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2015 NFL Black Monday Grades


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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. Go here for my NFL Free Agent Team Grades.

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Jan. 21 Updates

Bears hire OC Adam Gase: B- Grade
Adam Gase was a hot name heading into the offseason, and he was expected to perhaps land a head-coaching job. That never happened. He apparently had the opportunity to land the head-coaching gig in San Francisco, but somehow screwed it up.

Instead, Gase will follow John Fox to Chicago. I like that Fox will at least have familiarity with Gase, but it's impossible to love this move, given that Gase has never been an offensive coordinator without Peyton Manning. Coaching Jay Cutler will be much more of a challenge, and I'm not sure if Gase - or anyone else not named Mike Shanahan, for that matter - can get the job done. Even if Cutler is jettisoned, it's still impossible to tell how Gase will do unless he's somehow able to coach another future Hall of Famer.

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Browns hire OC John DeFilippo: C+ Grade
John DeFilippo has never been an offensive coordinator on any level of football. That doesn't necessarily mean that this a bad hire; it just makes it difficult to grade.

Here's what we do know about the soon-to-be 37-year-old: He was the quarterbacks' coach with the Jets in 2009 when Mark Sanchez was a rookie. Sanchez played well that year, quarterbacking the team in the AFC Championship. DeFilippo then was the quarterbacks' coach for the Raiders in 2012-14. Studying under Greg Olson for two years, DeFilippo helped Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and Derek Carr play relatively well.

Perhaps the Browns are making a good decision by bringing in DeFilippo. I certainly like this hire more than if they would've gone with a failed retread like Marty Mornhinweg. Again, it's tough to grade, but a C+ seems appropriate.

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Jan. 20 Updates

Ravens hire OC Marc Trestman: A Grade
I'm not in a particularly great mood, or anything, just in case you were wondering after seeing all of these "A" grades I've given out today. I just think these teams have made terrific hires.

Marc Trestman got the most out of Jay Cutler in 2013, but was fired after a failed 2014 campaign in which Culter stopped caring and trying. It's not Trestman's fault that his quarterback had absolutely no heart, and he probably didn't deserve to lose his job. He has a brilliant offensive mind, and he'll serve as a perfect replacement for Gary Kubiak as Baltimore's offensive coordinator. Dubbed the "quarterback whisperer," Trestman could have Joe Flacco playing the best football of his career in 2015.

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Jaguars hire OC Greg Olson: A Grade
It's very lazy to look at how Greg Olson's offenses have ranked over the years because that would be ignoring the types of quarterbacks he has worked with. Here's the list: Josh Freeman, Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin and Derek Carr. It was miracle work just getting the offenses to rank 30th with those signal-callers under center.

Olson has gotten the most out of every quarterback he has coached, save for Gabbert, who was a lost cause. He coached up Freeman to be a Pro Bowl quarterback before personal issues derailed Freeman's career. Blake Bortles declined as the 2014 campaign progressed, so bringing in Olson was a great move for Jacksonville. Olson can turn Bortles around to save the Central Florida product's career.

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Bears hire DC Vic Fangio: A Grade
Vic Fangio was one of the more sought-after coordinators this offseason, so Chicago fans should be happy that their team landed him. Fangio has had success at multiple posts as a defensive coordinator. He did relatively well with the expansion Texans, and he was even better these past few years with the 49ers. His best work came last season when he managed to maintain one of the league's top defenses despite the fact that many of the players on his unit were injured/suspended.

It's going to take a lot of work for Fangio to turn around Chicago's putrid defense, but his presence will definitely help. The Bears have a ton of work to do on this side of the ball this offseason.

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Raiders hire OC Bill Musgrave: F Grade
A typical Raiders' move. Jack Del Rio was hired a few days ago, and he has already screwed up by replacing Greg Olson with Bill Musgrave. Whereas Olson coached up Derek Carr and got the most out of him - as well as many other quarterbacks over his coaching career - Musgrave has pretty much been a failure wherever he's gone. He had two unsuccessful tenures as an offensive coordinator in Jacksonville and Minnesota, and he was part of the reason Nick Foles regressed this past year when he replaced Bill Lazor as the Eagles' quarterbacks coach.

The Raiders have made poor decisions for more than a decade, and this is just the latest one. Del Rio should've been thrilled to inherit someone like Olson, but he managed to severely downgrade his offensive coordinator. Carr, as a result, will suffer a severe sophomore slump that could help ruin his career.

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Jan. 18 Updates

Falcons hire OC Kyle Shanahan: B+ Grade
The Falcons screwed up by failing to land Rex Ryan, but they at least made a decent hire by bringing in Kyle Shanahan to run the offense. Shanahan has plenty of experience as the play-caller in Houston, Washington and Cleveland. He has gotten the most out of some pedestrian quarterbacks like Robert Griffin (when he was healthy), Matt Schaub and Brian Hoyer, but he also struggled with others, such as Donovan McNabb and Johnny Manziel.

Shanahan will be working with the best quarterback he's ever coached as a coordinator. He should be able to help Matt Ryan with his effective game-planning, so I like this acquisition by Atlanta.

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Broncos hire HC Gary Kubiak: C Grade
This strikes me as an uninspired hire. Gary Kubiak never led his team deep into the playoffs, failing to beat anyone but Andy Dalton in the postseason. Kubiak had just a 61-64 record in eight seasons, and his team quit on him in 2013; he went 2-11 before getting fired late in the year.

I don't see how Kubiak is an upgrade over John Fox. I'm not crazy about Fox either, but Kubiak is just a mediocre head coach at best. It just seems like John Elway wanted a "yes man" who would agree that Peyton Manning is still the best option for the team even though Manning had a decaying arm down the stretch (even before he tore his quad).

Kubiak's not a terrible hire because he at least has experience, but I don't see how the Broncos became better with him.

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Jan. 16 Updates

Bears hire HC John Fox: C- Grade
The national media will eat this up as a great hire, but I don't see it working out very well. John Fox is an overrated coach; his methods are extremely dated, he's way too conservative, and he didn't win any close playoff games with the Broncos. It was either a victory against an outmatched opponent, or an embarrassing defeat as a favorite. There's a reason the Broncos canned him.

The Bears really had two options that made sense: Either hire an offensive-minded coach like Mike Shanahan, who could work with Jay Cutler, or blow the entire thing up. This approach will not work. Chicago has a decaying roster and a quarterback who doesn't care, yet it hired an outdated, mediocre coach whose methods are no longer effective.

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Giants hire DC Steve Spagnuolo: C+ Grade
Steve Spagnuolo comes home. Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator of the Giants during their 2007 Super Bowl run, and he was subsequently hired by the Rams to be their head coach, as he impressed many with his apparent ability to generate a heavy pass rush. Unfortunately for Spagnuolo, it appears as though he was a product of the talent around him. He hasn't enjoyed nearly as much success in his other posts, failing with both the Rams and the Saints as their defensive coordinator.

There's some hope that Spagnuolo can turn things around back in New York, but I'm not as optimistic. The one positive, however, is that he and Tom Coughlin have worked together before, so there won't be any sort of learning curve.

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Jan. 14 Updates

49ers hire HC Jim Tomsula: B- Grade
The 49ers are going to take a huge step backward and will likely have trouble making the playoffs over the next several seasons. That's because Jim Harbaugh is gone. Harbaugh took San Francisco out of irrelevant 6-10-type seasons and brought them to a Super Bowl, but inept ownership wanted a "yes man" who would not steal the spotlight. Much like Jerry Jones with Jimmy Johnson in the 90s, Jed York screwed up and made things personal, dismissing an elite head coach for no explicable reason.

Having said that, I already gave the 49ers a terrible grade for letting Harbaugh go. I don't mind this hire. Jim Tomsula is a good leader and will provide some continuity, which is definitely a positive. However, I'm not sure Tomsula will be able to manage a game well, given that he was just a defensive line coach.

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Raiders hire HC Jack Del Rio: D Grade
This is why the Raiders are the Raiders; they make stupid moves like this. Jack Del Rio had a failed tenure as Jacksonville's head coach. He took the Jaguars to the playoffs a couple of times, but he was often overmatched. Owner Wayne Weaver eventually got so fed up with him that he told the media that he wished Del Rio had a better work ethic. How can a coach with a poor work ethic get hired to be a head coach again? The Raiders would've been better off with Tony Sparano, who at least cared.

This is a major win for Del Rio. Not only does he get to be a head coach again; he gets to go home. He'll be in California, near the beach, where he concentrate on surfing rather than game planning for his upcoming opponents.

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Redskins hire DC Joe Barry: C Grade
This is actually a Matt Millen hire because Millen brought Joe Barry in to be the defensive coordinator of the Lions in 2007. Barry lasted two seasons with Detroit, and his defense was ranked dead last both years, and he was part of the 0-16 disaster in 2008. Barry has spent the past four years as San Diego's linebackers coach.

I previously gave this a Millen grade, but some in the know are more optimistic about it. Barry has done a great job developing linebackers over the years, and he already has enjoyed a great rapport with Jay Gruden, so there won't be any trust issues, as there were with Jim Haslett. I'm not crazy about this hire, but it doesn't appear to be a terrible one.

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Jan. 13 Updates

Jets hire OC Chan Gailey: C+ Grade
There have been moans and groans from people talking about how Chan Gailey has been out of the NFL for two years following a failed tenure in Buffalo as the head coach, but this isn't a terrible hire. Gailey has a decent offensive mind. He was able to get Ryan Fitzpatrick to play well for a stretch in Buffalo, and C.J. Spiller, who produced 1,244 rushing yards in 2012, has done nothing since Gailey left. The Gailey hire could work out, but the Jets need an injection of talent more than anything on offense.

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Jets hire HC Todd Bowles: B Grade
The Jets were downgrading their coach no matter what they were going to do this offseason. Todd Bowles is a fine candidate though. He has been a very good defensive coordinator over the years, and at 51, he deserves a chance to be a head coach. He's not Rex Ryan, however, and he still faces the same issue Ryan did - he needs to find a quarterback and someone to run the offense. Bowles also won't nearly have the same sort of talent he did in Arizona, so New York fans shouldn't expect a top-10 defense in 2015. It remains to be seen if he can function as the same sort of motivator.

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Cowboys re-sign HC Jason Garrett (5 years, $30 million): B- Grade
Jason Garrett strikes me as a very mediocre head coach, and his record reflects that. He was 29-27 in his career heading into this past season, and he has never been past the second round of the playoffs. He barely had any actual duties during games, almost serving as a figurehead of some sort in addition to being the team's leader.

The Cowboys could do better than Garrett, but I'm not giving this a bad grade because I'm a fan of continuity. The Cowboys look like they have something good going, so why change things now? The money is too much, but Jerry Jones has it, and it's not like Garrett will count against the cap, or anything.

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Jan. 12 Updates

Broncos fire HC John Fox: B+ Grade
I feel sorry for John Fox. His recent playoff loss to the Colts wasn't completely his fault, as perennial choke-artist Peyton Manning had been playing with a decaying arm. Manning was going to gag at some point anyway, but Denver wasn't going very far, given how poorly Manning had been down the stretch.

