For NFL fans the sport has become a storyline for 365 days of the year. There is just so much to talk about with the league that even when the season ends, they have a monopoly over a few more months in the year because of things like free agency and the draft. Of course, people know how important the draft is, but it becomes vital for teams to get the free agent pickups right. That doesn’t mean that each valuable player taken off the market is a superstar. Sometimes that means going after certain veterans who can help a team make the push to the next level.
Last year the Eagles completed their team with big pickups going from Alshon Jeffery, to Chris Long to LeGarrette Blount heading over to the team at different points. The Patriots always manage to flip around a good portion of their roster and still maintain a level of excellence when the time comes down the stretch. And in the past, teams like the Broncos and Seahawks made big season-altering acquisitions as well. The biggest one that comes to mind in recent years is the pickup of DeMarcus Ware and Peyton Manning to the Broncos in the span of three years to complete their travel as Super Bowl Champions.
This year there was a good amount of big-time free agents going to certain teams but there were a lot of overlooked moves too. Signing just the right player to fix a flaw for a season or two could be the difference in 8-8 or an 11-5 team in the playoffs. Without further ado, here is the list of the best free agent signing for every team in the 2018 offseason.
32 Arizona Cardinals - Sam Bradford
Sam Bradford's whole career has been harmed by his terrible injury history. As the former first overall pick in the draft Bradford would have some productive seasons but always ended up getting a season-ending injury.
His 2016 campaign was the best Bradford that a team can hope for when he passed for 3,800 yards and threw for 20 TDs to 5 interceptions.
But the Cardinals quickly saw the bad Sam Bradford. Yes, he was there to mentor Josh Rosen, but his bad play forced Josh Rosen into action far sooner than the Cards would've liked.
31 Atlanta Falcons - Brandon Fusco
Brandon Fusco was taken in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by the Vikings. Most didn’t know if the young offensive lineman would even make the team, but Fusco ended up being a backup in his rookie season. In 2012 he jumped to the starting lineup to clear the way for Adrian Peterson at the running back position. Fusco was a good player for the Vikings until leaving to join the 49ers in 2017. After his one season there, the Falcons saw enough and signed him in free agency. Fusco should give them some power on the offensive line and open running holes for Devonte Freeman.
30 Baltimore Ravens - Michael Crabtree
Over his nine previous NFL seasons, Crabtree got over 1,000 yards twice and over 8 touchdowns four times. He’s never made a Pro Bowl but has shown the ability to be a dominant second wideout or a very good first option. With the Ravens in desperate need for a playmaker on the outside, Crabtree was the option they couldn’t pass up and he's been a solid addition to the Ravens' receiving corps. Flacco is certainly thanking management for upgrading his weapons on the outside.
29 Buffalo Bills - Star Lotulelei
Star Lotulelei was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Panthers. The big defensive tackle from Utah was a force of nature that couldn’t be moved while in college.
In the NFL Lotulelei has been a good run stopper but never the explosive threat that the Panthers would have wanted on their front line.
His best year was in 2016 when he had 4 sacks for the Panthers. In the off-season, the Bills picked him up because of their desperate need on the defensive line. They are hoping that Lotulelei is elevated in their system and can start leading the way up front.
28 Carolina Panthers - Jarius Wright
Jarius Wright was taken in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by the Vikings. For them, he was never really a big-time playmaker but always managed to stay around and make plays in certain games. Wright was solid from 2013-2015 with at least 400 yards receiving each year. However, with the emergence of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Vikings had no room for Wright and his production dropped over the last two seasons. The Panthers needed help on the outside and agreed to a deal with Wright in the offseason. With more passes to catch, Wright might be the perfect weapon for this team.
27 Chicago Bears - Allen Robinson
Obviously Allen Robinson wasn't the Bears' biggest acquisition of the offseason. That would be Khalil Mack. But Allen Robinson was signed on to be the no.1 receiver that the Bears simply haven't had in a long time. He was signed to help Matt Nagy run a more explosive offense and for Mitch Trubisky to take the next step as a passer. Coming off a torn ACL, Robinson is looking solid for the Bears early on, but has yet to really take over a game. Perhaps that will eventually come if Trubisky keeps improving.
26 Cincinnati Bengals - Chris Baker
Chris Baker is one of those proven veterans in the NFL who really is a self-made player. He was undrafted out of college and picked up by the Broncos in 2009. After being cut by his second team, the Dolphins in 2010 Baker was out of football during the 2011 season. In 2012 the Redskins signed him to the roster and he was finally started at defensive tackle in 2014.
