2021 NFL Free Agent Contract Grades

Jameis Winston, QB, Saints

1 year, $5,500,000, $5,500,000 total guarantees ($5,500,000 full)

The Saints strike gold with Winston at $5.5 million on the season. Not that this is much lower than I would have thought but it is around $2 million less than the Saints paid Teddy Bridgewater a few years ago and millions less than they are paying Taysom Hill. There is more upside for Winston here than Bridgewater had and if he starts he should earn some of that money though. Winston probably will not have a better chance to salvage his career than this and needs to make the most out of it and win the starting job.

Grade: A

Aaron Jones, RB, Packers

4 years, $48,000,000, $13,000,000 total guarantees ($13,000,000 full)

While I am never in favor of these running back contracts, this is one of the better ones that hits the top of the market. The stated value of the contract is $12 million year but the number is inflated due to the backend salaries. The cash breakdown is $20 million over the first two years and then $28 million over the next two years, which you know he is never seeing. This is a basic split of the market between Melvin Gordon at $8 million and the next tier of runners at $12 million.

Thats not to say it is all bad for Jones. He got a great cash payout this year and will earn more than he would have with two franchise tags. Packers do get salary cap relief by being able to bury money in 2023 and 2024 as part of the signing bonus. Green Bay needs him to be productive this year to justify the contract and if he isnt then this was a big win for Jones.

Grade: B

Jamal Agnew, CB, Jaguars

3 years, $14,250,000, $4,000,000 total guarantees ($4,000,000 full)

This is a lot to pay for a very good return man as most of those deal wind up in the sub $3 million range. I wonder if this is one of those cases where they see him as being able to contribute either as a corner or a receiver which is why the boost in salary. Those ideas rarely work out. The team has tons of cap room to spare so there is no real reason for them to get deep into the weeds on the numbers but there is a big premium here. They can walk after a year but that would mean they spent $5 million for 2021.

Grade: D

Marvin Jones, WR, Jaguars

2 years, $12,500,000, $9,000,000 total guarantees ($9,000,000 full)

I love this one for the Jaguars. Jones is such an accomplished receiver and has shown no signs of slowing down. He has played on bad teams before and never played down and should be great for the team as they try to find their way with a rookie QB this year and then a big contributor to what will be expected to be a playoff team in 2022 if all goes according to plan.

I get that teams might be fearful after his former teammate was a total dud in New York and Philly but this is older slot receiver money and Jones is more than that. This is one of the steals of free agency.

Grade: A

Kenny Golladay, WR, Giants

4 years, $72,000,000, $40,000,000 total guarantees ($28,000,000 full)

I'm not exactly sure who the Giants were bidding against here other than the thought that they would either have to pay up or he would go somewhere else on a one year contract. Golladay is a good player and this number is fine at the start of free agency but when you see how lackluster the market was for receivers for the 2nd year in a row I tend to think the Giants could have gotten a better deal.

To squeeze him into a very tight cap situation they had to bump his future cap hits up to $21M a year basically making him a one year bargain and then a three year large charge on the cap. Payout structure is good for the Giants as they get a steady cash stream, but the way this is structured is really a case where they need a massive return this year. If the QB busts and they are starting over this is going to be an albatross. A risky long term move.

Grade: C-

Justin Simmons, S, Broncos

4 years, $61,000,000, $35,000,000 total guarantees ($32,100,000 full)

A good deal for Denver all things considered. They kept the safety market with a minor incremental jump with this contract rather than pushing into the $16 million or more per year range. It shows the power of the franchise tag when a Landon Collins as a UFA wound up with a contract that averages $15 million a year over the first three years while Simmons will be at $15.5 million. Simmons 1st year salary will actually trail the other top players at the position before he makes the jump to top earner in year 2 and 3.

Simmons does get the early 3rd year salary guarantee which should ensure earning at least $35 million over two years if the Broncos have any thoughts of walking away after 2022. Those are smart ways to structure the contract for the player. I am not sure why the Broncos opted for such a low year one cap charge but perhaps they had more designs on spending in free agency this year. The numbers here are fair for both but skew a bit more toward the Broncos.

Grade: B-

Cairo Santos, K, Bears

3 years, $9,000,000, $4,575,000 total guarantees ($3,575,000 full)

Among kickers whose contracts have expired before signing this one will rank 5th in the NFL in annual value. It is well down from the Josh Lambo/Jason Myers group and well above the Dustin Hopkins line. For a player who has been cut so many times recently I am not sure I understand the number here other than to split the group.

