Bills.
Dolphins sign EDGE Shaq Lawson to a three-year, $30 million deal, $21 million guaranteed
This Lawson deal was on the border of “Average” and “Below Average”, but it ultimately got slotted here because of the improvement that we’ve seen from Lawson in recent seasons in conjunction with his age. A year after earning a career-high 76.5 overall grade in 2018 (19th among edge defenders) behind a strong season in run defense, Lawson had the best pass-rushing season of his career in 2019. His pressure rate of 14.0% was a career high and ranked tied for 17th among edge defenders with 200 or more pass-rushing snaps. The $10 million per year figure is aggressive for what we’ve seen from Lawson so far, but there are signs towards improvement which is what the Dolphins are banking on.
Cardinals transition tag RB Kenyan Drake
This article doesn’t touch on the trades taking place in the NFL world, but we’re going to throw the Cardinals a little slack here after they were able to get off the contract of David Johnson, somehow managing to fleece the Texans into returning Deandre Hopkins for merely a second-round pick. Paying a running back just over $8 million is never ideal, but this deal is only for one season and the trade that the Cardinals pulled off to open the runway for Drake keeps it in “Average” territory.
On top of that, Drake played really well in Kingsbury’s system last season, earning grades of 74.0 or higher as a runner and receiver after being traded to Arizona. He was the only running back in the NFL to do that from Week 9 through the end of the regular season.
Broncos sign G/C Graham Glasgow to a four-year, $44 million deal, $26 million guaranteed
Glasgow has played 800 or more snaps in each of the past three seasons for the Lions and he’s done it by starting at three different positions — primarily left guard in 2017, center in 2018 and right guard in 2019. That versatility could end up coming in handy for a Broncos’ team that could be looking to fill holes at both right guard and center if Connor McGovern leaves in free agency.
More impressive is the fact that Glasgow recorded a grade of 70.0 or higher in all three of those seasons. He hasn’t shown the high-end play of someone like Joe Thuney or Brandon Scherff, but the Broncos can feel comfortable with Glasgow stepping in as a solid starter on the interior of their offensive line under offensive line coach Mike Munchak.
Seahawks sign DI Jarran Reed to a two-year, $23 million extension
Reed did not enter free agency at an opportune time after serving a six-game suspension in 2019 and then struggling to reproduce his 2018 results when he returned to the field. He ended the year with a 61.8 overall grade and just a 53.9 grade as a pass rusher, tallying 26 pressures in 349 pass-rushing snaps.
Many have referenced his 2018 season and the double digit sacks that he reached that year as the form that he needs to return to, but even his production in that 2018 campaign was overstated. Reed’s pass-rushing grade of 66.4 that year ranked 35th among 112 qualifying interior defenders — a solid showing but not one representative of his sack production. This isn’t a deal that hampers the Seahawks, but they’ll need to hope he continues to improve on his 2018 season.
Ravens sign DI Michael Brockers to a three-year, $30 million deal, $21 million guaranteed
Brockers is not going to be a flashy signing. If you’re expecting him to consistently get after the quarterback, you’re not going to find much satisfaction, but we do know what to expect from Brockers – consistent, high-level run defense. In three of the past four seasons, including last year, Brockers has picked up a run defense grade of 80.0 or higher, topping out at 89.9 in the 2017 campaign. Bringing in Brockers along with PFF’s top run defender in the NFL last season (Calais Campbell) signals that the Ravens are looking to add bodies inside that can stop the run while continuing to scheme pressure through blitzes and stunts.
Dolphins sign EDGE Kyle Van Noy to a four-year, $51 million deal, $30 million guaranteed
There is some risk with this deal given that Van Noy has only produced one season of high-level play, turning in an overall grade of 84.2 last year that ranked 16th at the edge defender position. That was also his first season playing primarily on the edge, though, transitioning from an off-ball linebacker and hybrid role that he had in previous years. The result was a career year both in run defense and as a pass rusher.
We’ve seen Patriots’ defenders struggle after changing teams in free agency, but the Dolphins could be in a better position than most to properly utilize Van Noy thanks to head coach Brian Flores’ experience with him. Miami can certainly use all the pass-rushing help it can get.
Lions sign LB Jamie Collins to a three-year, $30 million deal, $18 million guaranteed
The Lions were in desperate need of off-ball linebacker help this offseason. Their two leaders in snaps at the position in 2019 — Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones — both recorded overall grades below 45.0, and Jahlani Tavai topped out at 60.5, performing better in run defense than coverage.
