2023 NFL Free-Agent Signings, Trades Grades: Analyzing Tampering Period MovesMarch 13, 2023
2023 NFL Free-Agent Signings, Trades Grades: Analyzing Tampering Period Moves
The madness of NFL free agency has begun—sort of.
Technically speaking, NFL teams aren't allowed to sign free agents until Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. But free agency effectively began Monday at noon with the opening of the "legal tampering" period.
Prior to the institution of the legal tampering period, teams tampered illegally. All. The. Time. That's the only way to explain how a five-year contract would get signed five minutes after free agency opened. Rather than crack down on those shenanigans, the NFL created a two-day window where teams and player reps (but not the players themselves) can negotiate contract terms. Those deals can then be signed Wednesday.
Once the tampering period opened, it didn't take long for teams and players to start agreeing to deals. Before that, there was a trade involving a six-time Pro Bowler, another involving the first overall pick and a massive extension for a young defensive tackle.
As is the case every year, some of the contracts signed in 2023 free agency will turn out to be bargains. Others will be boondoggles. Most will fall somewhere in between.
And as is also the case every year, Bleacher Report will be there the whole way, offering grades and takes as to which contracts will fall in each category.
49ers Sign DT Javon Hargrave
Contract Terms: Four years, $84 million ($40 million guaranteed)
The San Francisco 49ers were throttled by the Philadelphia Eagles in last year's NFC Championship Game. On Monday, the Niners exacted a measure of revenge by poaching an important member of Philly's vaunted defensive line.
The 49ers agreed to terms with defensive tackle Javon Hargrave on a four-year, $84 million contract that included $40 million in guarantees, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The 30-year-old Hargrave was a Pro Bowler in 2021, but his 2022 campaign was even better. He racked up 60 total tackles and a career-high 11 sacks.
Paying that kind of money to a player who is on the wrong side of 30 and never had even eight sacks in a season prior to last year is a risky proposition. But Hargrave was excellent for the Eagles in each of the past two seasons. Combining him and superstar edge-rusher Nick Bosa could offer San Francisco a formidable inside-outside one-two punch.
Raiders Sign QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Contract Terms: Three years, $67.5 million ($34 million guaranteed)
The dominant storyline surrounding free agency this year was the quarterback position. Just a few hours into the legal tampering period, another domino has fallen under center.
The Las Vegas Raiders came to terms with free agent Jimmy Garoppolo on a three-year, $67.5 million pact that includes $34 million in guarantees, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
This is just about the best-case scenario for the Raiders.
Yes, there is risk involved with signing Garoppolo. Durability has been a major concern for the 31-year-old. He has missed significant time in two of the past three seasons, including six games this past season.
Garoppolo also isn't a transcendent talent. But he is a solid veteran quarterback and a proven winner. He's gone 40-17 as a starter for the 49ers and the New England Patriots.
Given the contracts that players like Derek Carr, Daniel Jones and Geno Smith agreed to in recent days, getting Garoppolo for $22.5 million per season is quite the bargain.
It also takes pressure off the Raiders to trade up in the 2023 draft.
Patriots Trade TE Jonnu Smith to Falcons
Patriots Get: 2023 seventh-round pick
Falcons Get: TE Jonnu Smith
The New England Patriots headed into Monday with a number of prominent players set to hit free agency. They kicked off the week freeing up more cap space with which to sign them.
Ahead of the legal tampering period, New England traded tight end Jonnu Smith to the Atlanta Falcons for a seventh-round pick, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Salary dump said what?
Smith's time in Beantown was a disaster. After signing a four-year, $50 million contract with the Pats back in 2021, he caught only 55 passes over the last two years combined. Smith failed to clear 300 receiving yards in either of his seasons in New England and scored only one touchdown.
That the Patriots were willing to eat a $12.8 million dead cap hit just to clear $4.4 million off their books shows just how awful Smith was over the past two years. But Smith is only 27, and at his best, he's an athletic, field-stretching type who can give a Falcons offense short on passing-game talent another weapon.
For a seventh-round pick and with Smith restructuring his contract, per Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer, it's a low-risk acquisition for Atlanta.
Grade: B (Falcons); C- (Patriots)
Patriots Re-Sign CB Jonathan Jones
Contract Terms: Two years, $20 million, $13 million guaranteed
The New England Patriots have a long and storied history of turning undrafted free agent cornerbacks into quality starters. But while Malcolm Butler and J.C. Jackson wound up leaving, the Patriots were able to keep their latest surprise star in the fold this time.