Having said that, I don't mind this firing at all. Fox has always been overrated as a coach. He has a good defensive mind - despite royally screwing up the game plan versus Indianapolis - but his decision-making is awful, as he is way too conservative. How many times has he punted on fourth-and-short near or past midfield despite having Manning and all of those offensive weapons? It was almost like he still thought Jake Delhomme was his quarterback.

Fox isn't a bad coach overall, but the Broncos can do better. I wonder whom they're going to hire though, given that Manning is a rapidly declining player who won't be around much longer. I'm not sure anyone outside of the elite coaches like Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh could win with this team, and they're obviously not available.

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Bills hire OC Greg Roman: C Grade
I loved the Rex Ryan hire, but as I hinted yesterday, I'm not crazy about this move. In four years as San Francisco's offensive coordinator, Greg Roman had the offense better than 20th in yardage just once, and it was never in the top 10. Also, Colin Kaepernick seemed to have regressed under Roman's tutelage. Some of that was Jim Harbaugh mailing it in this past year once it was clear he wouldn't be back, but it's discouraging that Roman was never able to develop Kaepernick.

Roman will be charged with a much more difficult challenge in Buffalo. The Bills have nothing at quarterback, as E.J. Manuel is currently the favorite to start next year. If Roman couldn't get Kaepernick to take the next step, how is he going to get the most out of Manuel?

I don't hate this hire, as there were worse candidates out there. I don't think it's a very inspired one though, either.

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Jan. 11 Updates

Bills hire HC Rex Ryan: A+ Grade
This proves how incompetent the Jets are. How could they let Rex Ryan get away AND go to a team in the same division? Ryan is one of the few people who truly knows how to contain Tom Brady, and the Bills reeled him in. This is huge, as Buffalo has an extensive history of losing to the Patriots. It looks like that will be changing in the near future.

Ryan, of course, needs an offensive mind to complement him, given what the Jets endured on that side of the ball since 2009. There are rumors that he'll bring along 49ers' offensive coordinator Greg Roman, but I'm not sure he's the answer. The Bills don't have a quarterback anyway, and ultimately, that's the position they'll need to address to become a true Super Bowl contender.

By the way, I think this is a major blow for the Falcons. Ryan would've been perfect for them, given the offense already in place. I can't believe Arthur Blank allowed Ryan to walk away without hiring him.

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Jan. 10 Updates

Steelers fire DC Dick LeBeau: C Grade
The Steelers have technically "mutually" parted ways with Dick LeBeau, but this is effectively a firing because they didn't want him back. LeBeau has been the team's defensive coordinator since 2004, and his tough defenses were a major reason why Pittsburgh was able to win two Super Bowls in the past decade.

However, Pittsburgh's defenses have declined steadily in recent years. LeBeau is getting the blame from some publications, but in truth, he had inferior personnel to work with. The Steelers have not drafted well defensively, especially when it comes to the secondary, so I don't see how any defensive coordinator could've gotten great production out of what the team currently has on the roster.

Having said that, LeBeau is 77, so it wouldn't hurt to go in a different direction. I think the Steelers will ultimately miss him, but if they have a plan in place to have someone else step in, they might as well do it now.

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Patriots re-sign S Patrick Chung (3 years, $8.2 million): B Grade
Philadelphia fans might be confused about this after watching Patrick Chung struggle for them in 2013, but Chung simply is built for Bill Belichick's system. He played pretty well in 2014, though he faded a bit down the stretch. Still, this is a decent contract who a player who happens to be a solid piece in Belichick's defense.

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Patriots re-sign RB Brandon Bolden (2 years, $2.32 million): C+ Grade
Brandon Bolden is buried on New England's depth chart at a weak position for the team, but that's because he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in 2014. Bolden at least functions well as an effective special-teamer, so extending him two more years makes sense.

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Jan. 9 Updates

Buccaneers hire OC Dirk Koetter: B+ Grade
Dirk Koetter has always had a lot to work with in Atlanta, including a franchise quarterback, but his offenses were always ranked among the league's best units. The Buccaneers are still deciding which franchise signal-caller to take, but they've made a nice move by bringing in Koetter, who has successful NFL experience. He should be able to get the most out of Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston, and he'll be a major upgrade over what Tampa had this year in terms of a play-caller.

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Black Monday: Jan. 8 Updates

Steelers extend OC Todd Haley (2 years): B+ Grade
It's easy to blame Todd Haley when things go wrong, given his personality, previous tension with Ben Roethlisberger, and the gif of him staring at a woman eating a hot dog. However, Haley has done a good job with the Steelers, who were ranked second in yards per game this past season. Roethlisberger was able to set career-high numbers in many categories in 2014, including yards (4,952) and completion percentage (67.1).

As I said with the Browns below, one of the keys to maintaining a winning organization is stability. The Steelers would've taken a step backward if they took the Cleveland approach and brought in someone new to call the plays. Instead, they can just head into 2015 with confidence that their offensive will be highly productive.

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Browns fire OC Kyle Shanahan: D Grade
Kyle Shanahan technically asked for his release, and the Browns granted it to him. Shanahan is not some sort of master play-caller, or anything, but Cleveland is getting a poor grade for how it handled this situation and its incompetence overall. Shanahan was doing a good job of getting the most out of Brian Hoyer before center Alex Mack's injury. Hoyer capsized after that, and then we all saw what a disaster Johnny Manziel was. Shanahan was never on board with Manziel - great job by him for being so prophetic - but this created friction in the front office. It got so bad that a "high-ranking official" (probably owner Jimmy Haslam) was texting recommended plays to Shanahan during the game. Ladies and gentlemen, the Cleveland Browns.

Shanahan was the Browns' eighth offensive coordinator since 2006, so the team will have a ninth in less than a decade. That's absolutely ridiculous. A big part of creating a winning franchise is having stability. There is no such thing in Cleveland. Haslam, is fairly new, but he appears to be even worse than the previous guy, which isn't a surprise considering his previous legal issues.

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Black Monday: Jan. 7 Updates

Giants fire DC Perry Fewell: B Grade
This move makes sense. In the half decade in which Perry Fewell has coached them, the Giants have been in the top five of most yardage surrendered three times. Fewell has coached some great defenses as well; his stop units were particularly strong in 2010 and 2013, as well as 2008, when he was with the Bills. However, he has coached too many poor defenses and hasn't shown the ability to make adjustments when things aren't ideal.

Fewell's failure in New York isn't all his fault, however. The front office has inexplicably ignored the linebacking corps for years despite it continuously being a glaring need. The Giants, consequently, were 31st against the run in terms of YPC allowed to opposing running backs this past season.

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Black Monday: Dec. 31 Updates

Redskins fire DC Jim Haslett: A Grade
Jim Haslett lasted five years in Washington despite fielding only one defense ranked above 18th in yardage allowed. Personnel was an issue, no doubt, but Haslett's blitz schemes were easily solvable for most teams. Making matters worse, one of his former players, linebacker London Fletcher, called him out during the season. Take a look at what he said, if you haven't seen it:

"He's clueless as a defensive coordinator. He lacks attention to detail. He lacks feel on how to call a game. Some of the calls he used to call when I was playing were head-scratching. They were so bad, I used to change them, like, 'We're not running that.' And we'd get off the field and he would ask, 'Why did you change the call.' (I would say), 'Because thatís just a dumb call. Thatís why I changed it.'"

That pretty much says it all.

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Black Monday: Dec. 30 Updates

Jaguars fire OC Jedd Fisch: A Grade
Jedd Fisch didn't exactly have the best personnel to work with in Jacksonville, but he did not do a good job as the team's offensive coordinator, leading the franchise to two consecutive finishes as the 31st-ranked team in yardage. Blake Bortles did not look any better than he did when he initially started; in fact, it appeared as though he regressed as the season went on. Bortles constantly looked like he was scared to take shots downfield, so this is something Jacksonville needs to fix before it becomes an irreparable habit.

There are rumors that Marc Trestman could be Jacksonville's new offensive coordinator. Trestman and Gus Bradley are apparently great friends, and Trestman, also known as the "quarterback whisperer," could do wonders with Bortles' natural ability.

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Black Monday: Dec. 29 Updates

Giants retain HC Tom Coughlin: A Grade
The Giants have failed to achieve a winning record the past three years, so there was some speculation that Tom Coughlin would be fired. That didn't turn out to be the case, as New York announced that it'll be keeping him on for one more year.

I understand New York getting rid of Coughlin if it wanted to do a fresh reboot, but given that it'll keep rolling with Eli Manning, there was no reason to fire the 68-year-old. Coughlin is one of the top coaches in the NFL. He's a two-time Super Bowl winner, so it's not his fault that the Giants have been just 22-26 the past three seasons. The Giants would be so much better with an improved offensive line and linebacking corps. If those two areas are fixed, New York could compete for another Super Bowl, provided that Manning, 34 in January, still has what it takes.

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Dolphins retain HC Joe Philbin: D Grade
Joe Philbin is not head-coaching material. He was absolutely oblivious to what was going on in his own locker room when the bullying scandal was going on; he reportedly doesn't have the respect of his players; and he failed to motivate his team in a Week 17 matchup with the divisional-rival Jets, when a victory could've given his team a winning record.

Philbin has a fine offensive mind, but he's better off being a coordinator. He just can't cut it as a head coach, and this is extremely obvious to almost everyone, so it's curious as to why owner Stephen Ross hasn't fired him yet. In fact, if I were Ross, I'd can Philbin and hire Rex Ryan. This would give me a head coach who could stymie Tom Brady, and Ryan wouldn't have to worry about the offense, given that Bill Lazor is already in place to tutor Ryan Tannehill.

Philbin hasn't done a terrible job with the Dolphins, which is why I haven't given this an "F," but it's pretty clear that he's not the answer because he's overmatched, and he doesn't command the respect of his own players.

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Raiders retain GM Reggie McKenzie: C Grade
Owner Mark Davis left the door open for Reggie McKenzie to be fired, but he referred to McKenzie as "my guy" in Monday's meeting with the media. McKenzie has had his ups and downs. He curiously axed Hue Jackson and replaced him with the overwhelmed Dennis Allen; allowed Jared Veldheer to get away in free agency; bungled the Rodger Saffold signing (though Davis had a hand in that); and wasted early-round choices on D.J. Hayden and Menelik Watson.

On the other hand, McKenzie did well in the 2014 NFL Draft, found some late-round steals in Latavius Murray, Mychal Rivera and T.J. Carrie, and had to deal with the mess that Al Davis left behind; he didn't even have a selection in the first two rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft to work with.

McKenzie hasn't been overly impressive, but I can see why Davis wants to give him one more year. It's too early to determine whether Derek Carr will be a solid starting quarterback, but if he develops into one, McKenzie will need to take serious credit for that because every team passed on Carr last spring.

