10 best free-agent signings so far

Sam Monson takes a look at the best free-agent signings so far, with Lamar Miller to Houston at No. 3.

| 9 months ago
(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

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.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Hall, Martin and Incognito re-signings were pretty much no brainers so they should probably not be listed.

    • cka2nd

      Except that the Hali deal has gotten some “He’s old!” criticism and the “The Running Back Position is Dead” crowd thinks Martin, like any back, is easily replaceable. Not to mention that the Bucs hadn’t seemed all that interested in him last year.

  • Fanalytics

    The real winner is everyone who got to leave Cleveland

    • Craig W

      Amen

      • Darnell

        The real winners are the teams that kicked back and watched the madness unfold: Denver, Carolina, Seattle, Arizona, Green Bay, New England

        • Cant FixStupid

          Look, I don’t think Denver is in much trouble and will figure something out, but you aren’t a winner when you lose both your QBs, a starting RB, starting DE, starting ILB and starting Guard if Mathis gets picked up. And to me, the Packers are losers when you see guys like Danny Trevathan sign for an extremely reasonable 6.1 mil and Ladarius Green sign for an extremely reasonable 5 mil. Two biggest holes on the team, 2 best options available this off-season, and you don’t even bother to do your due diligence on em. ILB has been a half decade long issue, Trevathan a top 5-10 ILB who says afterwards he had wished Green Bay called could have fixed that ridiculous issue and helped make a top 15 defense top 10 next year. But instead, you automatically assume be cause he’s a top free agent on the market and will be overpaid, you don’t even bother putting a call into the guy. Isn’t the goal to improve your football team every year so you can win the Super Bowl???

          • Thomas Bell

            Good take, especially considering how well Peppers and Woodson panned out for them.

    • crosseyedlemon

      And the pharmacy that gets to supply Jeff Goff with pain killers as the draft approaches.

  • Saltwaterjags

    Tashaun Gipson FS from the Browns to the Jags should be on this list.

  • codered5

    That’s such trash to put a bunch of people that re-signed to their old team on top. Of course it was a good deal they would have re-signed during the season if they were going to overpay them. Exclude “free agents” that return for a hometown discount.