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Tom Brady, Philip Rivers among top 10 free-agent signings of 2020

As we hurtle toward the conclusion of the NFL regular season, it's a good time to review which offseason investments provided the greatest returns. Nick Shook identifies the top 10 free-agent signings in 2020.

Rank
1
Tom Brady
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · QB

Contract: Two years, $50 million.


Did we really expect it to be anyone else? Brady made the biggest headlines of the offseason roster churn when he said goodbye to New England, packed his bags and moved south to Tampa, where he has the Buccaneers right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Tampa Bay has had to work out its issues throughout the season, but Brady seems to be growing comfortable, even as Bruce Arians' offense has asked him to do things he hasn't done in years. A perfect example: Brady's 9.1 air yards per attempt are the most for the QB in a season in the last five years, and that's tied for the third-highest figure in the NFL.


So Tampa Bay wants to push the ball down the field, sure, but that's not the only route the Buccaneers can take to success. Brady's 64.6 completion percentage on intermediate passes (10-19 air yards) is the sixth-highest rate in the league, and his 119.0 passer rating on such attempts is the eighth-highest. And with the Bucs still needing the run game, play-action has also worked for Brady, who has posted a passer rating of 124.0 (fourth-highest rate in the NFL) on such attempts.


Brady's traditional line is as expected: 64.8 completion percentage, 3,496 yards and a 30:11 TD-to-INT ratio. His Buccaneers are second in the NFC wild-card race and looking at a postseason berth if things hold through the rest of the season. After Tampa Bay slogged through the Jameis Winston era, the first year of Tompa Bay has the Buccaneers in position to make a playoff run.

Rank
2
Robby Anderson
Carolina Panthers · WR

Contract: Two years, $20 million.


Anderson's time in New York came to an unceremonious end, and his move from the Big Apple to the Queen City wasn't exactly front-page news around the league. But Anderson has maximized his opportunities in his first season in Charlotte, having already set career highs in receptions (83) and receiving yards (996) with three games still left to play. Joe Brady's offense has undoubtedly helped Anderson reach new heights, with the receiver gaining 2.4 yards per route run this season, good for 12th in the league (min. 200 routes run). 


He's done so by winning on the perimeter in one-on-one scenarios, but that's not all. Anderson has 18 receptions for 218 yards and a touchdown on 23 targets on crossing routes in 2020, tied for sixth-most in receptions and seventh-most in yards on such routes.


Anderson left the seemingly annual struggle that the Jets have become in recent years and exceeded expectations. Though the Panthers aren't in position to battle for a postseason berth, they have to be happy they added Anderson in the offseason.

Rank
3
Philip Rivers
Indianapolis Colts · QB

Contract: One year, $25 million.


Frank Reich said this week he sees "multiple years" left in Rivers if he so desires, and the numbers back it up. Rivers is playing remarkably similarly to that of Baker Mayfield, as evidenced by this statistical comparison.


Rivers' tale only grows more interesting as you dive deeper into the numbers. The veteran has been pressured on just 19.9 percent of dropbacks this season while playing behind a premier offensive line -- a noted weakness in his final years with the Chargers -- which is the lowest pressure rate he's faced in the last five seasons, and Rivers has taken advantage. What's strange, though, is Rivers has been even better under pressure in 2020. He's one of only three quarterbacks to have a higher passer rating under pressure (104.7 versus 95.8 when free from pressure), and his difference between the two is the highest in the NFL. Rivers has been about average when not pressured, but is capitalizing on the fewer defenders in coverage when opponents send additional rushers, relying on his experience to make the right decision.


The Colts are 9-4 because of the offseason gamble they took on Rivers, who has made them look wise.

Rank
4
Javon Hargrave
Philadelphia Eagles · DT

Contract: Three years, $39 million.


Hargrave moved from one end of Pennsylvania to the other in 2020, and though the Eagles are struggling, it's not because of his play. Hargrave has been a factor on the interior of Philadelphia's defense, recording 23 quarterback pressures (12th-most among interior defensive linemen), while posting the ninth-best pressure rate at 9.7 percent. Hargrave is flirting with his career high in sacks (6.5) with 4.5 and three games left to play, and he's already tied his career high in QB hits with eight.


Philadelphia has problems to fix, but Hargrave is not one of them.

Rank
5
Blake Martinez
New York Giants · ILB

Contract: Three years, $30.75 million.


