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NFL Insiders React To Teams' Most Notable Free Agency Signings

Everyone involved in football has an opinion on what’s going on around the league, but the free agency portion of the calendar is when everyone talks the most. There’s non-stop chatter, plenty of speculation and some wild rumors that start floating around.

With the first week-plus of free agency behind us and plenty of players signing new contracts, I gathered the thoughts and opinions of executives and agents on some of the most notable signings from around the league.

Free Agency Developments

Raiders Add Jimmy Garoppolo

The Las Vegas Raiders gave Jimmy Garoppolo a three-year, $67.5 million contract with $33.7 million fully guaranteed. The one thing people question is the contract. It’s not because of his play but rather his availability. Garoppolo missed 13 games because of a torn ACL in 2018 and 10 more games in 2020 because of an ankle injury.

In 2021, he missed two games, one with a torn ligament in his thumb and another with a calf injury, and then he missed the final eight games this past season (five regular, three postseason) because of a foot injury.

AFC executive: "I understand the familiarity he has with Josh [McDaniels], but I don’t know how, as an owner and general manager, you’re OK with investing that type of money to a player who has not proven he can play an entire season at the most important position."

NFC executive: "Kyle Shanahan openly talked about moving on from him for two years. No coach does that. He was sick and tired of the injuries."

Assistant quarterbacks coach: "At the end of the day you can’t win in this league without a quarterback. Jimmy has proven he can win games. That’s ultimately what matters. He will bond well with those guys in the locker room. He’s an exceptional teammate. But the one thing Vegas can’t do is not have a reliable backup option. I believe they were surprised to see Jarrett Stidham go to Denver with the money he got because he would be perfect for them. GM Dave [Ziegler] needs to make sure he addresses that backup position. It should be a priority."

Philadelphia Eagles C.J. Gardner-Johnson

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s Market

The former Philadelphia Eagles defensive back was one of the players most people I spoke to thought would do well on the open market. But that didn’t come to fruition, and Gardner-Johnson settled for a one-year, $8 million deal with the Detroit Lions.

NFC executive, who was not in the safety market: "I was a bit surprised to see how it all unfolded. Usually in free agency, if you’re not off the board early, then there’s something wrong. The only thing I could think of is the Saints barely got anything for him when they traded him, and it doesn’t seem like the Eagles put serious consideration in doing an extension upon trading for him, which is something Howie [Roseman] usually tries to do. The thing for CJ is he’ll get another chance next year when he’s still only 26 years old. If he can do well for Detroit, and I think he will, he will get rewarded soon enough."

Veteran agent: "Chauncey was the one deal I couldn’t figure out what went wrong. I expected Jessie Bates to get paid, and I’m not surprised Atlanta was the team to do it. I expected Chauncey to be in that same group with Jessie. After those two I thought there would be a drop off for the rest of the safeties in what teams would do money-wise. I don’t know if Chauncey just misjudged the market. I do wonder if teams still view him as a true nickel corner and not a safety, which is what he wants to be called. The safety market is a lot more lucrative than the nickel market. I could see that being part of the problem. But it is an odd result after the exceptional year he had."

Cowboys' Big Trades

The Dallas Cowboys acquired CB Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a 2023 fifth-round pick and added WR Brandin Cooks from the Houston Texans for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick.

AFC executive: "I love both moves from Dallas. In a conference like the NFC where there is no clear favorite, trading away a few late-round selections for veterans who have been there and done that is just great roster building. Dallas has been getting to the playoffs, but they can’t get more than that. The conference is wide open. Go for it. Dan Quinn returned for your defense. Give him another chess piece. That team desperately needed another receiver last year, and they couldn’t get it. Brandin Cooks will be a great compliment to CeeDee Lamb. They should continue to push forward and do whatever it takes in 2023."

