Most offers signed at the free NFL agency turned out to be disappointing. Teams pay players who expect the best seasons in the past, but it rarely works that way. As a result, most of my grades tend to be C + or below. Call me a tough student, but ask the Jets how its huge amount of free agents since the last off-season ended.
Of the more than 100 notes that I distributed for free to agents this offseason, only nine received a grade B + or better. Here are my favorite free agent hires so far:
The deal: Two years, $ 50 million
For two decades, Bill Belichick put the New England Patriots ahead of any player on the list. Virtually all of the veterans who contributed to the greatest modern sports dynasty were sent or allowed to leave when they were no longer useful or willing to contribute at the right price. Mike Vrabel it was negotiated with the chiefs. Randy Moss was sent to the Vikings. Vince Wilfork ended with the Texans. Adam Vinatieri had an entire second career with the Colts.
If there was an exception to this rule, I always thought I would be the star quarterback Tom Brady. No one has ever referred to the Patriots dynasty as Belichick and Vinatieri or Belichick and McDaniels. Belichick and Brady were the same as (without a doubt) the best coach and defender of all time. They were the two pillars of the Patriots dynasty, the two centerpieces that everyone counted before joining for a legendary race in New England. The six championships won by the Patriots belong equally to both.
Last week, it was clear that the rules were no different, after all. After years of being praised for taking less than market value to help the Patriots win, in August 2019, Brady decided it was time for a raise. The Patriots increased their compensation from $ 15 million to $ 23 million and decreased their threshold reached by $ 5.5 million. In the process, Brady got the Patriots to agree that they would not franchise him in 2020.
The franchise brand threat would have limited Brady's influence and probably led the Patriots to retain the best player in the team's history for at least another season. Instead, when the two sides started negotiating an extension, it seems that Belichick had that familiar feeling. Brady had an offer of $ 30 million a season at the table and, according to all accounts, the Patriots were unwilling to compete. That moment would always come if Brady didn’t retire after a Super Bowl win, but when that happened, I figured Belichick or Brady would blink. In the end, neither.
Now, Brady is a member of Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a combination that seemed impossible even a few months ago. There will be time to discuss Brady's legacy, how he will be impacted by the change and how the Patriots will account for his absence. It's about Brady's new opportunity and what comes next for Brady and Bruce Arians' new pairing.
Was Brady foolish in choosing buccaneers? Should Tampa have gone to one of the other defenders? Can he be competitive with his new team and even compete for a Super Bowl? Let's look at what we know about this new marriage and understand what to expect from Brady in Florida..
The deal: Two years, $ 50 million
It is true that I am not always the easiest student, but it is difficult to find much wrong in bringing back a Hall of Fame quarterback in a below-market deal. It is more likely to be a one-year commitment with a nullable year to help create a short-term limit space, which is great when you're making room for a franchise quarterback.
Brees did not let its slow end to 2018 continue and was excellent again in 2019. There will always be a chance that the 41-year-old man will fall in a similar way to how Tom Brady did in 2019, but the saints will rightly try again at the Super Bowl with Brees in the fold.
The deal: One year, $ 5 million
Not bid by the Falcons in the last off-season, Poole responded by becoming something truly rare by 2019 standards: a bright spot for the Jets. With Poole serving as their main slot machine area, the Jets allowed a rating of 87.7 for players who left the range or split widely, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, the third best brand in football. In comparison, they ranked 22nd in the league in passer-by-throw ratings for split receivers.
This is a deep draft class for competent cornerbacks (not many great ones available), but the logical entry point for Poole would be something close to the $ 36 million four-year deal Justin Coleman signed with Lions last season. Instead, I am shocked that Poole, 27, has failed to attract a significant multi-year offer. The cornerback market is stagnating, but that is a lot for the Jets, who get back one of the few positive contributors to another campaign in a modest deal.
The deal: One year, $ 8 million
Although Suh seems content to wander the league in a series of one-year deals since he left the Dolphins after the 2017 season, the Bucs have seen enough of the five-time Pro Bowler last season to keep him up for another season. Suh did not dominate as a pass-rusher, but his alliance with wildly devalued Vita Vea was the biggest reason why Bucs improved from 31 in quick defense DVOA in 2018, for the best defense of the championship in this past campaign.
