NFL’s most intriguing free agent moves on offense: Jaguars overpay, Dolphins go bargain-hunting – CBSSports.com

NFL teams have already splashed the pot to the tune of several hundred millions dollars in free agency. We’ve dedicated plenty of news stories and analysis to each of those signings, but it’s time to take a more holistic look at how specific teams have attacked their needs through these first few days of the signing period. 

Today, we’ll be breaking down the most interesting teams in the early days of free agency. In the space below, we’ll look at the teams that made significant moves on offense. For the same analysis on defensecheck right here.

Note: We’re only looking at teams that acquired outside free agents.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Player Years Total (mil) AAV (mil) Gtd (mil)
WR Christian Kirk 4 $72.00 $18.00 $37.00
OG Brandon Scherff 3 $49.50 $16.50 $30.00
WR Zay Jones 3 $24.00 $8.00 $14.00
TE Evan Engram 1 $9.00 $9.00 $8.25

No team splashed the pot in free agency more than Jacksonville. After last season’s Urban Meyer-led disaster, the Jags had a lot of holes to fill, and they moved aggressively to fill them. Doing so necessitated that they overpay for almost everyone they signed. 

Kirk’s deal could be worth as much as $21 million per season, and pays him $37 million over the first two years. He’s been a solid, if unspectacular slot man thus far in his career, though he is still quite young. (He doesn’t turn 26 years old until November). He at least provides a vertical threat the Jags sorely lacked last year, and sorely needed given D.J. Chark’s departure. But in a league where, for example, Davante Adams was set to make around $20 million on the franchise tag until late last night, there is just no way Kirk is an $18 million-per-year player. The likelihood of the Jaguars getting surplus value on this deal is vanishingly low. 

Scherff’s contract resets the market at the position. Jacksonville desperately needed help along the offensive line, and he was likely the best player on the market. He is an excellent guard … when he’s on the field. He’s missed 22 games over the last four years, though, and hasn’t played a full season since 2016. 

Taking a one-year flier on Engram is a solid move. He’s shown a high ceiling but never really put things together in New York, whether due to his quarterback play (terrible), issues with drops (not great), health (same), or the poor offensive coaching staffs for which he played (also). Jones had a nice stretch to end the 2021 season (25-264-0 over the final four games of the regular season and 5-61-1 in the playoffs) but prior to that had 147 catches for 1,620 yards and 11 scores across nearly five full seasons. Who was knocking down his door with a deal even remotely close to this one?

Overall, the Jags certainly upgraded the talent base around second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence — an absolutely necessity. But they paid such a premium to do so that it seems like they’ve have been better off setting their sights lower, attacking their needs with volume rather than buying at the top of the market. 

Miami Dolphins

Player Years Total (mil) AAV (mil) Gtd (mil)
WR Cedrick Wilson 3 $22.05 $7.35 $12.75
OG Connor Williams 2 $14.00 $7.00 $7.50
QB Teddy Bridgewater 1 $6.50 $6.50 $6.50
RB Chase Edmonds 2 $12.10 $6.05 $6.10
RB Raheem Mostert 1 $2.125 $2.125 $1.00

The Dolphins were much more measured in their spending than were their Florida brethren, and they did a much better job of getting value. 

Bridgewater is the platonic ideal of the veteran backup who can start for you in a pinch. Considering Tua Tagovailoa’s injury issues, the Dolphins may need him to make a start here and there. He’s capable of preventing the ship from running ashore if that scenario arises. 

Miami desperately needs help along the offensive line, and took a shot on a former second-round pick whose play was very up and down in Dallas but had fallen out of favor with the organization. Williams can even play tackle for the Dolphins in an emergency, and that kind of position flexibility up front has value. 

The skill players the Dolphins added also make a lot of sense for their offense. Wilson came along slowly for the Cowboys but when given an expanded opportunity last season, looked like a solid player. He finished the 2021 season 37th in yards per route run (1.74), among 151 wide receivers who ran 100 or more routes. That was ahead of guys like Terry McLaurinMike Evans, and former teammate Amari Cooper. He did that while mostly operating as the fourth option (at best) in the passing game. He’ll be more of a No. 2 or 3 guy for this Dolphins offense (behind Jaylen Waddle and probably Mike Gesicki), but he’s making No. 3 or 4 option money. 

Miami dipped its toes into the running back market and came away with a nice duo that will cost about $9 million total. Edmonds and Mostert have similar running styles, and both can contribute in the passing game. Neither of them has been able to hold up while carrying the full load in the backfield, but splitting carries, touches, and snaps will help keep them healthy. Mostert was in San Francisco with new Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel, who knows how best to utilize the speedy back.

