Analysis

2022 NFL free agency: Best contracts given out so far? Bucs find value, Chargers wisely break the bank

Free agency has a long way to go. As of this writing, dozens of my Top 101 Free Agents remain available, including a healthy chunk of my top 20. So while it's too early to say which teams have failed to address needs -- give it time! -- it's not too early to spotlight the best and riskiest contracts signed thus far.

Here are the acquisitions that earn my enthusiastic approval. (Click here for the deals that raise an eyebrow.)

Carlton Davis returns to the Buccaneers for $45 million over three years

I'll be stunned if Davis doesn't play out this entire contract, which is rare for any free-agent deal near the top of the market. Davis' pact is nearly the same as the one Trae Waynes signed two years ago. It's considerably less than recent deals inked by Byron Jones, Marlon Humphrey and Darius Slay.

Perhaps I'm just a bigger fan of Davis than most, but he has a No. 1 cornerback skill set and the Bucs should be thrilled they were able to keep him so affordably.

Russell Gage to the Bucs for three years, $30 million

Tampa Bay could have boasted three transactions on this list if I'd included the Shaq Mason trade acquisition from the Patriots, but since that doesn't quite fit this column's parameters, let's focus on Gage's signing.

I loved Gage's 2021 film. He can get open quickly with great route running, play inside and out, has terrific hands and sneaky ability to make wow grabs in traffic. Sounds a lot like Chris Godwin! Tom Brady is such a fan of Gage that he called up the wideout to say he liked his tape, so Brady and I finally have something in common.

D.J. Jones to the Broncos for three years, $30 million

Three years, $30 million is the cool kids' contract this offseason. The Bengals' B.J. Hill and the Jaguars' Foley Fatukasi are two other players in their prime who signed for twice as much money as Mitchell Trubisky with a fraction of the coverage. (And I like all these deals.)

Jones is especially intriguing because he improved every season in San Francisco. He can play multiple positions in multiple fronts and will make his opponent look foolish a few times per game. The Broncos look so flexible with Dre'Mont Jones, Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed all possessing different skill sets. The focus in Denver will be on Russell Wilson, as it should be, but don't overlook a strong defense led by new coordinator Ejiro Evero and smart pickups like Jones.

Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor and Mitchell Trubisky providing insurance

The three quarterbacks here are in slightly different situations, but their contracts are quite similar, with guaranteed money and 2022 pay under $9 million. For the price of a rotational defensive tackle, the Dolphins, Giants and Steelers all upgraded the most important position in sports. To put it another way: Is there that much of a difference between what Carson Wentz will provide for three times the salary? Or what Kirk Cousins will deliver for more than four times the salary?

Bridgewater could be a steadier version of Tua Tagovailoa in Mike McDaniel's offense. Taylor is an older, steadier version of Daniel Jones. Trubisky is likely to be the 1A option over Mason Rudolph and a rookie to be named later. While Trubisky may have a lower floor and higher ceiling, we know who these guys are. If the rest of the team is strong, you can win with each at a remarkably cheap price considering positional value.

The Steelers' O-line moves and Myles Jack signing

I love the Steelers' offseason so far. They had a desperate need for professionals on the offensive line and found two promising pieces in former Bears guard James Daniels and ex-Vikings center Mason Cole at reasonable prices. Upgrading to average is often all that's necessary for poor offensive lines.

Pittsburgh also brought in Jack on a two-year, $16 million deal. The former Jaguar is the linebacker the Steelers have wanted Devin Bush to be the last two years. Mike Tomlin will know just how to use him.

The Chargers breaking the bank for J.C. Jackson

Top-of-the-market deals (five years, $82.5 million) can be fine values, too. Jackson has ball skills that rival any cornerback I've ever seen and has improved every season of his career. He's going to help unlock Brandon Staley's defense for the Chargers. The contract details -- $40 million guaranteed and a cap value averaging less than $15 million per season in the first three years -- are terrific for a player I believe is a true No. 1 cornerback. He could wind up playing out this entire five-year deal.

D.J. Reed and Jordan Whitehead to the Jets

Reed's size (5-foot-9, 193 pounds) and draft status (Round 5 in 2018) help explain why he didn't cost more than $33 million over three years. He's an ascending, competitive cornerback who will give the Jets quality snaps in Robert Saleh's system.

Whitehead came at a discount because safeties known for their run stopping don't make that much, but it's good business any time you can find 1,000 above-average snaps in a two-year, $14.5 million deal for a player in his prime.

La'el Collins to the Bengals

Need meets value. Perhaps the timing of Collins' release by the Cowboys helped suppress his value or maybe it was the erratic nature of his career. That said, Collins is a nasty right tackle when healthy. There are still details to learn, but the Bengals reportedly grabbed him for about $20 million in the first two years of his deal.

I am not as high on the Bengals' interior O-line pickups (Ted Karras and Alex Cappa), but they have undoubtedly worked hard to fix Joe Burrow's pass-protection issues.

Allen Robinson to the Rams

The average value of Robinson's three-year, $46.5 million deal -- $15.5 million -- coming in below those of recent contracts signed by Christian Kirk, Kenny Golladay, Adam Thielen, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks was a surprise. Exchanging Robinson for Woods -- who was traded to Tennessee over the weekend -- is cold business, but it absolutely makes sense, given the former's skill set.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter.

Related Content

Single game tickets available now!

You won't want to miss a moment of the 2022 season!