Also, look no further than the slot receiver market to see where football is going, the door is closing on Earl Thomas in Dallas, why the Patriots will field another Top 5 offensive line and more.

By Albert Breer
March 11, 2019

And there goes free agency …

1. The Nick Foles deal is impressive in that the Jaguars really were the one horse in the race. The quarterback’s camp had hoped to engage the Redskins (who wound up trading for Case Keenum instead) and/or Dolphins. And it didn’t work out that way. So to get a middle-class quarterback contract — at $88 million over four years, with upside to $102 million — isn’t bad work, considering the circumstances.

2. Foles's deal really ties the team to him for two years. As a practical matter, the $46.625 million over the first two years are guaranteed. There’s $5 million in injury guarantees for 2021, and that money becomes fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster in 2020. So that $5 million would be the cost for walking away from him in two years.

3. The slot receiver market is a reflection of where football is going — this used to be where New England would find huge steals (Julian Edelman, by the way, is still on a contract that pays him $5.5 million per), because few other teams value slots like the Patriots have. Now? The Titans and Jets both went in on slots in the $8 million-$10 million range that was expected coming out of the combine. Which means guys like Jamison Crowder and Adam Humphries (and Cole Beasley soon, too) owe the Edelmans of the world a debt of gratitude.

4. Last year, free agency gave us the richest tackle (Nate Solder), guard (Andrew Norwell) and center (Ryan Jensen) contracts in NFL history, and the trend of crashing Brinks Trucks into the living rooms of the big guys continued with Trent Brown scoring a four-year, $66 million deal with the Raiders, after a single year as New England’s left tackle. Is this about the best players at those positions getting to the market? Hardly. Because of the way the game is being played in college, and because restrictions on practice contact at every level of football, it’s getting harder and harder to evaluate and develop linemen. So if a competent one (or even someone like Bobby Hart) makes it to the market, he’s getting paid.

5. This is another advantage the Patriots have over everyone else. They’ve found a way to ID and develop linemen in an environment where others have struggled, which is a gigantic credit to long-time line coach Dante Scarnecchia. They rank 21st in offensive line spending for 2019. And my guess is they’ll have a Top 5 unit again in the fall, after losing left tackles that got paid at the very top of the market in consecutive years.

6. The contract that baffled NFL people — Landon Collins scoring a six-year, $84 million deal with $45 million in the first three years. And it’s not that Collins isn’t a good player. He’s fine. But he’s a box safety who’s very limited in coverage in an era where most of the guys at the position that get paid are centerfielders or converted corners. In fact, in New York, he was more of a hybrid linebacker type, which explains why they couldn’t wrap their heads around tagging him at over $11 million. The Redskins better have a plan for Collins that brings the kind of value out in him that justifies the investment.

7. How quick can one contract affect another? I’m told the Collins deal almost immediately impacted Tyrann Mathieu’s fortunes. No mistake then that the APY (average per year) on his three-year, $42 million deal in Kansas City is identical to what Collins got in D.C. All of this also makes Earl Thomas’ financial target — teams have been told it’s $15 million per — seem reasonable.

8. Unless Thomas takes an enormous discount (I doubt it), we can probably close the door on him coming home to play for the Cowboys. Dallas has too many guys to take care of (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, DeMarcus Lawrence, Byron Jones, Jaylon Smith) to bring in a high-end free agent, a reality that comes with the solid job they’ve done turning over the roster the last five years.

9. We’ll see where it goes, but the bidding on Ravens free agent CJ Mosley has gotten even crazier than expected, and could push his APY on a new deal past the $16 million mark. Staffers in Baltimore are bracing for his departure, which, of course, would compound the losses of Eric Weddle and Terrell Suggs.

10. One name you’re not hearing much about: Teddy Bridgewater. At this point, Miami may be the only place where there’s an opening for a starting quarterback. We’ll see where Bridgewater (who’s from Miami) goes.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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