Reviewing The New Top 20 Highest Paid NFL Free Agent Contracts

The madness of the beginning of free agency is over with. Teams with a lot of salary cap money have made their moves in order to get better next season and it’s time to review how I think each one of those contracts will pan out.

If you know me, you know how I feel about NFL free agency. I think it can improve your team if you make the right moves, but there are a ton of red flags involved in the process. One major red flag I look for is if the player’s former team was interested at all in bringing the player back to the team. If not, I would stay the hell away from that player for obvious reasons. If his former team didn’t want him back, there’s a good reason for it and that reason usually gets revealed pretty quickly once the new season starts.

So anyway, let’s take a look at the top 20 biggest contracts that teams handed out to players during this free agency period and how I feel about each one.

The guide that comes along with the column is pretty easy to figure out:

Individual Season Grades – This is the grade that each player received for that season. You want to know how good a guy has been during his NFL career every season? Here you go.

Positional Salary Ranking – The player’s ranking listed by position and how much money they are now making

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Jacksonville Jaguars sign A.J. Bouye (CB) to a 5-year $67,500,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (A), 2015 (C), 2014 (C),  2013 (D)

Positional Salary Ranking: 3rd

I don’t know how I feel about this deal personally. Bouye had an amazing season in 2016, but the Jaguars just made him the third highest paid CB in the league and are banking on him to keep his play going at the level it was last season. I tend to worry about guys who get huge deals who only had one great season in a contract year. This move could end up being a nice one for the Jaguars who definitely need Bouye to help boost their secondary. But still, there are plenty of reasons that Jacksonville fans should be concerned about this deal.


 

New England Patriots sign Stephon Gilmore (CB) to a 5-year $65,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (C+), 2015 (B+), 2014 (B), 2013 (F), 2012 (D)

Positional Salary Ranking: 5th

This is another deal that I don’t like a whole lot, but it’s Bill Belichick and the guy is one of the best scouts in the business so we have to give him his due. He got plenty of looks at Gilmore having seen him twice a season ever since the guys been in the league. Gilmore struggled a bit last season, but then again, the Bills team struggled as a whole last season. If anyone can get Gilmore back to the way he was playing in 2014-15, it’s Bill Belichick. This will probably end up paying off nicely for the Patriots.


Jacksonville Jaguars sign (DE) Calais Campbell to a 4-year $60,000,0000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (A), 2015 (B+), 2014 (A), 2013 (A), 2012 (A), 2011 (A-), 2010 (B-), 2009 (A-), 2008 (F)

Positional Salary Ranking: 4th

This is a good deal for the Jaguars. Calais Campbell has been one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL since joining the league in 2008 and he deserved to get paid. Campbell was Pro Football Focus’ second highest graded interior defensive lineman last season. The Jaguars have been known lately to throw a lot of money at free agents who don’t really pan out. I have total faith that their signing of Campbell is going to pay huge dividends for them next season.


Cleveland Browns sign (G) Kevin Zeitler to a 5-year $60,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (A-), 2015 (A-), 2014 (A-), 2013 (B-), 2012 (B)

Positional Salary Ranking: 1st

The Cleveland Browns made Kevin Zeitler the highest paid offensive guard in the NFL and it was rightfully deserved. Zeitler has been a tremendous offensive lineman in the NFL so far and when you play with the consistency that he’s played with, you deserve to get paid. The Browns have arguably one of the worst rosters in the NFL. However, their offensive line has a great chance of being one of the NFL’s best next season. The Browns gain is definitely the Cincinnati Bengals’ loss in this case.


Minnesota Vikings sign (OT) Riley Reiff to a 5-year $58,750,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (C-), 2015 (B-), 2014 (B-), 2013 (C), 2012 (B-)

Positional Salary Ranking: 6th

Yuck. The Minnesota Vikings just made Riley Reiff the 6th highest paid tackle in the NFL. It’s not that Reiff is a bad player or anything. He’s a good tackle, but that’s the problem. He’s good, not great and the Vikings just put him amongst some elite company when it comes to NFL contracts and the guy is coming off his worst year as a pro. I’m not a fan of this deal.


Carolina Panthers sign (OT) Matt Kalil to a 5-year $55,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (F), 2015 (C-), 2014 (F), 2013 (C), 2012 (B+)

Positional Salary Ranking: 8th

Speaking of dumb contracts. The Carolina Panthers just went out and made Matt Kalil the 8th highest paid tackle in the NFL and the guy was pure garbage the past three seasons. Yes, he looked like he had the potential to be an elite left tackle when he first entered the league and maybe that’s what Carolina is hoping for? That a new change of scenery will provide a boost for a player who’s been injured and awful for a while now. This is a huge gamble for Carolina and I don’t like gambling with my salary cap money when it comes to a guy who’s supposed to protect my franchise QB.


