2023 NFL Free-Agent Signing, Trade Grades for Friday's Latest Moves

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksFeatured Columnist IVMarch 17, 2023

2023 NFL Free-Agent Signing, Trade Grades for Friday's Latest Moves

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    Mike Gesicki
    Mike GesickiMegan Briggs/Getty Images

    In the NFL, free agency is a perpetual motion machine. Once it gets rolling, you'd better get out of the way.

    After two days of legal tampering and two more of "actual" free agency, we have seen scores of players sign contracts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. There are a pair of MVP quarterbacks who have yet to find new homes (although we have a pretty good idea where one is headed), but we have already seen a number of big names get bigger deals to put on a new helmet.

    It has been a good week to be an offensive tackle. And a defensive tackle. Beefeaters on both sides of the ball hit it big.

    Some signings this week have looked like relative bargains. Others have been questionable. But as has been the case all week, Bleacher Report has Friday's free-agency feeding frenzy covered with a breakdown of which deals were steals and which could inspire buyer's remorse down the road.

    Caveat emptor and all that.

Patriots Sign TE Mike Gesicki

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    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Mike Gesicki #88 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

    Contract Terms: One year, $9 million

    There hadn't been much movement at the tight end position in the early days of free agency outside the Darren Waller trade. But on Friday morning, one of the bigger dominoes finally fell.

    Per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero, the New England Patriots signed veteran tight end Mike Gesicki to a one-year, $9 million contract. The 27-year-old Gesicki, who spent the first five years of his career in Miami, caught 32 passes for 362 yards and five scores a year ago.

    Gesicki's role in the Dolphins offense diminished last year, but as recently as 2021 he topped 70 receptions and 700 receiving yards. As those five scores demonstrate, he's also a solid option in the red zone.

    It's a little eye-opening to see the Patriots once again spend a fair chunk of money on a tight end after trading Jonnu Smith earlier this week, but the reality is New England needs passing-game weapons any way it can get them.

    Gesicki gives Mac Jones a big target over the middle.

    Grade: B-

Seahawks Sign LB Devin Bush

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Devin Bush (55) is announced during the national football league game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 24, 2022 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Contract Terms: One year, terms undisclosed

    In 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up in the first round of the NFL draft in the hopes that Devin Bush would be the franchise's next great inside linebacker. Four years later, Bush is headed west in an effort to revive his career.

    As reported by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Seattle Seahawks have signed the 24-year-old Bush, who amassed 81 total tackles in Pittsburgh in 2022, to a one-year deal. Terms were not disclosed.

    To say that Bush didn't work out in Pittsburgh is an understatement—his passer rating against in coverage got worse every season, and last year he played a career-low 62 percent of the team's defensive snaps in 2022.

    However, Bush should have a clear path to playing time for a Seahawks team in desperate need of off-ball linebacker help, and provided that the money is reasonable, this is at least a moderately interesting speculative signing by Seattle.

    Grade: C+

Seahawks Sign S Julian Love

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - JANUARY 01: Julian Love #20 of the New York Giants celebrates while running off the field after defeating the Indianapolis Colts 38-10 at MetLife Stadium on January 01, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Contract Terms: Two years, $12 million

    The Seahawks were a playoff team last year, but the Seattle defense struggled—26th in total defense, 30th against the pass and 25th in points allowed.

    That defense has already added Dre'Mont Jones and Devin Bush. Now the team has addressed the secondary as well.

    As reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Seahawks have signed safety Julian Love to a two-year, $12 million contract. A fourth-round pick of the New York Giants in 2019, Love had easily the best season of his career last year with the G-Men, tallying 124 total tackles with two interceptions, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

    Love isn't an elite talent at safety, but he's a capable pro who is solid against the run and decent in coverage. Given the uncertainty facing the Seahawks at linebacker even with Bush now in the fold, an upgrade on the back end is a wise signing—especially when it comes with a reasonable price tag.

    Grade: B+

Chiefs Sign LB Drue Tranquill

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 14: Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill (49) during the game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars on January 14, 2023 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fl. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Contract Terms: One year, $5 million

    Last year, Drue Tranquill led the Los Angeles Chargers with 146 total tackles. But after the Bolts signed Eric Kendricks earlier this week, it became clear that Tranquill wouldn't be back in Los Angeles.

    As it turns out, the 27-year-old landed on his feet.

    Per Jordan Schultz of The Score, Tranquill came to terms Friday on a one-year deal with the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs that could be worth up to $5 million. In addition to those 146 total stops, Tranquill added five sacks, 10 tackles for loss and an interception.

    Those numbers Tranquill posted last year were easily the best of his career—in fact, Tranquill logged just 152 total tackles over the first three seasons of his career combined. Tranquill also allowed a career-high 10.2 yards per completion in coverage last season with a passer rating against of 101.2.

