I'll list the good and bad moves made during the trade deadline and in free agency on this page. I'll also break down any significant trades. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Jan. 4 Updates
Titans fire HC Mike Munchak: B+ Grade
It was initially reported that Mike Munchak would retain his job, but Munchak was unwilling to make the appropriate changes to his coaching staff, so Tennessee let him go.
I can definitely get behind this firing. Munchak had just a 22-26 record with no playoff appearances as coach of the Titans. He didn't have the best game plans and failed to develop Jake Locker. His teams were constantly blown out in 2012 and found ways to lose close games this past season.
Munchak is a very good offensive line coach, but just doesn't appear as though he has what it takes to be in charge of a football team. Tennessee can move on, and the organization can definitely do better.
I'll have more firing and hiring grades all day Monday. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Jan. 3 Updates
Bears re-sign CB Tim Jennings (4 years, $22.4M; $11.8M guaranteed): A- Grade
Tim Jennings is a decent starting cornerback, and being one of the few defenders who played relatively well in 2013, Chicago had to re-sign him. This actually happens to be a front-loaded deal because the team is in great financial shape this upcoming season. With that in mind, this was a very good re-signing for the Bears, who had to keep one of their cornerbacks, as Charles Tillman is slated for free agency. I'll have 2014 NFL Free Agency Rankings up very soon, by the way - perhaps on Monday.
I'll have grades for the other Chicago signings once financials are known. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Jan. 2 Updates
Bears re-sign QB Jay Cutler (7 years, $126M; $54M guaranteed): C+ Grade
It's never a good sign when fans of opposing teams are thrilled by a particular transaction, but that's the case here, as all of the Packer fans on my forum are extremely happy about this contract.
I'm a bit torn on it. On one hand, Jay Cutler is the best quarterback the Bears have had in a long time. He led them to the NFC Championship a few years ago, and he played very well in Marc Trestman's offense this season. This is a front-loaded deal, so Chicago will be able to get out of this contract in three years.
On the other hand, Cutler has shown that he is injury-prone, as he's missed 12 games the past three seasons. He's also just 1-8 against the Packers. He wasn't responsible for some of those losses, but he appeared to choke in a couple of those contests. Also, there was very little drop-off between Cutler and Josh McCown this season, so did Chicago really need to give Cutler as much guaranteed money as Aaron Rodgers? Because that just doesn't seem right regardless.
I had some issues deciding between a B- and a C+ for this grade, but in the end, this is a fairly average signing with some upside and downside.
I'll have grades for the other Chicago signings once financials are known. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Bears re-sign G Matt Slauson (4 years): TBA Grade
Matt Slauson played well at left guard in 2013. I'll have a grade for this re-signing once financials are known. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Black Monday Updates
Buccaneers hire HC Lovie Smith: A Grade
Charlie Campbell wrote an outline on what the Buccaneers should do after firing Schiano and Dominik back on Monday. He listed Lovie Smith as the No. 1 option for the head-coaching position, citing that Tampa needs someone familiar with the area to help bring in the right personnel.
Regardless of his familiarity with Tampa, Smith is a very good coach. I'm still wondering why the Bears even fired him last year. Smith has an 81-63 record and led Chicago to the Super Bowl after the 2006 season. He's definitely a major upgrade over Greg Schiano.
This is a great hire. It makes so much sense, and there wasn't a better candidate available for the Buccaneers.
I'll have more firing, hiring and retaining grades throughout the week. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Texans hire HC Bill O'Brien: A Grade
As a Penn State alumnus, I'm sad to see Bill O'Brien go. That should give you an indication of where I'm going with this grade.
I'm usually against NFL teams hiring college head coaches, but O'Brien has plenty of experience in the pros. He worked under Bill Belichick from 2007 to 2011, and unlike Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel, he proved that he can be in charge with the work he did at Penn State. The Nittany Lions were expected to bottom out in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, yet O'Brien led the program to a 15-9 record in two years. He also got the most out of Matt McGloin, who was just a pedestrian quarterback prior to O'Brien's arrival.
The Texans have made a great choice by hiring O'Brien. There's very little doubt that he'll right the ship in Houston and have the franchise competing for the playoffs again in no time.
I'll have more firing, hiring and retaining grades throughout the week. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Cowboys retain HC Jason Garrett: C Grade
Jason Garrett shouldn't be an NFL head coach. His team constantly finds ways to lose. It's always something different too. Whether it's icing his own kicker, burning unnecessary timeouts or watching his quarterback inexplicably check out of running plays, Garrett's Cowboys almost always choke in the clutch.
Dallas needs to find a new coach, but Jerry Jones announced that Garrett would be back in 2014. It's really no surprise that Garrett was brought back. He's returning for one of the following reasons: Jones needs a scapegoat to take the heat off of himself; Jones is too stubborn to admit that he was wrong; and Jones is completely incompetent. He needs to hire a general manager because he's terrible at making moves in free agency and the NFL Draft. Some butt-kissers on TV like Phil Simms and Daryl Johnson defend Jones, but he's in way over his head when it comes to football decisions.
The only reason this isn't worse than a "C" grade is because Jones is largely to blame for Dallas' constant mediocrity. He put this team together and fired two great defensive minds, so it's not exactly Garrett's fault that his stop unit was one of the league's worst.
I'll have more firing, hiring and retaining grades throughout the week. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Giants retain HC Tom Coughlin: A+ Grade
Even more puzzling than the Rex Ryan firing rumors were those that said Tom Coughlin would be let go. The Giants would be complete imbeciles to allow Coughlin to walk. Coughlin, who has won two Super Bowls with the team, is a top-five head coach in the NFL. Unless New York somehow figures a way to clone Bill Belichick, it won't find anyone out there who happens to be better than Coughlin.
Sure, the Giants have missed the playoffs the previous two seasons, but that was hardly Coughlin's fault. They got off to a great start in 2012, but injuries absolutely killed them down the stretch. There were even more hurt players this year, but the Giants still kept battling in the final two months of the season, finishing 7-3 in their final 10 games.
The players still fight for Coughlin, so there's nothing to suggest that this team couldn't make another Super Bowl push in the near future as long as the front office makes the appropriate repairs to the roster.
I'll have more firing, hiring and retaining grades throughout the week. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Jets retain HC Rex Ryan: B Grade
I never understood why Rex Ryan's job was in jeopardy in the first place. Many predicted the Jets to finish with one of the league's worst records, yet Ryan had them at 5-4 at one point. They struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball for a stretch in November, but they still managed to finish 8-8.
Ryan did the most with what he could. Sure, New York fans will always be dissatisfied with missing the playoffs, but it's not Ryan's fault that the front office drafted an inconsistent Geno Smith and provided zero weapons for their new rookie quarterback.
Ryan has made some mistakes during his tenure with the Jets, but overall, he's a good coach who happens to have a brilliant defensive mind. His players love him and give 100 percent for him, so he definitely deserves to be back with the team in 2014.
I'll have more firing, hiring and retaining grades throughout the week. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Lions fire HC Jim Schwartz: A Grade
Jim Schwartz should have been fired a year ago. He too frequently lost control of his team. The players constantly committed dumb penalties and unforced turnovers, yet Schwartz never did anything to fix it. Detroit also constantly underachieved and played down to its competition. Again, Schwartz was mostly to blame for that.
Schwartz showed a lack of discipline himself. It started when he followed Jim Harbaugh around like a maniac looking for a fight. Schwartz then cursed at the fans repeatedly in the stands of the home finale. That's not exactly how an NFL head coach is supposed to act.
What ultimately did Schwartz in was a 1-6 collapse to conclude this season. He had the NFC North gift-wrapped for him when Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler both went down with injuries, yet his team squandered the divisional lead with some inexplicable losses. There was no doubt that Schwartz had to go.
I'll have more firing and hiring grades all day Monday. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Buccaneers fire HC Greg Schiano: A Grade
It's never a good sign when a team quits on a coach in the middle of the season. That's exactly what the Buccaneers did, as they mailed in several games. They eventually got their act together and played relatively hard for the second half of the year, but it wasn't enough, nor should it have been.
No one should've been surprised that the Buccaneers didn't give 100 percent for Schiano all of the time. Schiano is an overbearing control-freak. That style may work in college football, but it won't fly in the NFL.
Schiano, whose dream was to succeed Joe Paterno as Penn State's head coach, has to be considered the favorite to land the soon-to-be vacated job in Happy Valley. As a Nittany Lion alumnus, I'm fine with that. The Buccaneers can also move on with a coach with more than just three years of professional experience. Schiano finished with an 11-21 record in two seasons.
I'll have more firing and hiring grades all day Monday. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Buccaneers fire GM Mark Dominik: A+ Grade
Mark Dominik's 5-year stint with the Buccaneers ends with a 28-52 record, as he had just one season in which Tampa finished above .500. Dominik had some high-quality draft picks - Doug Martin at No. 31 overall and then Lavonte David in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft being some examples - but he simply made too many mistakes. Selecting Josh Freeman in the first round happened to be one of them, but Dominik's greatest blunders came in free agency.
Dominik had a bad habit of overpaying for players. Just look at these contracts he handed out over the past three offseasons:
Safety Dashon Goldson: 5 years, $41.25 million
Cornerback Darrelle Revis: 6 years, $96 million
Guard Carl Nicks: 5 years, $47.5 million
Wide receiver Mike Williams: 6 years, $40.25 million
Punter (!) Michael Koenen 6 years, $19.5M million
Guard Davin Joseph: 7 years, $53 million
Linebacker Quincy Black: 5 years, $29 million
Wowzers. Dominik was spending the Glazers' money like a drunken sailor, so the madness had to stop.
I'll have more firing and hiring grades all day Monday. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Redskins fire HC Mike Shanahan: A Grade
I don't think there's any one side to blame for the meltdown between Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin this season. Griffin has been acting like a prima donna all year, constantly throwing his teammates under the bus after each ugly defeat. Griffin, who seems to be more obsessed with being a star than an actual football player, tried to return way too soon from a major knee injury, all because of some commercial slogan. It was completely irresponsible. Of course, Shanahan is at fault for allowing this absurdity to fester. He was also to blame for keeping an injured Griffin on the field in the first place.
The bottom line is that Shanahan and Griffin couldn't co-exist. One of them had to go, and it wasn't going to be Griffin. Shanahan leaves with a coaching resume that continues to look more and more like he's just a byproduct of John Elway's greatness. He'll surely land another head-coaching gig in the near future, but he'll have a lot to prove.
The Redskins made the right move here, but it's yet another reminder that owner Daniel Snyder has no idea what he's doing. Snyder is no longer throwing around money in free agency, so he's transitioned to doing so with glamorous coaches. Instead of overpaying for the biggest name out there, he needs to actually find a coach who makes sense for his team and can work well with Griffin, or else he may lose his franchise quarterback as well.
I'll have more firing and hiring grades all day Monday. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Vikings fire HC Leslie Frazier: C- Grade
I challenge any NFL head coach not named Bill Belichick to win with a trio of quarterbacks named Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman. Leslie Frazier was charged with this unenviable task, and even though his team was very competitive at the end of the year - it went 4-3-1 in its final eight games - he was axed Monday morning.
I don't support this firing. Frazier is what you would call a scapegoat. This is general manager Rick Spielman saving his own job. Spielman, after all, reached for Ponder with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Ponder was a lemon, and everyone knew it, yet Frazier still managed to lead Minnesota into the playoffs last year with the Florida State product at the helm. Things were much different in 2013, but was it Frazier's fault that Ponder played like crap, and Freeman (thanks for wasting $3 million of the owner's money, Rick) was even worse? Was it Frazier's fault that Spielman traded away one of his top play-makers in Percy Harvin and overpaid the sluggish Greg Jennings as a consequence? Was it Frazier's fault that there tons of holes on the defensive side of the ball?
Spielman obviously felt that his job was threatened, and in today's homoclitic way of doing business, someone had to fall on the sword. That was Frazier, who did a good job with what he had to work with. It's a shame he's gone because the team played very hard for him in meaningless games down the stretch.
I'll have more firing and hiring grades all day Monday. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Browns fire HC Rob Chudzinski: D Grade
This is typical Browns stupidity. I don't understand the thinking behind this move. Why would they hire a guy if they were just going to fire him after one year? A year in which his top quarterback suffered a season-ending injury. A year in which his best running back was traded away. It's unclear if Chudzinski can ever be a successful head coach, but we'll just never know because he never had a chance. The Browns were competitive in the first half of the season, but the wheels fell off in the wake of numerous players going down. Again, that's not Chudzinski's fault.
If you look at the most prominent NFL organizations, they keep the same coaches in place for a long time. This is a concept the Browns have never grasped. They'll never achieve long-term success - or any sort of success, for that matter - if they keep shuffling coaches in and out. If Cleveland didn't think Chudzinski wasn't the answer, it never should have hired him in the first place.
What the Browns need to do is choose someone and stick with that coach for a while. Unfortunately for Cleveland supporters, it doesn't seem like this franchise will ever learn its lesson.
I'll have more firing and hiring grades all day Monday. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.
Dec. 28 Updates
Bears re-sign K Robbie Gould (4 years, $15 million): B+ Grade
Robbie Gould is now making about as much as Sebastian Janikowski, and I'd say he's worth it. Since his second season, Gould has connected on at least 83.3 percent of his attempts every single year. Even better, he's a whopping 16-of-19 from 50-plus dating back to 2009. He's a great, reliable weapon to have, so Chicago did well to retain him.
Dec. 27 Updates
Jaguars re-sign DT Sen'Derrick Marks (4 years, $22 million): C+ Grade
I'm not a fan of this move. Sen'Derrick Marks was just a fringe starter before this season. He rushed the passer well for Jacksonville, but still happens to be a huge liability against the run. Marks, 27 in February, is a very good rotational player, but Jacksonville is now paying him like a full-time starter, which is too big of a role for this one-year wonder. This isn't a terrible contract by itself, but David Caldwell seems to be heading down Marty Hurney's path of overpaying marginal players.
Nov. 23 Updates
49ers extend CB Tramaine Brock (4 years, $16 million): B+ Grade
The 49ers struggled a bit defensively at the beginning of the season because Nnamdi Asomugha was so poor as a nickel corner. Tramaine Brock replaced him after a couple of games and was such a huge upgrade that San Francisco just decided to release Asomugha.
Brock has been great - he's tied for second in the NFL with four picks - so he definitely deserves this sort of contract. He could take over as a starter once Carlos Rogers moves on, and if so, San Francisco won't being paying much money to a starting cornerback.
Oct. 29 Updates
Patriots acquire NT Isaac Sopoaga and 6th-round pick from Eagles for 5th-round pick
The Eagles signed Isaac Sopoaga this offseason, but he predictably was a huge disappointment. Sopoaga, who offered no pass rush to begin with, wasn't even that good at defending the run. He wasn't inept or anything, but he was a below-average player.
As for the Patriots, they were desperate for defensive line help in the wake of Vince Wilfork's season-ending injury. Sopoaga will give them depth, but they won't be much better versus the run. This is a decent deal for them though, as moving down about 15 spots or so in the middle of the third day in the NFL Draft is no big deal.
Grade for Patriots - B-
Grade for Eagles - C+
Oct. 21 Updates
Dolphins acquire OT Bryant McKinnie from Ravens for conditional late-round pick
Bryant McKinnie became expendable for the Ravens after Eugene Monroe was acquired from Jacksonville. He was just rotting on the bench as a result of being out of shape this season, so Baltimore did well to get something for him as opposed to just cutting him.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, have major pass-protection issues, so they had to try something. Perhaps they can motivate McKinnie to lose some weight and stop interacting with strippers with strange pseudonyms. He's worth a shot for a conditional late-round pick, but Miami fans shouldn't expect much out of the lethargic McKinnie.
Grade for Dolphins - B-
Grade for Ravens - B
Oct. 13 Updates
Vikings sign QB Josh Freeman (1 year, $3 million): B-/D Grade
I'm issuing two grades for this, so let me explain:
The "B-" is for the Vikings. They have a poor quarterbacking situation, so why not give Josh Freeman a shot? He has played very well at times, so perhaps he can help turn the season around if he reverts to 2010 form. Freeman has personal and football issues - his inability to read defenses this late into his career is alarming - but he has upside and can be a decent starter if he's coached up and gets his mind clear.
The "D" is for Freeman's choice. The Vikings haven't been able to develop Christian Ponder, so why would things change for Freeman? What Freeman should've done is sign with the Raiders, even if it would've been for slightly less money. Freeman could then be united with offensive coordinator/quarterback guru Greg Olson, who coached Freeman in his best season. Olson could've tutored Freeman and helped him fix what he's doing wrong. Sure, Freeman would've waited a bit longer to start, but he needs time off. As it stands now, Freeman will likely be forced in before he's ready, and he'll almost certainly fail.
Oct. 4 Updates
Giants acquire OLB Jon Beason from Panthers for late-round pick
Jon Beason was once a very talented linebacker, but his skills have been sapped because of numerous injuries over the years. He was a two-down player for the Panthers in the first couple of games before getting sent to the bench in Week 3. Beason won't be much of an upgrade (if any) for the Giants despite their glaring holes at linebacker.
Having said that, the Giants' defense is atrocious, so they had to try something. It's a long shot, but perhaps they'll get something out of Beason. They're not giving up much, so why not?
As for the Panthers, Beason wasn't contributing anything, so getting a late-round pick for him is better than nothing.
Grade for Giants - B-
Grade for Panthers - B
Oct. 2 Updates
Steelers acquire OT Levi Brown from Cardinals for late-day picks
I admire the Steelers for trying to salvage their season, but I'm not sure this trade helps Ben Roethlisberger very much. Levi Brown is garbage when it comes to pass protection. He has surrendered four sacks this season and routinely gets his quarterback killed. He won't be much of an upgrade over Mike Adams in this regard.
However, the one benefit to this move is that Pittsburgh will be able to run the ball slightly better. Brown is an above-average blocker when it comes to ground attacks, so Le'Veon Bell should have more room. And for some late-day picks, why not?
As for the Cardinals, they're 2-2, so I'm not sure why they felt like they needed to sell off pieces for no relevant compensation. Bradley Sowell will start in Brown's place, but he's practice-squad fodder. Losing Brown is not a devastating blow for Arizona by any means, but this move did not help the team in the slightest.
Update: Digging into this more, the Steelers will be responsible for Brown's big contract, which intensifies their already-troublesome financial woes. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have freed up a ton of money ($16 million over the next three years).
Update: The Steelers have restructed with Brown, and they'll be paying him the veteran minimum.
Grade for Steelers - B
Grade for Cardinals - C+
Ravens acquire OT Eugene Monroe from Jaguars for multiple third-day picks
Dumb teams like Jacksonville shouldn't be able to trade with elite general managers, such as Ozzie Newsome. It's almost unfair, and Roger Goodell really needs to consider stepping in and nullifying this trade.
Here's how dumb the Jaguars are: They had a solid left tackle in Eugene Monroe. They opted to use the No. 2 overall pick on a right tackle (when there were plenty of right tackles available on the market). They then shipped Monroe off to Baltimore in exchange for multiple third-day picks, meaning they'll flip Joeckel (who has struggled) to the left side. So, in a sense, they're right back where they started prior to the 2013 NFL Draft (probably even worse off), only they essentially used the No. 2 overall choice to acquire multiple third-day selections. What!?
No one should be surprised that Jacksonville is this stupid. The team is run by a general manager who announced this past offseason that he wants to build around Blaine Gabbert - a quarterback who can't even keep his eyes open when he throws the ball.
Oh, and one more thing about the Jaguars: If they were so convinced Monroe wouldn't re-sign, they could've just let him walk. The compensatory pick they would've received would have been better than what they obtained from Baltimore.
The Ravens came away with a steal. Monroe is a solid blind-side tackle and will immediately upgrade Joe Flacco's protection. They surrendered nothing for Monroe, so Newsome strikes again.
