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It’s only been a few days? The top moves thus far in NFL free agency

By Emile Avanessian

Published: 17:00, 18 March 2022 | Updated: 17:31, 21 March 2022

Taking a look at some of our favorite moves from the first three days of a particularly frenzied NFL free agency period.

The first three days of NFL free agency have been an absolute whirlwind, with big names and gigantic piles of cash heading in just about every direction. What’s more noteworthy (and impressive) is the manner in which we’ve seen a number of teams take steps to meaningfully improve their fortunes.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorites, from a wild first few days of NFL free agency:

CB Carlton Davis (3 years, $45 million) and C Ryan Jensen (3 years, $39 million) returns to the Buccaneers

The impact of these two signings – which, in a vacuum, each represent good value for a quality player – is magnified by the events of the last few days. As it turns out, going the extra mile to get the band back together (most of it, at least) when Tom Brady chooses to un-retire and return to your team works wonders for offseason vibes.

Obviously, no Brady means no contention. However, these are the kinds of players – outstanding 25-year-old corners and Pro Bowl centers – that elevate a Brady-led team from mere ‘contender’ to Super Bowl favorite.

Ravens sign OT Morgan Moses (3 years, $15 million)

Were there no Brady multiplier on the Davis-Jensen re-signings, this would be the best of the bunch.

Morgan Moses has spent eight seasons in the NFL since his selection in the third round of the 2014 draft by Washington. Over the last seven of those (six in Washington, and last season with the Jets), he’s missed zero games, started 112 of the 113 in which he’s played, and performed at a decidedly above average (and sometimes near-Pro Bowl) level.

Other than the fact Moses did recently turn 31 years of age, it’s tough to come up with many reasons as to why his price on the open market was so low. The Ravens have grabbed an incredible bargain here.

Broncos sign DT D.J. Jones (3 years, $30 million)

If you’re gonna go all in, go all in.

We heard, for some time – it’s starting to feel ad nauseum – that the Denver Broncos had put together a rather impressive roster that was begging for a quarterback. In Russell Wilson they’ve now got that quarterback, as well as an impressive array of skill position talent, and a defense that figures to be no worse than ‘good’. This is no time to cut corners – though that doesn’t necessarily mean throwing around massive bucks for no good reason.

In D.J. Jones, the Broncos are getting a Pro Bowl defensive tackle who’s missed just two games over the past two seasons, for over 30% less than the franchise tag figure for defensive tackle. This isn’t to argue that Jones is a top-five player at his position. However, the gap between him and that top five on the field is not 30%. To add this guy to an already strong defense, opposite a talented and sure-to-be energized offense, will further feed a frenzy among the fans in the Mile High City. To do so without breaking the bank is excellent business.

WR Michael Gallup (5 years, $62.5 million) returns to the Cowboys

In the aftermath of the money-saving, yet deeply underwhelming Amari Cooper trade, and the departure of Cedric Wilson to Miami, the Cowboys found themselves on the verge of going, almost overnight, from a team with a loaded wide receiver core to a one-man operation. As spectacular as CeeDee Lamb is, he cannot shoulder the entire load of Cowboys contention himself. Thus, retaining Michael Gallup became a major priority.

Though he was limited by injuries in 2021, over his first three NFL seasons, Gallup was an excellent big play receiver, with 158 receptions, at a clip of 15.6 yards per catch. To secure his services for five years at slightly more than half the cost of a #1 receiver is a win for the ‘Boys, who, despite some losses, still have a formidable 1-2 punch out wide.

Bengals sign G Alex Cappa (4 years, $40 million) and C Ted Karras (3 years, $18 million)

This needs minimal explanation. 

Bengals franchise quarterback Joe Burrow returned in 2021 from a horrific knee injury and didn’t miss a beat, leading the NFL in completion percentage (70.4%) and yards per pass attempt (8.9), while throwing for over 4,600 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also ‘led the league’ in times sacked (51) and yardage lost to sacks (370) during the regular season, and was downed another nineteen times in four playoff games.

