We’re just about a week into the official start of free agency, and there has been plenty of money spent, as well as a whole bunch of players who have changed teams. Though some clubs have stayed on the outside looking in, others have been active in bettering their rosters for the upcoming season and beyond.
To tie a bow on the first wave of free agency, we’ve ranked the 10 best signings thus far. This takes into account how much the player was paid, as well as his fit with the team and his past production. Keep in mind, there isn’t much separation between these deals because they were all great signings.
Here's the best of the best.
NT Brandon Williams, Ravens
The Ravens have had a solid free-agency haul thus far, bringing in Eric Weddle and retaining Williams. One of the best run-stuffers in the league, Williams is a big part of Baltimore’s 3-4 defense. The Ravens couldn’t afford to lose him in free agency, and though they paid him like a top nose tackle, he deserved it. He had 51 tackles last season and has played every game since the start of 2014.
DB Micah Hyde, Bills
Hyde was never regarded as an elite defensive back, and he probably will never be one. However, the value of his versatility is immeasurable in today’s NFL. He can play nickel, free safety, strong safety and even return punts, playing a whopping 1,047 total snaps in 2016. He just turned 26 and is coming off of a year in which he picked off three passes, so he’s on the rise. And with his role likely to grow in Buffalo, his value is only going to get greater and greater. He wasn’t exactly cheap, but the Bills were desperate for secondary help.
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TE Martellus Bennett, Packers
The Packers let Jared Cook walk in free agency, but they wound up finding an upgrade from the Super Bowl champion Patriots. Bennett is a great blocker and an athletic threat in the passing game, much as Cook is. He can line up anywhere on the field, which gives coach Mike McCarthy even more options offensively with his personnel groupings. Bennett should become a favorite of Aaron Rodgers, and with a cap hit of just $3.85 million in Year 1, he’s more than affordable for Green Bay. He’ll be a staple of the Packers' offense the way he was in New England.
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WR Terrelle Pryor, Redskins
The Browns were reluctant to pay Pryor like a top receiver, believing he was worth about $8 million per season. That offer wasn't enough for Pryor over the course of four years, so he went to Washington and took it for one year. The Redskins now get a stud receiver for one season at a relatively low price. Signing Pryor was crucial for Washington, which lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency. He and Josh Doctson have the potential to be great for them – assuming quarterback Kirk Cousins is back.
DT Chris Baker, Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have quietly had a very good offseason, adding DeSean Jackson, J.J. Wilcox and Baker. The big defensive lineman thrived in Washington, and he’ll prove to be a big loss for the Redskins. In Tampa Bay, he’ll move inside to 4-3 defensive tackle, taking pressure off of Noah Spence, William Gholston and Robert Ayers. He and Gerald McCoy on the interior will be a force teams will have to pay special attention to, and at $15.8 million over three years, he’s a bargain.
WR DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers
This was a somewhat costly signing for the Bucs, but despite Jackson’s age (30), his fit in the offense is ideal. With Mike Evans on one side, Jackson can take the top off of the defense with his speed and big-play ability downfield. His presence will command the attention of safeties, opening up single coverage for Evans on the other side. The Buccaneers struggled to create big plays offensively, ranking toward the bottom in that department, but Jackson and his league-high 17.9 yards per catch will change that.
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CB A.J. Bouye, Jaguars
Bouye was one of the prized cornerbacks on the market, and his $67.5 million contract matched that notion. Though he has only one year of top-flight production, the upside is huge for a guy who’s just 25 years old. He and Jalen Ramsey should give the Jaguars one of the best cornerback duos in football, improving a defense that was already very good in 2016. Now, he just has to live up to the hype and the $26 million in guaranteed cash he just received.
The Rams had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last season, seeing their young quarterback Jared Goff on his back far too often. They’re likely to address that issue further in the draft, but with a weak class of incoming rookies on the line, the Rams solidified the left tackle spot with Whitworth. He may be 35 years old, but they know exactly what they’re going to get from him for the next few years. He’s great in pass protection and solid in the running game, which should help Todd Gurley, too.
WR Brandon Marshall, Giants
The Giants got a major discount on Marshall, and the veteran wide receiver admitted that himself. He said the Giants probably offered the least amount of money, but he accepted a two-year, $11 million deal to have a shot at a championship. Just as DeSean Jackson is to Mike Evans, Marshall is the perfect secondary option to Odell Beckham Jr. His size and catch radius will improve Eli Manning’s completion percentage, and he'll be a dominant threat in the red zone. Manning hasn’t had a target this big since Hakeem Nicks, and even he wasn’t as imposing as Marshall.
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WR Alshon Jeffery, Eagles
For the second straight year, Jeffery will be playing on a one-year deal. Last season, he made $14.6 million on the franchise tag, and in 2017, he’ll pull in $14 million with the Eagles. For a player with No. 1-receiver upside, that’s not exactly a crippling number. The Eagles now get to test out Jeffery to see whether he’s worth a long-term extension, which they’ll likely have an answer to by midseason. If he is, look for Philadelphia to extend him then, just as it's done for other top Eagles in recent years.