2023 NFL Free Agent Contract Grades
4 years, $80,000,000, $60,000,000 total guarantees ($40,000,000 full)
Taylor getting a big contract is not that surprising. $20M per year from the Chiefs did surprise me as I thought they would go for a more moderate cost player. My guess would be the cash structure on this one is what sealed it for Kansas City. Though his salary ranks number 1 for right tackles his 1st year cash is just 5th and he is tied for 2nd in two year cash. The turn in the contract comes in year 3 and 4. Its even better if he is the teams left tackle.
This will be a true three year contract in every sense since the team has an early vesting date on Taylor's 2025 $20 million salary. So if he does struggle this is no escape hatch here, so its all or nothing. The QB covers a lot so the odds of a struggle are less but it is worth noting. Overall this reminds me a lot of the contract they signed with Chris Jones when he was tagged a few years ago. If Taylor winds up being the offensive tackle version of Jones then this will be a good one.
3 years, $45,750,000, $32,500,000 total guarantees ($32,500,000 full)
In light of the expected increase in salary at this position, this deal comes in at a relatively solid number. In comparing the cash numbers it is also understandable as to why they went with Allen over keeping Dre'Mont Jones. This contract is basically a slow decline year over year compared to the big drop between year one and two in the Jones contract. Even though the paper guarantee is higher here, the actual cost over two years will be less. The Broncos do have a trade out in 2024 if they decide to go in a different direction and they should have an easy enough time moving on in 2025 provided they do not restructure next season.
3 years, $33,000,000, $21,000,000 total guarantees ($16,000,000 full)
Other than knowing the head coach I am not sure I really get the fit, but this was a good job on the contract by the Raiders, especially after they paid so much to extend some players last year at the same position. The Raiders did not get trapped into the "1st receiver off the board" premium and basically put him on the same prove it level as MVS from last season. This comes down to a one year. $11 million contract with minimal cap damage if they want to cut or trade next season. If he does fit in the offense they have a bargain. If he doesn't it is an easy to correct mistake.
5 years, $87,500,000, $52,500,000 total guarantees ($35,000,000 full)
McGlinchey was a player I had a hard time putting a price tag on and I think this feels like the right number, kind of slotting in on the low end of the upper tier of the market. The 1st year cash matches what Walker received from the Chiefs and then the contract takes a dip down. The Broncos get the 5th year upside that does not exist in the Braden Smith contract and they get a slightly better three year than the older Smith contract. To get that the team did have to concede on a virtual guarantee of $52.5 million at signing which is high and could be a concern. Unlike Walker, McGlinchey won't have the benefit of the QB to make up for any lapses on the field.
1 year, $4,500,000, $3,500,000 total guarantees ($3,500,000 full)
If there is anyone that can get something to work for Sam Darnold it has to be Kyle Shanahan and given all the question marks they have at QB there is little harm in giving Darnold a look for a year. The team has $1 million tied to per game bonuses and as long as they are of the 48 man variety it will being the deal down to $3.5 million if he is inactive most weeks. It will also be decent coverage if he does play for the inevitable games he will miss with injury. As far as backups go this is certainly better than Jarrett Stidham and arguably better than Mike White.
3 years, $51,530,000, $30,000,000 total guarantees ($23,000,000 full)
An aggressive move in free agency by the Seahawks which is not usually their norm, but he certainly fills a void for the team. There were some lower cost options but this is probably the safer bet though all of these players could wind up being victims of an inflated market driving up prices for those who are a tier less than other players already under contract. The concern I would have is structure. They pay out nearly 46% of the entire contract in the first year and even though the guarantee is $30M on paper the real guarantee here is $34 million which is a big number. The final year of this one is clearly set up to be a cut or extend kind of situation so really this is more of a 2 year rather than 3 year contract in my mind.
4 years, $52,000,000, $28,500,000 total guarantees ($27,000,000 full)
This is a solid signing by the Broncos which is pretty much right in line with what you would expect. The first two years of the contract come in guaranteed and while there is a partial year 3 guarantee the number is minimal and does not vest until 2025. This was a reasonable number for the signing bonus relative to the contract and in no way force the Broncos into a bad decision down the line.
3 years, $19,500,000, $12,025,000 total guarantees ($7,900,000 full)
I like this for Chicago. They jumped early on a player who has been a solid pro, but is going to be somewhat underrated as a free agent because of where he was drafted. He can still fill a valuable role as a mid priced linebacker and by coming in where they did the Bears were able to make a quick signing. I would guess this years salary, $8 million, is what got the deal done. If things do not work out it is nothing more than a 1 year gamble and the impact on the cap is minimal. The only future guarantees are injury only so the Bears would have plenty of time to try to adjust the contract down if necessary.
