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 second day of the 2023 NFL Free Agency Period:
Atlanta Falcons sign Taylor Heinicke to a two-year $20 million deal
As expected the Atlanta Falcons made a move at quarterback. However, they did not make a blockbuster deal landing someone like Lamar Jackson. Instead, they signed former Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke.Atlanta’s safe approach to the quarterback position this offseason is risky for Arthur Smith entering year three with the Falcons because of their lack of offensive success.
This signing shows how much faith they have in Desmond Ridder or that they do not like quarterbacks that are a part of the 2023 draft class. Heinicke’s role is to serve as a proven veteran that will compete with Ridder in camp. He could push him to be better or win the starting job. Heinicke is a serviceable quarterback that could be a trusted bridge until the Falcons figure out what they’re doing at quarterback. The best-case scenario is if Ridder shows improvement from last season and Heinicke is a high-upside backup for the Falcons.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers trade Shaq Mason and a 2023 seventh-round pick to the Houston Texans for a 2023 sixth-round pick
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded Shaq Mason to the Houston Texans after one season with the team. Tampa Bay needed to clear some salary cap to bring back some of their vital veterans that hit the free agent market. Last offseason Tampa Bay shockingly acquired Mason for only a fifth-round pick. He played well in his only season with the Buccaneers but they felt he wasn’t a vital to the team’s success going forward.
Houston had three former first-round picks starting on their offensive line last season but it still was a below-average line. Mason should be a huge upgrade over A.J. Cann at right guard who is an average starter at the position. He has Pro Bowl upside on an offense that needs to continue to add talent in order for this team to become relevant in the near future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Grade: B
Houston Texans Grade: A-
Jakobi Meyers signs a three-year $33 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders
Jakobi Meyers was the first of the big-name receivers to sign a deal this offseason. He reunites with his former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas. This signing seemed puzzling because they already have a talented group of pass catchers in Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow, and Darren Waller. The Raiders didn’t need to spend $11 million per year to replace Mack Hollins who is currently a free agent. Meyers also primarily plays in the slot which is occupied by former Pro Bowl receiver Hunter Renfrow. This is a solid value for the Raiders but a misuse of resources. Overall this deal didn’t make much sense until the Raiders made more moves throughout the day.
Las Vegas Raiders trade Darren Waller to the New York Giants for a 2023 third-round pick
When the Raiders signed Jakobi Meyers to a three-year contract it brought up the likely possibility that they would be moving on from one of their core pass catchers. When considering his usage from last season, the position he plays, and the fact he primarily plays out of the slot like Meyers, many would assume this would mean the Raiders would move off of Hunter Renfrow. Instead, the Raiders made a blockbuster deal sending tight end Darren Waller to the New York Giants.
This move makes sense for the Raiders when considering his age, his recent lack of production, and the fact that Waller has only played in 20 games in the past two seasons. But Las Vegas now has a major gap on this offense at the tight end position that needs to be addressed in free agency or the NFL Draft this offseason. It hurts Las Vegas that backup tight end Foster Moreau is also a free agent this offseason. Outside of the fact that Las Vegas moved on from one of their franchise leaders and a well-respected player in the locker room in Waller, the most shocking part of the deal is that the Raiders were able to land themselves a third-round pick for Waller.
Immediately Waller becomes the most talented pass catcher on the New York Giants roster. They traded the draft pick acquired in the Kadarius Toney deal to Las Vegas for Waller. A major focus for New York this offseason was to upgrade their group of pass catchers for newly extended quarterback Daniel Jones. Waller will be catching passes along with recently extended receivers Sterling Shepard and Isaiah Hodgins along with 2022 second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson and Pro Bowl running back Saquon Barkley. This deal was a good value for the Giants because Waller is arguably the most talented tight end New York has had in over a decade. He could return to the Pro Bowl for the first time in three seasons with the large target share he could have in New York.
Las Vegas Raiders Grade: B-
New York Giants Grade: B+
New York Jets sign Allen Lazard to a four-year $44 million deal
This signing by the New York Jets could lead to a lot bigger things in their future. Lazard has a great relationship not only with new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett but also with potential New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers. There has been speculation for weeks that the Jets could acquire Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers. Green Bay appears ready to hand the starting job to 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love and move off of Rodgers. This move could reunite Rodgers with his top receiver this past season Lazard. New York now has a crowded receiver room with Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Denzel Mims. After making this deal the Jets could trade one or two of those receivers to gain extra draft capital. It wouldn’t be shocking if New York threw Davis in a package for Rodgers to clear salary cap space.
