While there always is big names in the NFL Free Agency Pool that will earn the Big money dealsSome of the best signings are the guys that teams can do sign value. When I was an NFL manager at the New York Jets And Miami DolphinsI’ve always gone into March with a couple of players I really wanted to sign. And that was especially true when I felt like a free agent would outperform the contract we signed him. These smart moves can often be more impactful than the “splash” signings in a league with a constrained salary cap.
So for one second year in a row, I put on my GM hat and list five current free agents I would sign this week if I were managing a team. These are players I believe can help any squad – even if some of them come with risks. Here are five names I would follow, the deals I would offer them, and why I think each would be worth their money.
The offer I would offer: Four years, $72 million ($40 million guaranteed)
Dean is still 26 years old and has 57 games of experience over his four-year career. At 6ft 1 and 206 pounds, the 2019 third-round pick from Auburn is a great size for a cornerback and has proven durable and productive. Dean was solid again last season, catching two interceptions and breaking eight passes. He has averaged more than 10 broken passes per season throughout his career.
As for his potential contract, I would look into it Xavien Howard‘S recent expansion as a rough model with a breakdown of $18 million per year. Playmaker cornerbacks are valuable, and there aren’t many on the market who are young, staying healthy, and have a deep résumé of on-ball production.
If I were him Houston Texans, I would take a close look at Dean. They could use a different physical corner – even after drafting Derek Stingley Jr. last year — in DeMeco Ryans’ new plan, and Dean would be an ideal fit.
The offer I would offer: Five years, $60 million ($28.5 million guaranteed)
Free agency and the forthcoming draft are packed with tight ends, but I think Gesicki brings rare value. In Miami’s new program under coach Mike McDaniel, Gesicki dove from 73 receptions on 110 goals in 2021 to just 32 catches on 53 goals last season. It averaged a target on over 21% of its routes in both 2020 and 2021, but exceeded just under 15% in 2022. So he seems to me to be someone who needs a change of scenery, especially since he’s only 27 years old. Gesicki still has five goals last season and he’s a clear mismatch for defense at 6-6 and 247 pounds. This is shown in the red area.
If I was managing a team with a young, developing quarterback – consider that Chicago Bears – that’s child’s play. I assume he would bring in about $12 million per season, which is consistent Hunter Henry‘s deal in New England. That could be of great value given its perk, characteristics and age.
I’ll quickly throw out another tight end I’d kick the hoops on: Dalton Schulz. However, he will get more attention and eventually make more money, probably around $14 million a season.
The offer I would offer: Five years, $90 million ($40 million guaranteed)
Bates, 26, has 477 tackles, 14 interceptions and 43 pass breakups in five seasons — and four of those interceptions came in 2022. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, his finishing percentage of minus 8.7% was above expectations on shots aimed last time Season 6th best safety with at least 400 coverage snaps. Bates can also stop the run. He has at least 70 tackles in all five seasons and he has had three campaigns with more than 100.
Coming from franchise tag, and given his age and accomplishments, I’d expect Bates to be making $18 million a year – similar to the deal I proposed for Dean. He should be paid in the same range Durwin James Jr. And Minka Fitzpatrick. The Detroit Lions are a team that makes a lot of sense. Imagine what Bates might be doing there as defense coordinator Aaron Glenn moves him through defense.
The offer I would offer: Two years, $20 million ($12 million guaranteed)
The San Francisco 49ers Omenihu acquired Omenihu from the Texans at the 2021 close for a sixth-round pick, and they received great value in the deal. Omenihu ranked just outside the top 25 in pass rush win rate last season (16.5%, 26th) and he was third on the team in sacks with 4.5.
He won’t turn 26 until just before the 2023 season, so veterans like Frank Clark, Robert Quinn And Markus Davenport Omenihu is dominating the headlines and could be a steal for a team this offseason. I look at Sam Hubbard in exchange for a contract, which would be really good value for money. A team like that Atlanta Falcons would also be an ideal landing spot for Omenihu. Any team considering him will obviously have to do their homework. He was arrested on suspicion misdemeanor domestic violence in January during the Niners’ playoff run.
I mentioned Davenport and if you could sign him for around $17 million a year he’d be worth a look. But with Davenport struggling to stay healthy, Omenihu is the better value.
The offer I would offer: One Year, $1.165 Million (Fully Guaranteed)
When you lead a team, you need to look for commercially efficient ways. Signing Wentz for the league minimum as No. 2 QB could be one of them.
Yes, I know Wentz finished 30th of 31 qualified quarterbacks in total QBR last season (33.0), throwing 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. And yes, I know he was benched and then finally cut after the season, ending his tenure with his third team in three seasons. But while we have no idea if Wentz could ever be a high-performance quarterback again, signing him for the minimum is absolutely no disadvantage. Give him a fresh start as a backup and if he’s able to take his game anywhere close to where it was in 2017-2019 then this is a steal. If not, the risk is negligible. In this league, the QB takes a few hits, but this is a league that doesn’t affect the bottom line much if missed.
Your best-case scenario is that Wentz sits for a year and potentially morphs into the next turnaround story, similar to what Geno Smith made in Seattle. That’s a big advantage in a tiny deal. I love the fit of Wentz with a team like that Kansas City chiefs; They need reinforcements now that Chad Henne has retired and he would be working under coach Andy Reid to try to revive his career.