2015 NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Best Value Contracts so Far

Alessandro Miglio@@AlexMiglioFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2015

2015 NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Best Value Contracts so Far

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    We've seen roughly eleventy billion dollars committed through the first few weeks of NFL free agency, but there was also value to be had on the open market.

    After all, $114 million deals aren't commonplace.

    Let's take a look at some of the best values in free agency thus far. Whether they are outright steals based on talent-to-contract value or simply a surprisingly below-market deal at the position—based on other contracts doled out early in free agency—these contracts make their teams look good. The contracts chosen are based on player talent, dollar amounts, and account for team needs. 

    Ndamukong Suh signed that $114 million deal and his old teammate got $5 million. Charles Clay got a massive deal from the Buffalo Bills, making his replacement's contract look like peanuts. 

    On and on we go, diving into the rankings.

7. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers

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    It's hard to call a contract that pays $10 million annually a good deal, but that is a steal in Randall Cobb's case.

    The Green Bay Packers signed their dynamic weapon to a four-year, $40 million contract at the outset of free agency. That's not chump change, but it's far less than Cobb might have seen on the open market. 

    Just ask Jeremy Maclin, who got a $55 million deal from the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Instead of losing their most versatile weapon, the Packers brought him back to a well-below-market deal. Jordy Nelson signed a similar, incredibly valuable deal last offseason. General manager Ted Thompson stays winning.

6. Justin Forsett, RB, Baltimore Ravens

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    The running back market bounced back a bit this season.

    DeMarco Murray got a $40 million deal from the Philadelphia Eagles not long after LeSean McCoy got his in an extension with the Buffalo Bills. C.J. Spiller took a $16 million deal with the New Orleans Saints, almost a twin to new teammate Mark Ingram's extension.

    It wasn't quite Adrian Peterson money, but it was a nice bounce-back for a position that had bottomed out a year ago.

    That's what makes Justin Forsett's three-year, $9 million deal to stay with the Baltimore Ravens such a nice one. He may not be as talented as some of his contemporaries—he had 1,692 rushing yards in six seasons before his 1,266-yard breakout year in 2014—but he was a valuable asset for Baltimore nonetheless.

    If Forsett's 2014 season was a mirage, it won't wind up costing the Ravens much. If he continues to post 1,000-yard seasons, his contract will be one of the best values in the league.

5. Percy Harvin, WR, Buffalo Bills

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    My, how the mighty have fallen.

    Traded for a first-round pick and signed to a huge deal just two years ago, Percy Harvin was supposed to kick-start the Seattle Seahawks' passing game. Injuries and a bad attitude got him shipped off to the New York Jets, where he had little to show for his efforts in an anemic offense.

    The Jets cut him after trading for Brandon Marshall, and who could blame them? He was owed $10.5 million in 2015 alone.

    His loss was Buffalo's gain, as the Bills landed a potentially lethal receiver for pennies on the dollar, at least compared to the rest of the receiver market. His one-year, $6 million contract is a low-risk deal with high upside if Harvin can stay healthy and finally reach his potential.

    That potential includes game-breaking ability both at receiver and as a returner, should the Bills choose to unleash him in every way possible. Should he be a disappointment, well, it's just a one-year deal.

4. Terrance Knighton, DT, Washington Redskins

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    The first few years of Terrance Knighton's career were a disappointment, as he was an average starter at best with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then he moved onto the Denver Broncos, where he turned everything around. 

    Pot Roast ate up the middle of offensive lines for the past few seasons, rating as one of the better defensive tackles in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He was set to cash in during free agency this year, finally. Apparently, the market at his position—outside Ndamukong Suh—isn't quite what anyone expected.

    Along with Nick Fairley, Knighton wound up settling for a one-year deal when he received little interest on the open market. Washington came calling, giving him $4 million as the team continued to shore up its defensive trenches.

3. Jordan Cameron, TE, Miami Dolphins

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins placed the transition tag on Charles Clay, but that didn't stop them from snagging one of the better deals in free agency in Jordan Cameron.

    The 6'5", 249-pound tight end was far more affordable than some of his peers because of health concerns—he has suffered three concussions in the past two years, and he missed six games last season. For his part, Cameron seemed unconcerned about the concussion issue at the end of last season, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal:

    I don’t think it’s a concern. I wouldn’t play if it was.

    I’m being honest. I think you should be in these situations.

    I love football and I can’t play it. I want to play. It’s one of those things you’ve got to be cautious with concussions. It is what it is. The protocol, they’re very serious about it, as they should be, and it just takes time.

    Taking all that into account, Cameron represents some serious upside for Miami if he can stay healthy. The fact the Dolphins gave him just $5 million guaranteed on his two-year, $15 million contract—it's ostensibly a one-year deal if he doesn't work out—makes it one of the best value signings of free agency.

    The deal looks especially good when compared to the five-year, $38 million deal Clay ultimately signed with the Buffalo Bills, one that gives him $20 million guaranteed and makes him one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league.

2. Nick Fairley, DT, St. Louis Rams

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    When the Detroit Lions lost Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins, it seemed like Nick Fairley might be a nice consolation prize. After all, he was the "2" in their 1-2 punch at defensive tackle over the past few years.

    Unfortunately for Fairley, that wasn't what the Lions had in mind. At least it seemed that way, given we heard nothing coming from Lions headquarters in the way of re-signing their big defensive tackle.

    In fact, Fairley barely got any play on the market at all. Considering the fact he has been a quality starter for Detroit since coming into the league, per Pro Football Focus, the lack of free-agent interest makes little sense.

    The St. Louis Rams stole Fairley for a mere $5 million on a one-year deal, turning a great defensive line into a potentially elite one in the process. He joins stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, who will be eating up guards and centers to free up pass-rushers Robert Quinn and Chris Long.

1. Andre Johnson, WR, Indianapolis Colts

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    He may be getting a bit long in the tooth in NFL terms, but Andre Johnson still has a quality year or three left in him if he can stay healthy.

    The Houston Texans' franchise leader in all things receiving signed on with a division rival, rubbing it into the faces of his old bosses in the process. The Indianapolis Colts couldn't resist, though the rivalry was probably just a small part of the decision.

    The truth is, Johnson brings a big, talented weapon to Indianapolis for quarterback Andrew Luck, someone to take the reins for former stalwart Reggie Wayne. The Colts brought him on for three years and $21 million, a huge steal for a presumptive No. 1 receiver.

    All contract numbers courtesy of OverTheCap.com.