The Patriots are "expected to re-sign" cornerback Jonathan Jones on a two-year deal, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
After playing the slot for most of his career, Jones moved out to the boundary last year and responded with arguably the best season of his career. He racked up a career-high four interceptions and had 69 total tackles.
Jones' play tailed off late last season as bigger wide receivers began taking advantage of his 5'10" frame, but he remains a very good defensive back who's capable of playing both inside and outside. Bringing Jones back on a two-year deal at a reasonable amount is an excellent deal.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is retain your own players.
Bears Sign LB T.J. Edwards
Contract Terms: Three years, $19.5 million, $12 million guaranteed.
The Chicago Bears entered free agency with more cap space than any team in the league. It didn't take general manager Ryan Poles long to start spending that cash.
The Bears agreed to terms with former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards on a three year, $19.5 million pact, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal includes $12 million in guarantees.
Last year with the Eagles, Edwards had the best season of his career, piling up a career-high 159 total tackles. His 10 tackles for loss were as many as he had in the first three seasons of his career combined.
Edwards might not be an elite talent, but he's an athletic linebacker who's capable of staying on the field in sub-packages. After trading Roquan Smith last year, off-ball linebacker was a glaring need in Chicago.
Adding a solid three-down starter for $6.5 million per season was an excellent move.
Falcons Re-Sign OG Chris Lindstrom
Contract Terms: Five years, $105 million
Sometimes, the best thing that a team can do in free agency is keep the band together by retaining their own players. Just before the legal tampering period opened, the Atlanta Falcons did just that—with a huge financial commitment to a key offensive lineman.
Per Schefter, the Falcons agreed to terms on a massive five-year, $105 million extension with guard Chris Lindstrom. The 26-year-old has started every game for the Falcons and now becomes the NFL's highest-paid guard.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith talked Lindstrom up while talking to reporters back in January.
"Chris is such a technician and a lot of the stuff in there about hand placement and where it's at -- that one right there, you're out in space or whatever the optics of it is, but Chris does a nice job," Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said in January. "He works really hard on his craft; he's got quick hands, and you see the way that he punches. He plays the right way, and his hands are usually inside."
$21 million is a lot to pay any interior lineman. But Lindstrom is an excellent guard entering the prime of his career. And if the Falcons weren't willing to break the bank for him, another team likely would have.
Falcons Sign DT David Onyemata
Contract Terms: Three years, $35 million ($24.5 million guaranteed)
The Atlanta Falcons have apparently taken the "you can't take it with you" philosophy toward free agency. Because after trading for Jonnu Smith and re-upping Chris Lindstrom, they still weren't done.
Per ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Falcons have agreed to terms on a three-year, $35 million pact with defensive tackle David Onyemata. The 30-year-old's new deal includes $24.5 million in guarantees.
Onyemata isn't a household name, but he has quietly been a quality tackle in recent years. He has amassed at least 40 tackles and five sacks in two of the past three seasons, including 43 stops and five sacks in 2022.
This might be a bit of an overpay, and the Falcons now have a lot of cap space tied up on the interior of the defensive line—upwards of $30 million in average annual salary. But after ranking 23rd in run defense last year, the Falcons needed to get better in the trenches.
Signing Onyemata is a step in that direction.
Broncos Sign OG Ben Powers
Contract Terms: Four years, $52 million ($28.5 million guaranteed)
The Denver Broncos had a miserable 2022 season, in part because of an offensive line that surrendered a league-high 63 sacks.
In the early hours of the legal tampering period, the Broncos made a major financial commitment to improving that line. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, they agreed to terms on a four-year, $52 million contract with veteran guard Ben Powers that includes $28.5 million in guarantees.
Powers played almost 1,100 snaps last season for the Baltimore Ravens and did not allow a single sack, per Pro Football Focus. However, he wasn't nearly as stout against the run.
Still, after allowing that many sacks last year, the Broncos had to improve the blocking in front of Russell Wilson. And the reality is that even average offensive linemen can easily get $12 million or more per season on the open market.
This might not be a great signing. But it's a good one.
Broncos Sign OT Mike McGlinchey
Contract Terms: Five years, $87.5 million ($50-plus million)
As it turns out, the Ben Powers deal was only the beginning for Denver's overhaul of its offensive front. The Broncos also agreed to a massive five-year, $87.5 million contract with veteran offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
If you want to obtain the services of one of the top available tackles in free agency, it's going to cost you. McGlinchey and Kaleb McGary were widely considered the top two players at their position in this year's free-agent class.
But while McGlinchey is a solid right tackle, he isn't an elite option. The 28-year-old allowed six sacks and committed 10 penalties in 1,036 snaps with the San Francisco 49ers last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Given how desperately the Broncos needed to improve up front, it's understandable that they did what they needed to do to lure McGlinchey to the Mile High City. But there's a real chance that this contract won't age well.
