The NFL’s free agency negotiation period opened on March 13 at 12 pm EST. Teams have been able to place the Franchise Tag or try to extend their own free agents for the last couple of days. Now other teams will have the opportunity to talk to their free agents.
Signing free agents will allow growing rosters to fill the major needs without using their draft capital at that position. It also allows contending teams to remain in the playoff picture by ensuring their roster is talented enough to compete.
More than any other event, Free Agency shapes the complexion of the league and how the team will be progressing their roster going forward toward the NFL Draft and the start of the regular season. Some teams make great value signings and others overpay for a popular commodity.
Here are the grades for the signings made during the first day of the 2023 NFL Free Agency Period:
New England Patriots traded Jonnu Smith to the Atlanta Falcons for a 2023 seventh-round pick
The NFL’s tampering period started off with an unexpected trade. The New England Patriots traded tight end Jonnu Smith to the Atlanta Falcons. A few offseasons ago the New England Patriots signed Smith to a deal that made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in NFL history. Smith only recorded 539 receiving yards in 30 games in New England. The Patriots now take on $12.8 million in dead cap this year by trading Smith away.
In Atlanta, Smith reunited with his former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith who maximized his production during his final two seasons in Tennessee. The Falcons already have a tight end with a similar skill set to Smith in Kyle Pitts. But for the price of a seventh-round pick it was worth it for Atlanta to get a second tight end with the potential to be a dynamic playmaker back in an offense where he is familiar. The Falcons need more talented pass catchers to give their starting quarterback an opportunity to succeed.
New England Patriots Grade: C
Atlanta Falcons Grade: C+
Chris Lindstrom signs a five-year extension with the Atlanta Falcons worth $105 million
There weren’t many players on the Atlanta Falcons roster last season that played at a very high level. However right guard Chris Lindstrom was arguably the best interior offensive lineman in the league this past season, In a breakout campaign, Lindstrom was named to his first Pro Bowl and was named Second Team All-Pro. The Falcons made sure one of their best players stayed in-house and didn’t have an opportunity to consider becoming a free agent next season.
New England Patriots re-sign Jonathan Jones two a two-year $20 million deal
Jonathan Jones has been one of the most consistent pieces of the New England Patriots’ defense over the past few seasons. Since being signed as an undrafted free agent, Jones has developed into a versatile cornerback that could comfortably lineup on both the inside and outside. The Patriots keep their best cornerback in-house for a great deal. This ensures that they don’t have to address the position early in the 2023 NFL Draft and that the Patriots could address other needs on their roster.
Denver Broncos sign Ben Powers to a two-year $27 million deal with a two-year team option (four-year $52 million deal)
Outside of fifth-year options on first-round rookie contracts it is unorthodox for an NFL team to put a team option on a contract. However, the Denver Broncos signed Ben Powers to a two-year contract that could become a four-year contract if the team opts into it. Powers is coming off of a breakout season with the Baltimore Ravens. In a contract season Powers proved that he wasn’t just a quality starter but that he could be one of the better players on a team’s offensive line. The Broncos are protecting themselves by signing Powers to this kind of contract since he is coming off a year where he played much better than his previous three. If this signing pans out Denver landed a Pro Bowl-caliber guard to help solidify their offensive line.
David Onyemata signs a three-year $35 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons made a major upgrade on their defensive line by adding David Onyemata. Adding the former New Orleans Saints defensive tackle doesn’t only help Atlanta but it hurts a division rival. The Falcons have been in desperate need of pass-rush help for a number of years now. They signed one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league at a premium value. This signing very quickly puts Atlanta in the conversation for having the best interior defensive line in the league with Onyemata and Grady Jarrett. That duo should make it easier for second-year players Arnold Ebiketie and Deangelo Malone to rush the passer off the edge next season.
San Francisco 49ers sign Javon Hargrave to a four years $84 million deal
The most unexpected signing of the day has to be the San Francisco 49ers signing Javon Hargrave to a deal at market value. San Francisco has a ton of talented players on huge contracts and wasn’t expected to make any major moves in free agency because of it. Instead San Francisco found a way to land one of the best free agents on the market to a massive contract. The 49ers are going all in for next year by making this signing. There is little doubt that San Francisco has the best defensive line in football with Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and now Javon Hargrave starting for them. It feels unfair for the 49ers to have that much talent on their defensive line.
Denver Broncos sign Mike McGlinchey to a five-year $87.5 million deal
Denver continued to improve their offensive line by signing Mike McGlinchey to a huge deal. The Broncos have been trying to pull up their need at right tackle for way too long. The Broncos now have added one of the best run-blocking offensive tackles to their offensive line. Very quickly Denver has given Russell Wilson an extremely talented offensive line to protect him. The hope is that an improved offensive line could help this star-studded offense play up to their potential next season.
