Silverman: Blount, Mathieu Among Top Free Agent Bargains

Steve Silverman
May 22, 2018 - 12:31 pm

Memorial Day is just around the corner, and that’s always one of the bench marks of the baseball season. Teams have a fairly good idea of what they have at this point in the season, and Yankee fans already know they have a team that could bring home the team it’s first World Series title since 2009.

The NBA and NHL playoffs are in full crescendo, Justify has an excellent chance of joining American Pharoah as a Triple Crown winner and the Indy 500 will get it done for auto racing fans.

I confess that I love them all – with the exception of the latter. I haven’t given a hoot about any kind of auto racing since A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti were the sport’s superstars.

But as all these sports were making headlines, my mind was on the NFL. It is a sport that is constantly undergoing rule changes and public relations battles, but at its core, it is all about talented players and sharp-minded coaches that know how to get the most out of their athletes.

The season ended with the Philadelphia Eagles soaring above the New England Patriots and winning the Super Bowl, but there are always dramatic and subtle changes that make each season different than the one before.

While it always seems the Patriots are going to be at or near the top and the Cleveland Browns are going to be near the bottom, there are no guarantees that either team will be in its accustomed positions this year.

Teams make key moves during the offseason, and it starts with the coaching changes at the end of Week 17.

Free agency comes at the start of the league year – and arbitrary date that the league uses to separate one season from the next. Then the foundation is laid for the future with the NFL draft.

In today’s piece, we will look at four free-agent signings that present the best value for their teams. All of these are bargain signings, to some extent. A rookie analysis comes later in the week.

MORE: Giants Sign WR Russell Shepard

RB LeGarrette Blount - Detroit Lions

There’s a certain magic to Blount, who played a key role for the Super-Bowl winning Eagles last year and the Patriots the year before.

He is not fast by NFL running back standards, but when he busts through a hole, he can make big plays on a regular basis. There is a certain toughness to his game that few running backs can match.

He ran for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns with New England two years ago, and 766 yards and two scores last year. While the TD numbers dropped dramatically, Blount went from 3.9 yards per carry to 4.4 yards per attempt last year.

Blount was signed by the Lions to a one-year, $2 million deal, and he could be a remarkable addition on a team that has been one of the worst at running the ball for several seasons. The Lions ranked 31st in rushing last year, and the 6-0, 247-pound Blount is going to show how he can still run over linebackers and make big plays.

New head coach Matt Patricia certainly recognized when Blount could do during their time in New England together, as Blount’s ability to pound the ball took pressure off of Patricia’s defense.

This appears to be one of the best free agent additions in the NFL, and it came at a bargain price.

CB Tyrann Mathieu - Houston Texans

We list Mathieu as a corner because he has excellent one-on-one coverage skills, but he is really one of the more versatile defensive backs in the game because he can play safety and he can cause havoc coming off the edge as a rusher.

Mathieu should be able to show off all of his skills on a team with brilliant defensive personnel like Jadeveon Clowney, J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus (assuming all are healthy), and he should be able to make all of his teammates more dangerous. He came at a very fair price after signing a one-year, $7 million deal.

Mathieu is coming off a season with 66 tackles and eight assists, along with two interceptions and seven passes defensed. If Mathieu can concentrate on game-changing secondary play, he could have a career year on a team that has a chance to go to the Super Bowl if Deshaun Watson can stay healthy.

CB Richard Sherman - San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers have become the team to watch since acquiring quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots for a bargain-basement price last season.

As Garoppolo has upgraded the offense, the Niners have made moves in the offseason to upgrade the defense, and signing the 30-year-old Sherman will turn out to be a winning move – as long as the former All-Pro can stay on the field and avoid serious injuries.

That won’t be easy, but Sherman has excellent skills and an understanding of what it takes to prepare for each game. The Niners signed Sherman to a three-year deal, but they are only committed to the first year at a salary of $8.175 million. 

It will not be easy to come back from a torn achilles, but bringing in Sherman is well worth the gamble. He is motivated and talented, and he has a chip on his shoulder because his days in Seattle have come to an end.

RB Dion Lewis - Tennessee Titans

Lewis was one of the most effective backs in the league last year, and his versatility should prove incredibly valuable to Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Lewis ran for 896 yards and six touchdowns last year, and he also caught 32 passes. He does an outstanding job of adjusting to poorly thrown passes and that’s an advantage that just a few running backs have.

Lewis signed a four-year deal for just over $19 million, but just $8.25 million is guaranteed. This signing helps the Titans and hurts the Patriots quite a bit.