Baltimore Ravens re-sign (DT) Brandon Williams to a 5-year $54,0000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (B-), 2015 (B+), 2014 (B+), 2013 (B)

Positional Salary Ranking: 6th

This is a good signing by one of the NFL’s best ran franchises. The Ravens know what they are doing and they just re-signed a guy they brought up in their system and has been a consistently good defensive tackle since arriving in the league in 2013. Baltimore rarely makes bad moves so this one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.


 

Los Angeles Chargers sign (OT) Russell Okung to a 4-year $53,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (C+), 2015 (B-), 2014 (C), 2013 (D+), 2012 (A-), 2011 (B-), 2010 (B-)

Positional Salary Ranking: 10th

Gross. I guess the theme of free agency this year was to grossly overpay for mediocre left tackles. That’s what happens when you need a player at a position and there’s no real good ones in free agency or in the draft. You end up overpaying a guy who’s just a decent player, not a great one. The Chargers just got one of those in Okung.


San Francisco 49ers sign (WR) Pierre Garcon to a 5-year $47,500,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (A-), 2015 (B-), 2014 (B-), 2013 (B), 2012 (B-), 2011 (C+), 2010 (C-), 2009 (C), 2008 (D)

Positional Salary Ranking: 8th

This is a decent deal. I really like Pierre Garcon as a player and I would love to have him on my favorite team. The San Francisco 49ers also had a lot of money to spend in free agency and this contract is front-loaded so they won’t be stuck with a bad contract in a few years. The only problem is, the 49ers don’t have a guy who’s good enough to consistently get Garcon the ball. And for a guy who has a reputation as a hot-head, that could end up coming to the surface sooner rather than later.


 

Detroit Lions sign (OT) Ricky Wagner to a 5-year $47,500,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (B+), 2015 (F), 2014 (B+), 2013 (D)

Positional Salary Ranking: 13th

I don’t know how to feel about this contract. Wagner has been extremely inconsistent in his four-year NFL career so far, but the guy is a pretty solid offensive tackle when he wants to be. He had a good season last year, but he’s shown in the past that he can have a great season and follow that up with an awful performance the very next year. Plus it’s kind of alarming to me that the Baltimore Ravens would just let a 27-year old offensive tackle walk out the door. The Ravens are one of the best teams out there when it comes to scouting talent. The fact that they let Wagner just walk out the door could potentially mean that they know something the Lions don’t.


Los Angeles Rams sign (WR) Robert Woods to a 5-year $39,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (C+), 2015 (F), 2014 (C+), 2013 (D+)

Positional Salary Ranking: 16th

What a stupid contract. Look, Robert Woods is a decent player. But that’s all he is. A DECENT PLAYER. The Los Angeles Rams going out and making him the 16th highest paid WR in the league is ridiculous. Woods finished 71st in the league last year in receiving yards. SEVENTY FIRST!!!! The year before that? 72nd!!! And the year before that? 63rd!!!! You see what I’m saying here? The Rams just went out and paid Robert Woods like he’s a true #1 WR who will help speed up the development of Jared Goff. What they are getting is a mediocre player whose contract they are going to end up hating in a very short amount of time.


Baltimore Ravens sign (S) Tony Jefferson to a 4-year $36,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (A-), 2015 (B), 2014 (C-), 2013 (B-)

Positional Salary Ranking: 8th

I like this deal. I know I sound like a broken record, but the Ravens are one of the best teams at scouting talent and once again they swing and hit a home run in free agency. Tony Jefferson has been a tremendous player since arriving in the NFL four years ago. He’s coming off an absolutely fantastic season with the Cardinals and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him improve even more under the Baltimore banner. This was definitely one of the best deals made during this free agency period.


Denver Broncos sign (G) Ronald Leary to a 4-year $36,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (B), 2015 (C), 2014 (B-), 2013 (C)

Positional Salary Ranking: 11th

Ron Leary has been a consistently good player since arriving in the NFL four years ago. Even though he wasn’t the Dallas Cowboys’ best offensive lineman, he was still an important piece to that puzzle. The Denver Broncos are in big time need of some help at the offensive line and they had to go out and get some. Leary is a good player who is coming off his best season as a pro. If he continues to improve, this deal could end up a huge steal for the Broncos. Especially if they end up getting Tony Romo this off-season. Something tells me he would love to have a guy he’s familiar with protecting him.