Detroit Lions sign Cam Sutton to a three-year $33 million deal
The Detroit Lions came into this offseason with a huge need at cornerback. Once again they had one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Speculation around the league was that the Lions would make a big splash move to upgrade their secondary. Signing former Steelers cornerback Cameron Sutton feels slightly anti-climactic. Detroit could have Pro Bowl-caliber players like James Bradberry, Byron Murphy, or Marcus Peters. They could have traded one of their second-round picks to acquire Jalen Ramsey who was moved for only a third-round pick and backup tight end on Sunday. Instead, they land a talented cornerback in Sutton that however primarily plays in the nickel.
The only way to rationalize this move is if the Lions now are honing in on taking a cornerback like Christian Gonzalez or Devon Witherspoon with the sixth overall pick. This team should have made a huge move at cornerback because it would have opened up their options at six to other players like Jalen Carter or Will Anderson that could fall to that point in the draft.
Jimmy Garoppolo signs a three-year $67.5 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders
The first major domino of the offseason has fallen. The first quarterback to change teams this offseason is former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. After spending the last six seasons in San Francisco Garoppolo reunites with his former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas. At first it’s puzzling that Las Vegas would move on from Derek Carr to a quarterback like Garoppolo that is similar in talent. But they are getting Garoppolo for a fraction of the price.
The biggest question with this signing is whether Raiders view Garoppolo as a long-term starter or as a bridge. A three-year deal would suggest that they are committed to Garoppolo. There is still the possibility that Las Vegas takes one of the more raw quarterback prospects in the draft like Anthony Richardson to sit behind Garoppolo for 2-3 years. That timeline is realistic considering Garoppolo has proven to be a legitimate proven quarterback in this league.
Regardless on the duration of Garoppolo’s tenure in Las Vegas, he finds himself in a great situation. Garoppolo will be playing in the offensive system he played in during the first four seasons of his career playing alongside Pro Bowlers Davante Adams, Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow.
Kansas City Chiefs sign Jawaan Taylor to a four-year $80 million deal
Kansas City made the shocking move to not franchise tag Orlando Brown Jr. for the second season in a row and let him hit unrestricted free agency. This left a gaping hole for them at left tackle. After rumors began to swirl that the Chiefs were interested in acquiring Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil, the Chiefs shocked the world again by giving former Jaguars tackle Jawaan Taylor a huge deal. Taylor is expected to fill the Chiefs’ hole at left tackle.
This move was a puzzling one by the Chiefs because Taylor played right tackle for all four seasons he played with the Jaguars. Coming out of Florida many expected Taylor to play right tackle in the league. This is the second time in a row the Chiefs have attempted to convert a right tackle to the left side. At least Brown Jr. was a multiple-time Pro Bowl tackle prior to attempting to transition to left tackle. Taylor has been an average tackle during his four years in Jacksonville.
It is a difficult transition for a tackle to switch from the right side to the left side. Kansas City has made Taylor one of the highest-paid left tackles in the league despite never taking an NFL snap at the position. This signing was puzzling, to say the least especially when they could have kept Brown Jr. in house for slightly more. It could be argued that they could have signed Taylor a lot less to fill their need on the right side.
Chicago Bears sign Tremaine Edmunds to a four-year $72 million deal
Anyone who knows Matt Eberflus knows he loves his linebackers. Prior to landing the Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator job in 2018 he was the linebackers coach for the Dallas Cowboys. He had a major role in developing players like Sean Lee and Shaquille Leonard into All-Pro caliber players. After trading away Roquon Smith the Bears opened up a need at linebacker that needed to be addressed more than having breakout undrafted free agent Jack Sanborn. On the first day of the legal tampering period the Bears signed tackle machine T.J. Edwards and multiple-time Pro Bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
Dating back to when Edmunds was coming out of the NFL draft scouts loved him because he was extremely talented and a very young player. At the age of 24 Edmunds has been to two Pro Bowls and is entering his sixth NFL season. Chicago is landing a linebacker who will still be in his prime at the end of this four-year deal. It usually isn’t likely that players could produce at a high level once they reach their second contract. Edmunds has an opportunity to do so on his third.
It is clear here with this signing that Edmunds is expected to be the centerpiece of this defense. Ebeflus’ extensive work with linebackers had to have been a selling point for Edmunds. He has an opportunity to join the ranks of Dick Butkis, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher who each had Hall of Fame careers playing middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Edmunds has a long way till he’s in the Hall of Fame. However, he is an extremely talented player that could still develop into an All-Pro caliber linebacker.
