NFL free agency technically just launched, but it’s essentially over. Practically all of the key moves have already been made, which means we already have some standout discounts. We already took a look at the five worst moves so far in free agency, and here’s a look at the five best moves:
5. San Francisco 49ers trade DL DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis Colts for No. 13 overall pick
The 49ers got out of having to give Buckner a contract that would’ve cost them over $20 million a year, landed a first-round pick, and gained the space to re-sign top 2020 sack artist Arik Armstead. You can debate who is better between Buckner and Armstead, but they probably wouldn’t have been able to keep both long term with Dee Ford, Nick Bosa, and Solomon Thomas on board. This way, they pocket a primo draft pick and save money. Genius move from general manager John Lynch.
4. Miami Dolphins sign edge Shaq Lawson to a three-year, $30 million with $21 million guaranteed
Lawson registered 4.5 of his 6.5 sacks last year in the final six weeks of the regular season, which could suggest the talented 25-year-old is about to explode. This is a high-trajectory signing, and yet the 2015 first-round pick still isn’t one of the 25 highest-paid edge-defenders in the NFL. That’s shockingly good value for a player at a premium position with an extremely high ceiling.
3. Cleveland Browns sign OT Jack Conklin to a three-year, $42 million contract with $30 million guaranteed
New Browns general manager Andrew Berry seems to realize that the key to finishing this rebuild is to bolster support for young franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield. That starts with smart signings like Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper. Conklin isn’t cheap, but he didn’t even come close to resetting the market, which is stunning considering his experience and upside. He was PFF’s sixth-highest-graded right tackle in 2019 despite coming off a torn ACL, and he’ll immediately serve as an upgrade over the disappointing Chris Hubbard (whose release would save the team nearly $5 million anyway).
2. Buffalo Bills trade first, fifth, sixth-round picks, and a 2021 fourth-round pick to Minnesota Vikings for WR Stefon Diggs and a seventh-round pick
That’s a lot of draft capital, which is why a run-first Minnesota Vikings team that already has Adam Thielen and needs to save money also made out well here. The Vikes can now turn to the receiver-rich draft for Diggs’ replacement, while the Bills have a guy who can immediately step in and rock out as young quarterback Josh Allen’s top weapon. Diggs is only 26 and is coming off his best season in terms of yards. And in 2019, he was the only qualified receiver in the NFL to average at least 17 yards per catch and catch at least 67 percent of his targets.
1. Arizona Cardinals trade RB David Johnson, a second-round pick and a 2021 fourth-round pick to Houston Texans for WR DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick
An absolute coup. That’s the only way to describe whatever this is. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim must have something on Texans GM Bill O’Brien, because this was robbery. I’ve tried for 48 hours to wrap my head around it, and it’s as perplexing now as it was when it went down Monday afternoon. Johnson is older and less accomplished than Hopkins. He plays a less valuable position and he hasn’t been good since 2016. Oh, and he’s just as expensive. The Texans better hit an immediate freakin’ home run with that second-round pick.