Lions Sign CB Cameron Sutton
Contract Terms: Three years, $33 million ($22.5 million guaranteed)
The Detroit Lions entered the 2023 offseason with something that has been in short supply in Motown in recent years—optimism. But to build on that success, they had to take steps to improve a defense that ranked dead last in the NFL last year.
Detroit took the first step in that regard Monday by agreeing to terms on a three-year deal with cornerback Cameron Sutton, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The deal averages $11 million per season and includes $22.5 million in guarantees.
The 28-year-old Sutton, who spent the first six seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, was excellent in coverage last year. He surrendered only a 65.3 passer rating and a 47.9 completion percentage.
Sutton might not be a true shutdown corner, but he's no slouch in coverage. He also has experience playing both in the slot and on the boundary.
This is a reasonable contract for a solid player.
Chiefs Sign OT Jawaan Taylor
Contract Terms: Four years, $80 million ($60 million guaranteed)
With both Orlando Brown Jr. and Andrew Wylie becoming free agents this year, the Kansas City Chiefs could be headed for a big-time shakeup along their offensive line.
That shakeup began in earnest Monday when they agreed to terms on a four-year, $80 million contract with former Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Jawaan Taylor, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The deal includes $60 million in guarantees.
The 25-year-old allowed five sacks in just under 1,100 snaps last year with the Jaguars, per Pro Football Focus. He was also called for seven penalties.
Given the success that the Chiefs have enjoyed in recent years despite shuffling players up front, it's tempting to give Kansas City the benefit of the doubt here. But the Chiefs are reportedly planning to flip Taylor to left tackle in 2023, per NFL Network's James Palmer.
Paying $20 million per season to a young tackle who will have to change positions is a lot to ask, especially when that young tackle was abysmal as a run blocker last season.
Commanders Sign OT Andrew Wylie
Contract Terms: Three years, $24 million
Both of the Kansas City Chiefs' starting tackles hit the open market this week. One has already found a new home.
Veteran tackle Andrew Wylie will be reunited with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy after the 28-year-old agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with the Washington Commanders, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Wylie made 59 starts over five seasons in Kansas City and won a pair of Super Bowls with the Chiefs.
At first glance, $8 million per season for a tackle with that kind of starting experience might appear to be a steal. But there's a reason why the Chiefs seemingly didn't make much of an effort to re-sign him.
Wylie is coming off arguably the worst year of his career. After allowing only 10 sacks over his first four seasons combined, he allowed nine this past season alone, per Pro Football Focus.
If Wylie can recapture his form from 2020 and 2021 and serve as a decent starter on the right side of the line, then he'll be a bargain at this price. But if last year's turnstile returns in 2023, whomever lines up under center in Washington will be staring at pass-rushers barreling toward them—a lot.
Bengals Re-Sign LB Germaine Pratt
Contract Terms: Three years, $21 million
The Cincinnati Bengals came within a game of a second straight Super Bowl last season. On Monday, they took a step toward maintaining continuity in the middle of their defense.
The Bengals agreed to terms with veteran linebacker Germaine Pratt on a three-year, $21 million contract that will net him more than $10 million in the first year of the deal, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Pratt has quietly become a mainstay of the Bengals defense in recent years. He made 30 regular-season starts over the past two seasons, set a career high in snap percentage in 2022 and has steadily increased his number of tackles every year. However, Pratt has yet to record a 100-tackle campaign, and he isn't a true three-down player.
Pratt is a good linebacker, and there's something to be said for not fixing things that aren't broken—especially for contenders. But T.J. Edwards is a more versatile and productive linebacker than Pratt, yet the latter got more money in terms of average annual salary.
Vikings Sign TE Josh Oliver
Contract Terms: Three years, $21 million ($10.75 million guaranteed)
Every year, there's at least one free-agent signing that leaves fans' jaws on the floor. On Monday, that stunner was the three-year, $21 million pact that fifth-year tight end Josh Oliver got from the Minnesota Vikings, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo.
On some level, it's not hard to see why people were taken aback by a deal that contains over $10 million in guarantees. Oliver has tallied only 26 catches for 230 yards and two touchdowns across his NFL career.
But Oliver isn't getting $7 million per season because of his receiving chops. After injuries wiped out his 2020 season, Oliver reinvented himself as an in-line blocker. In fact, he's one of the best blocking tight ends in the league.
To be clear, this still looks like an overpay. But given this signing, the Vikings appear headed for more "12" personnel (two-tight end) looks in 2023.