Jessie Bates signs a four-year $64 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons
Even though the Atlanta Falcons did not tamper with Jessie Bates prior to the period when they were able to negotiate with him, this signing was a predictive one for a reason. A few weeks ago a video was released of Bates going out with Atlanta Falcons players A.J. Terrell, Casey Hayward, and Kyle Pitts. Bates’s agent was also present at this outing as well. It is unlikely that players hanging out is considered tampering. But Bates likely left that outing wanting to play for the Falcons.
This signing by Atlanta is another huge addition to their defense that needs help. Bates joins a defensive backfield with former second-round pick Richie Grant and a secondary with A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward. Bates played like a Pro Bowl-caliber player. during his time in Cincinnati and is a massive addition to a defense void of star talent.
Patrick Peterson signs a two-year $14 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers
Ironically enough there was speculation in the moments before the opening of the legal tampering period that Patrick Peterson wanted to join the Cincinnati Bengals. Instead, he lands with their division rival the Pittsburgh Steelers. The potential Hall of Famer had an outstanding season in a contract year, but was not retained by the Minnesota Vikings. Pittsburgh has just landed the cornerback that will be responsible for covering Ja’Marr Chase, Amari Cooper, and Rashod Bateman. Despite his age, Peterson is still capable of covering some of the best receivers in the league on a weekly basis. The Steelers still may want to invest in their secondary during the 2023 NFL Draft because they have one of the oldest cornerback rooms in the league.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-sign Jamel Dean to a four-year $52 million deal
Going into the offseason there was a feeling around the league that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would not be able to retain cornerback Jamel Dean because of their salary cap issues. After cutting a few veteran starters and restructuring a few contracts they managed to hold onto one of the best young cornerbacks in the league. The Buccaneers have a lot of questions going forward on the offensive side of the ball, but after retaining Dean they know they won’t have to replace one of their starting cornerbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Bobby Okereke signs a four-year $40 million deal with the New York Giants
An area that has plagued the New York Giants for seemingly over a decade is the linebacker position. Outside of Blake Martinez, it is hard for the casual NFL fan to recall who has started at linebacker for the New York Giants in recent years. They decided to address that major need by bringing in one of the hot ticket free agents Bobby Okereke. This past season Okereke removed himself from Shaquille Leonard’s shadow because of the injury issues Leonard dealt with all season. Okereke is a tackling machine with the ability to cover players in the middle of the field. Now under the tutelage of Wink Martindale Okereke has the opportunity to continue his growth as a player as a potential Pro Bowler for the Giants’ defense.
Los Angeles Chargers sign Eric Kendricks
The terms for Eric Kendricks’s contract has not been released yet. But he announced on Instagram that he would be signing for the Los Angeles Chargers next season. Kendricks is returning to Los Angeles where he went to college and had a decorated college career. He is also joining a star-studded defense with the likes of Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Derwin James, and Asante Samuel Jr. Los Angeles had a major need at linebacker this offseason. Drue Tranquill has hit the market as a free agent and 2020 first-round pick Kenneth Murray has struggled to play consistently over his first three seasons in the league. This is a great fit for Kendricks to return home and join a star-studded defense that could use his services.
Denver Broncos sign Zach Allen to a three-year $45.75 million deal
This signing makes too much sense when it’s all broken down. The Denver Broncos had a huge need in the interior of their defensive line with Dre’Mont Jones hitting the market. Former Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Zach Allen had a breakout season last year under now-Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Allen’s body type limits how many defensive schemes he could pay in. So it made sense for Allen to sign with a team that has a coach in the building that knows how to implement Allen on their defensive front to see the best results. Denver replaced one of their best defensive linemen with a talented player who can replicate the sack production that Jones had for them.
Minnesota Vikings sign Marcus Davenport to a one-year $13 million deal
Marcus Davenport did not have the free agency that many expected him to have. Many thought that the former first-round pick would have a lucrative market that would have landed him a long-term deal. Instead, he signs a one-year prove-it deal with the Vikings. His lack of sack production last season has to be a major reason why he landed only a one-year deal.
This signing by Minnesota likely means they will move on from one of their pass rushers Danielle Hunter or Za’Darius Smith. It was reported a few days ago that Smith had requested his release. But the team was unwilling to grant his request. Now that free agency has started it appears that the Vikings want to avoid a conflict with Smith and is now willing to grant him his request since they found his replacement. Expect Smith to be moved for a Day 3 selection or released within the next few days.
