Free Agency 2023 is casting its shadow. So it’s time to look back at last year. Which teams have done particularly well when it comes to free agent signings? What were the best deals of 2022?
5. By Miller – Edge Rusher, Buffalo Bills
Contract: 6 years, $120 million ($45 million guaranteed)
Yes, Miller was seriously injured in week 11 and missed the rest of the season including the playoffs. But that’s not to detract from the fact that he’s basically been doing what he was hired to do up to that point. Namely plays when it counted.
Miller had 8 sacks and 27 pressures in his 11 games. That was just one less pressure than in 15 games last year with the Broncos and Rams combined. So he was clearly on his way to a really strong season in Buffalo.
He will certainly soon be 34 years old and is coming back from a long injury break. But even at 33 he showed that he still has a lot in the tank. If he can still manage to be healthy at the end of the season, that would be a serious reinforcement compared to the other defensive personnel of the Bills.
4. James Bradberry – Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles
Contract: 1 year, $7.3 million (fully guaranteed)
It was his holding that ultimately decided the Super Bowl – a call that you don’t have to make as a referee. But up until that tragic end, Bradberry was a very good complement to Darius Slay on the other side of the Eagles secondary, which ranked among the best the NFL had to offer in 2022.
The Giants had released him for cap reasons and the Eagles attacked quickly, which noticeably stabilized a long-standing construction site in the squad. He ended up having arguably his best coverage season since at least 2018, with an approved passer rating of 51.6 and just 2 handed touchdowns as the closest defender.
Bradberry not only helped the Eagles to a Super Bowl trip, he also did his own publicity. With his prove-it deal, he has proven himself and should now get another long-term contract.
3. DJ Reed – cornerback, New York Jets
Contract: 3 years, $33 million ($21 million guaranteed)
His signing certainly wasn’t the number one topic of conversation this past offseason. He flew under the radar and was certainly viewed more as a nice-to-have player than a real reinforcement.
But what he ended up playing was really good. He knew Robert Saleh’s defense from their days together in San Francisco (2018, 2019), where Reed got his start as a former fifth-round pick before going to Seattle for two years.
Accordingly, it wasn’t particularly difficult for him to get used to Gang Green. On the contrary. He secured the other Side of the secondary very well off. So the other side across from star rookie Sauce Gardner, who overshadowed almost all players in this position in the first year. But in his shadow, Reed impressed with a strong season that gives hope for the future and gives the Jets the opportunity to focus primarily on offense in the upcoming offseason.
2. Haason Reddick – Edge Rusher, Philadelphia Eagles
Contract: 3 years, $45 million ($30 million guaranteed)
Given his production, Reddick was probably the bargain of the year. He was one of the best pass rushers in the league, averaging 16 sacks and 41 pressures. He also led the league with an impressive 5 forced fumbles.
Reddick was one of the main reasons why the Eagles’ defense was so impressive and ended up producing so efficiently.
Reddick had previously played in Carolina for a year and already indicated there what is possible with him in the right role. In Philly he then emphatically confirmed the impression and positioned himself early on for a possible further contract.
The Eagles may lose a few key players, but their best pass rusher is likely to be a few years from now.
1. Geno Smith – Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
Contract: 1 year, $3.5 million ($500,000 guaranteed)
Okay, so maybe Geno Smith was the biggest bargain after all.
Smith had become a free agent after two years as a backup behind Russell Wilson and signed for another year with the Northwest because he saw a chance to compete with Drew Lock for the starter job after Wilson’s departure.
A wise move for both Smith and the Seahawks, because where else would he end up being one of the most efficient starters all season?
Smith not only won the duel with Lock, he also played what was by far his best season in the NFL – seven years after his last gig as a starter with the Jets. Smith was the surprise of the season.
He led the league with a pass rate of 69.8 percent and led the Seahawks, who were actually in the rebuild and should probably still be, into the playoffs. The Seahawks are relevant again faster than anyone would have thought after Wilson’s departure. And he himself is now facing his first big payday in the NFL – whether in Seattle or elsewhere.