Updated: Mar 22
By John Kaufman
NOTE – this article will be updated as new NFL transactions are reported. Check back often for the latest updates. Keep in mind that the terms reported in the deals below have been agreed upon, but are not official. They won’t become official until at least after the new NFL league year begins at 4:00 pm on March 18, 2020.
Last updated: March 20, 6:04 pm
Latest additions: Stefon Diggs trade, Jimmy Graham, Byron Jones, James Bradberry, Javon Hargrave, Marcus Mariota, Kendall Fuller, Randall Cobb, Nick Williams, Jamie Collins, Eric Murray, George Fant, A.J. Klein, Mario Addison, Austin Ekeler, Amari Cooper, Jimmie Ward, Jarran Reed and A.J. McCarron.
Despite the coronavirus’ best efforts to halt everything sports-related, NFL Free Agency is Brad Pitt at the end of World War Z, parting a stream of zombies as he casually strolls towards the CDC workers. And just like those CDC folks who were eagerly anticipating Brad’s arrival, so too were we fervently waiting for the NFL’s free agency period to begin. Our usual excitement for the start of free agency notwithstanding, with every news blurb seemingly about the coronavirus, we knew that this year’s free agency period would provide an exceptional distraction from COVID-19, which has undoubtedly affected us all.
Well, the start of the 2020 NFL free agency period did not disappoint. Not one bit.
So, I’m here to walk you through all the trades, all the signings, all the franchise and transition tags, everything. And while this article is intended to be informational in nature – I will post as many details of each transaction as are known at the time of writing – I will provide my thoughts about the signings, trades, etc., that were either really savvy or completely baffling. I mean, can you even have a conversation about the NFL and not mete out judgement only seconds after any deal is announced? No. No you can’t. I’m pretty sure that instantaneous scrutiny is mandatory.
Well then, let the judgements begin…
The Texans traded WR DeAndre Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for RB David Johnson, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick.
Bill O’Brien has really outdone himself here. This has to be one of the worst trades in league history. DeAndre Hopkins will be 28 years old this year on June 6. He is in the prime of his career. For his career, he has averaged – averaged – 1229 receiving yards per season, and that includes his rookie year where he totaled 802 yards, the least amount he’s recorded in any season. Without that rookie season included in the math, his average goes up to 1300 yards even. He has four seasons of 96-plus receptions. He has three seasons with 11-plus touchdowns scored. He routinely makes difficult catches look like a breeze. Simply put, his game is sublime.
And let’s not forget that a great deal of his accomplishments occurred before Deshaun Watson arrived in Houston. Do you remember the quarterbacks that were, ahem, “throwing” the ball to Nuk? Let’s all rejoice as we read through this list together, shall we?
Matt Schaub, Case Keenum, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage.
Good lord. That list is impossibly bad. It looks like the back of that famous Cleveland Browns jersey, the one that starts with Tim Couch and just gets sadder and sadder until it hits the floor. And while you ponder the depths of misery invoked by that list of QBs, consider this: in 2015, DeAndre Hopkins turned in this stat line: 111 receptions, 1521 yards & 11 TDs. He did that with Brian Hoyer for nine games, Ryan Mallett for four games, T.J. Yates for two games, and Brandon Weeden for one. Producing those numbers with those four QBs may be the most underrated wide receiver season in NFL history. We throw around the word “elite” a lot these days. But DeAndre Hopkins absolutely deserves that descriptor. He truly is elite.
That’s why this trade is objectively horrifying for O’Brien. If we consider the fourth-round picks that each team gave up a wash, then this trade is Hopkins for David Johnson and a second-round pick. On what planet is that equal value? Maybe if Houston had plucked Arizona’s first-round pick (#8 overall) we could consider this trade somewhat even. But even in that situation we’d all probably expect the Texans to draft either Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb so that they could replace DeAndre Hopkins. You know what would be better than searching for Hopkins’ replacement? Realizing how amazing he is and just keeping him on your roster.
Bill O’Brien has now traded for three RBs in the past year: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and David Johnson. Hyde stinks. O’Brien barely used Duke Johnson this past season even though he gave up a third-round pick to get him. So yeah, I’m sure we all can’t wait to see how he utilizes David Johnson this year. I’m sure DJ will give the Texans Hopkins-like production. Yikes.
Perhaps typing out 488 words (so far) about this trade is a bit much. But I really cannot fathom how this trade could ever have even come close to being executed. Bill O’Brien is an unmitigated disaster as a GM, and I thought that before he gave away a top-three receiver for a decent draft pick and the ghost of David Johnson. Now I believe that he is in the running for the worst GM of all time, and he has a substantial lead on everybody else.
The Vikings traded WR Stefon Diggs and a 2020 seventh-round pick to the Bills for their 2020 first-round pick (#22 overall), along with their 2020 fifth- and sixth-round picks, and their 2021 fourth-round pick.
