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 NFL, Mar 17, 2017, ESPN Insider Most underrated, overrated NFL free-agent signings

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PostSubject: NFL, Mar 17, 2017, ESPN Insider Most underrated, overrated NFL free-agent signings   Sat Mar 18, 2017 1:43 pm

Mar 17, 2017

ESPN Insider

Most underrated, overrated NFL free-agent signings

The first wave of free agency is in the books, and the majority of the transactions that will be made have already been signed and sealed.

It's time to look at some of the most underrated and overrated deals made throughout the league so far, based largely on Pro Football Focus' grades and statistical analysis but with some subjective context applied to account for things like age and injury history.

Most underrated
1. Chris Baker, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Contract: Three years, $15.75 million with $9 million guaranteed

For years, the Bucs have been looking for a nose tackle to play alongside Gerald McCoy, and the former Redskin Baker could be the perfect player to fit that role. Baker finished the 2016 season with a top-20 PFF grade (82.2) among all defensive interior players, with 42 total pressures and 24 stops. He earned solid grades against the run and pass the past two seasons in Washington, and the Bucs got the 29-year-old for a good price. This might be the best bargain of free agency.
2. JC Tretter, C, Cleveland Browns

Contract: Three years, $16.75 million with $10 million guaranteed

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Tretter started seven games for the Packers last season and allowed just eight total pressures. Cameron Erving, meanwhile, started at center for the Browns for 12 games last season and surrendered 29 total pressures. Erving's run blocking was poor as well, and Tretter is a clear upgrade. The 26-year-old has looked like a starting-caliber center every time he has been on the field, but he hasn't been able to show it over a full season. When he surrendered the starting job back to Corey Linsley last season, Tretter was PFF's No. 5-graded center. Along with free-agent acquisition Kevin Zeitler, the Browns have upgraded the interior of their offensive line, and the deal they got for Tretter -- only $10 million guaranteed -- could be a steal.
3. James Harrison, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Contract: Two years, $3.5 million with $500,000 guaranteed

Sometimes keeping hold of internal free agents is the best move teams can make, and that is especially true with the Steelers' re-signing of Harrison, who is still one of the team's best defenders at age 38. Harrison recorded 51 total pressures last season (including the playoffs), and 35 of them came from Week 11 onward. He got better as the season went on -- he played 71 snaps in Week 16 -- and averaged more than four quarterback pressures per game in the playoffs, with 13 defensive stops. Harrison, who went undrafted in 2002 and turns 39 this spring, is still outstanding.
4. Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Contract: Four years, $17 million with $9.5 million guaranteed

The Cowboys managed to keep Williams on a four-year deal with limited guaranteed money after seeing a few other receivers get big-money contracts. Williams will likely always be capped in production by the offense in Dallas -- and how far down the list of weapons he is -- but he is a valuable big-play threat who has a catch of at least 42 yards in each season of his career and one of 75 or more yards in two of those seasons. Williams has caught 61.7 percent of the passes thrown his way in his career, averaging 16.2 yards per reception and 4.7 yards after the catch.
5. William Hayes, DE, Miami Dolphins

Contract: One year, $4.75 million with $2.7 million guaranteed (traded from Rams)

This was a trade rather than a free-agent signing, but Miami's under-the-radar move to acquire Hayes from the Rams was smart, and it cost the Dolphins only moving down 17 spots at the end of April's draft (from No. 206 overall to No. 223). Miami then shortened Hayes' contract by a year, and he'll now be on the free-agent market in 2018. Hayes has been an excellent edge defender for several years, and he has averaged 43 total QB pressures and 30.5 defensive stops the past two seasons. The Dolphins needed another end opposite Cameron Wake after releasing Mario Williams -- they also brought back Andre Branch -- and they got a top-20 player without giving up much in return.
Dre Kirkpatrick has nine interceptions in five seasons with the Bengals. AP/Tony Avelar
Most overrated
1. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

Contract: Five years, $52.5 million with $12 million guaranteed

Kirkpatrick had the best season of his career in 2016, earning a 74.7 PFF grade and ranking 53rd in the league among corners. He allowed 59 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught and was flagged nine times. Cincinnati had a flood of talent headed to the open market -- it lost offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler, among others -- and the Bengals had to keep Kirkpatrick at a high cost that doesn't match his above-average play. Only $12 million of his deal is guaranteed, and the team can get out of it without too much pain after two seasons if he doesn't perform, but it's too much money when there were better free-agent corners available. When you consider the players the Bengals chose to let walk as they prioritized Kirkpatrick, this deal looks like one of the worst.
2. Rick Wagner, OT, Detroit Lions

Contract: Five years, $47.5 million with $20.5 million guaranteed

Wagner was seen as the biggest prize in the free-agent tackle market, but Andrew Whitworth is an objectively better player. The 35-year-old left tackle's market was more limited -- he signed a three-year deal with the Rams with $15 million guaranteed. Wagner, who is expected to play right tackle in Detroit, has shown some excellent play, but he had a few worryingly poor performances in 2015. He allowed 52 total QB pressures and did not run block well that season. He had a bounce-back season in 2016, but his career has been more of a roller coaster and has lacked consistency, which made it risky for the Lions to give him a long-term deal.
3. Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Contract: Two years, $11 million with $7 million guaranteed

The Eagles went after Foles despite having their franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, and one of the league's most expensive backups in Chase Daniel, who signed a three-year, $21 million deal a season ago. The move prompted Daniel to ask for his release, and the Eagles now have a dead money hit of $7 million in 2017. Foles doesn't seem to have made the team significantly better, if at all, and the $7 million guaranteed to him over the two years of the deal is a hefty price.
4. Kevin Zeitler, G, Cleveland Browns

Contract: Five years, $60 million with $31.5 million guaranteed

Zeitler is an excellent player who has been consistently good over his NFL career, but the issue with his long-term contract in Cleveland is that the Browns' guard play was already pretty good. They re-signed Joel Bitonio to a big extension, which leaves John Greco the odd man out, but Greco allowed just 24 total QB pressures last season and had four perfect games of pass protection while run blocking well inside. The Browns have likely upgraded, but it is a lot to pay -- $31.5 million guaranteed -- for what might prove to be a marginal boost at the position.
5. Stephon Gilmore, CB, New England Patriots

Contract: Five years, $65 million with $40 million guaranteed

The Patriots have effectively chosen Gilmore over Malcolm Butler, a restricted free agent who is agitating for a move away from New England after seeing Gilmore get big money from his team. But did the Patriots make the right decision? Butler (88.6) dramatically out-graded Gilmore (73.2) in 2016 and made PFF's All-Pro team, thanks in part to notching four picks and 12 pass breakups and consistently making plays in coverage. Gilmore struggled through another lackluster season in Buffalo, and though he might have an impressive skill set, he has never lived up to his potential. It seems strange that the Patriots would go out of their way to hand Gilmore huge money and not Butler.
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