10 most puzzling free-agent moves of Day 1

Ben Stockwell reviews the action from the first day of NFL free agency.

| 7 months ago
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

10 most puzzling free-agent moves of Day 1


The opening day of free agency is always short now that the NFL kicks it off at 4pm ET, and when the dust settles these early moves are never a universal success.

With that in mind, here’s a look at 10 head-scratching moves from the opening day of free agency, with a nod to a couple of puzzling re-signings as well.

1. Janoris Jenkins to the Giants

The Deal: Five years, $62.5 million with $29 million guaranteed

The Giants were extremely aggressive on the opening day of free agency and they kicked it off by making Janoris Jenkins one of the highest paid cornerbacks in the league, with a deal worth an average of $12.5 million per year. Now Jenkins fits the mould of the aggressive defense the Giants were setting out to build yesterday so this could work, but the price tag is far in excess of what Jenkins is worth. While Jenkins’ interceptions (10) and pass defenses (34) give the Giants a ballhawking pair of cornerbacks with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, his propensity for allowing big play (22 touchdowns, 39 plays of 20+ yards allowed) will ensure that the Giants are in plenty of shootouts again this year.

2. J.R. Sweezy to the Bucs

The Deal: Five years, $32.5 million with $14.5 million guaranteed

For an offensive line that is rightly panned by the team’s fans and the media, Seattle’s offensive linemen have been popular in free agency and on the trade block over the last few years and Sweezy is the latest to cash in. A converted college defensive lineman Sweezy was on a good development path after the 2013 season but that positive development did not continue in 2014 or 2015. Sweezy is capable of some of the best run blocks you will see from any guard in the NFL but his consistency simply is not there and he will give away big plays for the opposing defense to balance his impact blocks. Sweezy has also allowed 99 pressures in the last four seasons, tied with Mike Iupati for the ninth-most by any guard.

3. Mark Barron to the Rams

The Deal: Five years, $45 million with $20 million guaranteed

Barron reinvigorated his career after a position change to weakside linebacker this season with the Rams. After entering the starting lineup in Week 5 Barron racked up 49 defensive stops, a mark topped by only NaVorro Bowman (59) and Luke Kuechly (57) in the same spell. However Barron was still a safety playing linebacker, and though he made incisive plays he was out of control at times getting cut off by linemen and failing to shine in coverage as you might expect a converted safety to do at linebacker (only two pass defensives, 407 yards allowed; 10th-most among linebackers). To pay Barron $9 million per year (sixth-highest paid linebacker, fourth-highest paid safety) is a puzzling point to set the linebacker/safety hybrid market.

4. Sam Bradford & Chase Daniel to the Eagles

The Deal: Combined (two years for Bradford, three years for Daniel) $56 million with $34 million guaranteed

Some eyebrows were raised at the deal Sam Bradford got before free agency opened and those eyebrows will now be raised even further when paired with the deal handed to Chase Daniel. Fresh off playing only 186 snaps to earn $10 million in three years as a Chief, Daniel muddies the waters at the quarterback position for the Eagles. Philadelphia is now paying quality starter money for two quarterbacks, with no guarantee that either will actually turn into a quality starter. The old adage is that if you have two quarterbacks you have no quarterback — can Doug Pedersen confound that and deliver a QB from this overpriced competition?

5. Damon Harrison to the Giants

The Deal: Five years, $46.25 million with $24 million guaranteed

The Giants added some quality defensive talent yesterday but they paid beyond a premium for that talent. Harrison is the league’s best run defender — we awarded him our inaugural Ted Washington Award back in January — but the Giants have paid him like the three-down impact defensive lineman that he has never been. Harrison’s $9 million per year average places him along side Tyrone Crawford of the Cowboys and while Harrison is a markedly better run defender his value on passing downs is far more limited. In a league that is becoming ever more pass-oriented the Giants have paid premium money for a run defense specialist.

6. Chris Ivory to the Jaguars

The Deal: Five years, $32 million with $10 million guaranteed

The head-scratching aspect of this signing is what this deal says about the Jaguars’ second-round pick from last year’s draft, T.J. Yeldon. Ivory has graded consistently well since he entered the league in 2010 with the Saints and he got better with an expanded role with the Jets over the last few seasons, but Yeldon was extremely impressive as a rookie last year. Yeldon earned a higher grade than Ivory and had no fumbles compared to Ivory’s three. Ivory and Yeldon do not offer the contrast of a thunder-and-lightning combination in the Jags backfield, so have the Jags overpaid a player to be their redzone specialist? Or have they unnecessarily marginalized a talented young running back for a veteran entering his seventh season at a higher price?

7. Dwayne Allen to the Colts

The Deal: Four years, $29.4 million with $16 million guaranteed

This is a boom-or-bust deal depending upon which Dwayne Allen the Colts get over the course of this contract. As a rookie in 2012 Allen was exceptional, contributing positively as a receiver while excelling as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. Then came a hip injury and after an encouraging 2014 season, Allen had an extremely poor 2015, finishing as our 62nd-ranked tight end. If 2015 was an aberration and the Colts get the 2012 and 2014 Allen then this deal can work out for Indianapolis, but 2015 should have driven down the value of this contract.

8. Matt Cassel to the Titans

The Deal: One-year deal

If Cassel’s recent career form doesn’t see the end to his NFL career then apparently nothing will. In the last two years Cassel has both started the season as a starter and come in midway through for a team with low expectations and Cassel has been quickly hooked in both cases. That Cassel was signed at some point is not a massive surprise but that the Titans felt the need to go out and snag him in the opening hours of free agency, even on a one year deal, is staggering.

