Free agency is often a mad rush to throw as much money as possible at positions of need and quality players. While it doesn’t officially start until 4pm ET on Wednesday, there is a 48-hour “legal tampering” period prior to free agency which allows teams to throw their offers in early and get the particulars squared away with agents and players so that when the new league year does start, they are ready to go.
We have already seen a few deals being announced, including a couple of big names and some big money. Let’s take a look at who is going where so far, bar any last minute snags of course.
Jacksonville Jaguars add Andrew Norwell
Norwell was the best interior offensive lineman on the market, and Jacksonville immediately threw down a monstrous contract to bring him to Florida.
The five-year, $66.5 million deal includes $30 million fully guaranteed and makes Norwell the highest-paid guard in the NFL in terms of total value, average per season and guaranteed money, just a year after the Cleveland Browns set the bar with their free agent deal for Kevin Zeitler.
Norwell was Pro Football Focus’ #3 guard in the league last year and didn’t allow even a hit on Cam Newton all year, nevermind a sack. He gave up just 15 pressures in over a thousand snaps including the playoffs and was a monster in the run game as well.
He will immediately slot in between left tackle Cam Robinson and center Brandon Linder to make a monstrous left side of the offensive line. With an average weight of 320 lbs, plus the hammer that is Leonard Fournette behind them, the Jaguars are clearly looking to maul teams even more and make their running game such a threat that even the bad version of Blake Bortles couldn’t screw it up.
The move will somewhat hamstring the Jags for the rest of the year with regards to cap space. They have just $27 million and that is before adding Norwell, but they still have cuts they could make to open up more space.
I like Norwell a lot, but this is a ton of money and makes the Jaguars only marginally better. They clearly have a plan to be a team that runs the ball and plays defense in 2018, but that is a very low percentage play. Still, adding an All-Pro is always a good thing to do.
Kansas City Chiefs add Sammy Watkins
For as long as Andy Reid has been with the Chiefs, they have lacked a real outside threat at wide receiver. They have had nice players there, Jeremy Maclin for example, but no one to really dictate coverage or force safeties away from the middle of the field. Tyreek Hill can do it to a certain extent, but he also doesn’t run your traditional routes particularly well.
It is no surprise then, that the Chiefs went after Sammy Watkins hard. What is a surprise is the price tag it took to sign him: three years, $48 million, with $30 million guaranteed. That is the fifth-highest guarantee for a receiver, and the fourth-highest annual average, among receivers for a player that is yet to top 1,100 yards in a season or hit double digit touchdowns.
Watkins is only 24 and still has a lot of untapped potential, but he has also been battling injury throughout his career and has only played 16 games once.
This could be a great addition, but with all the other targets around the field and his injury/production problems there is no way that Watkins puts up the kind of elite numbers to justify the contract Kansas gave him, especially with the team so hard up against the cap as it is, and you can forget him outperforming the deal.
Chicago Bears add Allen Robinson
The Bears lacked for any kind of receiving threat in 2017. With Kevin White once again being hurt, Cameron Meredith going down in preseason and then Zach Miller nearly losing his leg in October.
Bringing in new receivers was their #1 mission this offseason, and they got the ball rolling in a big way with Allen Robinson.
For many, Watkins was the #1 receiver in free agency, for myself it was Robinson. His ability to not only stretch the field outside the numbers but can create separation with his route running as well. His big frame makes him a wide target for quarterbacks, and in 2015 he and Blake Bortles were near-unstoppable going down the field as Robinson racked up 1,400 yards on 80 catches and found the endzone 14 times.
Of course, an ACL tear in Week 1 puts a question mark against his future health, but with the success rate of that surgery at an all-time high and Robinson already well into his rehab there is little to suggest he will take a step back in 2018, when he will be just 25.
With a three-year, $42 million contract containing $25 million in guarantees the Bears have signed themselves a player with a better health record and better previous production than Sammy Watkins for less than the Chiefs paid, plus they have far more cap space than Kansas City and can absorb the contract more easily. This is a terrific move for the Bears and Mitchell Trubisky.
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