NFL Free Agents 2019: Grades for Tuesday's Signings and Landing-Spot Predictions

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2019

NFL Free Agents 2019: Grades for Tuesday's Signings and Landing-Spot Predictions

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    While the official start of NFL free agency isn't until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, teams are currently permitted to contact and negotiate with players. This has resulted in several quality free agents agreeing to deals, though as the Anthony Barr situation shows, it's important to remember that nothing can be made official until the new league year.

    Barr agreed to a deal with the New York Jets on Monday but will instead remain with the Minnesota Vikings, according to NFL Media's Mike Garafolo.

    Retaining Barr is a big win for the Vikings—and it's one of the many great deals to take place during the legal tampering period, which began Monday. Of course, there have been some not-so-great deals too. Here, we'll try separating the good from the bad.

    You'll find grades on each of Tuesday's major contract agreements—based on factors such as contract value, team fit and player potential. You'll also find predictions on landing spots for some of free agency's top remaining players.

    First, though, let's run down the most significant deals from Monday.

Monday's Moves

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    New Jaguars QB Nick Foles
    New Jaguars QB Nick FolesAssociated Press

    Nick Foles to Jacksonville Jaguars

    The Jacksonville Jaguars got themselves a new quarterback by agreeing to a four-year, $88 million deal with Nick Foles. That's a fair contract for a starting signal-caller, but the $50.1 million guaranteed feels like a bit much considering Jacksonville didn't have a ton of competition for the 30-year-old.

    Grade: B-


    Trey Flowers to Detroit Lions

    Defensive end Trey Flowers was one of the top defensive linemen available. He's just 25 years old and knows Lions head coach Matt Patricia well from their time in New England. His five-year, $90 million deal is massive, but this is a solid move for Detroit's defense.

    Grade: B


    Danny Amendola to Lions

    Detroit grabbed another former Patriot by giving wideout Danny Amendola a one-year, $4.5 million contract. It's a team-friendly deal for a player who can add a little something to Detroit's passing attack, which finished the 2018 campaign ranked 20th in yards per game.

    Grade: A


    Trent Brown to Oakland Raiders

    Trent Brown performed well as New England's left tackle in 2018. Did he play well enough to deserve a four-year, $66 million deal? Probably not, but the Oakland Raiders needed a dependable tackle opposite Kolton Miller.

    Grade: B-


    Landon Collins to Washington Redskins

    The Washington Redskins are stealing a terrific player from the NFC East rival New York Giants. However, Landon Collins is primarily a box safety, and he's coming off a partially torn rotator cuff. Six years and $84 million is a bit much. 

    Grade: C-


    Lamarcus Joyner to Raiders

    The Raiders agreed to sign free safety Lamarcus Joyner to a four-year deal, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. While the full contract details aren't yet available, this is a great move for Oakland's defense as long as the Raiders didn't massively overpay.

    Grade: A-


    Malik Jackson to Philadelphia Eagles

    The Philadelphia Eagles got a tremendous piece for their front seven by agreeing to sign Malik Jackson to a three-year, $30 million deal. This is a bargain in comparison to his last contract, a six-year, $86 million deal from the Jaguars.

    Grade: B


    Adam Humphries to Tennessee Titans

    The Tennessee Titans moved quickly to get some receiving help for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Adam Humphries, 25, is an emerging young slot receiver, and his four-year, $36 million deal represents a fair price tag.

    Grade: B


    Mitch Morse to Buffalo Bills

    The Buffalo Bills solidified the interior of their offensive line by giving center Mitch Morse a four-year, $44.5 million contract. That's more than a fair deal for one of the best pass-blocking centers in the NFL.

    Grade: A


    Jamison Crowder to New York Jets

    Jamison Crowder is a nice complementary receiver, and adding him ups the talent level around Sam Darnold. However, the Jets are likely overpaying with a three-year, $28.5 million contract. 

    Grade: C-


    Kareem Jackson to Broncos

    The Denver Broncos added safety Kareem Jackson on a three-year, $33 million deal. This is just a bit high for a 30-year-old above-average safety, whom the Houston Texans didn't even try to bring back, per Mark Berman of KRIV Houston.

    Grade: C


    Tyler Kroft to Bills

    Adding tight end Tyler Kroft could prove to be a big deal for the Buffalo Bills, who need a pass-catcher at the position. However, giving up $18.75 million over three years to a role player who finished 2018 on injured reserve is risky.

