Because every major American sport that’s typically played at this time of year is now in absentia thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re shifting our attention to the most important signings, trades, rumors and trends around the NFL via a dedicated daily column. This is Free Agency Watch.
In advance of the NFL’s legal tampering period beginning on Monday at noon, the Tennessee Titans signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a four-year, $118 million contract.
The deal, which includes a whopping $62 million guaranteed, seems like an overpayment for a for a soon-to-be 32-year-old who began last season as a backup. But Tannehill did lead the Titans on a late-season run to the AFC Championship game last year, and apparently the feeling in Tennessee is that he can do it again.
In addition to making the Titans’ offseason intentions a little clearer, the Tannehill move will also likely kick off a domino effect of signings that will continue into next week and beyond.
Rumored to be on the outs in Minnesota, Kirk Cousins reached a deal with the Vikings that will keep him with the team for the next three years for approximately $96 million. Now under contract through the 2022 season, Cousins is somehow still near the top of the quarterback market in annual salary.
He’ll likely be joined at the top by Dak Prescott, who was hit with the exclusive franchise tag by the Dallas Cowboys, which is expected to be worth about $33 million. That move ensures that Prescott will be suiting up for the Cowboys in 2020, and the team has until July 15 to sign him to a multi-year contract. If the two sides can work out a deal, it will likely make Prescott the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.
Elsewhere, the franchise tag was used to retain the services of wide receiver A.J. Green (Bengals), running back Derrick Henry (Titans), defensive end Chris Jones (Chiefs) and linebacker Shaq Barrett (Bucs).
One player many thought would receive the franchise tag, Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, did not receive it.
That is going to work out quite well for him, as Hooper is reportedly working out a deal with the Cleveland Browns that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid tight end. Update: Hooper signed for four years at $44 million.
Another AFC team is also making a big change on offense, as the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals have agreed a deal that will bring David Johnson to Houston. In return, Houston is sending superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona.
It’s a confusing move by the Texans, who have essentially swapped out one of the best receivers in the NFL for a former All Pro running back who barely played last season due to injury and was ineffective when he did.
It’s not only offensive players who are cashing in, as the San Francisco 49ers inked defensive lineman Arik Armstead to a five-year, $85 million contract. Last season, the 26-year-old set career highs in sacks (10), quarterback hits (18) and tackles for loss (11).
In a related move, the 49ers sent defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the No. 13 overall pick in the draft. After the trade went down, Buckner agreed to an extension with the Colts that pays him $21 million per season.
In Tampa Bay, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul agreed to a two-year contract worth $27 million to remain with the Buccaneers. Since signing with Tampa in 2018, the 10-year veteran has racked up 21 sacks in 26 games.
Elsewhere in the NFC, the Saints issued a first-round tender worth $4.66 million to restricted free agent quarterback Taysom Hill, essentially ensuring no other team will sign him — they’d have to surrender their top pick in return for the Swiss army offensive weapon.
Also in the NFC, the Bears and Teddy Bridgewater, who spent last season with the Saints, are engaged in contract talks. The number being mentioned for Bridgewater is in the range of $21 million per year, a figure that would likely force Chicago’s hand in making the 27-year-old their starter and relegating Mitchell Trubisky to the bench.
A conflicting report says the Bears are actually looking to trade for Jacksonville quarterback Nick Foles, who was injured in Week 1 and then ultimately beaten out by rookie Gardner Minshew.
Another player whose name has reportedly emerged in trade talks is Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley.