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Every 2020 NFL free agent signing and trade, graded

The start of NFL free agency is proceeding on schedule. Despite the sports world being upended by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the new league year will still begin on March 18, days after the passing of a new collective bargaining agreement.

However, the league’s legal tampering begins on March 16. That means free agency news is already here.

We’re going to run you through all the notable deals throughout the league, including both trades and free agent signings. We’ll be updating this list with grades as we move throughout the offseason. The latest moves will be first. You can also check out our top 100 free agents and find out where they’re all landing.

Bears sign: TE Jimmy Graham

Graham was an occasional presence for the Packers the past two seasons, but had nowhere near the impact Green Bay hoped he’d have after signing a three-year, $30 million contract in 2018. He had just 93 catches and five touchdowns in 32 games, earning his release this offseason.

The Bears are hoping that was an anomaly. They signed the 33-year-old to a two-year, $16 million deal — with only $9 million guaranteed — in hopes he can stabilize a tight end rotation that’s more potential than production. He’ll slide into Chicago’s TE1 spot ahead of Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen (and Jesper Horsted, and Demetrius Harris, and Ben Braunecker, and J.P Holtz, and…) for now, but how much of an upgrade he’ll bring — especially while downgrading from Aaron Rodgers to Mitchell Trubisky and whomever is brought in to push Trubisky for snaps this offseason — is very much in question.

Short-term grade: C-
Long-term grade: D+

Ravens sign: DE Michael Brockers

Baltimore kicked off the week by trading for Calais Campbell. Now it’s signed Brockers to a three-year, $30 million deal. That’s a whole lot of beef for a Ravens’ defensive line in need of both pass rushing and run stuffing, and the former Ram can add a little bit of both (a 5.1 percent hurry rate last fall, per SIS).

$10 million annually is a rich deal for a team that was already pressed against the cap after the Campbell deal. While Brockers brings talent up front, Baltimore may have been able to find a younger, cheaper solution to its problem.

Short-term grade: B
Long-term grade: C

Dolphins sign: CB Byron Jones

The Dolphins’ rebuild has led it to a world where Miami is home to arguably the NFL’s top cornerback tandem. The club took a look at a division featuring Sam Darnold and Josh Allen and decided to wreak havoc by adding 2020’s most coveted defensive back to its roster on a whopping five-year, $82.5 million contract — the kind of deal a team can make when it’s got more than $94 million in salary cap space.

Jones will help make up for Miami’s continued lack of pass rush thanks to his ability to shut down WR1 types in single coverage. Head coach Brian Flores saw that strategy work at his own home in New England, and now he’ll get the chance to run a similar defensive campaign in South Beach. Copying the Patriots is always risky, but as long as Jones can keep up his level of play (6.0 yards per target, a 52.9 percent completion rate in coverage) he’ll be a worthwhile addition.

Short-term grade: A
Long-term grade: A

Giants sign: CB James Bradberry

New York drafted three cornerbacks in last year’s draft. Now they’ve got a trusted veteran to lead the squad from the secondary. Bradberry signed with the Giants on a three-year, $45 million deal that will make him one of the game’s highest-paid defensive backs. It makes sense; after a so-so 2018, he showed out in 2019 by allowing just one touchdown in 76 targets and a 63.5 passer rating in coverage.

Those are good numbers from an under-manning Carolina squad, but they aren’t elite. New York is betting that was just the start of Bradberry’s leap to the top tier of coverage guys in the NFL. If he can, he’ll reverse an ignominious trend for the Giants; per Pro Football Reference, the franchise has had only one cornerback make an All-Pro or Pro Bowl roster in its history.

Short-term grade: B
Long-term grade: B

Broncos sign: OG Graham Glasgow

Denver is at risk of losing blockers this spring as both Ronald Leary and Connor McGovern head to free agency. Signing Glasgow for four years and $44 million ($30m guaranteed) will help offset those losses and keep the Broncos strong in the middle of their line. Glasgow is a young, versatile lineman who is useful in both the run and passing games, and he should help keep second-year QB Drew Lock’s jersey clean.

Short-term grade: B
Long-term grade: B

Browns sign: QB Case Keenum

Cleveland lands a high-value backup who can step into a starting role should anything happen to Baker Mayfield on a three-year, $18 million deal. More importantly, the move reunites him with head coach Kevin Stefanski, who was Minnesota’s quarterbacks coach for Keenum’s breakout 2017 season in Minneapolis. There’s a lot of potential here, which justifies why the big-armed journeyman just got 150 percent more than Brian Hoyer did to back up Jacoby Brissett.

But yeah, that’s a lot of money for a backup.

Short-term grade: B+
Long-term grade: B-

Browns sign: OT Jack Conklin

Cleveland continued its overhaul by adding one of the top offensive linemen on the market and addressing one of its biggest needs in 2020. Baker Mayfield’s regression was aided, in part, by cheesecloth blocking up front. Conklin hasn’t lived up to the All-Pro form he showed as a rookie in 2016, but he’s still a reliable edge presence who has missed just 1.6 percent of his blocks over a four-year career.

