We're in the thick of it now.
Over the past few days, free agency has shaken the National Football League to its core. We witnessed the most successful signal-caller in NFL history change teams when Tom Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We've watched offensive linemen like Jack Conklin and edge-rushers like Dante Fowler Jr. receive big-time paydays. And we saw Byron Jones become the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.
For all of about two days.
In terms of average annual salary, that title now belongs to Darius Slay, who was dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles in a blockbuster trade that kicked off Thursday's action on the free-agent market.
That's where we'll begin this fourth day of grading all the signings and trades across the NFL.
CB Darius Slay Traded to Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles went into the 2020 offseason with a pair of glaring needs—wide receiver and cornerback.
On Thursday, Philly addressed one of those needs in a big way.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Eagles acquired three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a pair of draft picks—a third-rounder (No. 85) and a fifth-rounder (No. 166). The Eagles then signed Slay to a three-year, $50 million extension.
For Philadelphia, this is a fantastic trade. The defensive backfield was easily the team's biggest weakness on that side of the ball, and Slay is one of the best cornerbacks in the league. It was an expensive addition but a desperately needed one at a premium position.
For the Lions, in a perfect world, you would like to see the team get more for one of the NFL's best cover men. But Slay made it clear he wanted a new contract, and the size of that extension probably limited the number of suitors.
Grade (Eagles): A
Grade (Lions): B-
CB Kevin Johnson Signs with Browns
The Cleveland Browns were in the splash business early in free agency. Thursday's signings didn't involve as many zeroes, but as is so often the case, they may well have been better values.
As Schefter reported, the Browns signed sixth-year cornerback Kevin Johnson to a one-year contract worth $3.5 million with incentives that could push the deal all the way up to $6 million. The 27-year-old spent the 2019 season in Buffalo after four seasons with the Houston Texans.
Johnson is hardly a game-changer in the secondary—he has just nine starts over the last four seasons and has only one career interception. But Johnson is also a capable slot corner who should provide the Browns with an affordable replacement for T.J. Carrie in the slot.
The big-money signings get all the publicity this time of year, but deals like this are how teams "win" free agency—finding capable veteran starters in the prime of their career that don’t put a huge dent in a club's cap space.
S Adrian Phillips Signs with Patriots
It's been a rough few days for the New England Patriots. The team lost its two best linebackers, and there's been mention of some dude named Brady leaving town.
The addition of veteran safety Adrian Phillips hardly removes the sting from all those departures. But it's still a sneaky good addition for the AFC's (one-time) big bad wolf.
Per Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, Phillips agreed to a two-year deal to presumably become the new starter at strong safety for the new-look Patriots. The 27-year-old spent the first six seasons of his career in San Diego and Los Angeles with the Chargers, making the Pro Bowl in 2018.
Phillips is something of a throwback—a classic box safety who spent time at linebacker with the Bolts. He's an upgrade on longtime New England starter Patrick Chung and should form a solid duo with veteran Devin McCourty.
LB De'Vondre Campbell Signs with Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals made arguably the biggest splash acquisition of 2020 when they stole (that's right, stole) wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. Arizona also made an impact signing with the addition of defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.
The Redbirds wrote another big check Thursday. Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Cardinals have signed linebacker De'Vondre Campbell to a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million. The 26-year-old had a career year for the Atlanta Falcons in 2019, pacing the team with 129 total tackles while adding two sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.
This is a great move by an Arizona team that has made a few of those in 2020. Campbell played all over the defensive formation in Atlanta—inside, outside and even occasionally at strong safety. The fifth-year pro should be a significant upgrade over Haason Reddick at the inside linebacker spot opposite Jordan Hicks in the desert.
K Dan Bailey Re-Signs with Vikings
Come on, admit it. You've been on the edge of your seat waiting for some news about the sexiest position in the NFL.
Let's talk kickers!
The Vikings have agreed to terms on a new contract with kicker Dan Bailey. The 32-year-old has been with the Vikes for the past two seasons after seven years as the kicker for the Dallas Cowboys.