And Oliver will have value as what amounts to a sixth offensive lineman.
Bears Sign LB Tremaine Edmunds
Contract Terms: Four years, $72 million ($50 million guaranteed)
The Chicago Bears started off Monday's free-agent frenzy with a deal for inside linebacker T.J. Edwards. As it turns out, that was just an appetizer.
Tremaine Edmunds was the main course.
The Bears agreed to a four-year, $72 million contract with Edmunds on Monday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The contract, which includes $50 million in guarantees, is the largest four-year deal for an inside linebacker in the league.
Edmunds is a wildly athletic, young linebacker who has topped 100 tackles in all five of his NFL seasons. He also won't turn 25 until May.
But while Edmunds has elite potential, he hasn't produced at an elite level.
He was solid in coverage last year, but over the course of his entire career, he has been inconsistent in that regard. And in addition to the newly acquired Edwards, the Bears already had youngster Jack Sanborn, who flashed at times as a rookie in 2022.
For a Bears team with holes all over its roster, sinking this much money into a position they had already addressed is…interesting.
Falcons Sign S Jessie Bates III
Contract Terms: Four years, $64 million
After playing under the franchise tag with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2022, it was no secret that safety Jessie Bates III was looking to get paid.
Per Rapoport, the Falcons continued their spending spree Monday, agreeing to terms with Bates on a four-year deal that averages a hair over $16 million a season. It's the fourth-largest contract for a safety in NFL history.
Bates is one of the better deep safeties in the NFL—he topped 100 total tackles in each of his first three seasons and allowed just 51.4 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed last season. Bates only recently turned 26 and is heading into the prime of his career.
Atlanta's 25th-ranked pass defense needs all the help it can get. In a vacuum, this isn't a bad deal.
However, time and again we have seen bad teams go wild spending money in free agency in an effort to reverse their fortunes.
More often than not, it just doesn't work. Especially when huge money is spent at non-premium positions.
Buccaneers Re-sign CB Jamel Dean
Contract Terms: Four years, $52 million
It's a time of great change in Tampa Bay. It's still not known who will face the unenviable task of being the first Bucs quarterback after Tom Brady, but there's one thing we do know.
The back end of the Tampa defense will be staying together.
Per Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, cornerback Jamel Deal has re-upped with the Buccaneers on a four-year deal that averages $13 million a season. The 26-year-old tallied 57 tackles in 15 starts for the Buccaneers in 2022, adding two interceptions.
Dean was arguably the No. 1 cornerback set to hit free agency this year—he may not be as well-known as some other players at the position, but Dean has been durable and consistent. He has yet to allow a passer rating against of 90 in a season, and he has allowed one over 85 just once.
Solid veteran cornerbacks do not come cheaply, and $13 million per year for such a corner just now entering his prime is good value.
Steelers Sign CB Patrick Peterson
Contract Terms: Two years, terms undisclosed
As we already mentioned, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost an important piece in the secondary when Cameron Sutton signed with the Detroit Lions.
It didn't take the team long to find a replacement.
As reported by Schefter, the Steelers agreed to terms on a two-year deal with veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson. The eight-time Pro Bowler spent the last two seasons in Minnesota after a decade with the Arizona Cardinals. Peterson logged 66 total tackles and five interceptions last season—his most since 2012.
Peterson admittedly isn't the "shutdown" cornerback he once was—he'll turn 33 before the season begins. But over the last two years in the Vikings' zone-heavy defensive scheme, Peterson was solid in coverage—a passer rating against of under 80 both seasons.
Provided that the money here isn't wonky (and given that it's the Steelers, that's unlikely) and that Pittsburgh doesn't ask Peterson to play on an island more than necessary, this signing should go a long way toward lessening the sting of losing Sutton earlier in the day.
Browns Sign Edge-Rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Contract Terms: Three years, $19 million, $12.5 million guaranteed
The Cleveland Browns headed into the offseason with a glaring need to fix the defensive front. After restructuring Deshaun Watson's contract to clear cap space, the Browns addressed that defensive line Monday—albeit with a second-tier signing.
Per Aaron Wilson of KPRC2-TV, the Browns agreed to terms on a three-year contract with edge-rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. The deal could be worth up to $22 million and contains $12.5 million in guarantees.
Okoronkwo had a career year with the Texans last season, tallying 44 tackles and five sacks in just 518 snaps. If Okoronkwo can carry that sort of per-snap productivity over to his new home, he'd be a bargain in a larger role. And there should be no shortage of single-teams playing opposite Myles Garrett.
But Okoronkwo had just 4.5 sacks over the first three years of his career combined—so it's equally likely that he's no more than a rotational piece.
