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NFL Free Agency: Reactions and Grades from Tampering Period Day Two

William Jackson III

The NFL offseason has just started and already it has not disappointed! Even though teams could not officially sign free agents on March 15th, they could agree to contracts with free agents that would be signed later this week. NFL Free agency officially started March 17th at 4 pm EST. At that time free agents could officially sign with teams and prior trades can be made official.

Now that some time has passed since these signings have happened it the right time to evaluate and react to them. Some of the biggest factors to consider when reacting and grading a free agent signing are the player-team fit, whether that player fills a need for the team, and how large of a contract that team offers that player. All of those factors were considered when grading the free-agent signings listed below. Here are the grades of the signings from the second day of the NFL’s legal tampering period.

[Signings made prior to 12:00 am EST on March 17th be mentioned below]

Blockbuster Signings

Denver Broncos pick up Von Millers $18 million option

The Denver Broncos finally made their decision on Von Miller on the day of the deadline for the $7 million guaranteed on his contract for 2021. They decided to keep the former Super Bowl MVP. Denver’s defense missed Miller’s presence last season. After missing the entire year to a peroneal tendon tear in his ankle, it would be unjust for Miller and the Broncos to part this way. This year appears to be ‘make it or break it’ for Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, so having Miller in house will help him get the Broncs potentially get to the playoffs in 2021-22. Despite being 31 years old Miller is still one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL and is extremely valuable to Denver. Keeping Miller around was the right choice.

Grade: A

Hunter Henry joins the New England Patriots for 3 years $37.5 million

Hunter Henry

Hunter Henry becomes the second Pro Bowl-caliber tight end in 48 hours to sign with the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/David Becker)

One day after giving Jonnu Smith the most guaranteed money ever for a tight end, the Patriots gave Hunter Henry the second most guaranteed money ever for a tight end. Henry is averaging the same amount of salary a year as Smith, but only signed a three-year deal instead of a four years deal. Now the Patriots have an elite combination of tight ends much like what they had between 2010-12 with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. During that time the Patriots offense was thriving with Gronkowski and Hernandez as two of their major threats on offense. Henry, Smith, and Nelson Agholor should lead the Patriots in receptions and receiving yards next season. On top of his playmaking ability in the red zone, Henry is almost a great blocker. There is a chance Henry has a career year in New England now that he is the featured pass-catcher of an offense unlike how he was with the Chargers.

Grade: A-

Tyus Bowser returns to the Baltimore Ravens for 4 years $22 million

During the first day of the free agency tampering period both of Baltimore’s premier edge rushers, Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue signed with new teams. But Baltimore managed to retain one of their rotational pass rushers. The Ravens drafted Bowser to potentially become a starter for them but has been primarily a rotational player for them on defense. His career-high in sacks came in 2019 when he had 5.0 on the season.  At least Baltimore will have an edge rusher return that knows the system. Bowser could be a starter for Baltimore next season. If that is the case this contract seems like a steal. But until Bowser shows that he is more than a rotational pass rusher Baltimore still has a need for two starting edge rushers.

Grade: B

The Jacksonville Jaguars sign Shaquill Griffin for 3 years $44.5 million

Shortly before the Jacksonville Jaguars signed Shaquill Griffin reports had serviced that Seattle appeared to be resigning him. Jacksonville stealing Griffin from the Seahawks is huge for their defense. Despite how poor Seattle’s pass defense was last season Griffin has been a bright spot for the Seahawks defense over the last couple of seasons. If Jacksonville can generate a consistent pass rush the combination of Griffin and 2020 first-round pick C.J. Henderson can develop into one of the best cornerback tandems in the league. The former Pro Bowler is exactly the type of veteran that Jacksonville needs right now to develop into a contender.

Grade: A-

The New York Giants sign Leonard Williams to an extension for 3 years $63 million

Leonard Williams playing for the Giants next season isn’t breaking news. The Giants franchise tagged him a week ago. However, the team got a long-term extension done with Williams. Since joining the Giants Williams has looked like the player many thought he would be when the Jets drafted him out of USC. Especially after losing Dalvin Tomlinson the night before it was very important for the Giants to try and keep their defensive line intact. Williams was one of the most important pieces of the Giants teams last season and appears to be that way going forward.

Grade: B+

Andy Dalton becomes the new starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears

Andy Dalton
After how he played last year in Dallas Andy Dalton proved to the Chicago Bears that he is capable of being a starting quarterback. (Courtesy of AP Photo/ Ron Jenkins).

The Chicago Bears have been attempting to trade for Russell Wilson for a couple of weeks now and it appears they have given up. By signing Andy Dalton to a 1 year $10 million deal they are essentially naming Dalton the starter next year. Shortly after being signed Dalton released a statement saying that Chicago said he would be the starter. Overall this signing may be disappointing considering the elite quarterback options Chicago has been linked to, but Dalton is not a scrub. In nine starts Dalton threw for 2,170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Having a defense like Chicago’s to back him up he should put up a better win-loss ratio than the 4:5 he posted last season. Production from their skill players Allen Robinson and David Montgomery shouldn’t change. With Dalton under center, Chicago could sneak into the playoffs again in 2021-22.