While I do think this trade is pretty even strictly from a value standpoint, I absolutely love this trade from Buffalo’s point of view, and I really think that Minnesota squandered an opportunity here. Let's get into this.
First, let’s deal with what Buffalo’s GM, Brandon Beane, had to give up to get his #1 wideout in order to get some context on Diggs’ true cost. Beane sent his 2020 first- (#22 overall), fifth- and sixth-round picks, and a 2021 fourth-round selection. So, let’s be honest for a second. How many fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-round picks do we expect to turn into rosterable NFL players? The answer is not many at all. Maybe you could argue that fourth-round selections should become roster contributors at a fairly decent rate (and I wouldn’t push back if you did), but once you get past the third round of the NFL draft, our expectations are appropriately low. This means that Beane gave up four draft picks, three of which we have a very low probability of turning into much of anything. (By the way, this does not mean that I believe that all late-round picks are worthless, nor does it mean that I don’t understand that late-round picks are valuable as trade pieces. For the sake of brevity, I’m just arguing that most late-round picks don’t turn into All-Pros, that’s all.) And that leads up to the true cost of this trade: Beane essentially gave up the 22nd overall selection for Stefon Diggs.
In a vacuum, I would understand if someone would prefer to keep the 22nd overall pick instead of having Diggs on their roster. Maybe you value taller receivers. Maybe your team’s roster is loaded at WR and Diggs isn’t a necessity. Maybe his injury history scares you. Hell, maybe you just don’t like Diggs as a player. If that’s how you feel, that’s fine.
But I don’t think there’s much of an argument that Buffalo’s roster isn’t very much improved with Diggs on it. The Bills won 10 games last year, and they did it with an offense that – to put it mildly – lacked firepower.
Now don’t get me wrong, this roster is no joke. Beane put together a solid team and head coach Sean McDermott coached his ass off, like he always does. But you wouldn’t be alone if you lived outside of the Buffalo area and you couldn’t name three or more wide receivers on this team. Well, if you’re in a 20-team dynasty fantasy league where you roster 40 players each, maaaaaybe Andre Roberts is on your squad. But outside of that one crazy-ass fantasy league, most of you don’t even know if Andre Roberts is an actual Buffalo Bill football player, or if I just made him up to prove a point. (FYI, I didn’t make him up. His mama and his papa did, and they did a fantastic job because he does, in fast, collect a paycheck from the Buffalo Bills.)
Where was I? Oh yeah, a lack of firepower. Right.
Okay so here are the stats of last year’s receiving core:
John Brown caught 72 passes for 1060 yards and six TDs.
Cole Beasley snagged 67 balls for 778 yards and six TDs.
Wanna guess who was third on the team with 29 receptions for 194 yards and two TDs?
It was RB Devin Singletary.
If any team needs Stefon Diggs, it’s the Buffalo Bills.
Diggs is an incredible route-runner (maybe the best in the NFL), has phenomenal hands, isn’t afraid to go over the middle, has speed for days (which you know Josh Allen is gonna absolutely adore), and is dying to play for a team – and a fanbase – that actually wants him in town.
And that brings me to my final point on why I love this trade for Buffalo. I just respect the hell out of a GM who takes advantage of a deteriorating situation like the one that Diggs was experiencing with the Vikings. I mean, think about this for a second: the Vikings ended up having to trade Diggs because they couldn’t figure out how to utilize an ultra-talented guy like him, which frustrated him and the team and ultimately lead to his departure.
That’s it. That’s the essence of this whole thing. They drafted a wide receiver who is superb at running routes, is twitchy fast, and who catches every damn thing thrown his way, AND THEY COULDN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET THAT GUY THE BALL.
I mean, my goodness, Minnesota. Things just don’t have to be this difficult. If you just can’t seem to figure out how to deal with a supremely gifted WR when he falls into your lap, no worries. Just set him down, walk away, and let Josh Allen and the Bills show you just how easy it is to have a guy like Stefon Diggs on the roster.
The 49ers traded DT DeForest Buckner to the Colts for their 2020 first-round pick (#13 overall).
This trade is very intriguing for both teams. In 2019, the 49ers front four was as impactful a defensive line as exists in the NFL. Not only were they good, they were loaded with talent. The 49ers extended Arik Armstead on a five-year deal a few days ago, so they clearly viewed Buckner as somewhat expendable. It’s hard to blame them for moving one of their guys for the 13th pick in the draft. That’s an excellent return for a team that doesn’t have too many holes to fill. If Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb are on the board at 13, it’s hard to imagine John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan passing either one of them up.
This is an interesting deal for the Colts because it somewhat reveals their intentions at the quarterback position, at least a little bit. We were pretty sure that the Colts weren’t going to go into the 2020 season with Jacoby Brissett being the only plan at quarterback. Count me among those who thought that Indianapolis might be very interested in either Oregon QB, Justin Herbert, or Utah State QB, Jordan Love. One of those QBs was likely to be on the board at 13. With this trade, the Colts gave up on taking either of those young fellas. Very intriguing indeed.