Grade for Ravens - A+
Grade for Jaguars - MILLEN CYRUS TWERKING EXPERIENCE (F-)
Sept. 18 Updates
Colts acquire RB Trent Richardson from Browns for 1st-round pick
Wow. I can't believe this happened. Or maybe I should believe it. These are the Browns we're talking about. Only they would trade the best player on their roster for a mid-first-round pick. Still... holy crap.
First of all, some funny reactions to this. Matvei wrote: "Trading a No. 3 overall pick for like a No. 15 because your 90-year-old offensive coordinator can't use his best player..."
Awesome Kelly in Arizona, meanwhile: "Threatened by Jax in Bridgewater Bowl, I guess."
This is just unbelievable. First of all, Matvei makes a great point. Richardson was the third-overall selection. Why trade him for a pick in the late teens (or later)? It's not like Richardson was an aging veteran in the final year of his contract. He's one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, and he's only in his second season. In the pass-happy NFL, it's important to have a runner who can catch passes effectively out of the backfield and block well for his quarterback. Richardson does both.
As for Kelly's comment, it does indeed make the Browns competitive with the Jaguars for the right to take Teddy Bridgewater - see my 2014 NFL Mock Draft here - but Cleveland may have been in that position anyway. And even if they didn't land Bridgewater, pairing Richardson with someone like Tajh Boyd would have been promising.
Again, I shouldn't be surprised. This is a franchise that opted to draft a 29-year-old quarterback in the first round rather than trade up for Robert Griffin. They then fired that general manager and hired one with an awfully dubious track record.
I only feel sorry for Browns fans. Whom do they have to cheer for now? Jordan Cameron? Well, I hope they enjoy him while he lasts because Lombardi is sure to ship him off for a sixth-round selection sometime soon.
Oh, and as for the Colts, no explanation is really necessary. This is a great move for them because it gives the promising Andrew Luck a great weapon to work with. Richardson is much better than anyone they could've drafted at pick No. 16-24.
Michael Lombardi has to be the least popular man in Cleveland right now.. Talk about an accomplishment!
THIS JUST IN: Browns GM Michael Lombardi tries to update to iOS 7, somehow trades Trent Richardson for a 1st Round Pick instead
BREAKING: Browns fans are on the phone actively trying to trade Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi.
Browns fans! You can greet GM Mike Lombardi at your local WalMart! Actually, he will greet you because he starts his new job there tomorrow.
I hate the @Browns. Haslem go to jail already, Banner go back to Philly, and Lombardi go back to pumping gas at the Citgo.
banner and lombardi are cleaning up the offensive mess that holmgrom left. if you blame anyone blame holmgrom for this mess. Focc yeu holmgrom
And of course, more Gong:
Whole front office will be fired after next year, so who cares?
I mean it. Its not like it matters. Talent won't come here, cuz a cesspool, and ugly women. We refuse to draft talent, cuz troll Cleveland is all the rage, and when we do, we just get rid of them, cuz why have any playmakers on a team ever.
**** the Browns. **** the whole city of cleveland for being a stupid useless **** city, **** the Colts for outwitting the dumb loser Browns, **** the division teams for finally being crappy, and us giving them two free wins, cuz why not sharing is caring, and **** the NFL for allowing the Browns to ever come back in 1999 to just troll us every year since.
And even more Gong, using logic against the contrarian viewpoint:
You guys aren't seeing this right.
Richardson = talent.
Browns = zero talent.
Draft picks don't matter in the vision.
no talent = worst franchise of all of sports everlasting.
I think we should call it getting Irsay'd while raping little girls in attics for ten years.
You guys don't watch Browns games. **** the stats.
Richardson is actual talent and the best player on the Browns offense, and maybe even the team.
**** the Browns. **** them so much.
Grade for Colts - A+
Grade for Browns - MILLEN AND LOMBARDI KIELBASA WRESTLING TOURNAMENT (F-)
Sept. 14 Updates
Raiders extend FB Marcel Reece (3 years, $13 million): B Grade
Marcel Reece is now the highest-paid fullback in the NFL. It could be argued that he deserves that distinction, though Minnesota's Jerome Felton might have something to say about that. The thing though is that the Raiders aren't utilizing Reece enough. He's a matchup nightmare, yet he had just one touch (a 9-yard reception) in the opener. Even with Darren McFadden still healthy, Reece needs to get his hands on the football more often.
Sept. 3 Updates
Texans extend ILB Brian Cushing (6 years, $55.6M; $21M guaranteed): B+ Grade
It's a little risky to give Brian Cushing a contract like this when he's coming off a torn ACL, but the front office obviously feels confident in the medical reports they've received. I'm usually not a big fan of giving this type of money to an inside linebacker, but Cushing is one of the top players at his position. The Texans saw a major defensive decline when Cushing was lost for the season, so they understand just how important he is to Wade Phillips' unit.
Sept. 2 Updates
Bengals extend DT Geno Atkins (5 years, $55M; $31M guaranteed): A+ Grade
Geno Atkins is the best defensive tackle in football, so the Bengals were very wise to lock him up. Atkins, who has made the Pro Bowl in two of his three NFL seasons, turned only 25 back in March, so he'll be dominant for years to come. Considering that the Redskins paid $100 million with $41 million guaranteed to a player at the same position (Albert Haynesworth), I'd say Cincinnati is getting a steal with Atkins at just $55 and $31 million.
Aug. 23 Updates
Steelers acquire RB Felix Jones from Eagles for DE/OLB Adrian Robinson
The Steelers win this trade, only because Felix Jones is more likely to make his new team's roster than Adrian Robinson. With Le'Veon Bell sidelined, Pittsburgh's running back situation is a mess. Jones is terrible, but he's a potential upgrade over the likes of La'Rod Stephens-Howling and Baron Batch.
Adrian Robinson is a project. He was an undrafted rookie in 2012 who will be stashed on the practice squad. Perhaps the former Temple star can emerge into a role player of some sort, but Eagle fans shouldn't hold their breath.
Grade for Steelers - B-
Grade for Eagles - C
Aug. 22 Updates
Cowboys extend ILB Sean Lee (6 years, $42M; $16.1M guaranteed): B Grade
This is a pretty tough extension to grade. On one hand, Sean Lee is a very talented player who is a huge difference-maker when he's on the field for the Cowboys. On the other hand, he's a bit unreliable, having missed 13 games in the past three seasons. Considering his injury history, Jerry Jones probably should've let Lee play out the final year of his contract. However, it certainly can't be considered a bad move to lock up one of the team's top defenders.
Aug. 21 Updates
Ravens acquire RB Delone Carter from Colts for KR David Reed
The Colts have the potential to run away as the clear winners of this trade if David Reed can return to pre-2011 form. Reed tore his ACL that season, which was a shame because he was a solid return specialist before that. It's unclear if the old Reed will surface, unfortunately.
As for Baltimore, the team gets some running back depth behind Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Delone Carter doesn't have any sort of talent though, so he's just an average No. 3 back. He might be able to beat out Anthony Allen for the job, but he wouldn't be much of an upgrade.
Grade for Ravens - C
Grade for Colts - B
Aug. 20 Updates
Broncos acquire G/C John Moffitt from Seahawks for DT Sealver Siliga
The Broncos did a good job of obtaining a player with starting experience for practice-squad fodder. John Moffitt has 15 career NFL starts. He hasn't been very good when in the lineup, but he at least can be a decent backup. Moffitt also played some center at Wisconsin, so perhaps this is really just an insurance policy just in case Ryan Lilja doesn't hold up.
Siliga, meanwhile, isn't much of an NFL-caliber player. He has barely been on the field in his two NFL seasons. His career stats are: one tackle. That's it.
Grade for Broncos - B
Grade for Seahawks - C-
Aug. 19 Updates
49ers acquire WR Jon Baldwin from Chiefs for WR A.J. Jenkins
The 49ers dealt their turd sandwich to the Chiefs for a diarrhea burrito. Both Jon Baldwin and A.J. Jenkins are terrible receivers who won't be in the league much longer because they just don't care about improving or learning the game of football. I feel like giving both teams Cs is appropriate; they're each getting rid of trash, but taking back garbage in return.
Grade for 49ers - C
Grade for Chiefs - C
Aug. 13 Updates
Eagles acquire WR Jeff Maehl from Texans for OT Nate Menkin
There's a chance neither of these players makes their new team's 53-man roster, but the deal does make sense for both franchises. The Eagles need receiving depth in the wake of injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn. Chip Kelly is very familiar with Jeff Maehl, having coached him at Oregon.
Houston, meanwhile, has some depth issues at offensive tackle. Nate Menkin is a good fit for the team's zone-blocking scheme.
Grade for Eagles - B-
Grade for Texans - C+
Aug. 12 Updates
Broncos extend P Britton Colquitt (3 years, $11.7 million): C Grade
I can't say I'm a big fan of this contract, which makes Britton Colquitt the highest-paid player at his position. Colquitt is a solid punter, but he was just 16th in punts placed inside the 20 last year. Sure, he didn't have as many opportunities as punters in worse offenses, but Andy Lee, for example, had the same amount of punts with 36 booted inside the 20. Colquitt had 27. I know Colquitt was third in net average, but the Denver air undoubtedly had an impact on that.
If you're still not convinced the Broncos gave Colquitt too much, think about it this way: Does an offense with Peyton Manning and three stud receivers really need a high-paid punter? Denver can surely survive with a mediocre punter considering he won't have to be on the field very much.
Aug. 7 Updates
Packers sign QB Vince Young (1 year, $840,000): B- Grade
The Packers need help at their injury-ravaged positions, but the one addition they made this week was signing Vince Young to be their backup quarterback. Perhaps the coaching staff can develop Young into a capable backup here at very little cost. However, let's be real here: All of these injuries are one thing, but if Aaron Rodgers goes down, Green Bay is epically screwed - even with Young at the helm instead of Graham Harrell.
Aug. 6 Updates
Dolphins re-sign S Reshad Jones (4 years, $30 million): A- Grade
Reshad Jones was just a fifth-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but he has evolved into one of the top safeties in the NFL. Jones was amazing last season, shining in all aspects of the game. While I'm often critical of the big-money deals that Jeff Ireland hands out, Jones is definitely worth this sort of contract. He's now the fifth-highest-paid safety in the NFL, which seems appropriate.
Aug. 4 Updates
Ravens re-sign FB Vonta Leach (2 years, $3.75 million): A- Grade
Ray Rice has to be thrilled right now. Vonta Leach is one of the top run-blocking fullbacks in the NFL. He was cut for cap reasons earlier in the offseason, but Baltimore brought him back to ensure that Rice (and Bernard Pierce) have larger holes to run through. The Ravens lost a ton of veteran leadership this spring, so keeping Leach is also beneficial for locker room purposes.
Aug. 2 Updates
Raiders re-sign K Sebastian Janikowski (4 years, $15.2 million): B- Grade
Sebastian Janikowski looked like a bust when he went just 22-of-32 as a rookie despite being selected as a first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. However, Janikoski has developed into one of the top kickers in the league recently. He went 31-of-35 in 2011 and 31-of-34 last season. He's a collective 23-of-34 from 50-plus in the past four years. I'm not a big fan of giving a kicker - especially one who just turned 35 - this sort of money, but Janikowski is one of the elite players at his position.
Aug. 1 Updates
Broncos sign G/C Ryan Lilja (1 year, $2.2 million): B+ Grade
The Broncos almost had to do this. They lost centers J.D. Walton and Dan Koppen to injuries, so their only alternative at the position was Manuel Ramirez. Ryan Lilja is a skilled lineman who can play all three interior positions. There is a downside, however, and it's that Lilja, 32 in October, is coming off knee and toe surgeries that were performed this offseason. Lilja is unreliable at this stage of his career, but it's not like Denver had any other choice.
Aug. 1 Updates
Cardinals sign OT Eric Winston (1 year, $840,000): B+ Grade
I was waiting to see how much money Eric Winston earned on his 1-year deal before posting a grade. Considering Winston is making less than a million (thanks to e-mailer David Z. for pointing me to this information), this is a solid signing. Winston was the top right tackle on the market. I'm not sure he completely fits the blocking scheme in Arizona, and upgrading the right tackle position wasn't necessary because Bobby Massie played well at the end of last year, but this should improve the offensive line overall. Winston will take over at right tackle, allowing Massie to move inside, where he'll upgrade one of the guard spots.
July 26 Updates
Cardinals sign DE/OLB John Abraham (2 years, $6 million): B+ Grade
John Abraham turned 35 this offseason and has never played in a pure 3-4 before. However, the Cardinals aren't taking very much of a risk with this move. A 2-year deal worth $6 million is nothing for a player who has accumulated 9.5 sacks or more in each of the previous three seasons. Arizona had to find a proven pass-rusher across from Sam Acho, and Abraham was the best option available.
July 25 Updates
Falcons extend QB Matt Ryan (5 years, $103.75M; $59M guaranteed): A- Grade
If this sounds like a ton of money to you, consider everything Matt Ryan has done for the Falcons' franchise since being drafted in 2008. Atlanta was in turmoil in the wake of the dogfighting scandal and Bobby Petrino's unceremonious exodus. The Falcons desperately needed stability, and Ryan provided exactly that.
Ryan has caught some flak for disappointing in the playoffs early on in his career, but he put together a tremendous final drive against the Seahawks in the second round of the playoffs. If it weren't for an injury, he might have even beaten the 49ers the following week.
Atlanta will always be in contention for the Lombardi Trophy as long as Ryan is healthy, so he's worth every penny of this deal.
July 24 Updates
Buccaneers re-sign WR Mike Williams (6 years, $40.25M; $15M guaranteed): C Grade
Read this paragraph that Charlie Campbell wrote a year ago about Mike Williams, and tell me if you believe he's worth this contract:
In the beginning of the season, Williams was struggling to get separation from defensive backs. He thought he was too heavy, so he started losing weight, and by the end of the season, sources said that Williams was too frail and didn't have the strength to fight off jams and re-routes. Williams also was said to be partying a lot at night, and as a result, he was falling asleep during meetings.
Williams is very talented, but now that he has all of this guaranteed money, what's to stop him from being lethargic again? The Buccaneers are taking a huge risk by paying him so much. I don't like this move at all, though I'll admit that it has a chance of panning out if Williams remains focused.
July 23 Updates
Buccaneers sign RB Peyton Hillis (1 year): B Grade
This is a pretty solid move. There's no guarantee Peyton Hillis will even make the roster, but he has a pretty good shot because he's the only reliable backup running back with any sort of talent behind Doug Martin. Hillis is decent at catching balls out of the backfield, pass protecting and lead blocking. He can be a quality third-down complement to one of the young running backs in the event of a Martin injury.
June 19 Updates
49ers acquire CB Eric Wright from Buccaneers for 2014 late-round pick
NOTE: THIS TRADE WAS VOIDED BECAUSE ERIC WRIGHT FAILED HIS PHYSICAL.
The Buccaneers did well to get anything for Eric Wright. Originally slated to be the starting corner across from Darrelle Revis, Wright was set to be cut after getting arrested for a DUI last week. Why not obtain anything for him with that in mind? In the wake of this trade, second-round rookie Johnthan Banks will have first crack at the No. 2 corner job.
San Francisco, meanwhile, wanted another cornerback because Carlos Rogers is set to make $5.5 million this season. It wasn't a bad idea to go after Wright, but he's definitely a downgrade from Rogers. The latter might be past his prime, but Wright is a pretty mediocre defensive back.
Grade for 49ers - B-
Grade for Buccaneers - B+
July 17 Updates
Bengals re-sign DE Carlos Dunlap (6 years, $40 million): B Grade
Giving a defensive end $40 million over six years who is coming off a six-sack campaign may seem like an absurd amount, but Dunlap's figure is skewed because he played about half the snaps in 2012. He's a dynamic talent worthy of a big pay day; he's stout in terms of stuffing the run and getting to the quarterback. With all of that said, I have some reservations about a contract this size because Dunlap has yet to prove that he can be an every-down player. He'll be asked to take on a larger role in 2013, but will he be up to it? Probably, but it's an unknown right now.
July 16 Updates
Packers extend S Morgan Burnett (4 years, $24.7M; $8.2M guaranteed): B+ Grade
E-mailer Eric F. recently asked me what would be fair for Morgan Burnett. We both agreed that a 6-year, $33 million deal would be appropriate. That's pretty much equivalent to the 4-year, $24.7 million contract that Burnett signed Monday night. Burnett, who only turned 24 back in January, is one of the better young safeties in the NFL. The Packers did well to lock him up for a reasonable price.
July 15 Updates
Broncos extend OT Ryan Clady (5 years, $52.5M; $33M guaranteed): A Grade
Players like Ryan Clady don't grow on trees. One of the top left tackles in the NFL, Clady surrendered only three sacks this past season. Clady, turning 27 in early September, is now the third-highest-paid player at his position behind Joe Thomas and Jason Peters, and he's definitely deserving of that distinction. Peyton Manning has to be thrilled that his front office locked up his blind-side protector.
July 9 Updates
Lions extend QB Matthew Stafford (3 years, $53M; $41.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
A contract worth nearly $18 million per season seems like too much for a quarterback with zero career playoff victories, but Matthew Stafford is unbelievably talented and has made Detroit consistently competitive for the first time since the Barry Sanders era. The Lions had no choice but to offer him a deal worthy of his skill set. What alternative did they have? They couldn't possibly let him walk after the 2014 campaign. He's their only hope of eventually reaching the Super Bowl in the near future.
July 8 Updates
Giants extend WR Victor Cruz (5 years, $43M; $15.6M guaranteed): B+ Grade
I can't say that I'm totally in love with this contract. The Giants have gotten so much out of lesser-talented slot receivers like Steve Smith in the past, so I think they're overvaluing Victor Cruz by just a bit. Cruz is an explosive player though, so I would've been fine with him getting somewhere in the $35 million range for five seasons. The important thing though is that New York got this deal done, so it's not a situation that will cause a distraction in training camp.
June 24 Updates
Vikings sign ILB Desmond Bishop (1 year, $1.5 million): A Grade
This is a terrific signing by the Vikings. In one fell swoop they:
1. Landed the best available free agent for just $1.5 million.
2. Filled their biggest need at inside linebacker.
3. Stole a key player from their arch rival.
Desmond Bishop missed all of 2012 with a torn hamstring, but he's still one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. It's unclear if he can transition into the 4-3 - which is the sole reason this grade is not an A+ - but he has the talent to be very effective in Minnesota's scheme.
June 12 Updates
Patriots sign QB Tim Tebow (2 years, $1.36 million): A Grade
Tim Tebow's 2-year contract says it's for $1.36 million, but it has no guaranteed money, so he can be released at any point without any sort of penalty. This is a great move for the Patriots for a number of reasons:
1. New England now has a viable option should Tom Brady suffer an injury. Ryan Mallett may look better in practice than Tebow, but as everyone knows (except for the stupid Jets), Tebow rises to the occasion when everything's on the line - much like Brady used to do in the early stages of his career.
2. Tebow can be used on the goal line or in two-point attempts. The Patriots love using Brady on sneaks, but why risk injury to him as he enters his late 30s?
3. Mallett was seen as Brady's potential successor, but it doesn't hurt to add another young quarterback to compete for that role. The Patriots have a great coaching staff and will be able to get the most out of Tebow.
4. Tebow is seen as a distraction, but nothing bothers the strong-minded Patriots. Come to think of it, perhaps Belichick can use this to his advantage. Perhaps the media will completely stop talking about Rob Gronkowski's injuries and stories of that matter with Tebow on the team.
Once again, if Tebow doesn't work out, New England can just release him. Tebow is better than 6-8 starting quarterbacks in the league right now (definitely Blaine Gabbert, Matt Flynn, Jake Locker, E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith/Mark Sanchez, Brandon Weeden; arguably Christian Ponder and Alex Smith without Jim Harbaugh), so getting him for no guaranteed money was a smart move.
June 11 Updates
Colts sign RB Ahmad Bradshaw (1 year, $1.1 million): A+ Grade
Ahmad Bradshaw is way too injury-prone to ever be considered a starting running back again, but the Colts won't ask him to do that. He'll steal some touches from second-year Vick Ballard, particularly on third downs and in goal-line formations. Bradshaw is great in those situations, so he'll have a prominent role in Indianapolis' offense, serving as a reliable, veteran weapon for Andrew Luck. For just $1.1 million this season, Indianapolis just make a fantastic signing by bringing on the former Giant.
