NFL free agency instant grades for every major signing of 2024 offseason

The NFL’s 2024-2025 season officially begins on Wednesday, March 13 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. This is when teams are able to finally ink players after the legal tampering period, get pen to paper, and feel better there wasn’t some last-minute trickery or curveballs.

Of course, things semi-officially began on Monday, with the start of the two-day “legal tampering period.” Arguments about semantics aside, there has been a flurry of activity so far, which can become official on Wednesday.

You can find the complete list of every signing from free agency here. We won’t be covering every single deal here, but rather the biggest names moving teams that could have a significant impact on the season ahead. In some cases teams did really well to upgrade their rosters in substantial ways, while others … well, at least they tried.

Robert Hunt to the Carolina Panthers on a five-year, $100M deal: B-

Well, it certainly looks like the Carolina Panthers are going to lean into the running game.

Robert Hunt is a mauler up front, and should give the Panthers the ability to generate some explosive plays in the running game. But the price tag immediately rockets Hunt to the top of the NFL’s highest-paid guards, which is some necessary context.

Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons on a four-year, $180M deal: A-

Everyone expected this deal would kick off the start of NFL free agency.

It seems we were just waiting on the content:

A four-year deal, at that money, for an aging quarterback coming off a season-ending Achilles’ heel injury provides a bit of sticker shock. However, all the Falcons needed last year was semi-competent quarterback play, and they might have won the division.

Now they get Cousins, and if this pans out — and Cousins should be a near-perfect fit in the offense under Zac Robinson — no one will care what it cost.

Saquon Barkley to the Philadelphia Eagles on a three-year, $37.75 million deal: B+

I get the idea and trend of not paying RBs who have a lot of wear and tear, but this is a good fit for both Barkley and the Eagles. Saquon is a much better runner than anyone the Eagles have had in that spot, and with Kellen Moore coming over from Los Angeles, getting a back with good vision and explosiveness will unlock everything else in the offense. Yes, the deal seems like a lot of money, but the average per year puts him in the echelon of RBs he deserves.

Bryce Huff to the Philadelphia Eagles on a three-year, $54.1 million deal: B

With all of the smoke surrounding the Eagles trading EDGEs Josh Sweat and Haason Reddick, this move makes sense for Philly. Huff is a speed threat as a pass rusher, and while he doesn’t have much experience playing on early downs, he can bend around the corner and get to the QB. It’s a good payday for Huff, and the Eagles get younger on the EDGE.

Christian Wilkins to the Las Vegas Raiders on a four-year, $110M deal: B-

The Las Vegas Raiders broke the bank, adding Christian Wilkins on a four-year deal worth up to a maximum of $110 million, with $84.75 million guaranteed.

While it is a lot of money, the Raiders are betting on two things here: One, that Wilkins will be able to duplicate what he did last season with the Miami Dolphins, as he is coming off perhaps his best year as a pro, where he amassed 9 sacks and 23 quarterback hits.

The other bet? That his presence on the interior will help make life easier for Maxx Crosby on the edge. That is something one of Wilkins’ former teammates noted on social media immediately after the news:

Jonah Jackson to the Los Angeles Rams on a three-year, $54 million deal with $34 millions guaranteed: B+

This is a really sweet signing by the Rams, who are going to major lengths to keep pressure out of QB Matthew Stafford’s face. Jackson is an athletic guard who can play out in space and be effective in the pass blocking department. There’s kind of a logjam at the guard spots with Steve Avila going into his second year and Kevin Dotson getting an extension, but Jackson can play left and Avila goes to center. The Rams run game overhaul seems complete.

Dorance Armstrong to the Washington Commanders on a three-year, $45M deal: B-

This is a solid, albeit unremarkable move. The Commanders desperately needed pass rush help after trading away Montez Sweat and

Gabe Davis to the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year, $39M deal worth up to $50M: C+

This could end up being a better deal in a few days. If the Jaguars find a way to bring Calvin Ridley back, who is a free agent himself, pairing Davis with Ridley could be a solid combination for the Jaguars.

But if Ridley ends up leaving town, and Davis is their Plan B, this deal looks a lot different.

Tony Pollard to the Tennessee Titans on a three-year, $24M deal: C+

If you’re resigned to the fact that Derrick Henry is gone (and it appears he is) then you could do a lot worse than Tony Pollard. That’s kind of the best thing to say about this deal.

The upside is that running backs don’t break the bank, and Pollard has proven success to his name. The bad part is that his explosiveness fell off a cliff in 2023 and he only ran for 4.0 yards-per-carry.

The hope is that Pollard will be able to lift his efficiency more, and he’s only 26-years-old — but it’s going to be very difficult to move on from Henry with anyone.

D’Andre Swift to the Chicago Bears on a three-year, $24M deal: C

Which D’Andre Swift are you getting? Is he the 1,000 yard feature rusher he was in Philly last year, or the middling, easy-replaced guy in Detroit?

We’re not talking a lot of money here, but Swift is very much a buyer beware. The Carolina Panthers learned in free agency a year ago that it’s risky to put too much stock in a good offense’s player and hope he’ll transpose, because Miles Sanders was a horrific signing for them.

The Bears need weapons, but considering their massive war chest it would have been nice to see Chicago get someone a little more proven.

Jonathan Greenard to the Minnesota Vikings on a 4 year, $76M deal: C+

Every deal has to be looked at in totality, and what it means for the team as a whole. Greenard is a young, versatile defensive end who will likely thrive under Brian Flores — but he’s also been extremely inconsistent over his career.

Know who has been consistent? Danielle Hunter.

Signing Greenard means Hunter is gone, and that makes this a very risky replacement strategy. If Greenard can hold up and perform to his 2023 level, it will more than be worth it, but if not? Well, the Vikings just lost their best pass rusher in free agency and had to pony up a lot of money they don’t really have to get a worse guy.

Russell Wilson to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one-year, minimum deal: A-

On the one hand, this is not your father’s Russell Wilson. The days of Wilson being named among the NFL’s best quarterbacks are well in the rear-view mirror. After a down first season in Denver with the Broncos in 2022, new head coach Sean Payton eventually sat Wilson down last season, opening the doors to this move to Pittsburgh. Expecting Wilson to come into town and recapture the magic from his Seattle days may be a tough ask. Plus, the fit in an Arthur Smith offense could be a question.

On the other hand? The Steelers are signing a Super Bowl winning quarterback on a one-year deal and paying a fraction of the $39 million he was guaranteed by the Broncos for this season. As far as dice rolls go, this is a very inexpensive one that could prove to still be an upgrade at the sport’s most important position.

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