NFL Free Agency Tracker: Analyzing All Major Moves Prior To Legal Tampering Period

Despite the impact of COVID-19 on the sports world, it appears that the NFL free agency will proceed on time, which means the legal tampering period will start on Monday, March 16th. In this tracker, we’ll be analyzing every trade or signing that teams make prior to the legal tampering period, before doing the same with a new tracker  on Monday

Broncos Acquire CB AJ Bouye From Jaguars

Photo Cred: Big Cat Country

Full Trade: Broncos Acquire CB AJ Bouye From Jaguars In Exchange For 2019 4th Round Pick

Broncos Grade: A-

Jaguars Grade: A

The Broncos had been rumored as a major player in the Byron Jones sweepstakes, but that didn’t stop them from adding another famous cornerback- they acquired AJ Bouye from the Jaguars, in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Bouye, 28, is coming off a disappointing season in which he earned just a 55.4 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus. However, he previously had been one of the game’s better corners, and is the type of reliable outside cornerback that Denver needed in head coach Vic Fangio’s defense. Cornerback is always a volatile position, and for a fourth-round pick, it’s more than worth seeing if he can regain his previous form. After all, the $13 million he’s owed in each of the next two seasons is a very reasonable amount, especially since there isn’t any dead money left- they can cut him for no penalty if he continues to struggle. As for the Jaguars, they’re in the midst of a major rebuild and are simply looking to free up cap space, so rather than cut their top corner, they’re able to get some sort of value him for him. In other words, this is a win-win trade for both sides.

Chargers Acquire G Trai Turner From Panthers

Photo Cred: The Charlotte Post

Full Trade: Chargers Acquire G Trai Turner In Exchange For OT Russell Okung

Chargers Grade: B

Panthers Grade: D

In an interesting move for both sides, the Chargers acquired guard Trai Turner from the Panthers, sending veteran tackle Russell Okung to Carolina. It’s a very rare player-for-player swap, as both players are comparable to each other. However, how the fit each team is far different. For Turner, he’s a less valuable player than Okung, since he plays on the interior offensive line, but that doesn’t matter for Los Angeles; their interior offensive line play has been atrocious, and Okung was likely to be a cap casualty anyways. Despite being a Pro Bowler, Turner is closer to an average player, based on his recent performance, but nevertheless, he’s a major upgrade over what they had, and for $9 million and $11 million with no dead cap for the next two seasons, that’s a solid swap for them. Carolina, on the other hand, doesn’t come out looking good in this trade, as they’re in a rebuild and should’ve been looking to trade Turner for draft picks, rather than a veteran tackle on an expiring contract. They weren’t fleeced the way many are claiming they were, but nevertheless, the Panthers definitely didn’t get proper value for a solid guard, while the Chargers were able to act quickly to fill a major need.

Seahawks Sign TE Greg Olsen

Photo Cred: Bleacher Report

Contract Details: One Year, $7 Million

Grade: C+

Though he garnered interest from plenty of other teams, Greg Olsen has found a new home after being released by the Panthers- he signed a one-year contract with the Seahawks. At this point, the 35-year-old is an atrocious run blocker with major injury concerns, but he is a decent vertical threat, and could be an asset for Seattle in the red zone. Yet, he’s not really an upgrade over the Seahawks’ current duo of Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister, and for a team with far greater needs on both sides of the ball, I’d prefer for them to use their cap space more wisely.

Chargers Re-sign RB Austin Ekeler

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders
Photo Cred: Patriots

Contract Details: Four Years, $24 Million

Grade: B+

Shortly after parting ways with running back Melvin Gordon, the Chargers made sure to not let both their running backs leave- they signed Austin Ekeler to a four-year contract worth $24 million. A restricted free agent this offseason, Ekeler, 24, has been an elite receiving back in his three-year career, and succeeded in a larger role this past season when Gordon held out for the first four games. Even though running backs aren’t valuable, he’s at least a better fit for the modern game given his pass-catching abilities, and honestly, $6 million per year through his age 28 season is not a poor value whatsoever. Now, we’ll all have to wait and see who’ll be throwing to ball (and handing the ball) to him in 2020.

Texas Re-sign TE Darren Fells

Photo Cred: Houston Chronicle

Contract Details: Two Years, $6.3 Million

Grade: D

Sticking to some re-signings, the Texans brought back tight end Darren Fells on a two-year, $6.3 million contract. With seven touchdowns this past season, you would think the 33-year-old Fells had a career year, but in fact, he wasn’t a very useful player outside the red zone, and actually regressed in his overall grade from Pro Football Focus. Plus, Houston has made recent investments in three young tight ends – Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, and Kahale Warring – so not only are they unnecessarily giving a multi-year deal to a replacement-level contract, but they’re also stunting the development of their younger players; it’s a small signing, but one that makes little sense.