3 years, $72,750,000, $45,000,000 total guarantees ($33,750,000 full)
Similar to the recent Derek Carr signing, I think it is fair to question the value and market for the player, but if you are marking a player down as your starter for two or more years, then there is little wrong with this kind of contract. The numbers here are very straightforward at $24.25 million in pay per year, with a over $1.5 million per year tied to availability, which has always been an issue for Garoppolo.
The full guarantee on this is $33.75 million which would represent the one year pay if he was to be released after the season. That is about what Carr was going to make so it fits in the Raiders budget. Half of his salary is fully guaranteed in 2024 and while it is a negative to have that tied to a roster bonus it does give them some time, if necessary, to bring the salary down. There are no crazy high end incentives which usually you would find in these contracts so that is a big plus for the Raiders if he does take the team to the playoffs. Nothing here should prevent them from drafting a QB other than hurt feelings.
2 years, $6,250,000, $4,000,000 total guarantees ($4,000,000 full)
Keenum can still be a functional QB and will be fine either as a beginning of the season starter in front of a rookie or mentor to a rookie. The numbers on this one are slightly less than he earned from Buffalo last season with a guarantee that is a little higher while also getting a cheap second year. This is a good grab given the Texans situation.
3 years, $35,000,000, $24,500,000 total guarantees ($24,500,000 full)
This was a player the Saints wanted to keep, but there was no way they were going to match this offer that the Falcons put out there. This feels like a move that is made mainly because the team has cap space and it puts a hit on a division rival, because doing a deal for a 30 year old D-lineman when you already have another 30 year old that he will pair with doesn't really make sense in todays NFL. Teams like the Falcons should not be in the market for 3rd contract players.
The team wound up paying out $16 million in the first year of the contract, 45.7% of the entire contract value. His 2024 salary is also fully guaranteed. Not much here stands out as a positive other than having money to use.
2 years, $10,000,000, $5,000,000 total guarantees ($5,000,000 full)
I guess they liked what they saw on tape in those last two games because I think most would have pegged Stidham mas a sub $2M player and maybe one on a VSB contract. Stidham will earn up to $4.5 million this year and has another $1 million guaranteed next year. While those guarantees can be offset this is one where it may not be. There has to have been better options than throwing $5 million per year away here.
3 years, $33,000,000, $22,500,000 total guarantees ($21,000,000 full)
This is a good signing by the Lions and a pretty reasonably priced contract for one of the first corners off the board this year. Sutton has been on the field for almost every snap for the Steelers the last two years and has developed into a solid player at the position. While he is a little older than some other free agents expecting two years is a fair expectation. The only thing I do not really like here is the void years. I don't think this is the right position to really use those on. The Lions have had a hard time moving on from players and this may be a byproduct of that.
3 years, $18,000,000, $9,000,000 total guarantees ($9,000,000 full)
The Jets may have gotten talked into the "brother premium" on this one, going to $18 million over three years, half of which is guaranteed at signing. Williams is a high energy player who can be prone to mistakes and may have been looking at a 1 year deal in free agency. The Jets did not get any type of downside protection in the form of per game bonuses. The cap structure is understandable given the Jets lack of cap room and desire to be active if they trade for Aaron Rodgers, but it may make it harder to ask for a pay cut if he does not continue to improve this year.
3 years, $19,500,000, $13,000,000 total guarantees ($13,000,000 full)
The Panthers are simply looking to find a way to maintain and improve a defense around what will likely be a rookie who struggles his first year. This is probably a little aggressive money wise especially having the first two years guaranteed but he has shown improvement each year of his career and is coming off his best season. If the defense struggles this is a signing that probably will not look good. If they play well most will look at him as a solid rotational part of the team.
4 years, $84,000,000, $40,000,000 total guarantees ($40,000,000 full)
I didn't like this one for the 49ers. It reminds me a bit of the Von Miller signing last year by the Bills where you are going too heavy into an older player that you have no history with. The injury history is not as much of a concern but this is a win now kind of move for a team that is not in great cap shape and has all kinds of questions surrounding the QB.
