Top 5 Best and Worst Signings for Day One of NFL Free Agency

NFL Free Agency Tracker

The first day of free agency negotiations was certainly not disappointing. With multiple moves being made by several franchises, the outlook for the upcoming season has completely changed. This list will only contain free agents signed or re-signed on March 15, 2021. Let’s highlight the top five best and the worst moves of the day.

Note: this was made up to 9:15 PM CST Monday night. 

Top Five Best Signings

1) Corey Linsley, C, Los Angeles Chargers, Five Years/$62.5 Million

The Chargers truly hit a home run here. The team just lost their former center to retirement, and many panicked that four of the five offensive line spots were empty. Linsley certainly changes the outlook on the whole situation. Getting Justin Herbert a leader of the offensive line and a great mentor is worth twice the contract that is being paid. The best center in football now resides where some of the worst offensive line play occurred just months ago. With a few draft choices or free agent signings at left tackle and the guard spots, the Chargers may soon be in business for a Super Bowl run.

2) Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Las Vegas Raiders, Two Years/$26 Million

This deal was such a steal. Sure, Ngakoue has not been a top-five pass rusher, but he has been solid, garnering second-and third-round picks by the end of his trading frenzy. With signings around the league like Matt Judon that average out to be $19 million per year, this agreement is unreal. $13 million per year for two years is a number that mid-to low-end talent gets on a team that is desperate for edge help. The Raiders certainly could use the help, but one would never have imagined it at this price. Great job, Vegas. 

3) Corey Davis, WR, New York Jets, Three Years/$37.5 Million

Everyone knew that the Jets needed another playmaker. With Nelson Agholor coming off the market at $13 million per year, one would speculate Davis to be around $16M/year. Well, the Jets decided to get a resurgent potential number one wide receiver for cheaper than a mediocre number two or three. This deal fits a need and got extraordinary potential value for the price. Cheers to Joe Douglas: he may have not made many moves on day one, but he made one of the best. All eyes are on the draft.   

4) Jonnu Smith, TE, New England Patriots, Four Years/$50 Million

Getting a weapon was priority number one for the Patriots. After leaving Tom Brady to use essentially scraps for weapons, Bill Belichick caves in and cashes out the big bucks for a dynamic weapon. Cam Newton needed a solid check-down target: he now has a great one. Getting a center and another receiver may very well put New England back on the playoff contention track offensively. The ranking would be better if Smith were not paid like a top-three tight end after one great season in Nashville.

5) Carl Lawson, EDGE, New York Jets, Three Years/$45 Million

Robert Saleh has acquired a new shiny toy for a pass-rush needy roster (especially after losing Henry Anderson to the Patriots). At his price point ($15 million per year), the value is incredible, especially when other contracts like Bud Dupree‘s were averaging $16.5 million per year. Lawson is a dangerous, explosive edge rusher. The Jets now have the building blocks of a nasty defense.    

Top Five Worst Signings

1) Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Los Angeles Rams, Four Years/$64 Million

Ouch. Floyd has not been the elite defender that he was drafted to be years ago by the Bears. With Los Angeles in need of instant help to win a Super Bowl, this deal would make sense money-wise if it were on a shorter deal. The Rams are doomed cap-wise if they dare to compete past this year. With no draft capital left and possibly less money, this year is now do-or-die for the Rams. This is exacerbated by the Ngakoue signing for three million dollars less per year and half of the years. While last year it was the Chicago Bears making an overpay move for Robert Quinn (formerly of the Rams), this year it is the Rams making an overpay move for Floyd (formerly of the Bears).

2) Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, Cincinnati Bengals, Four Years/$60 Million

When the Bengals let Lawson enter free agency, many thought it was for contract cost rather than talent. Well, so much for that idea. Hendrickson was paid the exact same per year. To put that into perspective, Hendrickson was a rotational edge defender, while Lawson was a dangerous starting edge rusher with extreme potential. This may be one of the biggest overpays in Bengals’ history. 

3) Bud Dupree, EDGE, Tennessee Titans, Five Years/$82.5 Million 

Wow. After Dupree put up solid consecutive seasons in Pittsburgh, he cashes in with the Titans. Nashville certainly gave up the bag for an edge rusher coming off a brutal injury. The massive deal was by far one of the most show-stopping deals of the day. At least the former Steeler showed great promise and development. The Titans need help on defense desperately, but they pay an extremely high fine to attempt to fix it. This may be another Jadeveon Clowney situation, where it seems nice until the play is seen on the field. Overall, this deal was too large for even a guaranteed starter, let alone a potential starter coming off of a play-altering injury. 

4) Nelson Agholor, WR, New England Patriots, Two Years/$26 Million

This is a straight overpay. The Patriots are excellent at getting good players in the slump of their career and reviving them. Now all Belichick is doing is grabbing meh players at the height of their career and attempting to maintain it. This just does not seem to be the right move. Agholor is one season removed from dropping almost every pass his way. This was not the right wide receiver to go to New England when they could have paid possibly three to five million more per year for JuJu Smith-Schuster or Kenny Golladay. For once in the 21st century, Belichick is selling out to try to save his reputation.

5) Joe Thuney, OG, Kansas City Chiefs, Five Years/$80 Million

How can the best offensive linemen in free agency be among the worst signings? Simple: the Chiefs paid huge for a position that was far from a need (even on their offensive line). The guard spots are fine enough for now, but the center and tackle spots are bereft (apart from Lucas Niang). Kiss goodbye to bringing star talent on the offensive line for years to come now that Patrick Mahomes and Thuney will be taking up extraordinary amounts of cap space. 

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