49ers Sign QB Sam Darnold
Contract Terms: One year, terms undisclosed
Last year, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan turned Brock Purdy from "Mr. Irrelevant" to a legit NFL starter under center.
Apparently, Sam Darnold is hopeful that Shanahan can have a similar effect on his floundering career. According to Schefter, Darnold has agreed to join the Niners on a one-year deal.
It's been a rough go for the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. Darnold was mostly dreadful in New York, going 13-25 over three seasons. Things didn't go much better in Carolina. Just once in five seasons has Darnold completed 60 percent of his passes. His career passer rating is just 78.2.
However, both Purdy and Trey Lance suffered serious injuries last season, and the former's status for Week 1 is very much in doubt. And while Lance, like Darnold, was a third overall pick, he remains a mostly unknown commodity.
Say what you will about Darnold, but he has started 56 games in his career.
Provided that the financial commitment is minimal, he's not a bad Plan C.
Titans Sign OL Andre Dillard
Contract Terms: Three years, $29 million
Given the myriad problems currently facing the Tennessee Titans (including a sizable hole on the offensive line after the release of Taylor Lewan), at first glance, agreeing to terms on a three-year, $29 million contract (per Garafolo) with Andre Dillard might seem like a good value. After all, Dillard is a former first-round pick who has experience at guard and tackle and played on the best offensive line in the league last year.
The problem is that Dillard "played" all of 37 offensive snaps last year—because he's been either hurt or mediocre (at best) to this point.
First-round pick or not, Dillard hasn't played 750 snaps for his career. After a rotational role as a rookie, a torn biceps wiped out his 2020 season. In 2021, he lost the competition to start at left tackle to Jordan Mailata. Last year, he barely saw the field, and when he did, it was mostly at guard.
Outside of his draft slot, Dillard has shown nothing to indicate he can even be an average NFL starter. The Titans apparently hope that a change of scenery will jump-start Dillard's floundering career—and they are willing to gamble almost $10 million a season on it.
Hope is not a strategy.
Dolphins Sign LB David Long Jr.
Contract Terms: Two years, $11 million
The Miami Dolphins were already aggressive in bolstering the back end with Sunday's trade for Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Monday, they looked to address the biggest weakness on the defense: off-ball linebackers.
Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Dolphins agreed to terms on a two-year, $11 million contract with linebacker David Long Jr. The 26-year-old posted a career-best 86 total tackles in 12 games for the Tennessee Titans.
This might be my favorite signing of the entire day. Because provided that Long can stay healthy, he's an absolute steal at $5.5 million a season.
The only real knock on Long is durability—he has missed 12 games over the last two seasons, including five in 2022.
But when he is out there, he's a quality linebacker. Long can stuff the run, and, as his passer rating against of 74.1 in 2022 shows, he is equally adept in coverage.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier brought in Long for less than what the Lions gave Alex Anzalone—and Long is light-years better.
Giants Sign LB Bobby Okereke
Contract Terms: Four years, $40 million, $22 million guaranteed
The New York Giants were able to prevent new holes from opening up on the team by retaining quarterback Daniel Jones and tagging running back Saquon Barkley. But that did nothing to address an off-ball LB corps that was arguably the worst in the league.
That linebacker room is significantly better now.
As reported by ESPN's Jordan Raanan, the Giants came to terms with Bobby Okereke on a four-year pact that averages $10 million a season. Just over half the deal is guaranteed.
The 26-year-old Okereke isn't without his flaws. He left the field in passing situations at times in Indianapolis and has allowed over 70 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed in all four seasons.
But Okereke has better range than anyone currently on New York's roster, and he is a ferocious run-stuffer. In each of the last two years, Okereke has topped 130 tackles, including a career-high 151 last season.
He's a major upgrade at a position of need.
Broncos Sign DL Zach Allen
Contract Terms: Three years, $45.75 million, $32.5 million guaranteed
There wasn't much that went right for the Arizona Cardinals in 2022, but the play of defensive lineman Zach Allen was a bright spot. After logging 47 total tackles and a career-best 5.5 sacks, Allen got a big payday in free agency.
But it wasn't in Arizona.
As reported by Schefter, Allen agreed to terms on a three-year deal that averages over $15 million a season. The 25-year-old also received north of $32 million in guarantees.
Allen is an ascending young lineman who played the best football of his career last year. He's excellent at setting the edge against the run and adds some pop in the pass rush. And the reality is that if Denver didn't give Allen $15 million a season, some other team would have.
But given the massive deals the Broncos have already handed out and the team's lack of proven pass-rushers, this is a big contract to give a player whose realistic ceiling is probably seven or eight sacks.
