Several stages of the NFL free agency period has come and gone by this point of the offseason. The big money signings are well behind us. The signings that produced key role players are also behind us. Interestingly, the market still shows the faces of Adrian Peterson, Colin Kaepernick, Darrelle Revis, Jamaal Charles, Victor Cruz, Robert Griffin III, and other notable names. So with the heavy lifting well behind us, let’s pinpoint the key signings are how they will contribute to their new teams.
#Bears fans reason for optimism w/ Mike Glennon. When he was playing, he got gradually better from pocket under pressure. Always good sign.
— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) April 10, 2017
Quarterback Mike Glennon
New team: Chicago Bears Old team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Contract: 3-year, $45 million, $18.5 million guaranteed The rumors surrounding Glennon and a potential payday started early. Glennon has only 18 career starts in his three seasons as a pro and went 5-13 overall. So it’s understandable for most to not feel as if Glennon has earned this type of contract. But he has. Now he’s primed to be the starter for the Bears come week one of the season. He will have to take the field without receiver Alshon Jeffrey, who departed for Philadelphia in free agency. Based on the signing of Brock Osweiler in Houston last offseason, this one has the smell of a similar situation. 2017 projection: 3, 311 yards, 19 touchdowns, 13 INTs
Pierre Garcon one of the best in-breaking route runners in football (think slants, posts, dig routes).
— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) April 5, 2017
Receiver Pierre Garcon
New team: San Francisco 49ers
Old team: Washington Redskins
Contract: 5-year, $47.5 million, $20.5 million guaranteed
New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has taken over a San Francisco team that is in clear rebuilding mode. One thing that was needed a veteran presence at the receiver spot and here is where Garcon fits in. The two were once in D.C. together for a couple of seasons which made the signing of Garcon clear to understand. His voice will be valued as it seems the 49ers may be starting a rookie at the quarterback position. Based on that, Garcon may take a step back in production. While he may see a ton of targets, he will also have the most attention from opposing defenses that he probably has not experienced before.
2017 projection: 64 catches, 922 yards, four TDs
Receiver DeSean Jackson
New team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Old team: Washington Redskins
Contract: 3-year, $33.5 million, $20 million guaranteed
It was apparent that the Buccaneers needed another weapon on offense opposite #1 receiver Mike Evans. While Tampa Bay flirted with a playoff berth this past season, adding Jackson may be the move to put them over the hump. Jackson is a lightning bolt at receiver and has averaged at least 17.6 yards per catch in each of the past three seasons. Quarterback Jameis Winston was eighth in the league in pass attempts with 20 or more air yards. The Bucs only posted four passing plays of 40 yards or more in 2016. Both of those categories will see a significant boost.
2017 projection: 63 catches, 1,093 yards, eight TDs
Guard Kevin Zeitler
New team: Cleveland Browns
Old team: Cincinnati Bengals
Contract: 5-year, $60 million, $31.5 million guaranteed
Offensive lineman do not get much publicity but the signing of Zeitler was easily one of the top signings during this free agency period. The veteran guard was already given credit as one of the best run blocking lineman in the league and now his addition gives a tremendous boost to a Browns line that is led by left tackle Joe Thomas. That may be a ton of money for one of the least talked about positions in football but for the Browns, this type of signing was drastically needed.
2017 projections: 16 starts
Nose tackle Brandon Williams
New team: Baltimore Ravens
Contract: 5-year, $52 million, $33.75 million guaranteed
The signing of Williams made him the highest paid nose tackle in NFL history. Yes, that also comes with incredible expectations. The Ravens were fifth in the league in run defense by allowing only 89.4 rushing yards per game. The 335-lb lineman was the key reason why. The Ravens themselves lost notable free agents and could not afford to let Williams walk. However, that is an incredible amount of money for lineman who does not post significant numbers. if you know football, you should be aware that nose tackles are not residences of stat sheets. If the Ravens are again elite in run defense this season, Williams may be a considerable reason why.
2017 projection: 42 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles
Cornerback A.J. Bouye
New team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Old team: Houston Texans
Contract: 5-year, $67.5 million, $26 million guaranteed
Bouye was one of the breakout players of the entire season with 48 tackles and 16 pass deflections during the 2016 season. Now Bouye is in the spotlight as the lead cornerback for the Jaguars and teams with rookie sensation Jalen Ramsey. The combination of Bouye and Ramsey gives the Jaguars one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL. Probably the best aspect about the signing of Bouye is that he is only 25 years old. It’s one thing to play excellent in one defense where the expectations are fairly modest. It’s another to go to a team in search of consistent winning with the spotlight fully thrusted. Bouye could be a signing that elevates the Jaguars. Or he could be one that sets the team back tremendously.
2017 projections: 56 tackles, 10 pass deflections, 2 INTs
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore
New team: New England Patriots
Old team: Buffalo Bills
Contract: 5-year, $65 million, $40 million guaranteed
One of the most interesting signings of the offseason, Gilmore finds himself in a place he probably never imagined. It is still in the air of whether the Patriots execute a move to get starter Malcolm Butler out of town. If they do, Gilmore will be counted on as the team’s top corner. According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore allowed 60% of attempts thrown in his direction to be completed and he also gave up an average of 15.6 yards per catch. Inconsistencies has haunted Gilmore throughout his five year career. If Gilmore can avoid that hurdle, the Patriots have themselves a very good defensive back.
2017 projection: 49 tackles, nine pass deflections, four INTs