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49ers fire HC Jim Harbaugh: MILLEN Grade
The 49ers called this a "mutual agreement to part ways," but let's be real here. They undermined Jim Harbaugh at every opportunity this year, beginning with leaking reports to the NFL's Internet tabloid publication back in February. Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke couldn't get along, so Baalke did everything in his power to make Harbaugh want to leave.

I'm going to assume that Baalke has compromising pictures of 49er ownership because no one in their right mind would've kept Baalke over Harbaugh. Baalke screwed up numerous early draft choices like A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James, Tank Carradine, Vance McDonald and Jimmie Ward (awful rookie year), and those were just the terrible picks in the first two rounds. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that he actually traded a draft choice for Blaine Gabbert.

Harbaugh, meanwhile, was responsible for turning this franchise around. He led the 49ers to a 44-19-1 record through four seasons, reaching the NFC Championship thrice, as well as the Super Bowl, where he was just one play away from beating the Ravens. Despite a ridiculous amount of injuries to his roster this past season, Harbaugh still had the team playing hard in meaningless games late in the year, nearly knocking off the Seahawks in Seattle.

The 49ers are going to be so much worse without Harbaugh, who already took the Michigan job. Colin Kaepernick, who has already shown signs of regression, will take another major step backward without an offensive mastermind coaching him up. The 49ers will eventually have to fire Baalke, and perhaps then they'll realize that they let go of the wrong guy.

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Bears fire HC Marc Trestman: C Grade
Phil Emery absolutely had to go for bungling the Jay Cutler contract, but I don't understand why Marc Trestman had to be fired. Trestman probably should be an offensive coordinator, but it's not his fault that his general manager kept the wrong quarterback, throwing tons of money at the most indifferent player in the NFL.

Trestman got the most out of Cutler in 2013, but Cutler just stopped paying attention. Is it Trestman's fault? Perhaps a bit, but Cutler is so heartless that he wouldn't have listened to anyone upon obtaining so much money. It was telling that Trestman had Jimmy Clausen playing the best football of his career versus a tough Detroit defense in Week 16. That proved that Cutler was the problem; not Trestman.

Having said that, I'm not sure if Trestman was the long-term answer anyway, so I can't say that I hate this firing. Cutler is almost certain to be around next year because of his ugly contract, so perhaps the Bears can actually bring in the Wizard of Oz - a.k.a. Mike Shanahan - who can give Cutler a heart. Shanahan worked well with Cutler in Denver, so the match would make sense. If Chicago can't hire Shanahan, however, then the team will be doomed with a downgraded offense matching a horrific defense.

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Bears fire GM Phil Emery: A- Grade
For any aspiring NFL general manager out there, here's a tip: Do not give $126 million to a heartless, indifferent quarterback, because it will get you fired.

At least one person had to take the fall for the Jay Cutler contract, and Phil Emery was the obvious choice. Emery had a terrible 3-year run in Chicago. In addition to overpaying for Cutler, he bungled many early-round draft choices, including Shea McClellin, Brandin Hardin, Evan Rodriguez, Khaseem Greene and Ego Ferguson (though the jury is still out on the latter).

Emery had some hits in the draft - Kyle Fuller, Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long - but there were more whiffs than successful choices. He also put his team in a terrible situation with the Cutler contract, which was an obvious poor decision when it was made. In fact, I graded it a "C+" at the very bottom of the page, noting that Packer fans were thrilled with the extension.

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Falcons fire HC Mike Smith: B+ Grade
Mike Smith had the Falcons in the NFC Championship two years ago, but now he's gone. That's what going 10-22 over a two-season stretch will do to you in a league that could easily stand for "Not for Long."

Firing Smith was probably the right decision. Smith repeatedly bungled late-game situations, costing his team victories against the Lions and Browns this year alone. Winning those games would've helped him seal up the NFC South with a victory over the Saints, but instead, he was outmatched in a blowout defeat against the Panthers in Week 17. These past two years weren't all on Smith - the Falcons sustained a ridiculous amount of injuries - but it's not like Smith was adding much by being on the sideline.

Smith has a great defensive mind, and he should immediately find work as a coordinator, but he was just overmatched as an NFL head coach. With Matt Ryan hitting 30 in May, the Falcons need to act quickly and find a coach who can win a championship before the window closes permanently.

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Jets fire HC Rex Ryan: F Grade
There are only a handful of coaches in the NFL who know how to contain Tom Brady. The Jets had one of them, and they also happen to be in Brady's division... and yet, they fired that coach? Huh?

Woody Johnson cemented himself as one of the league's most incompetent owners by firing Ryan on Black Monday. What Ryan did in 2014 was miracle work. The Jets had a roster that screamed 1-15; outside of the defensive line, the team didn't have a single positive unit. Ryan was able to somehow win four games with such a depleted squad, and the players loved him; they played hard for him in so many meaningless games. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that Ryan once took Mark Sanchez to two consecutive NFC Championships. The heralded Chip Kelly couldn't even get Sanchez to the playoffs!

Ryan does have his warts. He doesn't have a grasp of the offensive side of the ball, so he needs to have a sharp offensive coordinator to work with him. He also screws up clock and game-management situations occasionally. Having said that, unless you want to count Jim Harbaugh, Ryan is the top head-coaching candidate available this offseason. The Jets will be worse off with whomever they hire. In fact, the Dolphins, who had a horrific showing in Week 17, should think about canning Joe Philbin and hiring Ryan, who would thrive in Miami because a strong offense is already in place there.

I just don't understand what the Jets are doing. I predicted them to go 2-14 prior to this season, so they surpassed expectations. John Idzik was the one to blame for what happened this year. Speaking of Idzik...

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Jets fire GM John Idzik: A+ Grade
John Idzik was arguably the NFL's worst general managers, so he absolutely had to go. This move is actually a year too late, as he should've been fired last offseason. During his tenure in New York, Idzik...

  • Signed numerous free-agent busts, like: Breno Giacomini, Mike Goodson, Antwan Barnes, Willie Colon and David Garrard.

  • Obtained three players (Chris Johnson, QBDK, Percy Harvin) who poisoned the locker room.

  • Gave No. 1 receiver money to No. 2 wideout Eric Decker, despite having nothing at quarterback.

  • Dedicated resources to second-round pick Geno Smith.

  • Squandered many draft choices, including the No. 9 overall selection on Dee Milliner, as well as several mid-rounders spent on terrible receivers.

  • Allowed Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to walk away without properly addressing the cornerback position, putting Rex Ryan in a tough spot.

  • Alienated many of those in the front office.

    Idzik, who had no scouting experience upon being hired, was expected to be a failure from Day 1, but no one figured he would be incompetent on a Matt Millen-type level. The only thing he didn't do was drop the six-letter F-bomb on one of his receivers in front of the media.

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    Dec. 27 Updates

    Bears extend C Roberto Garza (1 year, $1.5 million): B Grade
    The Bears gave Roberto Garza $1.5 million to come back for the 2015 season. It's a cheap price, so it's hard to imagine that they'll regret doing this. Garza, after all, has been playing in Chicago's interior line since 2005, and he has usually blocked extremely well. However, Garza wasn't as sharp this past season, which shouldn't be a surprise, given that he'll turn 36 in March. He might be worse next year, but it's not like the Bears are taking much of a risk.

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    Dec. 19 Updates

    Seahawks extend DE Cliff Avril (4 years, $28.5M; $16M guaranteed): A- Grade
    It's nice to see Cliff Avril get rewarded after taking such a small deal to play with a Super Bowl contender two years ago. Avril has been as good as advertised with the Seahawks, generating 13 sacks since 2013 despite not being an every-down player. Avril is a liability in run support, but his great ability to put pressure on the quarterback makes up for that. He's still just 28, so he probably won't regress throughout the duration of this contract.

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    Seahawks extend OLB K.J. Wright (4 years, $27 million): A- Grade
    If you've paid close attention to the Seahawks this year, you know how important Bobby Wagner has been to the team. The Seahawks struggled to stop the run this season until Wagner returned from injury. K.J. Wright held down the fort while Wagner was gone, however, playing well against both the run and the pass. He's 25, has no weakness in his game, and could get even better over the next couple of seasons, considering his age. I'm sure other teams would've paid more for him, so Seattle did a great job of locking him up through 2018 with this deal.

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    Dec. 17 Updates

    Jaguars extend DT Roy Miller (4 years, $16.25 million): C- Grade
    David Caldwell's moves usually confuse me, and this one is no exception. I don't get this contract. Roy Miller is just a rotational run-stuffer who doesn't really do much in terms of pressuring the quarterback. He has started for the Jaguars the past two seasons, but was completely ineffective last year. He's been better in 2014, but has still been just mediocre at best. Jacksonville could have found a cheaper alternative this offseason who could be capable of the same type of production.

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    Dec. 6 Updates

    Rams extend P Johnny Hekker (6 years, $18M; $9M guaranteed): D Grade
    I'm not sure what this signing is about. The Rams just made Johnny Hekker the richest punter or kicker in NFL history. Hekker is a great punter - he's sixth in net average and seventh in attempts placed inside the 20 this year - but with Hekker set to be a restricted free agent this March, there was no need to give him a new contract this early. Even still, it's ridiculous to pay a punter this much money.

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    Nov. 16 Updates

    Chiefs extend DE/DT Allen Bailey (4 years, $25M; $15M guaranteed): C Grade
    Who did Allen Bailey sleep with to land this contract? I just don't see how he's worth $15 million guaranteed. Bailey is a quality starter who has had a couple of big games this season, but he's just an above-average five-technique at this stage of his career. He does not deserve to be among the highest-paid players at his position.

    The Chiefs are clearly overspending here, but this isn't a terrible contract. That's because Bailey is only 25 and happens to be in just his first season as a starter. Thus, he could be worth the money down the road if he continues to improve his game. He's just not worth it right now.

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    Nov. 8 Updates

    Cardinals extend QB Carson Palmer (3 years, $50M; $16M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    A 3-year contract worth $50 million for Carson Palmer may sound like a lot, but there's no guaranteed money due past the 2015 season. In other words, the Cardinals aren't committing to Palmer for more than a year and a half. Palmer has been tremendous since the middle of the 2013 campaign, so he definitely deserved this deal. Perhaps he'll stick around in 2016 and beyond, but he'll be nearing 36 by then. Luckily, the contract is effectively "pay as you go" after 2015, so Arizona can just part was with him if he begins to struggle.

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    Oct. 28 Updates


    Rams acquire S Mark Barron from Buccaneers for 4th-, 6th-round picks
    I'm surprised the Rams were buyers at the trade deadline, as they stand no chance of making the playoffs. They are acquiring a piece for the future, however, as Mark Barron was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Barron has been a disappointment. He hasn't played terribly, but he's been just a mediocre safety through 2-and-a-half seasons.

    There is some upside in this deal for the Rams. Barron is a physically gifted player, so perhaps a new coaching staff can get the most out of him. Besides, he's an enormous upgrade over T.J. McDonald, who was one of the worst safeties in the NFL. At just 25, Barron could start in St. Louis for a very long time if his new coaches can get him to play up to his talent for a change.

