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The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Longhorns in NFL find new deals in free agency

Elisabeth Dillon

The initial wave of NFL free agency has passed, leaving depth signings littered in between a few bombshell deals. The NFL’s salary cap — the spending limit afforded to each team — rose again, to $188.2 million, meaning millions in guaranteed money and signing bonuses were bound to be given out.

Now that draft month has officially commenced and free agency starts to take a backseat, we can review the new deals signed by former Longhorns in the NFL.

Earl Thomas — 2007–2009 Safety

Earl Thomas’ demand for a new contract was clear throughout his last season in Seattle, which began with a holdout and ended with him being notoriously carted off.

Thomas, once the bedrock of Seattle’s esteemed “Legion of Boom,” earned himself another hefty payday this offseason. Without suffering a season-ending injury, though, Thomas’ four-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens worth $55 million — just $250K short of the highest average per year at his position — would have been even larger.

Jordan Hicks — 2010–2014 Linebacker

Another situation influenced by injuries, Jordan Hicks’ new contract — a four-year, $36 million deal including $20 million guaranteed — is a risk the Arizona Cardinals were willing to take. Hicks has suited up for all 16 games just once in four years. But, when on the field, he’s flashed often.

Hicks’ notable production and talent were certain to interest any team, yet his injury history led to a slightly leaner APY than some may have expected: $9 million.

Kenny Vaccaro — 2009–2012 Safety

Interest from the Tennessee Titans in keeping Kenny Vaccaro was established before the start of free agency, as general manager Jon Robinson labeled Vaccaro a “primary target” in a press conference.

Vaccaro started 13 games at strong safety last season with the Titans, and his worth was promptly recognized after his one-year deal from a year ago. Re-signing with Tennessee for $26 million over four years, the former Longhorn’s focus remained with the Titans throughout his free agency experience.

“I was worried about getting back to Tennessee,” Vaccaro said. “I knew my value, but at the same time, I knew I wanted to be here.”

Alex Okafor — 2009–2012 Defensive End

Kansas City has taken to revamping its defense this new league year. The Chiefs have shipped out familiar faces, replacing them with fresh talent, and Alex Okafor appears to be a part of their plans.

Okafor, a 28-year-old defensive end, cashed out in the form of a three-year, $17.9 million deal with the potential to earn up to $24 million.

With six years of NFL experience under his belt, Okafor decided to void the final year on his contract in New Orleans and enter free agency. It paid off for Okafor, nearly doubling his APY from last season.

Malcom Brown — 2012–2014 Defensive Tackle

Malcom Brown, the last Texas prospect to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, already has three Super Bowl appearances and two Lombardi trophies to his name in four seasons. Now, he can add a few more million dollars to it.

After having his fifth-year option declined with the New England Patriots, Brown was free to test the market this offseason. Brown will now try to transition to his new squad, the New Orleans Saints, and provide the same run-stuffing ability in the interior. Signing a three-year deal worth $15 million with $7.5 million guaranteed, the defensive tackle will be in NOLA to stay.

Adrian Phillips — 2010–2013 Safety

From Longhorn captain to undrafted free agent to All Pro, the progression of Adrian Phillips’ career has been anything but linear. Phillips, who received his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections in his fifth season for special teams play, bounced on and off the Los Angeles Charges’ roster before earning his spot as a safety/linebacker hybrid and core special teamer.

Being an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Phillips was free to sign anywhere, but his commitment to the Chargers was renewed with a one-year, $2 million contract.

Malcolm Brown — 2011–2014 Running Back

Like Phillips, it took time for undrafted free agent Malcolm Brown to secure his place in the NFL, despite departing Texas in the program’s rushing record books. Four years later, Brown’s work has been rewarded with a new contract from the Los Angeles Rams.

Brown will remain in Los Angeles after the Rams matched a two-year, $3.3 million offer sheet that Brown had signed with the Detroit Lions.

Geoff Swaim — 2013–2014 Tight End

In his first three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Geoff Swaim’s usage was limited. But that wasn’t the case in his final season there. Swaim started nine games, helped spark the running game and grabbed 26 receptions before finishing the 2018 season on injured reserve.

Swaim is now destined for Jacksonville, with the Jaguars signing the former Longhorn to a two-year contract worth $6.6 million. He currently sits atop Jacksonville’s depth chart, but some mock drafts have them changing that early.

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Longhorns in NFL find new deals in free agency