June 10 Updates
Buccaneers acquire G/OT Gabe Carimi from Bears for sixth-round pick
This deal makes sense for both teams. Chicago's new front office wanted to get rid of former first-round bust Gabe Carimi, given that he no longer had a role on the team with Kyle Long and Matt Slauson set to take over both guard spots. Why not get something for him, even if it's a late selection?
As for the Buccaneers, they have no use for an interior lineman, but bolstering depth isn't a bad idea. Perhaps the Tampa Bay coaching staff thinks it can get the most out of Carimi and have him take over right tackle eventually. Carimi was once regarded as a decent right tackle prospect, so that wouldn't be the craziest idea in the world. For a sixth-round pick, why not?
Grade for Buccaneers - B
Grade for Bears - B
June 7 Updates
Ravens sign LB Daryl Smith (1 year, $1.125 million): A Grade
How many times can I say that Ozzie Newsome made a great move this offseason? I think it's unbelievable that he was able to land someone as talented as Daryl Smith for barely any money. Granted, Smith played in just two games last season because of a groin injury, but he was one of the top 4-3 linebackers in the NFL the year before. Smith is a natural fit as a 3-4 inside linebacker next to Arthur Brown. There's always a chance he'll get hurt again and won't be able to take the field, but he's definitely worth the risk at just $1.125 million.
June 6 Updates
Raiders sign KR Joshua Cribbs (1 year, $865,000): A- Grade
It took Joshua Cribbs a while to go to a team because he has a nagging knee injury. However, he's expected to be ready by sometime in August, so the Raiders are potentially getting a steal. Cribbs is not the explosive return specialist he once was, but he's still up there. The 29-year-old is quite a bargain at just $865,000.
May 25 Updates
Saints extend S Roman Harper (3 years, $10.5M; $4M guaranteed): B Grade
You may see this grade and think I'm insane for giving the Saints an "B" for paying $4 million guaranteed to Roman Harper. Some New Orleans fans inexplicably defend Harper, but he's atrocious in coverage. He happens to be solid in run support, but the NFL is a passing league now. Safeties like Harper are dying off for a reason, and Kenny Vaccaro will quickly overtake him on the depth chart, if he hasn't already.
So, why the "B" grade? Because the Saints actually save more money by "extending" Harper rather than cutting him. This move gives them $3.4 million in cap space, whereas releasing him would have actually resulted in a cap hit.
With that in mind, you might be wondering why I didn't give New Orleans an "A" for this move. Well, that would seem silly, given that this "extension" is simply atoning for a past mistake. The Saints gave Harper $28.5 million over four years two offseasons ago. I graded that a "C-" - a mark that seems way too high now - with the reasoning of: "This is a lot of money for a safety who tends to struggle in coverage. Roman Harper works well in Gregg Williams' defensive system, but he wouldn't have received anything close to $28.5 million over four years from anyone else. New Orleans is overpaying."
May 22 Updates
Raiders sign S Charles Woodson (1 year, $4.3 million): C Grade
I don't really understand this signing for either side in terms of a pure football perspective. The Raiders have one of the least-talented rosters in recent memory. Sure, Woodson is an upgrade over what they already have (Usama Young), but when it comes down to it, his presence will do one of two things: 1) Make Oakland win enough games to take the franchise out of contention for Teddy Bridgewater and some of the other top quarterbacks, yet still keep them out of the playoffs. 2) Have no impact because he'll be 37 soon, meaning it'll just be a waste of money.
For Woodson, the best scenario for him would have been to go to a Super Bowl contender like the Broncos or 49ers to give him a chance for another Super Bowl ring. By signing with Oakland, it shows that Woodson's No. 1 priority is money. Free agents who chase big contracts almost never pan out. It's very fair to question whether Woodson's heart is still in the game.
May 18 Updates
Chargers sign DE/OLB Dwight Freeney (2 years, $8.75M; $4.75M guaranteed): C Grade
What was that famous Albert Einstein quote about being insane when repeatedly doing the same thing that doesn't work? That's what this signing feels like. Dwight Freeney was pretty pedestrian in the 3-4 last year, recording just five sacks. He should have gone to a 4-3 team this offseason, but instead, he signed with another squad that runs a 3-4. I understand why the Chargers did this; they just lost Melvin Ingram for the year because of a torn ACL, so they needed a replacement and Freeney happened to be the top pass-rusher available. But this just seems like a move a 14-year-old kid would make while playing Madden. "Oh, I need a DE and Freeney has the highest rating so I'll sign him!" It just makes no sense schematically.
May 17 Updates
Raiders sign P Chris Kluwe (1 year, $840,000): B- Grade
The Raiders needed a punter. Shane Lechler was gone, so the only player at that position on the roster was someone named Marquette King. Kluwe didn't punt very well this past season, but that could have been because of an injury (he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January). Kluwe could rebound and be a cheap solution, but the Oakland coaching staff may grow tired of his tweeting antics, just as Minnesota's front office did. I don't think it should be a big deal, but NFL people hate distractions.
May 16 Updates
Cardinals sign ILB Karlos Dansby (1 year, $2.25 million): A- Grade
Karlos Dansby played for the Cardinals from 2004 to 2009, so he gets to return to his old home so that he can fill an important role. Stud inside linebacker Daryl Washington has been suspended for four games. Dansby will hold down the fort for the first quarter of the season. After that, he'll play beside Washington until rookie Kevin Minter is ready to take over. I really like this move. Despite the fact that he'll be 32 in November, Dansby performed well for Miami last year.
May 15 Updates
Eagles sign RB Felix Jones (1 year, $715,000): C+ Grade
I'm not crazy about this signing. Felix Jones is an injury-prone, mediocre running back. He had his chances in Dallas, but never took advantage of them. Acquiring him does make some sense in that he adds a veteran presence in Philadelphia's backfield. I'm just not sure that he's that good of an insurance policy for LeSean McCoy, given how fragile he is. He may not even make the final roster.
May 10 Updates
Ravens acquire C A.Q. Shipley from Colts for conditional 2014 pick
I'd tell you the Ravens made a very solid acquisition in picking up A.Q. Shipley from the Colts for a mere conditional pick, but that should be a given based on how many terrific moves Ozzie Newsome has made this offseason. Shipley played well in relief of Samson Satele last year, so he could challenge the untested Gino Gradkowski as Matt Birk's successor at center. Even if Gradkowski wins the job, Shipley will provide the depth Baltimore lacked prior to this deal.
As for the Colts, they used a fourth-rounder on Khaled Holmes to be Satele's heir apparent, so they had no use for Shipley. I don't know why they didn't just keep Shipley around to be the center of the future, but at least they got something in return for him.
Grade for Ravens - A-
Grade for Colts - C
May 9 Updates
Jaguars sign CB Marcus Trufant (1 year, $1.005 million): B- Grade
The Jaguars had a serious lack of experience in their cornerback group, so that issue is solved with the Marcus Trufant signing. Trufant also fits the defense, having played for Gus Bradley in Seattle the past four seasons. The problem is that Trufant may not be good anymore. Trufant, who will turn 33 during the 2013 campaign, was brutal last year, as he was constantly torched. It's true that Trufant battled through various injuries in 2012, but his issue recently has been his durability; Trufant always seems to be hurt. Why would that change in Jacksonville?
May 8 Updates
49ers sign G Adam Snyder (2 year, $2.45M; $500K guaranteed): C+ Grade
Adam Snyder was downright awful for the Cardinals in 2012. He was completely exposed as a starter, so it was a no-brainer for Arizona to dump him just one season after he signed a 5-year contract. Snyder is getting too much money in this deal, even at just $500,000 guaranteed, but he knows San Francisco's system, given that he played there prior to 2012. He can also be a backup at three positions (left guard, right guard, right tackle).
May 6 Updates
Dolphins sign OT Tyson Clabo (1 year, $3.5M; $1.5M guaranteed): A Grade
This is exactly why the Jaguars should have gone with a pass-rusher over Luke Joeckel with the No. 2 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Right tackles grow on trees, and that's the reason a talented one like Tyson Clabo was available at such a cheap price. However, the Dolphins needed a right tackle, so this was a shrewd signing by Jeff Ireland, as Clabo was the top player available at his position on the market. Clabo, who fits the blocking scheme perfectly, will be a bookend tackle for Jonathan Martin; the second-year Stanford product will need to improve to be a competent blind-side protector for Ryan Tannehill.
May 4 Updates
Ravens re-sign OT Bryant McKinnie (2 years, $7 million): A Grade
Bryant McKinnie went largely ignored by the national media, but he was extremely key in Baltimore's Super Bowl run. He finally got his act together and played so well at left tackle in the playoffs, giving Joe Flacco all the time he needed to find his receivers downfield. Retaining McKnnie was important because the Ravens would've had to go with Kelechi Osemele as Flacco's blind-side protector otherwise. There are still motivational issues with McKinnie, but this contract is a great bargain.
May 3 Updates
Bengals re-sign Andre Smith, OT, Bengals (3 years, $18M; $5M guaranteed): A Grade
Andre Smith thought he was worth much more than this, which is why he held out for a contract for so long. He finally caved, however, giving the Bengals a great deal. Right tackles grow on trees - which is why the Jaguars screwed up by taking Luke Joeckel No. 2 overall - but Smith is one of the league's best at the position. He's well worth just $5 million guaranteed for a 3-year deal.
May 2 Updates
Jets sign RB Chris Ivory (3 years, $6 million): A- Grade
I'm not used to the Jets being so smart with their money. The three years, $10 million is the same contract that Shonn Greene received to be a backup in Tennessee. Ivory, meanwhile, will be the Jets' new starter. It's a fair deal; it's enough to signify that he'll be the No. 1 guy, but it's not too much, which is good because Ivory doesn't have much experience.
Update: This contract is worth only $6 million instead of the reported $10 million. This is quite a steal for the Jets.
May 1 Updates
Cardinals acquire CB Javier Arenas from Chiefs for FB Anthony Sherman
The Cardinals have a superior front office compared to Kansas City, so it's no surprise that they won this trade. The Chiefs should have obtained something better for Javier Arenas, who is a solid nickel corner. Arenas actually held his own as a starter across from Brandon Flowers once Stanford Routt was cut last year. Had a new general manager not been brought in, Arenas would probably would be the favorite to be the No. 2 corner. Arenas can also help on special teams, though he's unlikely to serve in that role in Arizona, given that the Cardinals have Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu.
Solid corners like Arenas don't grow on trees. Mediocre fullbacks like Anthony Sherman do. Sherman is a better lead blocker than what Kansas City already had, but he's not a difference-maker of any sort.
Grade for Cardinals - A-
Grade for Chiefs - C-
April 30 Updates
Broncos sign DE Shaun Phillips (1 year, $1 million): A Grade
Shaun Phillips has an opportunity to earn $1.2 million on top of his base $1 depending on how many sacks he accumulates. With that in mind, this is an outstanding contract. The Broncos had a huge need at defensive end after losing Elvis Dumervil in that crazy Faxgate situation. They missed out on upgrades at that position in the 2013 NFL Draft, but settling for Phillips is a nice consolation prize. Phillips was arguably the top pass-rusher still available in free agency. There's a chance he could be washed up at 32, but it's more likely that he can still get the job done and approach double-digit sacks with the opposition paying so much attention to Von Miller. Phillips logged 9.5 sacks in 2012.
April 29 Updates
Bills acquire DE/OLB Jerry Hughes from Colts for ILB Kelvin Sheppard
There's not much to say about this trade because one disappointing player was dealt for another. The Bills needed pass-rushing depth, while the Colts were thin at inside linebacker, so this exchange makes some sense for both teams. The swap is about even, but I'd give a slight edge to Buffalo because Hughes has a bit more upside, being a former first-round pick. However, this trade will probably end up being insignificant for both sides.
Grade for Bills - B
Grade for Colts - B-
April 28 Updates
Browns acquire WR Davone Bess from Dolphins for mid-round swaps
This is a bit confusing, so I'll break it down in a mini chart.
Pick No. 111 (4th)
Pick No. 104 (4th)
Pick No. 217 (7th)
Pick No. 164 (5th)
Seven picks in the fourth round is nothing - Miami grabbed Jelani Jenkins at No. 104, whereas Shamarko Thomas ended up going at No. 111 - so Bess was worth moving from the seventh round to the fifth, apparently. I say it's a pretty good deal for the Browns because they obtained a reliable slot receiver. Miami, meanwhile, never replaced Bess in the draft, so it'll have to use newly signed Brandon Gibson in that role. The only positive for the Dolphins is that they unloaded Bess' contract; he's due $2.6 million this year.
Grade for Browns - A-
Grade for Dolphins - C+
April 26 Updates
Jets acquire RB Chris Ivory from Saints for 4th-round pick
I'm going to be boring and say that this is a pretty even trade for both teams. The Jets were in desperate need of a starting running back, and Chris Ivory is probably better than anyone they could have acquired in the fourth round. Ivory has just 256 career carries, but he's averaged 5.1 yards per attempt. He's a talented back who is a certain upgrade over Shonn Greene.
As for the Saints, they were going to lose Ivory in free agency next spring anyway, so why not obtain a draft pick for him now? It's not like New Orleans was going to use him very much, given the insane amount of running back depth on the roster.
Grade for Jets - B+
Grade for Saints - B+
Packers extend QB Aaron Rodgers (5 years, $110M; $62.5M guaranteed): A Grade
How can this grade not be an "A"? Aaron Rodgers is the top quarterback in the NFL and is still in his 20s. He deserves to be the highest-paid player in league history. Even better, this is a cap-friendly deal for a team that had plenty of money to spend ($15.7 million) prior to this extension. Rodgers will be paid $40 million in the first year of his contract, so he apparently will be able to buy a few things.
April 24 Updates
Bengals sign OLB James Harrison (2 years, $4.45 million): B Grade
I'm always a fan of when teams steal a key player from their divisional rival. I'm not sure if I'd qualify this as "stealing" because the Steelers cut James Harrison for financial reasons, but Cincinnati knows that Harrison will be highly motivated to get his revenge. Harrison is a solid fit for the Bengals; they like their strongside linebacker to rush the passer, which is something Harrison used to be able to do extremely well. Unfortunately, he'll be 35 in May, so he could be done. If he is, Cincinnati isn't losing much, given how much cap space the team possesses.
April 22 Updates
Seahawks extend S Kam Chancellor (4 years, $28M; $17M guaranteed): B- Grade
This is a bit more money than I would have given Kam Chancellor. He's a good safety, but it just means Seattle will have to pay Earl Thomas more because he's the superior player. Still, I can't exactly blame the Seahawks for extending a key player on their defense. Chancellor struggled in the playoff loss at Atlanta, but he's been very good overall both in run support and pass coverage the past two years as a starter.
April 21 Updates
Buccaneers acquire CB Darrelle Revis from Jets for 2013 1st-rounder, conditional 2014 mid-rounder
So much for the Jets obtaining first-, third- and fifth-round picks this year. All they were able to net for Darrelle Revis was the No. 13 overall selection next week and a fourth-rounder in 2014 that could turn into a third-rounder.
I would have given the Buccaneers a "C" grade for surrendering all of those selections, but now it has to be considered a very good deal. Even when considering that he's coming off a torn ACL, Revis is much better than anyone Tampa Bay could have chosen with the 13th pick - even if Dee Milliner happened to slide down to them.
The price tag for Revis is the concern for many; Revis is paid way too much for a non-quarterback, but the Buccaneers have the cap space to make a move like this. They had $33 million available prior to this trade, so they can afford to pay Revis the reported six years, $96 million. I'll grade that soon.
Meanwhile, Jets' fans have to feel incredibly disappointed. Hauling in three selections this year and some next April would have been acceptable for losing one of the league's top corners, but getting just the No. 13 overall pick and a mid-rounder next spring is not nearly enough. If I were the Jets, I would have pushed for a bunch of picks in 2014 because of the superior draft class.
Grade for Buccaneers - A-
Grade for Jets - D
Buccaneers re-sign CB Darrelle Revis (6 years, $96M; $0 guaranteed): A Grade
No guaranteed money? How is this possible? Give major credit to the Buccaneers for putting together this contract.
Darrelle Revis earn an even $16 million each season. Conventional wisdom says that $16 million per year for a non-quarterback is way too much, and that is definitely the case. However, the Buccaneers had $33 million in cap space available. Because Revis stands to earn no guaranteed money, he can be cut or traded at any point without any sort of penalty. Thus, if Revis begins to struggle or Tampa Bay is suddenly financially incapable of paying him, the two could simply part ways.
Obtaining Revis is huge for the Buccaneers. They have to deal with Julio Jones/Roddy White, Marques Colston and Steve Smith twice every season. Revis will blanket those receivers and make the entire defense better.
April 19 Updates
Steelers re-sign NT Steve McLendon (3 years, $7.25 million): B+ Grade
The Steelers retained their successor to Casey Hampton for just more than $2 million a year, with a $1.675 million signing bonus. I'd say that's a pretty good deal. McLendon has just one start and hasn't played much thus far in his 4-year career, but he's looked good in the brief instances he's been on the field. Worst-case scenario, he'll keep the seat warm for 2012 fourth-rounder Alameda Ta'amu.
April 18 Updates
Raiders sign RB Rashad Jennings (1 year, $630,000): C Grade
Rashad Jennings is set to earn just $630,000, so this can't possibly be a bad signing. I don't like it though. Jennings disappointed as Maurice Jones-Drew's replacement last year, so he's not a quality No. 2. The Raiders really need a strong reserve back behind the injury-prone Darren McFadden, so they could have done better for about the same price.
April 17 Updates
Packers extend OLB Clay Matthews (5 years, $66M; $31M guaranteed): A Grade
For comparison's sake, DeMarcus Ware's 7-year, $79 million deal with $40 million guaranteed pays him $11.29 million per year. Clay Matthews' contract is giving him $13.2 million per season. However, Matthews is four years younger than Ware, and the term of his deal is two seasons shorter. Regardless, this was a great move by the Packers. There's a reason they don't splurge in free agency - they keep their money so they can re-sign their star players. With this move, they have one of the top defenders in all of football under contract until 2018.
April 16 Updates
Raiders sign S Usama Young (1 year, $985,000): B- Grade
The good news is that the Raiders are getting a starter for just $985,000. The bad news is that Usama Young shouldn't be a starter. This is a fair price for Young, who will be reunited with Dennis Allen, his defensive backs coach in New Orleans for three years. However, Young will be one of my questionable starters on the worst roster in the NFL. It's not like the cap-strapped Raiders have much of a choice though.
Raiders re-sign CB Joselio Hanson (1 year, $1 million): B Grade
Joselio Hanson played well as Oakland's nickel last year, so it's a good move for the team to retain him. The Raiders have major issues at both starting cornerback positions, so it's a good thing they have their nickel spot locked down with a cheap player familiar with the scheme.
April 15 Updates
Jets sign S Dawan Landry (2 years, $3 million): B Grade
The Jets have more holes on their roster than most teams and virtually no cap room, so they don't have very many options. With that in mind, this is a pretty decent signing. Dawan Landry will be one of the weaker starting safeties in the NFL in 2013, but he brings plenty of experience. He'll also benefit from being reunited with Rex Ryan; the two were together in Baltimore from 2006 to 2008.
Raiders re-sign DE Andre Carter (1 years, $1 million): C Grade
Speaking of franchises with tons of holes on their roster, the Raiders resemble an expansion team. There's barely any talent on this squad. Retaining Andre Carter probably won't help. Carter was outstanding in New England under Bill Belichick's tutelage in 2011, but he went to Oakland last year and did nothing, registering just 2.5 sacks. At 34, Carter is probably completely done. He's most likely OK depth at best.