The Bears are in a significant salary cap crunch and every penny really counts at this point which is the other reason I dont like this. You should never be using void contract years to help fit a kickers salary cap charge. That is just pointless no matter how small. It is certainly a better deal than the Cody Parkey deal they did a few years ago but I dont know if this was the time for this one either.

Grade: C-

Mario Edwards Jr., IDL, Bears

3 years, $11,660,391, $5,500,097 total guarantees ($5,500,097 full)

This is a good overall deal for the Bears who get three years done with a young player who still has some upside. At worst he is a 30% situational type and he is paid as such at just under $4 million a season. The Bears and Edwards had a little fun with the contract working his number (97) into almost every possible way. While that is a pain for people like me it shows that this was a pretty smooth deal for both sides. I am not crazy about using void years but the Bears cap is a mess so they probably didnt have much of a choice and he is young enough to where an extension two or three years from now could happen anyway.

Grade: B

Shelby Harris, IDL, Broncos

3 years, $27,000,000, $15,000,000 total guarantees ($15,000,000 full)

This was a great bounce back for Harris who struck out in free agency last year. This contract reads like a new general manager trying to send a message to a locker room by keeping a talent in the fold as $9 million a year is a big number for someone who played just 11 games last season and comes off a $3.25 million contract signed exactly one year ago.

Broncos fully guarantee nearly the entire first two years of the deal right at signing. I thought Harris would wind up with just a 1 year guarantee right at the same payment they are making this year. So this is pretty bullish in that regard. They do have a little room to renegotiate if things go south. It is a bit of a high cap figure next year at $11 million but this is something most teams are having to deal with this year so it is not out of the ordinary.

Grade: C

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Bengals

3 years, $21,750,000, $7,500,000 total guarantees ($7,500,000 full)

This is a pretty solid deal for Awuzie who I thought was headed to the one year contract outcome this year. The lack of available corners I guess helped him. The Bengals continue to go too high in their first year numbers but this one isnt that bad. An $8 million cap hit next year is reasonable and they have an out to release him though nobody chases a sunk cost as much as the Bengals so I doubt that is much of a consideration.

Grade: C

Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, Bengals

4 years, $60,000,000, $16,000,000 total guarantees ($16,000,000 full)

There is a lot of, in my opinion, rash judgements of this contract because of the guarantee number. Doing business with the Bengals is like doing business with the Steelers and Packers- you don't get anything guaranteed beyond year one and the teams plan on having you play the contract out. Hendrickson gets $20 million in year 1. $20 million. That number is huge and on par with the players who earn $17 million a year. There are functional guarantees as roster bonuses in the 2nd and 3rd year of the contract as well.

While I dislike the large cash payment up front and think the Bengals are making a mistake with this approach (they did the same with Trae Waynes last year) the cap numbers are steady and they could move on at any point. They do get a 4th year on this compared to Carl Lawson getting just three years with the Jets though Hendrickson is even more of a boom/bust type.

Grade: C+

John Johnson, S, Browns

3 years, $33,750,000, $24,000,000 total guarantees ($20,000,000 full)

I expected Johnson's market to heat up once the big names all got tagged and he got himself a pretty strong contract in Cleveland. He basically nailed down the guarantee on a four year contract while only getting a three year deal. He has the 7th highest guaranteed number at the position and by year only trails Tyrann Mathieu and the disparity is not that big.

Capwise this is a mess and one I dont understand at all. I am guessing that when the papers are finalized they will have void years tacked onto this. There is $18.75M in prorated money in this deal which is just crazy for a three year contract. As it stands now the cap hit in year 3 is over $17 million but again my guess is a void year or two will make it lower. Basically he is either going to reup after two years on another big deal or get cut after just two seasons. I think this is an incredibly strong contract for Johnson and one the Browns should have done better with.

Grade: D

Ronald Darby, CB, Broncos

3 years, $30,000,000, $19,500,000 total guarantees ($19,500,000 full)

Darby was one of the players I had a very hard time judging thinking his market could be anywhere from another 1 year, $5 to $6 million contract to a lucrative deal. Denver went with the lucrative deal of $10 million a year over three years with the first two guaranteed. Im never a big fan of really jumping over the money that players have signed for in the past unless they had a truly breakout year. Darby is talented but his last two deals were for $6.5 million and $3 million.

The deal is pretty straightforward with cash of $10M a year and they opt for the ultra low year one cap charge followed by high cap charges in 2022 and 2023. That surprised me because they were one of the teams that seemed to not have cap troubles this year. Only $1 million in total per game bonuses for a player who has missed at least five games in three of the last four years is a a mistake. I think they could have found a better deal out in the market this year.

