We’re less than a week into the new league year, but NFL free agency has, for the most part, come and gone.
Here are some moves that we’ll likely look back at as smart, and a couple that are head-scratchers.
Why did the New York Giants sign Golden Tate?
The Giants signed Tate to a four-year deal last Thursday for $37.5 million, including $23 million fully guaranteed.
On the field, the move makes little sense as they already have Sterling Shepard, who receives the majority of his snaps in the slot. Adding another diminutive receiver who is slot reliant isn’t great roster construction. The Giants traded a receiver who compliments Shepard in Odell Beckham Jr. – a dynamic player who also takes the top off the defence and wins on the outside. Now defences will creep up closer to the line of scrimmage with no real vertical threat in the offence, which isn’t going to help the stacked boxes Saquon Barkley already sees.
If you wouldn’t rebuild around a 26-year-old Beckham Jr., why would you want to rebuild for the next four years around the 30-year-old Tate? The move in isolation and in concert with trading Beckham makes little to no sense.
Tevin Coleman reunites with Kyle Shanahan
Coleman signing a two-year, $10-million dollar deal with the San Francisco 49ers is a great fit for the team and the player.
Coleman played the 2015 and 2016 seasons under Shanahan when he was the offensive coordinator with the Atlanta Falcons, and Shanahan loved him. The 49ers flirted with Le’Veon Bell but sometimes the moves you don’t make are the best ones. Instead, general manager John Lynch chose the cheaper option in Coleman.
With fantasy waiver wire stud Matt Breida and last year’s prized free agent acquisition Jerick Mckinnon, the 49ers now have one of the strongest backfield committees in the league.
Nick Foles gives the Jacksonville Jaguars defence hope
After being set free by the Philadelphia Eagles, Foles signed a four-year, $88-million contract with the Jaguars.
The numbers throw people off as the journeyman quarterback is receiving $50.1 million guaranteed, which is the most in Jaguars franchise history. Jacksonville released five players to free up the $30 million in cap space needed to sign Foles.
Don’t let the money bother you. That’s the going rate for a starting QB. More attention should be paid to the fit and the team’s potential upside with even replacement-level quarterbacking. Foles is reunited in Jacksonville with John DeFilippo, who was quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia when Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl and is now the Jaguars offensive coordinator.
Aside from his relationship with the play caller, Foles has a similar surrounding cast in Jacksonville as he did when he went on the magical playoff run two seasons ago. Foles is blessed with a stout defence, strong running game and big receivers with a large catch radius.
The Jaguars don’t need a superstar, they just need someone accurate enough to keep their defence off the field and give them a rest. Foles’ completion percentage during the 2018 season was 72 per cent (2nd) and was even better on third down at 78 per cent (1st), not to mention a ridiculous 81 per cent when blitzed (1st).
Jacksonville’s offence last season was ranked a putrid 31st in points per game, 30th in yards per play and last in the league in touchdown percentage. The defence, on the other hand, was fourth in points per game, fifth in yards per play and fifth in touchdown percentage. If their offence was even middle of the pack they’d have been a force.
Two years ago, Jacksonville was a couple plays away from a trip to the Super Bowl. In the 2017 playoffs, Foles was the epitome of clutch with six touchdowns and just one interception. The Foles signing gives the Jaguars a shot to get back to that elite level.
Safeties open the safe
Safeties are no longer a glamour position like cornerback or defensive end, but they still are valued.
The safety market was set high when Landon Collins signed a six-year, $84-million contract in Washington with $45 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid safety in the league. It’s money well spent considering his 428 tackles over the last four seasons leads all defensive backs. With Washington, he’ll average $14 million per year, which set the market early.
Tyrann Mathieu followed suit by getting an average of $14 million from Kansas City. Adrian Amos received $9.3 million from Green Bay. Kenny Vaccaro received an average $6.6 million from Tennessee. Eric Weddle fortifies the Los Angeles Rams defence with a $6.3-million average salary.
In what has become a passing league, you need ballhawks in the middle to provide help running sideline-to-sideline and covering one-on-one in the slot. The dollars dedicated to the position so far this off-season illustrate just that.
Too much for Earl Thomas
The Baltimore Ravens gave Thomas $35 million guaranteed in the first two years of a four-year, $55-million contract.
Thomas is a good player and, as we mentioned above, the safety market was red-hot this year, but who were the Ravens bidding against? Thomas is far from the last piece in a championship puzzle for Baltimore. After cutting Eric Weddle and losing C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith in free agency, signing Thomas was an odd choice. He doesn’t fit the age profile of the team they are building around 22-year-old Lamar Jackson.
No question he’s talented – Thomas is third in interceptions since he came in the league – but he’s also had two lower-leg injuries, including missing the final 12 games of the 2018 season with a leg fracture.
He’ll be 30 when the season starts, which makes giving him big money in free agency a bizarre choice.