New Orleans Saints sign (G) Larry Warford to a 4-year $34,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (B), 2015 (C+), 2014 (B), 2013 (A-)

Positional Salary Ranking: 12th

This is a perfectly acceptable contract. The Saints are in desperate need of protecting Drew Brees during his last few seasons as a pro and Larry Warford has been a consistently good offensive guard during his pro career so far. The guy is only 25 years old so there’s a good chance he will also be protecting whoever it is that the Saints determine will be Brees’ successor in a few years. We will cross that bridge when we get there though, right Saints fans?


Los Angeles Rams sign (OT) Andrew Whitworth to a 3-year $33,750,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (A), 2015 (A), 2014 (A), 2013 (A), 2012 (A-), 2011 (A-), 2010 (A), 2009 (A-), 2008 (C), 2007 (A), 2006 (C)

Positional Salary Ranking: 19th

What a deal for the Rams. It’s no secret that the Rams need a lot of help. They were not a very good offensive football team last season and they desperately needed an influx of talent. Signing Andrew Whitworth to a 3-year deal could end up paying off big time for these guys. Whitworth has arguably been the best offensive tackle in the NFL for the past 8 seasons. Yes, he’s 35 years old, but he has shown no signs of slowing down at all. If the Rams have any kind of hope that Jared Goff will turn into something, that hope could rely on the shoulders of Whitworth. I love this deal and I honestly think if Goff shows steady signs of improvement next season, we know who’s responsible.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign (WR) DeSean Jackson to a 3-year $33,500,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (B-), 2015 (B-), 2014 (B), 2013 (A-), 2012 (B), 2011 (C), 2010 (D), 2009 (C+), 2008 (B-)

Positional Salary Ranking: 19th

This is a great deal. DeSean Jackson has been a consistently good player in his 9-year NFL career so far. His addition to the Bucs could end up being a nightmare for other teams next year. Jameis Winston is already turning into one of the NFL’s best young QB’s. With Mike Evans on one side and DeSean Jackson on the other, the Bucs passing offense could end up being the tops in the league next season. In my opinion, Jackson to the Bucs was a match made in heaven.


Cleveland Browns sign (WR) Kenny Britt to a 4-year $32,500,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (B-), 2015 (C+), 2014 (B+), 2013 (F), 2012 (F), 2011 (B+), 2010 (B), 2009 (C+)

Positional Salary Ranking: 21st

This is another deal that I like. Kenny Britt is an extremely undervalued player in the NFL. The guy has been a consistently good player on teams that have been devoid of offensive talent. He was arguably the best offensive player on the Rams’ team the last few seasons and he should immediately help the Cleveland Browns next year. A lot of NFL teams would love to have a guy like Britt on their roster and the Browns just added a big piece to the puzzle. They still won’t be any good next year though.


Buffalo Bills sign (S) Micah Hyde to a 5-year $30,500,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (C+), 2015 (C), 2014 (C), 2013 (B-)

Positional Salary Ranking: 12th

Gross. Micah Hyde is a very average player and the Buffalo Bills just went out and made him the 12th highest paid safety in the NFL. You know how badly the Green Bay Packers wanted to bring Hyde back? So bad that they didn’t even offer him a contract. What does that say about the newest member of your secondary Bills fans? Like I said, Hyde is an extremely average player who is now getting paid as if he’s a top player. This is why you don’t get nice things Buffalo.


Minnesota Vikings sign (OT) Mike Remmers to a 5-year $30,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (C-), 2015 (C+), 2014 (C+), 2013 (C-)

Positional Salary Ranking: 26th

This actually isn’t that bad of a deal. Mike Remmers is a very average player, but at least he’s consistently average. In a period of free agency where a lot of other teams extremely overpaid for horrible offensive linemen, I’ll give the Vikings props for being able to lock up Remmers with a decent deal.


Tennessee Titans sign (CB) Logan Ryan to a 3-year $30,000,000 deal

Individual Season Grades: 2016 (B+), 2015 (B), 2014 (C), 2013 (C+)

Positional Salary Ranking: 21st

What’s going on with the Tennessee Titans? Why does this team keep making moves that I like? The Titans just added a good corner and are beefing up a defense that needed to add some pieces this off-season. If Marcus Mariota comes back fully healthy and the Titans can add some weapons to their offense, it wouldn’t shock me to see these guys not only win their division next year, but also potentially win a playoff game. Yes, I said it. TENNESSEE TITANS ARE ON THE RISE!

And there you go folks. These 20 deals were the highest paid contracts in NFL free agency this year so make sure you pay attention to how these guys perform next season. Will they bust out and make their teams look extremely stupid? Or will these moves end up paying off in the form of championship rings?

Make sure to check back next week for THE USB’s SECOND NFL MOCK DRAFT OF THE SEASON!!!!

the-voice

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