Grade: D

Mike Hilton, CB, Bengals

4 years, $24,000,000, $6,000,000 total guarantees ($6,000,000 full)

I love this contract for the Bengals and have to believe this is a contract the Steelers could have matched if their salary cap was not so bad. Unlike some of the other Bengals contracts there is nothing wild in the up front numbers and the team gets the three year value under $6M per season. With cap numbers never exceeding $6.05 million in the first three years this just seems like a solid job all the way around.

Grade: A-

Dustin Hopkins, K, Football Team

1 year, $2,462,500, $1,887,500 total guarantees ($1,887,500 full)

A fair deal for a kicker and one in which the Football Team gets a nice salary cap discount by utilizing the somewhat rare four year player qualifying contract, basically allowing them to take $1.25 million off the cap charge here. There is generally no need to do long term deals for kickers and this is the perfect way to sign someone that you like.

Grade: A

Kevin Zeitler, RG, Ravens

3 years, $22,500,000, $16,000,000 total guarantees ($16,000,000 full)

A decent deal for both sides with the second year guarantee and strong year one cash likely being the reason this one got done so quickly. $7.5 million is a fair value for Zeitler. Structure of the contract would allow the Ravens to trade him next year if they needed to, but that would be a miss if that happened due to how much they are paying in 2021. I would guess Baltimore is actually looking at this as a three year investment that goes beyond the guarantees.

Zeitler won't count against the Ravens comp picks which is another reason they were aggressive here with the signing. Cap is reasonable with $9 and $9.5 million chargers in the 2nd and 3rd year of the contract.

Grade: C

Joe Thuney, LG, Chiefs

5 years, $80,000,000, $46,890,000 total guarantees ($31,890,000 full)

Thuney certainly benefitted from the scarcity of talent at the position this year. Average value of this one destroys the field with the $16 million average compared to the market of $14 million but the Chiefs get there in a reasonable way. Thuney will trail Zack Martin in both first and second year cash before making the turn in the 3rd year. I always like those structures. He will earn slightly more than Brandon Scherff on the tag this year which I am sure is by design.

The guarantee is strong here with the 2023 P5 vesting in 2022 so he is locked into that three year number, though the contract is tradeable at that point. It is a very low cap number this year to squeeze him in which does inflate those future years. They did use a bit of a unique mechanism with a P5 end of contract potential guarantee in lieu of a roster bonus as traditionally done. I like that concept a lot from the teams perspective.

Grade: C

Cameron Erving, LG, Panthers

2 years, $10,000,000, $8,000,000 total guarantees ($8,000,000 full)

Essentially a two year, fully guaranteed $10 million contract with what looks to be a big backloaded salary cap number in year two. Erving is a decent jack of all trade type but I am not sure anyone saw this contract coming. Erving was cut from the Chiefs on a far less salary than this and wound up in Dallas for $2.5 million only appearing in 6 games and playing 24% of the Cowboys snaps because of injury. He has only played 16 games once and there are no per game bonuses in this one year after Dallas got 20% of the deal as per gamers. In my opinion they completely misread the market.

Grade: F

Corey Davis, WR, Jets

3 years, $37,500,000, $27,000,000 total guarantees ($27,000,000 full)

The Jets wasted no time in targeting their top receiver and getting him done before things could get out of hand. This is a fair market contract for a player with a ton of upside and a ton of questions. There was a limited group of players to really compare Davis to and the Jets seemed to split the difference between the Tyrell Williams/Devante Parker numbers and the Davante Adams tier.

A very steady set of cap hits each year which was a good use of their cap surplus this year and a big departure from other teams approaches. The guarantee is very high but if you are looking at this as a real three year commitment they are not going to care about that aspect.

Grade: B

Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Jaguars

4 years, $35,000,000, $16,000,000 total guarantees ($16,000,000 full)

Safety contracts are notoriously hard to project and I certainly never would have projected Jenkins to break out like this and nearly hit the $9 million a year mark. Im guessing the Jaguars see him as being a standout playing in a different style role than he played with the Chargers.

Unlike many of the contracts that have been signed this year this is a true two year and we shall see contract which is smart with this type of number. Like with many of the Jaguars deals I don't understand why they went so low in the cap this year as it may come back to haunt them in the future.

Grade: C

Shaquill Griffin, CB, Jaguars

3 years, $40,000,000, $29,000,000 total guarantees ($24,500,000 full)

There are two ways to look at this one. One is that I think they really overvalued Griffin who I think should have been moved one notch below this level. The second is that once you do value him that way how is the contract you signed?

Compared to the Bradberry and Peters signings this skews team friendly for a contract this size. While we expected lesser numbers this year in payouts, $26.5 million over two years is about $4 million less than Bradberry and $6 million less than Peters. The guarantee package is less than Bradberry as well. I would have rather seen the team use more cap room this year to lessen the blow down the line but perhaps they have more big plans in free agency they are saving it for.

