Why the Titans signed Calvin Ridley, plus three winners of free agency

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Remember the Titans? We forgot about them in the Calvin Ridley sweepstakes. After betting on the NFL in 2021 and himself in 2023, Ridley finally sees a gamble pay off. Today’s newsletter includes:

  • 🎯 Ridley leads Day 3 moves
  • 👤 Broncos QB search continues
  • 📈 Winners of free agency
  • 👀 Joey Bosa is one to watch

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Free Agency Tracker: Why did the Titans sign Calvin Ridley?

We should not have been surprised that the Titans were willing to overpay to make Ridley the NFL’s 10th-highest paid WR at $23 million per year, per Over the Cap. Last season, he lit those Titans up: Per game, Ridley averaged just 4.5 receptions and 59.7 yards for the Jaguars, but against Tennessee, those numbers ballooned to 6.5 catches 104.5 yards per game.

As NFL insider Jeff Howe noted, the Titans’ four-year, $92 million offer was significantly higher than the Jaguars’ final proposal. This also cost the Falcons the value of a top-50 draft pick, they will instead receive the Jaguars third round pick.

Ridley, 29, signs his first non-rookie contract in the NFL after a two-year absence from pro football. Last offseason he declared, “I want my name back.” Happy for him.

What does Ridley’s signing mean for Tennessee? First of all, it’s a good example of why former GM Jon Robinson was fired. In 2022, Robinson refused to give then-24-year-old superstar A.J. Brown a similar deal (Brown was traded and signed by the Eagles to a four-year, $100 million contract).

Armed with both a new GM and offensive-minded HC in former Bengals OC Brian Callahan, the Titans added Ridley to a quietly talented roster that includes DeAndre Hopkins, newly signed RB Tony Pollard, promising sophomore RB Tyjae Spears and QB Will “Mayo Man” Levis. They also have pick No. 7 in the upcoming draft and are interested in acquiring Chiefs’ CB L’Jarius Sneed.

This Titans team could impress after a 6-11 season where they lost seven games by one score. Titans reporter Joe Rexrode has more on the deal that made him say, “Whoa.”

With yesterday marking the official start of the NFL year, we saw plenty of other moves. Three you should know:

  • WR Mike Williams was released by the Chargers. Desperate for cap space, this move combined with a restructure for edge Khalil Mack to get the Chargers cap-compliant. Williams, 29, will have suitors: The Chiefs, Bears, Jets, Patriots, Giants and Cardinals are all in the market for a WR.
  • RT Morgan Moses was acquired by the Jets, who traded a sixth-round pick to the Ravens and moved back in the fourth. PFF’s 15th highest rated offensive tackle in 2023, Moses pairs with fellow Ravens’ alumni in LG John Simpson on an offensive line desperate to improve after finishing 31st in PFF’s 2023 rankings.
  • LB Bobby Wagner agreed to terms with the Commanders. The nine-time Pro Bowler reunites with HC Dan Quinn, who was Wagner’s DC for a period in Seattle, on a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million. He’s 34 in June but showing little signs of aging: Wagner’s 183 tackles last season were a career high and led the NFL.

Adding Wagner was new GM Adam Peters’ 13th free agent signing since Monday. It’s a new regime in Washington, and you’re fired. Speaking of fired, Dianna has an update from Denver, where GM George Paton and HC Sean Payton are looking to right the ship.

What Dianna’s Hearing: Word on the Broncos’ next QB

The Broncos are doing serious homework on all the available quarterbacks, including both free agents and players currently rostered.

With many of the best available free agent quarterbacks already in new homes, potential replacements for Russell Wilson include Jimmy Garoppolo or Ryan Tannehill. They could also go the trade route, making Justin Fields and Sam Howell interesting options.

While their No. 12 draft choice is approaching — and they still have Jarrett Stidham — it appears that a move is likely to happen prior to April 25.

Back to you, Jacob.

Free Agency Winners: Backup QBs, Atlanta and Houston

📈 No. 2 quarterbacks. Former Vikings GM Mike Lynn once said, “The most important player on the team is the starting quarterback and the second most important player is the No. 2 quarterback.” He refused to call the second quarterback a backup.

NFL teams started 66 quarterbacks in 2023 (only two shy of the record, 68, set in 2022), and one of them won Comeback Player of the Year, it’s not surprising to see teams shell out cash for a capable backup No. 2/potential starter.

Their average yearly contract ($8.5M) is almost as much as Derrick Henry will make next season. Henry is expected to handle over 250 touches, while some No. 2’s may never touch the field. This is why I never became an NFL running back.

📈 Atlanta Falcons. Pro Football Hall of Fame selector Mike Sando:

“The Falcons are the easy choice here simply because quarterbacks do change franchise trajectories. From a statistical standpoint, the way Kirk Cousins has played in his last 17 starts is worth about 2 1/2 more wins in a season than the way the Falcons’ quarterbacks played last season. That’s a pretty big shift.”

📈 Houston Texans. Kayln Kahler, senior writer at The Athletic:

“Houston caught my eye when it signed Danielle Hunter. He had 16 1/2 sacks last season, and pairing him with Edge Will Anderson Jr. will be dynamic. Houston HC DeMeco Ryans also got his former LB in San Francisco, Azeez Al-Shaair, and DE Denico Autry. On the offensive side, Houston got RB Joe Mixon and retained TE Dalton Schultz. The H-town turnaround continues.”

Around the NFL

LB Joey Bosa is a player to watch, as the Chargers will owe him a $7 million bonus if he is on their roster this Friday. Team reporter Daniel Popper has more on what the Chargers could with Bosa and Keenan Allen, who’s due a $5 million bonus if he is on the roster on Sunday.

WR Tyler Boyd could join the Steelers, as the team has interest in bringing Boyd back to his home town. Pittsburgh will look to replace Diontae Johnson. They also lost Mason Rudolph to the Titans yesterday. Mike DeFabo and Mark Kaboly have grades for these moves.

LB Eric Kendricks, once expected to sign with the 49ers, agreed to terms with the Cowboys. He reunites with his former Vikings coach, Dallas DC Mike Zimmer, in what Jon Machota calls a no-brainer fit. Expect Kendricks to be the quarterback of the defense.

DT Maliek Collins joins the 49ers in a trade from the Texans. San Francisco gave up a seventh-round pick to acquire their replacement for free agent DT Arik Armstead, who is the top-ranked player in Randy Mueller’s updated free agent rankings.

WR Justin Jefferson is staying in Minnesota, as the Vikings have no plans to trade him. Team reporter Alec Lewis has more.

Read this made-for-Hollywood story of NFL Draft prospect Qwan’tez Stiggers, who went from driving for DoorDash and washing trucks to the edge of professional football.

Jacob’s Picks

📕 Hate cats, don’t wear shoes and eat with your hands? You’ll get along with new Bills WR Mack Hollins. Last offseason in Atlanta, Josh Kendall published this fascinating read on the 6-foot-4, 221-pounder who Drake London called “a caveman.” (The Athletic)

📺 Washington fans: This is not a fun listNFL Throwback recently published their Top-10 Free Agency fails. At least the Dan Snyder era is over? (YouTube)

🎙 Did you miss it? Former NFL QB Chase Daniel joins Robert Mays to discuss Danielle Hunter landing with the Texans, the Panthers trade for Diontae Johnson and more. At the 14-minute mark, Chase explains the player experience during free agency: “Most of these guys have no clue who they are signing.” (Podcast)

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