We’re now more than a week into the NFL free agency period, and the volume of daily signings has died down considerably. Over 400 players have already signed new contracts or contract extensions this offseason, according to OverTheCap.com, which means there has been more than enough player movement for us to take a look at which teams got some of the best bargains with their newly acquired talent.
In the space below, we’re highlighting 10 of the best bargain signings of the early wave of free agency.
Last season’s Lions secondary left a lot to be desired. Detroit finished the year ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA. More traditional measurements of passing performance were even harsher against the Lions, with only two teams yielding more passing yards against and just one allowing more yards per attempt. So, the Lions went out and got three new starters for the defensive backfield, each of whom has the versatility to play multiple spots. And they did it at a fairly low cost. Sutton’s contract pays him a max of around $11 million per year (and his 2023 cap number is just north of $3 million); Moseley got just $6 million in total; and Gardner-Johnson signed a one-year, $8 million pact. Those are some nice upgrades without breaking the bank.
Penny’s contract almost seems like a typo given how productive he’s been when healthy. Of course, the fact that he seemingly cannot stay healthy for an extended period is why he was available for one year and a maximum of just over $1 million. Penny has averaged north of 6 yards per carry twice in four years, and he’ll be playing behind the NFL‘s best offensive line and alongside a quarterback whose skill set should help make him an even more efficient ball-carrier. This is a low-risk, very-high-upside move.
All of your favorite football nerds have probably already shouted out this signing. Long, like Penny, is a terrific player who has just been plagued by injuries throughout his career. But he’s been considerably more durable than Penny, missing an average of four games per season through his first four years in the league. He’s a high-level tackler and coverage player on the second level of the defense, and he should be an excellent fit in new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s system. For just two years and $10 million, the Dolphins got themselves a steal.
Omenihu is one of those players who has been shining in limited opportunities, who could now get a larger opportunity with a new team. Among the 214 defensive linemen who rushed the passer at least 100 times last season, according to TruMedia, Omenihu generated pressure (a sack, hit, or hurry) on the 15th-largest share of those pass-rush snaps, with his 13.7% rate ranking on par with players like Demarcus Lawrence and Brian Burns. He now goes to Kansas City to play for Steve Spagnuolo and alongside Chris Jones, and does so on a two-year, $16 million pact.
Bell is a perfect fit for new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero’s defense, just as he was for Lou Anarumo’s defense in Cincinnati. While his former defensive backfield-mate Jessie Bates got a huge payday to go to Atlanta, Bell landed in Carolina on a three-year, $22.5 million contract that contains only $13 million in guarantees. A versatile player who can fill almost any role you ask a safety to play and who has experience working in a variety of coverage schemes, Bell should help the Panthers leverage the narrower skill sets of Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods, because he can work alongside either or both of them at the same time.
Chicago let David Montgomery leave for a three-year deal with the division rival Lions, then signed Foreman to a one-year, $2 million deal to presumably be the power component in a timeshare with Khalil Herbert. Now six years removed from the torn Achilles that threatened to ruin his career, Foreman carries 203 times for 914 yards and five scores last season, finishing 10th in the NFL in yards after contact per rush and averaging 5.0 yards per carry on shotgun runs, which is key on a team featuring Justin Fields. Edwards is the less heralded of Chicago’s two big linebacker signings, but he’s on a significantly more affordable deal (three years, $19.5 million) than Tremaine Edmunds.
Speaking of linebackers who have been overshadowed, let’s talk about Al-Shaair, who used to play in the same position group as Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Now, he’s in Tennessee on a one-year, $5 million contract. He’s a tremendous athlete and tackler who will help fill the role vacated by Long, who as previously mentioned, landed in Miami on a bargain deal of his own.