On one hand, passing up on the chance to draft a potential franchise QB is unbelievably risky, to say the least. I mean, you simply don’t have the chance to pick a QB of that caliber very often. Maybe your draft pick isn’t that high. Or maybe it is but there’s really only one QB projected to be a good pro, except that he’ll never fall to where your pick is, and you may not have the ammo to trade up and get him. If you’re lucky enough to be in position to draft a QB who you think will be the face of your franchise, you cannot – under any circumstances – pass on the opportunity to select him. Period. Clearly, Colts GM Chris Ballard doesn’t believe that either Herbert or Love is that guy, so he felt he could move his first-round pick for a quality player.
On the other hand, it makes all the sense in the world for the Colts to forgo the opportunity to take a rookie QB with their now former draft pick. Their roster is very good and is ready to compete right now. The one thing they are very sorely missing is solid play from the QB position. Relying upon a rookie QB for that can often be, well, anything but reliable. Windows in the NFL open and close rather quickly and very unexpectedly. It’s not all that shocking that Ballard is choosing to place his team’s 2020 postseason chances on a non-rookie QB. Exactly who he plans to hand the reins to is anyone’s guess. I, for one, can’t wait to find out who it is. I’m sure we won’t have to wait long for the reveal.
The Ravens traded TE Hayden Hurst and a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Falcons for second- and fifth-round 2020 picks.
This is a bizarre move for the Falcons to make. They let 25-year-old Austin Hooper walk so that they could give up a second-round pick to lock up an older (Hurst will turn 27 on August 24), former first round pick who has been very underwhelming so far in his career? Why not just sign Hooper and keep your draft capital? It’s not like you don’t know which TE is better. Hooper has already had two seasons that have been more productive than Hurst’s career best. And, signing a top shelf TE isn’t crippling for your cap at all. They make about half of what the top-tier WRs make. This deal doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever.
The Jaguars traded DE Calais Campbell to the Ravens for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
The Panthers traded OG Trai Turner to the Chargers for OT Russell Okung.
The Jaguars traded CB A.J. Bouye to the Broncos for a 2020 fourth-round pick.
Free Agency Signings – Players Signing with a New Team:
The Browns have agreed to a deal with former Titans RT Jack Conklin on a three-year $42 million contract.
While I understand why the Browns made this move, I don’t necessarily love this signing. Mind you, I don’t hate it either. But again, I get it. New Browns GM Andrew Berry inherited a mess of an offensive line. The interior of the line (LG Joel Bitonio, C J.C. Tretter and LG Wyatt Teller) was actually pretty solid. But the tackles (LT Greg Robinson and RT Chris Hubbard) were abysmal. Moves had to be made, so Berry pulled the trigger on Conklin.
On the positive side, Conklin was the best tackle available in free agency this year. He is a fantastic run-blocking tackle, repeatedly grading out near the top compared to his peers. And, he is only 25 years old.
On the negative side, Conklin became a free agent because the Titans didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on him. It’s always concerning when a young, seemingly good player isn’t retained by his own team. We’ll probably never know why Tennessee decided to move on from Conklin. But if I had to guess, and clearly I do, Conklin’s torn ACL near the end of the 2017 season that led to him not being ready for the start of 2018 probably has a lot to do with it. Or perhaps the Titans walked away because Conklin is a subpar pass protector. According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell on ESPN.com:
“ESPN's pass block win rate analysis isn't quite as sanguine, ranking (Conklin) 59th among NFL linemen while blaming him for 10 sacks in 2019, a far less impressive number.”
Now, Conklin’s new offensive line coach is Bill Callahan, one of the best and most well-regarded coaches in the league. If anyone can help improve Conklin’s game, it’s Callahan. So let’s not write him off as a pass-protection liability just yet.
Look, the bottom line is that, with the tackles that Cleveland currently has on its roster, Berry had to make a move. And considering the other tackles that are available in this year’s free agency class, Berry may have made the only move he reasonably could have made, and he didn’t overpay to do it. That counts for something.
In the end, this signing will be judged like all others are. If Conklin stays healthy and shores up his pass-protection mistakes, this deal will be lauded for some time, and rightly so. If Conklin’s injury-ridden past becomes his injury-ridden future, and if he continues to make pass-blocking gaffs, Berry will be criticized for ignoring the warning signs that will end up being obvious to us with our perfect, 20-20 hindsight vision. The spotlight will be on Conklin right from the start, so we’ll be able to grade this transaction soon enough.
The Dolphins have signed OG Ereck Flowers to a three-year contract worth $30 million, $19.95 million of which is fully guaranteed.
Flowers was originally drafted by the Giants as a LT, and he had been a massive bust until he moved to guard after signing with the Redskins in 2019. The move inside was an excellent decision, as last season was easily the best of his young career.
