The NFL has established itself as the best soap opera on TV this offseason. We have long-term relationships ending, quarterbacks publicly posting their feelings on social media and then players leaving the only NFL homes they have ever known to break financial records. That's right, the NFL offseason is a reality show.
With all of the deals we have seen come through the wire, not all of them can be worthwhile. The fact of the matter is that some teams will come to regret the deals they handed out this offseason, whether that be because the players underwhelm or struggle to stay healthy.
Below, we will break down the five best and five worst signings of free agency. What makes a good deal or bad deal? Usually it comes down to the money. If you grab a star wideout for cheap, that's a great deal. If you overpay for a backup blocking tight end, that's probably not a great deal. Let's jump in.
Salary cap info comes from Spotrac and Over The Cap.
1. WR Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson was seen as one of the top wideouts in free agency, and someone who could sign a deal that would put him up into the top five of highest-paid receivers. Instead, he shocked everyone by signing a three-year, $46.5 million deal with the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
His AAV of $15.5 million puts him outside the top 15 of highest-paid receivers, which makes this somewhat of a steal for the Rams, but more importantly they landed someone who could be one of the best receivers in the NFL. Robinson has virtually never had good quarterback play. He now gets that in Los Angeles with Matthew Stafford. This is a move that showed the NFL world the Rams are set on repeating.
2. CB J.C. Jackson
The Los Angeles Chargers have been one of the big winners in NFL free agency, and a reason why is J.C. Jackson. The Chargers signed the Pro Bowl cornerback to a five-year, $82.5 million deal with $40 million guaranteed, as confirmed by CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson. The 26-year-old was considered to be the best available cornerback in free agency. In 2021, he recorded eight interceptions and 23 passes defensed for the New England Patriots. Jackson has 25 interceptions since entering the NFL in 2018, which leads the league during that timeframe.
Jackson's AAV of $16.5 million puts him outside the top five of highest-paid cornerbacks, which was a bit surprising. Good for the Chargers.
3. OG James Daniels
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed one of the top offensive guards in free agency, inking James Daniels formerly of the Chicago Bears to a three-year, $26.5 million deal. That AAV of $8.83 million comes in at No. 13 among all offensive guards, which is solid value for Pittsburgh. Daniels is a versatile interior player who has played some center and is just 24. He, plus fellow new addition Mason Cole, should shore up what was a disappointing offensive line in 2021.
4. WR Jamison Crowder
The Buffalo Bills parted ways with slot receiver Cole Beasley, but they found a great replacement in Jamison Crowder. He's probably not a player on the radars of casual NFL fans, but he's led the New York Jets in receiving in two out of his last three seasons, racking up 833 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 2019, and 699 yards and six touchdowns in just 12 games in 2020. Crowder is set to turn 29 in June, but he could add something big to this explosive Bills offense. If you're into fantasy football, keep him in mind.
5. RT La'el Collins
Another big winner in free agency has been the Cincinnati Bengals. Their offensive line allowed Joe Burrow to be sacked 19 times in the playoffs, which is the most a quarterback has been sacked in a single postseason. They quickly claimed Alex Cappa from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ted Karras of the Patriots in free agency, and then found a new right tackle in La'el Collins. The 28-year-old registered an 82 PFF grade and allowed two sacks this past season in 12 games played. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, Collins received a three-year, $30 million deal that looks like a two-year, $20 million deal worth up to $22 million. The third year of the deal was added to spread out Cincinnati's cap charge.
1. WR Christian Kirk
I refuse to say the Jacksonville Jaguars were "losers" in free agency. They added the top interior offensive lineman, the NFL's reigning tackling king and a young wide receiver that many teams were intrigued by. Fortunately for this young wideout, the Jaguars gave him a deal no other team would probably even dream of.
Jacksonville gave former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk a four-year deal worth up to $84 million. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the deal is reportedly worth $72 million ($18M annually) with a max of $84 million. The Jaguars clearly targeted him, and got a deal done. However, they could have acquired Kirk for less.
2. QB Deshaun Watson
I'm all for second chances. And we don't know if the former Houston Texans quarterback is guilty of what he's been accused of. When it was reported that Deshaun Watson would not face criminal charges related to sexual assault, it gave teams the proverbial green light to pursue the quarterback. If I was the general manager of a quarterback-needy team, I would have probably inquired as well. However, I would have dropped out if you told me the asking price was three first-round picks, three other picks and that Watson would sign a new, fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.
As CBS Sports cap expert Joel Corry explained in his deep dive of the deal, nobody expected Watson to get this kind of contract considering the sexual assault and misconduct allegations he's still facing. It even looks like the Cleveland Browns adjusted the contract to help him with his looming suspension. Per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, Watson's base salary for 2022 is just $1 million, which means if/when he's suspended, it will come out of that base.
The Browns are clearly willing to take on whatever PR hit comes with adding Watson, but you have to wonder how will he bounce back? Not just on the field after taking a year off from football, but after working through an issue that tarnished his reputation in the minds of many. This is a gamble until proven otherwise.
3. WR Zay Jones
Having two new Jaguars receivers on this list is probably not what fans want to see, but that's what we are doing. Zay Jones is headed to Jacksonville on a three-year deal worth up to $30 million. In 43 games played with the Las Vegas Raiders, Jones recorded 81 catches for 847 yards and just two touchdowns. He showed some flashes last season with 546 yards and one touchdown in 17 games, but that's just 32.1 receiving yards averaged per game. I'm cool with the player, but would reconsider the contract.
4. DE Randy Gregory
Former Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Randy Gregory gave us one of the most wild stories of the offseason, as he spurned the team that has stood by him through his up-and-down career. Per CBS Sports' Patrik Walker, the Cowboys front office attempted to insert contract language that was neither previously agreed upon nor "deemed palatable" by Gregory's camp at the last minute.
Gregory then ditched the 'Boys and signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Denver Broncos. It was surprising he landed a contract with an AAV of $14 million, and it's surprising that Gregory was the top pass-rushing target for Denver in free agency, per Mike Klis of 9News. The contract runs through when Gregory is 34, and he's never played a full season or recorded more than six sacks in a single campaign. He has also been suspended multiple times, which is potentially why Dallas tried to tinker with the contract language. It's a risky signing, but when Gregory is on, he's a force to be reckoned with. Denver is betting that his best statistical football days are ahead of him.
5. TE Will Dissly
The Seattle Seahawks picked up young tight end Noah Fant in the Russell Wilson trade, so why did they then re-sign Will Dissly to a three-year, $24 million deal? Dissly is a talented blocking tight end who hasn't surpassed 262 receiving yards in a single season in four years, but is certainly worth an extension. Yet, giving him $8 million a year -- an AAV higher than Darren Waller and equal to C.J. Uzomah's new deal -- is pretty surprising. Congrats to Dissly for fattening his pocketbook, but this is likely an overpay by Seattle.