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We’ve learned something over the past couple of days that we already knew: The NFL is a perpetual motion machine.
Monday’s first day of the legal tampering period brought with it a frenzy of activity, including a pair of stunning trades involving prominent wide receivers.
You can check out Brad Gagnon’s grades for those trades and signings here. As we inch closer to Wednesday’s start of the 2020 league year, here’s a look at how teams fared on the second day of spending.
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Well, folks—it came to pass.
Almost from the moment the Los Angeles Chargers announced they were moving on from quarterback Philip Rivers, fans and pundits alike started connecting the dots between the veteran signal-caller and the Indianapolis Colts. Rivers wanted to keep playing, and the Colts had a van filled with cash and aspirations of a quick rebound.
Glove, meet hand.
According to Schefter, the Colts and Rivers came to an agreement that will pay the 38-year-old $25 million in 2020.
It’s good work if you can get it—and a near-perfect signing.
If Rivers has anything left, he’ll lead a playoff-caliber team with talent on both sides of the ball. If he’s the player who looked washed up for much of last year, the Colts are only committed to him for one year. With Jacoby Brissett’s contract also up after next season, Indy can hit the reset button.
Boom goes the dynamite—or whatever it is the kids say.
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Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press
After the Dallas Cowboys slapped the franchise tag on quarterback Dak Prescott on Monday, there was little question in the minds of many that Jerry Jones would turn his attention to bringing back Prescott’s favorite target.
Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Cowboys agreed to terms late Monday with wide receiver Amari Cooper on a five-year, $100 million contract—a deal that will make Cooper the second-highest-paid wideout in the NFL in terms of average annual salary.
The argument can be made that Cooper was overpaid—he was dinged up much of last season and faded badly in December. But injuries and late swoon aside, Cooper still had 1,189 receiving yards in 2019, and as Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk pointed out, at least one other team (Washington) was just as willing as the Cowboys to write a fat check.
You do what you gotta do.
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Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
The Tennessee Titans had been quiet in free agency after re-upping quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Monday. On Tuesday, though, they made their first venture outside the roster—and in doing so addressed one of the team’s biggest needs.
According to Rapoport, the Titans agreed to terms on a one-year pact with edge-rusher Vic Beasley Jr., who led the NFL in sacks in 2016 while with the Atlanta Falcons. The deal contains $9.5 million in guarantees but reportedly could be worth $12 million.
Since his breakout season in 2016, Beasley hasn’t come close to approaching that level of success. His highest sack total in the last three seasons was the eight he logged a year ago.
With that said, Beasley did come on strong down the stretch in 2019, he is in the prime of his career, and there’s not much risk involved in a one-year, “prove it” deal.
It’s hard not to like this move for Tennessee.
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In 2019, no team averaged fewer rushing yards per game than the 72.3 the Dolphins posted. One way or another, Miami had to get better at running the ball.
On Tuesday, the team took a step toward doing that. As reported by Schefter, the Dolphins have agreed to terms with four-year veteran Jordan Howard on a deal that will pay the 25-year-old over $5 million per season.
In each of his first two seasons with the Chicago Bears, Howard topped 1,100 yards on the ground. In his lone season with the Eagles in 2019, he averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry.
But Howard also missed six games last season and was relegated to a secondary role by rookie Miles Sanders. The reason was simple: Howard doesn’t outrun people off the edge or help in the passing game. He’s a between-the-tackles, two-down grinder.
And over $5 million per year is rather steep for that.
Miami’s (over)spending spree rolls on.
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David Richard/Associated Press
Not that long ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars had perhaps the most feared defense in the NFL. But that defense fell off a cliff in 2019—in no small part because Telvin Smith left the team (and football altogether), which decimated the linebacking corps.
Jacksonville made a big effort to fill that hole Tuesday. According to Rapoport, the Jaguars agreed to ink inside linebacker Joe Schobert, who led the Cleveland Browns with 133 tackles last year, to a five-year deal worth $53.8 million.
The 26-year-old is talented, but there’s one looming problem: The Jaguars already have an inside linebacker with a fat salary in Myles Jack.
It’s not just the matter of a rather curious fit. Schobert has topped 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons. But he’s struggled in coverage—something he’ll likely be tasked with even more if he kicks outside.
There’s been a lot of movement with the Jaguars defense over the past several months. If there’s a plan, it’s not easy to see.
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David Richard/Associated Press
There was no question the New York Jets were going to address an offensive line that ranked 30th or worse in run blocking and pass protection last year, according to Football Outsiders. In the lead-up to the opening of the legal tampering period, New York was connected with a number of prominent free-agent linemen.
