Best and worst 2018 NFL free-agent signings

Lattimore: 'No panic at all' when down early to Eagles (1:15)

Marshon Lattimore says the Saints didn't panic when down 14-0 after the first quarter to the Eagles. (1:15)

Sure, there are four NFL teams still playing, and their focus and that of their fans is squarely on the next couple of weeks. But there are 28 teams no longer playing, and their focus stretches much further than that.

Did you know we're only two months away from the start of NFL free agency? Crazy how quickly these things go. It seems like only yesterday we were picking apart the 2018 free-agent deals, trying to guess which ones would work out, which wouldn't, which would prove to be good values, all that stuff.

We've gathered a full season's worth of evidence since those heady days, and we now can look back and make slightly better assessments of those signings. So before we look too far ahead to the upcoming crop of free agents (and trust me, I've looked at it; you can wait), let's pick the five best and five worst 2018 free-agent signings so far:


1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Deal: Two years, $50 million

You might not remember this, but the 2018 free-agent negotiating period opened without a Brees extension in place. He was, for a time, free to negotiate with any other team, just like Kirk Cousins was. And teams called to find out. Arizona checked in. Minnesota wanted to know, before it went down the Cousins road, whether Brees was up for a change of scenery.

Everybody who asked was told no, Brees wasn't leaving New Orleans. The deal he signed with the Saints was obviously less lucrative than what he might have found had he taken some of those calls -- even just for leverage. It's to the Saints' tremendous benefit that the top free agent on last season's market decided to negotiate with only one team.

2. Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts

Deal: Two years, $13 million

Cast off by Detroit, which picked him 10th overall in the 2014 NFL draft but grew tired of the drops and the disappointment, Ebron signed with the Colts for two years, with just $6 million guaranteed. He ended up catching 13 touchdown passes in 2018. Only Pittsburgh wideout Antonio Brown caught more. In a season in which starting tight end Jack Doyle struggled with injuries, Ebron had 66 catches for 750 yards and obviously became a trusted target for Andrew Luck in the red zone. Ebron is signed for next season at $6.75 million. Pretty good deal.

3. Demario Davis, LB, New Orleans Saints

Deal: Three years, $24 million

Intrepid Saints reporter Mike Triplett recently detailed the reasons the former Jets linebacker was one of the best signings of the season. The performance of the Saints' defense over the second half of the season is a major reason they secured the No. 1 seed and are still playing, and Davis has been a huge part of that. He still has $5.95 million in guaranteed salary owed to him for 2019, but the Saints won't mind paying that if he keeps playing the way he has so far.

4. Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago Bears

Deal: Four years, $56 million

The Bears played this one pretty smart, designating Fuller as their transition player and seeing if another team would make him an offer to set the price for them. The division-rival Packers obliged, offering Fuller a four-year, $56 million deal that the Bears matched immediately and on which Fuller made good by delivering a first-team All-Pro season for the league's top defense. The decision to bring back Fuller and fellow free-agent cornerback Prince Amukamara worked out quite well for the Bears, who led the league with 27 interceptions.

5. Mike Pouncey, C, Los Angeles Chargers

Deal: Two years, $15 million

Finally, how about a little love for the offensive line? Pouncey was cut by the Dolphins and signed with the Chargers with $10 million guaranteed. In the four years prior to Pouncey's signing, the Chargers averaged 91.09 rush yards per game and 3.63 yards per carry. In 2018, the Chargers averaged 117.06 rush yards per game and 4.69 yards per carry. Not that Pouncey was the only reason for the improvement, but he solidified things at a position that had been in flux for some time. Star running back Melvin Gordon has cited Pouncey as a critical factor in the improved running game due to his ability to block at the second level.

Honorable mentions: Adrian Peterson, RB, Washington; Dion Lewis, RB, Titans; Tyrann Mathieu, S, Texans; Denico Autry, DE, Colts; Anthony Hitchens, LB, Chiefs; Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Jets (who flipped him for a third-round pick)


1. Sam Bradford, QB, Arizona Cardinals

Deal: One year, $20 million

The Cardinals knew Bradford's knee was bad, and they signed him anyway to a contract that included $15 million in full guarantees at signing. Bradford played just three games for the Cardinals before rookie Josh Rosen took over as the starter, and the veteran signal-caller was released later in the season. The only bright side to this signing was that Arizona ended up having to pay Bradford just three of his $313,500 per-game roster bonuses. He still cost the Cardinals nearly $16 million for three games, all of which they lost.

2. Vontae Davis, CB, Buffalo Bills

Deal: One year, $5 million

This wasn't an unreasonable deal, price-wise, with only $3 million guaranteed. No, the reason this deal is on this list is the pesky little fact that Davis RETIRED AT HALFTIME of the Bills' Week 2 loss to the Chargers. Buffalo certainly can get some of its money back, but I think it's more than fair to say the Bills didn't get as much out of Davis as they were hoping to get when they signed him.

3. Nate Solder, OT, New York Giants

Deal: Four years, $62 million

Sick of disappointing 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers, who never developed into the franchise left tackle the Giants expected him to be when they picked him No. 9 overall, the Giants won a bidding war for the 30-year-old Solder. It cost them a $62 million contract with $34.8 million in full guarantees. At the time, it made Solder the highest-paid tackle in NFL history. Only nine NFL teams allowed more sacks than the Giants in 2018.

4. Paul Richardson, WR, Washington

Deal: Five years, $40 million

This sweet baby included $12.5 million in full guarantees at signing. Washington is still on the hook for $1 million in guaranteed salary in 2019, and more guarantees vest if Richardson is on the team on the fifth day of the league year. Richardson struggled with injuries all season and caught 20 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns. Those reception and yardage numbers are lower than his career averages during his time in Seattle, but not by much.

5. Cody Parkey, K, Chicago Bears

Deal: Four years, $15 million

No, I'm not piling on. You can be sympathetic to Parkey's feelings following the missed kick that ended Chicago's season and still objectively say he had a bad year. That kick was the 11th one Parkey missed this season, and quite frankly, he's being paid like a guy who never misses. Last spring, the Bears gave Parkey a deal that included $9 million in full guarantees. That figure includes $3.5 million in fully guaranteed salary for 2019, which means Parkey likely isn't going anywhere. I'm sure he's a great guy who doesn't deserve the abuse he's taking, but ... $9 million guaranteed? Who was offering $8 million?

Dishonorable mentions: Trumaine Johnson, CB, Jets; Carlos Hyde, RB, Browns; Donte Moncrief, WR, Jaguars; Case Keenum, QB, Broncos; Malcolm Butler, CB, Titans