    Grade: C-


    Bobby Hart to Bengals

    The Cincinnati Bengals gave offensive tackle Bobby Hart a new three-year, $16.1 million deal, and it's hard to see why. Yes, that's relatively inexpensive for a tackle, but Hart is a backup at best. He was a turnstile in pass protection in 2018 and was responsible for a whopping 12 accepted penalties.

    Grade: D-


    Kwon Alexander to San Francisco 49ers

    The San Francisco 49ers are getting an excellent young linebacker in 24-year-old Kwon Alexander. They paid heavily for him, though, giving him a four-year, $54 million contract. The deal will look fine if Alexander fully recovers from his torn ACL, but this deal has a risk to be a bust.

    Grade: C


    Justin Coleman to Lions

    The Lions strengthened their secondary by adding former Seattle Seahawks slot corner Justin Coleman. While Coleman is an above-average player, his four-year, $36 million deal may be a bit rich. A lot will depend on how he adapts to Patricia's defense.

    Grade: B-


    Terrell Suggs to Arizona Cardinals

    Terrell Suggs may be nearing the end of his career, but he's still capable of pressuring the quarterback. His one-year, $7 million contract is a low-risk deal for the Cardinals.


    Ja'Wuan James to Denver Broncos

    The Denver Broncos locked up offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James with a four-year, $51 million deal. This helps fill a need, but that's an enormous cost for a right tackle who was good, not great during his time with the Miami Dolphins.

    Grade: D+


    Tyrann Mathieu to Kansas City Chiefs

    The Kansas City Chiefs added free safety Tyrann Mathieu on a three-year, $42 million deal. The move should help solidify the back end of Kansas City's defense, but it could also mean the end of Eric Berry's run with the Chiefs. This is a smart deal if the Chiefs firmly believe Berry won't get back to 100 percent.

    Grade: B+


    Devin Funchess to Indianapolis Colts

    The Indianapolis Colts added a big-bodied possession receiver by signing Devin Funchess (6'4", 225 lbs). His one-year, $10 million prove-it deal isn't ridiculous—and Indy did enter the offseason with the most cap space—but it's a lot for a player who never reached his potential in the Carolina Panthers offense.

    Grade: D

Vikings Retain Anthony Barr

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    As previously mentioned, Barr decided not to go to the Jets and will instead rejoin the Vikings. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, he will do so on a five-year, $67.5 million deal.

    This is quite a bit of money for a linebacker who doesn't regularly rush the passer. However, Barr is a versatile defender who can do a lot of things in Minnesota's defense. Last season alone, he racked up 55 tackles, three sacks, two passes defended and a forced fumble.

    Barr was one of the biggest names available in free agency this year, and keeping him in Minnesota is huge.

    Grade: B+

John Brown to the Buffalo Bills

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    The Buffalo Bills needed to add receiving help for second-year quarterback Josh Allen. They did so by adding former Ravens wideout John Brown on a three-year, $27 million deal, according to Rapoport.

    This is a good move for a couple of reasons. For one, Brown has more than enough speed to stretch the field and take advantage of Allen's big arm. Though he cooled off in Baltimore's offense after Lamar Jackson took over, he still averaged 17.0 yards per reception in 2018 (tied for fourth with Kansas City Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill).

    The deal also looks good because it's a cheaper contract than the one the Jets gave Crowder. While Brown, 28, is three years older than Crowder, he was also healthier and more productive last year.

    Grade: B+

Bills to Sign Cole Beasley

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Adding Brown wasn't going to transform Buffalo's 31st-ranked passing attack all by itself. Therefore, it made plenty of sense to add slippery slot receiver Cole Beasley.

    Beasley, 29, is older than Brown, and he doesn't have the same downfield range. However, he can provide Allen with a reliable underneath target. Plus, his reported four-year, $29 million deal is a little more manageable than Brown's.

    According to Albert Breer of The MMQB, none of Beasley's contract is fully guaranteed after 2019. This is a low-risk, high-reward move for Buffalo.

    Grade: B+

Jets to Sign C.J. Mosley

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Jets ended up not being able to land Barr, but they did add a versatile and productive linebacker in former Baltimore Ravens standout C.J. Mosley. The 26-year-old defender racked up 105 tackles and an interception in 2018.

    The Jets, however, had to overpay with a five-year, $85 million deal.