The Jets may not have gotten their first choice in that regard, but they did make an addition late Monday. According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, the Jets agreed to terms on a three-year, $30 million pact with left tackle George Fant. The 27-year-old Fant, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Seattle Seahawks, will get $13.7 million in guaranteed money.
Fant is not elite. But he’s made 24 starts (including seven a year ago) and is capable of playing both tackle spots. With a reasonable salary of $10 million per season, it’s a decent pickup.
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
It’s good to be a former New England Patriot who gets reunited with an old coach in free agency.
One year after signing a minimum deal to return to New England, linebacker Jamie Collins received the second big contract of his playing career. This time, per Justin Rogers of the Detroit News, it was a three-year, $30 million agreement to join former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia with the Detroit Lions.
Collins is coming off a great 2019 season in which he racked up 81 tackles, posted a career-high seven sacks and served as a major contributor for one of the NFL’s best defenses.
But Collins will also turn 31 in October and struggled to make the same impact with the Cleveland Browns in 2016-18 that he did in his first stint in New England.
The Lions needed to upgrade their pass rush, but there’s some risk involved with this agreement.
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Duane Burleson/Associated Press
Who says you can’t go home again?
When the Kansas City Chiefs flipped veteran quarterback Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins in 2018, cornerback Kendall Fuller was one of the pieces the Chiefs got in return. Now, after two years (and a Super Bowl ring) in Kansas City, Fuller is headed back to the nation’s capital.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Fuller and the Redskins have agreed on a four-year contract that will pay the 25-year-old $10 million per season. Fuller had 49 tackles and a sack in 2019.
He is capable of playing both inside and on the boundary, though he appears better suited to a role in the slot. He’s also shown the ability to be productive—82 tackles in 2018 and four interceptions the year prior.
Add in that he’s just now entering the prime of his career, and this is one of the better signings at the cornerback spot so far.
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Mike McCarn/Associated Press
The Buffalo Bills made the postseason last year, but the team had holes to fill in the offseason. After Shaq Lawson bolted for the Miami Dolphins, an edge-rusher sat atop the list.
General manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott addressed that need by looking to a familiar face from their days in Charlotte. Per Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN, the Bills agreed to sign veteran defensive end Mario Addison to a three-year deal.
The good news for the Bills is that Addison has been a consistency machine, posting at least nine sacks in each of the last four seasons. The bad news for the Bills is that Addison is 32 years old—his play could fall off a cliff at any moment.
Still, we haven’t seen a sign that said that is coming any time soon, and unless the salary terms on this deal are all kinds of wonky, it was another solid pickup in what’s become a nice free-agency period for the Bills.
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There’s an old movie called Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which aliens replace people with doppelgangers who look exactly the same but act a little…off.
Someone needs to check Bill O’ Brien’s garage for a spacecraft.
Over the past two days. O’Brien has used his power as both head coach and general manager of the Houston Texans to make one bizarre personnel move after another. The latest was the decision, per James Jones of NFL Network to “replace” the departed DeAndre Hopkins with veteran wideout Randall Cobb, who agreed to sign for $18.8 million guaranteed on a three-year deal worth $27 million.
Yes, Cobb had his best season since 2015 last year with the Dallas Cowboys, averaging a career-high 15.1 yards per catch. But Cobb also has just one 1,000-yard season over nine years in the NFL—and that was in 2014.
Overpaying a slot receiver who will turn 30 in August isn’t going fix the fiasco that was the DeAndre Hopkins trade.
It’s going to compound it.
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Mike Roemer/Associated Press
The New York Giants have become notorious in recent years for essentially ignoring the inside linebacker position. They haven’t used a first-round draft pick on a linebacker since 1984.
It doesn’t look likely that the Giants will do so in 2020, either—because the team just made a big-time free-agent signing instead.
As Alex Wilson of Empire Sports Media reported, the Giants have agreed to terms on a three-year, $30 million contract with inside linebacker Blake Martinez. He’s been one of the most productive players at his position over the past several years, and only Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks had more tackles in 2019 than the 155 Martinez tallied.
At first glance, $10 million per season seems like a bargain for such a productive tackler. And the Giants can’t really be accused of overpaying. But Martinez had his struggles in coverage over the past two years, and that’s a skill set that has become increasingly important for players at his position.
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Tony Avelar/Associated Press
The San Francisco 49ers have been busy over the first two days of the legal tampering period. Defensive lineman Arik Armstead got $17 million per season to stay, while fellow lineman DeForest Buckner was sent to the Indianapolis Colts in a deal that netted the Niners a top-15 pick in the 2020 draft.
