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 ESPN Insider, NFL: Grading how every NFL team fared in free agency

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PostSubject: ESPN Insider, NFL: Grading how every NFL team fared in free agency   Sat Apr 01, 2017 9:27 pm

Grading how every NFL team fared in free agency
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Adam Caplan explains how the Patriots were able to acquire Brandin Cooks, and Herm Edwards details how the move impacts New England's offense. (1:58)
Mar 29, 2017

   Mike SandoESPN Senior Writer

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Grades are in for NFL teams in free agency and the trading period this offseason while we wait to see what might happen with Tony Romo, Malcolm Butler, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick and a few others.

The moves NFL teams have made thus far should make more sense following the draft. Until then, we're left to do some projecting based on how well teams have positioned themselves. There was one team with an A grade, another with an F and 30 teams in between.

Here's a team-by-team report card for what we've seen in free agency thus far. Click on the links below to go directly to your team

ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAC | KC | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS
New England Patriots

Grade: A-

Key moves: re-signed LB Dont'a Hightower, S Duron Harmon, DT Alan Branch and FB James Develin; traded for WR Brandin Cooks, DL Kony Ealy and TE Dwayne Allen; signed CB Stephon Gilmore and DL Lawrence Guy; lost CB Logan Ryan, DE Jabaal Sheard and TE Martellus Bennett

The Patriots have the coach, quarterback and culture to make their own rules in free agency. They spent big on an outside free agent (Gilmore) at the expense of retaining a younger homegrown talent (Ryan). They added welcome speed at receiver through the Cooks trade. The Patriots replaced one-year rental tight end Bennett with the younger Allen. They even re-signed Hightower after letting him test the market, a rarity when high-priced talent is involved. The bottom line? "Their roster is better now than it ever was last season," an evaluator from another team said.

Editor's Picks

   NFL execs unfiltered on every team's free-agency moves

   "I think it is so ridiculous that anybody is praising the Browns for what they did." That's just one of the many telltale quotes league execs revealed about each team's offseason activity.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Grade: B+

Key moves: signed DT Chris Baker, WR DeSean Jackson and DB J.J. Wilcox; lost QB Mike Glennon, DL Akeem Spence and FS Bradley McDougald.

The Buccaneers needed another receiver to take pressure off Mike Evans. They got a special one in Jackson, whose speed will be a welcome addition for QB Jameis Winston and playcaller Dirk Koetter. Tampa Bay was one of the teams hoping to add Calais Campbell to its defensive line, but the price Jacksonville paid became prohibitive for teams with established salary structures. The addition of Baker for $5.25 million a year looks like a very good fallback. All signs point to Tampa Bay drafting a running back.
Kansas City Chiefs

Grade: B

Key moves: re-signed S Eric Berry; signed DT Bennie Logan; lost DT Dontari Poe and QB Nick Foles.

Re-signing Berry was a must for the Chiefs. Meanwhile, the market justified the Chiefs' trepidation about paying over-the-top money for Poe, a talented player who might have peaked. Logan was a logical replacement on a one-year, $8 million deal that matched what Poe got from the Falcons.

The Chiefs gave safety Eric Berry a record deal -- and for good reason. Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars

Grade: B

Key moves: signed DL Calais Campbell, CB A.J. Bouye, G Earl Watford and S Barry Church; lost LT Kelvin Beachum, S Johnathan Cyprien, CB Prince Amukamara, G Luke Joeckel and DL Tyson Alualu

The Jaguars own the NFL's worst record over the past five seasons at 17-63. They also have spent the most guaranteed money in free agency over that span. How much more can they spend on the best outside talent before reassessing what they have at quarterback? One more year is the best guess. In the meantime, signing Campbell should further bolster a defense that was quietly one of the NFL's better units over the 2016 season's second half. "I think Campbell is the rare defensive player along with Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt who can add a victory to your team," an evaluator said. For $15 million a year, he had better.
New York Giants

Grade: B

Key moves: re-signed DE Jason Pierre-Paul, G John Jerry and LB Keenan Robinson; signed WR Brandon Marshall, RB Shaun Draughn and QB Geno Smith; lost K Robbie Gould, OL Marshall Newhouse and CB Coty Sensabaugh

The Giants' move to add Olivier Vernon last offseason could have foreshadowed Pierre-Paul's departure this offseason. Re-upping with Pierre-Paul on a long-term deal made this free agency period a success. The move to add Smith to the quarterback room won't get much acclaim, but it's an upgrade with at least some upside. Marshall's impact on the WR meeting room is hard to gauge, but the risk seems like a worthwhile trade-off for the likely production. The draft features several intriguing running backs and tight ends. That sets up the Giants well.
Detroit Lions