2015 was his career season with 6 sacks but after he’s been just a solid player.
The Bengals didn’t make many moves in the off-season but this one in a rotating defensive tackle is looking like a nice pickup for them.
25 Cleveland Browns - Carlos Hyde
Carlos Hyde was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft by the 49ers. He was taken to be the heir apparent to Frank Gore at the running back position. In 2016 Hyde started to get his chance as the lead runner and began to take advantage of it. Hyde rushed for 988 yards and 6 TDs in 2016, and followed that up with 938 yards and 8 TDs in 2017.
That wasn’t enough for the 49ers to re-sign him but the Browns saw that production and picked him up in free agency. So far, Hyde has provided the Browns with a reliable starter, as Hyde has found the endzone on a regular basis and is forming a nice one-two combo with Nick Chubb.
24 Dallas Cowboys - Allen Hurns
Allen Hurns was an undrafted wideout from the University of Miami.In his rookie year, Hurns had 677 yards and 6 TDs for the team. In 2016, Hurns really burst onto the scene with 1,031 yards and 10 TDs in the season. But injuries have started catching up to Hurns over the last two years, and his production dipped accordingly, never reaching 500 yards or 5 TDs over the last two years.
The Cowboys signed him with the hopes that he can recapture what he did in 2015. So far, this signing has been a bust, as Hurns doesn't seem to be clicking well with Dak Prescott, who's continued to rely on Cole Beasley as his favorite target.
23 Denver Broncos - Case Keenum
Case Keenum is the perfect example of a journeyman quarterback. For the first three years of his career, he was a backup for the Texans. He played some in 2013 but was 0-8 in those games. After that stint, he joined the Rams, and everything went horribly wrong as he threw 9 TDs and 11 interceptions. But in his year with the Vikings, he took them to the NFC Championship game and threw for 3,500 yards, and 22 TDs to only 7 interceptions.
So far, Keenum has looked like an upgrade over Trevor Siemian, but the Broncos offense still looks fairly limited in what they can do.
The Broncos will continue to live by their defense.
22 Detroit Lions - LeGarrette Blount
LeGarrette Blount has been one of the more influential running backs in the league over the past five years even if he hasn’t been a top five running back. Now as a member of the Lions Blount was brought in to help them stay balanced and hopefully help the offense take a step forward. So far, Blount hasn't really found his game, and the Lions are starting to turn to rookie Kerryon Johnson to be their feature back. It looks like it will be a one-and-done deal for Blount in Detroit.
21 Green Bay Packers - Muhammad Wilkerson
Muhammad Wilkerson was taken with the 30th pick of the 2011 draft by the Jets. As a defensive lineman, he proved to be good at stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. In 2013 Wilkerson had 10.5 sacks and his peak came in 2015 with 12 sacks and a Pro Bowl appearance.
Wilkerson's production slowed down over the last two years and he failed to reach five sacks.
But this offseason the Packers signed him in the hopes that he could reach that 2015 level of play. That hasn't been the case, as Wilkerson has looked more like the player we saw in his last couple of years in New York.
20 Houston Texans - Tyrann Mathieu
Tyrann Mathieu was known as the Honey Badger in college because of his incredible play as a mix of cornerback and safety. Mathieu was an instant game changer for the Cardinals, making plays in the NFL. In 2015 he showed out as one of the best safeties in the league with 5 interceptions and his first Pro Bowl appearance. However, he’s never had more than 2 interceptions any other year and the Cardinals moved on from him in the offseason.
The Texans defense seemed like it'd be a perfect fit for him, but aside from an interception off Tom Brady in Week 1, Mathieu has yet to look like his old self, and the Texans defense continues to be inconsistent.
19 Indianapolis Colts - Eric Ebron
Eric Ebron was taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Lions. He was taken to be one of those explosive tight ends during an era when they had just become go-to weapons in the NFL. Ebron could never reach the hype of getting picked that high in the draft in his time with the Lions. He did have over 500 receiving yards each year from 2015-17 but never made the Pro Bowl.
Ebron seems to have gone to the right spot, as he has found an early chemistry with Andrew Luck. He should continue to get red zone targets throughout the season.
18 Jacksonville Jaguars - Andrew Norwell
Andrew Norwell was an undrafted player out of Ohio State.
In 2017 Norwell was an All-Pro at the guard position and is looked at as one of the best in the NFL now.
So, it was huge for the Jags to sign Norwell to a big contract in the offseason to try clear bigger holes for Leonard Fournette running the ball and give Blake Bortles more time to throw. Bortles has looked better, but the Jags running game hasn't found its peak form, but that's primarily been due to Leonard Fournette being hurt.