We’ve seen this story before with Collins, getting traded from the New England Patriots during the 2016 season and never getting up to the same level of play with the Cleveland Browns that he showed early in his career. After reuniting with the Patriots, Collins had his best season since his first stint with New England. He was a top-15 linebacker on the season in PFF WAR. There is a lot of variance with this signing, but Collins gives the Lions an intriguing athlete at the linebacker position for next season.
Bills sign CB Josh Norman to a one-year, $6 million deal
If the Bills get the version of Norman that looked 100% cooked last season for the Washington Redskins, then this isn’t going to work out. Norman recorded just a 43.4 coverage grade before getting benched in 2019, and he allowed a passer rating of 133.3 on throws into his coverage. His time in Washington wasn’t all bad, though. From 2016 to 2018, Norman ranked 23rd among 68 cornerbacks with 1,000 or more coverage snaps in coverage grade (79.8). This is a solid low-risk chance by the Bills that they can draw that guy back out on an already talented defense in 2020.
Jaguars sign LB Joe Schobert to a five-year, $53.75 million deal, $22.5 million guaranteed
The Jaguars finished the season with the lowest-graded linebacking corps in the entire NFL, and it wasn’t particularly close. Telvin Smith’s departure from football and Myles Jack’s declining performance (46.1 PFF grade in 2019) left the group searching for answers. They’re bringing in Schobert, the four-year veteran out of Wisconsin, to be part of the solution.
Schobert’s calling card is his ability in coverage, producing an 87.7 coverage grade in 2018 and a solid mark of 67.6 this past season. He also has some pass-rushing ability as a blitzer given his college experience at edge. In all, Jacksonville is getting a versatile defender and one of the better linebackers on the free agent market, but they’re also paying for that with a deal that is set to pay over $50 million in total with over $20 million in guarantees.
Chargers sign DI Linval Joseph to a two-year, $17 million deal
Joseph is coming off his worst season since 2011 per PFF grade, recording just a 69.5 grade in 644 defensive snaps for the Minnesota Vikings in 2019. He is not the same player that he was from 2015 to 2017 — a dominant run defender that could get after the passer at an above-average clip — but he also still brings some value to the table. At $8.5 million per year, this is a solid move for a team that is in need of some big bodies inside on their defensive line. Joseph can at least be relied on to provide solid play in the middle of their defense, even if he never gets back to his form from several seasons ago.
Redskins sign S Sean Davis to a one-year, $5 million deal
Davis was a name that wasn’t on a lot of people’s radars coming into this free agency period. He was a three-year starter at safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and folks, the first two years were rough. Davis got beat in coverage and missed a healthy dose of tackles on his way to sub-60.0 PFF grades both seasons. He made a switch to free safety in 2018, though, and the position change brought better results as Davis finished that season with a 69.7 overall grade and a 71.5 coverage grade. He didn’t get the chance to build on that in 2019 following a shoulder injury, but it’s a reasonable, low-risk deal for the Redskins who figure to pair him with Landon Collins at free safety.
Vikings sign DI Michael Pierce to a three-year, $27 million deal, $18 million guaranteed
The Vikings had to part ways with long-time starter Linval Joseph, but it appears that they wasted no time in finding his replacement. Pierce is the quintessential space eater in the middle of a defense. He had a down year by his standards in 2019, but he picked up run-defense grades of 80.0 or higher in each of his first three seasons with a career-high 92.0 run-defense grade in 2018. That elite play against the run led to him being one of the 25 most valuable interior defenders per PFF WAR in both 2017 and 2018. At an average annual salary of $9 million, this is a little on the expensive side, but Pierce will certainly play a defined role on Mike Zimmer's defense.
Cowboys sign TE Blake Jarwin to a four-year, $22 million extension, $9.25 million guaranteed
Rather than play Jarwin in an extensive role in 2019, the Cowboys went back to the well with Jason Witten, but it appears that they are now ready to invest in Jarwin as the starter in 2020 and beyond. There is some projection work being done here on the part of the Cowboys since Jarwin’s career highs in a season come at just 31 receptions, 365 receiving yards, 3 receiving touchdowns and a 68.8 overall grade, but this deal looks better than the three-year, $24.25 million deal that was first reported. It places Jarwin at an average annual value comparable to what Jesse James got with the Detroit Lions last season, and it leaves Dallas with some upside if he improves in the expanded role next season.