Grade: B

Key moves: signed G T.J. Lang, RT Rick Wagner, CB D.J. Hayden, LB Paul Worrilow, DT Akeem Spence and DL Cornelius Washington; lost G Larry Warford and RT Riley Reiff

The Lions should be better on their offensive line with Lang and Wagner replacing Warford and Reiff. Those additions were higher-percentage bets than the line prospects Detroit would have considered in the draft. Lang in particular was also much better than the options available in an overpriced market for free-agent offensive linemen. Detroit has much work to do on defense. One evaluator said he thought the Lions had the second-worst defensive talent in the league, with only the Colts worse off. This year's draft is considered strong on defense, so the Lions' thinking appears sound.
Buffalo Bills

Grade: B

Key moves: restructured QB Tyrod Taylor; re-signed OLB Lorenzo Alexander; signed FB Patrick DiMarco, S Micah Hyde, FB Mike Tolbert, DB Jordan Poyer and K Steven Hauschka; lost CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Robert Woods, WR Marquise Goodwin and LB Lerentee McCray

The Bills took much heat early in the offseason for their indifference toward Taylor, but they kept him in the end. They arguably overpaid for DiMarco at $2.1 million a year. Of course, who besides salary-cap managers should lose sleep over a four-year, $8.4 million deal for a good player, even if he's a fullback? New coach Sean McDermott got great production in Carolina from S Kurt Coleman. Imagine what he'll be able to get from the more talented Hyde. It's understandable why a new regime wouldn't be all-in for Gilmore, although watching the talented corner land in New England was not optimal.
Atlanta Falcons

Grade: B

Key moves: re-signed TE Levine Toilolo; signed DT Dontari Poe and DE Jack Crawford; lost FB Patrick DiMarco

This might shock even an optimistic Falcons fan, but one evaluator said he thought Atlanta now possessed the NFL's best roster, thanks in part to a strong 2016 draft class. The Falcons mostly treaded water in free agency. Their offense should be fine without DiMarco. Their defense should be better with Poe.

James Harrison will play his 15th NFL season in 2017. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Pittsburgh Steelers

Grade: B

Key moves: re-signed OLB James Harrison; signed DL Tyson Alualu, CB Coty Sensabaugh; lost LB Lawrence Timmons and WR Markus Wheaton

The Steelers re-signed Harrison at a bargain price, kept RB Le'Veon Bell with the franchise tag and worked out an extension with WR Antonio Brown. They supplemented at cornerback and behind Cameron Heyward along their defensive line. There was nothing flashy, but there didn't need to be anything flashy.
Miami Dolphins

Grade: B

Key moves: re-signed WR Kenny Stills, DE Andre Branch, S Reshad Jones and LB Kiko Alonso; signed LB Lawrence Timmons and S Nate Allen; traded away LT Branden Albert; traded for TE Julius Thomas and DE William Hayes; lost TE Dion Sims

The previously freewheeling Dolphins took a lower-key approach to the market this offseason. That seemed like a good thing. Thomas already has succeeded within Adam Gase's offensive system, albeit with Peyton Manning, not Ryan Tannehill, at the controls. Timmons and Hayes should instantly become quality veteran role players on defense. Getting a deal done for Jones at safety made sense. Jarvis Landry is next in line.
Tennessee Titans

Grade: B

Key moves: signed CB Logan Ryan, DT Sylvester Williams and S Johnathan Cyprien; lost TE Anthony Fasano, LB Sean Spence, WR Kendall Wright and G Chance Warmack

The Titans needed a quality cornerback. In Ryan, they got a young one their GM knew from his days in New England. And they did it without paying over-the-top money. Tennessee owns additional first- and third-round picks in the upcoming draft, so there was less need for the Titans to make other big-money plays in free agency.
Philadelphia Eagles

Grade: B

Key moves: re-signed C Stefen Wisniewski; signed WR Alshon Jeffery, QB Nick Foles and WR Torrey Smith; released QB Chase Daniel; lost CB Nolan Carroll and DT Bennie Logan