April 14 Updates
Steelers match tender for WR Emmanuel Sanders (1 year, $2.5M; 3rd-rounder): B+ Grade
I've been asked many times whether I'd take Emmanuel Sanders or the third-round pick the Patriots were willing to give up for him, and I've always given a one-word response: "Meh." If you were to put Sanders into this draft class, he'd probably be a third-rounder, so it was a pretty even proposition. Sanders has potential, but has never caught more than 42 passes in any of his three seasons. I'd normally give this an even "B" with that in mind, but I'll bump it up to a B+ for the Steelers because they've spent three years developing Sanders. Why start over with another raw rookie wideout?
April 13 Updates
Seahawks sign CB Antoine Winfield (1 year, $3M; $1M guaranteed): A+ Grade
General manager John Schneider is seriously trolling the entire NFL right now. I don't get what sort of voodoo he's using to cheaply reel in these awesome free agents, but it really has to be pissing off the rest of the NFC West. Antoine Winfield was the top cornerback on the market by far, so getting him for just $3 million in 2013 is one hell of a deal. The Seahawks already had the top corner duo in the NFL. Now, they have the best nickel.
April 12 Updates
Patriots re-sign WR Julian Edelman (1 year, $765,000): A- Grade
With Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd both gone, I'm sure Tom Brady is glad that his team retained a receiver he's actually familiar with. Julian Edelman ideally won't be a big contributor, but he'll still get 40-50 touches if he can stay healthy. He's a nice insurance policy (especially at his salary) just in case the injury-prone Danny Amendola gets hurt. If Amendola goes down, Edelman will be an effective slot option.
Lions sign K David Akers (1 year, $1M; $100K guaranteed): B+ Grade
David Akers set the record for most field goals in a season two years ago, but then missed the most attempts in 2012. Is he done at the age of 38? It's possible, but it has to be noted that Akers was hampered with a pelvic injury last season. If he can get over the mental issues that come with all of those whiffs, he should be an effective kicker for Detroit. At just $100,000 guaranteed, it's definitely worth the risk to find out.
April 11 Updates
Eagles acquire LB Emmanuel Acho from the Browns for RB Dion Lewis
One thing that we know for sure is that Chip Kelly loves trading backups for backups. Dion Lewis was going to be buried on his depth chart behind LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, so it makes sense to give him away for some needed 3-4 depth. Emmanuel Acho, a sixth-round pick in 2012, hasn't played a single snap in the NFL thus far because of a knee injury, but he'll be a reserve player and a special-teamer in Philadelphia.
As for the Browns, they apparently wanted some running back depth behind Trent Richardson. If the former Alabama runner is sidelined again, Lewis will give Cleveland a speed option to complement Montario Hardesty's power. It's also worth noting that Hardesty will be a free agent next spring, so Lewis will be the No. 2 back after this season - if not sooner.
Cleveland gets the better grade in this deal because Lewis is the more proven, superior player. However, I can see why Philadelphia pulled the trigger on this trade. It makes sense for both sides.
Grade for Eagles - B-
Grade for Browns - B
April 10 Updates
Ravens sign ILB Rolando McClain (1 year, $700,000): B- Grade
First, the positive: Rolando McClain is just 24 years old, so it's not like he's some washed-up veteran Baltimore is trying out as a flier. He's very good in run support, so he can be an effective two-down linebacker on his new team. Unfortunately, there are negatives: McClain is completely lost in coverage, so he can't be on the field on obvious passing downs. Also, he has work-ethic issues. Adding him would have been fine last year when Ray Lewis and Ed Reed were still on the team, but Baltimore's locker room is substantially weaker now that the two long-time veterans have departed.
All in all, this is an OK signing. McClain is still young enough to turn his career around, and there's hardly any financial risk involved.
Patriots sign DT Tommy Kelly (2 years, $5 million): D Grade
New England is one of the few teams that could have signed Tommy Kelly and not suffered the dire consequences. Only a strong locker room could withstand being poisoned by Kelly and his inexplicable lethargy. Kelly, who played poorly in 2012, is one of the laziest and most-penalized players in the NFL. He simply doesn't care about winning. I'd commend the Patriots for taking a low-risk shot on him, but they've been down this path before with Albert Haynesworth. Bringing in washed-up bums with no passion for the game doesn't benefit anyone.
Raiders sign CB Mike Jenkins (1 year, $1.5 million): C Grade
Speaking of washed-up bums with no passion for the game, Mike Jenkins is a severe headcase who needs to be in a strong locker room. The Raiders definitely do not have a strong locker room. This is a cheap signing so there's no risk financially, but Jenkins can easily be poison the rest of the team. Perhaps this is for the best, as Oakland will be in prime position to obtain Jadeveon Clowney, Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel next April (see 2014 NFL Mock Draft for more).
April 9 Updates
Bills sign QB Kevin Kolb (2 years, $13M; $1M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The official details of the Kevin Kolb contract have been released. It was originally reported that Kolb was set to earn $13 million over two years, but as it turns out, only $1 million of that is guaranteed. The base salary of the contract is $6.1 million, while $6.9 million of it is all incentivized.
Kolb is getting paid like a backup, which is perfect. He's not a good starter, but he can hold down the fort until Buffalo's rookie quarterback - whether that's Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, E.J. Manuel or Matt Barkley - is ready to step in under center. That could actually be Week 1, meaning Kolb may not even see the field at all, and thus won't be able to collect any of his incentive money.
April 8 Updates
Redskins re-sign QB Rex Grossman (1 year, $960,000): B Grade
Rex Grossman is actually needed in Washington because if Robert Griffin isn't ready to play come September, the Redskins will need a reliable backup behind Kirk Cousins. This is a fair contract for a reserve signal-caller.
Colts sign NT Aubrayo Franklin (1 year, $940,000): A- Grade
The Colts have overspent on a couple of free agents this offseason, but this is a great deal. Aubrayo Franklin will be 33 in August, but he can still get the job done as a two-down run-stuffer. He's not an awful starter, and he can be used as the primary nose tackle until 2012 fifth-rounder Josh Chapman is ready to take over.
April 7 Updates
Eagles sign CB Bradley Fletcher (2 years, $5.25M; $2.35M guaranteed): C Grade
This seems like a lot of money to give to a cornerback who missed 12 games in 2011 and was demoted out of the starting lineup last season in favor of a third-round rookie. By the end of the year, Fletcher was barely on the field. He probably should have played more, but he's not starting material because he's so frequently penalized. The Eagles needed a cornerback, but they definitely overpaid.
Buccaneers sign DT Derek Landri (2 years, $3.25M; $1.25M guaranteed): B Grade
This is a solid move. The Buccaneers had to find defensive tackle help in the wake of losing Roy Miller to the Jaguars. There's nothing wrong with having Derek Landri as a third defensive tackle. He can provide some occasional, quality pass rush. The money is fair.
April 6 Updates
Giants sign ILB Dan Connor (1 year, $780,000): B+ Grade
The Giants had to find some help at middle linebacker. Dan Connor is not the solution - he's about as good as Chase Blackburn - but he'll provide the solid depth New York was going to lack in the wake of Blackburn's signing with Carolina. The price is more than fair, as Connor is probably worth a bit closer to a million per year.
Cowboys sign S Will Allen (1 year, $905,000): B- Grade
This is a pretty average signing. It makes sense. Dallas had a big void at safety and needed to bring someone in at the position. There were better safeties available, but the cap-strapped Cowboys couldn't afford them. Will Allen shouldn't be a starter, but he's not being paid like one. He'll provide OK depth if Dallas drafts a safety, but he'll be a liability otherwise.
April 5 Updates
49ers extend OT Anthony Davis (5 years, $37.3M; $17M guaranteed): B- Grade
Anthony Davis is coming off a stellar third season in the NFL. He had his ups and downs in his first two years, but he improved his play greatly in 2012, earning the distinction of being one of the top-five highest-paid right tackles in the league.
I recognize how talented Davis is, so keep that in mind when I say that I'm not a big fan of this contract for two reasons. First, with Andre Smith, Tyson Clabo and Eric Winston just sitting out there on the market as of this writing, it's more apparent than ever that the NFL doesn't view the right tackle position very highly (which is why the Jaguars and Raiders, and probably the Eagles, will pass on Eric Fisher in the 2013 NFL Draft). Paying this kind of money to a right tackle seems unnecessary. And second, Davis had work-ethic questions coming out of Rutgers. He hasn't shown any signs of that in the NFL, but will all of this guaranteed money get into his head? Probably not, but it definitely is a possibility.
Texans sign FB Greg Jones (1 year, $1 million): A Grade
I absolutely love this move. Arian Foster's yards-per-carry average dwindled from 4.9 in 2010 to 4.4 in 2011 and then 4.0 in 2012 because he lost Vonta Leach to the Ravens after the 2010 campaign. Greg Jones is one of the top fullbacks in the NFL, and his presence will help open up more massive holes for Foster. If you have any doubts about how good Jones is, check out how Maurice Jones-Drew reacted on Twitter upon losing him. This move actually prompted me to slide Jones up to No. 2 in my 2013 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings ahead of Marshawn Lynch.
April 4 Updates
Bears sign G Matt Slauson (1 year, $815,000): A Grade
I can't believe the Bears landed Matt Slauson for less than a million dollars. Slauson's not a great lineman or anything, but he's a startable guard who is solid in pass protection. He's definitely an upgrade over Lance Louis, so this was a very good acquisition for Chicago.
Dolphins sign G Lance Louis (1 year, $1.6 million): C Grade
I might as well grade the Lance Louis signing as well. It would blow my mind that Lance Louis received twice as much as Matt Slauson despite being the inferior lineman, but this is Miami we're talking about. It's ridiculous how many players Jeff Ireland has overpaid this offseason. On the bright side, Louis helps out with depth, and his contract won't have any negative ramifications in 2014 and beyond, unlike so many of Ireland's other acquisitions.
April 3 Updates
Lions sign DT C.J. Mosley (2 years, $2.75 million): B Grade
C.J. Mosley was owed $2.5 million in 2013 prior to his release, so the Lions are getting him at a discount. Mosley doesn't offer any pass-rushing ability, but he does a good job of clogging running lanes. The Lions needed interior defensive line depth, so this is a solid signing. The only thing I don't like is that Mosley's presence pretty much ensures that Jason Jones will play outside, which is not the ideal situation for him.
Cowboys sign OLB Justin Durant (2 years, $2.37 million): A- Grade
The cap-strapped Cowboys, transitioning to a 4-3 defense, didn't have the resources to make many moves this offseason, so they had to be smart about their money (aside from Tony Romo's new contract). This was a sharp signing. Justin Durant is a very good, two-down linebacker who will fill a big need by being able to play the strongside position very effectively in Monte Kiffin's scheme. Durant is still young (28 in September), so the Cowboys are getting quite a bargain with Durant, who was available cheaply because of the market.
April 2 Updates
49ers sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
This contract is actually worth up to $3 million; there's actually no guaranteed money in this deal. So, with that in mind, I think the 49ers are making a great move, as this is low-risk, high-reward acquisition. Nnamdi Asomugha was terrible last year, but there's a chance he could rebound in a better environment with a superior supporting cast and coaching staff. Asomugha was one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, so I don't see why he couldn't revitalize his career - especially when considering that he's going back home.
Saints sign DE/OLB Victor Butler (2 years, $3M; $1.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
When I heard that a team signed Victor Butler, I wondered if they had overpaid him because of his potential. Butler looked very good at times when on the field for the Cowboys, but that hasn't been very often, given that he played behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. He had just two career starts, so giving him too much money would be a mistake. The Saints definitely did not do that.
New Orleans landed a very good bargain with Butler. Handing him $1.5 million guaranteed for two years is pretty much nothing. He'll compete for a starting job at rush linebacker, which was a big area of need for the Saints entering this offseason.
Raiders sign CB Tracy Porter (1 years, $2.5 million): C Grade
Tracy Porter is known for his game-sealing interception of Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl during the 2009 campaign, but he hasn't done much since. He was just OK the following year, and then he struggled in 2011 before moving on to Denver, where he barely played. Perhaps Porter can rekindle what he had four seasons ago, but that doesn't seem very likely at this point. The Raiders are trying to fill a need with him, but this seems like a futile effort on Reggie McKenzie's part.
Cardinals acquire QB Carson Palmer from Raiders for conditional 2014 7th-rounder
I never thought I'd grade a Carson Palmer trade favorably for the team obtaining him, but that's apparently the case today. Palmer is old (33) and washed up, but he's still better than anyone the Cardinals have had at quarterback since Kurt Warner retired. Palmer might be a turnover machine, but he still has a good arm and will be able to get the ball downfield to Larry Fitzgerald. Giving up a conditional seventh-round pick for him - if he starts 13 games in 2013 - is an excellent bargain.
The Raiders, meanwhile, probably should have gotten more for Palmer. Yes, he was expensive, but they could have created a seemingly larger trade market for him. Oakland will move on with Matt Flynn at quarterback. He's cheaper, but he's a downgrade from Palmer.
Grade for Cardinals - A
Grade for Raiders - C
April 1 Updates
Redskins re-sign CB DeAngelo Hall (1 year, $2.25 million): A Grade
DeAngelo Hall has been overrated for most of his career, but he's a quality starter. The Redskins were desperate for cornerback help, so getting him back for just $2.25 million next year is a pretty awesome deal. Washington still has to address the corner position in the draft - see 2013 NFL Mock Draft here - but now the front office doesn't necessarily have to go there on Day 2.
Colts sign WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (1 year, $2.5M; $1.5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
I understand why Darrius Heyward-Bey seems very appealing to the Colts. He has loads of potential, so if he's coached up and lives up to his physical talent, he and Andrew Luck can become quite a tandem. However, Heyward-Bey has shown no signs of blossoming into a reliable player. He's a horribly inefficient receiver who will likely disappoint. With that in mind, the $1.5 million guaranteed seems like a bit too much.
49ers acquire QB Colt McCoy and 6th-rounder from Browns for 5th- and 7th-round picks
This trade makes sense for both parties. The 49ers had tons of draft picks and not many needs, so they could afford to give away a late-rounder for a veteran quarterback - something they lacked in the wake of the Alex Smith trade.
As for the Browns, they were going to dump Colt McCoy anyway because he doesn't fit Rob Chudzinski's offense, so it's nice that they were able to obtain at least something for him.
Update: The 49ers are getting a sixth-rounder as well for a fifth- and a seventh-rounder. The grades for this deal will stay the same.
Grade for 49ers - B
Grade for Browns - B+
Raiders acquire QB Matt Flynn from Seahawks for 2014 5th-rounder, 2015 conditional pick
The Raiders are getting younger and cheaper at the quarterback position, which is probably smart for a rebuilding team. He doesn't make them better, however. Flynn is so limited because of a lacking arm that his former offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, didn't want him in Miami. Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was in Green Bay when Flynn was drafted, so he apparently didn't share the same sentiment as the Packer braintrust that was so eager to let Flynn walk last spring because of his limitations.
Flynn is a good fit for Oakland's new offense, but he makes the team a bit worse than it was when Carson Palmer was at the helm. Giving up two late-round picks normally wouldn't be a big deal, but the Raiders are pretty thin everywhere. They need depth; not backup-caliber quarterbacks.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, definitely realized they made a big mistake by signing Flynn last year, so give them credit for moving on and recouping two draft choices in the process. Dealing Flynn gives them much-needed cap space.
Grade for Raiders - C+
Grade for Seahawks - A
Rams re-sign G Chris Williams (1 year, $2.75 million): D Grade
This has to be an April Fools' joke, right? Chris Williams, a former first-round pick, was dumped by the Bears in the middle of the 2012 season. He signed with the Rams a week later, but barely played. There has to be more to this contract because Williams isn't worth anything more than the veteran minimum. If this is a legit $2.75 million (or anything else close to it), I'll downgrade this to a Millen grade.
March 31 Updates
Redskins re-sign TE Fred Davis (1 year, $2.5 million): A- Grade
This makes a ton of sense for both sides. Fred Davis was the best tight end on the market, but he's coming off a torn Achilles, so he couldn't have received a deal much larger than this. He can prove himself to be healthy in 2013 and then obtain a more lucrative contract next spring. The Redskins, meanwhile, get to retain his services for a reasonable amount of money. Davis probably won't be the same player he was before, but he was Washington's best option.
Giants re-sign G Kevin Boothe (1 year, $905,000): A+ Grade
Wow, this is a terrific deal. Kevin Boothe was the third-ranked free agent guard on the market. He is a good starter at the position and can also slide to center in emergencies. The Giants couldn't afford to let him go, so I'm not sure how they were able to retain him for less than $1 million in 2013.
March 30 Updates
Dolphins sign CB Brent Grimes (1 year, $5.58M; $3M guaranteed): C+ Grade
Jeff Ireland continues to overspend. It's really remarkable how frivolously he's been pissing away money this offseason. Brent Grimes is hell of a cornerback when he's healthy, but he's a 30-year-old coming off a torn Achilles. It's highly doubtful he'll be the same player this upcoming year.
I'm not going to give Miami a Millen grade or anything though. There is some upside to this deal and Grimes fills a need. Plus, this pact is for only one season, so unlike Ireland's other signings, this move won't capsize the team in 2014 and beyond.
Bengals re-sign CB Terence Newman (2 years, $5 million): C Grade
Another C-level grade for another cornerback signing. This seems like a bit too much money to pay for a 34-year-old scheme-specific corner. Seriously, I don't know who else would have paid Terence Newman this much money. He performed well for the Bengals last year, but his best days are way behind him, so he wouldn't have thrived outside of Mike Zimmer's scheme. I may change this grade if it's revealed that there is very little guaranteed money, but for now, it gets a "C."
March 29 Updates
Cowboys extend QB Tony Romo (6 years, $108M; $55M guaranteed): C Grade
This is an unbelievable amount of cash to give to a quarterback with just one career playoff victory. Romo, who frequently chokes in big moments, should have been asked to play out the 2013 season as if he had something to prove, a la Joe Flacco. If he got the job done, Dallas might have gotten away with giving him a bit less, given that he would be 34 the following April. If he gagged once again, the Cowboys could have moved on to another quarterback in the rich 2014 NFL Draft class (see updated 2014 NFL Mock Draft).
Instead of that plan, Dallas just decided to give Romo a big contract right away. Romo will be 33 next month, so his skills will begin declining very soon. So with that in mind, along with the aforementioned lack of playoff success, this is a ridiculous deal. Jerry Jones overpaid.
March 28 Updates
Eagles acquire DE/DT Clifton Geathers from Colts for FB Stanley Havili
This is a boring trade, but it makes sense for both teams. Clifton Geathers was buried on Indianapolis' depth chart, but he'll help the Eagles, who were thin on the defensive line. Geathers is 6-7, 320, so he has the size that Chip Kelly wants.
As for the Colts, they wanted a lead blocker for Vick Ballard. The Eagles had no use for Stanley Havili because Kelly doesn't like to use blocking fullbacks, so trading him to Indianapolis for a depth player is a logical move.
I'm giving the Colts a slight edge in this deal because Havili will probably be more important for them, but this is pretty close to being an even swap.
Grade for Eagles - B
Grade for Colts - B+
Browns sign QB Jason Campbell (2 years, $3.75 million): B+ Grade
I don't like Jason Campbell, but this is an incredible deal for a competent No. 2 quarterback. Consider that both Matt Cassel and Matt Hasselbeck are earning $4 million this year alone to be clear-cut backups. Campbell, who is earning less than that over two seasons, could actually be the starter in Cleveland, which makes this deal even more amazing from a financial standpoint. Campbell was downright awful for the Bears in relief of Jay Cutler in 2012, but he fits Rob Chudzinski's system well because of his ability to get the ball downfield. Now, the only issue is to keep him from checking the ball down every single attempt.
Bears sign OLB James Anderson (1 year, $1.25 million): B- Grade
This is just about right for James Anderson. He's just slightly better than a minimum-salary player, so he probably should have gotten $900,000 or a million flat. Anderson will be a quality No. 4 linebacker in Chicago, though he's currently penciled in as the starter at the strongside position. That has to change via the 2013 NFL Draft. I have Arthur Brown going to the Bears in my current 2013 NFL Mock Draft.
