Free agency is always a tricky exercise where teams try to land established veterans that will greatly improve their team while juggling the balancing act of the salary cap with the competitive demands of the open market. Below are the ten signings that are equal parts fair value and immediate impact on the field. Below are some clear winners in free agency so far.
10. Nick Fairley, DT, St. Louis Rams: 1 year, $5 million
As if the Rams’ defensive line needed to get any better. Fairley is a character and work ethic concern, but the Rams can afford this contract and it’s only a one year investment. If he lives up to his potential this scary defense got even better and he should be motivated playing on a 1 year contract.
9. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: 4 years, $40 million
This feels expensive but good playmaking receivers are hard to come by. Cobb is coming off a monster season and his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers is undeniable. The Packers are glad to have him back and the offense shouldn’t miss a beat.
8. Rodney Hudson, C, Oakland Raiders: 5 years, $44.5 million
There’s no denying this is an enormous contract for a center. Too much, in fact. The “Raider tax” is alive and well. But Hudson is only 25 and the Raiders desperately need to protect Derek Carr. More importantly, they get a very good player with experience that will be able to comfortably make line audibles. This is a nice get for the Raiders and while the investment is high they’ll get good return on this one.
7. C. J. Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints: 4 years $18 million
This may seem like a lot for a 3rd down back, but Spiller is perfect for this offense. If you’ve seen what Sean Payton has been able to do with Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles, and how much they missed a dynamic receiving back like them last year, you’ll know that adding Spiller is a home run for the Saints.
6. Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs: 5 years, $55 million
Receiver was a huge need, especially with Dwayne Bowe on the way out, and the Chiefs landed one of the best young players. It might be pricey but Alex Smith is thankful.
5. Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: 4 years, $16 million
The Saints signed Ingram right before the start of free agency and in hindsight the Pro Bowl running back might have been better off testing the market. Frank Gore (much older) got the same contract with a year less on the deal. He’s young and had by far his most productive season. Hard to believe the Saints got him for cheaper than Spiller.
4. Mike Iupati, G, Arizona Cardinals: 5 years, $40 million
The Cardinals land the best offensive lineman in free agency and make a divisional opponent much weaker in the process.
3. Jerry Hughes, DE, Buffalo Bills: 5 years, $45 million
You’re going to have to spend on an established pass rusher. The going rate for the double digit guys is $10 million a year. Hughes took a little bit less than that and he’s an ascending player at only 26. Hughes has posted 10 sacks in each of the last two seasons, but with this investment the Bills would like to see that number go up a bit. No reason it can’t with his ability.
2. Vince Wilfork, DT, Houston Texans: 2 years $9 million
The concept of him playing on the same defensive line as J. J. Watt should be terrifying to anyone in the AFC.
1. Terrance Knighton, DT, Washington Redskins: 1 year, $4 million
The investment here is low and Knighton is a beast. The Redskins should get a lot of return on this and it will immediately impact their run defense in a very positive way. The Broncos will regret not bringing him back at a price this reasonable. The Redskins may regret only signing him for one year.