2022 NFL Free Agency Grades: Analyzing every major move

It is important to spend responsibly on free-agents. The difference between teams’ merely splurging in free agency versus actually being good at it is the link between the pro scouting department and the coaching staff. I spoke with Bengals folks before the Super Bowl who were wondering why everyone (ahem, myself included) predicted they’d win so few games in 2021. They were delighted with the idea of Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple being paired together. They did not believe Trey Hendrickson was a product of Dennis Allen’s defense.

Why? Because both their scouting and coaching staff were asked for a hybrid job. They had to bring their evaluations together and voice their opinions. We’ll see what this year holds as we gather to instantaneously grade the individual transactions worth noting, but keep in mind that J.C. Jackson might be the cornerback who alters the market, but that does not mean he’ll significantly alter the 2022 season. The same applies to any of our top players.

It is important to remember that many of the terms and conditions we hear about when free agency opens can be misleading. Nonguaranteed dollar amounts drop before teams have to pay them. Years disappear. So we’ll analyze each move based on talent and fit, and take a look generally at the terms but won’t get hung up on exact dollar amounts before we know more.

Steelers welcome QB Mitch Trubisky

Trubisky should thank his agents and all guiding spiritual deities who have guided him through the past two years. After his Bears tenure ended, Trubisky was spotted in Buffalo next to Brian Daboll and attracted interest in his revival. Now, he lands in Pittsburgh, which will give him a chance to win the post–Ben Roethlisberger job outright with a great running game and solid receiver core. Trubisky is now with Matt Canada, another talented coordinator that can divert backfield traffic using his inspired presnap play. Trubisky falls in line behind a head coaching who, unlike Matt Nagy of Chicago, is long enough to not have to worry about Trubisky being legitimized. The politics surrounding the Chicago quarterback position were a mess. In Pittsburgh, where the Steelers simply don’t post losing seasons, Trubisky can springboard himself into a future that looks far brighter than it might have a few seasons ago. Also, replacing Roethlisberger, as daunting as it seems, is not the same after the future Hall of Famer’s middling career finale. Had Roethlisberger been forced out, or left any lingering animus between himself and the organization, there’s a chance Trubisky could’ve gotten caught in the crossfire. This is less like Cam Newton succeeding Tom Brady as Patriots quarterback, which should reduce any unnecessary pressure.

This is about what Pittsburgh was capable of doing in free agency. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are gone. Kirk Cousins is also gone. Jimmy Garoppolo will likely drive market out of the sensible range.

GRADE: C+

G Alex Cappa to Bengals

Bengals general manager Duke Tobin boldly defended his maligned offensive line at the combine, reciting Joe Burrow’s statistics and mentioning that Burrow would not have had the season he did without their pieces up front. It was an admirable move but also foretold the team’s plunge into free agency. Burrow can’t sustain another season like the 2021 one, which saw him record 51 regular-season sacks, and then add 19 playoff sacks. Cincinnati’s offense will sometimes ask Burrow to hold on to the ball for a bit longer (even though he had one of the quickest snap-to-throw times in the NFL last year, about 0.02 seconds faster than Mac Jones), as it’s more reminiscent of a pre-2019 pro style system. At times, offensive linemen will need to hold onto their blocks longer. While Cappa made a name for himself in the Tom Brady Bucs era, and Brady is a notoriously quick-release player, the Bengals’ staff rarely misses in free agency and has built its team’s foundation in the veteran market over the past three years.

Cappa was acquired for a reported $42 million over four years, which is $6 million less than the league average for the position. This is quite remarkable and shows that Cincinnati has moved from being a team player to one they are willing to play.

GRADE:A

C Ryan Jensen has signed a new contract with The Buccaneers

Jensen slots just under Frank Ragnow as the NFL’s second-highest-paid center, which is the kind of transaction the Buccaneers can make now that they are certain they’ve lured Brady out of his brief retirement. Given the increased pressure on teams and the need to force linemen to block ghosts, it is possible to argue that the center position is more valuable than ever. Ali Marpet, a former Tampa Bay Guard, said that Brady had a good life. Jensen, however has earned the top coin and is more than a lineman riding the coattails a quick-release quarterback. Jensen has incredible flexibility and speed, rarely leaving another blocker in the weeds if he’s uncovered at the snap. Yes, he’s 30 years old, but that position tends to age a little better than outside spots that deal with more consistent speed rushing.

GRADE: B

Edge Emmanuel Ogbah to Dolphins

Ogbah is an agile defender who will fit well in the Dolphins’ Bill Belichick–inspired system, which is placing more of an emphasis on rushing as few defenders as possible and dropping more defenders into coverage. Ogbah, aged 28, has a deal worth $16.5million per season. It is worth breaking it out and having independent discussions. There were general managers who planned to stay at an arm’s length from this year’s edge market, especially after last year when teams such as the Bengals and Patriots cleaned up on premium young talent for cheaper rates. In 2022, the market was expected to heat up. But landing Ogbah is a win for stunt-happy DC Josh Boyer, and Miami doesn’t end up paying too much of a tax for the privilege.

GRADE: B+

RB Chase Edmonds to Dolphins

If the Dolphins are indeed planning to build around Tua Tagovailoa, signing Edmunds to a reportedly two-year deal that isn’t breaking the bank is a good start. Miami loves Edmonds’ ability to support the quarterback during play breaks down. A year ago, Kyler Murray struggled with checkdown throws and found it difficult to hit outlet passes quickly in a field crowded with larger defenders. Murray often saw Edmonds weaving and juking his way into unoccupied space in order to make life easier. He could be a heady security blanket for Tagovailoa.

GRADE: B-

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