Those moves continued Tuesday. According to Rapoport, the 49ers have also agreed to bring back the team’s longest-tenured defensive player in Jimmie Ward, who received $28.5 million over three years.
Ward has an injury history and won’t blow up the box score, but raw stats don’t begin to tell the story with the seventh-year pro. Ward is capable of playing at a high level all over the back end—and that versatility is highly sought after nowadays.
Ward was one of San Fran’s more important free agents. Getting him back at less than $10 million per season was a coup for general manager John Lynch.
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John Munson/Associated Press
The Arizona Cardinals aren’t playing around in the second year of the Kliff Kingsbury era. One day after making a blockbuster trade to land one of the NFL’s best wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, general manager Steve Keim cracked open the checkbook to strengthen the front seven.
Per Schefter, the Cardinals agreed to terms Tuesday on a three-year, $30 million deal with defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. Once considered a bust, the 27-year-old broke out in a big way in 2019, piling up career highs in tackles (31) and sacks (9.5). The latter ranked second in the league among defensive tackles.
There’s always a measure of risk involved in handing a player big money based on one huge season. But $10 million per season isn’t exorbitant for a potential difference-maker in the trenches, and the deal isn’t especially long.
So far, so good in the Valley of the Sun.
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Butch Dill/Associated Press
What an unexpected development—said no one ever.
On the same day Tom Brady stunned the NFL by saying goodbye to the New England Patriots on social media, the New Orleans Saints made sure fans in the Big Easy won’t have to do the same with Drew Brees.
As Rapoport reported, Brees agreed to ink a two-year extension that will pay the 41-year-old $25 million per season.
It’s hard to credit Saints general manager Mickey Loomis too much here—this was all Brees. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is the biggest steal of free agency so far.
It’s not just that the Saints can now gear up for at least one more run at the Super Bowl. It’s that Brees took a deal that was substantially less than his market value to allow the team to add pieces around him.
We now live in a world in which Drew Brees makes significantly less per season than Ryan Tannehill.
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Duane Burleson/Associated Press
The Miami Dolphins entered free agency with the most cap space of any team. Apparently, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier is a big believer in the old adage that “you can’t take it with you.”
One day after a flurry of signings, including agreeing to make Byron Jones the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback, the Dolphins kept right on going. Per Schefter, the Dolphins agreed to sign defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah to a two-year, $15 million contract.
Half of that money is guaranteed.
The Dolphins have taken a chainsaw to the league’s worst pass rush, as Ogbah tied a career high with 5.5 sacks a year ago in 10 games for the Kansas City Chiefs. The 26-year-old has been better known over his first four seasons as an edge-setter against the run than someone who gets after the quarterback.
Still, the Dolphins got a quality player for a reasonable amount of money, and Ogbah can hit free agency again at 28.
That makes this something of a win-win.
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Winslow Townson/Associated Press
After a disappointing 2019 season, there was no shortage of speculation this offseason that the Chicago Bears would make a splash in free agency by adding a veteran quarterback to compete with or replace Mitchell Trubisky.
Well, the Bears made a splash Tuesday, all right. It was just not what people expected.
According to Rapoport, the Bears agreed to sign veteran edge-rusher Robert Quinn to a five-year, $70 million contract that includes $30 million guaranteed. The 29-year-old paced the Cowboys with 11.5 sacks in his lone season in Dallas in 2019.
In theory, pairing Quinn with Khalil Mack could give Chicago one of the most feared one-two punches on the edge in the league. There was a time when an argument could be made that Quinn was the best pass-rusher in football.
But that time was 2013. Since 2014, Quinn has just one season with double-digit sacks. He’s missed time in four of the last five seasons, including two games a year ago. And the Bears now have tied up close to 20 percent of their cap space in two pass-rushers—one of whom will turn 30 in May.
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Mike McCarn/Associated Press
The Las Vegas Raiders had one of the weakest linebacker corps in the NFL in 2019. They appear hell-bent on changing that in 2020.
One day after bringing in Nick Kwiatkoski, the Raiders signed arguably the No. 1 off-ball linebacker in the free-agent class. According to Rapoport, the Raiders have agreed to bring in Cory Littleton on a three-year, $36 million deal.
The 26-year-old Littleton, who posted a career-high 134 tackles last year, has paced the Rams in stops in each of the last two seasons. He’s also shown a nose for the big play, adding 7.5 sacks, five interceptions, a pair of forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries over that span.
Littleton is superior to Blake Martinez and Joe Schobert in pass coverage and one of the better all-around off-ball linebackers in the game. After C.J. Mosley and Kwon Alexander got massive contracts in 2019, the Raiders got outstanding value in landing Littleton for $12 million per season.