Instant Debate

Matt Forte, Danny Trevathan, Jaye Howard among free agency values

But of course, big money doesn't always produce big production. (See: This motley crew.) So, poring over all of the signings in the new league year, which player do you think will provide the most bang for the buck?

The Chiefs easily scored the best bargain of free agency when they re-signed DL Jaye Howard to a two-year, $12 million deal. He went from being an unheralded role player to a key interior lineman in their defense, one who registered a career-best 5.5 sacks in 2015. At 27 years old, it seemed a given the 6-foot-3, 301-pounder would be looking for a hefty pay day on the open market. Instead, he opted for a more modest raise on a team where he apparently feels comfortable. Matt Forte is going to give you the most for what he's getting paid. The newly signed Jet is one of the most versatile running backs in the game. He can make catches in the backfield, outrun guys and run through guys. He's been the common denominator for any success the Chicago Bears have had. So when you add him to Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and whomever their quarterback is going to be, Forte's going to be the reason they all have success. Two guys come to mind: Mario Williams and Matt Forte.

Williams, who just turned 31 in January, signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Dolphins. At an average of $8.5M per, that's half what the departed Olivier Vernon will make in New York. Before last season, which brought about a new system in Buffalo, the former No. 1 overall pick was performing at a high level (see: 38 sacks from 2012 through '14). Williams has been told he will be used in a scheme that better fits his skill set in Miami. Playing on the short-term contract and coming off a down year, he clearly will be playing with something to prove.

Forte, who signed with the Jets, is making an average of $4 million per year. He is a versatile back who can catch and run with the ball, which is vital to the Jets' offense. Forte failed to reach 1,400 scrimmage yards last season for the first time in his NFL career (ending up with 1,287), but I think he still has some gas left in the tank. Danny Trevathan is a fast, somewhat-undersized linebacker, and he'll play a huge factor for the Bears against the three other teams in the NFC North. Trevathan is a quick speedster who will do well against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, given what they like to do in the passing game with the tight ends (when they're healthy). When looking at the Lions under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, everything in the passing game is short and focused on getting the ball out of Matt Stafford's hands as fast as possible. Then in Minnesota, everything Norv Turner is trying to do with Teddy Bridgewater, it's still those fast, short passes.

For the money (four years, $24.5 million) and with six divisional games every year, I think it's a good matchup. I want to look at this in two ways. First, what is the best bargain with a player who changed teams? Then, what is the best bargain with a guy who stayed put?

The best bargain to change teams was offensive tackle Donald Stephenson, who went from the Chiefs to the Broncos on a three-year, $14 million deal. Any time you can get a 27-year-old player who is a starter -- and a starter who can play at multiple positions (Stephenson can play guard, and both right and left tackle) -- that's a coup.

At two years for $12 million, defensive end Jaye Howard was a bargain for the Chiefs to retain. Howard is starting to emerge as a major contributor for Kansas City, and I think he's going to be a very good player for the Chiefs, who were fortunate to have kept him at a relatively fair price for both sides.

The best bargain in the whole thing was defensive end Derek Wolfe, who re-signed with the Broncos on a four-year, $36.7 million extension before free agency even started.

Safety Michael Griffin was also given strong consideration as a bargain player who changed teams, going from the Titans to the Vikings on a one-year, $3 million pact. Matt Forte is going to bring a lot of value to the New York Jets -- not only on the field, but in the locker room. He's a leader, wants to win and has so many tools that can help the team win. If the Jets don't have a dominant quarterback who can be productive from the pocket, Forte can be used for checkdown passes; he creates mismatches against linebackers and defensive backs. He's a powerful runner and understands defenses.

Bottom line: Forte's a huge offseason acquisition for the Jets. And very reasonable at $12 million over three years. After winning the NFC North (... but then losing in tragic fashion in the postseason), the Vikings aren't resting on their laurels. No, sir. GM Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer still know that they are an Adrian Peterson, run-first team, and they want to continue providing additional help for their young (but progressing) quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. So, they did it in a BIG way, signing Alex Boone from the 49ers and Andre Smith from the Bengals to play RG and RT, respectively. While Boone cost $26.8 million (over four years), Smith comes at a bargain price of $3.5M on a one-year deal.

The Vikes are already on the attack for another divisional title, and a potential run to a Super Bowl with these additions.

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