The Browns have agreed to a four-year deal with former Falcons TE Austin Hooper. The deal is worth $44 million, $23 of which is guaranteed. The deal will make Hooper the highest-paid tight end in the NFL.
Cleveland’s new head coach, Kevin Stefanski, has a new TE to pair with Browns incumbent, David Njoku. Last year in Minnesota, Stefanski’s offense used two TEs on 57% of plays, which was the highest rate in the league. And while Hooper is not on the level of Travis Kelce or George Kittle, his route running is very solid, he is a good blocker who should do very well in Stefanski’s wide zone scheme, and his ability to catch the ball away from his body using only his hands is outstanding. He is as reliable a pass-catcher as there is at the TE position, and he should shine in Stefanski’s TE-heavy attack.
Last, as I mentioned in the trade section above, the top TEs get paid about half of what the top WRs make. Even though Hooper is the highest-paid TE in the league, he’s only making $11 million per year. When DeAndre Hopkins restructures his deal with Arizona, he’s going to make around $20 million per year. Now, I’m not saying that Hooper is comparable to Hopkins. Far from it. I am saying that Austin Hooper on an $11 million per year deal is a hell of a value compared to Hopkins’ projected $20 million per season. Except for Bill O’Brien, we’d all jump at the chance to pay Hopkins to catch passes on our squads. But Hooper’s 97 catches, 787 yards and six TDs in 13 games last year is worth so much considering how little his salary will count against the cap. And, Hooper will only 28 when this contract is played out. A second contract with the Browns is extremely likely. This was a home run for Andrew Berry.
The Bears are signing former Bears TE Jimmy Graham to a two-year deal worth $16 million, including $9 million in guaranteed money.
This is laughable. Just utter nonsense.
Jimmy Graham is 33 years old and Bears GM Ryan Pace just gave him $8 million dollars a year. For a hilarious reference, as I mentioned above, the Browns just signed TE Austin Hooper for $11 million a year. Now, Hooper’s deal is for four years and Graham’s is only for two, but these two players simply cannot be separated by only $3 million. If Graham is worth $8 million a year then you have to turn your phone sideways to calculate Hooper’s value. If any of you math-gifted folks actually do the calculations on this, please leave them in the comments below, because I need to see this. Thanks.
The Dolphins have signed former Cowboys CB Byron Jones to a five-year contract worth $82.5 million, including a $15 million signing bonus and $54.375 million in guarantees.
This deal is incredibly intriguing with regards to two important aspects:
1. Schematically speaking, I cannot wait to see how Jones is deployed in the Dolphins’ defense. He is a converted safety, so he’s only been playing corner for two seasons now. And, he rarely travels to follow the other team’s number one wideout. Per Bill Barnwell on ESPN.com, in the past two seasons over 95% of Jones’ snaps came on the right side of the Cowboys defense.
Conversely, his new teammate and fellow cornerback, Xavien Howard, does often follow the other team’s best receiver. So what will Miami do with these two? Will they move Howard around like he is used to, thus making Jones move around, which he has no experience doing? Or will they leave Jones on the right and Howard on the left, forcing Howard to play out of his comfort zone. Something has to give here, and I cannot wait to see how the Dolphins attempt to solve this puzzle, if it is even solvable.
2. We often see teams construct their rosters to directly compete with the other teams in their division, especially on the defensive side of the ball. So, just focusing on that aspect, do you need the most expensive CB duo in the NFL to deal with soon to be 34-year-old Julian Edelman? Or whomever the Jets are going to roll out at wideout? (Hey, Jets! Robbie Anderson’s phone works. Just so you know.) I guess we should keep in mind that the Bills just traded for Stefon Diggs, so it will be nice to have Jones and Howard face off against him twice a year. But to me it seems like overkill to pay two CBs top money like this. If the Dolphins find a QB and turn things around quickly and are winning, no one will care that they’re paying two CBs like this. But if they keep losing, or if either Jones’ or Howard’s deal prevents them from signing some significant piece elsewhere on the team, you’ll never hear the end of the lamenting.
The bottom line is that we’re just going to have to wait to see how this one plays out before we can properly assess it. I know, I know. I want to yell and scream and burn everything to the ground just like you do. But look, sometimes we just have to wait, okay?
Put the torch down. C’mon. Put it down. Atta boy.
The Giants have signed former Panthers CB James Bradberry to a three-year, $43.5 million contract, with $31.98 million in guaranteed money.
I am often extremely harsh on Giants GM, Dave Gettleman. And while he definitely has been very deserving of brutally honest criticism, if I’m going to be fair then I have to commend him when he does something smart. Well, he did something smart here.
Signing Bradberry to a deal worth only $14.5 million per year is incredible value considering how good of a corner he has been, especially in the last two seasons. Ask anyone who has had Mike Evans on their fantasy teams the past few years. When the Bucs faced off against the Panthers, you could just put Evans on your fantasy team’s bench and start any other random WR and you’d have done better than if you had foolishly started Evans.