    The Rams are surrendering two third-day selections to make this happen. On one hand, St. Louis is getting good value for a player who was the seventh-overall pick a couple of years ago. On the other hand, giving away two choices could prove to be costly if Barron continues to be mediocre.

    The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have to be happy they're getting two selections for a player who has just been average and hasn't been a good fit for the current defensive scheme.

    Grade for Rams - B
    Grade for Buccaneers - B-

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    Patriots acquire LB Jonathan Casillas from Buccaneers for exchange of late-round picks
    Jonathan Casillas was the player who recovered the onside kick in the Saints-Colts Super Bowl at the end of the 2009 season. Casillas is a special-teamer and an occasional backup linebacker.

    The Patriots needed depth at linebacker, so why not? Precise terms of this deal haven't been announced yet. Tom Curran reported that it's a swap of late-rounders, so I'd say it's worth it. Casillas can be a fine backup, and he'll provide a boost on special teams.

    The Buccaneers are almost certainly receiving minimal compensation for Casillas, so they can't get anything more than a "C" for this.

    Grade for Patriots - B
    Grade for Buccaneers - C

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    Oct. 25 Updates

    Buccaneers extend DT Gerald McCoy (7 years, $98M; $51.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    This is a ton of money for a defensive tackle, but Gerald McCoy is one of the best in the business. He's one of the top defenders in the NFL, and he's one of the few bright spots for the Buccaneers in what is a completely dismal season for them.

    I'm always worried that defensive linemen will gain weight and slack off upon receiving contracts like these - see Albert Haynesworth - but McCoy is a high-effort player who happens to be at the top of his game right now. He's only 26, so he'll be highly productive for at least five more years. The Buccaneers are awful, so they couldn't afford to eventually see their best player leave.

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    Oct. 21 Updates


    Patriots acquire LB Akeem Ayers from Titans for swap of sixth-round picks
    New England's defense without Jerod Mayo wasn't pretty. The team struggled mightily to contain both of the Jet running backs in a close call last Thursday. They had to fix their rush defense, and they may have accomplished that task by acquiring Akeem Ayers from the Titans.

    The caveat is that Ayers has barely played this year because he's coming off a pair of knee surgeries this offseason. He'll be healthy enough to play if he passes his physical, so the Patriots can plug him in right away as a two-down specialist who thrives at stopping the run. Ayers has been very successful in that aspect over the past several seasons, but just didn't have a home in Tennessee's new 3-4. He's not good in coverage, so the Patriots shouldn't plan on using him on third downs. Still, New England did well to help improve its defense while giving up very little.

    As for the Titans, it's disappointing that they got so little for a player who was an important part of their defense prior to 2014. I never liked their scheme change, and this is a consequence of moving to a system that didn't fit many of the players' strengths.

    Grade for Patriots - B+
    Grade for Titans - C

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    Oct. 17 Updates


    Jets acquire WR Percy Harvin from Seahawks for conditional mid-round pick
    What!? That was my reaction to this trade when I first saw it pop up on SportsCenter. My second reaction was pinching myself to make sure I wasn't asleep.

    This is literally coming out of nowhere. Well, I suppose Harvin hasn't done much this year since the season opener, and apparently, the Seattle front office believes he "wasn't viewed as a fit." Still, it's bizarre to see a high-profile offensive weapon like Harvin be dealt for just a mid-round selection, especially when there was no talk of it happening in the first place.

    The Seahawks will move forward with Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse as their starting wideouts, with second-round rookie Paul Richardson getting more action. They might be better "fits" for the offense, but they're definitely not nearly as talented. Also, it's hard for me to give the Seahawks any sort of positive grade, considering that they surrendered a first-round pick just to land Harvin a year-and-a-half ago. I'm all for selling on sunk costs, but Harvin didn't appear to completely be one.

    As for the Jets, they're undoubtedly upgrading a receiving corps in need of help. Harvin is an injury-prone, expensive player ($41.5 million over the next four years), but New York was in desperate need of a legitimate offensive threat to go along with Eric Decker. It's nice that their front office is showing confidence in Geno Smith after his performance in New England. Smith makes mental mistakes, but he's never had much of a chance with his supporting cast. There won't be any excuses now.

    Grade for Jets - B
    Grade for Seahawks - C

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    Sept. 30 Updates

    Raiders fire HC Dennis Allen: A- Grade
    I gave the Raiders a "C" for retaining Dennis Allen this preceding offseason. Here's what I wrote:

    One trait that quality head coaches possess is an ability to make good half-time adjustments. Dennis Allen could not do that. The Raiders would've been 7-7-2 this season had their halftime scores stood as the final result, so keep that in mind when I tell you how much they were outscored by in second halves this year: 214-135!

    Allen hasn't shown any signs that he can be a head coach in the NFL. His team didn't try hard in some games this year (Week 9 vs. Eagles, Week 14 vs. Jets, Week 17 vs. Broncos come to mind). Allen is also extremely fortunate that he had offensive coordinator Greg Olson to coach up Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin; otherwise, Oakland's 2013 season could've been a complete disaster.

    The Raiders are firing Allen four games too late, but they at least made the right move. Allen's teams have quit on him far too often, and when something like that happens repeatedly, it should be obvious that the coach has to go.

    Oakland's not getting a full "A" for this move because general manager Reggie McKenzie should've been sent packing as well. McKenzie has bungled transaction after transaction, so it's not like Allen had much of a chance to begin with.

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    Sept. 14 Updates

    Rams extend DE Robert Quinn (4 years, $66.5M; $41.2M guaranteed): A Grade
    Robert Quinn is one of the top defensive players in the NFL. He's one of the few positive things going for the Rams right now, so they did a good job of locking him up. Quinn turned just 24 in May, so it's scary that he hasn't even reached his full potential yet.

    Quinn received $10 million less guaranteed than J.J. Watt - albeit over two fewer years - so this is a very fair deal for a dominant pass-rusher who registered 19 sacks in 2013.

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    Sept. 6 Updates

    Vikings extend G Brandon Fusco (5 years, $25M; $6M guaranteed): B Grade
    A 5-year, $25 million deal may seem like too much to give to a guard who's had just one good season, but looking closer, this contract includes just $6 million guaranteed.

    Brandon Fusco, Minnesota's right guard, struggled in his first season as a starter in 2012, but he made major improvements to his game and was stout last year. Fusco surrendered just two sacks and run blocked very well. Thus, this move makes sense for the Vikings.

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    Sept. 4 Updates

    Saints extend DE/OLB Junior Galette (4 years, $41.5M; $23M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    This is a lot of money for a player who's had just one season of more than five sacks. Granted, Junior Galette was awesome last year, registering 12 sacks and not being inept in coverage, but that was his only season as a starter. The Saints might have been better off waiting a year to extend him just in case 2013 was a fluke.

    I don't hate this move overall. Galette was a very good player in 2013 and deserves to be compensated. I just feel like it would've been in New Orleans' best interest to wait a bit to pay its top edge rusher.

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    Sept. 2 Updates

    Texans extend DE/DT J.J. Watt (6 years, $100M; $51.8M guaranteed): A Grade
    I don't like the idea of paying quarterback money to non-quarterbacks, but if there's an exception to the rule, it's J.J. Watt. The top defensive lineman in the NFL by a wide margin, Watt has registered 36.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in just three NFL seasons. He's also just 25, so he could get even better, especially with Jadeveon Clowney drawing attention. That's just scary.

    Barring injury, there's no reason why Houston will regret making this deal. Watt is the face of the franchise, and he's one of the primary reasons the Texans have made the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. He should have his team competitive yet again in 2014 - unless, of course, his quarterback throws pick-sixes every game.

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    Aug. 31 Updates

    Chiefs extend QB Alex Smith (4 years, $68M; $45M guaranteed): C- Grade
    Alex Smith is just a marginal talent who will never be able to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory because of his limitations. The closest he came was an utterly dreadful performance in the 2012 NFC Championship against an inferior Giants team when he failed to convert a single third down until overtime despite being surrounded by a great supporting cast.

    Smith doesn't have that luxury now, but he traversed one of the easiest schedules in recent memory last year. Things will be much more difficult in 2014, and Smith is bound to regress. He's looked very pedestrian in the preseason, and that's only the beginning of what's to come.

    The Chiefs obviously overpaid for Smith, and barring some contractual things we might not know about - a "pay as you go" policy like Colin Kaepernick and Andy Dalton received - Kansas City will undoubtedly regret this decision down the road.

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    Texans acquire QB Ryan Mallett from Patriots for conditional 7th-round pick
    A sixth-round pick isn't worth very much, so why not trade one for a young quarterback with a terrific skill set? Well, Ryan Mallett is just not a very good signal-caller in the first place, and it's pretty telling that New England couldn't net anything more than a sixth-round pick for him despite using a third-rounder to acquire him in the 2011 NFL Draft.

    I will admit that I'm intrigued to see what Bill O'Brien can do with Mallett's natural talent, but I wouldn't count on him doing anything in Houston. He may not even start this year. Mallett's deficiencies in the mental part of his game will likely prevent him from ever succeeding in this league, and there's no type of coaching that can cure that.

    As for the Patriots, going from a third- to a sixth-round pick hurts, but they at least obtained something for Mallett, who had very little value. They were rumored to be considering cutting Mallett, so it's nice that they got at least something for him.

    Update: The deal for Mallett was a conditional seventh-rounder, so I like this deal more for the Texans. It probably won't amount to anything, but at least Houston isn't risking anything.

    Grade for Texans - B
    Grade for Patriots - C+

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    Aug. 28 Updates

    Titans extend DT Jurrell Casey (4 years, $36M; $20.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    Jurrell Casey is a fantastic player, so it's hard to hate too much on this contract. Casey had a terrific 2013 campaign, notching 10.5 sacks. He'll only be 25 in December, so he might get even better.

    Having said that, I have some concerns about this deal. Casey was a force in the 4-3, but the Titans are moving him to the 3-4. It's unclear how Casey will perform in that scheme, so why not wait one year before extending him so they could see how he does in the new system? This is a ton of money for something with a major, unknown element; Ray Horton already ruined Darnell Dockett's career by placing him in the 3-4, so he might do the same to Casey.

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    Aug. 26 Updates


    Patriots acquire TE Tim Wright and a 4th-round pick from Buccaneers for G Logan Mankins
    It's surprising to see Logan Mankins get traded. He's one of the better guards in the NFL, and the Patriots already had a shaky offensive line. Mankins turned 32 in March, but he still performed on a very high level last year. He should be able to strengthen the interior of Tampa's front for the next couple of years. New England, meanwhile, will have to use two pedestrian blockers inside (Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly). This will hurt Tom Brady, who struggled behind a disappointing line last season.

    The Patriots are hurting for tight ends, so getting Tim Wright plus a fourth-rounder makes sense. But for Mankins? Wright isn't even that good; otherwise the Buccaneers wouldn't have been so eager to upgrade him with Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers this offseason. Maybe Bill Belichick sees something in Wright because there certainly wasn't anything wrong with Mankins, who had been enjoying a solid preseason.