To fit Hargrave the next two years we get the signing/option structure with multiple void years to bring those numbers down. There are some good things here as the 49ers get their usual large per game bonuses and I would guess the option is late enough to where they could trade Hargrave in the summer of 24 if needed. It is incredibly rare for a player on a third contract to make the jump from being paid like an above average player to an elite one, but that was the feat that Hargrave was able to pull off in free agency.
4 years, $72,000,000, $50,000,000 total guarantees ($41,800,000 full)
Just because you have it, doesnt mean you have to spend it. The front end of this contract is massive. The first year cash ranks 4th in the NFL and the two year cash is 3rd. The contract takes a drop down in years 3 and 4 but that just sets up for a disaster. Either you wind up with a bad contract and a player who still has large guarantees left or a terrific player who feels underpaid. You may as well have just done the $20M a year contract at that point.
In terms of salary cap utilization I like the Bears approach that they are using with the combo roster and signing bonus in year one. Its a good way to keep some flexibility while still using the cap room to your advantage. Seeing how weak overall the linebacker market usually is they probably could have tried to wait this out and land a more balanced deal.
2 years, $8,000,000, $4,500,000 total guarantees ($4,500,000 full)
This one had people shocked when it was first announced because most failed to mention or bring attention to the "up to" portion of the report. As far as backup contracts go this is perfectly fine for Miami. He earns $4.5 million this year and $3.5 million in 2024 which is in line with most backups. White has shown that he can bring energy to a team and be effective at least in short spurts. Hell get a chance to play due to Tua's injury history but this is going to be a pretty brittle QB room as White has not been able to stay healthy either.
2 years, $12,000,000, $10,340,000 total guarantees ($7,755,000 full)
The Raiders wisely did not get deep into the higher priced players at this position and instead walk away with a solid player at a reasonable cost. Epps is a solid addition to the team and comes from a good winning culture in Philadelphia. The contract is filled with some odd quicks the Raiders do from time to time (just look for the repeating numbers here). They probably over-guaranteed the contract, but I think it would be rare for a safety to not finish out the second year of this kind of contract.
3 years, $22,500,000, $13,000,000 total guarantees ($13,000,000 full)
There are two ways to look at this. In a vacuum this is a decent contract for the Panthers. $7.5 million a year is a reasonable number for Bell and while the effective guarantee is more like $16 million, there is some wiggle room if things go south and I think they could trade him if necessary. The other way to look at it is why are the Panthers going the older veteran route? Id rather have the upside of a longer relationship with the player than bringing in a veteran on a rebuilding team. I know they are trying to protect the first overall pick from having no help on defense but there were other players who may have been a better situational fit.
1 year, $2,900,000, $2,170,000 total guarantees ($2,170,000 full)
This is a fair contract for Gipson who played very well last year but also hasn't been able to land much in free agency the last few years. The 49ers did get a large percentage of the contract to be paid on a per game basis while guaranteeing the rest. If he stays healthy and continues to play well this is perfectly fine and fits in ok with the other veteran safety deals in the league.
1 year, $2,100,000, $500,000 total guarantees ($500,000 full)
You can argue with whether or not the Colts should have looked elsewhere but this is a good way of doing business for the Colts. They re-signed Lewis last year for $2.5M and $1M in guarantees and while he didnt improve he more or less stayed at the same level and they were able to bring his salary down to $2.1M, slash the guarantee in half, and double the amount of the contract tied to per game bonuses. That's a good way of working from contract to contract.
4 years, $90,000,000, $60,020,000 total guarantees ($46,010,000 full)
This is a massive deal for Payne that indicates the shift in the interior defensive linemen market that was anticipated following the Aaron Donald extension. The contract ranks 2nd in APY, 2nd in injury guarantees, and is tops in the NFL at $55 million in guarantees at signing. He received the 2nd largest signing bonus at the position, behind teammate Jonathan Allen, and can earn up to $30.51 million which is close to the Donald 1st year cash number.
In many ways it feels that the deal was pieced together by beating various metrics from individual player contracts such as the $28 million in first year cash earned by DeForest Buckner and then the two year by Leonard Williams. The Commanders come out with the benefit of doing some funny money guarantees with some protected workouts and per game bonuses which are a plus for the team side but they also did a partial 3rd year guarantee which the others did not receive at signing. The closest comparison would be Chris Jones who was also a franchise player and this one is a different stratosphere compared to what the Chiefs were able to do and clearly far better than his teammates contract. My assumption for one it is so bullish is because the team was afraid of where the market would go if they had him on the tag while some other DTs signed. That is sound logic if its the case but clearly this falls in the "should have just done an extension last year" type of contract.