Grade: C-

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Football Team

1 year, $10,000,000, $6,000,000 total guarantees ($6,000,000 full)

The Ryan Fitzpatrick tour continues, this time with a stop in Washington. Fitzpatrick is exciting and they have some pieces there which can make for a fun offense if they let him play. If he starts turning the ball over I am not sure what kind of restraints they will put on him which will kind of take away from what makes him fun.

This is the second largest contract in terms of annual value of Fitzpatrick's career and if he hits his incentives it can match his biggest one. I think that is overpaying for him especially with a market that is filled with similar players earning under $8 million a year. Still they desperately needed a QB and he was the best available.

Grade: C+

Roy Robertson-Harris, IDL, Jaguars

3 years, $23,400,000, $14,000,000 total guarantees ($14,000,000 full)

The Jaguars have certainly loaded up on interior linemen, but this is the player with the most upside. Going beyond that $4 to $5 million range for a player who historically is a 30% snap player is risky so they need him to play as he did in 2019 when he saw the field for half the snaps for the Bears and played well enough to earn a 2nd round tender.

A $9 million 2nd year cap hit is very high and the Jaguars are going to potentially put themselves into a tight position in 2022 with all these signings. This will probably depend on how much carryover they are left with, but this is another spot where they probably could have taken a different path. They are really focusing on per game bonuses which is good for the organization.

Grade: C-

Leonard Williams, IDL, Giants

3 years, $63,000,000, $45,000,000 total guarantees ($45,000,000 full)

I am not sure what took so long to do this contract as the numbers more or less come in right as expected with Williams averaging $21 million a season. I don't think the wait impacted the Giants in the early days of free agency the way some do but it would have gotten a big question mark out of the way if they got the deal done early.

The only real issue for the Giants is the length on this. With this much money invested in Williams they needed a fourth contract year to give them an option in 2024 if he plays well. He can't be tagged at the end of this contract so he will have a ton of leverage when the cap is expected to rise. That was incredibly well designed by his side. Otherwise the Giants keep trade options option in the last two years of the deal and don't do anything crazy with the cash structure of the contract.

Grade: C+

Dalvin Tomlinson, IDL, Vikings

2 years, $21,000,000, $20,800,000 total guarantees ($15,900,000 full)

This is a nice little contract for Tomlinson who basically gets the entire contract guaranteed, with almost everything paid up front this year. At just two years in length he should get another big free agent opportunity in 2023 and this has more earning potential than taking a longer deal that may have paid a bit more on a yearly basis.

This is a good fit for the Vikings defense but I am not sure its a fit for where they are as a team. They seem a bit directionless right now and having to go to void years to fit someone in doesnt seem smart. Value wise the number is fine, even if its a two year deal, but they are a team in a weird place and it is hard to see where they are going.

Grade: C

Trent Williams, LT, 49ers

6 years, $138,060,000, $45,100,000 total guarantees ($40,050,000 full)

This contract blew me away. There is basically no logical reason for any team to pay a 33 year old left tackle this kind of money, especially a team that has no real viable path to a QB at the moment. Perhaps that will change in a few weeks and they have their eyes on someone in the draft but a few years ago San Francisco never would have even entertained this kind of contract and they made a terrible mistake not extending him last year if this was going to be the outcome.

The contract itself is an interesting one. It's basically two contracts in one. The first four years of the contract average "just" $20 million a season before he gets to the massive annual value if he plays year 5 and 6. Its a creative way of reaching a market setting APY that is nowhere near that. Still this is far too much to pay and the first three years are a virtual lock due to the guarantee structure which was well done by Williams' side

Grade: F

Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, Buccaneers

4 years, $68,000,000, $34,500,000 total guarantees ($34,500,000 full)

Every year a bunch of free agents claim they left money on the table and 99% of the time its BS, but this time it is not. The Buccaneers get a steal convincing Barrett to return to Tampa Bay at $17 million a season with $34.5 million in guarantees. My own opinion is that this contract was so good it sent the rusher market into some disarray before Dupree and Floyd signed their contracts after other settled for contracts.

This lags the Flowers contract by $1 million a year and over $20 million in guaranteed salary. It barely beats the ZaDarius Smith deal from two years ago and he was a part time player. With no third year guarantees the team can walk after two seasons if necessary even with the $18 million signing bonus. Just a great job by the Bucs here.