Suh also brings an underrated asset to the table: availability. The 33-year-old has never lost a game due to injury and has appeared on the injury report only three times in 10 seasons. Bucs can feel confident that Suh will show up and play about 875 defensive snaps at a high level, which is not the case with most free agent hires. Tampa still has about $ 16 million in game space to play and should continue to attract veterans who want to run one last race with Tom Brady.
The deal: Three years, $ 30 million
Degree: B +
The best argument for Bulaga's indirect value was to observe what happens to Aaron Rodgers when Bulaga is not in the field. In 2019, when the right tackle played 16 games for the third time in 10 professional seasons, he lost most of two games and parts of six others. Unsurprisingly, Rodgers' numbers dropped: the quarterback's passer rank dropped from 96.6 with Bulaga on the field to 83.8 in 101 dropbacks without him. Rodgers' serve rate was actually worse with Bulaga on the field, but he went from an average of 7.2 yards per attempt with him on the field to just 5.8 yards per shot without him. Rodgers is no fool: when Bulaga was not protecting him, he threw the ball faster.
These seven other professional seasons are the most plausible reason for the Chargers to regret this deal. Bulaga has lost 45 games in his career, including the whole of 2013 because of a torn ACL. He has 13 other games in which he has been active and in the squad, but has failed to play more than 50% of the offensive attacks, often due to injuries that prematurely end his night. Bulaga turns 31 next week, so it's hard to imagine him being dramatically healthier over the course of the contract, despite having only lost two full games in the past two seasons.
Even considering these injury concerns, Chargers need to be happy with this contract. George Fant received three years and $ 30 million from the Jets, and he barely has 16 games in experience as an NFL striker. This is an easy win for the Chargers and a major update on what was a bleak situation for Anthony Lynn's right team in 2019.
The deal: Two years, $ 12 million
Degree: B +
No one can accuse the Steelers of ignoring the tight final position. After negotiating for Vance McDonald in 2017 and Nick Vannett Last year, Pittsburgh is replacing the latter, handing Ebron a two-year contract. A healthy Ebron is an update for both McDonald and Vannett as a recipient, so this is a good secret move for Pittsburgh on a rare foray into the free agency.
Steelers fans who search the Ebron statistics line from 2018 and watching the 13 touchdowns are too optimistic. This touchdown rate was in line with Ebron's story and the broader history of tight endings in football, as he turned just 66 points into 13 points. The Colts made Ebron a focal point of their offense under Andrew Luck that year, with 110 targets, but Ebron's numbers dropped last season. He disagreed with the organization about undergoing ankle surgery in December, which led to his departure this off-season.
A healthy Ebron returns Ben Roethlisberger an athlete of the upper echelon with a large radius of capture. Steelers can move Ebron across the formation to try to create incompatibilities, which should allow them to leave McDonald's in the queue when working with 12 employees. Drops have been a problem for Ebron in the past, which can bring back ugly memories of Donte MoncriefDisastrous September with the Steelers. But if Ebron was consistently healthy and didn't have an occasional gout, he would be looking Austin Hooper money.
This is a good risk / reward opportunity for the Steelers, and it is shocking that underprivileged teams like the Patriots have not competed here.
The deal: Two years, $ 23 million
Degree: B +
Although it was rumored that one of the organizations stocked with former Patriots coaches and executives would race in McCourty, the presence of a twin Jason and coach Bill Belichick made it more likely that the 10-year-old veteran would return to his only professional home. The Pro Bowler, twice, was one of football's best security guards last year, receiving five passes for the first time since 2012, allowing him to rank just 50.6 as the closest defender on the cover. This is hardly the best security for the market, so while McCourty is likely to have most or all of this deal secured, it is a logical gain for both sides.
Another subtle thing about this deal is the structure. McCourty was the second most pressing free agent in New England, behind Tom Brady and the only other player the team would likely consider signing a contract worth $ 10 million a year north of. If the Pats were desperately concerned about their capitalization space, they would have given McCourty a longer deal with a large signing bonus to try to create a short-term capitalization space. (Note: this agreement was agreed before Tom Brady signed with Bucs.)
