Entering the legal tampering period on Monday, teams had over $700M in combined cap space to work with, and this doesn’t even include cash budgets or restructure potential. Coupled with a 14% increase in the cap, there were reasons to think teams would be spendthrift, leading to more player-friendly deals. Through one day of free agency, however, deals have been coming in lower than expected. Other than a couple of outliers, we’re seeing a litany of team-friendly contracts.
Let’s take a look at three of the most notable deals and grade them in the process…
Eagles sign EDGE Haason Reddick to three-year, $45M deal ($30M guaranteed)
At $15M APY, this deal is a steal for Philly. With the cap increase and the explosion that is coming in future years, getting an impact player at a premier position for this price is as good a deal as any from the team-side. The Eagles now have two quality, young DE’s who can consistently get pressure on the QB. Haason Reddick had 23.5 sacks and 103 total pressures over the last two seasons.
Looking at the EDGE market, Reddick’s contract is nearly identical to the deal Carl Lawson got from the Jets last offseason. But the cap was $182.5M then, and Lawson is an inferior player.
We’re already seeing the impact of Reddick’s deal on the market. Chandler Jones has not signed yet because of how confusing this contract is from the player’s perspective. Unless Reddick took less to return home to Philly — he played at Temple and is from Camden, NJ — there’s really no explanation for this APY. It’s either a hometown discount or other teams were asleep at the wheel.
Chargers sign CB J.C. Jackson to five-year, $82.5M deal ($40M guaranteed)
While the Chargers being the destination was expected, the figure was quite the opposite. I thought he would have topped Jalen Ramsey ($20M APY) for the highest paid CB in the NFL. At the very least, $18M+ seemed nearly certain with the $19M range being likely (in line with Lattimore and Humphrey). Yet, in one of the bigger surprises of the day, Jackson only got $16.5M per year, matching Byron Jones and putting him right behind Darius Slay.
Jackson’s 22 INT since 2019 lead the NFL in that span. He should be a strong fit in Brandon Staley’s scheme, especially because he will be playing with Bosa, Mack, and Derwin James. Though it is somewhat disconcerting that Belichick didn’t tag him and ultimately let him walk, the price point makes this move a home run for the Chargers.
The trend with the CB market is stunning—Carlton Davis also got less than expected. I would have predicted Davis to get $16M+, but he ended up returning to Tampa at $15M. In fact, before his performance declined in the second half of the season, I would have predicted Davis to get over $18M.
Jaguars sign WR Christian Kirk to four-year, $72M deal ($37M guaranteed)
Despite all of the team-friendly contracts on Monday, there was one anomalously player-friendly deal. Christian Kirk signing for $18M APY (and up to $21M with incentives) is an albatross of a contract. Kirk is a good player, not a great one, but he is now making as much Tyreek Hill per year and more than Diggs, Kupp, and Evans. He has a chance to reach $21M APY, which would make him the third highest paid WR in football behind Hopkins and Julio Jones. That is insane for a player who has never eclipsed 1000 receiving yards, nor has he ever been the best WR on his own team.
Many on social media have contended that Kirk’s deal will have ripple effects on the WR market, but this isn’t the case. Other GM’s will not overreact to Jacksonville’s mistake, and this deal could actually hurt the WRs as opposed to the teams. That is, WRs are not going to be able to leverage the Kirk contract in their own negotiations. Even a generous valuation on Kirk that accounted for deals increasing in line with the cap (which doesn’t happen) would have him around $14M. What’s more likely is that teams had him in the $10M-13M range where Gallup ended up.
The Jaguars spent a lot of money early in free agency, and they may have been negotiating against themselves in the process.