Cowboys sign CB Anthony Brown to a three-year, $15.5 million extension
Brown moved from outside into the slot in 2018, but his grading profile looks pretty similar over the course of his career. He has picked up an overall grade of between 60.5 and 65.9 in each of his four NFL seasons, doing a relatively decent job of limiting production. This past season, Brown played a mix of slot and outside before being limited by a hamstring injury and then getting shut down with a triceps injury. He had four pass breakups in his 22 targets and allowed 13 catches for 157 yards. This is not the most exciting of deals for the Cowboys, but it is a solid one for a player that can provide snaps in their secondary.
Falcons sign RB Todd Gurley to a one-year, $5 million deal
The driver in keeping this move in the average category is that it is only a one-year, $5 million deal. On the part of the Falcons, there is not a whole lot of risk. This version of Gurley is not the same one that the Los Angeles Rams extended a massive contract to though. Knee injuries have taken their toll, particularly in the passing game.
After excelling as a receiver in his 2017 season with the Rams, averaging nearly 12 yards per reception and forcing 19 missed tackles after the catch, Gurley regressed to a complete non-factor in the passing game by last season. His 34.8 receiving grade ranked dead last among qualifying running backs in 2019. He still ran the ball at a high level last year (79.1 rushing grade) despite what his 3.8 yards per carry would suggest, but as we know, that isn’t as valuable as being a positive in the passing game. It’s not as exciting a move for Atlanta as the name value would suggest.
Saints sign DI David Onyemata to a three-year, $27 million deal
The Saints retained Onyemata on a three-year deal that pays out an average of $9 million per season, and they will be hoping that they get the 2018 version of Onyemata rather than what we saw a season ago. By all accounts, it looked like he was breaking through after following a 71.6 overall grade in 2017 with an 80.8 mark in 2018. Not just that, but he looked to be capable of providing against the run and the pass, earning grades of 75.0 or higher in both facets. That all went downhill in 2019 with Onyemata ending the season at just a 55.3 overall grade. This is a bet by the Saints that he gets back to his 2018 form, in which case this would be a strong deal for New Orleans.
Dolphins sign C Ted Karras to a one-year, $4 million deal
The free agent market at center wasn't filled to the brim with starting-caliber options. Last season was the first of Karras' career as a starter after David Andrews was placed on injured reserve, and he proved himself to be a serviceable option on that New England Patriots offensive line, finishing 20th among 38 qualifiers at the position in overall grade. This one-year, $4 million deal is a low-risk move on the part of the Dolphins that gives them a depth piece with starting experience at worst and an average starter at best.
Jets sign CB Pierre Desir to a one-year, $5.5 million deal
Desir's release from the Indianapolis Colts came as a surprise, but it didn't take him long to find a new team. The Jets had a glaring need at outside cornerback, and this is a solid move to acquire a player with plenty of starting experience over the past two seasons outside. Desir had a strong showing in 2018 with a 77.7 overall grade, allowing just under 58% of the passes to be completed while notching 10 pass breakups. He took a step back in 2019 with a 58.8 overall grade, but at just $5.5 million dollars, this is a risk worth taking by the Jets in the hopes that he can get back to his 2018 form.
Titans sign QB Ryan Tannehill to a four-year, $118 million deal, $62 million fully guaranteed
Tannehill ended the 2019 season as a top-three quarterback in the NFL by PFF grade, so it seems strange that a multi-year extension for the Titans to secure that player would fall in the “Below Average” category, but there simply isn’t a big enough sample of Tannehill performing like a top-10 quarterback to pay him like one. A franchise tag would have allowed the Titans to see how he performed as a full-time starter next season before committing, but now they are on the hook for his 2021 and 2022 salary if he remains on the team through March of next season. That means they still have to decide next season whether he is the long-term solution, and there is no risk-free out like there would have been with the franchise tag. It could end up working out for the Titans if Tannehill continues to play at a high level, but they brought more risk on themselves than was necessary.
Packers sign LB Christian Kirksey to a two-year, $16 million deal
Kirksey seemed to be a sought-after commodity following his release from the Cleveland Browns, but the last time he graded above 65.0 was 2016. The last time Kirksey recorded a coverage grade above 60.0 was in 2015. With coverage being at the forefront of the value an off-ball linebacker provides in today’s NFL, the interest in Kirksey doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Add in his recent injury history and this doesn’t look like a strong move for Green Bay despite their need at linebacker. The money would have been better spent elsewhere.