Grade: B+

Tyrod Taylor signs with the Houston Texans for 1 year $12.5 million

If there is one takeaway from this signing it is that the league has a lot of respect for journeyman Tyrod Taylor and still looks at him as a (bridge) starting quarterback. Many have speculated on what Houston would do this offseason at quarterback with Deshaun Watson basically refusing to play for the Texans (also all of his offseason issues that have come up recently). Taylor is a safe option because besides the fact that he is a possible starter he is capable of being a high-end backup. Taylors deal is actually worth $5.5 million but has incentives of up to $12.5 million. So Houston doesn’t have to pay Taylor high-end money unless he performs and likely starts for them. However the way it seems Taylor may be the 16 game starter for the Texans next season.

Grade: B

Marvin Jones Jr. joins the Jacksonville Jaguars for 2 years $14.5 million

Before the offseason, Marvin Jones Jr. told the media that he was willing to sign with a contender for a pay cut or a discount. But Jones decided to sign with the team with the first overall pick the Jacksonville Jaguars. After the Jaguars (likely) draft Trevor Lawerence they are not expected to be picking near the top of the draft anytime soon. But Jacksonville is not the “contender” many had in mind when Jones said he was to sign with one in free agency. Much like the New York Jets after signing Corey Davis it seems that there isn’t a true number one receiver in Jacksonville between Jones, D.J. Chark, and 2020 second-round pick Laviska Shenault Jr. Jones is a nice veteran player for the Jaguars locker room, but at age 31 he doesn’t seem like a great fit with the teams long term plans.

Grade: B-

Emmanuel Sanders joins the Buffalo Bills receiving core

Emmanuel Sanders
The Buffalo Bills signed a fantastic veteran receiver in Emmanuel Sanders. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills didn’t have a huge void at wide receiver when they cut John Brown. 2020 Fourth-round pick Gabriel Davis had 35 catches for 599 yards and seven touchdowns last season. But adding Emmanuel Sanders to a receiver group with Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley is exactly what the Bills needed. Sanders is a Super Bowl champion and 2x Pro Bowler. Having played in three Super Bowls Sanders also has the veteran playoff experience that Buffalo lacked last season. Getting Sanders on a cheap 1 year $6 million deal is fantastic as well. Despite likely being the Bills’ third option in the passing game a veteran like Sanders could push Buffalo over the hump and into the Super Bowl next season.

Grade: A

The Washington Football Team sign William Jackson III for 3 years $42 million

When Ronald Darby did not resign with the Washington Football Team and instead joined the Denver Broncos, Washington felt like they were robbed. After one day of figuring out their future plans at cornerback Washington signed one of the best free agents on the market at the position William Jackson III. Instead of scrambling for a replacement, Washington got a major upgrade in Jackson. He is the type of player that would be a multiple-time Pro Bowler if he did not play in Cincinnati. Washington head coach Ron Rivera has turned multiple cornerbacks into stars in the past recently including Josh Norman and last season Ronald Darby had a career year in Washington. It would not be shocking at all if Jackson had a breakout season in Washington and made the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Grade: A


Other Transactions From that Day

Rashod Hill resigns with the Minnesota Vikings for 1 year $2.3775: B
Sidney Jones resigns with the Jacksonville Jaguars: A-
Chidobe Awuzie joins the Cincinnati Bengals for 3 years $21.7 million: B-
Chris Manertz signs with the Jacksonville Jaguars for 2 years $7.25 million: B
Taco Charlton returns to the Kansas City Chiefs on a 1-year deal: B
Jihad Ward signs with the Jacksonville Jaguars for 1 year $2.5 million: B
C.J. Goodwin returns to the Dallas Cowboys for 2 years $3.5 million: B
Derek Rivers signs with the Houston Texans for 1 year $1.3 million: B
Tyson Alualu signs with the Jacksonville Jaguars for 2 years $6 million: A
Mike Hilton joins the Cincinnati Bengals for 4 years $24 million: A
Takk McKinnley signs with the Cleveland Browns for 1 year $4.25 million: B+
Ty Nsekhe signs with the Dallas Cowboys for 1 year $1.75 million: B
John Ross signs with the New York Giants for 1 year $2 million: A-
New Orleans Saints trade Malcolm Brown (defensive tackle) to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Saints: B, Jaguars: B+
Jacoby Brissett signs a 1 year $1.5 million deal with the Miami Dolphins: B-
Janoris Jenkins signs with the Tennesee Titans: B-
Alex Armah signs with the New Orleans Saints: B
Malcolm Brown (running back) joins the Miami Dolphins for 1 year $1.75 million: B
Derek Wolfe resigns a 3 year $12 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens: A-
Kelvin Beachem resigns with the Arizona Cardinals for 2 years $4 million: B+
Justin Hardee signs with the New York Jets for 3 years $5.25 million: B
Ahkello Witherspoon signs with the Seattle Seahawks for 1 year $4 million: B
Terrance Mitchell signs with the Houston Texans for 2 years $7.5 million: B
Germain Ifedi resigns a 1 year $5 million deal with the Chicago Bears: B+
Poona Ford resigns a 2 year $14 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks: A-
Buffalo Bills trade Lee Smith to the Atlanta Falcons for a late 2022 draft pick. Bills: B, Falcons: B
Nicholas Morrow resigns with the Las Vegas Raiders for 1 year $5 million: A
Jamaal Williams signs a 2 year $7.5 million deal with the Detriot Lions: B-

Other 2021 Offseason Grades and Reactions

Day One of the Tampering Period (March 15th)

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