1 year, $1,750,000, $500,000 total guarantees ($500,000 full)
I think this is a good deal for Abdullah, who has basically spent his whole career playing for the veteran salary benefit. He is still a capable addition to the passing game and while the guarantee may be a tad high relative to the contract size it won't hurt them. It is just a big surprising that they did not just stay with the minimum contract offer.
4 years, $160,000,000, $104,000,000 total guarantees ($81,000,000 full)
Daniel Jones is the type of player who the franchise tag is meant for. Jones had a weak enough start to his career that the incoming GM declined his option but after leading the Giants, in a weak NFC, to a 9-7-1 record and a playoff win they completely changed course and did a new four year contract worth $40 million a season. The whole thing just feels like reading far too much into one game against the Vikings and having the desire to keep Jones and RB Saquon Barkley on the team in 2023 and this was the easiest way to do it.
The team has gotten some praise for the 3Y value of the contract sitting at $37.5M per year, but the $41M two year average value is the one that matters the most if he busts. Just for a frame of reference his two year earnings will be more than Mahomes and his three year just slightly trails him. That said this contract is not as bullish as the Prescott/Allen/Murray/Watson group and runs more like the Ryan Tannehill contract did in Tennessee where you land a starter APY but not the high level structure associated with it. The Giants did score a win by not having any early vesting on the 2025 guarantee so they could walk that year if things go badly, however the four year nature of the contract gives them little upside for the risk they are taking in the event Jones continues to develop as he would quickly look for an extension to make things right. Overall this just feels like a decision that should not have been made and probably would not have been made had Barkley been under contract.
3 years, $75,000,000, $40,000,000 total guarantees ($27,300,000 full)
This was a great job by the Seahawks to basically create a class of contract that did not exist in the NFL. It seems clear based on the cash structure of the contract that Seattle was able to convince Smith's side that at the most there was a transition tag at play and that there was no guarantee that even that would happen. They wind up with a first year salary that is under the transition tag and they maintained their concept of no full guarantees in the second year of a contract.
The two year value comes in at $50 million with upside of $65 million. To reach the $65 million Smith would need to have virtually the same season he had in 2022 and the team would have to have the same type of regular season success. Even still the two year value would be under what it would have cost them to use two tags on him and that is great value if he plays that well. If things do not go well they can always release him with $17.4 million hitting the cap. Considering his history with Seattle the more likely result would be a return to a backup level salary as he would stay as a mentor to a younger player drafted in 2023 with a cap probably in the $14 million range. It is hard to picture a better outcome than this that did not involve Smith actually playing the market.
2 years, $9,000,000, $5,250,000 total guarantees ($5,250,000 full)
This deal won't get much attention because the APY is low but this is a solid job by the Falcons. They signed Carter last season for $3.5 million as a free agent and he did everything you would have expected plus a bit more. His playtime jumped from 50% to over 80% and finished the year with 4 sacks and 12 QB hits. They will pay $5.25 million this year and then still have him under contract in 2024 for just $3.75 million and no guarantees. So I like that kind of possible upside. Even if he is giving you 60-70% playtime with little change in his other numbers that is at least as valuable as this years salary.
4 years, $150,000,000, $100,000,000 total guarantees ($60,000,000 full)
There are two ways to look at this one. The first is just as a pure contract. In that sense this is good for the Saints. They were willing to take on more money in a trade and wound up saving themselves $15 million and a draft pick in the process. They did not get wrapped up in a market war between the Jets and Panthers and just laid out their deal and signed him for $60M over two seasons. The additional guarantee on this contract does not concern me simply because of where the Saints are as a franchise. They dont really have the option for a rookie and they dont have a roster that can continue to trot out random guys at QB each year. The no trade is also of no concern because if he is good they were never going to trade him and if he isn't nobody is going to want him, so it's basically just a clause for the sake of having a clause.
The second way to look at this is from the point of building a team. While Carr is a bigger name at this point of his career than Andy Dalton is he really that much better? Carr played with a big time WR last year, big time running game, and had other weapons and got benched. The Saints have a far better defense and the division is atrocious unlike the AFC West, but you do wonder what upside really exists here.
Still as far as contracts go this is reasonable for a mid tier starter. There is always the chance (guarantee?) the Saints turn the cap portion of this into a mess which may take away some of the benefits of the cost but overall they did a solid job of navigating an early free agent decision and getting the guy they clearly wanted all along.