The NFL, as always, is throwing around cash to keep players on rosters and attract free agents from other teams.
Former Tennessee players have been the beneficiaries of that this offseason in particular, with several VFLs cashing in big time. Here’s a quick rundown of what we know so far:
• Defensive lineman Malik Jackson was the biggest winner, parlaying his excellent performance down the stretch of the 2015 season for the Denver Broncos into a massive deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars for five years and $90 million with around $42 million guaranteed. In terms of total money, Jackson’s deal is the largest signed in free agency this year.
Upon being officially signed by the Jaguars, Jackson made it clear that he’s aiming to play that contract out.
“I think, for me, it’s one of those things where you go out there, you earn and earn a new contract,” he said. “It’s all written out and you earned it, but at the same time you have to go out there and earn it. They don’t give you 90 [million dollars] today. So if I can have it in my account and I can just go sit down and not do anything – it’s not like basketball where I can get it all guaranteed.”
• Jackson was one of the first defensive line dominoes to fall, leaving Robert Ayers as one of the second wave of pass rushers to cash in. The 30-year old who last played for the New York Giants inked a 3-year, $21-million deal with the Tampa Bay Bucs with $10 million of that guaranteed.
• Pittsburgh retained guard Ramon Foster on a 3-year deal worth $9.6 million with at least $2.75 million of that guaranteed. The Carolina Panthers did the same with Chris Scott, bringing him back on a 1-year deal for an undisclosed amount – likely around $800,000 based on last season.
• Eric Berry’s situation with the Chiefs is ongoing after they put the franchise tag on him in March. If a new long-term deal isn’t reached before July 15, he’ll play in Kansas City in 2016 on a one-year, $10.8 million contract, though KC has made it known that it wants to do everything in its power to keep him for the long-run.
• Former Houston Texan Arian Foster remains unsigned, but based on some of the other running back signings, Foster could land a deal in the $3-to-5 million/year range if he decides to keep playing. His injury history makes him a risky signing, but he’s also shown he can be one of the best backs in the league when healthy.
In total, even with Foster still unsigned and with no long-term deal in place for Berry, former Vols have raked in over $140 million in contract money this offseason with over $65 million of that guaranteed…not a bad recruiting pitch right there.