But it’s not just Evans. This guy entered the league and was tossed into a division with Chris Godwin, Julio Jones and Michael Thomas. Naturally, he won some of those battles and lost others, but you can’t say that he hasn’t been tested. And most of the time, Bradberry passed those tests and then some. With his new team, he won’t face nearly that level of competition on a weekly basis, though he could certainly handle himself if suddenly he had to do so.
Yeah, I hate to say it, but Gettleman sure got this one right.
The Eagles have agreed to terms with former Steelers NT Javon Hargrave on a three-year, $39 million deal, including a signing bonus of $11.75 million and $26 million in guaranteed money.
Well, the Browns fan in me IS THRILLED to see Hargrave leave the AFC North for Philly. That is wonderful news for me and the rest of the city of Cleveland.
But this is also incredible news for Eagles fans as well. Howie Roseman has done it again. Hargrave is one of the few nose tackles who can not only be a run-stuffer, but can effectively rush the pass as well. This is an elite player that Roseman got for a mere $13 million per year. That is phenomenal value. Philly fans, rejoice.
The Raiders have agreed to terms with former Titans QB Marcus Mariota (terms undisclosed).
Huh. You can never have too many underwhelming QBs, I suppose.
I can already see the August headlines now:
“Mariota to become Tannehill 2.0?”
You watch. Everyone that is talking about Mariota will bring up the idea that if Derek Carr underperforms (ha ha ha, “if”), Mariota could step in and take over for him and become an MVP candidate the way that Ryan Tannehill did when Mariota faltered.
Let me save you all some time. That’s not going to happen. Mariota vs Carr truly is the Battle of Who Could Care Less? There are no winners here. Only Raiders fans.
(But hey, I’m a Browns fan so what do I know? I mean, sure, I’ve read about winning, but I’m not sure what it actually looks like…)
The Redskins have reached a deal with former Chiefs CB Kendall Fuller on a four-year contract worth $40 million.
Fuller was actually drafted by Washington back in 2016, but was traded to Kansas City as part of the deal that brought Alex Smith to Washington. Fuller is back with his original team, and they wasted no time in trying to get him to return.
The Texans have agreed to terms with former Cowboys WR Randall Cobb on a three-year deal worth $27 million, including $18.75 million in guaranteed money.
Wow. And I didn’t think that the DeAndre Hopkins trade could get any worse, but um… here we are.
Trading away Hopkins for the zonk behind door number three was bad enough, but trying to wallpaper over that mistake by signing Randall Cobb is like letting your home insurance coverage lapse and then lighting your own house on fire because your daughter has a pretty dope dollhouse that – you swear – is much roomier than it looks, and it’s cool, y’all can just live there for a bit.
Yeah. Good luck with that, Houston.
The Lions have signed former Bears DT Nick Williams to a two-year deal worth $10 million, with $4.9 million in guaranteed money and a $2 million signing bonus.
The Lions have signed former Patriots LB Jamie Collins to a three-year contract worth $30 million, with $18 million in guaranteed money.
The Texans have agreed to terms with former Browns S Eric Murray on a three-year deal worth $20.025 million.
The Jets have signed former Seahawks OT George Fant to a three-year contract worth $27.3 million, including $13.7 million guaranteed with a $3 million signing bonus.
The Bills have signed former Saints LB A.J. Klein to a three-year, $18 million contract, including $11.3 million guaranteed and a $1.2 million signing bonus.
The Bills have also signed former Panthers DE Mario Addison to a three-year deal worth $30.45 million, including $15.25 million in guaranteed money and a $6 million signing bonus.
The Dolphins have agreed to terms with former Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy on a four-year deal worth $51 million, $30 million of which is guaranteed and a $12 million signing bonus.
The Panthers are signing former Browns S Juston Burris on a two-year deal worth $8 million.
The Ravens have agreed to a three-year contract with former Rams DL Michael Brockers. The contract is worth $30 million and includes $21 million in guaranteed money.
The Panthers have signed former Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly to a two-year contract worth $12.5 million, including $6.25 million in guaranteed money and a $4 million signing bonus.
The Lions have agreed to terms with former Eagles OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai on a five-year deal worth $45 million, with a $7 million signing bonus and $20 million guaranteed.
The Browns have agreed to terms with former Redskins QB Case Keenum on a three-year contract worth $18 million, with $10 million in guarantees.
The Broncos have signed former Lions OL Graham Glasgow on a four-year, $44 million contract, $26 million of which is guaranteed.
The Dolphins signed former Bengals S Clayton Fejedelem to a three-year deal worth $8.55 million, $3 million of which is guaranteed.
The Redskins have signed former Falcons OG Wes Schweitzer to a three-year contract worth $13.5 million, including a $3 million signing bonus and $4 million in guarantees.
The Las Vegas Raiders have signed a three-year contract with former Bears LB Nick Kwiatkowski. The deal is worth $21 million, with $13.5 million in guaranteed money.