Indianapolis Colts trade Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2023 fifth-round pick
It isn’t often that the Dallas Cowboys make blockbuster trades. The last big trade Dallas made was when they acquired Amari Cooper at the 2018 NFL trade deadline. They made a major upgrade to their cornerback room by acquiring Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts. Dallas now has an outstanding cornerback duo of Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore. They witnessed firsthand last season what their division rival the Philadelphia Eagles could do with a duo of Pro Bowl cornerbacks. The Cowboys only gave up a compensatory fifth-round pick for Gilmore too. This was an outstanding addition to one of the league’s best defenses.
This was clearly a salary dump by the Indianapolis Colts. Under new head coach Shane Steichen they are trying to retool this roster so they could be competitive next season. They have a lot of talent on this roster but have to address other needs to compete in the AFC South. Even though the addition of Gilmore put Indianapolis’ secondary in the conversation for the best in the league, they could draft another cornerback to fill his role for their defense.
Indianapolis Colts Grade: B-
Dallas Cowboys Grade: A
Philadelphia Eagles re-sign James Bradberry to a three-year $38 million deal
Seemingly against all odds the Philadelphia Eagles resigned Second Team All-Pro cornerback James Bradberry. Philadelphia has a ton of premium free agents hit the market this offseason and Bradberry seemed like the most likely to sign elsewhere. He was a vital piece of the defense last season. Howie Roseman deserves props for keeping him in-house. Resigning Bradberry ended up coming at the expense of Darius Slay who was shopped earlier this offseason and later released. Bradberry is capable of being Philadelphia’s top cornerback. Even after resigning Bradberry, Philadelphia still needs to add a cornerback in the 2023 NFL Draft. It is likely that they take a cornerback with the 10th overall pick.
Andy Dalton signs a two-year $10 million deal with the Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers found their bridge quarterback in Andy Dalton. For the fifth season in a row, Dalton will be playing for a new team. He is a below-average starter or quality backup at this point in his career. This signing protects Carolina in case the quarterback that they take with the first overall pick needs time to adjust to the NFL level. As was the case for Dalton’s previous teams, usually teams don’t win a lot of games when he starts at quarterback. However, he is capable of running an offense. An interesting nugget that could come out of this signing is that Carolina could shop 2022 third-round round pick Matt Corral whom the Panthers traded their 2023 third-round pick to take last year in a desperation move because they didn’t have a plan at quarterback. Unfortunately for Corral, he missed his entire rookie season because of a foot injury suffered in the preseason.
Dallas Cowboys re-sign Leighton Vander-Esch to a two-year $11 million deal
For the second season in a row, the Dallas Cowboys were able to resign former Second Team All-Pro linebacker Leighton Vander-Esch to a team-friendly deal. Despite how great Vander-Esch played last season he signed a cheaper deal to stay in Dallas. Last year was his best season since his rookie season. He might not be considered one of the elite players on this defense but he is one of the most talented players on this defense. This was a great deal by the Cowboys.
Atlanta Falcons re-sign Kaleb McGary to a three-year $34.5 million deal
There was an expectation that the Atlanta Falcons would franchise tag right tackle Kaleb McGary. When McGary hit the open market there was a belief that he could sign elsewhere. However, it was unlikely that the Falcons would let him go because they had more than enough cap space to outbid a majority of teams for McGary’s services. Coming into this season McGary had to compete for the starting right tackle job. He ended up having a career year and played at a Pro Bowl-caliber level. Atlanta did a great job keeping one of their best players from a season ago while adding fresh talent to the roster.
David Montgomery signs a three-year $18 million deal with the Detroit Lions
In shocking fashion, the Detroit Lions stole David Montgomery from the Chicago Bears. The expectation was that Montgomery could leave Chicago. However, not many people expected him to sign with his former division rival the Detroit Lions. Many believed that Jamaal Williams would be resigned by the Lions. Instead, Detroit landed a running back in Montgomery that is capable of being a workhorse. Running back has been a major issue for the Lions for almost a decade. The Lions haven’t signed a star running back since they signed Reggie Bush back in 2013 (excluding Adrian Peterson later in his career). Signing Montgomery might be what the Lions need to finally have a consistent running attack.