17 Kansas City Chiefs - Sammy Watkins
Sammy Watkins was looking like an explosive player for the Bills until 2016 when injuries took over and he didn’t crack 500 yards. In 2017 the Bills moved him to the Rams, and Watkins had solid numbers but not ground-breaking ones.
That still didn’t stop the Chiefs from going all in on Watkins in the offseason to pair with Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes on offense. While Watkins is slightly overpaid, the Chiefs are in a good cap situation and Watkins has become yet another solid weapon for Mahomes.
16 Los Angeles Chargers - Mike Pouncey
Mike Pouncey was taken with the 15th pick of the 2011 draft by the Dolphins. He was taken as a center and has performed as one of the best centers in the NFL during his time. Pouncey has made the Pro Bowl game three different times in his career from 2013-2015 and only was stopped in 2016 because of injury. Pouncey wasn’t quite at great at controlling the offensive line in 2017.
As a free agent, Pouncey joined the Chargers in 2018 which was a good move for both sides. Now Rivers has someone who can be great up front and that’s a powerful weapon in the long haul. The Chargers offense has played at a high level, but unfortunately, their defense hasn't caught up.
15 Los Angeles Rams- Ndamukong Suh
The Rams made many additions to their roster this offseason, but a lot of that was done through trades. As far as signings go, Ndamukong Suh was the biggest name to sign in L.A. and it was very surprising, considering the Rams already have Aaron Donald clogging up the middle.
So far in L.A., Suh hasn't looked like the focal point of the defense, but rather he's just another spoke in the wheel of a very dominant unit.
Expect Suh's numbers to improve by season's end and he'll put himself in line for a good contract next year.
14 Miami Dolphins- Danny Amendola
Danny Amendola felt like a pretty underwhelming replacement for Jarvis Landry in the Dolphins receiving corps. Yes, Amendola has delivered in many clutch moments, but he was also playing with Tom Brady. Amendola hasn't quite developed the same chemistry with Ryan Tannehill and has been pretty limited in his production. Whether the onus is on Amendola or the Dolphins' usage of him, the production they were getting from Landry is sorely missing and Amendola isn't looking like a good fit in Miami.
13 Minnesota Vikings - Kirk Cousins
For years the Redskins didn't respect what Kirk Cousins did for them at the quarterback position. He put up some of the best numbers in the league without a lot of help in Washington. From 2015-2017 Cousins made a Pro Bowl and threw for 4,000 yards each season. But the Redskins refused to give him a big contract and instead opted for Alex Smith in the long term.
In the offseason the Vikings signed Cousins to the first ever fully guaranteed contract as the future of their team. Cousins has produced as far as passing yards go, but the Vikings can't seem to stop anybody on defense, making fans wonder whether the $84 million investment in Cousins will pay off.
12 New England Patriots - Adrian Clayborn
Adrian Clayborn was taken with the 20th overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Buccaneers. He was going to be the perfect defensive lineman for the team as a pass rusher off the edge. Clayborn jumped onto the scene in his rookie season with 7.5 sacks. But after his rookie year, injuries plagued his next three seasons with the Buccaneers.
Clayborn was solid with the Falcons in 2015 and 2016 but came up big again with 9.5 sacks in 2017.
Now Clayborn is with the Patriots but has yet to truly make a difference. The Patriots can't get to the passer and it was a big reason for their slow start to the season.
11 New Orleans Saints - Demario Davis
Demario Davis was taken in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft by the Jets. As a linebacker mist didn't know what to expect out of Davis with the pick. Davis was a solid player for the Jets over years but never had a big breakout season until 2017. Last year he had career highs in tackles with 97 and sacks with 5 throughout the year. The Saints looked at his performance and decided to take a flyer on him in free agency. They need Davis to pan out for that defense to take the next step and ultimately go back to the Super Bowl. So far the production has been there, just as the Saints expected.
10 New York Jets - Teddy Bridgewater
We know he's now with the Saints, but hear us out. The Jets signed him but quickly moved him for a third-round pick to the Saints. The Jets essentially got a 3rd round pick for nothing, as they took a chance on Bridgewater turning into a solid QB. Once Bridgewater showed he still had some value in the NFL, the Jets moved him and got something in return. This was their best move because it gave rookie Sam Darnold the confidence that he could lead a team and a pick for the future of the franchise.