He didn’t move north cheaply, however. It cost the Browns $42 million to secure his services over three seasons, with $30m of that guaranteed. This year’s draft is rich in athletic offensive tackles, and there’s a chance Cleveland could have found a younger, cheaper option come April. In this case, the Browns are banking on past performance as a sign of future success instead of gambling with its draft picks.

Short-term grade: A-
Long-term grade: B

49ers trade: DL DeForest Buckner
Colts trade: 2020 first-round pick (13th overall)

San Francisco traded away arguably its top defender moments after re-signing Armstead. Fortunately, GM John Lynch got a hefty return for his services. Indianapolis, who ranked 16th in the NFL in sack rate last fall, sent the 13th overall pick westward for the dynamic doom-bringer.

It’s a move that may weaken the 49ers’ NFC title defense, but also secures reasonable compensation for a player who may have left in free agency after 2020 anyway. The Colts will now have to work out an extension with their pocket-crumpling interior lineman. The 49ers will hope to add the missing piece of a Super Bowl roster with a premier draft pick this spring.

Short-term grade: 49ers B, Colts A-
Long-term grade: 49ers A-, Colts B

49ers sign: DE Arik Armstead

Armstead lived up to his first round pedigree in 2019, exploding for 10 sacks for the NFC champions after having only nine in his previous four NFL seasons. That made him one of 2020’s top free agents, and while his six year deal worth up to $102 million is a big deal, it may wind up being an underpay for a pass rusher capable of generating double-digit sacks. Trey Flowers inked a similar deal last season against a salary cap that was $10 million less than this year’s.

Why was Armstead comparatively cheaper? He’s got to prove 2019 was no outlier. He’s got the talent to do that, but any kind of regression could make this deal look like an expensive mistake for GM John Lynch.

Short-term grade: A-
Long-term grade: B

Browns sign: TE Austin Hooper

Cleveland took the first big swing in the 2020 free agency cycle by giving Hooper All-Pro money to help stabilize its offense. The Browns made Hooper the highest-paid tight end in the game with a four year, $42 million contract with $18.5m in guaranteed money. That will likely make former first round pick David Njoku expendable — for a needy team like the Patriots, perhaps? — and give Baker Mayfield another dependable target alongside Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry as he attempts to reclaim his rookie magic in his first season under new head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Short-term grade: B+
Long-term grade: B

Ravens trade: TE Hayden Hurst, 2020 fourth-round pick
Falcons trade: 2020 second-round pick, 2020 fifth-round pick

Atlanta lost Austin Hooper to the Browns Monday, then immediately responded by sending a Day 2 pick to Baltimore to kick the tires on Hurst. The former first round pick had his role in the Ravens’ offense curtailed by the rise of Pro Bowler Mark Andrews, but was still a trusted presence in Lamar Jackson’s offense. His catch rate rose from 56.5 percent to 76.9 in his second season in the league, and his 8.95 yards per target were sixth-best among qualified tight ends. With an underwhelming crop of tight ends in this year’s draft, the Falcons decided to use their draft capital — which includes an extra second-rounder from last fall’s Mohamed Sanu trade — on Hurst instead.

Short-term grade: Ravens B-, Falcons B
Long-term grade: Ravens B, Falcons B

Packers sign: LB Christian Kirksey

Blake Martinez is a free agent (and on the Giants’ radar), so the Packers picked up his replacement in the ultra productive, oft-injured former Brown. Kirksey signed a two-year, $13 million deal with another $3 million available in performance bonuses. Green Bay badly needed a sideline-to-sideline tackling presence who can get to the line of scrimmage in a hurry. Kirksey provides that …but he’s played only 10 games the last two seasons due to injury.

He’s healthy enough to convince the Pack he’s worth an investment, but there are issues that arise even if he’s 100 percent. Kirksey’s coverage ability swings wildly depending on the matchup (he allowed 10.9 yards per target in 2018) and he brings little in the way of pass rushing. Still, if Green Bay needs a hard-working leader to set the example in the middle of the field it could do a lot worse than Kirksey.

Short-term grade: B-
Long-term grade: C+

Texans trade: WR DeAndre Hopkins, 2021 fourth-round pick
Cardinals trade: RB David Johnson, 2020 second-round pick, 2021 fourth-round pick

Hopkins continues to produce like a top five wideout in the NFL, but his remaining contract — three years and $39 million(ish) paid him like a top 15 guy. This value was lost on the Texans, who had no interest in working out an extension with Hopkins and shipped him out of town in what may be an elaborate prank on quarterback Deshaun Watson. In exchange, they received a second round pick and running back David Johnson.