Bills Sign CB Josh Norman

Photo Cred: CBS Sports

Contract Details: One Year, $6 Million (w/$2 Million Incentives)

Grade: B+

Following his release from the Redskins, Josh Norman was reunited with his old defensive coordinator- he signed a one-year, $6 million contract with $2 million in incentives with the Bills. Norman, 32, is coming off of a disastrous season with Washington, but prior to 2019, he had been a very solid zone corner, and in that way, should fit nicely in head coach Sean McDermott’s defensive scheme- he runs a lot of zone coverage. As mentioned with Bouye, cornerbacks are always volatile in terms of production, so going for bounce-back candidates always is wise, especially since Norman’s production should improve in a much better defensive scheme. For a team with an abundance of cap space, this is a nice signing for them as they add some much needed cornerback depth.

Bills Re-Sign G Quinton Spain

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots
Photo Cred:

Contract Details: Three Years, $15 Million

Grade: C+

The Bills not only added Norman, but they also maintained continuity with their offensive line, as they brought back veteran guard Quinton Spain on a three-year contract worth $15 million. Buffalo made improving the offensive line a priority in the previous offseason, and one of their moves was to sign Spain to a one-year deal. Although he continued to struggle in run blocking, he remained a very reliable pass protector, which is more valuable anyways. Considering how expensive offensive linemen can be in free agency, I can understand why they decided to stick with Spain. Obviously, they shouldn’t be afraid to find an upgrade over him if they can, but at the very least, he’ll be a solid depth player for them with the capability to start if they don’t further address the position in free agency.

Bears Re-sign LB Danny Trevathan

Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Contract Details: Three Years, $24 Million

Grade: C

General manager Ryan Pace has made it a constant priority to lock up the Bears’ impact defensive players, and he’s done so again, bringing back linebacker Danny Trevathan to a three year, $24 million contract. Trevathan, 29, has always been an all-around linebacker, and although he struggled with injuries this past season, the total contract worth isn’t a bad amount by any means. However, for a team that is super tight on cap space, and needs to be looking to add a veteran quarterback, offensive lineman, or cornerback, I can’t fathom why they placed such a huge priority on their second linebacker. In other words, this is good deal from a value perspective, but not one that Pace could afford to make.

Ravens Acquire EDGE Calais Campbell From Jaguars

Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Full Trade: Ravens Acquire EDGE Calais Campbell From Jaguars In Exchange For 5th Round Pick

Ravens Grade: A-

Jaguars Grade: B

In a mini-blockbuster, the Ravens have added the pass rusher they were searching for; they’ve acquired Calais Campbell from the Jaguars in exchange for a fifth-round pick, and have reworked his deal from one year, $15 million to two years, $25 million. Though he’s 33-year-old, Campbell is coming off his fourth straight 90-grade season from Pro Football Focus, and is not only an elite run defender, but a terrific pass rusher as well. He’ll slot in as a 3-4 end in their scheme, and although he cuts into their immediate cap space, he’s an upgrade over soon-to-be-traded Matthew Judon, and regardless, Baltimore only needed to add an impact pass rusher anyways. Given how expensive edge rushers are, there’s no doubt Campbell’s contract is a much better value than what the free-agent pass rushers will go for, and with that, general manager Eric DeCosta continues to prove himself as the leader of one of the premier farm systems. Jacksonville, meanwhile, only got a fifth-round pick in this trade, but given his expiring contract and age, he was a likely cap casualty; it’s unlikely his departure would’ve yielded them a compensatory pick next offseason, so it’s better for them to get some value for him now. In essence, this is a solid trade for both teams, who complete different objectives with this transaction.

Colts Re-sign OT Anthony Castonzo

Photo Cred: The Indianapolis Star

Contract Details: Two Years, $33 Million

Grade: A-

Ever since he announced his plans to not retire, it was always inevitable that tackle Anthony Castonzo would re-sign with the Colts. Today, he finally did, re-upping with Indianapolis on a two-year contract worth $33 million. It’s rare to have a consistently elite pass protector at left tackle, and that’s what Castonzo has been for the Colts; he’s earned an overall grade of 76.9 or higher in each of his eight seasons since his rookie year, and has only gotten better with age. Considering that he was committed to coming back to the Colts, I’m a little surprised by the amount of the contract, but it’s what he would’ve gotten on the open market, and it’s not like Indianapolis is tight on cap space. It’s a short-term deal that prevents a major hole from opening, and honestly, is a classic Chris Ballard move- spending available resources wisely.

