On the first official day of the 2023 NFL league year, a number of teams signed notable free agents without breaking the bank.
Late Wednesday, the Cincinnati Bengals made a big splash that should put a smile on quarterback Joe Burrow’s face. They strengthened their offensive line by adding a four-time Pro Bowl tackle who ranked as the No. 1 player on Bleacher Report’s free-agency big board.
Going into the fourth day of negotiations, teams can still land quality starters. Check out our Thursday free-agent big board for the biggest names available on the open market.
Keep an eye on the running back and tight end markets. Clubs with needs on offense can add high-end playmakers at those positions.
Ball-hawking defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and battle-tested front-seven defenders such as Frank Clark, Bobby Wagner, Jadeveon Clowney and Leonard Floyd should draw widespread interest as well.
We’ll grade Thursday’s signings and trades below. For anyone who needs a refresher up to this point, you can look back at grades for Wednesday’s deals.
Eagles Sign CB Darius Slay to an Extension
Contract Terms: 2 years, $42 million (h/t NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport)
Last week, the Philadelphia Eagles allowed Darius Slay permission to seek a trade, per ESPN’s Dianna Russini. Now, he’s back on a two-year extension, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
Per CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, the Eagles had a “hard time letting go” of Slay, who’s been one of the league’s top cornerbacks for most of the past six seasons. In that span, he’s garnered All-Pro and five Pro Bowl honors.
Slay’s coverage numbers slipped a bit last season, as he allowed five touchdowns and an 83.9 passer rating in coverage. But he had a key role in the Eagles’ No. 1-ranked pass defense, recording three interceptions and 14 pass breakups while on the field for 91 percent of the defensive snaps.
Going into his age-32 term, Slay wanted a new contract, per Geoff Mosher of the Inside the Birds podcast. He’ll sign a new deal that satisfies his demand and lowers his previous $26.1 million cap hit.
In the big picture, the Eagles have retained their starting boundary cornerbacks from last season in Slay and James Bradberry, who re-signed with the team on Tuesday.
Eagles Sign CB Greedy Williams
Contract Terms: 1 year, TBA
The Philadelphia Eagles worked out an extension with cornerback Darius Slay, but they didn’t stop there in terms of addressing the cornerback position. Per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, they signed Greedy Williams.
The Browns phased Williams out of their cornerback rotation over the past couple of years. Keep in mind that the previous regime selected him in the second round of the 2019 draft. Cleveland hired general manager Andrew Berry in 2020.
Under Berry, the Browns selected Greg Newsome II in the first round of the 2021 draft and took Martin Emerson Jr. in the third round last April.
On top of that, Williams missed the entire 2020 campaign because of a shoulder injury and then lost his grip on a starting role with the addition of Newsome and Emerson. Yet the LSU product had a solid 2021 season, logging 10 pass breakups and two interceptions while allowing a 55.2 percent completion rate and a 74 passer rating in coverage.
Just 25 years old, Williams could showcase some of his upsides in a new environment. He’s not going to start over Slay or James Bradberry, but both of the Eagles’ top cornerbacks will be 30 years or older by Week 1 of the 2023 season. Behind them, Williams could stand first in line for meaningful snaps in the short-term future.
Bears Sign RB D’Onta Foreman
Contract Terms: 1 year, $3 million
The Chicago Bears allowed running back David Montgomery to walk in free agency, but they found a viable replacement who has a similar physical running style. Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bears signed D’Onta Foreman to a one-year deal.
Foreman rushed for a career-high 914 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per carry with the Carolina Panthers last season. The Bears found great value in a soon-to-be 27-year-old ball carrier who’s trending in the right direction.
Foreman will likely split touches with Khalil Herbert, who ran for 731 yards and four touchdowns on only 129 carries in 2022. The Bears have another solid running back duo to lighten quarterback Justin Fields’ rushing workload, assuming he clicks with his new pass-catchers.
Once Carolina signed Miles Sanders on Wednesday (h/t ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler), Foreman had to look for a new landing spot. He should have a chance to handle 12-15 touches per game out of the backfield in Chicago.
Bears Sign TE Robert Tonyan
Contract Terms: 1 year, TBA
The Chicago Bears turned a division rival into another cog in their revitalized aerial attack by signing former Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
After the Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers, they’ve focused on upgrading quarterback Justin Fields’ supporting cast. With Tonyan and fellow tight end Cole Kmet, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy can run more 12 personnel this season.
Tonyan has hauled in 52-plus passes in two of the last three seasons. As a 6’5″, 240-pound pass-catching threat, he can immediately make an impact in the red zone along with Kmet, who had seven touchdown receptions in 2022. Tonyan had 11 touchdown catches in 2020.
This offseason, the Bears have added perimeter speed with former Panthers wideout DJ Moore. Now, they have another big-bodied target who can pluck the ball out of the air even if Fields is slightly off-target with some of his throws downfield.