Grade: A

Bud Dupree, EDGE, Titans

5 years, $82,500,000, $35,000,000 total guarantees ($33,750,000 full)

The Titans were always going to be compromised in any negotiation with a pass rusher because of how much they tried to fix that area through free agency last year. This wound up being one of those rarer instances where waiting things out got a stronger contract for the player after the market took an initial downturn for edge rushers.

Value overall is fair and right around our offseason projections. His first year salary comes right in between Floyd and Barrett and he will match Barrett's three year metric. The $16 million signing bonus gives the team enough flexibility to move on or look for a reduced salary in year 3 if Dupree isnt the same player. Only getting $250,000 in per game money in the first year is weak as they should have looked for more especially since the edge rushers voids had pretty much filled by the time they did this deal. I would guess they will take out insurance against the signing bonus as added protection.

Grade: C

Carl Lawson, EDGE, Jets

3 years, $45,000,000, $30,000,000 total guarantees ($30,000,000 full)

I was surprised at both the signing and number for the Jets. Lawson is one of those raw talent, potential hidden gem types but it is not as if he was dominating on a bad team in Cincinnati. He will need to up his production overall to justify the contract. That being said he has the physical tools to be the best pass rusher the Jets have had since John Abraham which is quite some time ago.

The Jets contract approach has become similar to that do not use signing bonuses and instead opt for cap equals cash charges. That prevents Lawson from ever being an albatross in any given season. The $30 million in guarantees are high for a player who will only give you up to three years. or example Bud Dupree received $35 million but could be tied to the Titans for 5 years. They should have pushed for four years which is what every other pass rusher took other than Yannick Ngakoue.

Grade: C-

Romeo Okwara, EDGE, Lions

3 years, $37,000,000, $25,000,000 total guarantees ($20,000,000 full)

Okwara was the player I had the most trouble coming up with a value with this year and thought there were a big range of numbers here that could happen. In hindsight Detroit may have jumped the gun given where some of the pass rusher contracts wound up but Okwara is on the younger end and very well could have wound up in the Lawson group at $15 million a year.

The contract is cash heavy in year 1 so the Lions really need two good years from this one to justify the investment. I would guess that they have enough wiggle room to renegotiate the contract next year if things went really bad this year but that may be an uphill battle with so much guaranteed money plus the bonus money that is in the contract. They had to go to a lower cap figure this year but his future numbers never get out of control and he is young enough to where the void year wouldnt worry me that much.

Grade: C

Lavonte David, LB, Buccaneers

2 years, $25,000,000, $20,000,000 total guarantees ($17,500,000 full)

We had David at 3 years, $12 million per year and $20 million guaranteed and he came in at 2 years, $12.5 million per year and $20 million guaranteed so I would say this was right on target with market expectations. David was hard to compare with other players since he was going to be a bit of a unique player here. The numbers were nowhere near Bobby Wagner, nor should they have been, and above Demario Davis and Jamie Collins which they should have been.

The Bucs go off their usual path here by using roster bonuses that will prorate. Why not just use a signing bonus? No idea, but I guess in a sense it lets them stay the course somewhat in their no bonus philosophy. They add three void years for proration which I dont have an issue with since they just won the Super Bowl and are trying to run it back with the same group. There are times worth taking more risks and this was one of them. It is much harder to pick and choose in these spots so this is a fine alternative to get it done. I would not be surprised if this ultimately follows the Eagles new June 1 restructure plan with a restructure of sorts next year.

Grade: C

Michael Davis, CB, Chargers

3 years, $25,200,000, $15,000,000 total guarantees ($10,000,000 full)

I thought Davis would go a slight tier below this level but the Chargers clearly put him in the 2nd corner tier. Davis turns the ball over which is always a big winner when its time for a new contract. When put on this level the contract fits in pretty perfect among others and more or less matching the Steven Nelson and Chris Harris contracts. If things were to go south they could easily bail after 1 year for $10M.

Did they overpay? I thought he might get lost in the shuffle of so many names at this level but if you are penciling him in as a starter on the outside this is pretty fair value.

Grade: B

Hunter Henry, TE, Patriots

3 years, $37,500,000, $25,000,000 total guarantees ($25,000,000 full)

Effectively a mirror image of the Jonnu Smith contract that the Patriots negotiated at the same time as they were doing the Henry contract. The only real difference here is the guarantee is lower which simply reflects the fact that one contract is three years and one is four.

This contract is much more in line with expectations for Henry than Smith's was. Henry is the more accomplished of the two but does pose an injury risk. The Patriots have large per game bonuses here too which is strong. Cash flows are really high for the first year and as a team they are pushing a lot of cap charges to 2022 but if the plan is to transition to a rookie QB they should be fine.