    The Buccaneers won this trade. It's not by a wide margin because Mankins won't put them over the top, but he'll definitely improve blocking for Josh McCown and Doug Martin. The fourth-round pick is more of a deal than Wright, but even that isn't very significant.

    Grade for Patriots - C+
    Grade for Buccaneers - B+

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    Aug. 21 Updates

    Bengals sign OLB Vontaze Burfict (4 years, $20 million): A- Grade
    Vontaze Burfict made out pretty well for an undrafted rookie in 2012. Burfict has been exceptional for the Bengals these past two seasons. He has emerged as a three-down player and one of the better 4-3 linebackers in the NFL. He definitely deserves this sort of money, though it is a lot for a linebacker who doesn't rush the passer. Barring injury, Cincinnati won't regret this decision.

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    Aug. 20 Updates

    Steelers extend OT Marcus Gilbert (5 years, $30 million): C- Grade
    All of the financials aren't available yet, so if I have to adjust the grade, I will. As for now though, this move doesn't make much sense. Gilbert has surrendered a combined 17 sacks in the two full seasons he's played, and he was whistled for eight penalties in 2013. Gilbert's other season, 2012, saw him play just five games because of an ankle. Granted, Gilbert is just 26 and has loads of potential, but the Steelers are clearly overpaying for a lineman who hasn't been very good.

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    Aug. 4 Updates

    Bengals extend QB Andy Dalton (6 years, $96M; $17M guaranteed): C Grade
    I'm sorry to disappoint you with a lack of a Millen grade. Maybe you'd like to see this amusing picture that surfaced on Twitter instead?



    The only reason I didn't come up with a snazzy Millen grade for this extension is because it's almost certainly a "pay as you go" type of deal that Colin Kaepernick received. Owner Mike Brown said publicly this summer that he wanted to give Dalton this sort of contract. So, until I see specifics, I'm giving the Bengals a C+. They don't deserve a higher grade because they're essentially stuck in purgatory with Dalton. He's good enough to have them in contention for the divisional title every year, but he doesn't have the skill set to lead the team deep into the playoffs.

    I should note that I will adjust this to a Millen grade if it's not a "pay as you go" contract. Dalton has zero business obtaining anything close to this sort of money.

    Update: Dalton's deal is worth $96 million; not the $115 million that was initially reported. It's nice that it's less money, but I'm actually giving Cincinnati a slightly worse grade now that the facts are known.

    Dalton was given $17 million guaranteed, as well as $25 million total over the first two years of the contract. While that's a bit too much for a mediocre quarterback incapable of leading his team deep into the playoffs in this new pass-happy NFL, it's not an outrageous amount compared to what other signal-callers make. I'm giving Cincinnati a "C" for this move, which I think is more than fair. The Bengals will probably ultimately regret giving Dalton this sort of money, but they didn't jeopardize their future, or anything.

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    Aug. 1 Updates

    Bills extend RB Fred Jackson (1 year, $2.6 million): B Grade
    So... why did the Bills trade for Bryce Brown, again? This extension makes very little sense. With Jackson now projected to be around in 2014 - his age-34 season - Buffalo figures to have a very crowded backfield - unless, of course, the front office belives it can trade C.J. Spiller.

    Even so, why pay a 34-year-old Jackson $2.6 million? Considering much younger running backs like Ben Tate signed cheap deals this offseason, no one's going to line up to pay Jackson this sort of money next spring. Jackson was still able to be effective last year, but what if he regresses this year? It's a very strong possibility considering his age.

    Update: It has been reported that none of the $2.6 million Fred Jackson seems to be slated to make is guaranteed. It's still odd that the Bills would do this, but there's now no downside.

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    Packers extend WR Jordy Nelson (4 years, $39M; $14.2M guaranteed): B Grade
    Green Bay's front office is usually pretty sharp, so this move surprises me. Jordy Nelson is a solid receiver, but he's clearly a product of Aaron Rodgers. When Rodgers was out last year, Nelson had just one big outing, which happened to be against the Giants, a team that struggled defensively.

    There is a chance, albeit a small one, that Nelson will regress during this new contract, given that he just turned 29. With that in mind, I don't get why the Packers felt like they had to pay Nelson this sort of money, especially considering that they have so many young, promising receivers.

    Update: It's been reported that Jordy Nelson's 4-year deal is really just a 2-year commitment. That makes this contract seem more reasonable. Nelson will be due $8.8 million in 2016, which is still too much for him, but the Packers aren't taking as much of a risk.

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    July 30 Updates

    Cowboys extend OT Tyron Smith (8 years, $98 million): C Grade
    Tyron Smith's contract is for 10 years overall worth $109 million, including $40 million in guaranteed. Crazy.

    Smith is just 23 years old, and he's one of the top left tackles in the NFL. He's not the best at his position, however, so I have some issues with the Cowboys handing out this sort of money to a non-quarterback. Left tackles are important, but they are nothing by themselves, as Cleveland fans know very well considering they have Joe Thomas.

    There are two problems that could arise from this deal. The first is that this contract will be yet another reason why the Cowboys will be in cap purgatory for years to come. Jerry Jones is a great businessman, but he has proven himself completely inept when it comes to managing his football team, particularly when it comes to the salary cap. Second, according to Ian Rapoport, an extension with Dez Bryant is now nearly impossible, so there could be some dissension from the team's star receiver. Bryant is one of the few positive things going for the Cowboys right now, so if he's taking it easy to avoid an injury - per usual for a player looking for a new deal - that'll make things even more difficult for one of the NFL's worst teams.

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    Cardinals extend CB Patrick Peterson (5 years, $70M; $48M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    I thought Richard Sherman's 4-year, $57.4 million ($40M guaranteed) deal was too much when that went down. Since then, Joe Haden received a 6-year, $74.7 million pact with $45 million guaranteed, and now Patrick Peterson has surpassed both.

    Peterson is a terrific player who has a bright future ahead of him. He just turned 24, so he figures to perform on a very high level throughout the duration of this contract. However, this is just too much money to give to a cornerback. I know the market dictated this deal, but Arizona is going to have a difficult time filling out its roster in a couple of seasons in part because of this extension. Football is a team game, so locking up this sort of money into one non-quarterback player is not a good idea.

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    July 28 Updates

    Vikings extend TE Kyle Rudolph (6 years, $37.46M; $19.4M guaranteed): D Grade
    I like Kyle Rudolph, but I don't quite understand this deal. Rudolph is coming off an injury-plagued season and has never accumulated more than 500 receiving yards in a single year. He had no leverage, and quite frankly, is worth less than this deal indicates. Rudolph could be in for a big 2014 campaign with Norv Turner helping him - and I expect him to post big numbers - but why not re-sign him to this sort of contract after the fact? What if Rudolph disappoints or gets hurt again? If that were to happen, Minnesota could have retained Rudolph much more cheaply.

    This contract makes very little sense to me. The only reason I'm not giving Minnesota an "F" is because Rudolph is young (25 in November) and has tons of potential. However, throwing lots of money on a player with no leverage or proven track record does not seem like a very good idea.

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    July 25 Updates

    Falcons extend WR Roddy White (4 years, $30M; $10M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    Roddy White was entering his contract year, so the Falcons opted to lock him up until 2017. White struggled with an injury most of last year, but caught fire at the very end. However, he'll turn 33 in November, so it's unlikely that White will be able to keep up a high level of play for much longer. The Falcons are making the mistake of paying on past production, but they aren't giving their No. 2 receiver a ridiculous amount of money or anything. They're overpaying just a bit, but in doing so, they're giving themselves a good chance to remain competitive in the NFC South.

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    July 24 Updates

    Chiefs extend RB Jamaal Charles (2 years, $18.1 million): A Grade
    When I initially read the reports that the Chiefs made Jamaal Charles the second-highest-paid running back in the NFL, I thought the team may have made the common mistake of paying on past production. Charles has been a dynamic running back since 2009, but he turns 28 in December, so he doesn't have much longer until he hits 30 and begins declining.

    However, the terms of this deal are fine. Kansas City extended Charles for just two more years, and about $9 million per season for one of the top running backs in football is very reasonable. Besides, Charles essentially had the Chiefs by the balls in that they weren't going to be competitive in the slightest without him this season. He's their entire offense, so the front office had to do whatever it took to keep him from holding out.

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    July 15 Updates

    Saints extend TE Jimmy Graham (4 years, $40M; $21M guaranteed): A+ Grade
    This may seem like a ton of money for a tight end - it's the most ever for one - but compare it to some other contracts around the NFL. Jared Cook received a ridiculous $35.11 million ($19M guaranteed) over five years from the Rams. Dennis Pitta, meanwhile, inked a 5-year, $32.5 million pact with the Ravens, which included $16 million guaranteed. By comparison, New Orleans is getting a steal.

    Graham is well worth the money. He's one of the elite play-makers in football, and with Rob Gronkowski struggling to stay healthy every year, Graham has become the NFL's top tight end. Barring injury, this will be money well spent.

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    July 1 Updates


    Cowboys acquire ILB Rolando McClain and a 7th-round pick from Ravens for a 6th-round pick
    Rolando McClain was the No. 8 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but he has been a huge bust. Since December 2011, McClain has racked up three arrests and retired twice. However, he's still just 24 and has a desperate need for money, so he could be motivated to perform well. Even if that's the case, he won't be a good player for the Cowboys, who are in desperate need of a linebacker in the wake of Sean Lee's season-ending injury. This is a classic case of a smart NFL team outfoxing a dumb franchise that has committed way too many blunders in recent years.

    Grade for Ravens - A-
    Grade for Cowboys - C

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    June 25 Updates

    Chargers sign CB Brandon Flowers (1 year, $5M; $3M guaranteed): A Grade
    You have to wonder what the Chiefs were thinking when they placed one of their best defensive players in a scheme that didn't fit his playing style. Brandon Flowers performed on a Pro Bowl level for several years, but struggled in Bob Sutton's system this past season.

    The Chargers aren't complaining. They're stealing a talented corner from one of their rivals at a great price. Flowers actually had issues finding a new home for a while because he priced himself too highly, so he had to take a 1-year "prove it" deal. I love contracts like these. San Diego will greatly benefit from having him in its secondary.

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    June 19 Updates


    Falcons acquire QB T.J. Yates from Texans for ILB Akeem Dent
    The Falcons and Texans swapped backups on Wednesday. Atlanta found a slight upgrade behind Matt Ryan, while Houston acquired some needed depth at linebacker.

    There's no real winner in this trade. It's about even, and no team is going to improve from it. Yates is a capable signal-caller who can step in for a few games if Ryan goes down, though he would be a poor long-term option. Dent, meanwhile, can play two downs next to Brian Cushing if Brooks Reed's transition inside doesn't go as planned.

    Atlanta will get the slightly higher grade because there's a better chance Yates makes the team, but again, this trade is pretty much equal.