It's easy to knock Philly for neglecting its defense in free agency, but the defensive strength of the draft gives them a remedy. The Eagles' makeover at wide receiver should serve them well if Jeffery and Smith stay on the field. Both have missed games for various reasons over the past couple of seasons. Jeffery is not Julio Jones, Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas, which is fine from an Eagles standpoint because they aren't paying him as though he were one of those guys. They got Jeffery for one year and $9.5 million.
Green Bay Packers

Grade: B-

Key moves: re-signed OLB Nick Perry; signed TE Martellus Bennett, DT Ricky Jean Francois and TE Lance Kendricks; lost G T.J. Lang, FS Micah Hyde, C JC Tretter, TE Jared Cook, RB Eddie Lacy, OLB Julius Peppers and DL Datone Jones

The sky was not falling when the Packers watched Cook sign with Oakland. Green Bay upgraded by signing Bennett from New England at a price near what Cook was seeking. Adding Kendricks gives coach Mike McCarthy three tight ends talented enough to get on the field for any team in the league. That will restore dimension to the Packers' menu of personnel groupings. Green Bay is in position to strengthen its defense through the draft and will need to make up ground there. The offensive line will almost surely regress without Lang.
The Saints are banking on Ted Ginn Jr. replacing some of Brandin Cooks' production. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints

Grade: B-

Key moves: traded away WR Brandin Cooks; signed G Larry Warford, WR Ted Ginn Jr., LB Manti Te'o and ILB A.J. Klein; re-signed DT Nick Fairley

The Saints gave up a sure thing they did not really need (Cooks) for a draft choice with a roughly 50-50 shot at upgrading their defense over the next couple of seasons. That does not qualify as a coup, but it was an understandable move for a team that contends whenever its defense is not awful. There's still a chance New Orleans will acquire Malcolm Butler from the Patriots to give New Orleans a surer bet in its secondary. That would be a little more comforting.
Chicago Bears

Grade: B-

Key moves: released QB Jay Cutler; signed QB Mike Glennon, TE Dion Sims, WR Markus Wheaton, CB Prince Amukamara, CB Marcus Cooper, WR Kendall Wright and S Quintin Demps; lost WR Alshon Jeffery, QB Brian Hoyer, OL Ted Larsen, DE Cornelius Washington and QB Matt Barkley

The Bears will find out whether Glennon can provide an upgrade at quarterback. The change isn't going to energize the fan base, but it beats a ninth consecutive season with Cutler in the role. Cutler won when the Bears were good on defense. Can Chicago improve sufficiently on that side of the ball to give Glennon a shot? That will depend on whether the Bears' many B-list signings in free agency can combine with their upcoming 2017 draft class to provide the needed boost. If nothing else, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will have some more seasoning on defense, which should help him execute a complex scheme.
Seattle Seahawks

Grade: B-

Key moves: signed RB Eddie Lacy, G Luke Joeckel and S Bradley McDougald; re-signed TE Luke Willson; released K Steven Hauschka

Getting McDougald on a one-year, $1.8 million deal gives the Seahawks starting-caliber insurance for rehabbing FS Earl Thomas at a very reasonable rate. That deal helped offset the puzzling overpay for Joeckel, who had not been particularly effective even before suffering a career-altering knee injury last year. The deal for Lacy fell somewhere in between those other two. It was an earnest effort to replace Marshawn Lynch.
Indianapolis Colts

Grade: B-

Key moves: traded away TE Dwayne Allen; re-signed TE Jack Doyle; signed OLB Jabaal Sheard, OLB John Simon, WR Kamar Aiken and DE Margus Hunt; released LB D'Qwell Jackson and S Mike Adams

The Colts could use a few Jacksonville-level spending sprees to prop up what some evaluators see as the NFL's least-talented defense. That isn't particularly realistic for a team with an established hierarchy featuring a paid quarterback. New GM Chris Ballard has focused on value buys, adding players from winning programs. NFL teams spent large piles of bad money on offensive linemen this offseason. The Colts did not partake. Can they find the help they need in the draft while keeping the overall focus on helping the defense?
Los Angeles Chargers

Grade: C+

Key moves: re-signed OLB Melvin Ingram and S Jahleel Addae; signed LT Russell Okung; lost RB Danny Woodhead, LB Manti Te'o; released OT King Dunlap

Keeping Ingram assures San Diego should have a quality group of edge rushers. Other moves the Chargers made were understandable, but do they make the team better? Woodhead was an injury risk at a position teams generally should not value at a premium, but Philip Rivers' numbers have been much better when Woodhead was on the field. Swapping out Dunlap for Okung could provide an upgrade along the line, but probably not enough of one to bridge the cost differential.