March 27 Updates
Falcons sign DE Osi Umenyiora (2 years, $8.5M; $5M guaranteed): B Grade
Atlanta fans who think they're getting the Osi Umenyiora from the Giants' Super Bowl runs are mistaken. Umenyiora was pretty invisible last year. He'll be 32 in November, so his best days are behind him. Having said that, Umenyiora is worth a shot at just $5 million guaranteed. There's a chance he'll bounce back and be a suitable replacement for John Abraham.
Ravens sign S Michael Huff (3 years, $6 million): B+ Grade
This is yet another quality move by Ozzie Newsome. Michael Huff is a solid starting safety who is versatile enough to play cornerback. He's 30, but he happens to be five years younger than Ed Reed. Huff's not as good as Reed, but he's a much cheaper solution ($3 million less per year) for the cap-strapped Ravens.
March 26 Updates
Packers re-sign ILB Brad Jones (3 years, $11.75 million): B+ Grade
The Packers seldom sign players in free agency. Instead, they retain their own talent. Brad Jones was great in 2012 when he stepped in for an injured Desmond Bishop. In fact, he was so good that he was one of the top two inside linebackers on the market (along with Dannell Ellerbe). With that in mind, getting him back for $11.75 million over three years is a pretty good bargain.
Redskins sign CB E.J. Biggers (1 year, $1.5 million): B+ Grade
I guess I'm being boring with the B-pluses today, but that's what I feel like both of these signings deserve. E.J. Biggers doesn't have much starting experience, but he played well when replacing Aqib Talib last year. He was a bit of a risk because of his inexperience, but not on a 1-year deal. This is a very reasonable price for him, and it also helps Washington fill a big need at cornerback (though the Redskins still need two more corners).
March 25 Updates
Patriots re-sign OT Sebastian Vollmer (4 years, $27 million): A+ Grade
This is unbelievable. Gosder Cherilus, who isn't even in the same stratosphere as Sebastian Vollmer, earned $34 million over five years from the Colts. By comparison, Vollmer is a huge steal.
It's actually a great deal regardless. Vollmer was the No. 1 right tackle on the market and a key part of Tom Brady's protection. The Patriots had to retain him, so getting him back for just $27 million over four seasons is a terrific move. What makes it even better is that the base salary is worth only $17 million.
Chiefs sign CB Dunta Robinson (3 years, $13.8M; $3.95M guaranteed): C Grade
I said I'd have a grade posted once financials were known. They're in, and the Chiefs did not get a good deal for Dunta Robinson. The former Falcons is solid in run support, but has been torched in coverage the past two seasons. He's 31 and his best days are behind him, so he may have to move to safety. Paying him more than $4 million per year doesn't make much sense.
March 24 Updates
Ravens sign DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil (5 years, $35 million): A+ Grade
Baltimore fans can stop panicking. The Ravens have lost tons of veterans this offseason, but signing Elvis Dumervil really helps make up for it. Not completely, but it's a big move.
Dumervil is one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL, and he was the best free agent available on the market. He's well worth $7 million per year, and he'll satisfy a huge need for Baltimore at rush linebacker, vacated by Paul Kruger's departure to Cleveland. Kruger actually received more money from the Browns (5 years, $41 million) than Dumervil did from the Ravens, yet Dumervil is the more proven commodity. They're only two years apart in age (Dumervil is 29; Kruger is 27), so Baltimore is getting a great deal. That's not a surprise because Ozzie Newsome is one of the NFL's top general managers.
Update: It's been reported that $9 million of Dumervil's contract is all incentives, so it's really a 5-year, $26 million deal. That's insane. I'm upgrading this to an A+.
March 23 Updates
Bears sign S Tom Zbikowski (1 year, $715,000): B+ Grade
This is a cheap, quality signing. Tom Zbikowski was a sub-par starter for the Colts this season, but he would have been better served as a backup. That's the role he'll serve in Chicago, playing behind Chris Conte and Major Wright. He'll also be a contributor on special teams. The price is just right for the 28-year-old veteran.
Rams re-sign DE William Hayes (3 years, $10.5 million): C+ Grade
I like William Hayes as a third defensive end, but giving him more than $3 million per year is kind of ridiculous - especially considering a market in which Michael Bennett will be earning $5 million for one season. A cheaper option probably should have been acquired in the draft.
Texans sign P Shane Lechler (3 years, $5.5 million): C- Grade
The Texans needed an upgrade at punter, but giving nearly $2 million per season to a 37-year-old who had a terrible 2012 campaign doesn't sound like a good idea. Shane Lechler used to be a Pro Bowl punter, but he was ranked in the bottom 10 of net punting last season. He could rebound, but at 37, probably not.
March 22 Updates
Titans sign S Bernard Pollard (1 year, $2.5 million): A- Grade
One-year, prove-it deals are the best ones. Teams don't have to worry about future salary-cap implications, and they know they'll get the player at his best because he's going to be desperate for a deal in the ensuing offseason. I've given out good grades to most of these moves, and Bernard Pollard will not be an exception.
Pollard has problems in coverage, but he's a box safety who is very strong in run support. The Titans like to play three safeties, and Pollard will fit in well in Tennessee's scheme. Plus, he'll come in handy, should the Titans happen to meet the Patriots in the playoffs. He's well worth the $2.5 million he'll get in 2013.
Bears sign OLB D.J. Williams (1 year, $900,000): A Grade
I love this move. The Bears were willing to pay Brian Urlacher $2 million to remain with the team. Urlacher declined, yet Chicago obtained someone better and younger for less than half as much.
The only reason this isn't an A+ grade is because Williams doesn't have the best history of staying on the field. He started just one game last year and missed some time in 2011 as well. But this is part of the reason Chicago is able to buy low like this. Getting Williams for $900,000 (he could make as much as $1.75 million if he hits his incentives) is a steal.
March 21 Updates
Giants sign TE Brandon Myers (1 year, $2.25 million): A Grade
This is a strange signing. The Giants' tight ends coach, Mike Pope, usually hates players at the position who can't block. That's the primary reason New York didn't consider Coby Fleener with the 32nd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Brandon Myers can't block, so this acquisition shocked me.
But that doesn't mean this was a bad move. On the contrary, I love it. Myers was one of the top free-agent tight ends available. Though he can't block, he'll be a very reliable intermediate target for Eli Manning, filling a big need in the wake of Martellus Bennett's defection to Chicago. At just $2.25 million this upcoming season, Myers was quite a bargain.
49ers sign ST Dan Skuta (2 years, $3 million): B Grade
I had multiple requests to post a grade for this signing. Dan Skuta offers nothing on defense as an inside linebacker, but he's a special-teams ace. The 49ers lost Blake Costanzo, so they wanted a replacement. I think this is slightly too much for Skuta, but it's not a bad move. San Francisco needed to shore up its special teams, and may have done so with Skuta now on the roster.
March 20 Updates
Texans sign S Ed Reed (3 years, $16 million): C+ Grade
Not all details are known yet, but Jason La Canfora has Ed Reed's contract with $16 million max value over three years. That's a lot of money for a safety who will turn 35 in September. What I don't get is why Houston didn't just pay Glover Quin $23 million over five seasons if they were willing to fork over this much money to Reed. Quin is a better player than Reed at this stage of their careers. Reed's leadership and championship experience is something Quin doesn't possess, and that will be valuable to a franchise without much playoff success, but Houston will regret this move if Reed is as mediocre as he was in 2012.
49ers sign K Phil Dawson (1 year, $2.25 million): A Grade
Phil Dawson was the top kicker on the market. He nailed 29-of-31 attempts in 2012, including 7-of-7 from 50-plus. Getting him for just $2.25 million is a great deal. It's far less than Rob Bironas' $6.6 million over two seasons. Yes, Dawson is old (38), but Bironas (35) isn't much younger. I'm guessing Dawson just took less money to play for a winner for once. The last time he was involved in a playoff game was 2002.
Cardinals sign DE/DT Matt Shaughnessy (1 year, $850,000): A- Grade
The Cardinals are doing well to buy low. Matt Shaughnessy was a very good run defender with some pass-rushing ability in 2010. He missed most of 2011 with a shoulder injury and didn't appear close to 100 percent this past season. If he's healthy, he can be a very valuable backup behind Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Depth was something Arizona didn't have on the defensive front last year; the team struggled mightily when Dockett got hurt and then Campbell missed time.
Cardinals sign CB Antoine Cason (1 year, $1.5 million): B+ Grade
Antoine Cason has been a bust since he was chosen with the 27th-overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He did play well in his first season as a starter in 2010, but he's been terrible ever since. He could always turn his career around though, and bringing him in for $1.5 million isn't much of a risk. It's a good match for Arizona. The team needed secondary help, and cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross was with the Chargers in Cason's early days.
March 19 Updates
Colts sign QB Matt Hasselbeck (2 years, $8M; $5M guaranteed): B Grade
This seems like a lot of money for a 38-year-old backup quarterback, but $4 million per season is apparently the going rate for No. 2 signal-callers, with Matt Cassel earning $4 million in 2013 with the Vikings. I like this fit better though. Hasselbeck will be able to mentor Andrew Luck and step in and perform well for a game or two in the event of an injury.
Patriots sign S Adrian Wilson (3 years, $5 million): B+ Grade
Steve Gregory was a bust signing, so with Patrick Chung headed to Philadelphia, the Patriots were in search of a safety. They found a cheap solution in Adrian Wilson, who was a great player for a very long time with the Cardinals.
Unfortunately, Wilson is past his prime. He'll turn 34 in October, and he's not coming off the best season. In fact, he was benched in nickel situations. However, he's a good fit in New England's scheme and will be able to mentor second-year safety Tavon Wilson. Plus, Adrian Wilson came pretty cheaply at less than $2 million per season.
March 18 Updates
Jets sign DE/OLB Antwan Barnes (3 years, $4 million): A Grade
This is a very good move. The Jets had to find at least one exterior pass-rushing presence, even before cutting Calvin Pace. Antwan Barnes is definitely not an every-down player, but he can be very valuable in obvious passing situations. Barnes had 11 sacks in 2011, so getting him for just three years and $4 million is an outstanding deal.
Dolphins sign WR Brandon Gibson (3 years, $9.78 million): MILLEN JEALOUS OF LINDSEY VONN; KIELBASASA AT THE READY FOR TIGER Grade
I'm convinced Jeff Ireland is drunk at this point. What the hell did Brandon Gibson do to deserve a 3-year contract worth about $10 million? Gibson is just an average backup wideout at best, and he'll serve that role in Miami behind Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. Ireland could have just signed a receiver just as good as Gibson for much, much less.
Raiders sign OLB Nick Roach (4 year, $13M; $5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
For a team burdened with financial problems, the Raiders sure spent quite a bit of money on a mediocre linebacker. This isn't an absurd amount or anything for Nick Roach, but there were better linebackers available who probably could have provided more value. On the bright side, Oakland helped fill its need for three linebackers.
Giants sign OLB Keith Rivers (1 year, $715,000): A- Grade
The New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano first tweeted the information about Keith Rivers' contract. It's a pretty solid deal. Rivers has talent, but just can't stay on the field because of never-ending injuries. He's worth bringing back at $715,000, but the Giants absolutely cannot count on him being healthy. They still need to address the weakside linebacker position.
Eagles sign S Kenny Phillips (1 year, $1.85M; $0 guaranteed): A+ Grade
This deal, as announced by USA Today's Mike Garafolo, can be worth up to $2.85 million based on incentives. Regardless, the Eagles hit a home run by signing Kenny Phillips for such a cheap price. Phillips is a very talented safety who was available at a major discount because of his dubious injury history. There's always a chance he'll miss tons of action in 2013, but Philadelphia is not taking that much of a risk at just $1.85 million. Phillips will be a big difference-maker if he stays on the field.
Bengals re-sign ILB Rey Maualuga (2 years, $6.5M; $2.5M guaranteed): MILLEN FILLS OUT HIS NCAA BRACKET BASED ON KIELBASA SIZE Grade
Rey Maualuga was the worst starting middle linebacker in football last year. He was the WORST, and it wasn't even close. He spent his time missing tons of tackles, blowing coverages and getting washed away in run support. He's nothing more than a mediocre backup in the NFL, so I'm pretty shocked that he received a $6.5 million contract from the Bengals. He didn't deserve anything more than the minimum.
Maualuga might be better if they move him back to strongside linebacker, but this is way too much money to give to a two-down player who has sucked the past couple of seasons.
Rams sign OT Jake Long (4 years, $36 million): B+ Grade
This deal, as reported by the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, is worth "up to" $36 million, so I'm sure the Rams have protected themselves just in case this is a Texans-Tony Boselli situation. Jake Long, when healthy, is one of the better left tackles in all of football. He's been banged up over the past couple of seasons, but perhaps he can heal up in his new home. If so, Sam Bradford's protection will be so much better than it was this previous year.
Considering the pass-rushers the Seahawks acquired this offseason, the Rams absolutely had to bring in Long. Bradford, who is fragile to begin with, was constantly pummeled in 2012, prompting Jeff Fisher to tell the media that he had to find better blocking for his young quarterback. Getting Long certainly qualifies, even if the former Dolphin isn't at 100 percent.
Seahawks sign DE Cliff Avril (2 years, $13M; $6M guaranteed): A+ Grade
Cliff Avril turned down a 3-year, $30 million deal from the Lions last spring, so he apparently was willing to take less money to go to a winner. That's obviously a good sign. Avril is a fierce pass-rusher; he has 29 sacks and nine forced fumbles in the past three seasons, so this is obviously a great deal for Seattle.
Avril has a big weakness, which is why he was the fourth-ranked player in my NFL Free Agent Defensive End Rankings. He's a liability in run support. However, that's offset by how great of a fit he is in the Seahawks' defense. Avril is perfect for the Leo role, as Seattle needed help there in the wake of Chris Clemons' torn ACL.
UPDATE: This contract is worth only $13 according to USA Today's Mike Garafolo. That's even better than initially projected. I'm bumping this up to an A+. The Seahawks are the clear-cut winner of free agency.
March 16 Updates
49ers sign S Craig Dahl (3 years, $5M; $800K guaranteed): B- Grade
Three years and $5 million seems a lot at first glance for Craig Dahl, but he's getting just $800,000 in guaranteed money. Dahl was a major liability in St. Louis' secondary last year, both in terms of playing in coverage and stopping the run. Still though, this is not that bad of a deal considering San Francisco is paying Dahl like a third safety. The front office is expected to address that position with at least one of its many draft picks.
Patriots re-sign CB Aqib Talib (1 year, $5 million): A+ Grade
This is exactly why you don't panic and spend tons of money during the first day of free agency. The Patriots waited patiently and got their man back - and at an unbelievable price.
Aqib Talib was the top unrestricted free agent cornerback. The problem with him is that he's a headcase who can't be trusted. That's why this deal is so perfect. It's a 1-year "prove-it" contract that will keep Talib in line. He'll play up to his potential, which means New England will continue to have the strong secondary it boasted after trading for him in the middle of the 2012 season.
Lions re-sign S Louis Delmas (2 year, $9.5 million): A- Grade
Here's another quality signing by the Lions. Louis Delmas is a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, but can't stay healthy. He's missed 13 games during the past two seasons because of numerous injuries. He's been a huge difference-maker when on the field, but he has obviously not been on the field that often.
That's exactly why this contract makes so much sense. The Lions are paying Delmas what he's worth (actually, probably a bit less), but they're not putting themselves at risk if Delmas' injuries flare up again. This deal is all upside for Detroit.
Lions sign S Glover Quin (5 year, $23.5 million): B+ Grade
This may seem like a lot of money compared to what Aqib Talib and the other cornerbacks earned this offseason, but the safety market is not nearly as dry. Considering that LaRon Landry received a 4-year, $24 million pact, this deal for Glober Quin seems pretty solid.
Quin is a better player than Landry, so it's pretty remarkable that the Lions were able to sign him to a cheaper contract. He's a much-needed upgrade in a secondary that has struggled for what seems like decades.
March 15 Updates
Vikings sign WR Greg Jennings (5 year, $47.5M; $18M guaranteed): C Grade
This is a lot of money for Greg Jennings. The former Packer wideout is well-known by casual fans because of his commercials, Super Bowl victory and fantasy success, but Jennings is not the same receiver he once was. At 29 years old (he'll be 30 in September), Jennings just didn't have the same explosion he possessed earlier in his career. That definitely had something to do with a groin injury that knocked him out for eight games in 2012, but Jennings has dealt with numerous maladies over the past few seasons. It's why he hasn't registered more than 1,000 receiving yards since 2010.
Having said all of that, I can totally understand why the Vikings overpaid for Jennings. They were desperate for receiver help, as Jerome Simpson was currently their No. 1 player at the position. The wideout market also dried up in free agency; after Jennings, the next-best receiver was Julian Edelman. That's why it's no surprise that Jennings obtained so much money. Still though, this easily could be a move Minnesota regrets in the near future.
Patriots sign KR Leon Washington (1 year, $1.5 million): A- Grade
The Patriots paid only $1.5 million to make sure they have one of the top return specialists in the NFL. I'd say that's a pretty good deal. Some expect Leon Washington to take over the San Diego-bound Danny Woodhead's duties as well, but while he may see a few touches on offense, Shane Vereen will be the one who benefits from the undersized back's departure. That's fine, as it'll allow Washington to concentrate on what he does best.
49ers sign DT Glenn Dorsey (2 years, $6 million): C Grade
The 49ers announced that they plan on using Glenn Dorsey at nose tackle, which was a bit of a surprise, given that he was stationed in the defensive end position in Kansas City's 3-4 the past few seasons. Dorsey will be an undersized nose who will be asked to rush the passer, much like Jay Ratliff did in Dallas. The problem is that Dorsey hasn't shown anything as a pass-rusher throughout his 5-year pro career; he's never had more than two sacks in any season. It's hard not to trust general manager Trent Baalke, but this one is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Ravens sign DE/DT Marcus Spears (2 years, $3.5 million): C+ Grade
The Ravens had to find some more defensive line depth, so they signed Marcus Spears, who was released by the Cowboys recently. Spears didn't play very well in 2012. He was only average in terms of stuffing the run all while offering zero pass-rush ability. He's clearly a declining player at age 30, but Baltimore didn't spend much to get him.
Ravens sign DE/DT Chris Canty (3 years, $8 million): B+ Grade
The Ravens signed the other former Cowboy defensive lineman a couple of days prior to getting Marcus Spears. I like this move a lot more. Canty offers much better pass-rushing ability than Spears, who is just a run-stuffer. Canty had a down 2012 campaign because of a nagging knee injury, so he can bounce back if he's healthy this upcoming season. The concern is that Canty could be in severe decline, given that he'll turn 31 in November. The risk is worth it, however, considering the cheap price.
Eagles acquire WR Arrelious Benn and 2013 7th-rounder from Buccaneers for 2013 6th-rounder and conditional 2014 pick
This looks complicated at first glance, but all the Eagles are doing is moving back one round this April and potentially giving the Buccaneers a 2014 selection if Arrelious Benn does something positive in 2013.
Benn has been a huge bust since the Buccaneers chose him in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In fact, he caught just four passes in eight games last season. Benn is a pending 2014 free agent, so Tampa Bay did well to get anything for him at all.
The Eagles, meanwhile, had to find a large receiver. Benn still has the potential to be good, so why not take a flier on him?
This is a pretty even trade for both teams that will probably end up being insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Grade for Eagles - B
Grade for Buccaneers - B
Jets sign G/OT Willie Colon (1 year, $1.2 million): A+ Grade
It feels strange to compliment the Jets for anything, but they did a great job with this signing. Willie Colon is a good starting versatile lineman who was cut by the Steelers just because of financial reasons. Colon fills a big need for New York at guard for a very cheap price. He could also play right tackle, should anything happen to Austin Howard.
Dolphins sign TE Dustin Keller (1 year, $4.25 million): A Grade
The Dolphins needed to sign a tight end after losing Anthony Fasano and watching third-round rookie Michael Egnew do nothing last year. Dustin Keller was the top tight end on the market, so he's a steal for just one year and $4.25 million. Keller will give Ryan Tannehill a much-needed reliable intermediate target. Keller also has to be happy, as he gets a passing upgrade. Tannehill's not Aaron Rodgers or anything, but anyone is better than the brutal Mark Sanchez.