Giants franchise tag DI Leonard Williams
In a vacuum, tagging Williams — whether that be a franchise tag or a transition tag — is a justifiable move. If you exclude the snaps he played with the New York Jets in 2019, Williams has graded at 75.0 or higher in every season of his career. He has been a top-20 interior defender in PFF WAR in each of the past two seasons. The reality for New York, though, is that he is a run-first defensive linemen, an area that is arguably their biggest area of strength with players such as B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson and Dexter Lawrence already on the roster. With the cap space they have, the Giants could have better spent the money to improve elsewhere.
Steelers franchise tag EDGE Bud Dupree
There is no denying that Dupree turned a corner during the 2019 season. He earned career-high marks in PFF grade, total pressures, sacks and forced fumbles, but the extent of his improvement was overblown. Dupree took advantage of pursuit opportunities following pressure from teammates and unblocked looks at the quarterback; he feasted on lesser tackles such as Andre Smith, Trent Scott, Justin McCray and J’Marcus Webb; and he didn’t pressure the quarterback on a more consistent basis than he did in previous seasons. With the Steelers in one of the tightest cap situations in the NFL and already heavily invested in players like Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, not to mention a T.J. Watt extension looming on the horizon, using over $15 million in cap space to hold on to Dupree in 2020 is not ideal.
Titans franchise tag RB Derrick Henry
If you aren’t aware of the analytics community's stance on giving running backs big-money, long-term deals, then welcome. The reason this deal doesn’t fall under “Poor” is that the tag only ties the Titans to Henry for one season. But, still, Tennessee would have been better off letting him walk and having another team foot the bill. We’ve seen lucrative long-term deals go poorly with plenty of running backs recently, including Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson and Todd Gurley. Though Henry has been one of the better runners in the NFL over the last two seasons, he is not an exception to the rule. Considering that he adds next to nothing in the passing game, it’s hard to get behind paying Henry eight figures per year.
Browns sign TE Austin Hooper to a four-year, $44 million deal, $23 million guaranteed
After Hunter Henry got tagged by the Los Angeles Chargers (and even before that in some cases) Hooper was considered the top tight end on the market. He is just 25 years old and coming off a season in which he was a top-10 tight end by PFF grade. He has played in 700 or more offensive snaps in each of the past three seasons as well, showing himself to be durable. The issue is that Hooper’s production was largely a product of his scheme. 75.5% of his receiving production has come on targets defined as holes in zone or underneath the defense and he has a receiving grade of just 58.9 against single coverage since 2016. That is not the profile of a player that you want to make the highest paid tight end in the NFL.
Buccaneers sign EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul to a two-year, $27 million extension
Pierre-Paul’s average annual salary of $13.5 million on this new deal puts him among the top-20 highest paid edge defenders in the NFL. Despite the decent sack production in recent seasons, the last time that Pierre-Paul graded out as a top-20 edge defender in the league was the 2014 season, and since joining the Buccaneers in 2018, he has recorded a pressure rate of only 10.1%. After making the correct move in tagging Shaquil Barrett early in the day, the Buccaneers overpaid for their second starting edge defender, giving more weight to Pierre-Paul’s name than his recent performance on the field.
Ravens franchise tag EDGE Matthew Judon
Judon had the best season of his career in 2019 with a career-high pass-rushing grade of 77.0 and 62 total pressures on the season, 20 more than the previous career high that he set in 2018 (42). The numbers will mislead you on occasion, though, and this is one of those cases. Judon actually only won just 12.6% of his pass-rushing snaps (58th among qualifiers at the position), and he earned a league-high 56% of his pressures on cleanup/unblocked plays, benefitting from the Ravens’ unique blitzing scheme.
Baltimore may look to move Judon after tagging him, but it seems unlikely that he’d draw a massive return, and the Ravens could have better spent the franchise tag cap space if he remains on the roster for next season.
Texans sign S/CB Eric Murray to a three-year, $20.25 million deal
Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans continue to make head-scratching moves, the latest of which was this Murray deal. After playing primarily safety through the first three seasons of his career, Murray made the switch to slot cornerback for the Browns in 2019, playing 272 of his 360 defensive snaps there. He managed just a 60.9 coverage grade on the season in that role, following a 66.9 coverage grade in 2018 and a 46.7 mark the year prior in 2017. Coverage is the biggest need on this Texans’ team, but throwing nearly $7 million a year at players like Murray doesn’t seem all that likely to fix their issues.