For the Bengals to build on the special season they’ve just enjoyed, Burrow must be kept upright. There may be more moves ahead – and Terron Armstead remains on the market – but a solid pair of moves to shore up 40% of the offensive line is always going to be well-received.

Jets sign G Laken Tomlinson (3 years, $41.2 million) and TE C.J. Uzomah (3 years, $24 million)

Quarterbacks need weapons and they need protection. It’s simplistic and more than a little obvious, but it’s undeniably true. It’s true of just about every signal caller in NFL history. It’s especially true for a young quarterback.

Sure, every so often you wind up with a Joe Burrow, whose talent and toughness – and skill position talent around him – combine to trump a complete lack of protection. It’s important to keep in mind that that is not the norm.

It’s tough to give Zach Wilson’s rookie season with the Jets a letter grade. If we’re honest, anything other than ‘incomplete’ would be based on speculation. The Jets seem to have recognized this and appear to be taking real steps to facilitate Wilson’s development in Year Two, by providing him with an old school tight end who just turned 29, and is fresh off of a Super Bowl run with a young quarterback, and a just-turned-30-year-old guard coming off of his first Pro Bowl selection.

Whether these moves – or the latest broader Jets ‘project’ – pan out remains to be seen, but it’s tough to argue with the logic.

Steelers sign LB Myles Jack (2 years, $16 million)

Myles Jack is a durable, young (not yet 27), versatile, speedy and powerful playmaker from the linebacker spot, whose talents were buried in the avalanche of ‘UGH’ that’s been the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Typically when this type of player hits the market, he’s got a market. And yet, when Jack – who’s shown himself to be good for 100 tackles, a few defendant passes, an interception and a fumble recovery per year – hit the market, the football world stood by and allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to swoop in and nab him for slightly more than it cost to salvage Mitch Trubisky from the scrap heap.

This is such a Steelers signing – one that we’ll all collectively pay far too little attention to, until Jack is selected to something like his fourth Pro Bowl in his eighth season in Pittsburgh.

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Chargers sign CB J.C. Jackson (5 years, $82.5 million) and DT Sebastian Joseph-Day (3 years, $24 million)

The forensic analysis of these signing will have to wait until the season kicks off and we see all the components of the Chargers defense working together. In the meantime, however, on Free Agency Christmas Morning, delivery to an underachieving defense with two superstars – a run stuffing defensive tackle from the crosstown Super Bowl champions and the top cover corner on the market is an undeniable win. All eyes will now be on defensive specialist head coach Brandon Staley to make this unit work. There’s ample reason to believe that he will manage to make something of Jackson, Joseph-Day, Joey Bosa, Derwin, James and… that’s right! Khalil Mack!

If this defense isn’t downright terrifying next season, something’s gone horribly wrong.

Quandre Diggs (3 years, $40 million) returns to the Seahawks

With Russell Wilson gone and Bobby Wagner likewise, the Seahawks are seemingly looking down the barrel of a significant ‘retooling’ that’s got the potential to devolve into an out note rebuild. To some, it might have made sense to also allow their two-time Pro Bowl safety to walk.

However, Diggs is extremely well-regarded by the organization, which elected not to simply release him into the open market to seek his fortune after he broke his fibula and dislocated his ankle in the inconsequential season finale against the Cardinals.

This is not only a welcome burst of humanity and compassion from the Seahawks (though it is a bit of that, which is great to see), but also an opportunity for the team to retain one of the best ballhawks in the NFL. Provided there are no lingering effects from the injury, Diggs should be back by the start of the season, working on a third Pro Bowl bid. At just 29 years of age, he’s still got plenty left in the tank, either to help the next competitive Seahawks team or – thanks to reasonable and eminently tradable contract – another competitive team in search of a playmaker in the secondary over the next couple of years.


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