By Kevin Long
Dust Begins to Settle
With the Los Angeles Rams’ signing of LB Bobby Wagner, most of the highly anticipated free agency moves are out of the way, and the league has begun to set sights on the draft. While S Tyrann Mathieu still has not been signed and numerous other key players including QB Baker Mayfield are still awaiting the fate of where they will play next season, the buzz around the NFL has for the most part calmed down.
The league that fans knew has been completely revamped — with key players and future hall of fame caliber players alike going to new teams for the 2022 season. The AFC in particular is stacked with elite quarterbacks, and the AFC West and North boasts the best the conference has to offer with Russel Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. Needless to say, every game between AFC opponents will be must-see TV. This is not to say the NFC is completely devoid of quality signal callers — as Tom Brady came out of retirement after a short break from football, Matthew Stafford received a contract extension with the Rams and Aaron Rodgers is sticking to Green Bay after winning the MVP award this past season. Expect much of the NFC to be seeking new quarterbacks come time for the draft later in April.
Analyzing the New Landscape of NFL Free Agency
Free agency in past years has always been a bidding war of sorts — where teams attempt to get high quality veteran players for as little as possible in order to bolster or rebuild their ranks. This year though, the market experienced severe price inflation for average or below average players. This is largely due to the signing of Christian Kirk by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Despite never amassing 1,000 yards in any of his first four seasons, Jacksonville was willing to pay Kirk a four-year, $72 million contract, placing him among the top ten highest paid receivers in the NFL. Even Mike Evans of the Buccaneers, who has never failed to top 1,000 yards, falls short of Kirk in pay. This blatant overpay gave players an immense amount of bargaining power, allowing other receivers like Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams to receive $120 and $140 million contracts respectively, breaking the market further. But Kirk was not the only player guilty of receiving an overpay as DE Von Miller signed a six year, $120 million contract with the Buffalo Bills. This caused Za’Darius Smith, who had agreed to terms with the Baltimore Ravens, to back out of his contract in order to seek money similar to what Miller was able to get. Though in the end, his injury concerns led to him getting a contract similar to what Baltimore had been offering with the Minnesota Vikings.
NFL front offices will no doubt be scrambling to correct the market as the offseason progresses, and if they don't, more players will end up sapping millions from teams that otherwise would be able to make a deep playoff run by spreading the wealth to more deserving players and veterans.