Some of the biggest free agents in the NFL offseason have already been taken off the board before contracts can even be officially signed.
We’ve already seen the top three quarterbacks reportedly agree to deals, while several other key players have seemingly made their decision during the legal tampering period, ahead of the start of the new league year on Wednesday when parties can put pen to paper.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the noteworthy signings and how they’ll affect the league’s landscape.
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Unsurprisingly, Cousins’ average annual salary of $28.6m sets a new benchmark in the NFL by surpassing the $27.5m Jimmy Garoppolo netted in his recent deal. The more interesting nugget is that Cousins’ contract will be fully guaranteed, which is perhaps an indication of how much leverage he held after Case Keenum was taken out of play by Denver.
They now have a quarterback that could potentially be their franchise cornerstone, adding the 29-year-old to a roster which was already stocked with enough talent to be a Super Bowl contender.
Though it’s not a lock Cousins will be a massive upgrade over Keenum, his body of work with Washington gives him both a safe floor and a high ceiling. And with the weapons around him on offence – Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook – and one of the league’s best defences on the other side of the ball, Minnesota have every reason to be excited for the present and future.
They’ll just have to hope now that they made the right decision, considering the money they handed out and the other quarterback options they passed over.
BRONCOS MAKE THEIR CASE
While other teams set their sights on Cousins, Denver were apparently content to roll with Keenum at a much cheaper price tag.
The details of the contract aren’t fully known, but reports have claimed it will be a two-year deal worth around $18m per season – about a $10m difference from what Cousins will receive.
A glass-half empty perspective on the deal for Denver is that they paid for past production – Keenum’s outlier 2017 season – instead of projecting future performance, because even with the difference to Cousins’ figure, $18m is a significant chunk to give to a quarterback who may not be better than average.
But another way to look at this for the Broncos is that they may have just gotten a quarterback who isn’t that far off from Cousins, but at a frugal rate, with the difference in money allowing them to pursue another key contributor in free agency.
And with the deal appearing to be a short one, they’re not so committed that they can’t use the number five overall pick in April’s draft to tab a quarterback prospect they like.
Of the two big-time wide receivers to find new homes, the Chicago Bears may have done better in securing their playmaker.
Robinson is coming back from a torn ACL suffered in Week 1 last season, but he’s already proven he can produce elite numbers for a season, having hauled in 80 passes for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015. And that was with Blake Bortles throwing him the ball.
Watkins, on the other hand, carries a reputation which may surpass his abilities.
As talented as the former fourth overall pick is, he’s been wildly inconsistent over his career, failing to top 1,000 yards in three of his four seasons.
Kansas City will unquestionably be fun to watch with Patrick Mahomes slinging the ball and Watkins and Tyreek Hill burning rubber down the field, but fun doesn’t necessarily mean effective.
If Robinson returns to his full health and form, the Bears may have gotten the better receiver at a better price.
Richard Sherman seems like the type to be motivated by slights, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he was “vengeful” in his decision to join his former team’s division rivals.
And the 29-year-old told The MMQB that the opportunity to play the Seahawks, who he spent the first seven years of his career with, twice a season played a role in his move to the Bay Area.
“Vengeful,” Sherman said. “I love the fan base to death, and I loved playing there. It was such a great opportunity. I helped the organisation get to a great place and stay there. But now it’s like I abandoned them. People are out there burning my jersey. Come on. I’m not the one who let me go. They let me go. I didn’t abandon anybody.”
During his time with the Seahawks, Sherman was arguably the best cornerback in the league and a significant part of the ‘Legion of Boom’ defence.
But faced with the decision to pay Sherman, who is recovering from an Achilles rupture, $11 million for the coming season, Seattle chose to move on.
Sherman also told The MMQB what he was thinking in negotiating his own incentive-laden contract with the 49ers, without the use of an agent.
“I don’t think any agent in the business could have done a better job of negotiating this contract,” Sherman said. “As long as I’m content with what I’m making, nothing else matters to me.
“Once I make a Pro Bowl, $8 million the next year is guaranteed for me. It gives me the ability to control my destiny. The 49ers have skin in the game. I have skin in the game. In my former contract, no matter what I did this year, nothing would be guaranteed to me next year. I couldn’t feel secure in my contract. Now, if I play the way I know I’m capable of playing, I know I’m going to get paid.”
The outspoken Sherman, who has an undergraduate degree from Stanford, has proven to be an intelligent guy.
Whether or not he ends up hitting his incentives, Sherman is putting his faith in himself.
Odell Beckham Jr is in the spotlight again for the wrong reasons, though it doesn’t appear as if he’s in trouble just yet.
The New York Giants wide receiver was seen sitting in a bed with pizza and possibly drugs in a video that surfaced on social media on Friday.
It’s difficult to discern what is going on in the seven-second clip, but along with Beckham, the video shows a woman handling a white powdery substance next to him.
Both the Giants and the NFL have reportedly acknowledged the existence of the video, but have yet to release any comment or hand out any punishment.
Even if Beckham isn’t reprimanded though, the headlines the video has generated are a bad look for the receiver at a time when he’s seeking a lucrative long-term deal.
The Giants picked up the fifth-year option on Beckham’s rookie contract, which will pay him $8.4 million for the coming season, but Beckham is hoping for an extension after ending this past year with a fractured ankle suffered in Week 5.
While he’s been one of the game’s premier playmakers since entering the NFL in 2014 – 288 catches, 4,122 yards and 35 touchdowns in his first three seasons – Beckham has had his fair share of behavioural issues.
That includes multiple violent altercations with cornerback Josh Norman and sideline explosions, which saw him smash a kicking net.
Beckham’s production likely overshadows any such issues, but their accumulation give the Giants something to think about.