The Dolphins have signed former Bills DE Shaq Lawson on a three-year, $30 million deal.
The Packers have signed former Lions RT Rick Wagner on a two-year deal worth $11 million, $3.5 of which is a signing bonus.
The Packers have agreed to terms (two years, $16 million) with former Browns LB Christian Kirksey.
CB Josh Norman has agreed to a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills worth $6 million, with incentives that could escalate up to $8 million.
Franchise Tagged Players:
(Note – these players have until July 15 to sign a long-term contract with the teams that tagged them.)
QB Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys: Dak’s one-year tender will earn him $31.5 million in 2020.
That’s a nice little purse for one year of service. But what needs to be discussed here is that the Cowboys failed to sign Dak to a long-term contract, thus locking up their young QB for the foreseeable future. Why they failed to do this is anyone’s guess.
One thing we can’t blame it on is Jerry Jones’ reluctance to sign his young players to long-term deals, because Jones has been anything but reluctant to do so. In fact, Jones has made it a priority to ink quite a few of his studs to multi-year deals. In the past four years, Dallas has signed Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, Jaylon Smith, Amari Cooper and Blake Jarwin (more on those last two later) to multi-year deals. We can argue all day long about the worth of each of those players and the value of each of their contracts. What we can’t argue about is this: none of them play the most important position in all of sports.
Rayne Dakota Prescott is entering his fifth season in the NFL and he has yet to miss a single game. He has a 40-24 record as a starter, and his team has never finished worse than 8-8. Dak has a career completion percentage of 65.8%, has a 16.2-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, boasts a 7.8 Adjusted Yards per Attempt career average (for reference, Tom Brady’s career AY/A is 7.7), and has also rushed for 21 touchdowns. I’m not saying that he is a top five QB in the league. I don’t even care where you want to rank him compared to his peers. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that he has clearly proven to be a more than capable QB. Dallas has absolutely no excuse for not getting a deal done with their precocious passer.
As I said before, quarterback is the most important position in all of sports, and Dak has proven that he can perform – at minimum – at an above-average level. Pay the man, Jerry. Get it done.
RB Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans: Henry will earn $10.278 million on the 2020 franchise tag.
This tag makes a ton of sense for the Titans’ front office. Glancing around the league, it’s pretty obvious that signing a running back to a multi-year deal worth 10+ million a year hasn’t really boded well for the franchises that have gone that route. Running back is largely a replaceable position, so locking up a guy with 518 carries in the past two years – including 303 in 2019 – makes little to no sense. Pay him for another season, see how that goes, and either tag him again or move on. This was a smart move by Tennessee and they should be commended for it.
DT Chris Jones – Kansas City Chiefs: Jones’s tag is worth $16.126 million.
Chiefs GM Brett Veach knows that sooner rather than later, it will be time to back up a Brink’s truck into Patrick Mahomes’ yard, so tagging Jones was completely necessary. This is a smart move for now – retaining the services of a game-changing interior disruptor – and for later, when it comes time to pay Mahomes. This is another example of a great team making savvy moves, much to the dismay of the rest of the AFC.
OG Joe Thuney – New England: Thuney’s tag will net him $14.78 million this year.
Applying the franchise tag to Thuney was a bit of a surprise to me. He is in his fifth year, has started every game in his young career, and is easily one of the best guards in the league. (Thuney has committed 12 holding penalties… in his four-year career.) Locking up a player of his caliber seems automatic, but overall cap issues may have forced New England’s hand. Perhaps they will get a deal done in the near future. There are even hints that the Patriots might trade Thuney. Time will tell.
I don’t really think this decision should be viewed as good or bad. What the Patriots do next with Thuney will matter much more. If they do lock him up long-term, we’ll see how team-friendly the deal is. If they decide to send him elsewhere, they better get a haul for his services. I’ll save the analysis for when either of those occurrences roll around.
OG Brandon Scherff – Washington Redskins: Scherff will make $14.78 million on his tag.
Like Thuney, Scherff is an offensive guard who will play on the franchise tag in 2020. Also like Thuney, Scherff is a young, elite guard whose team probably would rather have him signed long-term. The reason he isn’t signed beyond this year is most likely because he has dealt with injury issues recently, missing 21 games in the past three seasons. And Washington just hired a new head coach, Ron Rivera, who may want to take a year to assess Scherff’s playing ability up close. Should Scherff make it through the 2020 season unscathed, he’ll probably have a contract offer served up rather quickly. If the injury bug does bite him again, well, he may find himself playing elsewhere in 2021.
S Anthony Harris – Minnesota Vikings: Harris will earn $11.4 million on the 2020 franchise tag.