New York Jets

Player Years Total (mil) AAV (mil) Gtd (mil)
OG Laken Tomlinson 3 $40.00 $13.33 $27.00
TE C.J. Uzomah 3 $24.00 $8.00 $15.00
TE Tyler Conklin 3 $21.00 $7.00

Tomlinson is another former 49er joining up with a San Francisco-adjacent coaching staff, as head coach Robert Saleh, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, and offensive line coach John Benton all came to New York together last offseason. Tomlinson has played both left and right guard, so his arrival should not impact the development of Alijah Vera-Tucker, who had a strong rookie season. New York still needs to find more help along the offensive line to make sure Zach Wilson isn’t running for his life, but this is a good start to that process.

The Jets also brought in a pair of tight ends, which will allow their offense to be much more flexible than it was a year ago. New York did not have any real receiving threats at the position last season, but now will be able to utilize 12 personnel and hopefully provide some advantageous looks for Wilson in the passing game. Add Uzomah and Conklin to Corey DavisElijah Moore, and Braxton Berrios, and you’re getting closer to an NFL-quality pass-catching corps. The Jets should still look to add another receiver in either free agency or the draft, but continue to make strides in upgrading the group around Wilson, at least allowing them a cleaner evaluation on his progress than they ever had with Sam Darnold.

Cincinnati Bengals 

Player Years Total (mil) AAV (mil) Gtd (mil)
OG Alex Cappa 4 $35.00 $8.75 $11.00
OG Ted Karras 3 $18.00 $6.00 $5.00
TE Hayden Hurst 1 $3.50 $3.50

I love this for the Bengals. They filled two holes with mid-market guards, one of whom (Karras) has the flexibility to play center. The offensive line was by far their biggest need entering the offseason, and it should already be much-improved. The Bengals still have a nice chunk of cap space left, and will reportedly be players for recently released Cowboys tackle La’el Collins. If they can land him, their offseason already looks like a home run. Oh, and they replaced Uzomah with a flier on Hurst. They can draft a tight end on Day 2 or 3 to develop behind him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Player Years Total (mil) AAV (mil) Gtd (mil)
OG James Daniels 3 $26.50 $8.83 $8.75
QB Mitchell Trubisky 2 $14.20 $7.10 $5.25
OC Mason Cole 3 $15.75 $5.25

The Steelers settled on Mitchell Trubisky as the (short-term, at least) successor to Ben Roethlisberger. For him to have success, he’ll have to be well-protected. Bringing in one of his former Bears teammates in Daniels, who is both still very young and already a quality guard, is a good move. Cole has been an average-ish center during his career, and did not cost that much. Pittsburgh also re-signed veteran offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor to a three-year, $29.5 million deal that includes $20.5 million guaranteed, making it clear that it values the offensive line in front of Trubisky.

New York Giants

Player Years Total (mil) AAV (mil) Gtd (mil)
OG Mark Glowinski 3 $18.30 $6.10 $11.40
QB Tyrod Taylor 2 $11.00 $5.50 $8.17
TE Ricky Seals-Jones

Consider this a lower-end version of what the Dolphins did this offseason. The Giants needed offensive line help in a bad way, and signed a solid guard on a very affordable deal. They also needed a quarterback who could either back up Daniel Jones, start in an emergency, or unseat him from the role. Taylor fits the bill. He also has experience with the new Giants front office from his time in Buffalo. Plus, they replaced Engram with a flier on Seals-Jones. 

Other noteworthy signings:

This is technically a sign-and-trade-and-extension but we’re looping it in with free agency because holy cow. Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels are not messing around. Adams is the best receiver in football, and easily the best pass catcher Derek Carr will have ever thrown to. He completely reset the top of the wide receiver market, and deservingly so. The cash flow will be interesting to watch; because receivers tend not to age too well once they get past 30 years old, and Adams is getting close. Obviously, this opens up some HUGE questions for the Packers. I’d imagine that Pat McAfee’s next show will be must-see.

Robinson presumably replaces the slot in the lineup vacated by Odell Beckham Jr., who tore his ACL in the Super Bowl. He’ll slot in as the second or third weapon in the passing game behind Cooper Kupp, and alongside Robert Woods. In Matthew Stafford, Robinson will be joining by far the best quarterback he’s had in his career. He should bounce back from his down year in Chicago.

Baltimore is so good at this. After a revolving door right-tackle situation last season, the Ravens go out and get a good player who never misses games, and do so on a cheap contract. Patrick Mekari, who played tackle for the Ravens last season, can kick back inside to center and replace the likely departing Bradley Bozeman. Nice bit of business. 

The Bears let Daniels walk and replaced him with a player their new offensive coordinator and offensive line coach know well from their time in Green Bay. Patrick has started 28 games over the last two years and has been a very solid player. 

The Bills almost never utilized two-tight end sets last season. With Howard on board, they can be a little bit more versatile. He’s an explosive athlete who has, due to injury and overcrowding at the position, not gotten a chance to show everything he can do. He’s not going to overtake Dawson Knox, but he can complement the incumbent starter and add yet another red-zone weapon for Josh Allen.