The deal: One year, $ 25 million
Degree: B +
What if Tom Brady leaving the Patriots in Tampa Bay is not strange enough, get ready for Rivers in silver and blue. I wondered if post-Brady Patriots could try to hijack Rivers' long move to the Colts, but the meeting between Rivers and former Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich made a lot of sense to all parties involved. I'm a little surprised that this is no more than a one-year pact, even if future years are not guaranteed, but Indianapolis has room to absorb a one-year contract and it shouldn't be too much trouble to bring Rivers back if things work out.
I am optimistic that we will see a better Rivers in 2020 than in 2019, partly because it is moving from one of the worst offensive lines in the league to what may be one of the best. Chargers came in 19th place ESPN Pass Block Win Rate Metric last season, and even that was probably a product of Rivers' ability to read defenses and put his attackers in the right place. Anthony Lynn's offense was overcome by injuries at the front, with veterans Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey missing 21 combined games and never playing a snap together during the season. The Chargers had what was probably the worst combat situation in football with Sam Tevi and Trent Scott in key roles.
The Colts were third in the pass pass gain rate and did a solid protection job Jacoby Brissett, whose withdrawal rate in his second race as a Colts starter was almost half what it was the first time. With stable and competent protection, expect Rivers to do a better job of protecting himself before the snap and have fewer moves in which he is blown up by a failed blocking attempt immediately afterwards. Indy already brought it back Anthony Castonzo, which should provide Rivers with one of the best left tackles in the league on his blind side.
Rivers' interception rate skyrocketed last season, but as I mentioned in my column on possible Brady replacements, seven of your league's 20 picks arrived in the last five minutes of games while your team was behind. These are times when he usually tries to put the ball in tight windows to try to make something happen. In the previous season, playing on a Chargers team that often had an advantage in the final five minutes, Rivers played only one choice in the final five minutes of the games.
I would also count on him playing better in front of fans who really want to support his team. With Chargers forced to resort to silent counts in front of angry fans who were rooting for the opposition in Carson, California, Rivers was 25th in the passer-by classification at home in 2019. He was 13th in the same category on the road. In 2018, Rivers ranked ninth in the passer-by classification at home and fourth on the road. Normally, I wouldn't put much stock in a two-year sample of home / road divisions, but few teams faced the kind of field handicap the Chargers were facing.
This movement is not without risks, of course. Rivers turns 39 in December, and you can't attribute all your interceptions to desperate decisions. The Chargers' attack was not moving the ball effectively at the start of the games, which is why they were losing in the fourth quarter. It is not as if the Rivers-Reich partnership was a resounding success the first time; Reich was fired after a 4-12 season, in which the Chargers were 26th in points per game and 15th in offensive DVOA. The Colts also don’t have the kind of weapons the Chargers had for Rivers and need to add at least one large receiver to work alongside T.Y. Hilton and expansion of the second year Parris Campbell.
Despite these concerns, Rivers was the best defender the Colts could target at the free agency. It was supposed to be an upgrade for Brissett. With the reconstruction of the Jaguars, the Titans are likely to see some kind of regression of Ryan Tannehill and Texans apparently experiencing an existential crisis, the Colts are well positioned to dispute the division title, if they manage to get the draft right.
The deal: One year, $ 1 million
Degree: B +
Robey-Coleman will always be synonymous with who play against the saintsbut he was an above average slot machine in his time at Bills and Rams. Los Angeles declined its option to create space for the ceiling, but at this price, I'm surprised that the Rams have failed to bring it back for another season.
This is an easy win for the Eagles, who upgraded two of their three slot machines, hiring Robey-Coleman and negotiating for Darius Slay. The slot machine market seemed to take off in 2019, when guys like Bryce Callahan, Justin Coleman and Tavon Young were able to sign significant multi-annual agreements, but with Brian Poole and Robey-Coleman, each taking on a one-year contract for modest money, things seem to have changed in the other direction.