Lions sign T Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a five-year, $50 million deal
This deal is still waiting on the guaranteed money to drop, but on the surface it’s hard to justify this as anything other than a below average signing for the Lions. Including the postseason, Vaitai started just four games in 2019, and in the only season that Vaitai was a full-time starter (for the most part), he earned a 59.4 overall grade in 2017. Even his career-high 74.4 grade this past season was largely driven by his run blocking. He has yet to show himself to be a competent pass blocker at the NFL level. There just isn’t a big enough sample of even average play from Vaitai that would justify a five-year, $50 million deal.
Giants sign CB James Bradberry to a three-year, $45 million deal, $32 million guaranteed
Bradberry is now the third-highest paid cornerback in the NFL. The highest PFF grade of his career came at 69.5 in his rookie 2016 season with the Panthers, grading in between 60.0 and 70.0 in each of his four NFL seasons. Last season, Bradberry ranked just 62nd at the cornerback position in wins above replacement. Admittedly, he drew tough shadow assignments in the NFC South. He is a talented player, but he is not someone that you want to pay $15 million per year with over 70% of the deal guaranteed. It’s nearly the same annual average value as what the Miami Dolphins gave Byron Jones, the significantly more proven option at the position.
Texans sign WR Randall Cobb to a three-year, $27 million deal, $18.75 million guaranteed
The Texans traded away the second most valuable wide receiver in the entire league over the past five seasons (Deandre Hopkins), but they mitigated that loss with the addition of … Randall Cobb? Cobb had a decent 2019 season with the Cowboys, posting his best overall grade since 2016 and giving his career a jolt following several down seasons at the end of his stint with the Green Bay Packers. His 716 receiving yards from the slot ranked sixth among all players in the NFL, but he still ended the year ranked just 55th at the position in wins above replacement. The projected deal for Cobb via Over the Cap was three years, $20 million with $10 million guaranteed, indicating that the Texans overshot the mark a bit here.
Giants sign LB Blake Martinez to a three-year, $30 million deal
At various points in his career, Martinez has shown the skill set necessary to be top-10 NFL linebacker. In 2017, his run-defense grade of 89.6 ranked sixth among linebackers. The following year, his 82.6 coverage grade ranked ninth at the position. The problem is that he’s never put it all together in the same year, and last season, Martinez struggled in both facets with a 57.7 overall grade. The durability and the tackle numbers shine this deal in a favorable light, but as we know, there is more to a player’s performance than that. The Giants will be hoping that Martinez can put together a complete season in 2020.
Bills sign EDGE Mario Addison to a three-year, $30.45 million deal
If you were simply looking at the sack totals — Addison has at least nine in each of the past four seasons — you would be tempted to categorize this as a good deal for the Bills. The sack numbers aren’t the only number at our disposal, though. Over that four-year stretch, Addison sits among the top-10 edge defenders in the NFL in total sacks, but he ranks just 30th among 60 edge rushers with 1,000 or more pass-rushing snaps in pass-rushing grade (75.8).
If you look at his grades by year, Addison is on a downward trend. After reaching a career-high overall grade of 81.8 in 2016, Addison's PFF grade fell to 73.7, 69.9 and 63.1 in subsequent years. At 33 years old next season, the Bills may be getting the tail end of a stretch of misleading production for Addison.
Dolphins sign RB Jordan Howard to a two-year, $10 million deal
As my colleague Sam Monson said in his recent piece on handing out big-money contracts to running backs, it is a strategy that flies in the face of virtually every data point you can find. Now, this isn’t exactly “big money”, but it will get Howard paid like a top-half-of-the-league running back. This is a guy who doesn’t force missed tackles at a high rate on the ground, and he provides very little as a receiver out of the backfield. In fact, out of 50 running backs with 1,000 or more snaps since 2016, Howard’s 39.8 receiving grade is third worst at the position. The volume rushing numbers are there for Howard, but those are thanks in large part to opportunity and environment, making his production replaceable and this deal questionable.