In one of the bigger surprises of the offseason, the Texans found a suitor for Brock Osweiler's pricey contract. Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans

Grade: C

Key moves: re-signed TE Ryan Griffin; traded away QB Brock Osweiler; lost CB A.J. Bouye, S Quintin Demps and OLB John Simon

Finding a team willing to take on Osweiler's $16 million salary was a big victory for the Texans, but it was not the kind of victory an executive would want on his résumé. The Texans will presumably land Tony Romo or another quarterback. Until that happens, it's tough to push up Houston's grade much, especially with young talent walking out the door when Bouye took big money from Jacksonville.
Oakland Raiders

Grade: C

Key moves: signed OT Marshall Newhouse, WR Cordarrelle Patterson and TE Jared Cook; lost LB Malcolm Smith, RB Latavius Murray, DL Stacy McGee, CB D.J. Hayden, S Nate Allen and T Menelik Watson

The Raiders are finally good enough to sit back and watch other teams overspend in free agency. They let each of their own unrestricted free agents test the market. They found unexpected value in Cook, who could work well with Derek Carr. Oakland will presumably give Carr and Khalil Mack extensions at some point. They haven't done that or much else this offseason. That is neither bad nor good.
Los Angeles Rams

Grade: C

Key moves: signed LT Andrew Whitworth, WR Robert Woods, OLB Connor Barwin and CB Kayvon Webster; re-signed CB Trumaine Johnson; traded away DE William Hayes; lost WR Kenny Britt

Whitworth upgrades the Rams' offensive line and could help the team get more from both QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley. Unfortunately, he is 35 years old, which means a sharp decline is coming sooner rather than later. The most expensive move the Rams made on defense -- using the franchise tag for Johnson again -- also has a short-term feel. Trade talks have not seemed to gain much traction. Meanwhile, Hayes was right when he joked that the Rams got only "a stapler and a coffee machine" in return for him via trade.
Denver Broncos

Grade: C

Key moves: signed G Ronald Leary, RT Menelik Watson and DL Domata Peko; lost LT Russell Okung, DL Sylvester Williams and CB Kayvon Webster

Denver dominated in free agency in the past to build a championship roster. The moves this offseason were easier to question. Leary is going from being a lesser player on a great line to being one of the better players on a bad line. He could be exposed as a result. Watson's lackluster performance in Oakland and injury history are concerning. The Broncos have shown no interest in Jay Cutler or the veteran QB market in general. Are they really OK at the position?
Dallas Cowboys

Grade: C

Key moves: re-signed WR Terrance Williams; lost G Ronald Leary, S Barry Church, CB Brandon Carr, DL Terrell McClain, CB Morris Claiborne and S J.J. Wilcox

Dallas' offensive line and secondary took significant hits that put pressure on the Cowboys heading into the draft. There should be some regression on the field as a result. None of this came as much of a surprise with the Cowboys strapped for cap space.

The Cardinals found a way to bring back pass-rusher Chandler Jones, but had to let other key defenders walk. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals

Grade: C

Key moves: re-signed OLB Chandler Jones, TE Jermaine Gresham and C A.Q. Shipley; lost DL Calais Campbell, S Tony Jefferson, S D.J. Swearinger and CB Marcus Cooper; signed K Phil Dawson

The Cardinals knew they were going to take major hits on defense this offseason, which is exactly what happened. Re-signing Jones was the priority and Arizona got it done. Extending Campbell's deal earlier in the process would have been ideal. Arizona will need an especially strong 2017 draft to replenish.
Baltimore Ravens

Grade: C

Key moves: re-signed DT Brandon Williams; signed S Tony Jefferson; lost RT Rick Wagner, FB Kyle Juszczyk, DT Lawrence Guy and WR Kamar Aiken

The Ravens prioritized keeping Williams while taking a low-key approach to the market. That approach would serve them better if they were effectively replenishing through the draft. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the team has missed on too many recent picks to sustain an approach to free agency that leans conservative both by philosophy and out of necessity after the team paid a ransom for QB Joe Flacco.
Cleveland Browns

Grade: C-

Key moves: re-signed OLB Jamie Collins, G Joel Bitonio and P Britton Colquitt; traded for QB Brock Osweiler; signed G Kevin Zeitler, WR Kenny Britt and C JC Tretter; lost WR Terrelle Pryor and FS Jordan Poyer

