Overspending is part of the NFL free-agency process. If a team has its sights set on a potential signing, economical deals rarely happen.
The Miami Dolphins gave wide receiver Mike Wallace a $60 million deal on Tuesday (per ESPN), and while Wallace may not produce like a $60 million wideout, the Dolphins had no choice but to shell out big bucks to acquire his services.
Wallace’s deal wasn’t the first inflated free-agent contract in NFL history and it certainly won’t be the last. Big-name free agents necessitate big contracts.
Several teams were able to avoid overpaying for various free agents, though. The Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles took advantage of tremendous value in the early days of free agency, signing players who will contribute without breaking the bank.
Let’s take a look at three of the most affording signings of the first two days of free agency.
Chris Canty: Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens took a hit on the free-agent market this offseason, losing Paul Kruger to the Cleveland Browns (via ESPN) and Dannell Ellerbe to the Miami Dolphins (via ESPN). Tight against the cap, the Ravens also traded Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers and will likely lose Ed Reed to the open market.
Re-signing Joe Flacco may have hurt Baltimore’s chances of retaining its top free agents, but a new deal for the franchise quarterback was necessary. As it stands, general manager Ozzie Newsome has some work to do.
The Ravens did manage to lock up former New York Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty, though, and they couldn’t have gotten much better value.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens were able to acquire Canty’s services for just $8 million over three years:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Chris Canty and Ravens reached agreement on a three-year, $8 million deal, including $2.8 million guaranteed.2013-3-12 23:59:17
For a defense in need of another big body at the defensive end position, there wasn’t a better option to fill the void at that price.
Quentin Groves: Cleveland Browns
According to Schefter, the Cleveland Browns added to their impressive offseason by signing ex-Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Quentin Groves on Wednesday:
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
Cleveland back at it bright and early: Browns reached agreement with former Cardinals LB Quentin Groves.2013-3-13 11:14:25
The financial terms of the deal were later reported to be two years and $2.8 million (via ESPN).
Groves isn’t a big-production player, but he’ll have a chance to be a quality edge rusher in Cleveland’s new 3-4 front. Former Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton assumed the same position with the Browns this offseason, and he’ll once again have Groves to work with coming off the edge.
The former second-round pick hasn’t lived up to his potential in his five-year career. With stints in Jacksonville and Oakland, Groves finally put together a consistent season with the Cardinals in 2012, recording 46 tackles and four sacks in 16 games.
With Kruger already in the fold, the Browns didn’t need to target another big-name pass-rusher. Groves adds depth to the position and will give Cleveland the freedom to explore all its options in the first round of the draft.
For $1.4 million per season, Groves was an ideal signing. He should continue to improve as a one- or two-down linebacker in Horton’s 3-4 scheme.
Isaac Sopoaga: Philadelphia Eagles
As reported by Albert Breer of NFL.com, the Philadelphia Eagles agreed on the terms of a three-year contract with defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga:
Albert Breer @AlbertBreer
Isaac Sopoaga agreed to terms with the Eagles on a 3-year deal worth close to $12 million with about $5 mil guaranteed.2013-3-13 00:14:43
With the Eagles transitioning to a 3-4 front in 2013, new defensive coordinator Billy Davis needed a nose tackle to anchor his defensive line. Sopoaga played well in San Francisco, and his $4 million annual salary (per Yahoo! Sports) was a very reasonable price to acquire his services.
As Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly reported with this tweet, new head coach Chip Kelly sees Sopoaga as a player around which he can build on the defensive side of the ball:
Geoff Mosher @GeoffMosherNFL
Chip Kelly calls Isaac and Casey "tempo setters" for the new program.2013-3-13 17:57:26
The 31-year-old is no longer in the prime of his career, but he still has some tread left on his tires. Given the changes Philadelphia is experiencing this offseason, he’ll be a strong veteran presence to facilitate a smooth transition on defense.
With a small cap number and only $5 million in guaranteed money, the Eagles may have swung the most cost-efficient deal in the opening days of free agency.