NFL Free Agency: Breaking Down Most Affordable Free-Agent Signings

Justin OnslowContributor IIMarch 14, 2013

SAN FRANCISC0 - AUGUST 16:  Running back Brandon Jackson #32 of the Green Bay Packers is brought down by defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga #90 of the San Francisco 49ers during a preseason game on August 16, 2008 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. San Francisco won 34 to 6.  (Photo by Greg Trott/Getty Images)
Greg Trott/Getty Images

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.

New York signed Canty to a six-year, $42 million contract in 2009 (h/t Baltimore Sun), but the Giants chose to release him into the open market this offseason (via

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens were able to acquire Canty’s services for just $8 million over three years:

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:

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, the Philadelphia Eagles agreed on the terms of a three-year contract with defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga:

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:

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.