    "They want him, as is reported," Connor Hughes of The Athletic wrote before the Jets agreed to terms with Mosley. "But [Mosley's] desire is to return to Ravens. I'm told he'll likely take less to stay there. If the Jets want him, they'll likely have to create a gap."

    The Jets apparently did create that gap, but they also broke the bank. New York gets a great inside linebacker but not a great value.

    Grade: D+

Za'Darius Smith to Packers

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The Green Bay Packers needed help in the pass-rushing department. They got it in the form of linebacker Za'Darius Smith. The former Ravens outside linebacker emerged as a legitimate edge defender in 2018, amassing 8.5 sacks.

    The caveat is that Smith has been inconsistent as a pass-rusher—he had just 4.5 sacks between 2016 and 2017. At worst, though, he's an above-average outside linebacker, and he does have a lot of upside as a potential sack artist.

    The Packers got a fair deal by signing the 26-year-old to a four-year, $66 million contract.

    Grade: B

Packers Add Preston Smith

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Like Za'Darius Smith, outside linebacker Preston Smith isn't a dedicated pass-rusher. However, he's been tasked with generating pressure for the Redskins over the past three seasons, and he hasn't missed a game in that span.

    Green Bay will likely ask Smith to rush the passer more, and he should be up to the task. Smith has 24.5 career sacks in four seasons.

    Assuming Smith is more of an edge-rusher with the Packers, his four-year, $52 million deal appears to be more than fair.

    Grade: B

Adrian Amos to Packers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Packers were clearly one of the more active teams Tuesday. In addition to bringing on the Smith linebackers, they added strong safety Adrian Amos.

    Amos is a tremendous box safety who will add physicality to the Packers defense and help improve Green Bay's run defense, which ranked 22nd last season (119.9 yards per game allowed). In addition, the Packers weaken the NFC North rival Chicago Bears by taking their strong safety.

    The Packers get all this for the bargain price of $36 million over four years, which is a far more team-friendly deal than the one Washington got for Landon Collins.

    Grade: A+

Browns Add Sheldon Richardson

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns haven't been as active in free agency as some might have expected following 2018's seven-win improvement. However, they did spend smartly by adding defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on a three-year, $39 million deal.

    After trading to acquire Olivier Vernon from the New York Giants, per's Jordan Raanan, Cleveland will have a front four consisting of Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, Richardson and Vernon—four high-end defenders under the age of 29.

    The Browns aren't getting a bargain with Richardson, but they've made a tremendous move in terms of roster construction.

    Grade: A

Tashaun Gipson Joins Texans

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The Houston Texans lost safety Tyrann Mathieu in free agency. They replaced him with former Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson. According to Albert Breer of The MMQB, Gipson's deal is worth roughly $22 million over three years.

    While Gipson isn't as big a name as Mathieu, he's still a heck of a free safety. He's had more interceptions over the past two years than Mathieu (by one), and he's almost as effective when he slides over to play the slot.

    At just 28 years old, Gipson should be a solid contributor over the life of his contract.

    Grade: A

Chargers Add Thomas Davis

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Linebacker Thomas Davis has been a mainstay of the Carolina Panthers defense for more than a decade. Now, he'll join the Los Angeles Chargers as a veteran presence.

    According to NFL Media's Tom Pelissero, Thomas will get a two-year, $10.5 million contract.

    Given Thomas' experience and the fact that he's still a highly productive linebacker—he had 79 tackles and six passes defended in 2018—he should be a decided upgrade in L.A.'s run defense. This is a solid low-risk move.

    Grade: B

Lions Add Jesse James

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    The Lions bolstered their receiving corps by adding Amendola on Monday. They did so again Tuesday with former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James. His deal is worth $25 million over four years, according to Rapoport.

    While James is a versatile tight end, he doesn't do any one thing well. He's a decent blocker, and he has good hands. But he isn't a dynamic receiver. He's averaged fewer than 10 yards per catch during his pro career, and he's averaged just 30 receptions per season.

    This signing is obviously about upside, but it feels like the Lions overpaid.

    Grade: C-

Texans Add Bradley Roby

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Texans helped replace Mathieu by adding Gipson. They bolstered their secondary further Tuesday by agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal with cornerback Bradley Roby. This is a prove-it situation for the 26-year-old.

    "It's a prove it deal," Roby said, per Mike Klis of 9News Denver. "I feel like I should go back in [the market] while I'm still young."