Grade: C

Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Rams

4 years, $64,000,000, $32,500,000 total guarantees ($32,500,000 full)

I didnt expect Leonard Floyd to be among the highest paid pass rushers this offseason but given the way some of the younger players were getting paid and the Rams cap situation this was probably their best option. The cash on the contract is very fair with straight $16M a year payments the guaranteed years on the contract run more like players earning in the $13 to $15 million per year range before it makes the turn in year 3 and 4. I think that is pretty well managed.

As far as the cap hits go the Rams were incredibly tight on cap room so doing the ultra low 1st year number and high numbers thereafter had to happen. There are no third year guarantees which is a good thing and they do come away with a four year deal that has numbers that they can definitely change if necessary on the back end of the deal. A fair contract for both sides and one that should have happened a few weeks ago before the old deal voided.

Grade: C

William Jackson III, CB, Football Team

3 years, $40,500,000, $26,000,000 total guarantees ($21,000,000 full)

After Griffin and Darby went for what they did this was a great job by the Washington Football Team to get Jackson in at $13.5 million per year. He has the most talent of those three players and is earning around the same as Griffin and just a few million more than Darby. I would much rather have Jackson for $3 million more a year than Darby who he will be replacing.

The numbers are all around solid with no crazy first year payments like with Trae Waynes last season and $2.25 million of the contract tied to being healthy. The only downside here is they did go to $15 million on the signing bonus which I dont think was necessary as they could have taken more on the cap this year. Other than that this is a good job especially in light of where the market went for some players.

Grade: B+

Jalen Mills, S, Patriots

4 years, $24,000,000, $9,000,000 total guarantees ($9,000,000 full)

This was one of the first surprising deals but when the final numbers came out there was less in the deal than thought. The real value on this is two years for anywhere from $10 to $12 million depending on health. The Patriots structured this in a way that they could cut him after the 2nd year and could probably bring his salary in the 2nd year down more if necessary. He gives the Patriots aging defense some much needed athleticism and should be productive enough if healthy.

Grade: B

Matt Judon, EDGE, Patriots

4 years, $54,500,000, $32,000,000 total guarantees ($30,000,000 full)

I loved this signing by New England. They came in fast and got Judon at a pretty low cost considering his reputation coming off the franchise tag. He doesn't have the upside of the younger players but should be a steady force on the Patriots defense. His numbers come in around the comical Robert Quinn deal.

The Patriots got a great per game addition at $1 million per year, which seems to be their standard this season. The $2 million third year vesting guarantee was good as well since they did not get the vesting condition in the Jonnu Smith deal. The cap hits are what they are. The Patriots decided to treat free agency as a team building exercise as that is what you need to do. They probably need to make sure they do not re-do this one for cap relief.

Grade: B+

Nelson Agholor, WR, Patriots

2 years, $22,000,000, $16,000,000 total guarantees ($16,000,000 full)

In a year where the wide receiver market seemed to be soft from a money perspective I have no idea what the Patriots saw in Agholor at this price. Agoholor had a nice season in LV as a deep threat but he is just one year removed from being looked at as a total flop, playing on a veteran salary benefit contract with the Raiders. I would have to do some work to see if this is the largest jump ever in veteran contract value for such a player but I would imagine it is close.

If Agholor bombs the Patriots can probably bring his cap number and salary down by $4 million in 2022 assuming they have offsets on his $5 million guarantee, which is likely.

Grade: C-

Jonnu Smith, TE, Patriots

4 years, $50,000,000, $31,250,000 total guarantees ($31,250,000 full)

If anyone can explain this one to me please do so. Though the years I have seen some wild numbers for tight ends but they were all at least within some normal market. This one isnt. Smith's $17 million year salary is insanely high with nobody within $5 million of that besides George Kittle. His three year is $2 million below Travis Kelce and $5.5 million more than Austin Hooper. His guarantee at signing is about $8 million more than the next closest player. He has guarantees all the way out into the 3rd contract year which comes close to effectively guaranteeing the full three year number.

About the only thing to like on this is the aggressive per game bonuses. I'm not sure if I will find a contract I dislike more than this one this year.

Grade: F

Denico Autry, EDGE, Titans

3 years, $21,500,000, $9,000,000 total guarantees ($9,000,000 full)

This is a solid contract for the Titans to get a nice veteran addition for their defensive line. Autry by no means is a game changer but is the type of player that is solid all around and is the type of player you need on a good football team. The value here is good and the guarantee small enough next year that they could walk away if needed. The Titans did not have a ton of wiggle room with their cap which is why the cap number is high in 2022, but again that is impacting 2/3 of the league this year.