Salary cap analyst: "From a cap and cash perspective, Dallas has deals coming up for Trevon Diggs, CeeDee Lamb, possibly Tony Pollard and the big one is Dak Prescott. Dak’s situation is most important in all of this because Dallas restructured his contract a few weeks ago to bring his cap number down to $26.8 million. His cap number next offseason is now nearly $60 million. Dak has a lot of leverage because he can’t get tagged once his contract expires thanks to the way he handles his last negotiation. I’d imagine Dallas is well aware of that. So trading for Gilmore, who is in a contract year, and Cooks, who has no guaranteed money left after this season tells me Dallas is pushing their chips into the middle for this season. They also brought back Donovan Wilson and Leighton Vander Esch when I thought it was unlikely. This is a really good roster, and I would expect them to add more. I really think they have a shot in the NFC."

Orlando Brown Stays at Left Tackle

The Kansas City Chiefs allowed Orlando Brown to hit the open market. The general thought process was he would cash in with a massive contract. While he did get paid, he fell way short of expectations, getting a four-year, $64 million contract from the Cincinnati Bengals. That puts him outside the top 10 left tackles.

AFC executive: "Orlando wants to play left tackle, and that’s fine. He’s doing what his father wanted him to do, and I have all the respect in the world for that. I just think this proves the overall outlook on him among teams is he might be better suited to be on the right side. I commend Cincinnati for jumping in and realizing the situation. Building around and protecting Joe [Burrow] should be key for them and it’s a great message for their fanbase."

Favorite Signings

Cleveland Browns Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

Browns Sign Ogbonnia Okoronkwo

NFC pro personnel member: "It’s very easy to see the potential Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has and honestly I was a bit surprised Houston didn’t try to extend him during the season. He showed some real flashes and getting him for $19 million over three years to pair with Myles Garrett is great value for Cleveland in my mind. I know they tried the Jadeveon Clowney experiment, and it didn’t work as they had hoped. I think Okoronkwo can complement Garrett, and I love the fit with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The situation he’s walking into is perfect."

Eagles Sign RB Rashaad Penny

NFL agent: "Rashaad Penny has to stay healthy first and foremost but getting Penny for basically the minimum was a boss move by Howie [Roseman]. This guy has averaged north of six yards per carry twice, and now he'll be playing behind one of the best lines in the league. I don’t know if he purposely took this deal over other offers, but if he did, that could pay off in a big way for Rashaad this time next year."

Giants Sign WR Parris Campbell

NFL Analyst: "I love the move for the Giants. He’s electric with the ball in his hands and is a young playmaker who will help Daniel Jones in the middle of the field as well as the perimeter. More importantly, Brian Daboll needs his receivers to have the ability to separate, and Campbell is really good at that. It’s a low-risk, potentially high-reward deal for an ascending player who put together a full season for the first time in his NFL career last year. He’s also a high-character guy, which I know matters a lot for this Giants program."

Titans Sign LB Azeez Al-Shaair

AFC Executive: "[Shaair] has starting caliber traits but was just in a crowded linebacker room in San Francisco. Really good value on a one-year deal. Adds speed and toughness. If he can stay healthy, he will be able to replace David Long."

Most Surprising Signings

Minnesota Vikings Josh Oliver

Vikings Sign Josh Oliver to Three-Year, $21M Deal

AFC Executive: "I know Josh Oliver is one of the league's better blocking tight ends, but when those numbers came through my phone I was surprised to see $7 million AAV. I think that was one of the first tight end deals to get done, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they just misjudged the market. All the other tight ends struggled to get what they wanted. Part of that is because of this upcoming draft class. So I love the player, but the money was stunning. Scroll through your free agency tracker, and his name just sticks out so much. It makes you go, ‘whoa!’"

Titans Sign Andre Dillard to Three-Year, $29M Deal

NFC Executive: “Tennessee needed offensive line help in the worst way, so I get it. But that’s significant money for a guy who didn’t start much and has had serious injury problems throughout his NFL career. They’re banking on a lot here. I don’t even think Philadelphia thought he’d get that."