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Five under-the-radar NFL free agency deals: Jacoby Brissett move makes sense

The best business that gets done in free agency often concerns those under-the-radar players who fill roster holes on affordable deals to underpin a successful season.

The marquee names create more than their fair share of headlines, but it's time to take a look at some of the early moves that won't make many waves now, but could be crucial come the end of the 2023 season.

QB Jacoby Brissett to Washington Commanders

Jacoby Brissett started the first 11 games of the 2022 season for the Cleveland Browns while Deshaun Watson was suspended, leading the AFC North team to a 4-7 record.

He completed 64 per cent of his passes for 2,608 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions, which was good enough for a very respectable 88.9 passer rating. He also accrued 243 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

What stood out from his performances was the veteran leadership and poise that he showed in a tough spot in which everyone knew he would be gone at the end of the year.

Brissett joins a Commanders QB room on a one-year deal worth $10million with a chance to compete for the starting role alongside Sam Howell, who flashed some potential in one appearance as a rookie last year.

He could be just a bridge quarterback or get outplayed in camp and begin as the back-up, but Brissett's experience will come in handy for new Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

WR Deonte Harty to Buffalo Bills

The Bills, +800 to win Super Bowl LVIII, had a need for speed on offense and made sure they addressed that issue by bringing in Deonte Harty, who changed his name from Harris in 2021, on a two-year deal.

The 25-year-old blazed a 4.48 40-yard dash at his pro day back in 2019 and utilized his speed to get behind defenses early in his pro career with the New Orleans Saints.

He finished his rookie year as the leader in punt returns, combined returns, and punt return yards and was selected to the Pro Bowl, but it took until 2021 for him to finally break out into an offensive weapon as Jameis Winston's primary vertical target.

In theory, he should fulfil a similar role for big-armed Bills QB Josh Allen and stretch the field to create more spaces for the perennially-open Stefon Diggs to operate in.

CB Cameron Sutton to Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions, +140 to win the NFC North, needed a solid No. 2 cornerback with experience to play opposite Jeffrey Okudah and they should get that with Cameron Sutton.

The third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2017 allowed just 411 receiving yards last season, according to PFF, which was good for ninth-best among cornerbacks who played at least 400 coverage snaps in 2022.

The Pittsburgh Steelers would have kept him as Sutton is in his prime and was affordable on the open market, but they needed to clear some cap space and he became a casualty.

DC Aaron Glenn will be delighted they let him go as Sutton should help fix a secondary that ranked 31st in the NFL last year for yards allowed per pass play.

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DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to Cleveland Browns

Explosive edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo could be a real steal for the Browns in a deal worth $19m with incentives around sacks to take it higher, but with only $12.5m in guaranteed money.

Cleveland, +350 to win the AFC North, add a talented piece to their defensive line rotation to play Robin to Miles Garrett's Batman.

Okoronkwo has spent the majority of his NFL career on the injury list, missing his entire rookie season with the Los Angeles Rams because of a foot issue.

Injuries also forced Okoronkwo to miss six games in each of his next two seasons with the Rams and another four games in 2021, but when he got healthy last year he became a real force for the Houston Texans.

All eight of his career NFL starts came in 2022 as he totalled 44 tackles, five sacks, nine tackles for a loss and 11 QB hits in a career-best campaign.

He was quietly one of the most efficient pass rushers in the league during the second half of last year, ranking third for pressure rate - one spot ahead of Garrett - among all edge rushers with at least 200 pass rushes.

Only Pro Bowlers Trey Hendrickson and Micah Parsons bettered his 16.4 per cent pressure rate, according to Next Gen Stats.

LB Arden Key to Tennessee Titans

After cutting veteran linebacker Bud Dupree, the Titans stole a high-upside replacement from a division rival without spending too much.

Arden Key, who recorded 4.5 sacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars last year, arrives on a three-year, $21m deal with a reported maximum value of $24m that includes $13m fully guaranteed at signing.

The Jaguars probably felt that was too much money to commit to a player in a position where they also have the former seventh overall draft pick Josh Allen and last year's No.1 selection Travon Walker competing for snaps.

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