Bengals sign CB Trae Waynes to a three-year, $42 million deal
The disappointment from Waynes to this point in his career has stemmed from the fact that he hasn’t lived up to the expectations that were placed on him when he was taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. Now, the disappointment is going to come from this deal that pays him $14 million per year on average, making him a top-10 paid player at the cornerback position.
It’s not as if Waynes is not a serviceable starter. He has recorded overall grades between 63.4 and 69.1 in each of his first five seasons, helped out by strong play in run support. Rather, it’s that he has not been the shutdown cornerback who would warrant the kind of contract that the Bengals just gave him, nor has he put a season together that would make you believe that he will become that type of player in the future.
Raiders sign EDGE Carl Nassib to a three-year, $25 million deal
The Raiders have been active so far in free agency, but unlike the deals for Littleton and Kwiatkoski on defense, this one doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Nassib is a decent option at edge, picking up grades of 64.7, 68.7 and 69.3 in the last three seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he hasn’t added much as a pass rusher. If you look at the 35 edge rushers that have 1,000 or more pass-rushing snaps since 2017, Nassib ranks dead last in pressure rate (8.7%). The only other player below 10% is Vic Beasley Jr. For that kind of pass-rushing production, this number is a little too high.
Bills sign DI Vernon Butler to a two-year, $16 million deal, $9.3 million guaranteed
After seeing Jordan Phillips walk in free agency, the Bills have made a couple moves to bring in interior defender help. Butler was one of them. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 330 pounds, Butler is a big body and he has shown the ability to use it at times to provide decent play against the run. On the biggest workload of his career last season (440 snaps), Butler picked up just a 57.3 run-defense grade, though. Add in that he has never shown the ability to provide consistent pressure on the quarterback, topping out at a 61.9 pass-rushing grade in his rookie season, and the Bills would have been better suited going after one of the other interior defenders on the market for that kind of money.
Falcons sign EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. to a three-year, $48 million deal
Fowler has shown improvement over the last several seasons, but that’s about where the positives for this deal end. Even with that improvement, Fowler ended the 2019 season as just the 35th highest-graded edge defender in the NFL. Similar to some of the other free agents in this class, he took advantage of cleanup/unblocked opportunities last season with over 50% of his total pressures coming in those two areas. He may be on an upward trajectory, but it’s still tough to justify a deal that comes in at $16 million dollars per year on average. The upward trend needs to continue in a big way in Atlanta to do that.
Rams sign EDGE Leonard Floyd to a one-year, $10 million deal
Floyd has been part of strong Chicago Bears defenses over the past several years, but he wasn’t one of the drivers in their success. He is a solid starting option that provides good play against the run (run-defense grades above 70.0 in each of the past three seasons), but he doesn’t add much in the way of pass rush. For his career, Floyd has a pressure rate of only 10.9%. That figure was just 8.6% in 2018 and 9.5% in 2019, some of the worst marks in the league for a player that was on the field for as many snaps as Floyd was. The Rams needed to find a way to replace the pass-rushing production that they are losing from Dante Fowler’s departure, but Floyd isn’t a guy who is going to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Bills sign LB A.J. Klein to a three-year, $18 million deal, $9.7 million guaranteed
During his time with the New Orleans Saints over the last three seasons, Klein earned overall grades of 48.2 in 2017, 70.4 in 2018 and 46.2 last season. He has the pedigree as a starter, but there are too many red flags, both in run defense and coverage, to feel comfortable with him being on the field for significant snaps. He might not be with Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano handling most of the linebacker duties, but this deal still seems to be a bit steep for Klein, especially when comparing to similar deals such as the ones for Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski.
Dolphins sign EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah to a two-year, $15 million deal, $7.5 million guaranteed
Ogbah was having a career season with the Kansas City Chiefs last season before going down with a torn pectoral muscle, but that still only yielded a 62.6 pass-rushing grade. That was a career-best 62.6 pass-rushing grade to join a career-best pressure rate of 11.4% that only ranked 54th among qualifying edge defenders. The Dolphins seem to be taking some chances on young guys who have shown glimmers of hope recently, but there just hasn’t been enough production for Ogbah to this point to make you think that he’ll develop into a strong option off the edge.