    Grade for Falcons - B
    Grade for Texans - B-

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    June 12 Updates

    Steelers extend C Maurkice Pouncey (5 years, $44M; $13M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    This is another tough grade. Maurkice Pouncey is a key piece on Pittsburgh's offensive line, so allowing him to walk would have been a mistake. However, Pittsburgh is clearly overpaying for the three-time Pro Bowler.

    It doesn't seem like the right time to be giving Pouncey a big contract. He's coming off a torn ACL and MCL, and he might struggle as a consequence in 2014. The Steelers could have waited and given him a cheaper deal. Instead, they made him the highest-paid center in the NFL - the $13 million guaranteed he received is just as much as Colin Kaepernick got last week - and yet he's not the best center in the league.

    Perhaps new details will come to light that will make this contract seem more lucrative for Pittsburgh, but as for now, it's apparent that the front office threw too much money at its 2010 first-round pick.

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    June 5 Updates

    49ers extend QB Colin Kaepernick (6 years, $126M; $61M guaranteed): A Grade
    I honestly don't even know how to grade this. Colin Kaepernick has exceptional talent and the potential to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He's already very good, but he owns the skill to eventually take the next step. Perhaps he'll even do so this season with Stevie Johnson joining a healthy supporting cast.

    The problem, however, is that Kaepernick isn't there yet, so he doesn't deserve to get paid more than Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning. I just don't get why the 49ers had to offer him this much money. Surely, he would have signed for a bit less. Couldn't the 49ers have given him slightly less than Rodgers' deal? I can't see Kaepernick passing on a contract like that.

    Having said that, I can't punish the 49ers with a very low grade because they're locking up one of the top, young quarterbacks in the NFL. Plus, this deal has to make the Seahawks angry because Russell Wilson might even ask for more.

    UPDATE: Something didn't seem right about this contract when it was announced yesterday. As it turns out, this is actually a year-to-year deal in which the 49ers can essentially cut Kaepernick anytime they want to if they're not pleased with his performance. The actual guarantee on this signing is $13 million, which is obviously much better than what was first reported. Thus, I'm raising this grade by a wide margin. I originally gave San Francisco a "C+" but this is actually a terrific deal for them.

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    June 2 Updates

    Seahawks re-sign WR Doug Baldwin (3 years, $13M; $8.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    This apparently is the going rate for third receivers, as the Redskins signed Andre Roberts to a similar deal back in March. I wasn't a fan of that move, though I like this one just a bit more because there won't be any sort of learning curve for Baldwin, who gets to stay in the same offense. However, this is a bit too much money for him, as he's nothing more than a tertiary option under ideal circumstances. Still though, it's not a bad move because Baldwin is a decent safety valve for Russell Wilson.

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    May 21 Updates

    Browns sign WR Miles Austin (1 year, $2M; $300K bonus): C Grade
    Miles Austin-Jones is officially just Miles Austin now that he's officially done being a Dallas Cowboy. He'll move on to Cleveland, which is a great opportunity for him, given the lack of receiving talent on the team. Josh Gordon faces a season-long suspension, while Greg Little was recently released. Andrew Hawkins is there, and the super-athletic Charles Johnson has some promise, but Austin should be able to slide in as a starter.

    The question is whether Austin will keep the job. The former Cowboy's injuries have derailed his career. He has missed 11 games in the past three seasons, but that is not an indication of how banged up he's been. It seems as though Austin hasn't been 100 percent in ages, and this was very apparent in 2013 when he was so slow and useless that he hurt the Cowboys when he was on the field.

    Is there a chance Austin stays healthy and performs well for Cleveland? Absolutely, but it's a slim one. I'll be pretty shocked if Austin is effective this year, especially for 16 games.

    Given all of that, I'm not a fan of this signing. I'd rather see the Browns give a chance to younger receivers, including Johnson.

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    May 19 Updates

    Bears extend WR Brandon Marshall (3 years, $30M; $23M guaranteed): B Grade
    I have one issue with this contract, which is that Marshall just turned 30. He should still be a dominant player in 2014, but what happens as he edges closer to his mid-30s? Will he still be the same athlete in 2016? It seems as though the Bears are paying on past performance, which is never a good thing.

    With that in mind, I don't hate this deal, especially given that the Bears have some options to upload their cap hits in 2014. Marshall is one of the top receivers in the NFL at the moment, and he's coming off a career-high 12 touchdowns in 2013. Jay Cutler loves throwing the ball to him, so he has to be thrilled that his team extended his BFF.

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    May 13 Updates

    Browns extend CB Joe Haden (6 years, $74.7M; $45M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    So much for Richard Sherman being the richest cornerback in the NFL. Sherman received a whopping $40 million guaranteed from Seattle last week. The Browns topped that by giving their shutdown corner $5 million more.

    Haden is a terrific player, so this grade does not reflect my assessment of his talent. There's no question that he's a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback. However, as with Seattle, Cleveland is making the mistake of giving its top corner quarterback-type money. Considering that cornerbacks can fall off quickly, there's a strong possibility that the Browns will regret this contract in the future - especially once they have to begin paying some of their other players.

    Had the Browns given Haden about $55 million over six years with $32 million or so guaranteed, I would've considered it a strong move. But $45 million in guarantees is just way too much for a cornerback.

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    May 12 Updates


    Bills acquire RB Bryce Brown from Eagles for 2015 4th-rounder
    The Bills planned on spending a mid-round selection on a running back in the 2014 NFL Draft - they brought in so many for pre-draft visits - but they decided instead that the best course of action would be dealing a 2015 fourth-round choice to the Eagles for Bryce Brown. This pick could turn into a third-rounder if certain conditions are met.

    This move will draw some acclaim because Brown is a known commodity from the ridiculous 2012 stretch he had, but I'm not a fan of it from Buffalo's perspective. Brown has loads of talent, but he's a very unreliable player with character issues and fumbling problems. He doesn't appear to be willing to learn, which is why Philadelphia got fed up with him. Perhaps Brown can turn things around - in which case, he could be the starter in a couple of seasons - but I have serious doubts about that.

    The Eagles didn't plan on utilizing Brown very much this upcoming season, so obtaining a fourth-round choice for him was a solid move by the front office. I'm sure Chip Kelly is excited because it'll give him another opportunity to draft an Oregon player.

    Grade for Bills - C
    Grade for Eagles - A-

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    May 9 Updates


    49ers acquire WR Stevie Johnson from Bills for 2015 4th-rounder
    Stevie Johnson was as good as gone once the Bills moved up for Sammy Watkins on Thursday (go here for my NFL Draft Grades). Johnson was once perceived to be a star No. 1 wideout for the future for Buffalo, but injuries and key drops (not to mention poor quarterback play) have hurt his career.

    Johnson will have a chance to turn things around in San Francisco. He'll actually be with a winning organization and a very good NFL quarterback for the first time in his professional career. The 49ers needed a speedy receiving option to complement Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, and they've certainly found that with Johnson. Obtaining him for just a 2015 fourth-round pick (which could turn into a third-rounder based on conditions) is a very solid move, and should strengthen San Francisco's offense quite a bit.

    As for the Bills, it's nice that they were able to acquire a potential third-round choice for a player everyone knew they were going to dump. They were going to move on from Johnson and his bad contract regardless, so recouping the 2015 fourth-rounder that they dealt for Watkins makes up a bit for Thursday's disastrous trade.

    Grade for 49ers - A-
    Grade for Bills - B

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    May 7 Updates

    Seahawks extend CB Richard Sherman (4 years, $57.4M; $40M guaranteed): B Grade
    You read that correctly. Richard Sherman is getting $40 million guaranteed. That's as much guaranteed money as Drew Brees received on his most recent contract!

    With that in mind, it's hard to like this deal very much. Sherman is the top cornerback in the NFL, but that's all he is - a cornerback. No cornerback deserves top-level quarterback money. I'm also worried about the precedent this is going to set in Seattle. If Sherman is getting $40 million guaranteed, what is Russell Wilson going to receive when it's time for him to renegotiate? This contract could be the catalyst for a chain of events that will send Seattle into cap purgatory.

    Having said that, I can't hate this contract very much because, once again, Sherman is the best cornerback in the NFL, and he's not going to decline anytime soon because he just turned 26. The Seahawks have about a 3-year window in which they'll continue to be the top team in the league, and Sherman can help them win a second Super Bowl.

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    April 28 Updates

    Seahawks extend S Earl Thomas (4 years, $40M; $27.7M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    The Seahawks have been able to accumulate a bunch of cheap talent, but they'll have to give many of their players big contracts soon. Earl Thomas is the first.

    Thomas is one of the top safeties in the NFL, as he's made three Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams in just four seasons. On top of that, he's just 25 years old (as of May). He's well worth a huge deal like this. I'm not a big fan of paying safeties this type of money - it's why this grade is a B+ instead of a full "A" - but if any safety deserves a contract of this sort at the moment, it's Thomas.

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    April 21 Updates


    Seahawks acquire QB Terrelle Pryor from Raiders for seventh-round pick
    Terrelle Pryor wasn't going to make Oakland's roster, so the Raiders automatically get a solid grade for this. Granted, a seventh-round pick almost certainly won't amount to anything, but you never know. It's a resource the Raiders wouldn't have had otherwise, and they need as many draft selections as possible because of their lacking depth.

    As for the Seahawks, Terrelle Pryor can act as a developmental project. He's still very raw, and there's even a chance he won't make the roster, but if he shows enough promise, Seattle can keep him on and have him learn from Russell Wilson. Maybe the Seahawks will even be able to flip Pryor into a better draft choice down the road.

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    Grade for Seahawks - B
    Grade for Raiders - B+


    April 20 Updates

    Lions re-sign CB Rashean Mathis (1 year, $955K; $500K guaranteed): A- Grade
    Rashean Mathis was Detroit's top cornerback this past season, so bringing him back on a contract that pays him just $500,000 guaranteed is a hell of a bargain. The one downside with Mathis is that he'll turn 34 in August, so his play could fall off dramatically. He's also injury-prone, as he's missed 24 games in the past seven years. Still, Detroit isn't taking any sort of risk by retaining the long-time Jaguar, so this is a nice move.

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    April 16 Updates

    Jets sign RB Chris Johnson (2 years, $8 million): D Grade
    I hope Rex Ryan enjoyed his time coaching the Jets because his fate has been sealed. He will be fired at the end of this season in the wake of the Chris Johnson signing. On the bright side, the Jets are likely to have a top-two selection next spring, as seen here in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.

    This is a terrible signing on so many levels. First of all, Johnson is not a good player. He frequently dances around behind the line of scrimmage and has too many negative runs. He doesn't have his elite speed anymore - he turns 29 in September - so there is no more upside with all of his downside. Johnson is also terrible on third downs because he's atrocious in pass protection. Second, Johnson is an awful person to have in the locker room because he throws his teammates and coaching staff under the bus whenever he struggles. Instead of taking the blame himselves (Emmitt Mock is coming soon!) - most of which he deserves - he spreads it around, creating a horrible vibe.

