Dan Favale | Thu 05/04/2018 - 04:47 EDT

NFL's Best Free Agency Moves So Far

NFL's Best Free Agency Moves So Far
Though the NFL offseason still has a few months left in the tank, the biggest free-agency moves have, for the most part, already been made. Stars have changed teams. Lucrative contracts have been offered. The cosmetic makeup of certain squads has significantly changed. What's this mean for you, as you consider offseason futures and prepare yourself for regular-season wagering? We rank the best free-agency transactions so far to give you an idea of which teams you absolutely, positively must keep an eye on in the months and season to come.

All Super Bowl odds come courtesy of TopBet. While these lines won't move much in the coming weeks, they can and will intermittently shift—particularly as more signings go down, and especially after the NFL draft. As a result, make sure you're double-checking these numbers with your preferred sportsbook before making any sweeping decisions.

5. New York Giants (+5000): LT Nate Solder


Nate Solder's age will concern many people—and rightfully so. He turns 30 on April 12 and doesn't really fit the rebuilding motif some believe the New York Giants might eventually embrace.

Yet even if they end up trading star wideout Odell Beckham Jr., and even if they wind up drafting a quarterback, the Giants have no immediate plans to start over. Eli Manning has a couple of years left on his deal, and they invested in additional veterans, such as running back Jonathan Stewart, to help them rebound from last season's three-win implosion.

Four years and $62 million is still a lot for Solder. That much isn't debatable. But he injects desperately needed confidence into the left tackle position. He was a standout blind-side stopper during his entire tenure in New England and plugs what was clearly the Giants' biggest hole.

Granted, left tackle alone isn't responsible for last year's offensive letdown. Injuries invaded that side of the ball, and the entire offensive line was nothing to write home about. But Solder's arrival has a trickle-down effect. Most notably: Ereck Flowers can pitch in at right tackle, where he was always best suited.

We shouldn't expect Solder to help spearhead a Pro Bowl season from Manning or anything crazy like that. If the Giants hold onto Beckham, though, it's perfectly feasible for them to reclaim top-10 offensive status. 

4. Los Angeles Rams (+1500): DT Ndamukong Suh


Most of the Los Angeles Rams' damage this offseason has been done on the trade market. They probably have the best collective slate of moves in the league under their belt.

Signing Ndamukong Suh is a crucial part of that resume.

As many have pointed out, he isn't the perfect fit for their defense. He's not used to playing a bunch of 3-4 zone sets, and he'll likely need to learn how to survive vast amounts of snaps at nose tackle. That's all fine.

The Rams have paired him with reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. It's tough to imagine this marriage going south (on the field). Suh is talented enough to adjust.

Plus, let's not pretend the Rams' defense didn't need some new blood. They finished 12th in points allowed per game on the season, but they also started to show cracks down the stretch. They ranked 30th overall in rushing yards allowed per attempt and were in the bottom five of both total rushing yards and touchdowns. 

Suh helps them address their most glaring weakness—and his arrival comes not a moment too soon. The Rams, after all, need a sturdier defensive identity following the exit of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who was a pivotal cog in their league-best offense. 

3. Kansas City Chiefs (+3000): WR Sammy Watkins


Speaking of Sammy Watkins, what a win for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Plenty of risk is caked into this deal. Watkins is being paid like a No. 1 receiver. And what's wrong with that? He'll have the freedom and flexibility to make big-time plays beside tight end Travis Kelce and long-yardage specialist Tyreek Hill. He would also be considered a no-brainer alpha option if not for his repeated brush with injuries over the past few years.

Still, the Chiefs needed to make this kind of splash after trading Alex Smith.

Patrick Mahomes II is currently ticketed for starter duty, and he has all of one NFL game to his credentials.. They need all the skills players they can get their hands on if they're going to transcend the learning curve attached to someone who's basically a rookie. 

Provided he's healthy, Watkins will help soften the blow of losing a seasoned game manager like Smith.  

2. Minnesota Vikings (+1100): QB Kirk Cousins


Kirk Cousins is costing the Minnesota Vikings a lot of money at three years and $84 million. But they were always going to have to shell out massive amounts of cash at the QB position.

All three of their other quarterbacks—Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum (more on him very soon) and Sam Bradford—commanded raises from different teams. The Vikings essentially consolidated their spending power into one player. And they were fairly savvy to do so.

Last season's team was fine with Keenum steering them from under center. But the Vikings need better than fine after making it to the NFC Championship. They were 21st in pass attempts during the regular season. Cousins has been one of the most high-volume, and effective, quarterbacks for the past two seasons. He elevates their offensive ceiling to demonstrative degrees.

Don't be surprised if the Vikings improve upon their top-10 average in points per game. In fact, they should noticeably build upon that. They now have league-best defense and top-five offense potential—and, by extension, deep-playoff-run aspirations.

Investing in Cousins at this price point is no doubt a gamble, but at 29, he's in thick of his prime. Where the Vikings didn't have a possible superstar under center before, they do now. That makes him worth the risk.

1. Denver Broncos (+3500): QB Case Keenum


You should most definitely love this signing if you're a Denver Broncos fans.

No, Case Keenum isn't a superstar quarterback. But he doesn't need to be. He's costing roughly $10 million less than the Vikings gave Kirk Cousins. That's phenomenal value for someone who profiles as something of an Alex Smith knockoff.

Do not interpret this as an insult. On the contrary, it's a testament to Keenum's development in Minnesota last year. He occassionally completed big plays—like the one that earned the Vikings a trip to the NFC title game. Otherwise, he owned his niche role by protecting the ball, executing short-to-modest yardage passes and milking the run game.

The Broncos need someone exactly like him to maximize their personnel. They still have two primetime wideouts, in Emmanuel Sanders and Demariyus Thomas, who can make average to slightly above-average QBs look like studs. And Keenum might be an upgrade even when measured against those expectations.

At the bare minimum, he represents a step in an upward direction compared to last year's carousel of QBs that included Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler. Those three, together, helmed an offense that placed 27th in points scored per game, 28th in net yards per attempt, 25th in total touchdowns, 20th in total yards and, worst of all, 31st in total interceptions.

So, yeah, Keenum is going to make a difference in Denver—probably a monstrous one.

*All stats come courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.

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