Patriots re-sign CB Kyle Arrington (4 years, $16M; $8.5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
New England fans love to hate Kyle Arrington. He has played terribly when starting outside in the past, but was much better when moved into the nickel role. I'm all for keeping Arrington, especially considering the team's need in the secondary, but giving $8.5 million guaranteed to an above-average nickel seems like a bit too much, especially when considering the amount of money the other corners have received this offseason.
Falcons re-sign TE Tony Gonzalez (2 years, $14M; $7M guaranteed): A Grade
This is a no-brainer "A" grade. The Falcons had to do whatever they could to keep Tony Gonzalez around, as he's a key piece on their Super Bowl-contending roster. This is essentially a 1-year deal (the second year is just for cap purposes), so paying Gonzalez $7 million to play in 2013 is well worth it.
Eagles sign NT Isaac Sopoaga (3 years, $12M; $5M guaranteed): C- Grade
The Eagles needed a nose tackle prior to signing Isaac Sopoaga. They still need a nose tackle. Sopoaga has been a good player in the past, but he was absolutely brutal last season. He was constantly pushed around and was pretty pedestrian in terms of stuffing the run. Perhaps a bum knee was the culprit, but Sopoaga could just be in severe decline, given that he'll turn 32 in early September. Philadelphia overpaid.
Steelers re-sign ILB Larry Foote (3 years, $5.5M; $2.5M guaranteed): B Grade
Larry Foote is a smart leader on the field, but he's nowhere near the player he once was. He was ranked near the top among linebackers in terms of missed tackles and touchdowns allowed in 2012. Foote is no longer good enough to be a starter, but the Steelers aren't paying him like one. This is a decent contract for a reliable veteran backup.
Raiders sign OLB Kaluka Maiava (3 years, $6 million): B Grade
The good news is the Raiders are paying just $6 million over three years for a starting linebacker. The bad news is that Kaluka Maiava is not a starting-caliber linebacker; he's a good fourth linebacker at best. Oakland's financially strapped roster is a mess, so Maiava is the best the front office can do for now. The Raiders have a legitimate shot to go 0-16 next year.
Jets sign RB Mike Goodson (3 years, $6.9 million): B- Grade
Mike Goodson is just a No. 2 back in reality, but he might be able to start in New York. That's how dreadful the Jets are. Still though, even in their situation, they should have been able to find a better runner than the fumble-prone Goodson, who's had just 34 carries over the past two seasons. The price is about right for him, but what's become of the Jets is sad.
March 14 Updates
Vikings sign QB Matt Cassel (1 year, $4 million): C+ Grade
This is just meh. The Vikings had to find a capable backup quarterback to step in if/when Christian Ponder goes down with another injury. Sadly, Matt Cassel was the second-best quarterback on the market, just barely behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. He can get the job done for a few games just as long as he has the talent around him. That's currently not the case with the Vikings, who boast Jerome Simpson as their No. 1 wideout. Of course, that's expected to change by the end of the offseason.
Seahawks sign DE Michael Bennett (1 year, $5 million): A+ Grade
Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were the third- and fourth-ranked free agent defensive ends. The Seahawks got them both - for a combined $20 million over three seasons. General manager John Schneider is a genius.
I often criticize players for leaving winning teams and chasing money to go to crappy organizations. Michael Bennett did the exact opposite. Stuck in Tampa Bay for years, Bennett will appreciate Seattle's winning environment. He'll be a big pass-rushing upgrade over Red Bryant at the left end position. With Bennett, Avril and Bruce Irvin swarming opposing backfields, opposing quarterbacks will be fearful of playing Seattle in 2013.
Falcons sign RB Steven Jackson (3 years, $12M; $4M guaranteed): A Grade
Think about this for a second: Steven Jackson is getting $4 million guaranteed to start for the Falcons. Shonn Greene received $4.5 million to be a backup for the Titans. How is that possible? There's a reason the same group of teams reach the playoffs every year, and it's the same reason the same organizations draft in the top 10 every April.
This is a great acquisition for the Falcons. Their most glaring offensive need was the running back position, and Jackson is a massive upgrade over the combination of Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers. The concerns about Jackson are his age (30 in July) and workload (2,395 career carries), but even if he regresses, he'll still be much better than Turner was last season. Plus, it's not like the Falcons are devoting a ton of money to him. If Jackson sucks, they can just dump him without much of a repercussion.
Eagles sign DE/OLB Connor Barwin (6 years, $36M; $8M guaranteed): B Grade
I thought Connor Barwin could be available for a reasonable price in free agency based on his down 2012 campaign, but apparently not. I have no idea how he did it, but Barwin obtained $36 million over six years despite registering three sacks last season.
The Eagles had to find either a 4-3 Under strongside linebacker or a third 3-4 rush linebacker - particularly one with experience in the scheme - to rotate with Trent Cole and Brandon Graham. Acquiring Barwin would have been a good idea because he could bounce back to his 11.5-sack level, but not at this price. Philadelphia is definitely buying low.
Update: Philadelphia gave Barwin just $8 million guaranteed, essentially making this a 3-year, $13.5 million contract. I'm bumping this grade up a bit.
Saints sign CB Keenan Lewis (5 years, $26M; $11M guaranteed): A Grade
Keenan Lewis was the second-best cornerback still available in free agency. He's better than both Sean Smith and Cary Williams, yet he's slated to make less per year than both of them. This is not because teams didn't view Lewis as an inferior cornerback; he simply took a discount to play with the Saints. According to the Chicago Sun-Times' Sean Jensen, another team offered Lewis a much larger contract.
This is obviously an awesome acquisition for the Saints. They're filling their huge corner need with a very talented player at a very reasonable price.
Eagles sign CB Cary Williams (3 years, $17M; $5.75M guaranteed): B Grade
Cary Williams played well at times last year, but he's been very inconsistent throughout his career. There's a reason why the Titans and Ravens let him go so willingly. The Eagles needed to address the cornerback position - and they still do - but this is way too much money for a mediocre starting corner. There's no reason Williams should have been given more than $4 million per year; let alone close to $6 million per.
Update: Williams received just $5.75 million guaranteed; not the $10.5 million that was initially reported. In reality, this contract could just be for one year and $5.75 million. That bumps this grade up considerably.
Colts sign DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois (4 years, $22M; $8.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
The appeal of signing Ricky Jean-Francois was understandable for the Colts. They really needed defensive line help, and Jean-Francois is capable of starting anywhere up front. However, giving Jean-Francois $22 million over four years is absurd. He's just a solid run-stopper; he offers very little in terms of a pass rush. He also has just five career starts under his belt, so that's yet another reason why Indianapolis overpaid.
Vikings re-sign WR Jerome Simpson (1 year, $2.1 million): MILLEN WHITE-SMOKED PAPAL KIELBASA Grade
What the hell are the Vikings doing? Why do they think that Jerome Simpson deserves anything more than the veteran minimum? Simpson is one of the most inefficient receivers in the NFL, as he drops lots of passes and runs poor routes. He also has a back issue that caused him to miss four games in 2012. He stinks, and this contract is a joke.
Chiefs sign CB Sean Smith (3 years, $18M; $11M guaranteed): B Grade
The Chiefs have overpaid once again. Sean Smith is a solid No. 2 cornerback. He is not a No. 1 as Kansas City seems to think. There's no way he deserves $6 million per year and $11 million guaranteed. I understand that the Chiefs wanted to add a corner to contend with the Broncos and all of their receivers, but that doesn't mean they should throw tons of money at the first defensive back willing to sign with them.
Update: This contract could essentially be for one year and $7.5 million.
Chiefs sign QB Chase Daniel (3 years, $10M; $4.8M guaranteed): C- Grade
This 3-year, $10 million pact will void if Chase Daniel throws for 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in any season. This is a great deal for him, since he'll be able to sign a larger contract if he plays well. As for the Chiefs? Not so good. Daniel is just a borderline No. 2 quarterback. He has attempted only nine passes throughout his career (he's completed seven of them), so Kansas City probably should have sought out a better signal-caller to challenge the mediocre Alex Smith. Paying $4.8 million guaranteed to a no-upside quaterback with just nine career pass attempts is crazy.
Chiefs sign TE Anthony Fasano (4 years, $16M; $4.5 signing bonus): C+ Grade
Anthony Fasano is one of the top blockers at his position, but this seems like a bit too much money to pay for a guy who will be the No. 2 tight end behind Tony Moeaki on Kansas City's roster. I don't hate this move because Fasano will bring something positive to the table, but the Chiefs probably should have saved their money for something else.
Chiefs sign DE/DT Mike DeVito (3 years, $12.6M; $4.2M guaranteed): B Grade
Mike DeVito is a solid defensive lineman who thrives in run support. He's a cheaper solution than Glenn Dorsey has been, but he's only a slight upgrade. Still, this is a decent signing for a front office that has done some dubious things thus far in the offseason (scroll down below for more).
Cardinals sign S Yeremiah Bell (1 years, $905K; $610K guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Cardinals cut Adrian Wilson for financial reasons, so they had a big hole at strong safety. Yeremiah Bell is a decent, cheap, short-term solution. Bell, who just turned 35, had an OK season for the Jets last year. Arizona has tons of needs, so it can live with Bell starting in 2013 while it addresses other areas.
Broncos sign NT Terrance Knighton (2 years, $4.5 million): B Grade
Surprise, surprise, another quality signing by John Elway. Terrance Knighton is a 330-pound nose tackle who has enjoyed a lot of success playing for Jack Del Rio in the past. Knighton has struggled recently - he even was benched last year in favor of C.J. Mosley - but he has talent, and Del Rio knows how to get the most out of him. He fills a huge need in the interior of Denver's defensive line.
Broncos sign CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (1 year, $5 million): A Grade
"DRC" stands for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. It could also stand for "Doesn't Really Care" because of his lethargy. Rodgers-Cromartie hasn't lived up to his potential. He shows flashes of brilliance at times, but he's often sluggish. I was worried that a team would offer him a big contract and get screwed in the process, but John Elway was smarter than that.
Elway is killing free agency, by the way. Whereas rival San Diego signed a worse corner, Derek Cox, to a 4-year, $20 million contract, Elway was able to fill the same big need by landing the superior Rodgers-Cromartie to a 1-year "prove it" deal. Elway will undoubtedly get the best out of DRC. It'll help that future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey will be on the other side of the field to help mentor the 27-year-old corner.
March 13 Updates
Chargers sign CB Derek Cox (4 years, $20M; $10.25M guaranteed): C Grade
This new San Diego regime is not off to a promising start. After signing King Dunlap on Tuesday, they inked Derek Cox to a 4-year, $20 million deal late Wednesday night. Cox is a very talented cornerback, but he just can't stay healthy. He has missed 17 games in the past three seasons. The Chargers are filling a huge need at corner (they still need one more), but this is way too much money to give to someone as unreliable as Cox.
Colts sign S LaRon Landry (4 years, $24M; $14M guaranteed): C+ Grade
The veteran free agent market seems to be depressed for the players - unless they're going to Cleveland, Miami or Indianapolis. The Colts have once again overpaid for a free agent, but this move isn't nearly as bad as the Erik Walden transaction. Still, it's a bit much for LaRon Landry.
Landry played incredibly well for the Jets this past season, but that could be seen as an anomaly. Landry has been banged up throughout his entire career - he missed a combined 15 games in 2010 and 2011 - so it's unlikely that he'll continue to stay healthy. Given that Landry is a dynamic talent, I'd like this contract if it were guaranteed that he could remain on the field for most games, but that probably won't happen.
Patriots sign WR Danny Amendola (5 years, $31M; $10M guaranteed): B Grade
I thought the Wes Welker signing was a great move for the Broncos (see grade below), but I was wondering if the Patriots would come out in F-U mode to begin the 2013 season because everyone would be doubting them based on what transpired in free agency. I figured Bill Belichick would just plug in Julian Edelman or some rookie in the slot and be fine with it. I was not expecting something like this.
This is a bit too much money for Danny Amendola. Can he do the same things as Welker in New England's system? Absolutely - but he has to stay healthy for him to be able to do so. Amendola hasn't been able to stay off of injury reports. He's so brittle, which is why this contract is a bit too large. I understand it because the Patriots have three holes at the receiver position, but I expected a more calm approach by them.
Falcons sign OT Sam Baker (6 years, $41.5M; $18.25M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This looks like a terrible contract at first glance. Giving a guy with back problems $41.5 million over six years would be a huge disaster - even if he happens to be the franchise quarterback's blind-side protector. But the fact is that the overall numbers are misleading. Stripped down, Baker's contract is for three years and $13.5 million. The rest is performance-based.
Given that knowledge, this is a very good re-signing for the Falcons. It's still a lot of guaranteed money, but retaining Baker was crucial for Matt Ryan's protection. Baker has had a shaky career in Atlanta up until the 2012 season, but he performed extremely well last year. He could always regress if his back flares up, but even if he does, Atlanta won't be stuck with a bad contract on its hands.
Broncos sign WR Wes Welker (2 years, $12 million): A+ Grade
Wow. I can't believe this happened. Wes Welker has finally left New England and signed with the Broncos to be Peyton Manning's new slot receiver. And for just $12 million over two seasons? This is just crazy.
This is an absolutely awesome move for the Broncos. I know I've often called Welker overrated because of his drops and the fact that he's just a slot receiver, but he's a big part of the Patriots' offense, and for the Broncos to steal him is a great move because they've weakened their arch rival. Can you imagine how pissed Tom Brady is right now, especially after taking just $27 million over three years recently? You'd have to think he did that so his team could re-sign Welker.
Oh, and Welker does make Denver better. The team had two good receivers on the outside in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but didn't have anything to speak of in the slot. Welker is a huge upgrade over Brandon Stokley and makes the Broncos' offense much more dangerous. Well done, John Elway.
Cardinals sign QB Drew Stanton (3 years, $8.2M; $3M guaranteed): B Grade
I have no issues with this deal. What Drew Stanton signed for is the usual going rate for backup quarterbacks. There were better free agent quarterbacks available, but Bruce Arians wanted to bring in someone familiar with his system. Stanton definitely qualifies, having backed up Andrew Luck in 2012.
Titans sign DT Sammie Lee Hill (3 years, $11.4M; $4M guaranteed): C+ Grade
Sammie Lee Hill is a talented lineman, but hasn't been able to prove himself because he's been stuck on a Detroit team with Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Corey Williams. Hill isn't expected to start in Tennessee, but he'll be a valuable third defensive tackle behind Mike Martin and Jurell Casey. This is a bit too much for a third defensive lineman, however.
Titans sign RB Shonn Greene (3 years, $10M; $4.5M guaranteed): D Grade
The Titans needed a backup for Chris Johnson, which would explain why they signed Shonn Greene. Unfortunately, they overpaid. Just think about it this way: Reggie Bush is starting at $4 million per season, while Greene is getting $3.3 million per year to be a reserve. How in the world does that make any sense?
Greene probably deserves about half as much as Bush. He's a typical Big Ten plodder. He just runs forward and can't elude any defenders. He's also surprisingly poor in short yardage considering his size. I don't know why the Titans wouldn't just grab a reserve for Johnson in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Lions sign RB Reggie Bush (4 years, $16 million): A- Grade
When I read that the Lions signed Reggie Bush to a 4-year deal, I assumed that they gave him tons of money. I stand corrected. This contract is very reasonable; Bush was the second-ranked free agent running back behind Steven Jackson, so getting him for just $4 million per season is a good deal.
Bush fills a big need for Detroit. The team had to find a pass-catching running back who could threaten defenses by going the distance on any play. The Lions originally had that with Jahvid Best, but his career has been derailed by concussions. Bush is injury-prone as well, but he's a dynamic talent who will be a key contributor for Detroit when healthy.
Buccaneers sign S Dashon Goldson (5 years, $41.25M; $22M guaranteed): C Grade
The Buccaneers spent heavily last spring, and all that got them was a 7-9 record. They apparently haven't learned from their mistakes. They inked the top-available safety, Dashon Goldson, to a massive contract Wednesday afternoon.
There are two issues with this. First, Goldson doesn't fill a need. With Mark Barron and Ronde Barber starting and Ahmad Black waiting in the wings, the Buccaneers didn't need to upgrade the safety position. Second, it's never a good sign when a player goes from a Super Bowl contender to a mediocre franchise just for financial purposes. It works out sometimes, but it often fails.
Cardinals sign RB Rashard Mendenhall (1 year, $2.5 million): C+ Grade
Rashard Mendenhall is not a good running back. He's sluggish and injury-prone. He fumbles quite often and doesn't break tackles. I can see why the Cardinals signed him, given that he's familiar with Bruce Arians from their time together in Pittsburgh, but this is just meh. If Mendenhall ends up being Arizona's starting running back, the Cardinals will be in trouble.
Chiefs sign WR Donnie Avery (3 years, $11 million): D Grade
I don't know what the fuss is about concerning Donnie Avery. He's not a good player. He's one of the most inefficient receivers in football; he dropped more passes per target than any wideout in the NFL in 2012. He also has an extensive injury history and cannot be relied upon. The Colts were so much worse with him on the field rather than T.Y. Hilton last year.
The Chiefs overpaid. Giving Avery nearly $4 million per season is terrible, and if Andy Reid thinks he filled a need across from Dwayne Bowe, he's horribly mistaken.
Broncos sign G Louis Vasquez (4 years, $23.5M; $13M guaranteed): A- Grade
There are tons of reasons to like this signing if you're a Denver fan. Louis Vasquez was pretty much just as good as Andy Levitre, the top-rated free agent guard. Vasquez received less than $2 million per year less than Levitre did from Tennessee, so this is quite a bargain. Stealing a talented player from rival San Diego is also very nice.
Best of all, Vasquez's presence on Denver's offensive line will be huge for Peyton Manning's pass protection. This is an area the Broncos wanted to upgrade. They couldn't block for Manning very well in their playoff loss to Baltimore, so obtaining someone like Vasquez will help immensely in that department.
Lions sign DT/DE Jason Jones (3 years, $9.5 million): B+ Grade
The Lions needed some defensive line depth with Corey Williams, Sammie Lee Hill and Cliff Avril all hitting free agency. Jason Jones will play some defensive end, but his main function will be the interior nickel rusher. He's great in that role, especially in Detroit's scheme; Jones and defensive line coach Jim Washburn worked together in Tennessee a couple of years ago.
I like this contract. Considering Jones' talent level and the fact that he made more than $4 million last season in Seattle, getting him for $9.5 million over three years is quite a bargain.
Seahawks re-sign WR Percy Harvin (6 years, $67M; $25.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Note: This is a grade for Percy Harvin's contract. I graded the Harvin trade below, so just scroll down for that.
Everything is relative in the NFL contract world. Giving Harvin $67 million overall and $25.5 million guaranteed may seem like a lot at first glance, but consider that the Dolphins foolishly overpaid Mike Wallace by handing him five years, $65 million with $30 million guaranteed. By comparison, Harvin is a hell of a bargain.
Harvin is just so much better than Wallace. It's not even close. Whereas Wallace is a one-trick pony who hurts his team by dropping tons of passes and disrupting chemistry in the locker room, Harvin is extremely versatile. He's one of the top play-makers in the NFL, and he's worth every cent of this contract. My only reservation is Harvin's durability, but that's not even much of a concern at this point, given that he hasn't dealt with migraines in two years.
Vikings re-sign FB Jerome Felton (3 years, $7.5 million): A+ Grade
This might just be the best contract handed out throughout this young free agency period. Jerome Felton is one of the top fullbacks in all of football, and he helped pave the way for Adrian Peterson's near-record-breaking season. Retaining him was crucial, and doing so for just $7.5 million over three years was an amazing move by Minnesota's front office.
Colts sign G Donald Thomas (4 years, $14 million): B Grade
This is a Colts' signing that I actually like. Donald Thomas didn't get to play much in New England because he was stuck behind Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly, but he performed well whenever he was able to take the field. Thomas should be able to offer Andrew Luck an upgrade in pass protection - the right guard position was a major problem in 2012 - and the price is cheap enough to warrant this acquisition.
