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Defense Wins Championships; Defenders Win Free Agency

Through the start of business on Thursday morning, the free-agent market has been slanted overwhelmingly to the defensive side of the ball.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Talk to an NFL defensive player, and he’ll tell you the rules are slanted toward the offense.

That’s probably true, but free agency is definitely slanted toward the defense.

According to Spotrac, as of Thursday morning, the top five position groups in terms of free-agent contracts are on the defensive side of the ball.

Topping the list is cornerback, with 10 contracts totaling $292.0 million. Byron Jones became the highest-paid player at the position by switching from Dallas to Miami with a five-year, $82.5 million contract. James Bradberry (Carolina to the Giants), Trae Waynes (Minnesota to Cincinnati) and Kendall Fuller (Kansas City to Washington) signed deals worth at least $40 million.

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Second is defensive tackle, with 11 contracts totaling $254.0 million. D.J. Reader’s four-year, $53 million contract to go from Houston to Cincinnati tops the list, and three others signed contracts worth at least $30 million.

Third is inside linebacker, with seven contracts totaling $213.8 million. This was a key position for the Packers but they were priced out of the market. Joe Schobert signed a five-year, $53.75 million contract to go from Cleveland to Jacksonville, Kyle Van Noy signed a four-year, $51 million contract to go from New England to Miami, Cory Littleton signed a three-year, $35.25 million contract to go from the Rams to Las Vegas and Blake Martinez signed a three-year, $30.75 million contract to leave Green Bay and join the Giants.

The top position on offense? It’s guard, a position that had long been a relative afterthought in the eyes of personnel evaluators. Nine guards have signed contracts worth $156.9 million. Quarterback is next with five deals worth $124.1 million, a figure that does not include Tom Brady’s deal with Tampa Bay.

Amazingly, the offensive skill positions are stuck in purgatory. A not-so-grand total of four players have signed free-agent contracts worth just $49.3 million. Six individuals – all on defense, of course – have signed richer contracts.