Panthers Sign S Vonn Bell
Contract Terms: Three years, $22.5 million, $13 million guaranteed
Jessie Bates III wasn't the only starting safety that the Cincinnati Bengals lost on Monday. As reported by Ari Meirov of the 33rd Team, eighth-year veteran Vonn Bell is also headed out of town after agreeing to terms on a three-year, $22.5 million pact with the Carolina Panthers. The contract contains $13 million in guarantees.
Bell logged more interceptions in 2022 (four) than in the first six seasons of his career combined. But Bell isn't a ballhawk—he's a downhill-playing box safety who had at least 80 tackles in each of his first six years in the league.
The Panthers already had a capable safety duo in Xavier Woods and Jeremy Chinn. But Carolina deployed Chinn in the slot at times last year, and Bell's arrival would appear to enable the team to do so with more regularity.
It's a signing that should help the Carolina defense, and the money involved is reasonable.
Vikings Sign Edge-Rusher Marcus Davenport
Contract Terms: One year, $13 million
With reports circulating that the Minnesota Vikings could part ways with edge-rusher Za'Darius Smith, the team needed to add a pass-rusher opposite Danielle Hunter. They did so on Monday—according to Rapoport, Garafolo and Pelissero, the Vikes agreed to a one-year, $13 million contract with Marcus Davenport.
A first-round pick of the Saints in 2018, Davenport has flashed at times, including nine sacks in just 11 games as recently as 2021. But the former UTSA standout has missed time in all five of his professional seasons, and last year he managed just half a sack and lost playing time as the season progressed.
It's not at all unreasonable to be skeptical as to whether Davenport will ever be the guy the Saints hoped they were getting when they traded up in the draft; he has been neither consistent nor durable to this point in his career.
But in a weak free-agent group of edge-rushers, Davenport had as much upside as any player available. And with the contract just one year long, the team has hedged its bet somewhat against Davenport not panning out.
Seahawks Sign DL Dre'Mont Jones
Contract Terms: Three years, $51 million
Defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones has never tallied 50 total tackles in a season or had seven sacks in a season. But he has been a consistently productive interior lineman who has been good for 30-40 stops and five or six sacks each of the last three years.
That was enough to get the former Ohio State standout paid on Monday. Per Rapoport and Palmer, the Seattle Seahawks agreed to terms with Jones on a three-year contract that averages a robust $17 million a season.
In addition to that consistent productivity, Jones also offers scheme versatility. The 6'3", 281-pounder can play end in odd-man fronts and then kick inside in the nickel. Jones is a good player whose best football may well be ahead of him. And while, like Zach Allen, this is a lot of cash for a player unlikely to have a 10-sack season, Seattle's atrocious defense needed someone who can set the edge and hold the point of attack.
Eagles Re-Sign C Jason Kelce
Contract Terms: One year, terms undisclosed
This is the biggest no-brainer on this entire list. If Jason Kelce was going to play, it was always going to be in Philadelphia.
Monday afternoon, Kelce made it official on social media: He will be back for a 13th NFL season.
"I have put much thought into whether it makes sense to play another season," Kelce said. "After talking it over with my wife and many other friends and family, I have decided to return for another year. Thank you to all my supporters and detractors for fueling me, I ain't f--king done yet!
Later in the day, the team made it official as well.
Even at 35 years old, Kelce remains the gold standard among NFL centers. Per PFF, Kelce has allowed just one sack in over 2,000 snaps over the last two seasons.
Given the personnel losses the Eagles have already endured (and the ones that all but certainly will follow), it's a badly-needed bit of good news.
Browns Sign DT Dalvin Tomlinson
Contract Terms: Four years, $57 million, $27.5 million guaranteed
The Cleveland Browns had one major need entering free agency: improving the middle of a defense that ranked 25th in the league against the run in 2022. The off-ball linebackers are still in need of an upgrade, but the Browns landed the run-stuffing tackle they coveted when the team agreed to terms on a four-year, $57 million deal (per Rapoport) with Dalvin Tomlinson.
The 29-year-old isn't much of a pass-rusher; Tomlinson has just 13 sacks over six NFL seasons. But he has long been an excellent lane-clogger. Tomlinson has recorded over 40 tackles five times in six years.
Monday was quite the day for defensive tackles. A handful received contracts that either approached $15 million a season or sailed past it. Tomlinson isn't the best of the bunch, but his contract also checked in toward the lower end of those big deals.
The Browns badly needed to improve up the gut.
The addition of Tomlinson should help accomplish that goal.
