Biggest surprises of 2024 NFL free agency: Brian Burns' contract extension with the New York Giants, Patrick Queen's contract and more

2W8B19T Carolina Panthers linebacker Brian Burns (0) plays against the Atlanta Falcons during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Brian Burns‘ contract extension: In his second season, he earned a 76.8 PFF overall grade, which ranked 13th at the position. However, he has failed to live up to that season ever since, as he has not topped a 75.0 PFF grade since.

Patrick Queen‘s contract details: Even though he played like a top-15 linebacker a year ago, Queen received less than expected in free agency.

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The first week of free agency usually involves a couple of shocking moves. With that in mind, here are three events from the past week that surprised us for one reason or another.

The New York Giants signing Brian Burns to a huge extension

Edge defender Brian Burns moving on from Carolina was widely expected, so it was not necessarily a surprise that the Giants traded for him after the Carolina Panthers franchise tagged the former first-round pick. However, New York signing Burns immediately to a five-year $150 million extension – including $87 million guaranteed – may have raised a couple eyebrows. Burns was a first-round pick in 2019, which will automatically improve his reputation, and he also had a breakout 2020 season. In his second season, he earned a 76.8 PFF overall grade, which ranked 13th at the position. However, he has failed to live up to that season ever since, as he has not topped a 75.0 PFF grade since. Playing on a weak Panthers defense might have impacted Burns’ performance, and playing alongside star interior defender Dexter Lawrence could improve his production. Nevertheless, this is still a gamble by the Giants expecting Burns to play at a level that he had not reached before in the NFL.

Patrick Queen’s contract details

Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this week, but the fact that he joined a divisional rival might not be a shock. However, his contract details came in lower than expected. Queen signed a three-year contract that is worth $41 million total with $13.8 million guaranteed. Considering how well Queen played over the last couple seasons, that is a team-friendly deal for a linebacker who seems to get better each season and often played like a top 15 linebacker during the 2023 season. It is even more surprising that linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was able to leverage one standout season into signing a four-year $72 million contract with the Chicago Bears a year ago

Houston Texans opting for Azeez Al-Shaair over Blake Cashman at linebacker

Cashman, a former fifth-round pick, had a breakout season with the Texans in 2023. In fact, his 89.9 PFF grade between Weeks 3 and 12 – prior to injuries slowing him down – ranked fourth among linebackers during that period. Admittedly, he only played 746 snaps last season, but the potential he showed would have made him an ideal candidate for the Texans to re-sign. However, while Cashman signed a three-year $22.5 million contract in Minnesota, Houston signed Azeez Al-Shaair to a three-year $34 million contract. Al-Shaair, who worked with head coach DeMeco Ryans in San Francisco, got his opportunity to start in an NFL defense in Tennessee in 2023 after being a 49ers backup linebacker for years. However, despite playing a career-high 1,101 snaps with the Titans in 2023, Al-Shaair did not have the breakout season some assumed he could have and finished 50th among linebackers with a 64.7 PFF grade. Houston hopes reuniting him with his old defensive coordinator could elevate Al-Shaair’s game to a new level and justify his price tag.


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