Call it a hunch, but I believe that the Vikings only tagged Harris because they’re hoping to trade him. I think they tagged him so that he didn’t hit free agency where they’d obviously lose control of him. My hunch should be proven right or wrong rather quickly, as any trade involving Harris would most likely occur before the draft. If the Vikings do end up keeping Harris, I’m sure they’ll feel kinda okay entering the 2020 season with one of the best safety tandems in all of football (along with box safety Harrison Smith).
S Justin Simmons – Denver Broncos: Simmons’ tag is the same as Harris’ – $11.4 million.
This was standard procedure for Denver; they typically tag the players they intend on signing long-term. Expect a contract to be offered to Simmons in the near future.
WR A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals: Green will collect $17.865 million playing on the 2020 franchise tag.
This has to be the most interesting of all the franchise tags. Green has had injury issues in his recent past, but I think most people agree that he wasn’t exactly in a hurry to heal up and get back on the field last year. The famously quiet Green stayed on brand by not saying much either way about his potential future with the only franchise for which he’s ever worn a jersey, so we were left to speculate about how his 2020 season would play out. Would he refuse to play in Cincinnati? Would he demand a trade? Would he sign another contract with the Bengals? Would he play on the franchise tag? All of these options seemed equally likely, mostly because with how removed from the spotlight A.J. Green always is, you just never know which way the wind is blowing.
We know this though: the wind is going to whoosh Joe Burrow into town, and so far that seems to be enough to keep Green happy and in a Bengals jersey. I imagine that Burrow will be pretty happy about that as well. After all, having a 6’4” athletic freak of nature running routes for him should certainly provide him with plenty of reasons to smile.
TE Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers: Henry’s tag is worth $10.6 million in 2020.
Henry’s NFL career has been a frustrating dichotomy – either he is producing like almost no other tight end ever has (he has scored 17 touchdowns in 41 career games) … or he’s hurt. Period. If Henry can prove that he can consistently stay healthy, the Chargers will be happy to sign him for the long haul. If he can’t, he’ll have a chance to resurrect his career in some other city. Simple.
DE Leonard Williams – New York Giants: Williams will earn $17.04 million this year.
Williams getting tagged feels like a rest stop on the road to a long-term deal. I expect Giants GM Dave Gettleman to offer Williams a contract fairly soon.
DE Yannick Ngakoue – Jacksonville Jaguars: Ngakoue will make $17.788 million on the 2020 franchise tag.
On March 2, Ngakoue tweeted that he has no interest in being a Jaguar long-term. So this one-year deal was expected and will end up being the last deal Ngakoue will ever sign with Jacksonville.
OLB Bud Dupree – Pittsburgh Steelers: Dupree’s 2020 tag is worth $15.8 million.
Dupree was on the path towards a “draft bust” label until he broke out in 2019. This tag is Pittsburgh being cautious that 2019 wasn’t the aberration in Dupree’s career. If he puts together another solid season they will most likely put together a contract offer. However, the Steelers currently are in salary cap hell, so they’ll have to juggle some money and make cuts before they can even think of signing anyone long-term.
OLB Matthew Judon – Baltimore Ravens: Judon’s $15.8 million tag is actually the highest cap hit on the Ravens in 2020.
Baltimore has a habit of letting their good, young players hit free agency and sign contracts with other teams so that they can collect the compensatory picks they are awarded as a result. Za’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley are recent examples of this trend. And while the Ravens decided not to let Judon walk this year, I don’t believe that this means that a long-term deal is in the bag. I would say that a trade is as likely as a multi-year deal for Judon. And that’s not an unenviable position for Baltimore to be in. Either they sign their excellent linebacker, or they try to get top value for him via trade. Seems like a win-win for the Ravens.
OLB Shaquil Barrett – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Like Dupree and Judon, Barrett will earn $15.8 million on his team’s franchise tag.
Barrett is entering his seventh season in the NFL, having spent the first five with the Denver Broncos. In 2019, he exploded for a league-leading 19.5 sacks. Prior to last year, Barrett had never recorded more than 5.5 sacks – which he tallied back in 2015 – in any season. In all honesty, Barrett is exactly the type of player for whom the franchise tag was designed. He had been an average-at-best player his entire career until he finally broke out in a huge way. The Buccaneers simply want to see more from Shaq before they commit to him for multiple years.
Transition Tagged Players:
(Note – the transition tag differs from the franchise tag because the tagged player can choose to sign elsewhere, but the team tagging the player is given the chance to match the competing offer.)
The Arizona Cardinals have placed the transition tag on RB Kenyan Drake. The transition tag is expected to be worth approximately $8 million in 2020.
Free Agency Signings – Players Re-Signing with their Current Team:
The Titans have agreed to a four-year deal with their QB, Ryan Tannehill. This contract will be worth up to $118 million, with $62 million of it fully guaranteed.
This is A LOT of guaranteed money to give to a guy who had been a major disappointment throughout his entire career up until last year. It could be argued that injuries and inept coaching (please see: Gase, Adam) haven’t helped Tannehill whatsoever. But this is betting on a guy that has continually busted, which to me just doesn’t makes any sense.