Colts Sign PK Matt Gay
Contract Terms: Four years, $22.5 million
Kickers are people, too—allegedly. So with hundreds of millions in contracts being doled out on Monday, it's only fitting that a kicker hit it big, too.
As a matter of fact, he hit it bigger than any kicker ever has in free agency.
According to Pelissero, Matt Gay has agreed to terms on a four-year, $22.5 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts. It's the richest free-agent deal for a kicker the NFL has ever seen.
It's also a bad idea.
It's nothing against Gay. He has hit 93.8 percent of his field goal attempts over the past two years—just four misses in 64 attempts. He has also been accurate from distance in this span, hitting 11 of 14 tries from 50 yards or more.
Matt Gay is an excellent kicker. And the Colts have been a revolving door at the position since Adam Vinatieri retired in 2020.
But while kicker may be a problem for the Colts, it's hardly the biggest one. And paying a kicker over $5.5 million a season means money that can't be spent at another position.
Here's a rundown of Monday's other signings.
Broncos Sign QB Jarrett Stidham
If the Las Vegas Raiders' quarterback plans involved using Jarrett Stidham as a placeholder, those plans went up in smoke courtesy of their AFC West rivals.
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Denver Broncos agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with Stidham that includes $5 million in guarantees. It's a reasonable deal for a proven backup who was serviceable in two starts for the Raiders in 2022.
Patriots Re-Sign LB Raekwon McMillan
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Patriots are bringing back sixth-year linebacker Raekwon McMillan on a one-year, $1.6 million deal.
After tallying 105 tackles as a rookie, injuries and poor play have relegated the Ohio State standout to a reserve and special teams role. McMillan made one start for the Patriots last year and finished with 35 tackles on the season.
Dolphins Sign QB Mike White
The Dolphins took steps to improve their backup quarterback situation behind Tua Tagovailoa on Monday, agreeing to terms on a two-year deal that could be worth up to $16 million deal with Mike White, per Schefter.
The 27-year-old isn't every-week starter material, but White showed in four starts last year with the New York Jets that he can be an effective spot starter.
Texans Sign QB Case Keenum
Never let it be said you can't go home again.
After a standout career at the University of Houston and two years with the Texans to open his career, journeyman quarterback Case Keenum has agreed to a two-year deal with the Texans, per John McClain of Sports Radio 610 in Houston.
Keenum will serve as a veteran mentor for the rookie whom the Texans will all but certainly draft with the No. 2 overall pick.
Texans Sign Edge Chase Winovich
Per Aaron Wilson of KPRC2-TV in Houston, the Texans also agreed to terms on a one-year, $2.75 million contract with edge-rusher Chase Winovich, who spent the 2022 season in Cleveland.
Winovich tallied 11 sacks over his first two seasons in New England, but he has only one sack over the last two years combined. He's a rotational piece at best.
Commanders Sign LB Cody Barton
Per Pelissero, the Commanders signed former Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton to a one-year, fully guaranteed contract. The 26-year-old made 11 starts last year and piled up 136 total tackles, but he also fell from favor with Seahawks coaches for a time due to poor angles and coverage lapses (Barton was targeted 51 times and allowed 44 completions). If Barton is being tasked with replacing Cole Holcomb, it's a pretty sizable downgrade for the Washington defense.
Lions Re-Sign LB Alex Anzalone
As reported by Rapoport, after pacing the Lions with a career-high 125 total tackles in 2022, the Detroit Lions have re-upped Anzalone on a three-year, $18.75 million deal. Anzalone did indeed lead the team in tackles, but part of the reason Detroit was dead last in total defense was many of those tackles came six or seven yards down the field. Anzalone isn't a bad player. But he isn't an especially good one, either.
Browns Re-Sign OG/C Ethan Pocic
Per Garafolo, the Browns brought back the 27-year-old Pocic on a three-year extension with a base value of $6 million a season. A second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, Pocic struggled during his time in the Pacific Northwest. But in his first season with the Browns in 2022, the lightbulb came on, and if he can back up last year's performance as Cleveland's starting center, he'll be a bargain at this average annual salary.
Raiders Sign S Marcus Epps
When last we saw Epps, he was getting roasted like a ham in coverage in Super Bowl LVII. But the Las Vegas Raiders saw something they liked—per Pelissero, the Raiders came to terms with the 27-year-old Epps on a two-year, $12 million pact. Epps had 94 tackles last year and should provide an upgrade at a position where the Raiders were awful last year. But he's not the kind of difference-maker who will reverse the team's defensive woes singlehandedly.