Grade: B

Kyle Juszczyk, FB, 49ers

5 years, $27,000,000, $9,000,000 total guarantees ($9,600,000 full)

I don't get the love affair the 49ers have with Juszczyk and it is hard to imagine them bidding against anyone but themselves here. I get that they like him and the fullback role is important but this is 66% higher than the next closest player at the position which is a crazy premium. He would be around the 15th highest paid running back. He's a 35 to 40% player whose team has gone 29-35 since he signed there.

$9.6 million is guaranteed at signing. The closet to that is $3.5 million ($5 million is the 2nd largest injury guarantee). It's a double bonus structure to keep the cap numbers low on the front end leading to a $6.6 million cap charge in year 3 and a cost of $5.3 million to cut, basically making it a wash and giving him great security beyond just the contract guarantee that year. I have no idea who the niners were bidding against again but this is a great deal for him.

Grade: D-

Jason Verrett, CB, 49ers

1 year, $5,500,000, $4,500,000 total guarantees ($4,500,000 full)

A solid deal for the 49ers who I think read the market perfectly here and didnt overpay at all for someone who has a ton of talent but is going to be looked at as injury prone around the NFL. A very straightforward deal with $1 million tied to per game active status and another $1 million in potential upside tied to playtime and performance. This is a good way to work the secondary as a year to year series of contracts.

Grade: B+

Corey Linsley, C, Chargers

5 years, $62,500,000, $26,000,000 total guarantees ($17,000,000 full)

Linsley sets the new market number for centers at $12.5 million a year but with a number of tradeoffs. Linsley's 41% contract guarantee basically trails everyone at the position while ranking fourth in overall guarantees. In that sense this is not as strong as the Weston Richburg contract a few years ago. First year cash is 4th and then he is second in every metric behind Ryan Kelly. The $12.5M a year only happens in year 5.

The Chargers were able to avoid an extra large signing bonus and in theory could walk away after a year due a favorable vesting schedule though that is clearly not the plan. The overall number came in a little higher than I expected but I think they got a very nice structure in the contract with a ton of room to negotiate his salary down as he gets older if he begins to decline.

Grade: B

Austin Johnson, IDL, Giants

1 year, $3,000,000, $3,000,000 total guarantees ($1,500,000 full)

The Giants doubled Johnson's salary and guaranteed the deal to get him back for 2021. I am not sure if he would have gotten this much as a free agent but it would have probably been close enough to it. I would think the Giants see an expanded role for him this year which is why they upped their offer from last season. I think I would have rather seen a two year deal here since they guaranteed the full $3 million anyway as his price will rise next year if he is playing 40%+ of the snaps for the Giants. I dont think it would have cost them much more and may have saved them money in the long run for just a slightly higher guarantee.

Grade: C

James Hurst, RT, Saints

3 years, $9,000,000, $5,400,000 total guarantees ($4,575,000 full)

Hurst is an insurance policy on the line who can backup pretty much anywhere. Is that worth $3 million a year? I guess with the versatility maybe so but his market has basically been near the minimum the last two years and I dont think that would have changed much even with this year being a down year for the line. They will get a long term backup solution as there is no scenario I can think of where he would be cut anytime soon. With expensive starters on the line they probably should go cheaper behind them but you can make a strong argument that having a safer insurance policy behind them makes more sense.

Grade: C-

Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Raiders

2 years, $26,000,000, $26,000,000 total guarantees ($21,000,000 full)

As a contract I love this for the Raiders. Ngakoue was a franchise player a year ago before he made the crazy decision to give up money to go to Minnesota. This was a player with his sights set on a $20 million payday and now he is here for two years for $26 million. Raiders used it all to their advantage and read things perfect to get this deal done early on.

Structure is solid with straight cash payments though Gruden seems to wind up prorating roster bonuses at the end of the first year if he likes the player. If they do not do that he is perfectly tradeable at this salary. Getting the two years is such a good move and the no tag provision is kind of pointless by then. No idea why Ngakoue took a two year deal with the Raiders but this is a solid contract for them.

Grade: B+

Cam Newton, QB, Patriots

1 year, $5,100,000, $3,500,000 total guarantees ($3,500,000 full)

This is a solid deal for the Patriots and one I am a little surprised Newton elected to take. He had such a bad run in free agency last year I guess that certainty was better in this case than the unknowns of free agency.

This is a pure backup contract for Newton with a base value is $5 million a year, which is under the likes of Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor, and Ryan Fitzpatrick's old contracts. There is $1.5 million tied to per game bonuses which is really high for a player who played 15 games last season. Newton certainly has his downsides but I think this is a solid contract for the Patriots if they have no other QB options next year.

