Monday was the first day of NFL free agency. While contracts cannot be signed and made official yet, players’ agents were legally able to start negotiating with the management of teams other than the player’s most recent organization. Teams made some big moves almost immediately and these signings continued throughout the day. While understanding that because these moves aren’t official until Wednesday, a change of heart could nullify an agreement, here are how the grades currently look for Monday’s biggest NFL moves:
Landon Collins to Redskins
Monday started with an extremely talented and deep safety market. The first domino to fall was Landon Collins, who now gets to play twice a year against his former team, the New York Giants. He signed a six-year deal worth a whopping $84 million with the Washington Redskins, with $45 million in guaranteed money. This makes Collins the highest paid safety in the NFL (for now) at $14 million per year. It also raises the bar for other safeties on the market, such as Earl Thomas.
Collins is a good fit for Washington because his best skill is playing down low in the box and is a great tackler. He is not great in coverage but can also do that if required. The two-time Pro-Bowler also has many years ahead of him, at only 25 years old. However, he is coming off a torn labrum from last season which he needed surgery for and is still recovering from. In addition, the money will be worth it if he plays at the level he did in 2016, when he was first-team All-Pro. He has been great the last two seasons, but not the best safety in the league great.
Trent Brown and Lamarcus Joyner to Raiders
The Oakland Raiders traded Pro-Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele, who was coming off a down season, on Sunday to clear cap space. One day later, they turned around and signed former Patriot left tackle Trent Brown to the largest offensive-line contract in NFL history. Brown will reportedly be earning $66 million over four years, with $36.75 million in fully guaranteed dollars. This is a great move for Oakland to lock up the left tackle for years to come. Brown was very reliable on the Patriots and paying a bit of extra dough for stability on the blind side is worth it. The move also means that the Raiders will probably release 35-year-old left tackle Donald Penn. Penn missed 12 games last season and the move would save about five million dollars in cap space.
After Oakland signed Trent Brown, reports came out that the organization was running low on cash flow. Apparently, even though they have cap space, they don’t have the money to sign any more free agents. However, later Monday night, the Raiders had apparently agreed to terms with former Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner is a solid, versatile safety coming off a down year. The deal is apparently for four years, but monetary terms have not been disclosed.
Grade (Brown): A
Grade (Joyner): TBD based on contract
Trey Flowers to Lions
Trey Flowers was a terrific, underrated defensive lineman on the Patriots. Not only can he rush the passer, but he can also clog up rushing lanes. He can play anywhere on the defensive line, with over 170 snaps inside and over 500 snaps outside last season. In addition, while there is always hesitation when it comes to players Bill Belichick lets go of, this is a different situation. Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia coached Flowers for three years in New England and knows how to play him. This is a fantastic move for the Lions.
Nick Foles to Jaguars
Wow. Once Nick Foles’ market turned out to be the Jaguars and not much else, expectations were not very high for his eventual contract. But somehow, some way, Foles got four years and $88 million from Jacksonville with just over $50 million in guaranteed money. The contract can even go all the way up to $102 million, seemingly based on incentives. Foles is a Super Bowl MVP with years ahead of him at the age of 30. At his peak, he is an extremely productive player. This is a lot of money to give to a player who has been inconsistent throughout his career. Yet, behind a great defense, the Jaguars were in the AFC Championship Game two years ago with one weakness: quarterback. Now, they have the quarterback who won the Super Bowl that year.
Malik Jackson and DeSean Jackson to Eagles
Signing Malik Jackson to a three-year $30 million deal was fair value. The Eagles previously released defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, who was great when healthy but frequently injured. Now, they get a guy in the 29-year old Jackson who has had some great production in the league. He is a nice pass rusher who had eight sacks in his Pro Bowl season two years ago. That is a great number for any interior lineman not named Aaron Donald. In addition, he should have more freedom to get into the backfield with Fletcher Cox next to him. Further, as may be expected of a lineman nicknamed, “Pot Roast,” he is a reliable run stuffer.
Signing Malik Jackson and restructuring left tackle Jason Peters’ contract were commendable moves. But the acquisition that really got Eagles fans fired up was trading for Buccaneers receiver DeSean Jackson. They traded a sixth-round pick for Jackson and a first, essentially just moving down a round in the draft. Philadelphia will be paying him $27 million over three seasons.
“DJax’s” best years came in Philadelphia, where he was drafted, when he made three Pro Bowls in six seasons. Now he is back and gives the Eagles the deep threat they sorely need. Now Philadelphia’s receiving weapons are Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz and the promising Dallas Goedert. Adding a running back like Tevin Coleman is still a priority but this is a huge addition.
Grade (Malik Jackson): A-
Grade (DeSean Jackson): A
Tyrann Mathieu to Chiefs
Landon Collins’ contract with the Redskins has already had an effect on the safety market. Later on Monday, the Kansas City Chiefs signed Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year deal worth $42 million. This averages out to $14 million per year, tying Collins for the highest safety salary in the league. It is a great deal for the “Honey Badger,” as Mathieu originally turned down a deal from the Texans averaging $10 million per year. In addition, this gives Kansas City the best safety combo in the NFL. Not only is Eric Berry, if he can stay healthy, also one of the best safeties in football, but Mathieu and Berry complement each other. Berry plays in the box sometimes or jumps routes and Mathieu has the range cover for that. Maybe more importantly, if Berry can’t stay healthy, the Chiefs now have a play-making, rangy safety to make up for his absence.
Kwon Alexander to 49ers
The former Buccaneers linebacker is coming off an ACL injury, which makes this four-year, $54 million deal a risk. If that is the correct valuation, Alexander will become the highest paid inside linebacker in football, at over $13 million per year. But he is only 24 years old and has a 2017 Pro Bowl appearance in his back pocket. The season before that, in 2016, Alexander had a league-leading 108 solo tackles. He has a nose for the football and flies around the field to the ball carrier. If Alexander can stay healthy, he will be a tremendous addition to this young, talented defensive roster.
Ja’Wuan James and Kareem Jackson to Broncos
The Broncos have had consistently bad offensive lines since Peyton Manning left town. Adding Ja’Wuan James to be their right tackle is a step in the right direction. While making him the highest paid right tackle in football at $51 million over four years with $32 million guaranteed may be overpaying, they needed to do whatever they could to sign a good, young lineman. James was a top 10 right tackle last season according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and a top 15 run blocking tackle overall.
Adding Kareem Jackson is also a good move. He had a good season in 2018 and probably should have made the Pro Bowl. Jackson was ranked the number 14 cornerback by PFF last season. He also has the ability to play safety, which he did for the Texans when called upon. After moving Bradley Roby outside didn’t work out last year, adding Kareem Jackson across from Chris Harris Jr. will revitalize the secondary.
Grade (James): B-
Grade (Jackson): A-
Devin Funchess to Colts
Normally a signing of a just above-average receiver doesn’t go down as a key move. When the team gives him up to $13 million for one season, though, it is news. A common first instinct when seeing this trade would be, “what are the Colts thinking?.” But the contract most likely includes significant incentives that would give Funchess $13 million if he hits them. In addition, the Colts do have cap space and Funchess is a nice big-bodied receiver to have across the speedy TY Hilton. This isn’t necessarily a bad move to make.
Featured image by USA Today
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