9 New York Giants - Nate Solder
Nate Solder was taken 17th overall in the 2011 draft by the Patriots. He was picked to help protect Tom Brady and in the span of one season, he became the left tackle for the team.
Solder started at left tackle for six seasons and won two Super Bowls with the team.
In the offseason, the Giants were trying to fix the team to be more suitable for quarterback Eli Manning by drafting a running back (Saquon Barkley) second overall in the draft. Solder is an upgrade on what the Giants had last year at LT, but their o-line is still a mess and Solder hasn't made all that big of a difference.
8 Oakland Raiders - Jordy Nelson
Jordy Nelson was surprisingly let go by the Green Bay Packers despite having an excellent rapport with Aaron Rodgers. Nelson signed with Oakland, who added a ton of veterans over the course of the offseason. While the Raiders have their share of problems, Jordy Nelson is not one of them. He's instantly found chemistry with Derek Carr and has been a reliable target in the early portion of the season. This signing looks like a big win for Oakland.
7 Philadelphia Eagles - Mike Wallace
After his time with the Steelers, Wallace wasn't quite as effective in three stops over the next five years, though he did have 1,000 receiving yards with the Ravens in 2016. The Eagles decided to move on from Torrey Smith and signed the speedy Mike Wallace, but that signing hasn't worked out so far. Wallace was put on injured reserve after his second game, so unfortunately, the Eagles will have to wait another year to see what Wallace has to offer them.
6 Pittsburgh Steelers- Morgan Burnett
Morgan Burnett was taken in the third round of the 2010 draft by the Packers. As a safety, he gave the Packers everything they could have expected from the position. He was never one of the top players in the league but was always a solid player and knew he role on the defense.
He was less of a playmaker and more of a sure tackler at the position, which he showed with over 100 tackles in 2014.
As we've all seen, the Steelers defense has been bad this season and Burnett missed several games with a groin injury. It looks like the Steelers should've done a lot more to bolster their defense.
5 San Francisco 49ers - Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman may be one of the best-known players in the NFL. Sherman made five straight Pro Bowls from 2012-2016 and was known as the best corner in the league. But coming off an injury in 2017, the Seahawks released him, and Sherman signed with the 49ers.
Sherman sustained a calf injury early in the season and when he was in action, he proved to be an upgrade over what the Niners had last year, but he no longer looks like one of the dominant corners in the game. We'll see what he does once he's fully healthy.
4 Seattle Seahawks - Barkevious Mingo
Barkevious Mingo was the sixth overall pick in the draft by the Browns in 2013. Mingo was one of the best pass rushers in the draft and he was supposed to tear the league apart at the position. Mingo started off hot with 5 sacks in his rookie year but since then he's tailed off heavily.
Mingo has not gotten five sacks in the last five years and has played on three different teams. But the Seahawks figured he would add to this fast linebacking corps, so they signed Mingo during the offseason. Mingo has yet to prove why he was a former sixth overall pick and hasn't made much of an impact for Seattle.
3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Ryan Jensen
Ryan Jensen was taken in the sixth round of the 2013 draft by the Ravens. Jensen didn't play any games in 2013 or 2014, but he started in six games at left tackle in 2015. The Ravens still didn't feel comfortable enough in Jensen to truly give him the reins at a starting job in 2016, but they tried something new for the 2017 season.
Jensen was placed at center for the year and performed very well in the new role.
The Buccaneers saw his play and signed Jensen in the offseason to play the same position. With him there to shore up the offensive line, the Buccaneers offense has looked a lot better in 2018, making this look like a good signing.
2 Tennessee Titans- Malcolm Butler
Everyone remembers Malcolm Butler making the game-winning interception during Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks. What most people didn't notice was how productive Butler was after that moment. In 2015, Butler made the Pro Bowl and in 2016, Butler had a career-high 4 interceptions.
The Titans may have overpaid for Butler this offseason, but he's proven to be a good addition for the Titans so far. Their defense looks far improved and Butler is showing why the Patriots made a mistake in benching him for Super Bowl LII.
1 Washington Redskins - Paul Richardson
Paul Richardson was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft by the Seahawks. They were hoping to finally give Russell Wilson a deep threat who would be around for the long haul. Richardson was a solid wideout, but it took a while for him to get his footing in the NFL. For the first three years of his career, Richardson didn't get 300 yards or 2 TDs in a single season. But in 2017, Richardson improved with 700 yards receiving and 6 TDs for the Seahawks.
While they still decided to move on the Redskins signed him in hopes that he'd be the number one receiver going forward for Alex Smith. So far, Richardson has looked like a decent addition, but a no.1 he is not.