Bailey's first year in Minnesota was a mess. After being cut loose by Dallas for missing one of every four field goals he tried in 2017, Bailey repeated the feat in 2018. But last year the former Pro Bowler rebounded, connecting on over 90 percent of his attempts for the first time since 2015.
Bailey might not be the player he once was (he missed four extra points in 2019), but he's the most reliable kicker Minnesota has had in a good long while.
Don't fix that which is not broken.
CB Mackensie Alexander Signs with Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals are remaking their secondary in 2020. And they're doing so by looting Minnesota's.
For the second time in three days, the Bengals have added a corner who played a major role for the Vikings in 2019. This time it was slot corner Mackenzie Alexander, who (per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network) signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Cincinnati.
The 26-year-old Alexander, who had 38 tackles and an interception in 2019, isn't a world-beater in coverage. But as Pro Football Focus noted, he's a sure tackler—he was the only defensive back in the league last year who played over 500 snaps and didn't miss a tackle.
After losing Darqueze Dennard in free agency, the Bengals needed to add a slot cornerback. Alexander will fill that need nicely—and do so at a very affordable price.
This is the best signing the Bengals have made so far.
DT Andrew Billings Signs with Browns
For the second straight season, the Browns have been very active in free agency. And for the second year in a row, the team appears to have made marked improvements in some areas.
Cleveland turned its attention to the defensive line Thursday. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Browns have signed defensive tackle Andrew Billings. The 6'1", 328-pound fifth-year veteran piled up 35 tackles and a sack for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019.
What role do the Browns have in mind for Billings in 2020? After all, they already possess a pair of capable defensive tackles in Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi.
With that said, you can never have too many defensive linemen. Adding more depth on the interior should allow the Browns to rotate big men and keep them fresh.
TE Logan Thomas Signs with Redskins
You can be forgiven if you have no idea who Thomas is (the former Virginia Tech quarterback caught all of 16 passes last year in Detroit), but a Washington team that lost both Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis in the offseason needed bodies. Still, one would hope that the Redskins aren't done at tight end after bringing in (per ESPN’s John Keim) the sixth-year veteran.
S Nate Ebner Signs with Giants
It's hardly a surprise that Ebner chose to (according to Rapoport) sign with a team helmed by the former special teams coach of the Patriots in Joe Judge—Ebner built his NFL career as a special teams ace in New England the past eight seasons. His defensive role will likely be minimal, but he's an impact player on kick and punt coverage.
S Adrian Colbert Re-Signs with Dolphins
Colbert, who started five games for Miami after joining the team in-season last year, wasn't tendered as an RFA by the Dolphins. But the team thought enough of the 26-year-old to bring Colbert back on a one-year, $1.775 million deal (per Schefter). He'll serve as depth on the back end of the Miami defense.
OG Tom Compton Signs with 49ers
Compton is the definition of a journeyman—the 30-year-old has played for five teams in the last five years. Compton made five starts for a bad Jets O-line in 2019 and 14 starts in Minnesota the year before. He was ostensibly brought in (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area) to compete for the starting spot at right guard after Mike Person was released.
OT Cornelius Lucas Signs with Redskins
Per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Lucas joins the Redskins on a two-year, $5.3 million pact after spending the 2019 season with the Chicago Bears. A longtime "swing tackle" who has played for four teams, the 28-year-old could be in the mix to start if Washington finds a taker for Trent Williams.
S Will Redmond Re-Signs with Packers
As reported by Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, Redmond has re-upped with the Packers after making four starts in Green Bay a year ago. Assuming that the terms of this contract are reasonable, the 2016 third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers is a solid depth piece on the back end.
QB Colt McCoy Signs with Giants
According to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, McCoy will stay in the NFC East, joining the Giants after five years in Washington. The 33-year-old isn't a player you want under center for more than a start or two, but he has started 28 games over a 10-year NFL career with the Redskins, 49ers and Browns.