Rams sign DI A’Shawn Robinson to a two-year, $17 million deal
The Rams had a Michael Brockers sized hole on their defensive line after he signed a deal that took him to the Baltimore Ravens, and it appears that they have pegged Robinson as the player to fill it. Next to Aaron Donald, Brockers’ primary task in Los Angeles was to stop the run. Robinson was excellent in that regard during the 2018 season, posting one of the best run-defense grades in the NFL at 91.3, but he took a big step back on that Detroit Lions defense last year. Robinson ended the 2019 season with just a 56.0 overall grade and a 60.4 grade against the run. This deal from the Rams is in the hope he can creep back towards his 2018 results, but it’s a decent chunk of change for someone with up-and-down results who has never been able to rush the passer at a high level.
Cardinals sign EDGE Devon Kennard to a three-year, $30 million deal
The Cardinals needed an edge rusher to fill in opposite Chandler Jones, and it appears that Kennard is going to be that guy. Throughout his career, Kennard has been a solid contributor against the run, recording run defense grades of 68.0 or higher every season after his rookie year with the New York Giants in 2014 where he played almost exclusively off-ball linebacker. What he hasn’t been able to do is provide a consistent pass rush since moving to the edge. Since 2015, Kennard has produced pass-rushing grades below 60.0 each year. His career high in pressures came at 40 last season, but even that was at a pressure rate below 10%. Paying players like that $10 million per year on multi-year deals is not ideal.
Cardinals sign LB De’Vondre Campbell to a one-year, $8.5 million deal
It’s hard to get too down on a one-year deal, but Campbell simply hasn’t produced even average starting level play for the Atlanta Falcons over the last two seasons. There have been 57 off-ball linebackers that have played 1,000 or more defensive snaps over the past two years. Campbell’s overall grade of 52.4 ranks 50th in that group, just above the recently released Alec Ogletree. The Cardinals will be hoping that Campbell can get back to his 2017 form (69.1 overall grade, 23rd among linebackers), but recent results make this appear as an overpay on the part of Arizona.
Titans sign EDGE Vic Beasley Jr. to a one-year, $12.5 million deal, $9.5 million guaranteed
If you know one thing about Beasley, it may be that he led the NFL in sacks back in 2016. That was just his second season, and though he wasn’t the best pass rusher in the league that year as those numbers might suggest, Beasley was off to a strong start to his career. In the three seasons since that career year, however, things have gone downhill.
The sack numbers are still there, but Beasley just hasn’t been able to pressure the quarterback consistently. In each of the past three seasons, he has not cracked the 60.0 overall grade threshold, and going back over his entire five-year career, Beasley’s pressure rate of 10.3% ranks 32nd among 34 edge rushers that have at least 1,500 pass-rushing snaps. This is only a one-year deal, but the Titans would have been better off spending that kind of money elsewhere to add a starter opposite Harold Landry.
Jets sign G Alex Lewis to a three-year, $18.6 million deal
For many, improving the offensive line was the primary objective for the Jets this offseason. In response, the Jets signed one of the positions that needed to be upgraded — left guard Alex Lewis — and extended him on a three-year deal worth over $6 million per year.
Lewis really struggled as a run blocker for the newly acquired Le’Veon Bell in 2019, picking up just a 48.9 run-blocking grade on the season. That has been the story throughout Lewis’ career. The only time he graded above 60.0 overall in a season was as a rookie on the Baltimore Ravens back in 2016 (60.2 overall grade in 539 offensive snaps).
Panthers sign EDGE Stephen Weatherly to a two-year, $12.5 million deal
This appears to be a chance taken by the Panthers on a guy who is 26 years old and has seen a pretty large role as a rotational pass rusher on a talented Minnesota Vikings defense. The issue is that Weatherly has yet to provide any signal that he could perform in an above average capacity in that role moving forward. In 2018, he picked up a pass-rushing grade of 58.0. In 2019, that grade dropped to just 54.6, and across the two seasons, Weatherly had a pass-rush win rate of just 9.4%. That number ranked fourth worst among 63 edge rushers with 500 or more pass-rushing snaps. It just doesn’t look like the value is there on this deal for Carolina.
Broncos sign RB Melvin Gordon to a two-year, $16 million deal, $13.5 million guaranteed
After reportedly turning down an offer worth $10 million per year last offseason and holding out for more, Gordon settled for less money on average one year later to play for the AFC West rival. From the Broncos’ perspective, this one came out of left field. They already have Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman who were handling the rushing duties fine by themselves, and Gordon simply adds another decent runner to that group. Over the last two seasons, he sits outside the top-40 at the running back position in PFF receiving grade. The Broncos have more pressing needs. That cap space could have been spent elsewhere heading into 2020.