Bills sign OLB Manny Lawson (4 years, $12 million): B+ Grade
The Bills just came away with one of the best value signings in this young free agency period. What's happened to the NFL?
Lawson is a quality linebacker who can rush the passer and help stop the run effectively. He's a good fit for Buffalo's new hybrid defense, and the price is right at just $12 million over four seasons.
Lions re-sign CB Chris Houston (5 years, $25 million): B Grade
Chris Houston had a very solid 2012 campaign. Outside of the game against the Falcons in which he was torched, he surrendered just one touchdown all year.
I don't love this contract because the Lions are paying Houston like a No. 1 cornerback. I don't think he qualifies as one. He's a strong No. 2, but definitely not a top guy. Still, there's a lot to be said for continuity, and keeping Houston prevents Detroit's corner need from becoming even more pressing, so I'll give this grade a solid B.
Titans sign TE Delanie Walker (4 years, $17.5M; $8.6M guaranteed): C Grade
Delanie Walker and Jared Cook are two very different tight ends, but they're both about the same from a talent standpoint. Whereas Cook is a dynamic athlete, Walker is a tremendous blocker who isn't lost as a receiver. However, the Titans did not get a good deal with Walker. Paying a blocking tight end more than $4 million seems kind of absurd.
Eagles sign S Patrick Chung (3 years, $10 million): B Grade
Patrick Chung can be a decent player when healthy, but his injury history is exactly the problem. Chung is always banged up, which would explain why he has played poorly recently. Still, this is a cheap contract - it includes $1 million guaranteed in 2014 instead of the $3.25 million previously reported - so it's worth the risk. Perhaps Chung can actually stay healthy for a change. If not, the Eagles can just look elsewhere.
Rams sign TE Jared Cook (5 years, $35.1M; $19M guaranteed): D Grade
Apparently, no one in the Rams' front office ever had Jared Cook on their fantasy roster; otherwise, they wouldn't have paid half as much to the former Titan tight end.
Cook is an overrated underachiever. He's super athletic, but has never come anywhere close to living up to expectations. I don't see why that would suddenly change with a mediocre quarterback in St. Louis. Some argue that Cook wasn't utilized properly in Tennessee, but that's a load of crap. If Cook gave a damn about football, he would have found a way to be at least somewhat productive. I have a strong feeling we'll be seeing more of the same out of him in St. Louis.
Greg Toler (3 years, $15 million): C- Grade
The Colts have made a number of head-scratching moves early in this free agency period. This is one of them. Greg Toler is just a reserve cornerback with an extensive injury history (ACL, hamstring). I don't see why he would possibly command $5 million per year. There were better corners available that Indianapolis could have given this type of money to.
Browns sign DE/OLB Quentin Groves (2 years, $2.8 million): B+ Grade
This signing makes a ton of sense. The Browns need depth in their new 3-4, and Quentin Groves happens to be a quality backup. He's also very familiar with defensive coordinator Ray Horton's scheme, given that he played for him in Arizona.
March 12 Updates
Dolphins sign WR Mike Wallace (5 years, $65M; $30M guaranteed): C- Grade
Mike Wallace will provide the Dolphins with a speed element to their offense, which seems nice for now. What he'll also provide is inconsistency, plenty of drops and negative locker room attitude. Wallace is one of the most overrated players in the NFL, so it's no surprise that Stephen Ross (a.k.a. Daniel Snyder 2.0) overspent for him. Someone was going to do it, and Ross was the predictable sucker.
Browns sign DE/OLB Paul Kruger (5 years, $41 million): C+ Grade
Paul Kruger was Baltimore's most dynamic pass-rusher during the team's Super Bowl run, so it's no surprise that he received this type of a contract.
With the Browns moving to a 3-4, they needed help at rush linebacker, and Kruger figures to be a big upgrade over what they had across from Jabaal Sheard. Stealing a talented player from a divisional rival is also nice. Having said that, I have some reservations about paying $41 million to a guy with only seven career starts. What if Kruger was just a flash in the pan last year?
Titans sign G Andy Levitre (6 years, $46.8 million): B Grade
This is a ton of money to pay for a guard, but Andy Levitre was the top player at his position on the market. The Titans absolutely had to find at least one upgrade on the interior with Steve Hutchinson retiring and the mediocre Leroy Harris heading for free agency. I'm not in love with this move because of the contract size, but it should definitely help improve Jake Locker's protection and Chris Johnson's run blocking.
Dolphins sign ILB Dannell Ellerbe (5 years, $35 million): D Grade
The Ravens really wanted Dannell Ellerbe back, but as multiple sources have revealed, what they were willing to pay him was nowhere close to what the Dolphins offered. That's pretty telling, especially considering how desperate Baltimore is at the inside linebacker position in the wake of Ray Lewis' retirement.
The Dolphins overspent terribly on a position they didn't even need to address. They paid Ellerbe like a Pro Bowl player - something he's definitely not. Ellerbe is a good starter, but he's not on that level. The Ravens apparently didn't think so either.
Browns sign DT Desmond Bryant (5 years, $34M; $15M guaranteed): C Grade
Desmond Bryant became infamous for his hideous mugshot taken in February following his arrest for a misdemeanor charge. I thought this might damage his free agency stock, but that apparently wasn't the case. The Browns gave him a ton of money to be a starter in their new three-man front.
There are some issues with this signing: First, Bryant has no experience in the 3-4, so giving him this type of money is very risky. Second, defensive end was not a need whatsoever (aside from depth purposes) for Cleveland with Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn up front. And third, Bryant just isn't as good as this contract says he is. He's a decent starter, but was overpaid by Michael Lombardi.
Colts sign OT Gosder Cherilus (5 years, $34M; $10M guaranteed): MILLEN Grade
Gosder Cherilus was solid last year, but he hasn't always played well. He's struggled for the most part ever since being chosen in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by Matt Millen. Cherilus has just been a borderline starter overall, so it's only fitting that this gets a Millen grade.
What the hell are the Colts thinking? Don't they actually want to make sure Andrew Luck is protected? There were so many quality right tackles available like Andre Smith and Sebastian Vollmer, so why bring in Cherilus for a ton of money? It's almost like they took advice from Millen himself.
Bears sign OT Jermon Bushrod (5 years, $36M; $17.7M guaranteed): Z- Grade
I can't take this signing seriously, so I'm not grading it seriously either. The fact that the Bears think they're actually upgrading J'Marcus Webb at left tackle by obtaining Jermon Bushrod is an absolute joke. In fact, I really don't think the front office has watched a second of Bushrod's tape.
Bushrod allowed tons of pressures every week. The reason his sack total was so low was because Drew Brees released the ball so quickly. Bushrod's sack numbers will increase exponentially as he's trying to block for Jay Cutler. That means Cutler will likely miss multiple games due to injury yet again. The Bears would be better off with Webb manning the blind-side position again. I find it so ridiculous that an NFL front office would pay so much money to a pedestrian player.
Dolphins sign OLB Philip Wheeler (5 years, $26M; $13M guaranteed): B Grade
The Dolphins have always been known as great innovators. This offseason, they introduced the amazing strategy of signing players who don't fill any sort of need. Whether this tactic catches on remains to be seen.
I'm not going to trash this acquisition like I did with the Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe signings because Philip Wheeler is a dynamic talent who should have received more money in the open market. Unfortunately, I can't give Miami an "A" because Wheeler didn't fill a need. The Dolphins did cut Kevin Burnett in response, but was the minor upgrade worth the inevitable disruption in team chemistry? Definitely not. It's almost like owner Stephen Ross thinks that football works exactly like baseball or fantasy sports, a la Daniel Snyder in the pre-Mike Shanahan era.
Colts sign OLB Erik Walden (4 years, $17.5M; $8.6M guaranteed): MILLEN ON DEER ANTLER KIELBASA SPRAY Grade
This was the worst signing of the first day of free agency, which is saying a lot because a number of dumb moves were made.
What the hell are the Colts thinking? Erik Walden is borderline rosterable. He was so bad in Green Bay that I had numerous Packer fans e-mail me about how thrilled they were to finally be getting rid of him. Walden does absolutely nothing positive on the football field. He shouldn't have been signed for $1.75 million, let alone $17.5 million.
I have no doubt that Matt Millen kidnapped Colts' general manager Ryan Grigson, locked him in a closet, drenched both of them with deer antler kielbasa spray and then made this signing on his own. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that.
Bears sign TE Martellus Bennett (4 years, $20 million): B Grade
Unlike the Jermon Bushrod signing, this move actually makes sense. The Bears desperately needed to give Jay Cutler a solid, intermediate target, and they certainly did so with Martellus Bennett.
I'm not in love with this move because Bennett is inconsistent and he probably deserved a little bit less money, but there's no doubt Chicago improved in the wake of this acquisition.
March 11 Updates
49ers acquire WR Anquan Boldin from Ravens for 2013 6th-round pick
As Awesome Girl Who Loves Football pointed out, the 49ers are still doing their thing of acquiring players from teams that beat them in the playoffs. Anquan Boldin had a magnificent postseason run, but was deemed expendable because of his age (33 in October) and Baltimore's cap situation.
The 49ers needed a receiver to pair with Michael Crabtree. Despite his age, Boldin will be a considerable upgrade over the decrepit and lethargic Randy Moss. The Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin earlier in the day, so of course the 49ers had to respond.
This is a great trade for San Francisco. The team had a billion draft picks, so giving up a sixth-rounder is nothing. Conversely, the Ravens probably should have obtained more for Boldin, but apparently weren't able to because they had no leverage. It was widely reported that Boldin was going to be a cap casualty, so it's nice that Ozzie Newsome at least got something.
Grade for 49ers - A+
Grade for Ravens - C-
Seahawks acquire WR Percy Harvn from Vikings for 2013 1st-, 7th-round picks; 2014 mid-rounder
I'm not a fan of calling a trade a win-win for both teams, but that appears to be the case in this situation.
Percy Harvin is obviously one of the most talented players in the NFL. He can go the distance any time he touches the ball. The Seahawks didn't have anyone like that on their offense. Harvin gives them that element, which makes them even more dangerous. He also has experience in the read-option offense that Seattle utilizes.
There is a downside to Harvin. Given that he's a small player, he tends to get banged up often. He can also be a headache for the coaching staff. But that's exactly why he was available. The Seahawks had a huge hole at receiver, and Harvin is better than anyone they could have obtained at No. 25 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. He's just 24 years old, so it's not like Seattle is blowing its first-rounder on an old veteran. I love this move.
As for the Vikings, they've been frustrated with Harvin's attitude for a while now. Harvin also wanted a big contract that Minnesota's front office wanted no part of, so it's no surprise that he was dealt. The Vikings did well to obtain a first-rounder (plus a 2014 mid-rounder) for their former dynamic wideout.
You have to think though that Christian Ponder is pretty pissed off at this. He no longer has any receivers to throw to. His top options are Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Stephen Burton. Who? Exactly. The Vikings absolutely have to find at least two upgrades at the position this offseason so they don't stunt Ponder's growth.
Grade for Seahawks - A-
Grade for Vikings - B+
March 10 Updates
Giants sign DT Cullen Jenkins (3 years, $8M; $3M guaranteed): A Grade
Jerry Reese is one of the league's best general managers, and this is yet another great deal he put together. Cullen Jenkins is a fine starter, so getting him for just $3 million guaranteed is a steal. Defensive tackle was a need, so New York can now look elsewhere come draft time.
March 9 Updates
Falcons re-sign S William Moore (5 years, $30M; $14M guaranteed): B+ Grade
William Moore is a very talented safety, so this would get an "A" grade if he weren't so injury-prone. Moore has played all 16 games just once. Still, this is a good move. The Falcons had to keep the top player in their secondary.
Chargers tender WR Danario Alexander (original level): MILLEN Grade
And we have our first Millen grade of the offseason. I usually don't grade tenders, but this was just such a moronic move that it's worth mentioning. Danario Alexander is a 24-year-old talent, who if healthy, is good enough to be a No. 1 receiver in this league. He's had injury issues over the years, but that's no reason to give him an original-round tender. This means that if any team signs him, San Diego would receive no draft-pick compensation for him. Why the Chargers wouldn't give him a first-, or at least a second-round tender is beyond me. If some team steals him away, Philip Rivers is going to be pretty pissed off.
Bills re-sign CB Leodis McKelvin (4 years, $20 million): C+ Grade
Leodis McKelvin is a solid corner who happens to be one of the top return specialists in the league. This is a bit more money than I thought McKelvin would get, but keeping him was a good move.
March 8 Updates
Dolphins re-sign QB Matt Moore (2 years, $8 million): C+ Grade
The Dolphins did well to retain the top free agent quarterback on the market, but I'm not giving them a good grade because I question Matt Moore's motives. Last offseason we saw Jason Campbell show cowardice in accepting a reserve role. I'm equally concerned about Moore's motivation. Why wouldn't he want to go to Cleveland, for example, to compete for a starting job? Why is he so willing to be a backup?
March 7 Updates
Dolphins re-sign WR Brian Hartline (5 years, $30.7M; $12.5M guaranteed): C Grade
Jeff Ireland strikes again. This is a terrible contract for a player who scored only one touchdown all year. Brian Hartline was amazing in a 12-catch, 253-yard performance against Arizona, but he barely did anything after that. Hartline is just a mediocre No. 2 wideout, so this is just way too much money for him.
Titans re-sign K Rob Bironas (2 years, $6.6 million): B Grade
This is a solid re-signing. Rob Bironas was 24-of-30 last year, and that wasn't even a good outcome for him. Bironas was 5-of-6 from 50-plus in 2011. With this new contract, he'll be earning just as much as Stephen Gostkowski and just a bit less than Sebastian Janikowski, so it makes sense.
March 4 Updates
Chiefs re-sign WR Dwayne Bowe (5 years, $56M; $24M guaranteed): C+ Grade
Dwayne Bowe was one of a group of overrated 2013 NFL Free Agent Wide Receivers. Bowe has been notorious for having work-ethic issues and getting into spats with head coaches. Bowe was in shape this past season, but seldom concentrated. He was responsible for a handful of Matt Cassel's interceptions and always seemed to fumble at the worst time possible. Bowe is very talented, but completely inefficient.
That's why the Chiefs are getting yet another low grade. Keeping Bowe around for a 1-year deal under the franchise tag is one thing, but this long contract is just inviting lethargy to sink in. It won't be surprising at all if Bowe is massively underproducing because he's out of shape in Year 2 of this contract.
Chiefs re-sign P Dustin Colquitt (5 years, $18.75M; $8.9M guaranteed): D Grade
Dustin Colquitt, with his 5-year, $18.75 million contract (including $8.9 million guaranteed) is now the highest-paid punter in the NFL.
I'm all for keeping a good punter around, but paying this kind of money for one is ridiculous. And it's not like Colquitt is the top punter in the league. He wasn't even the No. 1 punter in free agency. He was good at placing attempts inside the 20, but with his 15th-ranked net punting average in 2012, Colquitt was fourth in my 2013 NFL Free Agent Punter Rankings.
I'm not sure what Kansas City's front office is thinking with this deal, but maybe it's acknowledging that it'll be punting quite often with Alex Smith at quarterback.
March 1 Updates
Ravens re-sign QB Joe Flacco (6 years, $120.6 million): B+ Grade
It's pretty difficult to assign a letter grade to this because this is something the Ravens had to do. They had no choice but to pay Joe Flacco the money after his amazing Super Bowl run. Their only alternative was to let him walk and replace him with someone like Matt Moore, Nick Foles or Matt Barkley. Blegh.
Retaining Flacco deserves an "A" but this contract makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history, just edging out Drew Brees and his 5-year, $100 million pact. Should Flacco have that distinction? I don't think so. He was amazing this past January and February, but just because won the most recent Super Bowl doesn't make him the best quarterback in the league. Though he comes up huge in the clutch, he struggles with consistency.
The thing I don't like about this deal is that it's going to make it difficult for the Ravens to build a competitive roster around Flacco. They're already going to have to let key veterans go because of financial issues. If Flacco had gone the Tom Brady route and accepted a bit less money for the team, this would have been a no-brainer A+. He would have made much more money with endorsements anyway with several other Super Bowl victories with an all-star cast surrounding him. As it stands now, however, Baltimore will have severe difficulty reaching the Super Bowl again once it cuts several core players.
Feb. 27 Updates
Chiefs acquire QB Alex Smith from 49ers for 2nd-round and conditional mid-rounder
Jim Harbaugh is a genius. Alex Smith was considered to be a candidate for release when Harbaugh took over as head coach of the 49ers. However, Harbaugh claimed that he was a fan of Smith's when the Utah product entered the league. Harbaugh then coached him up and turned him into a solid starter. It was obvious though that Smith would never lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl because of his limitations. That's why Harbaugh made the obvious choice to go with Colin Kaepernick.
Well, it was obvious to everyone except the Chiefs. This is an absolutely terrible trade for them. Smith, without Harbaugh, is a pedestrian signal-caller at best. He'll regress without Harbaugh, just as Matt Cassel did when he lost Charlie Weis. Andy Reid has been good with quarterbacks, but he's no Harbaugh.
It's true that Kansas City didn't have many other options at quarterback, but Smith is just a short-term stop gap until Andy Reid acquires a legitimate franchise quarterback. With that in mind, why didn't the Chiefs just pursue Matt Moore in free agency? He's just as good as Smith and would have been much cheaper. More importantly, he wouldn't have cost Kansas City a valuable second-round draft pick.
Based on PFCentral's report, I gave the Chiefs a C when it was speculated they gave up a third-rounder for Smith. But a second this year and a mid-rounder next year? What a joke. Again Harbaugh deserves all of the credit for duping a team into thinking that Smith is a solid starter. He's not. Andy Reid must have lost his mind. The Chiefs will continue to struggle for a long time.
Meanwhile, the 49ers now have 15 draft picks, including Nos. 31 and 34. They obviously can't keep all 15 because that's too many rookies. They're obviously plotting some sort of trade. The two strongest possibilities are for Percy Harvin and Darrelle Revis. Both would fill the 49ers' second- and third-greatest needs (see 49ers team needs here.) They may also want to move up for someone like Sheldon Richardson or Sharrif Floyd, should either fall into the bottom half of the top 10.
Grade for Chiefs - F
Grade for 49ers - A+
Giants re-sign OT William Beatty (5 years, $38.75 million): A Grade
This re-signing was a no-brainer. The Giants go up against DeMarcus Ware and Brian Orakpo twice a year, so they absolutely had to make sure they shored up Eli Manning's protection as he edges closer to his mid-30s.
William Beatty was heavily penalized in 2013 - his 11 infractions were fourth-most among tackles in 2012 - but he surrendered just three sacks. Beatty, who is definitely close to being a top-10 left tackle, was going to be a hot commodity in free agency. Considering the Eagles signed Demetress Bell to a 5-year, $35 million pact last spring, this Beatty contract seems like a great deal.
Feb. 22 Updates
Titans sign S George Wilson (2 years, $4 million): A Grade
I love this move for the Titans. They were desperate for safety help, so they were able to obtain a cheap, but effective solution by signing George Wilson to a 2-year, $4 million deal. Wilson, 32 in March, played well for the Bills last season, particularly in run support. He'll be a big upgrade over Jordan Babineaux.
Feb. 15 Updates
Eagles sign QB Dennis Dixon (2 years): B Grade
This is the first thing the Eagles have done this offseason that has made any sense. Chip Kelly needed to sign a quarterback who's familiar with his scheme, so why not Dennis Dixon, who operated Kelly's system at Oregon? Dixon will serve as a quality backup and will probably have to start some games in 2013 when QB Eagles No. 7 suffers his inevitable injuries. With the QBDK, Dixon and a likely second-day selection used on a quarterback, Nick Foles, as speculated, is likely gone. It's looking like the Chiefs will acquire him for a third-rounder.
Feb. 11 Updates
Eagles restructure contract of QB Eagles No. 7: F Grade
So far, the Eagles this offseason have:
Hired a head coach with no past NFL affiliation and whose offensive system doesn't match most of the personnel on the roster.
