Grading the early impact deals of NFL free agency
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The NFL's "legal tampering" period opened with a flurry on Monday, resulting in many top free agents reportedly deciding their future home ahead of the new league year Wednesday. With many moves virtually in the books, theScore's Jack Browne, Mitch Sanderson, and Mike Alessandrini grade the biggest signings upon first look.

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

Contract: 3 years, $86 million fully guaranteed

Cousins certainly deserves a round of applause from the rest of the NFLPA (or at least, the quarterbacks) for securing a fully guaranteed contract. But from the Vikings' point of view, this is a pretty major risk. Cousins put up good numbers with the Redskins in an offense that loved to throw it deep, but the Vikings are a defense-first team who now risk being unable to keep their elite defenders. Cousins will earn $10 million more than Case Keenum per season going forward, and the chances he's worth $10 million more are slim. - Sanderson

Grade: B-

Drew Brees, Saints

Contract: 2 years, $50 million with $27 million guaranteed

Brees put Saints fans through a bit of a scare, but it all worked out in the end. The future Hall of Famer reportedly took a hometown discount to remain in New Orleans, declining a two-year deal worth $60 million guaranteed from an unnamed team. With a $25-million annual average, Brees' salary ranks fifth in the league and allows the Saints some space to upgrade in hopes of giving their star quarterback another ring. - Sanderson

Grade: A

Case Keenum, Broncos

Contract: 2 years, $36 million (guaranteed money yet to be reported)

Paying Case Keenum $18 million per season would have seemed ludicrous just 12 short months ago (in fact, the Vikings had him on a $2-million deal for 2017). But he proved himself a capable starter while in Minnesota - something the Broncos have lacked for some time - and his contract puts him just 20th in yearly salary among quarterbacks. Keenum will have strong receiving targets in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, as well as a top-tier defense, just as he did in Minnesota. The only potential problem for Denver is if Keenum returns to his journeyman status before whatever rookie quarterback they likely draft is ready to take over. - Browne

Grade: B-

Sam Bradford, Cardinals

Contract: 1 year, $20 million with $15 million guaranteed

Teams continue to pay Sam Bradford. The 2010 first-overall pick is a fine quarterback when healthy; he's just never healthy. The signal-caller played in just two games in 2017, battling a chronic knee injury. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer recently called Bradford's knee "degenerative," so Arizona offering $15 million guaranteed is puzzling at best. He looked excellent at times during his tenure in Minnesota, but this feels like a panicked signing. The length and salary keep this just above "F" territory. - Alessandrini

Grade: D

Jimmy Graham, Packers

Contract: 3 years (money yet to be reported)

Didn't the Packers just try this? Martellus Bennett signed a three-year deal last offseason with high expectations, as he was seemingly the best tight end Aaron Rodgers had ever gotten the chance to play with. While we don't know how much they paid for him yet, Graham looks to fit a similar mold to Bennett. The 31-year-old has been a shell of himself since his 2015 patellar tendon injury and has never been able to provide much in terms of blocking. Graham needs to fill a big role, especially in the red zone, after Jordy Nelson was released. - Sanderson

Grade: C+

Allen Robinson, Bears

Contract: 3 years, $42 million with $25 million guaranteed

After fielding a dreadful receiving corps in 2017, the Bears signed one of the top pass-catchers available in 2018. We can't fault them for this, as there's no doubting Allen Robinson's talent. The annual average value and guaranteed amounts (both ranking in the top eight among wide receivers) are somewhat concerning, however. Robinson's breakout season is now three years in the rear-view mirror and he's coming off a torn ACL. The wideout could fit nicely into new head coach Matt Nagy's offense, but this signing carries considerable risk as well. - Alessandrini

Grade: B-

Sammy Watkins, Chiefs

Contract: 3 years, $48 million with $30 million guaranteed

The Chiefs apparently intend to throw exclusively downfield next season. Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill are now likely the fastest receiving tandem in the league, but while Patrick Mahomes might have the arm to make it work, he's still a rookie and pushing the ball deep will be a challenge. Then, there's the money and the health concerns. Watkins is talented but has consistently struggled to stay healthy. Even if he can perform at a good level, it's close to impossible he will be able to live up to being paid more than every receiver not named Antonio Brown or DeAndre Hopkins - Browne

Grade: D

Andrew Norwell, Jaguars

Contract: 5 years, $66.5 million with $30 million guaranteed

It was assumed, prior to free agency, that Norwell was a lock to join his former Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, now with the Giants, but the Jaguars swooped in and used their limited cap space to secure one of the top prizes of free agency. Norwell is an elite pass-protector and above average run-blocker, and instantly upgrades a subpar Jaguars offensive line. His reported contract - worth $66.5 million over five years - is steep, but Jacksonville had very few holes in its roster and could afford to fill one with a player coming off his first All-Pro nod. - Browne

Grade: A

Malcolm Butler, Titans

Contract: 5 years, $61 million with $30 million guaranteed

A Super Bowl benching is hard to swallow, but Butler finally getting his long-desired payday - around $61 million over five years - from the Titans should make it a little easier to live with. Tennessee will be hoping it's getting something the defense has needed for years: a No. 1 cornerback. While Butler has played like one at times, he's also struggled with game-to-game consistency. He might not be the type of player who can excel when not surrounded by good talent and coaching, and the Titans certainly paid him as if he is one. - Browne

Grade: C+

Trumaine Johnson, Jets

Contract: Roughly $15 million per season (full terms yet to be reported)

Johnson has found a hole in the system. The good-not-great cornerback got the franchise tag two years in a row from the Rams, resulting in him earning over $30 million despite no Pro Bowl or All-Pro nods. Now, he's going to be tied as the highest-paid corner in the league, essentially because he was the best option on the board after Butler signed and the Jets had a ton of cap space to burn. Great move for Johnson, wild over-payment by the Jets. - Sanderson

Grade: C

Muhammad Wilkerson, Packers

Contract: 1 year, $5 million, plus $3 million in incentives

One of the better signings of the day, Wilkerson provides an instant upgrade along Green Bay's defensive line, forming a dynamic trio with Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels. A one-year contract for $5 million is a perfect deal for the veteran defensive lineman. Wilkerson will be motivated to shake the negative image he was tagged with toward the end of his Jets tenure, and he reunites with former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who worked in New York from 2009-2012. Wilkerson dominated during that span. - Alessandrini

Grade: A

Anthony Hitchens, Chiefs

Contract: 5 years, $45 million (guaranteed money yet to be reported)

This is a total headscratcher. Hitchens is a solid starting inside linebacker, but he does not deserve to have the fifth-highest annual average salary ($9 million) at the position. He's never been to a Pro Bowl or recorded 100 tackles in a season. He doesn't generate turnovers and his new team doesn't have the money to overpay someone just because he's pretty young. Valuing Hitchens this much just doesn't make any sense. - Sanderson

Grade: D

Trey Burton, Bears

Contract: 4 years, $32 million (guaranteed money yet to be reported)

One of the more interesting signings Tuesday, Trey Burton adds another pass-catching option to Matt Nagy's offense with 2017 second-rounder Adam Shaheen. Most famously known for throwing a touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl, Burton was Philadelphia's backup tight end the last four seasons. He's made the most of his opportunities, though, flashing as an impact pass-catcher and matchup nightmare. The annual average value is quite high for a player with limited starting experience, but if Burton plays up to his potential, he'll be worth the money - Alessandrini

Grade: B

Grading the early impact deals of NFL free agency
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