Dolphins sign G Ereck Flowers to a three-year, $30 million deal, $19.95 million guaranteed
As a team, the Dolphins’ offensive line had the lowest overall grade in the NFL by over five points. They were the only team in the NFL to check in below 50.0 (47.3). Getting Flowers at $10 million per year with nearly $20 million guaranteed is not the way to go about fixing the offensive line, though. Flowers has yet to record an overall grade of 70.0 in five years in the NFL, and though he did show signs of improvement at guard for the Washington Redskins last season (finishing the season ranked 19th out of 39 qualifying left guards in PFF grade), Flowers has simply not shown anything that would warrant getting paid like a top-10 guard.
Bears sign TE Jimmy Graham to a two-year, $16 million deal, $9 million guaranteed
The Bears had an obvious need at the tight end position after a season in which only the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots recorded fewer receiving yards from their tight ends than Chicago did, but giving this kind of a deal to the current form of Graham is not the way to go about filling that need. Injuries have taken their toll on the former star. The last two seasons he has failed to record an overall grade of even 60.0, and the last time he was a legitimate high-end threat was back in 2016 with the Seahawks. That is not the profile of a player who should be getting paid like one of the 10 best players at the position.
Jets sign T George Fant to a three-year, $30 million deal ($13.7 million guaranteed)
As my colleague Mike Renner pointed out, the criteria for an offensive tackle getting over $10 million per year on the free agent market appears to be starting more than one game at tackle and not falling flat on your face. In that regard, Fant qualifies, but that’s about where the qualifications for this kind of deal stop. The only season that he saw extensive starting action at tackle was in his rookie 2016 season when he recorded pass-blocking and run-blocking grades below 50.0. Since that point, he has played nearly as many snaps at tight end as a tackle eligible (454) as he has at offensive line (477). This is a head scratcher for the Jets.
Bears sign EDGE Robert Quinn to a five-year, $70 million contract, $30 million guaranteed
Per Over the Cap on PFF’s Free Agency Rankings Page, Quinn was expected to sign a three-year, $30 million contract with $12.5 million guaranteed. It’s safe to say that he did much better for himself than that. Quinn did have a strong year in 2019 as a pass rusher, finishing the season with a 78.3 pass-rushing grade that was among the top-20 edge defenders in the NFL. It was the latest stage in a career revival that is building on several poor seasons to end his stint with the Rams.
Quinn hasn’t played close to a level that would warrant this kind of contract, though. He has not performed like he did back in 2013 (91 quarterback pressures) in a long time, and there were plenty of better uses for the Bears’ limited cap space.
Cardinals sign DI Jordan Phillips to a three-year, $30 million deal
Don’t chase the sack numbers. It is really just that simple. Yes, Phillips may have hit the double-digit sack threshold, but you don’t want to base a contract off 10 plays in a season in which a player played over 500 snaps. The truth is that Phillips was a below average pass rusher in 2019, earning a pass-rushing grade of just 60.5 on the year. That is not outside of the normal range of events for him, either. In five NFL seasons, he has yet to record a 60.0 overall grade. It appears as if the Cardinals have fallen victim to chasing the sacks here, and it’s unlikely to pay off for them.
Raiders sign TE Jason Witten to a one-year, $4.5 million deal
Witten was a very good football player. The key word in that sentence is the word “was”. After posting easily the worst season of his career in 2017, Witten retired and took his talents to the broadcasting booth, but that career was short-lived. He returned to the Dallas Cowboys a year later to put up some thoroughly uninspiring numbers that included under three yards after the catch per reception (2.8) and a receiving grade of just 57.7.
The Raiders might be adding Witten to improve their blocking at the tight end position with Darren Waller already in the fold as a receiving threat, but Witten graded out at only 60.1 as a run blocker in 2019 as well. For a team that has made some strong moves this offseason, this is not one of them.
Saints sign G Andrus Peat to a five-year, $57.5 million deal, $33 million guaranteed
This is the worst deal of free agency so far. Peat had a fairly strong start to his career, but after switching to the starting left guard spot in a full-time capacity in 2018, things have gone off the rails. Over the last two seasons, he ranks 41st out of 41 qualifying left guards in overall grade. That is the worst player at the position over the past two seasons making over $10 million dollars per year on a five-year deal with over $30 million guaranteed. The Saints had been having a pretty nice free agency period to this point, but this move stops that momentum.