NFL experts debate free agency: What was the most questionable move?


NFL free agency has started to slow down nearly a week after officially opening. Teams have added impact playmakers across their depth charts, though free agents such as Xavien Howard and Connor Williams are still available for more moves. Notably, Kirk Cousins, Saquon Barkley, Calvin Ridley, Danielle Hunter, Arik Armstead, Robert Hunt and Russell Wilson have found new homes. Some teams made a lot of noise with top-dollar additions, while others focused on value signings.

What are the best overall signings and the most questionable moves so far? Our NFL experts are weighing in on what we’ve seen in this offseason’s free agency, and we will continue to update this file throughout the week, with insight on teams that aced free agency and teams that didn’t.

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Best moves | Head-scratching moves

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What was the most head-scratching move of free agency?

Stephania Bell, fantasy football analyst: Running back Josh Jacobs to the Packers. It’s true, last season was an off year for Aaron Jones. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 1, and it limited his availability throughout the season. But the oft-repeated mantra was that Jones was the heart of the team, a critical presence in the locker room and the key to its run game. The argument against Jones is he’s an aging running back who was going to cost too much to re-sign. Yet the Packers brought in a back on a more expensive multiyear deal (four years, $48 million) who has fewer years of play in the league but has accrued mileage at a faster rate. This is not about Jacobs’ undeniable talent, it’s about the rationale.

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Running back Tony Pollard to the Titans. Pollard fits best in a rotational role, maximizing his running and receiving traits. But I didn’t expect Tennessee, who drafted Tyjae Spears in the third round last year, to be in the mix here. Let’s see if the Titans target a running back in the draft with downhill power and goal line ability to complement the skills of both Pollard and Spears.

Jeremy Fowler, senior NFL writer: Safety Kevin Byard to the Bears. Byard has had a great career, but jumping out pre-free agency with $15 million over two years seemed impulsive, especially with Justin Simmons and Quandre Diggs still out there in an oversaturated safety market. For contrast, Kamren Curl, who is five years younger, signed for $8.75 million over two years, with upside to $12.75 million.

Eric Moody, fantasy football writer: Receiver Gabe Davis signing with the Jaguars. He had some great moments with the Bills playing alongside Stefon Diggs, totaling 746 receiving yards last season. However, if the Jaguars’ plan was to pair Davis with Calvin Ridley, then that plan won’t come to fruition — Ridley signed a more lucrative deal with the Titans. Davis could struggle as the Jaguars’ No. 1 receiver in 2024, given the defensive attention he’ll now command.

Jason Reid, senior Andscape writer: Byard to the Bears. The Bears bucked the trend of teams moving on from veteran safeties, signing Byard, who turns 31 in August, after he was cut by the Eagles. Hoping he would be a big part of another Super Bowl run, the Eagles acquired Byard at last season’s trade deadline, but the secondary was a mess down the stretch. Obviously, Byard shouldn’t be blamed for all of the Eagles’ coverage issues, but there’s no sugarcoating it: He didn’t play well and, then, got a sizable deal from the Bears.

Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst: Byard to the Bears. The safety market was very good entering free agency, and there were much better and younger fits for the Bears to sign. Considering the amount of cap space they had prior to that signing, there seemed to be better fits than the aging Byard.

Aaron Schatz, NFL analyst: Guard Robert Hunt to the Panthers. Hunt was below average among guards in both pass block win rate (89.6%) and run block win rate (68.6%) last season. The season before, he was 20th in pass block win rate but again below average in run block win rate. It doesn’t scream, “Hey, make me the second-highest paid right guard in the NFL.”

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL front office analyst: Receiver Calvin Ridley to the Titans. Yes, he has two 1,000-yard seasons and 36 career TDs, and he’s 29 years old — but he has never been a bona fide No. 1 receiver. I think the Titans overpaid at $23 million per year.


What was the best overall free agent signing?

Bell: Ravens signing RB Derrick Henry to a two-year, $16 million deal. Yes, he is 30 years old, but Henry is built to steamroller opponents with size and power. And he has shown durability with only one season in his eight-year career in which he has played fewer than 15 games. Henry will continue to pose problems for defenses that now have to account for other offensive talent alongside him, including a quarterback (Lamar Jackson) who is even more nimble as a runner than Henry.

Bowen: Packers signing S Xavier McKinney to a four-year, $68 million deal. As a safety with multidimensional traits, McKinney tracks the ball well and has the coverage skills to match in the slot. That’s a fit for a Green Bay defense that will be much more aggressive with its coverage and pressure tendencies under new coordinator Jeff Hafley. McKinney, 25, has nine interceptions and 14 pass breakups in his four pro seasons.

Fowler: Steelers signing LB Patrick Queen to a three-year, $41 million contract. Pittsburgh gets a defensive cornerstone at a position that has long been depleted. Adding a fourth defensive star alongside T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cameron Heyward will pay off in the AFC North. And bonus points for stealing Queen from the rival Ravens. His contract is reasonable, as the Steelers can get out of it after one year and $13.84 million — though they won’t want to do that.

Moody: Panthers signing G Robert Hunt to a five-year, $100 million contract. The Panthers made sure they secured one of the top offensive linemen in free agency to help protect quarterback Bryce Young. Hunt will improve an offensive line that ranked near the bottom of the league in pass block win rate last season (23rd at 54.3%).

Jason Reid: Chiefs signing WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to a one-year deal worth up to $11 million. Kansas City GM Brett Veach addressed the team’s biggest offseason concern. The Chiefs led the league in dropped passes (38) last season. Veach needed to acquire a potential difference-maker at the receiver position, and Brown has elite speed and is an elusive runner after the catch. In his five NFL seasons, Brown has 3,644 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns. He gives the Chiefs their best deep threat since they traded Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins.

Jordan Reid: Chiefs signing Brown. It’s not a secret that, outside of Rashee Rice, the Chiefs’ receivers last season were underwhelming. A huge missing element of the scheme last season was the lack of downfield consistency. Brown brings that added dimension and immediately becomes the No. 1 target for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Schatz: Falcons signing QB Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million deal. Quarterback is the most important position in the game, so additions at that position are going to move the needle a lot more than at other positions. Cousins is a major upgrade over Desmond Ridder. He doesn’t make the Falcons Super Bowl contenders but does make them division favorites, so Atlanta fans will have a reason for optimism over the next couple of seasons.

Tannenbaum: Eagles signing RB Saquon Barkley to a three-year, $37.7 million contract. Barkley will give Jalen Hurts a much better chance of getting through the season healthy. Over the past three seasons, Hurts has run the ball 491 times, which is the most by any quarterback in that span. Those numbers take a toll, and he didn’t look the same at the end of last season. With a true elite runner in the backfield, there won’t be as much pressure on Hurts to run, which will potentially keep him healthy down the stretch.



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