Analysis

2022 NFL free agency: Riskiest contracts given out so far? Jaguars' aggressive moves top the board

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

Four Jaguars deals

By now, you know that the Jaguars made a lot of moves. Some made more financial sense than others, and I was a fan of the Foley Fatukasi, Darious Williams and Evan Engram contracts for their risk-to-reward ratio.

The same wasn't true with their wideout contracts. For the amount of money that Christian Kirk and Zay Jones received, I want difference-making potential. Kirk is getting paid like a top-10 wideout and profiles as a decent No. 2 receiver or a better No. 3. Jones has averaged under 400 yards per season as a pro and will make $14 million guaranteed over the next two years and $24 million over the next three if he gets to the end of that contract. Which he probably won't.

The same is probably true about Brandon Scherff's deal. While he's been an All-Pro guard when healthy, Scherff missed more than five games per season on average for the last four years. Paying him a premium at age 30 feels similar to Jacksonville's 2018 contract for Andrew Norwell that didn't pan out.

Guard is a position that good coaching should be able to develop. The same is true about off-ball linebackers, where Foye Oluokun signed with Jacksonville for $28 million guaranteed. Before last season, very few general managers would have taken Oluokun over Myles Jack, whom the Jaguars just cut. Even in a breakout year with a bunch of huge plays, Oluokun ranked No. 65 out of 87 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' grading because he also gave up big gains.

Two more monster guard signings

A great system and offensive line coach will make signing interior offensive linemen in free agency unnecessary. It's admitting you have a problem, which is only a good strategy if you choose well. Alex Cappa (four years, $35 million from the Bengals) was an improving, solid guard for the Bucs. But there's a reason they didn't prioritize keeping him at a big price. Laken Tomlinson (three years, $40 million from the Jets, with $27 million guaranteed) is a great run blocker whom the 49ers essentially got in a trade for free from the Lions before helping him turn his career around.

My point is not that Cappa and Tomlinson are bad players. They are starters! But the best deal in which to find a starting guard is a rookie deal, and the best time to bet on a former first-round pick like Tomlinson is when his value is at a low, not when giving him the second-highest guaranteed contract for a left guard in the league.

Other risky contracts

Ja'Whaun Bentley to the Patriots: The two-year deal worth a maximum of $9 million keeps the Patriots' linebacker group slow and vulnerable on passing downs, just like last year. Bentley is listed here more as an example of the low-risk, low-reward re-signings the Patriots have loaded up on in the first week of free agency.

Frank Clark re-signing with the Chiefs: I expected the Chiefs to cut Clark after a disastrous season, but his previous contract was so onerous that they almost had no choice but to restructure his deal. He's now set to make $29 million over the next two years. The Chiefs' front office is right to point out he would have been nearly as expensive to cut as release, and that's true. But that's the fault of the old contract … which they signed. If Clark was a free agent, no team would have given him anything close to this deal after his previous two seasons.

Kirk Cousins' one-year extension: Cousins' new deal is similar to Clark's in the reasoning behind it. The Vikings wanted cap space and had little choice but to extend Cousins a year, kick the full weight of his financial pain into the future and hope for the best. At least the relationship between Cousins and coach Kevin O'Connell should be smoother than the one between Mike Zimmer and Kirk, but there's no way that the Vikings would have done this deal if not for their salary cap troubles.

Saints signing Marcus Maye: I have no problem with the Saints taking a chance on Maye coming off a torn Achilles. But the team ultimately passed on keeping homegrown star Marcus Williams at the same position so that they could extend themselves in a shameless and failed bid to trade for Deshaun Watson. It's not Maye's fault, but this Saints offseason has been one massive L.

Steelers re-signing Chukwuma Okorafor: The deal is for three years and $29.25 million, with $20 million guaranteed. Okorafor finished 61st out of 83 tackles graded by PFF last year and essentially got the same contract as La'el Collins from the Bengals.

Tight end contracts: Seattle gave Will Dissly $24 million over three years. The Cardinals gave Zach Ertz $31.65 million over three years with $14.5 million fully guaranteed. C.J. Uzomah will get $15 million guaranteed from the Jets with the same terms as Dissly's contract.

Their price tags were surprising. Dissly has 900 yards combined in four seasons. Uzomah, a complete player who will bring leadership, has only had more than 250 yards in a season twice, never topping 500. Ertz is a reliable chain mover, but not a big playmaker at this stage of his career. Tight end was one position where the market rate went up significantly this offseason.

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