8 best value signings thus far in NFL free agency

Ravens safety Eric Weddle intercepts a pass
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Even with money being thrown around at a high clip during free agency, NFL teams have found value on the open market.

It’s not terribly surprising. For whatever reason, certain players don’t find a robust market for their services. In turn, savvy teams respond accordingly.

From the Green Bay Packers adding two stud young defenders on the cheap to the Los Angeles Rams stealing a borderline future Hall of Famer for pennies on the dollar, here are eight value signings thus far in free agency.

Adrian Amos, safety, Green Bay Packers

Green Bay had worked diligently to find a top-end safety since Charles Woodson called it a career. That included a decent run from former first-round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix before he was dealt last season. But it now looks like the Packers have the guy to lead at that position.

Brian Gutekunst and Co. Signed 25-year-old safety Adrian Amos away from the Chicago Bears in free agency. Said deal called for just $36 million over four seasons with $12 million guaranteed. Given the safety market in free agency, this was an absolute steal. Amos has recorded 12 passes defended and three interceptions over the past two seasons — grading out among the top-10 safeties in the NFL during that span according to Pro Football Focus metrics.

Tevin Coleman, running back, San Francisco 49ers

It’s apparent that San Francisco made at least a solid bid for Le’Veon Bell prior to the running back signing with the New York Jets. Instead of landing Bell, these 49ers picked up the second-best running back on the market in the form of Tevin Coleman — one that has a history with head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 25-year-old former Falcons running back gained 1,076 total yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. He’s posted 28 total scores over the past three seasons.

Coleman will now team up with 2018 free-agent signing Jerick McKinnon and a stud young back in Matt Breida to form a fearsome threesome in San Francisco. It didn’t hurt that the team landed him on a two-year, $10 million contract. Not too shabby.

Preston Smith, EDGE, Green Bay Packers

The devil is always in the details. A total of $52 million over four seasons for a pass rusher that recorded four sacks last season seems like an overpay. This is until we realize that the 26-year-old Smith received just $16 million in total guarantees. Given the money that was thrown around to edge defenders during free agency, that’s an absolute steal.

Green Bay has been in need of outside pressure guys since Clay Mathews started to regress. That’s exactly what Smith is. He’s recorded a combined 37 quarterback hits and 12 sacks over the past two seasons. Smith is a solid pass-rush presence. And the Pack got him for pennies on the dollar.

Eric Weddle, safety, Los Angeles Rams

Following his release from the Ravens, Weddle wanted to sign as soon as possible in order to avoid the free-agent frenzy. That’s exactly what he did this past Friday — signing a two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Rams to replace Lamarcus Joyner at free safety. In hindsight, the six-time Pro Bowler might want to have that decision back.

Weddle’s average salary of $5.25 million ranks him 23rd among NFL safeties. Nine players at this position signed more-lucrative deals in free agency after Weddle inked his contract with the Rams. Having recorded 24 passes defended and 10 interceptions in his three seasons in Baltimore, Weddle proved to be worth a whole lot more than his contract.

Jordan Hicks, linebacker, Arizona Cardinals

One of the most underrated free agents on the market, Hicks was a full-time starter in his four seasons with the Eagles. Sure he’s missed 13 games to injury over the past two seasons, but the 25-year-old Texas product still boasts a ton of upside. He’s been among the NFL’s best run-stuffing inside linebackers — something the Cardinals desperately need.

In a market that saw other linebackers such as C.J. Mosley and Kwon Alexander completely reset the market, Hicks signed a four-year, $34 million contract. His average annual salary of $8.5 million ranks 10th among NFL inside linebackers. Given the inflation we’re seeing in today’s market, that’s an absolute steal.

Frank Gore, running back, Buffalo Bills

The ageless wonder. No matter where he plays or how old he is, Gore just continues to shine. The soon-to-be 36-year-old back put up 846 total yards at a clip of 5.0 yards per touch last season. It was the first time in 13 seasons that Gore didn’t hit the 1,200-yard plateau.

Even then, he’s going to be a tremendous fit with LeSean McCoy in Buffalo. Still a battering ram in the backfield, we’re expecting Gore to take over short-yardage duties. Getting the Inconvenient Truth for merely $2 million over one season was an absolute steal.

Matt Paradis, center, Carolina Panthers

Some had anticipated that the 29-year-old Paradis would reset the center market in free agency. After initially receiving interest from the Bills and Jets, it seemed the market for his services slowed down some. That could’ve had to do with the veteran missing seven games last season to a fractured right fibula. Even then, this is an absolute steal for Carolina.

In an attempt to find more pass protection for Cam Newton, the Panthers inked Paradis to a three-year, $27 million contract with just $10 million guaranteed at signing. Paradis’ average salary ranks fifth among NFL centers. He has not allowed a single quarterback sack since his rookie season back in 2014. Let that sink in.

Pierre Desir, cornerback, Indianapolis Colts

After struggling to find a footing with the Browns, Seahawks and Chargers earlier in his career, this small-school product showed out big time for Indianapolis back in 2017. He took over starting duties about half way through the season — recording 32 tackles, seven passes defended and an interception in six starts.

Though, it was Desir’s performance as the Colts’ best cover guy during a stellar 2018 season that earned him a multi-year contract. Pro Football Focus graded him out as the 19th-best corner in the NFL. Desir also yielded a sub 80 passer rating when targeted. To get him for $25 million over three seasons is an absolute steal. After all, lesser cover guys have been signing deals averaging about $10 million per.