Martinez has been a blessing for the Giants in Year 1 with his new team, landing ninth among all linebackers in Pro Football Focus' defensive grades (76.2). He's already piled up 112 tackles, and is near his career high in QB hits and passes defensed as part of a Giants defense that has become rather stingy in the second half of the season. A big reason for the unit's improvement is the play of Martinez (and another guy on this list), with the LB frequently flying all over the field. His 12 hustle stops (takedowns in which a player covers 20-plus yards of distance from snap to tackle) are tied for the sixth-most in the NFL to this point.


New York needed a culture change when it hired Joe Judge; adding players like Martinez has helped expedite the process. The Giants have found their key linebacker.

Rank
6
Emmanuel Ogbah
Miami Dolphins · DE

Contract: Two years, $15 million.


Ogbah makes at least one key play on a weekly basis. He is tied for 10th in the league in sacks with eight and in the top 15 in total disruptions with 43. His greatest impact has been in game-changing plays, with Ogbah forcing five turnovers via pressure, the third-most in the entire league behind only former Browns teammate Myles Garrett and Shaquil Barrett. A change of scenery has done Ogbah well, as he's helping Miami become a stout defense -- a big reason why the Dolphins are a surprising 8-5.

Rank
7
Leonard Floyd
Los Angeles Rams · OLB

Contract: One year, $10 million.


Floyd's time in Chicago was underwhelming based on his first-round pedigree, but he's proven in his first season in Los Angeles that he's not quite the bust some pegged him to be. Floyd has already set a new career high for sacks with 7.5 to go along with 43 tackles, 16 QB hits and two fumble recoveries. His role in the Rams' defense has also seen him record 36 QB pressures, tied for 18th-most in the NFL. The change in scenery has also helped Floyd set a new personal best in averaging 4.5 seconds in time to sack, his fastest figure in the Next Gen Stats era.


Floyd has been a big boost to the Rams, who are back in contention after floating in irrelevance last season.

Rank
8
James Bradberry
New York Giants · CB

Contract: Three years, $43.5 million.


Bradberry's new home has seen him become one of the league's best cornerbacks. According to Pro Football Focus, Bradberry is the league's sixth-best cornerback in terms of defensive grade (78.3), a number powered by his excellent coverage grade. The Next Gen numbers back this up, too, with Bradberry ranking third in the entire league with 16 passes defensed as the nearest defender. He's limiting yards gained when allowing completions, too, giving up an average of just 6.3 yards per attempt as the nearest defender (16th-fewest among cornerbacks, min. 30 targets as nearest defender).


Like Martinez, Bradberry has helped the Giants turn around their defense and mount a late push for the postseason. Whether they get there remains to be seen, but the G-Men are starting to turn the corner, thanks to the addition of players like Bradberry.

Rank
9
Nelson Agholor
Las Vegas Raiders · WR

Contract: One year, $1.05 million.


Philadelphia fans might have roasted Agholor before he left town, but he hasn't allowed that to keep him down in the desert. Agholor has become a big-play threat with the Raiders, catching eight passes for 273 yards and five scores on 15 deep targets this season, good for the ninth-most yards on such attempts and second-most touchdowns. He's exceeding expectation, as well, posting a catch rate over expectation of +4.4, his highest in the Next Gen Stats era. And when targeted, Agholor is helping his quarterback post a passer rating of 116.3, the highest rate of any pass catcher on the Raiders' roster, proving he's worth targeting on a consistent basis.

Rank
10
Rick Wagner
Green Bay Packers · OT

Contract: Two years, $11 million.


We don't have much in the way of Next Gen Stats to describe Wagner's contributions, but we can use Green Bay's year-over-year pressure rate to get an idea of how his addition has improved the Packers' chances. Aaron Rodgers ranks second in the NFL (min. 250 pass attempts) in pressure rate at 16.3 percent, which has been a slight improvement from his rate of 18.5 last season. He's also been sacked just 13 times after going down 36 times in 2019, a notable improvement in that department.


Wagner ranks 20th among tackles in the NFL in 2020, per PFF, with an offensive grade of 77.8, which places him in the upper half of all starting tackles. With plenty of change -- both expected and unforeseen due to the ongoing pandemic -- it was fair to expect Wagner to have a tough adjustment to a new team, but he hasn't shown any signs of struggling. His addition was well worth it for Green Bay.

ALSO CONSIDERED: Shaq Lawson, DE, Miami Dolphins; Aldon Smith, DE, Dallas Cowboys; Emmanuel Sanders, WR, New Orleans Saints; Eric Ebron, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers; Graham Glasgow, OG, Denver Broncos.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter.

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