    Third, Johnson, like the quarterback the Jets just signed, is a coach killer. Not only is he bad to have around teammates, as mentioned, but he happens to be an extremely overrated commodity. He's still a big name, so the media will hype up the Jets entering this season. Offseason hype plus regular-season disappointment is a recipe for coaches being fired, so Ryan will be the latest victim of CJ2YPC and the new quarterback.

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    April 13 Updates

    Panthers sign WR Jason Avant (1 year, $1.05 million): B Grade
    Jason Avant has been a solid slot receiver in Philadelphia for years, but turning 31 in April, he has slowed down of late. He caught only 38 passes this past season, and he would've barely been the No. 4 wideout on the Eagles in 2013 had Jeremy Maclin not gotten injured. But here's how awful Carolina's receiving corps is: Avant is easily one of the top two wideouts on the team along with Jerricho Cotchery. Ouch.

    This would be a "meh" signing for most teams, but the Panthers essentially just need NFL-caliber receivers at this point. They did a decent job of bringing one in at a reasonable price.

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    April 11 Updates

    Browns re-sign C Alex Mack (5 year, $42M; $26M guaranteed): B- Grade
    This apparently was an easy decision for the Browns, as they took less than three hours to match Jacksonville's offer despite having five days to think about it. I'm not so sure it should have been this simple.

    There's no doubt that Alex Mack is one of the NFL's top centers. He's only 28, so even if he plays out the duration of this deal - unlikely, given that he has an opt-out that says he can't be franchised - he'll still be a Pro Bowl-caliber player all the way through, barring numerous injuries. However, this is just way too much money to give to any center. Giving a contract worth $26 million to any interior lineman is crazy, even if it happens to be a perennial Pro Bowler. There's a reason why solid guards and centers are found all the time in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft.

    I thought about giving the Browns a "C" or a grade of that sort, but this franchise is a special case. They haven't made the playoffs since 2002, so losing one of their best players would be crushing for morale. That's why I upgraded Cleveland to a B-, though I'm still not a fan of this contract.

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    April 10 Updates

    Panthers sign TE Ed Dickson (1 year, $795,000): C+ Grade
    I can't grade this signing poorly because Ed Dickson will be making only about three-quarters of a million dollars and he fits a need as the No. 2 tight end in Carolina. However, Dickson has been a huge disappointment in his career, as he's a sub-par pass-catcher and a horrible blocker. The Panthers could have done better in terms of finding another tight end, but they also could have done worse.

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    April 9 Updates

    Falcons sign S Dwight Lowery (1 year, $760,000): B+ Grade
    This would be another great, cheap signing for Atlanta if we could be sure that Dwight Lowery would stay healthy. Unfortunately, that's not the case, as Lowery has missed a whopping 28 games over the past six seasons because of various injuries. In fact, he barely played for the Jaguars last year because of a concussion he sustained in late September.

    Lowery can provide solid depth if healthy, and he could even be a passable starter in the event that Atlanta can't upgrade the safety position in May (I have them doing so in the third round of my 2014 NFL Mock Draft). Lowery isn't reliable, unfortunately, but at just $760,000, the Falcons aren't exactly taking a risk.

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    Falcons sign CB Josh Wilson (1 year, $920,000): A Grade
    This is a fantastic signing. Josh Wilson is talented enough to be a slightly sub-par starting cornerback, as he was one of the few Redskin defenders who didn't play terribly this past season. Yet, the Falcons are somehow getting him for backup money. I have no idea why there wasn't more of a market for Wilson, but Atlanta is getting a steal.

    Wilson won't start for the Falcons unless there are injuries, but he'll provide some much-needed depth at the corner position, a hole created by the departure of Asante Samuel.

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    April 7 Updates

    Saints re-sign S Rafael Bush (2 years, $4.5 million): C Grade
    The Falcons signed Rafael Bush to a 2-year, $4.5 million offer sheet, and the Saints opted to match. They probably should have let him go. Bush would be starting for Atlanta, which might have prevented New Orleans' arch rival from perhaps drafting a superior player on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft.

    Bush is a decent backup, but that's all he is. This isn't a huge contract in general, but it's a lot for a part-time player. The Saints are strapped for cash, so retaining him doesn't seem like a great move.

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    Texans sign RB Andre Brown (1 year, $645,000): A+ Grade
    How does something like this happen? I understand that Andre Brown is injury-prone, but he was the best running back available on the market for nearly two weeks. Despite this, the Texans were able to nab him for just $645,000, which is absolutely ridiculous.

    Brown had some fumbling issues down the stretch that irritated Tom Coughlin, but he's a solid starting running back when healthy. Only 27, Brown will be a great backup for Arian Foster, who has injury problems of his own. There's a good chance Brown will have to start a game or two for Houston in 2014. If so, the Texans will be in good hands.

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    April 6 Updates

    Bears sign C Brian De La Puente (1 year, $165K guaranteed): A Grade
    I'm not sure how much this overall contract is for, but getting Brian De La Puente, a decent starting center, for just $165,000 guaranteed is pretty ridiculous. De La Puente played under Aaron Kromer, Chicago's offensive coordinator, in New Orleans, so there won't be much of a transition period. De La Puente will be behind Roberto Garza to open the season, but given that Garza just turned 35, the Bears were smart to bring in a talented, cheap backup.

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    April 4 Updates

    Saints sign CB Champ Bailey (2 years, $7 million): A- Grade
    This is a very good signing. Sure, Champ Bailey struggled this past season and was torched in a playoff loss the preceding January, but he was pretty banged up in 2013. He's capable of rebounding and playing like a solid No. 2 cornerback at the very least, though it's almost certain that we'll never see the old Bailey again.

    Of course, there's a chance that Bailey will continue to struggle. If so, who cares? The Saints gave him a pretty small contract worth $7 million over two seasons, so they're not risking very much. This is a savvy move for a team trying hard to win now.

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    Bills acquire WR Mike Williams from Buccaneers for sixth-round pick
    One man's trash is another man's sixth-round pick, apparently. Mike Williams has scored a combined 20 touchdowns in 2010 and 2012, but he's endured some down years in 2011 and 2013 because of his lethargy. Williams is one of the laziest players in the NFL, but there's a chance this will serve as a wake-up call for him. Getting out of the crazy Tampa party environment can't hurt either.

    This isn't a bad deal for the Bills on the surface, as they probably weren't going to obtain anyone better for their sixth-round choice. Williams can step in and serve as the No. 2 receiver if he puts forth full effort. However, this trade could fail quite easily, which would hurt because Buffalo inherited Williams' awful contract. That's why Buffalo deserves a poor grade for this swap. The team is unlikely to get the production out of Williams that matches the price (or the cap hit).

    As for the Buccaneers, it's great that they're getting something for Williams without having to take on his cap hit. They made a huge mistake in re-signing him, but they were able to get out of it by finding a team willing to take on his contract. There's a sucker born every day, apparently.

    I have Tampa Bay taking Mike Evans, by the way, in my mock draft.

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    Grade for Bills - C-
    Grade for Buccaneers - A


    April 2 Updates

    Raiders sign CB Carlos Rogers (1 year, $2.5M; $1M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    This is much like many of Oakland's other signings this offseason. Carlos Rogers, 33, is past his prime. However, the Raiders managed to sign him cheaply and with no long-term cap ramifications. Despite not being the player he once was, Rogers can still be an effective No. 2 corner in the NFL, so he'll help Oakland be competitive against non-elite competition this season. Rogers should turn out to be a pretty good acquisition for the Raiders, though there's a chance that he could completely fall off.

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    Redskins sign WR DeSean Jackson (3 year, $24M; $16M guaranteed): C Grade
    The Redskins have had a dubious offseason thus far. They've signed bums like Shawn Lauvao and Tracy Porter to contracts containing money far more than what they are worth. The DeSean Jackson signing may appease some of the fans well aware that their team wildly overspent for backup-caliber players, but this won't make things any better.

    Jackson is perennially one of the most overrated players in the NFL. His unknown gang affiliations aside, Jackson is constantly banged up and not playing at 100 percent. When he's on the field, he's just a one-trick pony. Granted, he does that one trick very well, but he needs to be healthy to do it, and that's not a usual thing. Also, Jackson is a major headache in the locker room. There's a reason several Philadelphia players have been vocal about being thrilled that "MeSean" is now off their team.

    This money is way too much for Jackson. He's not going to perform up to his supposed ability. He's not going to stay healthy. He's going to cause havoc in the locker room at some point. And as with Donovan McNabb and Jeremiah Trotter, this will end up as yet another failed Washington acquisition of a former Eagle.

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    April 1 Updates

    Broncos sign C/G Will Montgomery (1 year, $1.3 million): B Grade
    This isn't a sexy signing by any means, but it's a fairly important one because the Broncos were hurting for interior offensive line depth in the wake of losing Zane Beadles. Will Montgomery is a very capable run blocker, so if he wins the starting center job, he could kick Manny Ramirez out to Beadles' former spot. The price is right for Montgomery, who can also play guard if needed.

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    Jets sign CB Dimitri Patterson (1 year, $3 million): B Grade
    The Jets whiffed on Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Antonio Cromartie and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but they finally managed to obtain a cornerback. Unfortunately, they still need help at the position.

    Dimitri Patterson isn't a bad signing, but New York can't count on him being on the field, given that he has missed 17 games in the past two seasons. The former Dolphin can be effective when healthy though, and at just $3 million for 2014, the price is about right.

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    March 31 Updates

    Rams sign WR Kenny Britt (1 year, $1.4M; $550K guaranteed): B+ Grade
    This signing has a ton of upside. Kenny Britt is very talented and is capable of being a solid No. 1 receiver when healthy. The problem has been just that though, as he hasn't been 100 percent since the beginning of the 2011 season. For this price, however, St. Louis isn't taking much of a financial risk. If Britt reverts to September 2011 form, it'll really help Sam Bradford. If not, there won't be any consequences as far as the cap is concerned.

    The one downside is that Britt can potentially poison the locker room with his negativity. The Rams could just cut him, but Britt may do some damage before that if he's unhappy. However, he has played under Jeff Fisher before, so there's only a minimal chance that he hurts his new team.

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    Raiders sign RB Maurice Jones-Drew (3 years, $7.5M; $1.2M guaranteed): A+ Grade
    Reggie McKenzie had a rough start to his offseason with the Rodger Saffold debacle, but he has since made a number of quality moves, including this one. The Raiders have been heavily criticized throughout this free agency period for signing old players, but I don't see what's wrong with that. McKenzie has given these veterans deals that won't affect the future cap situation, and while the players he added aren't what they used to be, they'll at least make the team competitive against non-elite opposition.

    This is more than just a "quality" move, by the way. The Raiders are doing a great job of buying low on Jones-Drew, who was ineffective this past season because he was coming off a brutal leg injury. There's a much better chance we'll see something that resembles the old Jones-Drew in 2014. Making things better, Oakland added the former Jaguar for a great price. It's amazing that Toby Gerhart, a far inferior back, earned a larger contract.

