The legal tampering period has seen two moons set and the final dawn before the new league year officially begins, but while the hot ink of pens has yet to kiss the coarse face of paper, countless deals have been all but made official. Since most of the “backdoor” deals are considered done, let’s continue with our series breaking down and grading all of the big “soon-to-be” signings.
Here is our 2nd installment of our 2018 NFL Free Agent Grades.
2018 NFL Free Agent Grades: Part 2
Case Keenum, QB To Denver Broncos
2-Years $36 Million (Projected)
Keenum was considered by many as the 2nd best free agent QB behind Kirk Cousins. The Broncos, who bought a ticket for the Cousins sweepstakes, decided the pot was too rich form them and made Keenum one of the first free agency decisions of the tampering period. The contract is beneficial to both player, as Keenum is betting on himself, and the team as they can opt out if things go south, according to reports.
Keenum posted career numbers last season throwing for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns. Keenum led the Vikings to the NFC Championship, while the Broncos found themselves with one of their worst records in recent memory. However, Denver may not be that far off and Keenum could certainly replicate the same success as he did last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Minnesota had the 22nd ranked offensive line while Denver had the 23rd. Factor in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs vs. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and both RB committees against each other and there is not a huge discrepancy. Couple that with saving $10 million and the Broncos didn’t do half bad.
Anthony Hitchens, LB To Kansas City Chiefs
Projected $9 Million Per Year
After parting ways with long-time defensive staples in Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, the Chiefs added a very suitable replacement in Anthony Hitchens. At only 25-years-old, Hitchens has the speed and quickness to run sideline to sideline. He has the ability to play both inside and outside, and will give Kansas City great flexibility.
His contract is reportedly for 5-Years and $45 million, with $21.29 million fully guaranteed. A little pricey for my liking, but he immediately improves a rush defense that ranked 25th in the NFL last year.
Star Lotulelei, DL To Buffalo Bills
Projected 5-Year Deal
Great pickup here for the Bills. Head Coach Sean McDermott pulls from his former team and lures the big Defensive Tackle to join Bills Mafia. Lotulelei is a monster in the middle and will fill the void left by Marcell Dareus to stop the run. While his presence may not show up on the stat sheet, Lotulelei has the ability to blow up plays at the point of attack and will pad the stats for the linebacking corps. After re-signing Kyle Williams as well, the duo will form a very formidable d-tackle presence that emulates what McDermott ran in Carolina.
Drew Brees, QB Re-Signs With New Orleans Saints
2-Year $50 Million, $27 Million Guaranteed (Projected)
I don’t think I need to say much here. We all knew that Brees wasn’t going anywhere as the Saints are primed to make a Super Bowl run in the very competitive NFC. Basically, his contract breaks down to one-year fully guaranteed and a team option in year two. Brees-y is back in the Big Easy, where he belongs.
Haloti Ngata, DL To Philadelphia Eagles
Projected One-Year Deal
When you have a young quarterback that is not costing you the farm, then the rich can continue to get richer. Ngata will join the Eagles, not as a pass rusher, but as someone to plug run gaps, and the 330-pounder is certainly capable of accomplishing this goal. He can play 1-tech or 3-technique and will be extremely valuable on early downs. They play in different defensive schemes, but his role will resemble that of Domata Peko for the Broncos, as his play makes the run defense that much better.
Trey Burton, TE To Chicago Bears
4-Year $32 Million (Projected)
Burton is a young and physically gifted pass-catching tight end that enjoyed the “Julius Thomas Effect” in Philadelphia. A lot of offensive weapons in Philly forced defenses to pick and choose their priority. With Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Torrey Smith, and Nelson Agholor, Burton was usually the one left with bad matchups. He turned these 23 receptions for 248 yards into a big payday with the Bears. He has a total of 63 receptions in his career which begs the question, why such the big payout? Clearly, the Bears value his talent, but will the production be there when he isn’t surrounded by the same level of talent that there was in Philadelphia? Ala, the “Julius Thomas Effect.”