The move to acquire Osweiler would look better if the Browns had been able to flip him for another draft choice while unloading some of his salary. Until that happens, his $16 million salary is too high a price to pay for the second-round pick netted in the deal. The money spent for Zeitler was easier to justify, especially given how much other teams have spent for offensive linemen whose credentials pale by comparison. But the team lost offensive playmaking when Pryor departed.
Minnesota Vikings

Grade: C-

Key moves: signed LT Riley Reiff, RT Mike Remmers and RB Latavius Murray; lost LT Matt Kalil, TE Rhett Ellison, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, CB Captain Munnerlyn and RT Andre Smith

The Vikings were prominent players in the NFL's game of musical offensive tackles this offseason. There's a decent chance they won't be much better from a pass-protection standpoint. There's a better chance they won't get their money's worth. But for the next five months, Vikings fans can read about how they addressed their biggest need in free agency.
San Francisco 49ers

Grade: D+

Key moves: lost K Phil Dawson, LB Michael Wilhoite and RB Shaun Draughn; signed WR Pierre Garcon, QB Brian Hoyer, LB Malcolm Smith, FB Kyle Juszczyk and WR Marquise Goodwin

Garcon was a quality addition and logical player for new coach Kyle Shanahan to install as a leader. Hoyer may or may not be better than Colin Kaepernick. Beyond that, the 49ers paid premium prices at nonpremium positions when they added Smith and Juszczyk. They loaded up on veterans costing between roughly $1 million and $3 million -- players comparable to what a team might find in the draft at lower cost. The 49ers are different. Are they better?
Brian Hoyer's two-year contract with the 49ers includes $9.85 million fully guaranteed. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Carolina Panthers

Grade: D+

Key moves: re-signed DL Charles Johnson and DE Mario Addison; signed LT Matt Kalil, CB Captain Munnerlyn, OLB Julius Peppers and S Mike Adams; traded away DL Kony Ealy; lost LB A.J. Klein, RT Mike Remmers and WR Ted Ginn

The hits are catching up to QB Cam Newton. Placing a big bet on Kalil at left tackle didn't seem like a cost-effective way to change Newton's medical outlook. Carolina was far from alone in betting big on a suspect offensive tackle. That doesn't make this a good move.
New York Jets

Grade: D

Key moves: signed QB Josh McCown, LT Kelvin Beachum and CB Morris Claiborne; lost QB Geno Smith; released CB Darrelle Revis, C Nick Mangold and WR Brandon Marshall

The Jets approached free agency as though time was on their side, laying the foundation for a rebuild by clearing out declining veterans with high salaries. That could be the best approach from a long-range standpoint. The Jets did not get better in free agency, however. McCown is a solid backup whose style makes him prone to injury. It could be time to draft a quarterback.
Cincinnati Bengals

Grade: D

Key moves: re-signed CB Dre Kirkpatrick and WR Brandon LaFell; signed LB Kevin Minter and RT Andre Smith; lost G Kevin Zeitler, LT Andrew Whitworth, DL Domata Peko, RB Rex Burkhead and DL Margus Hunt; released LB Rey Maualuga

The Bengals' championship window opened and closed without the team winning a playoff game. While injuries played a leading role in Cincy's recent postseason defeats, free agency keeps knocking down the offense. One year after struggling to fill the losses of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, the Bengals will have a tough time recovering from losing Whitworth and Zeitler.



Washington Redskins

Grade: F

Key moves: re-signed TE Vernon Davis; signed WR Terrelle Pryor, DL Terrell McClain, DL Stacy McGee and S D.J. Swearinger; lost WR DeSean Jackson, WR Pierre Garcon and DT Chris Baker

A review limited only to roster-related moves would surely be kinder. In the bigger picture, the Redskins divorced their general manager while becoming further estranged from their franchise quarterback. That is a dubious double whammy that cannot be overlooked.
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PostSubject: Re: ESPN Insider, NFL: Grading how every NFL team fared in free agency   Sun Apr 02, 2017 12:11 am

At least the Jets passed. (happy)

Huh wrote:
Washington Redskins

Grade: F

Key moves: re-signed TE Vernon Davis; signed WR Terrelle Pryor, DL Terrell McClain, DL Stacy McGee and S D.J. Swearinger; lost WR DeSean Jackson, WR Pierre Garcon and DT Chris Baker

A review limited only to roster-related moves would surely be kinder. In the bigger picture, the Redskins divorced their general manager while becoming further estranged from their franchise quarterback. That is a dubious double whammy that cannot be overlooked.
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