Titans Re-sign QB Ryan Tannehill

Photo Cred: Bleacher Report

Contract Details: Four Years, $118 Million

Grade: C-

Tom Brady won’t be signing with the Titans after all! Rather than make a play for the 43-year-old, Tennessee appears to be content on running it back with their previous impact players back in place- they’ve re-signed Ryan Tannehill to a four-year deal worth $118 million. Heading into 2019, the 31-year-old Tannehill was coming off of a 45.2 grade season with the Dolphins, and appeared to be done as a starting quarterback. However, Tennessee inserted him into the starting lineup after starting the season 2-4 under Marcus Mariota, and naturally, he doubled his overall grade while leading them to the AFC Championship game. By using a lot of play-action, offensive coordinator Arthur Smith got the most out of him, while he formed an instant connection with the receiver duo of AJ Brown and Corey Davis. However, that was only in a 13 game sample size, counting the postseason, and it’s worth noting that a lot of his production came against subpar pass defenses (Saints, Raiders, Jaguars, Texans twice); against better defenses in the playoffs, he wasn’t the same. I’m very skeptical that the Tannehill will continue to be an elite quarterback, and almost certainly, he’ll regress in 2020. The question is how much, which is what the Titans needed to figure out via the franchise tag, rather than a lofty deal; based on the way it’s structured, they can’t get out of this deal until the third year, which is far from ideal.

Texans Re-sign CB Bradley Roby

Photo Cred: The Game Haus

Contract Details: Three Years, $36 Million

Grade: D+

The Texans have continued to bring back players from their 2019 AFC South champion team; this time, they’ve re-signed cornerback Bradley Roby to a three-year deal worth $36 million, preventing him from testing the open market. Roby, 27, thrived as the Broncos’ third corner in 2017, but he’s since had back-to-back mediocre seasons, and looked destined to sign the same one-year prove-it deal he signed last offseason. In fact, he was part of the problem with their poor pass defense, and if the rumors are true that they’re not going to be adding a veteran cornerback in free agency, they’ll continue to struggle to stop explosive passing attacks in 2020. They came into the offseason needed to improve their defense with their cap space (no first-round pick), but they’ve since wasted a lot of it re-signing average players. In my opinion, this is exactly why the current front office structure, with head coach Bill O’Brien calling the shots, is problematic for their long-term future.

Falcons Re-sign NT Tyeler Davison

Photo Cred: The Falcoholic

Contract Details: Three Years, $12 Million

Grade: D

The Falcons don’t have the funds to retain tight end Austin Hooper or linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, but they didn’t lose all their pending free agents- they re-signed nose tackle Tyeler Davison to a three-year, $12 million contract. A traditional run-stopping nose tackle, the 27-year-old Davidson actually wasn’t that great as a run defender last season, earning an underwhelming 68.8 run defense grade from Pro Football Focus. Plus, he’s not going to provide much as a pass rusher, which hurts his value, and since he’s not a great run defender, what value does he truly bring? He’s an alright early-down depth defensive tackle, but not for a team that’s currently in the negatives in terms of cap space, and Atlanta could’ve used the $4 million per year on a more valuable player.

Patriots Re-sign S Devin McCourty

Photo Cred: Pats Pulpit

Contract Details: Two Years, $23 Million

Grade: B

The Patriots are still working on re-signing Tom Brady, and are set to lose guard Joe Thuney and linebacker/edge rusher hybrid Kyle Van Noy, but for the time being, they’ve at least retained the leader of their defense- Devin McCourty has been brought back on a two-year contract worth $23 million. Based on New England’s tendency to let their impact defensive players leave in free agency, I fully expected the 32-year-old McCourty to be on a new team next season. Yet, he’s been a member of that defense for the past ten seasons, so in a way, perhaps he wasn’t replaceable, especially coming off of back-to-back seasons with a coverage grade of 83.7 or better. Duron Harmon has been a long-time depth safety for them who is more than capable being a starter, so in a way, letting McCourty leave would’ve been the logical decision, even though they don’t just utilize two safeties. However, it’s a fine deal in terms of value, and the length (two years) fits their window of contention perfectly. Now, it’s time to bring back Brady.

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