We are now officially in the midst of the 2022 league year in the NFL. At 4 p.m. ET, the league rang in the new year, meaning teams are now able to make all of their free-agent agreements they reached during the two-day legal tampering period official, along with any trades that have occurred to this point. Of course, there has been plenty of action leading up to the start of the new league year, and several superstars are going to officially land with their new teams Wednesday.
While it’s technically the first day of free agency, it’s really Day 3 when factoring in the legal tampering period and the deals that have been agreed to over the last few days. In this post, we’re going to dive into the top new moves that were made Wednesday and hand out our grades for those transactions across the league.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Von Miller leaves Rams for Bills
Von Miller was traded from the Broncos to the Rams in the middle of last season, and he helped L.A. win a Super Bowl. Buffalo is hoping Miller can do it again, as the Bills stole him from the West Coast with a six-year, $120 million deal that includes $51.345 million guaranteed, per CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson. The deal is constructed a bit differently, as it’s not $20 million per year. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport says the deal is backloaded, and averages $17.5 million over the first four years.
The length of the deal and the dollar amount are pretty shocking, but the bottom line is that this makes the Bills immediately better. It took a lot to steal Miller away from the Rams, Broncos, Cowboys and other suitors, but they were able to find a way to do just that. Miller has tread left on the tires, and he feels like he has a lot of good football left, per NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo. Buffalo is all-in.
Raiders land Chandler Jones, trade for Rock Ya-Sin
The Raiders made a signing and trade essentially in lockstep, so we are lumping them together here. The club signed outside linebacker Chandler Jones to a three-year deal reportedly worth roughly $51 million and soon after traded away fellow pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue to the Colts for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin. The addition of Jones and Ya-Sin upgrades Las Vegas’ defense in two areas. Jones is coming off one of his better seasons in the NFL in 2021, as his 87.7 pass-rushing grade, per PFF, was the second-best of his career. He’s routinely been a double-digit sack producer when healthy and should form a lethal combo with Maxx Crosby off the edge. Meanwhile, the former second-round pick in Ya-Sin is only 26-years-old and allowed a reception percentage of 56.5% last year, which was a career-best. Getting an upgrade off the edge and possibly an ascending player in the secondary are slam dunks for the Raiders.
Colts trade for Yannick Ngakoue
Ngakoue has traveled around quite a bit in his career, but the pass rusher is still only 26-years old and should help a Colts defense that was the 18th-best pressure unit in the NFL last year, according to PFF. His age also fits nicely with others along the front seven like DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, and Kwity Paye, so Indy could be looking at a solid core for the foreseeable future.
Darious Williams goes home to Jacksonville
The Jaguars continued their massive spending spree Wednesday by signing cornerback Darious Williams to a reported three-year, $30 million deal that includes $18 million guaranteed. Williams was 17th on Pete Prisco’s list of the top 100 free agents and is one of the more underrated corners on the market. The Jacksonville native will head home to try and help a secondary that ranked 31st in the NFL in DVOA last season. Williams will in all likelihood start and look to build off a 2021 season where he allowed a catch percentage of 63.2 working opposite of Jalen Ramsey.
Patriots sign Terrance Mitchell
New England made its first outside signing of the free-agent cycle in cornerback Terrance Mitchell, inking him to a reported one-year, $3 million deal. Adding a piece to the secondary was critical for Bill Belichick in the aftermath of losing No.1 corner J.C. Jackson to the Chargers, and Mitchell provides some veteran experience at the very least. When targeted by opposing quarterbacks, the veteran allowed a 62.9 reception percentage and a passer rating of 104.7, according to PFF.
Chiefs bring back Chad Henne
Kansas City is keeping its backup quarterback in place for another season, re-signing Chad Henne to a reported one-year, $2 million deal. Henne has been with the Chiefs dating back to 2018 and has just one start under his belt over that stretch. While that Week 17 start against the Chargers in 2020 resulted in a loss, Henne did play well, completing 71,8% of his throws for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, he made four appearances and completed 68.8% of his passes. Retaining a quarterback who knows your system to back up Patrick Mahomes is never a bad thing.
Ravens land Za’Darius Smith
Za’Darius Smith heads home to the team that drafted him back in 2015. Baltimore needed some help rushing the passer a year after ranking 20th in pressure, according to PFF. A healthy Smith should provide the unit with the added spark it needs, as he blossomed into a Pro Bowl and All-Pro pass rusher during his three-year stint with the Green Bay Packers, posting double-digit sacks in 2019 and 2020. Smith effectively missed the entire 2021 season due to injury, but now that he’s back to full strength, he’ll be a big addition to Baltimore’s pass rush. Because the Packers released him earlier this week, he also won’t count against the compensatory pick formula, which is an added bonus.
J.D. McKissic spurns Bills, returns to Commanders
After reports that McKissic was going to leave Washington to join Josh Allen in Buffalo, the veteran running back had a change of heart and has since done an about-face to return to the Commanders. McKissic is inking the same deal he was going to get in Buffalo — a two-year, $7 million contract. While the Bills miss out on a much-needed pass-catching threat out of the backfield, Washington retains a key playmaker in its offense. The 28-year-old caught 43 passes last season and totaled 609 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. Pairing him with Antonio Gibson in will make for one of the more underrated backfields in the NFL as long as both remain healthy.
Bilal Nichols to Las Vegas
The Raiders upgraded their defensive line in a number of ways Wednesday. While the acquisition of Chandler Jones may steal the headlines, signing defensive lineman Bilal Nichols to a two-year deal that includes $9 million guaranteed is a solid addition in its own right. The 25-year-old is inside Pete Prisco’s Top 100 free agents and started 15 of his 17 games played for Chicago last season. He totaled a career-high 51 tackles in 2021 while also posting three sacks and five tackles for a loss.
Seahawks land Uchenna Nwosu
Nwosu is one of the more underrated edge rushers in this free-agent class and is ranked No. 47 overall in Pete Prisco’s Top 100 free agents list. After his former team, the Chargers, landed Khalil Mack in a trade last week, it seemed unlikely he was going to re-sign with Los Angeles. Then, Seattle came in was able to land him on a two-year, $20.5 million deal with $10.5 million guaranteed. Nwosu could be a replacement for free agent Rasheem Green. Last year, Nwosu had 40 total pressures and five sacks, which will be a much-needed addition to a Seattle defense that owned the third-worst pressure grade in the NFL, according to PFF.