Panthers Sign DT Shy Tuttle
Tuttle had the best season of his career with the Saints in 2022, and the 6'3", 300-pound defensive tackle has parlayed that into a nice payday. Per Schefter, Tuttle agreed to terms on a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the 27-year-old that includes $13 million in guarantees. Tuttle isn't going to make a lot of splash plays, but he'll be a welcome addition to a defense that was mediocre against the run last season.
Broncos Re-Sign LB Alex Singleton
As reported by Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, after amassing a career-high 163 tackles last year (including 101 solos), Alex Singleton will be back with the Broncos after signing a three-year, $18 million contract that includes $9 million in guarantees. Singleton is, at best, an average player in terms of range and coverage skills, but he's surpassed 120 tackles in three straight seasons and is a fan favorite in Denver.
Panthers Re-Sign OG Bradley Bozeman
After joining the Panthers on a one-year "prove it" deal in 2022, Bozeman went on to help solidify Carolina's offensive line once entering the starting lineup. Now, the 28-year-old has been rewarded for that performance with a three-year, $18 million extension per Rapoport. Getting all five starters back from a solid offensive line a year ago is a big get for the rookie quarterback who will be playing behind them in 2022.
Cardinals Re-Sign OT Kelvin Beachum
Apparently, Beachum's comments that Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray needed to "grow up a little bit," didn't preclude the team from re-signing him—per Jordan Schultz of the Score, the 33-year-old signed a two-year deal to remain in the desert. Beachum was a solid NFL starter for the Redbirds I 2022, so provided that the financials here are relatively reasonable it made sense to bring him back.
Falcons Sign LB Kaden Elliss
There wasn't a team in the NFL that was more active on the first day of the tampering period than the Falcons, who added pieces on both sides of the ball. That includes off-ball linebacker help in the form of Kaden Elliss, who shined in a larger role with the New Orleans Saints last year. $21.5 million over three years (per Rapoport) is a lot to pay a relatively unproven player, but if Elliss continues to improve in 2023 this deal could be looked back on as a relative bargain.
Bears Sign DL Demarcus Walker
Well, you can say this about Bears GM Ryan Poles. He hasn't been even a little shy about tearing through all the cap space Chicago entered free agency with. The spending continued into Monday evening—per Garafalo, the Bears gave former Titans defensive lineman Demarcus Walker $14 million over two years to come to Chicago. Walker logged career bests in tackles (32) and sacks (seven) in 2022, and he profiles as a strong-side end who can play some tackle on passing downs.
Jameis Winston Re-Signs with Saints
Per Rapoport, the Saints agreed to terms with Winston on a one-year deal worth "up to" $8 million. That "up to" is likely based on incentives Winston has little chance of hitting backing up Derek Carr, but the former first overall pick apparently feels that if he's going to be stuck as a backup, it might as well be in a familiar place. Winston may not be NFL starter material anymore, but there aren't many backups out there with a 5,000-yard passing season on their resume.
Life comes at you fast in the NFL, and plenty of teams didn't wait for the legal tampering period to begin before making big moves.
Here are grades for the ones that happened over the weekend.
Dolphins Trade for CB Jalen Ramsey
On Sunday, the Dolphins acquired Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey from the Los Angeles Rams for a third-round pick and tight end Hunter Long, per ESPN's Adam Schefter,.
For the Dolphins, it was an opportunity to acquire an impact player. For the Rams, it was essentially a straight-up salary dump ahead of what's looking more and more like a complete rebuild.
Grade: A (Dolphins); D (Rams)
Bears Trade No. 1 Overall Pick
On Friday, the Chicago Bears dealt the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft to the Carolina Panthers for first-round picks in 2023 and 2024, second-round picks in 2023 and 2025 and wide receiver D.J. Moore, per Schefter.
For the Bears, it's a massive haul that includes a new No. 1 receiver for Justin Fields. For the Panthers, it's an opportunity to have their pick of this year's prospects under center.
Grade: A (Bears); B+ (Panthers)
Commanders Extend DT DaRon Payne
After a breakout 2022 season that included a career-high 11.5 sacks, Payne inked a four-year, $90 million contract that includes $60 million in guarantees, per Schefter.
The contract saves the Commanders over $9 million against the cap after Payne was originally franchise-tagged, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, but it also means that Washington has over $40 million in average annual salary locked up in its starting defensive tackles. That's a lot of cap space to spend on the position.
Jets Re-Sign LB Quincy Williams
Per ESPN's Rich Cimini, the Jets agreed to terms with linebacker Quincy Williams on a three-year, $18 million extension that includes $9 million in guarantees.
Williams isn't a star, but he has eclipsed 100 total tackles each of the last two years and is a solid compliment to C.J. Mosley inside. It's a reasonable deal for a decent starter.