Also, Landon Collins’ deal remains the jaw-dropper, how teams protected themselves in the slot receiver market and more on the eve of free agency.

By Albert Breer
March 12, 2019

A special Tuesday afternoon quarterback …

1. Earl Thomas’ presence on the market is interesting, given that, while he’s not quite what he once was, he’s still a damn good player and the market has recovered at the safety position after a soft 2018. So what gives? For one, he had high hopes going in, and $15 million per was a non-starter for some teams looking to fill a need. For another, the two teams that did wind up going to $14 million APY at safety were looking for different things. The Redskins got a box player in Landon Collins. And the Chiefs were already older at safety (with Thomas’ draft classmate Eric Berry), which made Tyrann Mathieu a more natural fit.

2. We’ve got an example of why it’s happened this way for Thomas, too. The Texans did have an interest in him, but wound up signing ex-Jaguar Tashaun Gipson at half of Thomas’ asking price. Why? Well, the price tag is part of it. He also played in Houston’s division, is a scheme fit because he can play man-to-man and cover tight ends, and has been durable. And then there’s the fact that he was a street free agent, not a UFA, meaning adding him won’t cost the Texans in the compensatory pick formula. It makes sense all the way around.

3. Le’Veon Bell was offered better than $15 million per in July by the Steelers. Even if the structure wasn’t perfect because of Pittsburgh’s rules on guarantees (they don’t fully guarantee future years), it’s hard to imagine Bell doesn’t regret walking away from that and sitting the season out now.

4. And Bell’s extended time on the market could be affecting another running back. He and Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman share an agent, Adisa Bakari. And you’d think that it might make sense for Coleman to take advantage of Bell’s decision to wait for a better offer. It’s harder to do that, of course, when your agent is also acting on the behalf of the guy doing the waiting. (This, by the way, is why some criticized Don Yee a couple years ago, for having both Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.)

5. Good for the slot receivers, getting paid like they are. But I thought it was interesting looking at the structure of the deals that went to new Bill Cole Beasley and new Titan Adam Humphries, and seeing that both were pretty easy for the teams to wiggle out of. Beasley’s four-year, $29 million deal includes $11.4 million in Year 1, and nothing fully guaranteed after that. Likewise, Humphries’ four-year, $36 million deal gets $12.5 million to him in 2019, and guarantees zilch after that. Slots get beat up, and the teams protected themselves here accordingly.

6. More than 24 hours in, Landon Collins’ deal remains the jaw-dropper. The Redskins gave him $32 million in the first two years, which is the kind of money a premier corner might get. In fact, it’s exactly how much the Patriots gave Stephon Gilmore, a first-team All-Pro, over the first two years of his deal.

7. So here’s the story, one more time, on Anthony Barr. On Monday night, the 26-year-old committed to the Jets, at between $14 million and $15 million per. And then, he had second thoughts. The Vikings had the sense all along Barr might not be a New York type of guy, and knew Barr valued being a part of a strong defensive group, which he has been in Minnesota. So when doubt crept in and the call from Barr came, they were ready, and upped their offer to $13.5 million, within striking distance of the Jets’ deal. Barr was satisfied with the numbers. He slept on it. The Jets came to an agreement with Ravens LB CJ Mosley overnight. They hoped a side benefit to doing that deal would be showing Barr the potential to be part of a great defense in Jersey. He woke up, thought it over, and committed to the Vikings. And that was it.

8. Barr might get killed for the waffling, but he shouldn’t. That’s what the negotiating window should be there for — so guys don’t have to make snap decisions. In this case, it gave Barr the chance to process the idea of going to the Jets and decide it wasn’t something he wanted to do. Which, ultimately, is a good outcome, given how many players wind up regretting decisions like these.

9. On the flip side, I’ll give the Jets credit for this — the guys they went after are really good players, and I’d tell you that because the teams they played for the last few years agree. When you look at a free agent, you always want to ask why another team is letting the guy go. In these cases, the Jets were pursuing players the other teams wanted to keep. Baltimore made a spirited run at keeping Mosley. Minnesota obviously wanted Barr. And the Redskins made Jamison Crowder a solid offer before he left. That should tell you something about those guys.

10. Mentioned in the Monday column two weeks ago that other teams were watching Arizona’s interest in Seattle’s Brett Hundley as a potential tell on where the Cards are going with the first overall pick. Now that it’s done, and Hundley’s a Cardinal, it’s not crazy to think the brass there might’ve seen him as a nice depth piece, stylistically, to have behind someone like Kyler Murray.

11. The trade market should rev up again over the next 24 hours, and so it’s worth keeping an eye on Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford. We told you in the MMQB that the Packers and Niners would probably wait for the first wave of free agency to pass before really moving. The Packers, we know now, are out, having signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. The Niners still have a need, and Ford might not be a bad 2019 bookend for Ohio State stud Nick Bosa … Or are we getting too far ahead of ourselves here?

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