Just one day into free agency, teams have already thrown large sums of money at some big names. Players like Branden Albert, Aqib Talib and Jairus Byrd—per the Saints' official Twitter—have already broke the bank on their contracts. However, lost in the spotlight of these flashy moves are some bargain signings for players that will have an immediate impact for their respective teams.
Toby Gerhart, Running Back
After living in Adrian Peterson's shadow for four years, Gerhart finally gets his chance to be the starter. It was announced by ESPN's Adam Schefter and later confirmed by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that Gerhart had signed with the Jaguars:
For Toby Gerhart and the #Jaguars, it’s a 3-year deal worth $10.5M with $4.5M guaranteed. Strong.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 12, 2014
His signing likely means former Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew will not be re-signed, thrusting Gerhart into the starting role.
Gerhart has just 276 career carries but sports a 4.7 yards-per-carry average, including 7.9 YPC last year. While his NFL experience is limited, he was a three-down back in college at Stanford, including a shining senior year performance when he rushed for nearly 1,900 yards and 27 touchdowns. Gerhart is a powerful runner who can shrug off arm tackles while also making people miss in the open field (as evidenced in the video).
Gerhart could easily be a steal in what is considered a lackluster running back class this year. The Jaguars signed their apparent starting running back to a deal that is on par with backup running backs like Donald Brown and Joique Bell.
Trumaine McBride, Cornerback
McBride finally found his niche in New York after spending seven season with four different teams. He was very excited about the news of returning to the Giants:
It's such a blessing to re-sign with the Giants! God has blessed me with another opportunity to do… http://t.co/kUn4IMI2FE— Trumaine McBride (@TruMcBride) March 12, 2014
The Giants should be just as excited as McBride teamed up with Prince Amukamara to form the NFL's 10th-ranked pass defense. McBride had a great year, allowing less than 44 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed, which was the best rate in the league. His performance earned a grade of plus-6.6 from Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which was good for 25th in the NFL.
Even more exciting is the Giants locked up their No. 2 corner with a bargain two-year, $3.1 million deal. Based on the rest of the market, the contract's value ranks 65th overall. Not a bad deal for a team's best corner. With the tandem of McBride and Amukamara in place, it allows the Giants to address more pressing issues.
T.J. Ward, Safety
Coming into this offseason, Ward was the consensus No. 2 safety on the market behind Jairus Byrd. General manager John Elway took to Twitter to announce Ward had signed with Denver:
Excited to announce we've agreed to terms with strong safety T.J. Ward. He'll bring energy and toughness to our secondary.— John Elway (@johnelway) March 11, 2014
Denver signed the vaunted safety to a four-year, $23 million contract. The bargain end of this contract is noticed when it is compared to the contracts other free agents received so far. Byrd broke bank by receiving a six-year, $54 million deal, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. More surprising is players that were ranked lower than Ward received better contracts than he did.
Ward is coming off an excellent season where he was ranked as the third-best safety in the league, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He is a hard-hitting safety that excels in run coverage but is no slouch in pass coverage either.
Ward instantly upgrades the secondary, a position of need dating back to the 2012 postseason. Along with Aqib Talib—who the Broncos signed on Tuesday night, per ESPN's Adam Schefter—the Broncos are putting in pieces that will help bring them back to the Super Bowl. Best yet, they did it at a bargain-basement price.