Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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2024 NFL free agency grades, Day 3: Cowboys get props for swiping Eric Kendricks from 49ers

After two days of fireworks (also known as the legal tampering period), the NFL’s first day of free agency kicked off on Wednesday. The day wasn’t as crazy as the previous two, but did include the biggest-available free agent finding his new home. 

The day also saw veteran receivers Mike Williams and Hunter Renfrow get released by the Chargers and Raiders, respectively. Both players will now join the list of available free agents. 

There were several other notable signings, including at the quarterback and linebacker positions. We broke down each of those signings and more below while offering a grade for each one. 

Cowboys signing LB Eric Kendricks 

The Cowboys, who hadn’t done anything in early stages of free agency, were able to secure a highly productive linebacker who had 117 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Chargers in 2023. While he just turned 32, Kendricks’ play last season suggests that he has plenty of gas left in the tank. The fact that the Cowboys convinced Kendricks to sign with them instead of the 49ers made this signing even sweeter. 

Kendricks is a big get for Dallas. Along with being a solid player, he helps replace Leighton Vander Esch, whose career could be over due to injuries. 

Longevity is the only question mark here. Will Kendricks be more than a one-year Band-Aid? That question will be answered in 2024. 

Grade: A-

EaglesJake Elliott reaches agreement on extension 

Elliott agreed to terms on a four-year, $24 million extension that ties him with Justin Tucker as the highest-paid kicker in NFL history, according to ESPN

It’s hard to argue against Elliott joining Tucker as the highest-paid kickers in league annals. He made a whopping 93.8% of his field goal attempts last season that included making 7 of his 8 attempts of 50 or more yards. He also made all but one of his 46 point-after attempts. 

Kickers are like good tires. You don’t appreciate what you have until you have a problem. Signing Elliott long term gives the Eagles peace of mind at an important position for the foreseeable future. 

Grade:

Panthers signing Dane Jackson 

Jackson agreed to a two-year deal that is worth up to $14.5 million, according to NFL Media. Given the money in this deal, it’s safe to say that the Panthers are hoping that Jackson will be a starter after he made 28 starts during his four years in Buffalo. 

This deal makes sense as the Panthers recently traded former starting cornerback Donte Jackson to Pittsburgh in exchange for former Pro Bowl wideout Diontae Johnson. In Dane Jackson, the Panthers are getting a 27-year-old defensive back who picked off three passes and broke up 28 more during his time with the Bills

This signing is somewhat of a risk, given Jackson’s lack of career starts up to this point (if should be noted that he did make 14 starts in 2022). Unfortunately for the Panthers, when you’re a team that hasn’t had a lot of success, you typically have to overpay for free agents in order to lure them to your team. That was likely the situation here. 

Grade: B- 

Mason Rudolph  signing with Titans

The former Steelers quarterback agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.62 million, according to NFL Media. This is a great opportunity for Rudolph, who will likely get a chance to compete with Will Levis to be the Titans’ starting quarterback. 

The quarterback market isn’t very strong, so the Titans decide to spend relatively little money while getting a 28-year-old quarterback who has promise. Rudolph went 3-0 as the Steelers’ starting quarterback last regular season while completing over 74% of his passes. The Steelers went 8-4-1 in games Rudolph started. 

Grade: B+ 

Calvin Ridley signing with Titans

Tennessee struck again moments after signing Rudolph when they agreed to terms with Ridley on a four-year, $92 million deal that included $50 million guaranteed, according to NFL Media

Ridley entered Wednesday as the best skill player who was still available. He proved that he is still a top-tier talent last year after he missed all of 2022 while on suspension. Ridley caught 76 passes for 1,016 yards and eight touchdowns during his lone season with the Jaguars

Ridley is certainly talented, but this is a lot of money to give to any player, let alone one whose resume does not include a single Pro Bowl. Ridley is also going to turn 30 in December. The Titans got a talented player here, but they may have been better served signing a less expensive wideout and/or drafting one in April. 

Grade: C+ 

Colts signing Joe Flacco 

Flacco provides the Colts with much-needed depth, but it came at a steep price. Last year’s Comeback Player of the Year reportedly agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $8.7 million with $4.5 million guaranteed, per report

The 39-year-old former Super Bowl MVP played stellar for Cleveland late in the 2023 season, but some feel that he was merely the product of Kevin Stefanski’s system. Can he have the same success in Indy? Time will tell. 

Grade:

Cardinals signing Jonah Williams

Shortly after releasing D.J. Humphries, the Cardinals signed former Bengals offensive tackle Jonah Williams to a two-year, $30 million deal, according to NFL Network

While his career in Cincinnati was considered a disappointment, Williams — a 2019 first-round pick — was a consistent member of the Bengals’ starting lineup. He was also extremely durable while playing both left and right tackle during his time in Cincinnati. 

Arizona could have reached here, but this was a good signing at a key position. Making this signing even better is the fact that Williams (who is just 26) should be entering his prime years. 

Grade: A- 

Bengals signing Sheldon Rankins 

With D.J. Reader exploring free agency, the Bengals went ahead and signed Rankins to a two-year, $26 million deal, according to NFL Media

The soon-to-be 30-year-old Rankins is cashing in on his 2023 season that saw him record six sacks (his highest total since 2018), a forced fumble and a fumble return for a score. Rankins will now try to help the Bengals contain Najee Harris, Jaylen WarrenNick Chubb and Derrick Henry a combined six times a year. 

This is a lot of money for a defensive tackle, so Rankins will have to play up to his 2023 form in Cincinnati for this signing to be considered a success. 

Grade: B+ 

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