Clearly Tennessee’s GM, Jon Robinson, was in a difficult spot having to franchise tag either Tannehill or RB Derrick Henry. And perhaps signing Henry to a long-term deal while tagging Tannehill is the worse of these two options. Maybe there simply is no right answer here. Can you imagine the reaction in Nashville if Robinson, barely three months removed from an appearance in the AFC Championship game, let both Henry and Tannehill walk? This feels like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation, doesn’t it?
Personally, I would have gone with whichever option doesn’t involve handing $63 million to a QB with way more questions than answers. Obviously, Jon Robinson disagrees with me. His goal has to be figuring out how to dethrone Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. I’m just not sure that four more years of Ryan Tannehill is how you accomplish that.
RB Austin Ekeler signed a four-year deal with the Chargers worth $24.5 million, including $15 million in guaranteed money.
What a fantastic signing this is. Ekeler is a steal at just over $6 million a year, especially considering the Chargers’ offer to Melvin Gordon last summer was for $8 million a year. Chargers GM Tom Telesco is getting similar production from Ekeler as he would have from Gordon, and he saved $2 million. Telesco definitely deserves a raise for this one.
The Cowboys have re-signed WR Amari Cooper on a five-year deal worth $100 million, including a $10 million signing bonus and $60 million in guaranteed money.
I don’t really have anything negative to write about Cooper or this deal. I think he’s an excellent receiver who was slightly underutilized in Oakland but who has shined so far in Big D, and should continue to for sure. The money is okay as well. He’s being paid like a top WR and I don’t think that you can argue that he isn’t one, at least talent-wise.
What baffles me about this deal is that Dallas seems to always be able to find money to pay everyone on the roster except for Dak Prescott. I don’t get it. Has news of the relative importance of the quarterback position compared to all other positions in all of sports not made its way down to the Dallas-Fort Worth area? That seems rather unlikely with Snapgram and Instachat being ubiquitous. I feel like news travels faster than ever now!
What’s that? They’re called Snapchat and Instagram?
Eh, I’m old. And nobody likes a smartass. Now get off my lawn.
The Vikings have extended QB Kirk Cousins on a deal worth $66 million for two years.
The 49ers have re-signed S Jimmie Ward to a three-year contract worth $28.5 million, including a $8 million signing bonus and $16.5 million in guaranteed money.
The Seahawks have re-signed DT Jarran Reed on a two-year, $23 million deal with $14 million in guaranteed money and a $10 million signing bonus.
The Texans have re-signed QB A.J. McCarron on a one-year, $4 million contract, including a $2 million signing bonus and $3.75 million in guaranteed money.
The Saints have re-signed DT David Onyemata to a three-year, $27 million contract.
The Titans have re-signed OT Dennis Kelly to a three-year deal worth $21 million, $8.75 of which is guaranteed.
The Redskins have re-signed LB Jon Bostic to a two-year deal worth $5 million, $1.75 million of which is guaranteed.
The 49ers have re-signed OT Shon Coleman on a one-year deal (terms undisclosed).
The 49ers have re-signed DL Arik Armstead to a five-year deal worth up to $85 million, with $48.5 million guaranteed.
The Cowboys re-signed TE Blake Jarwin to a four-year deal worth up to $24.5 million, $9.25 million of which is guaranteed.
The Buccaneers have re-signed DE Jason Pierre-Paul on a two-year, $27 million contract.
The Patriots have re-signed S Devin McCourty to a two-year contract worth $23 million.
The Falcons have extended DT Tyeler Davison for three years and $12 million, $4.5 million of which is guaranteed.
The Texans have re-signed CB Bradley Roby to a three-year contract worth $36 million.
The Vikings have extended P Britton Colquitt on a three-year deal worth $9 million, $5 million of which is guaranteed.
The Colts have agreed to a two-year extension with LT Anthony Castonzo worth $33 million.
The Texans re-signed CB Phillip Gaines on a one-year deal (terms undisclosed).
The Lions re-signed long-snapper Don Muhlbach (terms undisclosed).
The Bills re-signed TE Jason Croom on a one-year contract (money undisclosed).
The Ravens re-signed kick returner De’Anthony Thomas on a one-year deal (money undisclosed).
The Patriots and special-teamer Matthew Slater agreed to a two-year extension that will average $2.6 million per year.
The Bears signed LB Danny Trevathan to a three-year extension (money undisclosed).
The Panthers sign QB Kyle Allen to a one-year deal.
The Buffalo Bills have re-signed OG Quinton Spain on a three-year extension worth $15 million. Spain had previously signed a one-year deal with Buffalo in April 3, 2019.
The New England Patriots have exercised the 2020 option on CB Jason McCourty.
The Houston Texans re-signed TE Darren Fells (two-year deal that includes $4 million in the first year) and K Ka’imi Fairbairn (four-year contract, money undisclosed).
Across the Board Sports