Seattle Seahawks sign Dre’Mont Jones to a three-year $51 million deal
Last season the Seattle Seahawks made a remarkable playoff run headlined by outstanding production from Geno Smith and a remarkable rookie class. They are looking to build upon the talented team they had a season ago and did so by making one of the larger splash signings of the offseason. Seattle brought in one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league in Dre’Mont Jones. He wasn’t talked about by the national media because he had played for some mediocre Broncos teams. But Jones had put up 22 sacks in four seasons. Seattle hopes that he could be a piece that helps put this young defense over the top to be amongst the best in the league.
Dalvin Tomlinson signs a four-year $57 million deal with the Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns have tried to discretely address their need of the interior of the defensive line over the past three seasons. Players like Jordan Elliott, Tommy Togiai, and Perrion Winfrey haven’t able to emerge as above-average interior defensive linemen. So Cleveland decided to address the position by signing one of the better players on the market at the position. Dalvin Tomlinson is a run-stuffer that could rack up between 2-4 sacks a season. He may not be a Pro Bowler but this is exactly the type of player Cleveland has been lacking at the defensive tackle position over the past few years.
Other transactions signings from that day
Cleveland Browns re-sign Sione Takitaki to a one-year deal: B
Raekwon McMillian re-signs a one year $2.2 million with the New England Patriots: B+
Atlanta Falcons re-sign Keith Smith to a one-year deal: B
Chicago Bears sign T.J. Edwards to a three-year $19.5 million deal: B+
Jason Kelce re-signs with the Philadelphia Eagles on a one-year deal: A
Green Bay Packers re-sign Keisean Nixon to a one-year $6 million deal: A-
Andrew Becks signs a two-year $6.75 million deal with the Houston Texans: B
Denver Broncos sign Jarrett Stidham to a two-year $10 million deal: B+
Washington Commanders re-signs Danny Johnson to a two-year $7 million deal: B
New England Patriots re-sign Carl Davis to a one-year deal: B
Washington Commanders sign Nick Gates to a three-year $16.5 million deal: B-
Atlanta Falcons re-sign Bradley Pinion to a three-year $8.65 million deal: A-
Shy Tuttle signs a three-year $19.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers: A-
Washington Commanders sign Andrew Wylie to a three-year $24 million deal: B-
Connor McGovern signs a three-year $23 million deal with the Buffalo Bills: C
Miami Dolphins sign Mike White to a two-year $16 million deal: B+
Chase Winovich signs a one-year $2 million deal with the Houston Texans: B
Case Keenum signs a two-year $6.25 million deal with the Houston Texans: B-
Cincinnati Bengals re-sign Germaine Pratt to a three-year $21 million deal: B
Minnesota Vikings sign Josh Oliver to a three-year $21 million deal: C+
Vonn Bell signs a three-year $22.5 million deal with the Carolina Panthers: A
Ethan Pocic signs a three-year $18 million deal to stay with the Cleveland Browns: A
Houston Texans sign Hassan Ridgeway to a one-year $4 million deal: A-
Chicago Bears sign Nate Davis to a three-year $30 million deal: C
Detroit Lions sign Alex Anzalone to a three-year $18.75 million deal: C+
Rakeem Nunez-Roches signs with the New York Giants: B-
Cleveland Browns sign Ogbo Okoronkwo to a three-year $19 million deal: B
Washington Commanders claim Cameron Dantzler: B+
San Francisco 49ers sign Sam Darnold to a one-year deal: A-
Cody Barton signs a one-year deal with the Washington Commanders: B
Tennesse Titans sign Andre Dillard to a three-year $29 million deal: B-
New York Giants resign Matt Breida to a one-year $2.3 million deal: B
Las Vegas Raiders sign Marcus Epps to a two-year $12 million deal: B
Denver Broncos sign Chris Manhertz to a two-year $6 million deal: B+
David Long signs a two-year $11 million deal with the Miami Dolphins: A
Denver Broncos re-sign Alex Singleton to a three-year $18 million deal: B
New York Jets re-sign Greg Zuerlein to a one-year $3.5 million deal: B
Carolina Panthers re-sign Bradley Bozeman to a three-year $18 million deal: B+
Miami Dolphins re-sign Duke Riley to a two-year deal: B
Kelvin Beachum re-signs with the Arizona Cardinals on a two-year $5.1 million deal: C+
Jameis Winston re-signs with the New Orleans Saints on a one-year $8 million deal: C
Houston Texans sign Jimmie Ward: A
Atlanta Falcons sign Kaden Elliss to a three-year $21.5 million deal: B-
Chicago Bears sign DeMarcus Walker to a three year $21 million deal: C+
Indianapolis Colts re-sign E.J. Speed to a two year $9 million deal: B
Kansas City Chiefs re-sign Tershawn Wharton to a one year $2 million deal: B
Indianapolis Colts sign Matt Gay to a four-year $22.5 million deal: B-