5 most underrated NFL free agency signings thus far this offseason
Despite the fact that the rest of the world is currently in flux, the NFL has managed to trudge forward — at least for now. Although the start of the 2020 campaign might be quite far off as it stands today, the latest installment of NFL free agency remains in full swing with players changing teams left and right.
While there is certainly a slew of talented players left on the open market, most of which will be signed in the coming weeks, this year’s slate has already seen the majority of the league’s unrestricted free agents find new homes or re-up to stay put. With the 2020 NFL Draft still over one month away, teams will continue to address various needs through the free-agent market with some soon-to-be first-year players now not too far away from becoming professional athletes.
As big names and highly-regarded superstar-caliber players continue to sign new contracts; it is easy to forget some of the players that serve as “glue guys” and possess the ability to help their new teams in massive ways even though they aren’t necessarily considered to be the cream of the crop by some. With that in mind, there are already more than a few recently-signed players that could ultimately be crowned as some of the most underrated signings of this offseason.
Former Tennessee Titans starting right tackle Jack Conklin has officially signed a multi-year free agent contract as a member of the Cleveland Browns. After serving as an All-Pro selection for the Titans as a rookie out of Michigan State, Conklin then encountered some inconsistent play paired with a bit of injury trouble during his remaining years in Tennessee. Thanks to such instances, the Titans ultimately declined Conklin’s fifth-year option prior to the start of the 2019-20 campaign. Unfortunately for the Titans and thankfully for the Browns, Conklin impressed in a big way this past season en route to cashing in on the open market.
Had Tennessee been able to go back in time, the Titans most certainly would have picked up his fifth-year option while Conklin now can make an immediate impact as a cornerstone for the Browns going forward.
EDGE Vic Beasley, Tennessee Titans (Previous Team: Atlanta Falcons)
By not re-signing current Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Jack Conklin, the Tennessee Titans saved themselves a nice chunk of change. With the money that was saved by letting Conklin walk, the Titans managed to sign former Atlanta Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley, who inked a relatively cheap, one-year “prove it” deal with the AFC South franchise.
If Beasley can return to form in 2020, it will benefit both the former Falcons standout and the Titans as a whole. If Beasley has a big year, he will more than likely make a massive free-agent splash next year while the Titans hope the former first-round pick can create a deadly duo alongside fellow edge rusher Harold Landry. The Titans also remain in the market for former Seattle Seahawks, and Houston Texans pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, who could cap off quite the pass-rushing trio in Nashville.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers (Previous Team: New Orleans Saints)
Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has since become the presumed starter under center for the rival Carolina Panthers. With the Panthers slated to move on from former league MVP Cam Newton this offseason, Bridgewater seems to be primed to step right in and lead Carolina for at least the next few seasons. Although impressing at times with the Saints after a lengthy and tumultuous stint with the Minnesota Vikings, it was never Bridgewater’s team in New Orleans.
Now, he will take over as the main man in Carolina, which could pay dividends for both sides. Not only that but in order to compete in the NFC South division these days, teams need to be extra strong at the quarterback position. If the Panthers are going to take down Bridgewater’s former employer in the Saints, newcomer Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Matt Ryan and the pesky Atlanta Falcons, the team had no choice but to address its glaring need under center this offseason.
LB Christian Kirksey, Green Bay Packers (Previous Team: Cleveland Browns)
It has not been smooth sailing for veteran NFL linebacker Christian Kirksey, who was previously released by the Cleveland Browns earlier this offseason. Leading to his eventual departure from Cleveland, Kirksey encountered an injury-plagued final go-round as a member of the Browns. However, the seasoned tackler was quickly able to latch on with the Green Bay Packers, a team that infamously addressed a ton of defensive needs by way of free agency last offseason.
While Kirksey still has some serious upside as a big-time defensive playmaker, generally speaking, he can also help Green Bay fill the void left by current New York Giants linebacker Blake Martinez, who recently side with the once heralded NFC East franchise earlier this offseason. Of course, Kirksey must remain healthy and on the field in order for the Packers to truly get their money’s worth.
An absolutely prolific playmaker for the Indianapolis Colts over the course of the last few seasons, veteran tight end Eric Ebron is now moving on to his third NFL franchise. Prior to arriving in Indianapolis, which helped revive his professional career, Ebron struggled through the beginning of his NFL tenure as a member of the Detroit Lions. However, Ebron has shown glimpses of greatness during his stints with both the Lions and Colts with the Pittsburgh Steelers now in position to really reap the benefits of his uptick in production.
Ebron will provide the Steelers with a veteran presence on and off the field in addition to serving as a legitimate option at a position other than wide receiver. It is also worth noting that Ebron could be especially useful for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the red zone.