Johnson was an All-Pro in 2016 and was paid like one soonafter, which means he’ll only bring ~$3 million in salary cap relief to Houston in 2020 (and that the Cardinals won’t have much more salary to take on by acquiring Hopkins). However, injuries have turned the 28-year-old back into a shell of his former self. He averaged just 3.7 yards per carry the past two seasons and seen his catches per game drop from 5.0 in that breakthrough ‘16 season to 3.0 in the years since.

Short-term grade: Cardinals A, Texans F
Long-term grade: Cardinals A-, Texans D

Patriots re-sign: S Devin McCourty

McCourty has been an invaluable presence for New England over his 10-year career. The rangy safety is coming off one of his best seasons as the linchpin of the NFL’s top secondary, notching five interceptions and seven passes defensed while allowing just a 41.7 passer rating when targeted.

That was enough to convince the Patriots to re-up with him for two years and $23 million. While his play could drop off in his age 33 and 34 seasons, he’s an important part of the Patriot Way™ and brings value beyond just what he brings on every play.

Short-term grade: A-
Long-term grade: B

Texans re-sign: CB Bradley Roby

While a hamstring injury limited him to 10 games in 2019, Roby was still very effective when he was on the field. The 27-year-old picked off two passes and had eight passes defensed, to go with a 77.4 passer rating allowed when targeted, a career low.

Bringing him back was a smart move for the Texans, who signed him to a three-year, $36 million deal. They need that, too, as the rest of their corners were a huge liability last season.

Short-term grade: A
Long-term grade: B+

Titans re-sign: QB Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill went 9-4 as a starter with the Titans in 2019, bringing his team to the AFC title game and, somehow, leading the NFL in passer rating. Allowing him to leave was not an option.

BUT! Tannehill’s previous seven years in Miami painted him as a low-yield, injury-prone quarterback. Last season’s performance is such a massive outlier — a breakthrough year at age 31?! — that it’s fair to be skeptical about whether the veteran QB can do it again. Giving him a four-year deal and $91 million guaranteed is one hell of a bet Tannehill can fit back into his glass slipper. Tennessee could have used its franchise tag to keep him in Nashville for 2020 to see if he could replicate his 2019 magic instead.

Short-term grade: B+
Long-term grade: C-

Jaguars trade: DE Calais Campbell
Ravens trade: 2020 fifth-round pick

Was the market on Campbell that depressed that the Ravens’ offer was the best Jacksonville could do? While Jason Mendoza’s favorite team was right to get something in return for an aging Campbell — who was headed toward the final year of his contract — there’s a chance he could have brought back a bigger return later in the offseason or near the trade deadline.

At any rate, it’s a great deal for Baltimore, who addressed a major pass-rushing need while adding one of the league’s most respected veterans. The two-year, $27 million extension the Ravens handed Campbell may not work out, but his 2019 performance suggests he’s got a lot left in the tank even in his mid-30s.

Short-term grade: Jaguars D+, Ravens A
Long-term grade: Jaguars C, Ravens B+

Colts re-sign: LT Anthony Castonzo

Castonzo is a solid left tackle who only misses about two percent of his blocks every year and rarely commits penalties. He’s not a sexy signing, but he’s a vital one — especially if Indianapolis is in the market for a new franchise quarterback this offseason or next.

Short-term grade: B+
Long-term grade: B+

Jaguars trade: CB A.J. Bouye
Broncos trade: 2020 fourth-round pick

Trading Bouye away saved the cash-strapped Jaguars over $11.4 million in space and landed Jacksonville a mid-round draft pick in return. For a team that is clearly rebuilding, it’s a logical move.

For the Broncos, Bouye represents a perfect bridge with the impending departure of Chris Harris in free agency. They get an upper-echelon starter who’s a technician of his craft and especially thrived in 2017 when the Jaguars provided him with an elite pass rush up front. A roster with Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Derek Wolfe has a chance to give Bouye that same help. Bouye is due zero guaranteed money and is under contract through 2021.

Short-term grade: Jaguars C-, Broncos B
Long-term grade: Jaguars B-, Broncos C+

Chargers trade: LT Russell Okung
Panthers trade: G Trai Turner

The Panthers traded away a young guard who has made five consecutive Pro Bowls. The Chargers traded away an aging tackle who missed 10 games last season. Both are high-level offensive line starters, but the long-term is more important than the short-term here.

While tackle is valued more highly than guard, it’s still hard to say this was a good move for the Panthers. The Chargers, on the other hand, need improvement all across their line and just landed a player who should be great for them for several years.

Short-term grade: Chargers A-, Panthers B-
Long-term grade: Chargers A, Panthers D

Bills re-sign: LG Quinton Spain

Spain signed a one-year “prove it” deal last season and he delivered. He was solid in protection in Buffalo’s rapidly changing offense with Josh Allen under center. He’s also being retained for a reasonable $5 million per season over the next three years. This is a smart deal for a good player.

Short-term grade: B+
Long-term grade: B+

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