Signing veteran free agents to cost effective contacts is a crucial element of roster building for any successful franchise. The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the best organizations at identifying undervalued free agents and signing them to below market contracts. Michael McCrary, Corey Graham, Jacoby Jones and Bernard Pollard all fit the mold of shrewd bargain singings who were important pieces on Raven championship teams.
So who were the best bargain signings so far this offseason?
Leodis McKelvin: Philadelphia Eagles, 2-year $6 million
McKelvin was once one of the top dozen or so corners in the NFL. But he has struggled with injuries in recent seasons and lost some speed. Still, $3 million per season with even less guaranteed is a strong value for a starting caliber cornerback in the current market.
Robert Ayers: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 3-year $21 million
Ayers recorded nine sacks in twelve games and is a strong run defender to boot. He was one of the better defensive ends on the market and his contract only guarantees $10.5 million.
Jerrell Freeman: Chicago Bears, 3-year $12 million
Freeman is a well rounded inside linebacker who racks up tackles and is solid in pass coverage. With only half of the contract guaranteed, this is a relative bargain for an above average defender.
Casey Hayward: San Diego Chargers, 3-year $15.3 million
Hayward is one of the best coverage cornerbacks when healthy, which has been an issue for him lately. He can play outside or in the slot but is not very good in run support. Risk is minimized with $6.8 million guaranteed.
Prince Amukamara: Jacksonville Jaguars, 1-year $5 million
The quintessential 'prove it' one year contract. Amukamara is a solid corner in all aspects but not great in any facet. For $5 million, the risk is worth the reward if he can finally remain healthy.
Evan Mathis: Arizona Cardinals, 1-year $6 million
Mathis is becoming a full fledged mercenary by signing another one year contract. He will turn 35 during the season but is still one of the top interior offensive lineman in the NFL. This signing makes a lot of sense for a team that believes they are close to the Super Bowl.
Chris Long: New England Patriots, 1-year $2 million
Long never lived up to expectations as a high draft pick, but he is an every down defensive end. For only $2 million, even a rotational contribution will provide good return on the investment.
Andre Smith: Minnesota Vikings, 1-year $3.5 million
Smith is a talented offensive tackle who has regressed in recent seasons. $3.5 million is quite reasonable for a player with his pedigree and a one year contract is smart for a player with motivation issues.
Courtney Upshaw: Atlanta Falcons, 1-year $1.25 million
Upshaw is a two down run stuffer who can bring needed toughness to their defense. He still has room for improvement at 26 years old. Barely more than the veteran minimum is a bargain price tag for Courtney.
Rashad Johnson: Tennessee Titans, 1-year $2 million
Johnson is a solid all around safety with considerable playmaking ability. A starting safety for $2 million represents strong value.
Zach Brown: Buffalo Bills, 1-year $1.25 million
Brown is a quality coverage linebacker with great pursuit skills, but he struggles against the run. He is 26 years old and still has time to reach his potential.
Reggie Nelson: Oakland Raiders, 2-year $8.5 million
Nelson is 32 years old but still one of the best free safeties at playing the 'centerfield' role in the entire league. Eight interceptions last season for only $4 million guaranteed is the epitome of value.
Who is the best bargain signing so far this offseason? Do you wish the Ravens signed any of these players?