Kansas City Chiefs sign Charles Omenihu to a two-year $20 million deal
Kansas City opened up a need for a pass rusher when they let go of Frank Clark due to problems negotiating a reduced contract with him to free salary cap space. They were able to find a pass rusher that is capable of replacing Clark’s production at a good price in Charles Omenihu. During his stints with the Texans and 49ers, Omenihu has developed into one of the best rotational pass rushers in the league. He will likely start for the Chiefs but rotate with a pass rusher Kansas City drafts early in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Minnesota Vikings sign Byron Murphy to a two-year $22 million deal
Minnesota’s cornerback group needed a lot of work coming into the offseason. Patrick Peterson hit the open market and the Vikings waived Cam Dantzler. However, they brought in one of the best cornerbacks in the market Byron Murphy. Despite his size, Murphy is one of the better cornerbacks in the league. He is versatile enough to play on the inside and outside. If he primarily plays on the inside he will be responsible for covering Amon-Ra St. Brown, Christian Watson, and Chase Claypool each twice a year. The biggest question about this deal is the length of the deal. Murphy is the second premium defensive free agent that Minnesota signed to a short-term deal.
Other transactions signings from that day
Tennessee Titans sign Luke Gifford to a two-year $5 million deal: B
Nick Mullens re-signs with the Minnesota Vikings to a two-year $4 million deal: B
Dallas Cowboys re-sign Donovan Wilson to a three-year $24 million deal: B+
Miami Dolphins re-sign Raheem Mostert to a two-year $5.6 million deal: B+
Houston Texans sign Noah Brown to a one-year $2.6 million deal: B
Brandon Parker re-signs with the Las Vegas Raiders on a one-year $1.5 million deal: B
Jacksonville Jaguars re-sign Andrew Wingard to a three-year $9.6 million deal: A-
New Orleans Saints retain Michael Thomas on a one-year $10 million deal: B+
Minnesota Vikings re-sign Garrett Bradberry to a three-year $15.75 million deal: B+
Pittsburgh Steelers sign Damontae Kazee to a two-year deal: B
Nate Herbig signs a two-year $8 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers: B-
San Francisco 49ers re-sign Jake Brendal to a four-year $20 million deal: B+
Jeff Wilson Jr. resigns with the Miami Dolphins to a two-year $8.2 million deal: B+
Detriot Lions sign Emmanuel Moseley to a one-year $6 million deal: B-
Philadelphia Eagles sign Rashaad Penny to a one-year deal: C+
Detroit Lions re-sign John Cominsky to a two-year $8.5 million deal: B
New England Patriots sign Calvin Anderson to a two-year deal: B-
Kyzir White signs a two-year $11 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals: B+
Tennessee Titans sign Azeez Al-Shaair to a one-year $6 million deal: A
Houston Texans re-sign Derek Rivers to a one-year deal: B
Los Angeles Chargers resign Trey Pipkins to a three-year $21.75 deal: C+
Arizona Cardinals re-sign Matt Prater to a two-year $7.5 million deal: A-
Corey Clement re-signs with the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year deal: B-
Pittsburgh Steelers re-sign Larry Ogunjobi to a three-year $21.75 million deal: A-
Philadelphia Eagles re-sign Boston Scott to a one-year $2 million deal: B+
Las Vegas Raiders sign Phillip Dorsett: B
Samaje Perine signs a two-year $7.5 million deal with the Denver Broncos: B+
Las Vegas Raiders sign Robert Spillane to a two-year $9 million deal: C+
Seattle Seahawks sign Jarran Reed to a two-year $10.8 million deal: B+
Minnesota Vikings re-sign Andrew DaPaola to a three-year $4.025 million deal: A
Aaron Stinne resigns with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year $2.5 million deal: B
New England Patriots re-sign Jabrill Peppers to a two-year $9 million deal: B
Baltimore Ravens re-sign Trayvon Mullen to a one-year deal: B
Samson Ebukam signs a three-year $27 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts: B
Las Vegas Raiders re-sign Jakob Johnson to a one-year deal: B
Minnesota Vikings re-sign Greg Joseph to a one-year deal: A-
Will Hernandez re-signs with the Arizona Cardinals on a two-year $9 million deal: C+
Tennessee Titans sign Daniel Brunskill to a one-year $2.4 million contract: B+
Denver Broncos sign Mike Burton to a one-year deal: B
Chicago Bears sign Travis Homer to a two-year $4.5 million deal: B-
Tennessee Titans sign Arden Key to a three-year $21 million deal: B