    However, Tranquill is a rangier player than Willie Gay, and pairing him with Nick Bolton gives the Chiefs a duo of linebackers who combined for 326 tackles in 2022.

    Grade: B

Chiefs Sign S Mike Edwards

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    TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 16: Mike Edwards #32 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up prior to a game against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at Raymond James Stadium on January 16, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Contract Terms: One year, $3 million

    The Kansas City Chiefs weren't done addressing the defense with the Tranquill signing. The team also took steps to replace Juan Thornhill, who signed with the Cleveland Browns earlier in the week.

    Per Rapoport, the Chiefs agreed to terms on a one-year, $3 million pact with veteran safety Mike Edwards, who spent the first four seasons of his career in Tampa. The deal for the 26-year-old Edwards, who started 12 games and recorded a career-high 82 total tackles last year, can be worth up to $5 million with incentives.

    Edwards isn't the player in coverage Thornhill is—he surrendered four touchdown passes in 2022 and allowed a passer rating against of over 110. But he is a versatile safety capable of playing both deep and near the line scrimmage, and the Chiefs were able to acquire his services for a relatively small commitment.

    It's hard to find too much fault with "prove-it" deals.

    Grade: B

Vikings Sign DL Dean Lowry

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    GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - NOVEMBER 13: Dean Lowry #94 of the Green Bay Packers looks on against the Dallas Cowboys in the second half at Lambeau Field on November 13, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Contract Terms: Two years, $8.5 million

    There are some major changes defensively in Minnesota this year, Longtime middle linebacker Eric Kendricks was let go. Cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson left in free agency. There's a new defensive coordinator in Brian Flores.

    Flores isn't the only new face in the Twin Cities—including a signing on Friday that Minnesota hopes will help the team win at the point of attack.

    As reported by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Vikings signed defensive lineman Dean Lowry to a two-year, $8.5 million contract. The 28-year-old Lowry, who spent his first seven seasons with Minnesota's rivals in Green Bay, started 61 games over the past four years.

    Lowry won't blow up the stat sheet—he has just 15.5 career sacks. But the 6'6", 296-pounder is a good edge-setter against the run who has eclipsed 40 total tackles four times—including 43 stops in 2022.

    He's a welcome addition to a Vikings run defense that allowed over 120 rushing yards per game last year.

    Grade: B

Other Signings

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    Marcus Mariota
    Marcus MariotaRich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Here's a look at some of Friday's other signings.


    Eagles Sign QB Marcus Mariota

    After losing backup quarterback Gardner Minshew on Thursday, the Eagles wasted little time finding his replacement. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Philadelphia signed Marcus Mariota to a one-year deal worth $5 million. Given the amount of money that some other backup quarterbacks have received, it's a reasonably priced deal—especially when you consider Mariota's 74 career starts, 13 starts in Atlanta last year and similar skill set to Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

    Grade: B+


    Cowboys Re-Sign QB Cooper Rush

    Cooper Rush filled in admirably for an injured Dak Prescott last year, and on Friday the Cowboys rewarded him for that—per Rapoport, Dallas inked the 29-year-old to a two-year, $6 million contract that includes a fully guaranteed first season. This is a classic example of not fixing something that wasn't broken—Rush knows the offense and was 4-1 as a starter with Prescott on the shelf last year. At $3 million a season, Rush is a relative bargain.

    Grade: A-


    Lions Re-Sign PK Mike Badgley

    Per agent Brian McLaughlin, the Lions are bringing back place-kicker Mike Badgley. The 27-year-old, who joined the Lions in-season in 2022 after opening the year with the Chicago Bears, connected on 20 of 24 field-goal attempts and all 33 of his extra-point tries for Detroit. No one is going to confuse Badgley with Justin Tucker, but provided that the Lions didn't hand him a Matt Gay-esque bag of cash, he's fine.

    Grade: C


    Chargers Re-Sign TE Donald Parham

    Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, tight end Donald Parham has re-signed with the Los Angeles Chargers. The 25-year-old Parham caught just 10 passes for 130 yards and one score last season, but the 6'8", 237-pounder has flashed enough when afforded the opportunity for the Cleveland Browns to have reportedly expressed "significant interest" in signing him. Instead, Parham heads back to Los Angeles, where he'll serve as the No. 2 tight end behind Gerald Everett.

    Grade: B-


    Patriots Sign LB Chris Board

    As reported by Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, the New England Patriots signed Board to a two-year deal worth "up to" $6.7 million. Primarily a special teams ace over five seasons with Detroit and Baltimore, Board made one start at linebacker for the Lions in 2022. North of $3 million a season is a lot to pay a special teams guy, but Bill Belichick has long prioritized that aspect of the game, and given the unsettled nature of New England's linebackers Board may be able to carve out a role on defense.

    Grade: C+

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