Brought in a West Coast-style offensive coordinator who has no experience running the head coach's offense.
Acquired a defensive coordinator who hasn't lasted more than two years at any job of the same kind.
And today, the trifecta of idiocy has become a superfecta. The Eagles have restructured the contract of QB Eagles No. 7. He will be the team's starting quarterback yet again next year.
It was extremely obvious that this move would happen. The day Philadelphia hired Chip Kelly, I wrote:
They may retain QB Eagles No. 7, which would be a disaster because he's a rapidly declining turnover machine. Also expect them to deal Nick Foles for a mid-round pick - perhaps to Kansas City.
Foles is indeed as good as gone because he doesn't fit Kelly's offense. QB Eagles No. 7 does, sort of, but he is a terrible quarterback at this stage of his career. He can't read defenses or recognize blitzes. His rushing ability is in severe decline. And worst of all, he's a turnover machine. He's going to keep throwing picks and fumbling balls. He'll be responsible for many Eagle losses in 2013, but perhaps this is for the best, as the team will almost definitely be in a position to draft Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Football atop the 2014 NFL Draft (see 2014 NFL Mock Draft).
This move isn't being received poorly by the national media, and that's no surprise. The Philadelphia Daily News' Les Bowen (@LesBown) tweeted it best:
So far, the only people I've seen who like this Vick move are national media guys who must not have been watching him the past two years.
It's true. Anyone who has paid close attention to the Eagles knows that QB Eagles No. 7 is done as a starter. He shouldn't be anything more than a backup at this stage of his career, but it's no surprise that the Eagles, who have made dumb decisions all offseason, do not recognize that.
Feb. 9 Updates
Saints hire DC Rob Ryan: C Grade
What is wrong with these new 3-4 teams? Are they unaware that Romeo Crennel is available? Crennel is one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL, while Rob Ryan? Not so much. Here are Rob Ryan's defensive rankings over the years:
As you can see, Ryan has only coached only one defense that has been in the top half of the league in terms of points allowed. His Dallas numbers look decent, but the Cowboys were eighth in points and second in yards in 2009, so Ryan isn't nearly as good with the defense as Wade Phillips was.
Ryan is a mediocre retread coach. The only reason he keeps getting chances is because his dad is Buddy and his brother is Rex. This is an uninspired hire that likely will not turn around New Orleans' putrid stop unit.
Feb. 7 Updates
Eagles hire DC Billy Davis: C- Grade
I don't understand what the Eagles are doing this offseason. First, they bring in a head coach who has never been affiliated with the NFL - a maneuver that has seldom worked throughout league history. Then, they announce they're moving to a 3-4 when they don't have the personnel for it. Now, they hire a defensive coordinator with an abysmal track record despite the fact that someone like Romeo Crennel was available.
Billy Davis has been a defensive coordinator for four years in this league. In 2005, his 49ers were dead last in points and yards allowed. They improved to 29th and 27th the following year. He was fired after that. He resurfaced in 2009 with the Cardinals, who were 12th and 17th in points and yards allowed that season. Unfortunately, they regressed in 2010, dropping to 31st and 32nd in the respective categories. He once again once axed.
Feb. 4 Updates
Rams claim WR Titus Young: C- Grade
I'm not surprised the Rams claimed the recently waived Titus Young, as they've taken chances on poor-character players during their current regime. Jeff Fisher has seemed to have rehabbed Janoris Jenkins, so the thinking is that he'll be able to do the same for Young, which would give Sam Bradford a borderline No. 1 wideout talent to throw to. There's little financial risk here, so why not take a chance on the 23-year-old Boise State product?
Well, the problem is that unlike Jenkins, who had drug problems, Young is a terrible person, as I'd say he's half-scumbag, half-psychopath. What if he sabotages a potential victory for the Rams like he did in Detroit? What if his awful attitude spreads throughout the St. Louis locker room? There's just way too much downside to this transaction to give the Rams any sort of positive grade.
Jan. 25 Updates
Rams hire DC Rob Ryan: C- Grade
I don't really get this. Not only is Rob Ryan an overrated defensive coordinator; he only has experience in the 3-4, which presents a problem because the Rams run a 4-3. This hire doesn't seem to make sense.
UPDATE: The Rams have decided not to hire Rob Ryan.
Jan. 22 Updates
Eagles hire OC Pat Shurmur: D Grade
I don't understand this at all. Pat Shurmur has West Coast roots, so I don't know how he's expected to run Chip Kelly's offense. Nothing the Eagles have done over the past few years has made any sense.
Cardinals hire DC Todd Bowles: C- Grade
Talk about a major downgrade. The Cardinals just went from Ray Horton to Todd Bowels, who did a terrible job in Philadelphia.
Jan. 19 Updates
Raiders hire OC Greg Olson: A Grade
I'm not sure if most people know a lot about Greg Olson, but he did a great job with Josh Freeman in 2010 and then made the most out of Chad Henne last year as the quarterbacks' coach. He's a very good hire for the Raiders.
Jan. 18 Updates
Jets hire GM John Idzik: C- Grade
John Idzik is a salary-cap expert. The Jets need one of those. They have an awful cap situation which is the reason why many general managers turned them down. So, maybe Idzik will be able to save them. However, Idzik has no history of scouting or player evaluation. This move looks like it'll ensure that the Jets will be the laughing stock of the NFL, but I'm not sure if they could have done anything else.
Jets hire OC Marty Mornhinweg: D Grade
I don't understand what Marty Mornhinweg has accomplished to earn himself another offensive coordinator stint in the NFL. Mornhinweg will be charged with either saving Mark Sanchez's career or grooming a young quarterback acquired this April. If I were a Jet fan, I'd be scared to death that Mornhinweg will fail in either regard.
Bears hire DC Mel Tucker: A Grade
I love this hire. Mel Tucker runs a similar defense to Lovie Smith's scheme, so there won't be any sort of awkward transition period. Tucker did well as the defensive coordinator in Jacksonville; his stop units were usually formidable despite constantly suffering tons of injuries.
Browns hire DC Ray Horton: A Grade
I don't like that the Browns are moving to a 3-4 when their 4-3 was already doing very well, but if they're going to make the switch, Ray Horton is the right guy to call the plays. Horton did a great job as the defensive coordinator in Arizona. Despite numerous injuries to his stop unit, Horton had the Cardinals ranked 12th in terms of yards allowed.
Browns hire general manager Michael Lombardi: C- Grade
Michael Lombardi provided interesting analysis for Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report over the past few years, so he'll be well received in some circles. However, before Lombardi became an NFL Network analyst, he was known for making blunderous draft choices with the Browns and Raiders. Al Davis may have had to do something with the latter - taking a kicker in the first round, for example - but Lombardi called the shots in Cleveland in the late 80s and early 90s. Here's a history of Lomardi's draft picks with the Browns. Try not to cringe too much of you're a Cleveland fan.
Despite Lombardi's dubious history, I'm not giving the Browns an F, or as forum member Rags suggested, "Matt Millen with kielbasa giving Undead Al a Cleveland Steamer - level grade." Lombardi may have grown wiser over the years while spending lots of time as an NFL analyst. Perhaps he's learned from his mistakes, so this could work out; Lombardi, after all, correctly chastised Cleveland for picking the geriatric Brandon Weeden in the first round last April. But then again, there were lots of other promising personnel men who deserved a shot before Lombardi.
Jan. 17 Updates
Cardinals hire head coach Bruce Arians: A Grade
Bruce Arians did a tremendous job of taking over the Colts' duties when head coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with Leukemia. Arians deserved a chance to be a full-time head coach, so I'm happy to see him land a job. I wouldn't have fired Ken Whisenhunt, but Arians will definitely be a solid replacement.
Jaguars hire head coach Gus Bradley: A Grade
A few days after making some very bizarre statements about his quarterback position, recently hired general manager David Caldwell managed to bring in the top new head coach available. It's unclear how Gus Bradley will fare as a head coach, but he'll at least bring his defensive expertise to a Jacksonville team that has talent on that side of the ball. Even at the very worst, Bradley can't possibly be a downgrade from Mike Mularkey, so this is a good day for the Jaguars.
Chargers hire OC Ken Whisenhunt: A+ Grade
I don't understand why Ken Whisenhunt wasn't hired as a head coach anywhere. The Chargers are extremely fortunate that some of the other NFL teams are stupid. Whisenhunt, who tutored Ben Roethlisberger in his early years, should offer a big boost for a declining Philip Rivers.
Browns hire OC Norv Turner: A+ Grade
I already discussed this below - head coach Rob Chudzinski's ability to bring in Norv Turner to be his offensive coordinator was a big reason why I initially loved the hire so much. Turner is a terrific play-caller, so adding him is huge for Cleveland.
Jan. 16 Updates
Eagles hire head coach Chip Kelly: C- Grade
I don't understand this hire. Chip Kelly spurned the Eagles initially because he didn't view being with them as a good opportunity, given that they don't have a quarterback to run his offense. So, Philadelphia came back to him and offered him more money and power? It's pretty stupid. So many other candidates would have made more sense. Kelly is a good bet to fail because he has absolutely no NFL experience. Don't think this is like Jim Harbaugh or anything because the 49er head coach had NFL roots. College coaches going to the pros with no NFL background seldom have success.
So, what are the Eagles going to do at quarterback? They'll definitely spend an early selection on one - perhaps Geno Smith at No. 4 if he's there. They may retain QB Eagles No. 7, which would be a disaster because he's a rapidly declining turnover machine. Also expect them to deal Nick Foles for a mid-round pick - perhaps to Kansas City.
Bears hire head coach Marc Trestman: C Grade
The Bears fired Lovie Smith for this? Marc Trestman has been out of the league since 2004, and has recently spent time coaching in the CFL. This can't exactly be a move that gives Chicago fans confidence. Trestman is an offensive mind who might be able to help Jay Cutler, so perhaps this will work out, but I have serious doubts.
Jan. 15 Updates
Chargers hire head coach Mike McCoy: B+ Grade
I've written this before, but it's impossible to tell how someone will fare in their first head-coaching stint. Great coordinators like Norv Turner and Wade Phillips have failed, while on the flip side, someone like John Harbaugh was just a special-teams coordinator. It's all about having leadership, preparation skills and an ability to manage everything, from a coaching staff to timeouts during a game. Only a handful of people know if Mike McCoy is well suited for this.
I do like this hire from a potential standpoint. McCoy is a good offensive coordinator, so he'll at least get more out of Philip Rivers. Also, San Diego hiring McCoy takes away from its biggest rival. The Chargers will be hoping that McCoy will have a great game plan to beat the Broncos.
Jan. 11 Updates
Browns hire head coach Rob Chudzinski: C+ Grade
Rob Chudzinski is a terrific offensive coordinator who has ties to the Browns. He was their offensive coordinator during Derek Anderson's best season and he was raised in Ohio. While it's impossible to tell how any coach will do in his first stint, two things are promising. One, I like that the Browns thought outside the box instead of hiring some retread. And two, Chudzinski has indicated that he's planning on bringing in Norv Turner to be his offensive coordinator. Turner may have failed multiple times as a head coach, but he's a hell of a play-caller. He and Chudzinski will get the most out of Brandon Weeden or whomever Cleveland's quarterback turns out to be.
Note: I'm bumping this down from a B+ to a C+ after learning that Chudzinski plans to move to a 3-4. There was nothing wrong with Cleveland's defense, outside of a consistent pass-rushing presence, so there was no need to switch schemes. Coaches who force scheme changes down their new team's throat seldom have success.
Cowboys hire DC Monte Kiffin: C+ Grade
Monte Kiffin being one of the league's legendary defensive coordinators saves this from being a D or an F. This hire just doesn't make much sense to me. One of two things will happen: One, despite reports, Kiffin will force his Tampa-2 scheme upon a Dallas defense that doesn't have the personnel to run it. Or two, Kiffin will still switch to the 4-3 (which I don't like) but won't utilize his famous Tampa-2. But then why hire him? It's like Jerry Jones solely did this for the publicity - a tactic he's used many times over the years.
Jan. 10 Updates
Jaguars fire head coach Mike Mularkey: A+ Grade
I'm normally against giving coaches only one year, but Mike Mularkey was an incredibly stupid hire by former general manager Gene Smith in the first place. The inspiration for a segment in my NFL Power Rankings called, 101 Ways to Lose a Football Game After Establishing a Big Lead, Mularkey was despised by Atlanta fans for his horrible play-calling as the offensive coordinator. Falcon supporters rejoiced when Jacksonville hired him, so it was no surprise that Mularkey's poor decision-making continued with his new team. He foolishly went for it on fourth down at inopportune moments, consistently squandered away big leads and made the switch from Blaine Gabbert to Chad Henne months too late - though the latter was also on Smith.
Jan. 9 Updates
Cowboys fire DC Rob Ryan: A Grade
When Jerry Jones said changes were coming, I guess this is what he meant. Rob Ryan was terrible as Dallas' defensive coordinator, so this is one of the moves Jones absolutely had to make. Unfortunately, he won't be giving Jason Garrett his walking papers this offseason, so expect more of the same from the Cowboys - great play at times, but costly blunders at the end of games.
Bills hire head coach Doug Marrone: B Grade
I've seen tons of people criticize this move. I don't have a big problem with it. Doug Marrone made Syracuse relevant again. He has NFL experience, and Bill Parcells recommended this hiring. I would have preferred Lovie Smith or Ken Whisenhunt if I were a Buffalo fan, but Marrone could be a quality head coach.
Jan. 4 Updates
Chiefs hire head coach Andy Reid: B- Grade
As someone who lives in Philadelphia, I feel as though I have a good feel for how overrated of a coach Andy Reid is. He's an atrocious play-caller, particularly in the red zone. He's also a disaster area when it comes to clock and timeout management. And Kansas City fans better prepare for some of the most boring and unrevealing press conferences known to man.
Having said that, Reid isn't a terrible hire. He prepares his team well during the week, and he's proven that he can win if he has a stout defense to support him. The Chiefs are a couple pieces away from maintaining that sort of stop unit, and it'll help if Monte Kiffin is hired as the defensive coordinator, which is the scuttlebutt Friday afternoon.
Reid will likely select Geno Smith this April - see my 2013 NFL Mock Draft here - unless he signs a prominent quarterback in free agency (in which case, he'd take Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, barring a trade down). It just so happens that QB Eagles No. 7 will be available, so his name could quickly become QB Chiefs No. 7. If so, Kansas City fans can expect tons of turnovers from their quarterback, which won't be anything new after watching Matt Cassel this past season.
All in all, this is a good day for the Chiefs. Reid has glaring flaws, but he's a massive upgrade over Romeo Crennel.
Chiefs fire GM Scott Pioli: A Grade
Scott Pioli did some nice things with the Chiefs. For example, getting Justin Houston in the third round was a great move. However, stuff like this is overshadowed by the massive contract he irresponsibly gave to Matt Cassel, which was an obvious terrible decision at the time. He also selected numerous busts. Taking Tyson Jackson at No. 3 overall was also inexcusable. Pioli had to be fired before he could further ruin one of the NFL's great franchises.
Black Monday: Dec. 31 Updates
Bears fire HC Lovie Smith: D Grade
Lovie Smith is one of the better head coaches in the NFL, so the Bears will be hard pressed to find an upgrade over him. Smith took the team to a 10-6 record despite missing Jay Cutler for a crucial game and a half, and he certainly would have led his squad into the playoffs last year had Cutler and Matt Forte not gotten hurt. It's not Smith's fault that the front office keeps giving him terrible backup quarterbacks and neglecting to upgrade the offensive line.
Bills fire head coach Chan Gailey: A Grade
General manager Buddy Nix needs to go too because he gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a ridiculous contract. Chan Gailey has shown no signs that he can be a successful head coach in the NFL. The way he underutilized C.J. Spiller this season was unforgivable.
Browns fire head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert: B Grade
I wasn't a fan of Pat Shurmur as a head coach, but at some point the Browns need to stop being idiots. They need to stick with a head coach for at least four years no matter what. Just look at the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals - they've had a combined five head coaches since 2003. The Browns alone have had five in that span. Is it a coincidence that the AFC North teams with coaching stability consistently make the playoffs, while Cleveland hasn't enjoyed a postseason appearance since 2002?
Cardinals fire head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves: C Grade
Firing Ken Whisenhunt would earn an F, but canning Rod Graves gets an A, so I'm averaging this out. Whisenhunt has done a great job as Arizona's head coach considering the crap quarterbacks Graves has given him. No head coach could possibly succeed with Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Derek Anderson and Ryan Lindley.
Chargers fire head coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith: A+ Grade
I don't know how many times I've ranted about how the Chargers were stupid for not firing Norv Turner and A.J. Smith. This should have happened years ago.
Chiefs fire head coach Romeo Crennel: Incomplete Grade
Firing Romeo Crennel would earn an A, but the Chiefs need to get rid of Scott Pioli as well. Giving Matt Cassel six years and $63 million was inexcusable - and mostly everyone knew it was a dumb move at the time.
Eagles fire head coach Andy Reid: A Grade
Andy Reid and the Eagles just had to part ways. He's been in Philadelphia long enough. He'll be able to find employment very soon. His new team can expect terrible clock management and ridiculous play-calling in the red zone.
Jaguars fire GM Gene Smith: A+ Grade
Charlie Campbell first reported that this would happen on Nov. 27. Gene Smith traded up to No. 10 overall for Blaine Gabbert, gave Laurent Robinson a ton of money and used a third-round pick on a punter. I could list at least two dozen other blunders of his if there weren't so many other firings today.
Jets fire GM Mike Tannebaum: Incomplete Grade
Rex Ryan needs to go too, so that's why this is incomplete. Ryan has to be axed for screwing up the Tim Tebow situation so poorly. There's no doubt the Jets would have at least been in playoff contention if they did the right thing and went with Tebow the whole year. Instead, Ryan homoclitically stuck with an inept Mark Sanchez all year. He should be fired for that because he can't be trusted to make logical decisions.
Raiders fire OC Greg Knapp: A Grade
Greg Knapp installed a blocking scheme that didn't suit his best player's strength. This is yet another instance where a coach stupidly favors scheme over personnel. I don't think I've ever seen it work.
Patriots acquire CB Aqib Talib and 7th-round pick from Buccaneers for 4th-round pick
The Patriots desperately needed help in their secondary, so credit them for making this move. All they're doing is swapping fourth- and seventh-round picks for a legitimate No. 1 cornerback, so this is a great move.
Aqib Talib was available so cheaply because he has major off-the-field concerns. However, he's a free agent after this season, so New England doesn't have to commit to him. He can help during the upcoming playoff run, and if Bill Belichick deems him too much of a locker-room problem, he can just let him go. It's possible though that Talib would behave better in a more controlled environment, so this deal has incredible long-term upside.
It's difficult to grade this trade for the Buccaneers. They didn't get much for a stud cornerback, but they were likely to lose him after this offseason anyway, so at least they were able to salvage something for him.
Grade for Patriots - A+
Grade for Buccaneers - C+
2012 NFL Trade Deadline: Nov. 1 Updates
Lions acquire WR Mike Thomas from Jaguars for 2014 5th-round pick
The Lions coveted Mike Thomas in the 2009 NFL Draft. They had a difficult choice between him and Derrick Williams, and they mistakenly opted for the latter. Williams is no longer with the team, so Detroit apparently is making up for a previous error.
Having said that, I think the Lions are making another poor decision. Thomas is obviously better than Williams, but he has a poor work ethic. That's the last thing Detroit's locker room needs. On the field, he'll function as a return specialist, but I don't know where he fits in as a receiver because he'll be behind Calvin Johnson, Titus Young and Ryan Broyles in the pecking order. He's nice depth in case an injury strikes, but he's also expensive; he'll be due $1.45 million in 2013 and $3.45 million in 2014.
The Jaguars did a good job of unloading Thomas for a 2014 fifth-round pick. There's a good chance they were going to cut him soon anyway, and it's not like he was a big part of the offense; he has just 13 catches for 80 yards this year.