    Roby does have something to prove too. He was a quality nickel corner for the Denver Broncos, but his play dropped off after he took over as a starter in 2018. If he's a quality starter for the Texans, he'll get a big contract next offseason. If not, Houston paid above market value for a slot corner.

    Grade: C

Matt Paradis Joins Panthers

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Panthers added former Broncos center Matt Paradis in a move that came "out of nowhere," according to Rapoport. Per Rapoport, the contract is worth $27.03 million over three years. This is a fair deal for a starting-caliber center and one who comes in lower than what some might have expected.

    "Given that unrestricted free agency for players like Paradis is more of an auction than it is a negotiation, I project that Paradis will receive a significant multiyear windfall that will likely range from $10-$12 million per year and very well could make him the highest-paid center in football," Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post wrote.

    The Panthers get a solid player and a relative bargain.

    Grade: A

Titans Add Rodger Saffold

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Titans appear to be determined to build their offense around a big offensive line. They added former Los Angeles Rams guard Rodger Saffold on a four-year deal worth $44 million, according to Rapoport, and he'll be the fifth starting lineman weighing at least 300 pounds.

    He will help make a massive wall to both protect Mariota and create lanes for 247-pound running back Derrick Henry.

    Paying a 30-year-old Saffold $11 million per year may be a tad high, but kudos to the Titans for some smart roster-building.

    Grade: B

Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    It wouldn't make sense to grade every pending trade in a free-agency article, but this one is too big to pass up. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Giants are sending star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns in exchange for first- and third-round picks plus Jabrill Peppers.

    This is a rare win-win trade because of where each team is at.

    Giving up two high draft picks and a 2017 first-round pick is a steep price, but Beckham is a legitimate No. 1 wideout. If the Browns believe they can chase a title now, this trade makes sense because it gives young quarterback Baker Mayfield a receiving corps of Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, David Njoku and Antonio Callaway.

    This is also a good deal for a Giants team that is clearly in rebuild mode. Peppers can immediately take over Collins' starting safety spot, and the first- and third-round picks give the Giants ammunition to get their quarterback of the future.

    Grade for Browns: A

    Grade for Giants: A

RB Le'Veon Bell

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Former Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell remains probably the biggest name without a new team. That should change sooner rather than later. According to Rapoport, the Jets have made Bell "a best and final offer," though the Ravens are also in the mix.

    Bell's decision will likely come down to money, which isn't a surprise considering he sat out the entire 2018 season in search of more of it.

    According to ESPN's Dianna Russini (h/t Evan Silva of Rotoworld), "most GMs" believe Bell is being offered something in the $11-12 million range, which is less than he wants. This means a sleeper team could swoop in and steal Bell with a surprise offer.

    However, it feels like the Jets—who are still flush with cap space after losing out on Barr—have the best chance of financially wooing Bell.

    Prediction: Jets sign Bell to four-year deal.

LB Justin Houston

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston remains the top pass-rusher available on the open market—and it's more than a little surprising. Yes, Houston is 30 years old, but he had 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons and is still capable of getting after the quarterback.

    Houston is starting to look like a value pick who will be signed after the first wave of free agency. The New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Colts would make sense as potential contenders. The Browns are also a team to watch, considering former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey is now in charge.

    Even though Houston will probably end up being a bargain, the highest bidder will likely land him.

    Considering the Colts have the most cap space in the NFL, adding Houston could be one of the few splash moves they actually make this offseason.

    Prediction: Colts sign Houston to a three-year deal.

S Earl Thomas

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Former Seahawks safety Earl Thomas finds himself in a tricky spot. He's looking for a deal worth at least $14 million per year, according to NFL Network's Jane Slater, but with multiple teams already filling their safety needs, that could be difficult to get.

    According to Kevin Turner of The Athletic and 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, the Dallas Cowboys are "the only team in on [Thomas]." 

    While it's likely that other teams would be interested in Thomas at the right price, it is starting to feel like the Cowboys might be able to snag the soon-to-be 30-year-old on a short-term deal. Dallas isn't going to outbid a team like, say, the 49ers, but it does have the cap space ($26 million) to make Thomas a reasonable offer.

    If the Cowboys don't have to engage in a bidding war, they just might get a deal done.

    Prediction: Cowboys sign Thomas to a two-year deal.


    *All contract and cap information via Spotrac unless otherwise specified.


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