9. Brian Quick to the Rams

The Deal: One year, $3.75 million with $1.5 million guaranteed

In his first four years with the Rams, Quick has never played more than 375 snaps in a single season and only earned a positive receiving grade once, in 2014. As a developmental player the Rams clearly like him and wanted to keep him around, but the total contract value — and in particular, the guaranteed money for one year — is puzzling. Quick has 130 career targets, catching less than 50 percent of those targets while dropping 12 passes. This contract pays him to be the solid contributor in a single season that he’s never been before.

10. Donald Stephenson to the Broncos

The Deal: Three years, $14 million with $10 million guaranteed

Stephenson started at left tackle for the Chiefs in 2015 for the first six weeks of the season, and for the first two weeks that went well with strong games against the Texans and the Broncos. There after things unraveled for Stephenson, who looked like the subpar tackle he has been throughout his career with the Chiefs. In his two seasons with extensive playing time Stephenson has finished as our 54th- (2015) and 66th- (2013) ranked offensive tackle. The Broncos were clearly eager to bring in a swing tackle who could start at right tackle but perhaps Stephenson was not the right man for the job.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Matt

    Not sure what is so puzzling about the Eagles move. Daniel is being paid less than they were paying Sanchez I think. Bradford isn’t even in the top half of QB pay this year. When your starter is Mr. Glass, you need a higher quality backup. Whether he is actually quality remains to be seen.

    • crosseyedlemon

      We know that any given year about a third of starting QBs will miss multiple games so having depth at the position is a must unless you have a stud like Adrian Peterson to carry the team. The Eagles unloaded DeMarco Murray so by all accounts they have already scored a win for offseason activity.

    • TorreyAnderson

      I thought the Daniel signing was huge. That’s going to look especially great in a couple of years.

      • crosseyedlemon

        provided he doesn’t try to imitate Micheal Vick.

  • brian

    SB ’13 stats (blossoming that season)+last 7gms this season (once comfy with team, scheme, and knee)=64% 3650yds 28td 8int 94rat in 14gms. Drew brees type situation here. He won ROY, then 2yrs later in’13 was on pace for 3885yds 32tds 9int 92rat. Is this not the progression you want to see from a franchise QB? He has btb career ending type injuries. He was traded to a new team, with a new scheme (4th in 5yrs), and got barely any preseason action to get acclimated with his team, scheme, and to get over the acl mental hurdles. Go watch the Carolina game from this past season. 2ndqtr, he tucked it and ran for a first down. Watch him when he gets up from that play…. He knew his knee was good to go right there. From that point on every throw was thrown with confidence, and pin point accuracy. the deer in headlights look was gone. He started matching those’13 numbers after that game. The man has never had a line ranked better than 17th, and never had anything close to #1 wr. Eagles made a very wise decision resigning him.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    I think Stephenson will make more sense in their zone blocking scheme and Kubiak must like his flexibility (since that’s always a thing he looks for). He’s still not great and maybe they could’ve waited but I do think he’ll be better fit in Denver than in KC.

    • larry mckinney

      Right. KC didn’t even make him an offer. And the Broncos OL is very shallow and bad.

      • ElwayIsGod7

        Bad enough to win a super bowl!

        This guy will be a gaurd in Denver.

        • Relatively True

          You know what Stephenson’s contribution was in 2014? Almost zilch. Ya know why? Because he refused to play guard and ended up in Reid’s doghouse. Also, he isn’t a swing tackle; he plays LT at an average level and RT at a subpar level. He’s just Clady insurance … or maybe Elway will part with Clady on injury terms…..?

    • larry mckinney

      You do know that the Chiefs also run a ZBS, right?

  • bobrulz

    What about the Bucs’ massive contract for Doug Martin?

    Sure, he was in great in 2015 and 2012, but that was only 2 out of 4 years…

    • bobrulz

      Nevermind, I didn’t see how low the guaranteed money value was. It seems more reasonable now.

  • Relatively True

    The Broncos were clearly eager to bring in a swing tackle who could
    start at right tackle but perhaps Stephenson was not the right man for
    the job.

    Actually, they weren’t looking for a swing tackle at all … they just needed insurance at LT in case Clady won’t bend over and take a pay-cut.

  • Smart Guy

    How about 37 million for Brock Osweiler? 18 million a year for a player that may not last two years before landing on the scrapheap.

    He may have thrown the Broncos for a loop but Elway may well come out of it with a much better QB. And no, Mark Sanchez is not the final step.

    And Brock will be under lots of scrutiny with that big contract.

    O’Brien and Smith are all in on Brock’s success.

    • Relatively True

      They did grade it a D on another page. On the other hand, Elway was offering about 15 M per year, so it’s not like Denver thought Brock was a bum.

  • Tim M

    Cmon man, #8 being Cassell? A 1 year $2M contract to hold a clipboard? When the Titans have a 2nd year starter and a 3rd year backup who has never won a game when he was on the field? That is a bad 1st day signing when Denver had zero QB’s and Fitz is looking to cash-in? Had the Titans waited, maybe they could have gotten Charlie Whitehurst back and save 500K. Lol….

  • Michael Shaw

    Donald Stephenson SUCKS BAD!!! Good luck with that move Denver…………ok not really!