The NFL offseason is traditionally highlighted by the big-name deals that see a star player move onto his next team. A particular example this year would be the Miami Dolphins breaking the bank and giving then Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones a five year, 82 million dollar contract. However, the media often misses out on deals for a fraction of that cost. Here are 5 of the best bargain contracts of this past NFL offseason.
*All Stats are courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted
Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers (two years, 12 million)
The Steelers managing to steal Ebron for a mere six million a year should be recognized as an elite move. Some teams may have been scared off by his ankle issues, but not Pittsburgh. He eventually landed on the IR in Week nine, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. However, just two seasons ago, Ebron could have been considered a top-five tight end in the league.
He was named a Pro Bowler and finished second in the league in receiving touchdowns with 13. He finished with a career-high 110 targets and converted that into a 60% catch percentage, just slightly below his career average. Two division rivals, the Bengals and Browns, gave up a combined 16 touchdowns to opposing tight ends last season. Ebron should have no problem finding the endzone in those division games. Pittsburgh hasn’t utilized their tight ends much as of late, with only 76 of the team’s 488 total pass attempts going to tight ends in 2019, according to the Football Guys. However, the potential of Ebron combined with the return of star quarterback Ben Rothlisberger from injury could mean Ebron is poised for another Pro Bowl-caliber year.
Adrian Phillips, S, New England Patriots (two years, 6 million)
Phillips presents another situation where a team has to look past last year and see the peak, recent production. Phillips struggled with injuries last year, going on IR in Week two due to a broken forearm. He returned to action for the final five weeks of the season but was unable to make up the production from missing more than half the season. His injury may have caused him to fly under the radar slightly this offseason, and the Patriots took advantage of that and snapped him up to a 3 million dollar per year deal.
During his All-Pro and Pro Bowl season in 2018, Phillips managed 94 combined tackles, 9 passes defended, and 4 tackles for loss. His value comes with his special team’s versatility. He plays a lot of snaps on special teams and can be a rotational box safety with rookie Kyle Dugger this upcoming season with the Patriots. Phillips may not be the flashiest player but he can fill many different roles on the defense. He has veteran experience and intelligence to play the safety position, two highly coveted attributes to legendary Patriots coach Bill Belichick
Gerald McCoy, DT, Dallas Cowboys (three years, 18 million)
McCoy has built a reputation throughout the league for his time spent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was a six-time Pro Bowler during his nine years with the Bucs and amassed 59.5 sacks during that time. Now with the Cowboys, after spending one season in Carolina after his contract expired with the Bucs, McCoy will provide a talented, veteran presence in the middle of the defensive line.
McCoy has been a model of consistency throughout his entire career. He only has been placed on the injured reserve list twice during his nine-year stint with the Buccaneers. He has only missed 18 of a potential 180 regular-season games, an absurd number given the nature of the NFL. His game has remained consistent as well, only totaling less than 5 sacks in two of his ten seasons in the league. He has proven he is still at the top of his game even going into his 11th year in the league. McCoy has totaled 46 pressures between his last two seasons with Tampa and Carolina. The Cowboys should be excited about the prospect of pairing him alongside star tackle Demarcus Lawrence. They also should be more excited it came at only six million dollars per year.
Todd Gurley, RB, Atlanta Falcons (one year, 5.5 million)
This deal is a double-edged sword for the Falcons, but Gurley has proven he has the talent to be a top-end RB1 in the league. He led the league in rushing and total touchdowns in both 2017 and 2018, making the Pro Bowl both years. He finished with 2093 scrimmage yards in 2017, good for first in the NFL that season. The Georgia product during 2017 and 2018 seasons produced some of the best single-season numbers from a running back in NFL history.
That all came to a halt during this past season. Gurley had issues with his knees and was struggling to stay healthy. He was eventually diagnosed with arthritis, a tough blow for a relatively young player. If not for his immense proven talent, Gurley may have had his career ended with such a diagnosis. There is no cure to arthritis, and it is instead something that one must tread lightly on. His injury concerns would not be an issue except when you look at the Falcons running back core.
They let go of Devonta Freeman this past offseason with Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, and Ito Smith now filling in behind Gurley. All of those guys are respectable rotational backs, as they only accounted for 122 rushing attempts combined this past season. They will likely serve that role for most of their careers. However, those guys will be expected to take the bulk of carries to preserve Gurley for the most important downs and plays.
If the Falcons give Gurley 20-25 touches right out of the gate, his knee issues will inevitably return. If they split touches between the three other rotational backs and save Gurley for the most important down, they will be getting the fresh, prime 2017 Todd Gurley.
Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers (two years, 20 million)
The Carolina Panthers may have had one of the most productive offseasons in the NFL. They started by hiring then-Baylor head coach Matt Rhule to a 7-year deal and signing former Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a lucrative three-year deal. One underrated move that may have gotten lost in the shuffle was signing Anderson. At first glance, the deal seems at a reasonable price. Anderson only managed 52 receptions and 779 yards, average for a receiver. Those numbers appear appalling until you consider how horrendous the New York Jets offense was this year.
The Jets ranked 31st in the league in points scored, which was the worst mark in the franchise’s history. They also ranked 28th in total offensive plays. This meant that whatever volume Anderson did get was limited compared to other receivers around the league. In addition, Anderson dealt with poor quarterback play from Sam Darnold. Darnold severely underwhelmed in his second year in the league with a porous 19-13 touchdown to interception ratio.
The Panthers run a much more competent offense than the Jets. Their focal point is clear in superstar running back Christian McCaffery. Their new quarterback, Bridgewater, has already proven himself as well. He stepped in flawlessly as the Saints starting quarterback when Drew Brees went down to injury this past year. Anderson also won’t be keyed in on by opposing teams defenses on a week to week basis. This is because he will be flanked by emerging star DJ Moore and McCaffery out of the backfield. Anderson can then match up in single coverage more often and turn in a productive season for the Panthers. 10 million a year appears fair based on the stats alone, but an improved situation means Anderson will likely turn this contract into a steal.