Grade: B+

Daryl Williams, RT, Bills

3 years, $24,000,000, $13,750,000 total guarantees ($9,400,000 full)

I love this contract for the Bills. I know the potential cap downturn being an issue but there were three right tackles last year who signed for $9M+ in free agency and I really thought that would be his number. Instead he comes in at $8 million a year for the Bills.

The cash flows of this deal are real strong for Buffalo with under $10 million being paid in year one. That is well under the standard $11 million or more that comes for tackles in this salary range. He trails in every conceivable category.

I guess the strength here for Williams is the guarantee which on a per year basis is relatively strong though the overall number is lower. There are also playtime incentives which may be achievable to really raise the value. Essentially it could be like having a massive per game bonus hidden in the contract bringing the value around $9.5 million a year. I dont have the details on those to say one way or the other, but my guess is they are going to be reasonable to achieve if not attached to the playoffs. In any event I think this reads like a "I really want to stay in Buffalo" contract.

Grade: A

Matt Milano, LB, Bills

4 years, $41,500,000, $23,500,000 total guarantees ($20,000,000 full)

Milano's numbers come in pretty much right at our projections ($10M per year with $20M guaranteed) with the Bills getting the fourth year in the contract as a bonus. This was a nice job by the Bills to get their linebacker locked up right before free agency began on a contract offer that certainly does not seem much better than what free agency would have provided.

The Bills walk away with a solid cash flow structure here that saw Milano dip under pretty much all the linebackers who signed last year other than Cory Littleton. and his 2nd year trails as well. The $20 million guarantee at signing is less than all but Blake Martinez and on a per year basis is middle of the road. Milano did get the largest amount of injury protection.

The Bills come away with the expected per game bonuses and a nice structure on the contract with a $7 million signing bonus that makes this easy to walk out from after the 2nd year. Essentially they take on little risk up front while getting the potential reward of a 4th year. A nice showing for the Bills front office.

Grade: B+

Mark Ingram, RB, Texans

1 year, $2,500,000, $500,000 total guarantees ($500,000 full)

This is one of those deals that sounds far worse than it really is. This is a low risk signing with just $500,000 guaranteed. My guess is this is as much for the offseason and preseason with the Texans looking at a veteran player coming from a winning culture who really didnt complain when his number stopped getting called. The Texans organization can use someone like that right now. As a player I'm not sure how much is really left in the tank but he can probably still be an asset around the goal line if he makes the team.

Grade: C+

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

4 years, $160,000,000, $126,000,000 total guarantees ($95,000,000 full)

A terrific all around contract for Prescott who was able to set a new short term market high off his franchise tag. Prescott hits just about every key metric imaginable with the largest signing bonus, 1st year cash payout, 2nd year cash payout, 3rd year cash payout, and finally a 4th year cash payout. He also set records for guarantees. That’s a pretty big accomplishment off of a grand total of five games last season.

Reportedly Dallas was looking for a six year contract last season and winds up ultimately with five years of control which should have been the compromise from day one. It works out to $38.2 million per year with $157.5 million guaranteed. In hindsight it was a big mistake to not get a deal done last year when this was the end result, though for a QB no cost is too high if the player is good and Dallas saw how bad life was without Prescott last season.

The is the second time in less than two years where we have the Cowboys owner basically gushing about overpaying someone (Ezekiel Elliott being the first one) and I don’t think either contract or ways they seemed to come together will help Dallas in the future. That said they have their core guys locked up and rarely go into free agency so maybe for them that is not a big deal to have that out there. I’m not sure why Dallas did not hold off on signing this contract until March 17, but I may not be understanding the rules properly as they pertain to NFL cash spending requirements.

Prescott gets a no tag provision which on paper is a huge thing but after signing this contract I think its clear that Dallas will never let him walk barring a Wentz like meltdown so I think that was an easier give up for Dallas than some may be letting on. Still it does give Prescott tremendous leverage as does the fact that the Cowboys have two voidable contract years in this one.

Dallas added the second void year, which at the moment has a $0 cap charge to help out in the l likely event that they have to convert a good chunk of Prescott’s $20 million 2022 salary and/or $31 million 2023 salary into a signing bonus. If Dallas does it in 2022 it will leave the Cowboys with nearly $25 million in dead money when the contract voids if no extension is reached. Basically the structure sets Prescott up to earn another massive extension by the start of the 2024 season.

Because this is a four year contract versus and extension Prescott is pretty much poised to become the biggest earning quarterback of this generation. The model here is one that should be followed by every QB even though almost no QBs put any pressure on their team’s when it comes to contracts. I’m not sure how anyone can look at this as anything but a homerun for Prescott and so-so job by Dallas.

Grade: C