Ranking the 7 biggest steals of 2020 NFL free agency

NFL, Bryan Bulaga, Chargers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Contrary to what COVID-19 might have us thinking, the NFL’s yearly free agency period did happen. For many who were quarantined at home, it was a welcome comfort to see their most beloved franchise sign marquee names and think, “Things may be bad now, but football will still be back.”

With almost 40 different players signing new deals of $20 million or higher, teams showed early: they were willing to spend. But as any armchair GM can tell you, some deals are simply more valuable than others for a multitude of reasons.

To determine which teams bamboozled the rest of the league the most effectively, we’ll look at a few criteria: Barring an incredible contract, no embarrassment of riches deals. If a team already has an All-Pro defensive end and signs a Pro Bowler for the other side, it is likely a team that overspent because they could. Signing a player at a major position of need makes the value much higher.

Team history matters; whether it’s maintaining positional legacy after a departing player or simply a team’s spending habits, historical tendencies factor into free agency more than people would expect.

It can be difficult, but not impossible, to make this list with an extremely high dollar contract. Value in the player’s contract can be just as important as value on the gridiron, especially for cap-strapped teams (just ask Kansas City and their $177 in cap space coming into the draft).

The player in question must be in demand. If a team believes a player can be an impact player, but no one else wanted him, it’s unlikely he pans out as being a steal. Crazy things happen every year, but there’s usually a reason teams aren’t interested in bringing someone in.

Only free agent signings are eligible. Meaning, players acquired in trades belong in a separate category. And with that, let’s take a look at the five biggest steals from this 2020 NFL free agency.