10 best free-agent signings so far
Free agency is officially entering Day 2, with big dollars thrown around the league yesterday. We now have the first wave of signings in, as well as details on the contracts.
The best-value signings were typically those from teams that managed to keep their talent in-house, rather than reeling in free agents from outside their own building, but there were some high-value deals to be had there, as well.
Let’s take a look at the best 10 signings from the initial wave of free agency:
1. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants
One year, $10 million with $8.5 million guaranteed
Signing Olivier Vernon was the big-money deal, but the Giants locking up Jason Pierre-Paul for a year at that price was incredibly good business. In essence, they saved over $5 million from the price of the franchise tag, and still got him signed before he hit the open market. JPP famously recorded just one sack after returning last season, but he also notched 41 total pressures and six batted passes. The Giants need him back in town, and should expect to see his production improve with another year of learning how to play with the limitations of his hand. This was extremely smart business that allows them to walk away in a year if his play does dip, or postpones the big-money contract if he lives up to it.
2. OLB Tamba Hali, OLB, Chiefs
Three years, $22 million with $12 million guaranteed
Another team that did well to retain one of the better defensive players, the Chiefs will again be able to deploy both Justin Houston and Tamba Hali next season and beyond. Hali is 32 years old now, but is coming off a season in which he posted 44 total pressures and graded positively in every area PFF measures. He may not be worth the blockbuster deals of the top pass-rushers, but as a complementary piece to Houston, he should easily justify the contract the Chiefs just kept him around with.
3. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans
Four years, $26 million with $14 million guaranteed
Signing Brock Osweiler was the headline move the Texans made yesterday, but grabbing Lamar Miller may have been a far more important one. Osweiler has shown nothing to suggest he can carry an offense and franchise all by himself, so surrounding him with as much help as possible is vital. Miller has ranked in the top six in PFF rushing grade in each of the past two seasons, despite being relatively underused in Miami. The Texans have an offense that wants to lean on the run game, and now they should have a reliable, and durable, back to be help them do it—taking pressure off of Osweiler.
4. Richie Incognito, G, Bills
Three years, $11.5 million with $5.45 million guaranteed
Because of the circumstances surrounding his exit from the league, the return of Richie Incognito last season wasn’t exactly a fairytale story, but it was an impressive comeback on the field, and may have been the best season of his career. He was PFF’s second-overall guard, with the league’s second-best run-block grade, allowing just two sacks all season. The Bills were able to sign one of the best-performing guards in football to an incredibly modest contract.
5. Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers
Five years, $35.75 million with $15 million guaranteed
Doug Martin in 2015 was fantastic. He finished the season with 1,402 yards and was a force for the Bucs. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry after contact over 288 rushes, making things happen even when the blocking wasn’t what it should have been. Pair that with his rookie season, and you have a runner who, at his best, is one of the league’s top rushing threats. Tampa Bay was able to keep the focal point of their offense in-house, and avoid having to rebuild the running game.
6. George Iloka, S, Bengals
Five years, $30 million with $5 million guaranteed
This move might be one of the best bargains of free agency. While huge money was thrown around to other defensive backs, George Iloka elected to stay in Cincinnati and re-sign at a below-market rate to do so. The Bengals retain a player that has had positive grades in each of the past two seasons, and was a big part of their plans defensively. Given the money dished out for DBs yesterday, it’s tough to argue with the value of this deal.
7. Derrick Shelby, DE, Falcons
Four years, $18 million with $7.5 million guaranteed
Miami lost Olivier Vernon to huge money, but they also let Derick Shelby walk out of the door, too, and this was a far more modest contract. Shelby may not have hit the peaks Vernon did, but he has been good against the run for two seasons in a row now, and added some real pass-rush in 2015. He notched 41 total pressures and four batted passes, and brings a versatile and capable body to Atlanta’s D-line rotation.
8. Malik Jackson, DL, Jaguars
Six years, $90 million with $42m guaranteed
The Jaguars threw major money to make this move happen, but they were a team that actually needed to spend money just to hit the spending floor this season. Plus, they needed an impact defender like Jackson badly, so this move makes sense for Jacksonville. Jackson may not be the best interior defender in football, but he has proven to be a consistent and complete disruptor inside over the past couple of seasons. He was the 16th-best-graded interior defender in football last season, notching the eighth-best pass-rush productivity score among 3-4 DEs, and the fourth-most total pressures.
9. Joe Barksdale, OT, Chargers
Four years, $22.2 million with $10.5 million guaranteed
San Diego’s offensive line was a disaster last year, so signing anybody back from it may seem crazy on the surface, but Barksdale was a lone bright spot on that unit. He was the only San Diego linemen to earn a positive pass-rush grade with more than 30 snaps to his name, and though his run-blocking wasn’t excellent, it wasn’t a problem, either. Given the contract figures, this is smart business from the Chargers, who now just need to fix the other four starting spots around him.
10. Alex Boone, G, Vikings
Five years, $26.8 million with $10 million guaranteed
It seems that if there was an area where a good-value contract could be had, it was on the O-line. While J.R. Sweezy got paid significantly more on the basis of the odd highlight-reel block, Alex Boone is a far more proven and accomplished player, and cost the Minnesota Vikings far less to bring on board. At his peak in 2012, Boone was one of the best guards in football, and while he hasn’t really hit that form since, he remains a capable starter who surrendered only three sacks and 17 total pressures last season—almost half as many as Sweezy.