10 best free agent signings through Week 4
The NFL’s annual free agency period is filled with opportunity and hope for many NFL teams. While some teams use free agency liberally, and others less frequently, every NFL team is affected by players selling their services to another franchise when their contracts are up.
Some free agent acquisitions end up being home runs, while some fail miserably (check out our worst 10 free agent signings for those players). Let’s take a look at the top 10 free-agent acquisitions, in terms of value, through the first four weeks of 2015:
1. Pernell McPhee, OLB, CHI (five years, $40 million, +16.1 overall grade)
While CHI is in a rebuilding phase, they’ve started this era well with the acquisition of McPhee. While he didn’t come cheaply, he has produced at a level commensurate with the likes of Von Miller (+19.6), Justin Houston (+16.3) and Khalil Mack (+15.5) through four weeks. McPhee is tied for second amongst 3-4 OLB in QB hits (five), fifth in QB hurries (12), and has added an interception.
2. Tyrod Taylor, QB, BUF (three years, $3.35 million, +0.8 overall grade)
PFF’s 13th-highest graded quarterback, Taylor has provided momentary stability at the QB position for Buffalo. At a time where even average-to-below-average QBs are making substantial money, what’s impressive about Taylor is his contract ($1.12 million per year) has less to do with his inclusion in this list than his overall accuracy (79.3 accuracy percentage, sixth in NFL), or his performance when pressured (75.9 accuracy percentage under pressure, No. 5 in NFL).
3. James Jones, WR, GB (one year, $870,000, +6.9 grade)
Acquired prior to Week 1 to help offset an injury to Jordy Nelson, Jones has been the NFL’s fourth-best graded WR through four weeks. Playing most of GB’s offensive snaps (255/283), Jones has caught 17-of-20 targets, with a four touchdwns, zero drops, and an impressive 18.6 yards per catch.
4. Jabaal Sheard, DE, NE (two years, $11 million, +4.2)
While New England mostly lost impact players on defense during the offseason, the acquisition of Sheard registers on the other side of the ledger. Through three games (New England had a Week 4 bye), Sheard is tied for fourth among 4-3 DE in QB hurries (11), and has had two sacks and four stops.
5. Patrick Robinson, CB, SD (one year, $3 million, +6.6)
Acquired cheaply in the offseason, Robinson has been a very valuable acquisition for San Diego. Stepping in for the injured Brandon Flowers, he owns the fifth-highest grade amongst NFL cornerbacks, allowing an NFL passer rating of 34.8 on 13 targets, adding five stops, an interception, and a quarterback hit.
6. Dan Williams, NT, OAK (four years, $25 million, +10.1)
While he has graded positively every season since 2012, Williams is on pace for his best grade this season in Oakland. Solid versus the run (+7.0) and in pass coverage (+2.7), he has been a big part of Oakland’s gradual restoration of credibility. Williams has three QB hurries and six stops to this point.
7. Michael Crabtree, WR, OAK (one year, $3 million, +5.2)
Continuing with Oakland acquisitions, Crabtree is seeing a rebirth across the bay. After two years of injuries and poor play, Crabtree is starting to look like the player that graded at a +24.7 in 2012. He is currently the sixth-highest graded WR through four weeks, catching 23-of-38 targets with a touchdown and no drops.
8. Evan Mathis, G, DEN (one year $3.25 million, +3.7)
A PFF favorite for years, Mathis appears to be settling in nicely in Denver. Acquired relatively cheap in August, Mathis has been the Broncos’ highest-graded offensive lineman by a wide margin, and has rebounded well from a slow start (-3.3 and 0.5 in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively).
9. Vance Walker, DE, DEN (two years, $5 million, +4.5)
An inexpensive part of Denver’s top-ranked defense, Walker is the 16th-best 3-4 DE in the NFL through four weeks on just 137 snaps, with five quarterback hurries and four stops.
10. Nick Fairley, DT, STL (one year, $5 million, +6.0)
While playing only 65 snaps through four weeks, Fairly has the 12th-highest grade amongst DT/NT. Solid as both a pass rusher (+4.2) and run stopper (+1.7), Fairley has proven a solid complement to Aaron Donald inside, grading positively in every game to date.
Be sure to check out PFF’s worst 10 free agent signings based on value through four weeks of the season.