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    Eagles sign QB Mark Sanchez (1 year, $2.25 million): C Grade
    It's hard to like this signing when a superior backup quarterback, Shaun Hill, is earning less from his new team than Mark Sanchez is. Sanchez is the former No. 5 pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, but he has never maintained a completion percentage higher than 56.7 or a YPA greater than 6.7. He also didn't "lead" the Jets to consecutive AFC Championships; that was his defense, and the Eagles don't have a stop unit that's nearly as good.

    Having said that, this isn't a terrible signing. Sanchez is only 27, so there is at least some untapped potential. He's also not really all that expensive, so the Eagles aren't risking very much.

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    Lions sign S James Ihedigbo (2 years, $3.15M; $750K guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Signing James Ihedigbo won't preclude the Lions from taking a safety early in the 2014 NFL Draft (most likely on Day 2), but he'll serve as a nice bridge for Louis Delmas' eventual replacement. While Ihedigbo isn't a strong starter, he's a capable defensive back who plays the run well. He's weaker in coverage, but he's much better than what Detroit already had, and at just two years and $3.15 million, he's definitely a solid bargain.

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    March 28 Updates

    Texans sign S Chris Clemons (2 years, $2.7M; $450K guaranteed): A Grade
    This is an outstanding signing for Houston. The team needed safety help after whiffing on Ed Reed last spring, and it certainly found an upgrade in Chris Clemons at a very cheap price. Clemons has been a very solid safety for the Dolphins over the past couple of seasons, especially in coverage. That's key for the Texans, who need to beat Andrew Luck to reclaim the AFC South.

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    Steelers sign RB LeGarrette Blount (2 years, $3.85M; $950K guaranteed): B+ Grade
    I'm confused about LeGarrette Blount's decision-making. Blount would have been a starter had he re-signed with New England, but he'll only be a backup in Pittsburgh unless Le'Veon Bell gets injured. He reportedly didn't stay with the Patriots because they only offered him one year, but he could have used the 2014 season to once again showcase his talent and perhaps land a more lucrative contract next spring.

    But as for this actual signing, I'm a fan of it. Blount could be a starter somewhere, so he'll be a very strong backup in Pittsburgh. There's a chance he'll slack off again now that he's no longer with Bill Belichick, but the Steelers aren't taking much of a risk.

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    March 27 Updates

    Patriots extend NT Vince Wilfork (3 years, $22.5M; $3M guaranteed): A- Grade
    I nearly choked on a Snickers bar when I first saw three years and $22.5 million for Vince Wilfork. That would be an insane amount for a giant nose tackle coming off a torn Achilles, but as it turns out, the deal only includes $3 million guaranteed. Even better, this is essentially just a 1-year, $8 million pact with an option for two more years.

    It initially seemed like Wilfork wouldn't be back when he was asked to be released, but the two parties made up, meaning New England will once again have its big body clogging the interior. There's definitely a good chance Wilfork declines, as he's a 32-year-old returning from an Achilles, but the Patriots aren't taking much of a risk with this deal. In fact, this is a great "prove it" deal for the Patriots, as Wilfork will be working extremely hard so that New England exercises the option.

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    Titans sign DE/OLB Shaun Phillips (2 years, $6M; $2.5M guaranteed): A- Grade
    The Titans are moving to the 3-4, but they needed to upgrade their pass rush in either scheme. Shaun Phillips probably should be able to do that. He notched 10 sacks for the Broncos in 2013. He may not be the same player this upcoming season, given that he turns 33 in May, but Tennessee is not taking any sort of risk here by handing him just $2.5 million in guaranteed money. This is a quality signing for the Titans.

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    Dolphins sign RB Knowshon Moreno (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
    It's hard to believe that the Dolphins made such a huge upgrade at the running back position for just $3 million. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas formed a miserable duo this past season, so Moreno, who is coming off a fantastic 2013 campaign, will immediately provide a great boost.

    Moreno will obviously be a three-down back for the Dolphins. He scored 13 touchdowns last year, so you know he can be effective on the goal line, and he's also outstanding on third downs. And to top it off, Moreno isn't even close to entering the downside of his career; he'll only be 27 in July, and he's had just 847 career carries. This is an absolute steal for Miami.

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    March 26 Updates

    Rams sign QB Shaun Hill (1 year, $1.75 million): A- Grade
    Shaun Hill is making about the same as Charlie Whitehurst and Kellen Clemens, yet he's better than both of them. I'd say the Rams are getting a pretty good deal.

    Hill is one of the top backup quarterbacks in the NFL, and if Sam Bradford gets injured again, there won't be much of a drop-off, unlike last year. Signing Hill was extremely important for St. Louis, given Bradford's durability issues.

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    Bears sign DE Jared Allen (4 years, $32M; $15.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    To be able to grade this signing, let's look at some of the other contracts the top/most expensive defensive ends signed this offseason:

    Packers sign DE Julius Peppers (3 years, $30M; $7.5M guaranteed)
    Bears sign DE Lamarr Houston (5 years, $35M; $15M guaranteed)
    Broncos sign DE DeMarcus Ware (3 years, $30M; $20M guaranteed)
    Vikings re-sign DE Everson Griffen (5 years, $42.5M; $20M guaranteed) (lol)
    Buccaneers sign DE Michael Johnson (5 years, $43.75M; $24M guaranteed)

    I had Allen rated pretty evenly with Houston, and I gave that signing a B-. Is that the only reason this deserves the same grade? Well, it's more complicated than that.

    First of all, the Bears are paying on past production. There's no doubt about that. Even though the final season of Allen's deal can be voided, this is still a lot of money for a 32-year-old defensive end who struggled in 2013. Allen will never be the same player he once was in Minnesota.

    Also, did the Bears really need another defensive end? They already signed Houston, Willie Young, Israel Idonije and Trevor Scott. They seemed fine at the position before bringing in Allen, so this signing took me aback.

    I make it sound like I hate this acquisition, but there are a couple of positives. I love it when a team steals a key player from a rival, as Chicago is doing here with the long-time Viking. There's a chance Allen rebounds with a strong season as well. Perhaps motivated after hearing that he has declined, Allen might give 110 percent to prove everyone wrong. It's highly unlikely that Chicago will receive two such strong seasons from Allen, but there's a good chance he'll be a force in 2014.

    In summary, I think this is a pretty average signing. The Bears are paying too much, but Allen unquestionably makes them better this upcoming season for a potential Super Bowl run.

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    Falcons sign KR Devin Hester (3 years, $9M; $3.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    Handing Devin Hester $3.5 million guaranteed seems like the Falcons are paying a bit on past production. Hester turns 32 in November and has just one special-teams touchdown in the past two seasons, so he's far from the dynamic weapon the Bears enjoyed in the previous decade. However, Hester was seventh in punt-return average last year, so he still has some juice left in him. He'll definitely be an upgrade over what Atlanta had on special teams in 2013, even if he's no longer the same player.

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    March 25 Updates

    Steelers sign WR Lance Moore (2 years, $3 million): B+ Grade
    The Steelers had to find a new slot receiver after losing Jerricho Cotchery to the Panthers. They didn't even have to wait until the draft to do so, as they signed Lance Moore to a cheap, 2-year, $3 million deal.

    This is quite the bargain. Moore and Cotchery are effectively the same player from a talent perspective, and Moore even happens to be a year younger. Yet, the Steelers are paying Moore less than what the Panthers are giving to Cotchery. That's definitely a win for Pittsburgh's front office.

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    March 23 Updates

    Cardinals sign CB Antonio Cromartie (1 year, $3.25 million): A Grade
    I love this signing. I'm sure you're expecting to me to harp about how great 1-year "prove it" contracts are, and you're right - they almost always pan out well, and if they don't happen to, it's not a big deal since there's no cap penalty involved.

    The Cardinals had to find a solid No. 2 cornerback across from Patrick Peterson. Antonio Cromartie certainly qualifies. Cromartie struggled in 2013, but he was hampered with a nagging hip injury. A knee issue that he sustained in October didn't help either. Given that he's turning just 30 in April, Cromartie seems poised to rebound, and at only $3.25 million for the upcoming season, Arizona is getting a great bargain.

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    Ravens acquire C Jeremy Zuttah from Buccaneers for 2015 late-rounder
    I'm not quite sure I understand what the Buccaneers are doing. Jeremy Zuttah is far from a Pro Bowl-caliber lineman, or anything, but he's a decent center. Tampa signed Evan Dietrich-Smith, but it could have used both Zuttah and the former Packer to solidify the offensive interior. Now, the Buccaneers are right back where they started, and for what? A late-round selection in 2015? How does that accomplish anything?

    The Ravens are winning this trade by a wide margin. The center position was a disaster area for them this past season. Again, Zuttah isn't great, but he's a huge upgrade over what Baltimore had, and acquiring him opens up more possibilities for the team's second-round pick.

    Grade for Ravens - A
    Grade for Buccaneers - D


    March 21 Updates

    Giants sign G John Jerry (1 year, $770,000): A Grade
    This is a steal. John Jerry hasn't played as well as he's capable of the past couple of seasons because he was a poor fit for Miami's new blocking scheme. He's a talented guard, however, so there's definitely a good chance that he'll shine in his new home. Jerry will be competing for a starting guard spot with Chris Snee, a 32-year-old who may need a hip replacement sometime in the near future.

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    Jets sign QB Former QB Eagles No. 7 (1 year, $5 million): D Grade
    The Jets just flushed $5 million down the toilet. Philadelphia's former starting quarterback is a major turnover machine. He's also extremely fragile, and given that he turns 34 in June, his scrambling ability has eroded. Even if he can somehow stay on the field and pick up some first downs with his legs, he's never going to lead a team deep into the playoffs because he can't read defenses or recognize blitzes. He won't teach anything to Geno Smith either, so forget that.

    There are two reasons why the Jets managed to avoid the dreaded "Millen" grade. First, Philadelphia's former quarterback will actually try hard because he's on a 1-year "prove it" deal. He stopped giving 100 percent when he signed that bogus $100 million contract a few seasons ago, so we'll see full effort again. And second, he might be better than Smith, so it would be a slight upgrade at quarterback if he were eventually named the starter. Of course, the downside is that Jet fans may be more willing to boo Smith - and thus destroy his confidence - because they'd want to see what Philadelphia's former signal-caller might have to offer. New Yorkers will be disappointed regardless.

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    Raiders acquire QB Matt Schaub from Texans for 6th-round pick
    The Raiders' biggest need is still a quarterback. Matt Schaub is far from the answer. He was a system quarterback in Houston, whom Gary Kubiak simply got the most out of. Schaub did play well at times, posting big yardage numbers several years ago when he accumulated a ton of garbage yardage because the Texans' defense was terrible, but after last year, it's difficult to imagine him bouncing back. Schaub, of course, set the NFL record for most consecutive games with a pick-six. This all culminated with the home crowd cheering on his injury, so all of that might still be in his head.

    Then again, a fresh start in a new home could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Schaub will once again have excellent quarterback coaching aiding him, as offensive coordinator Greg Olson is one of the best in the business. And for a city starved for competent quarterbacking, the Raider fans won't boo Schaub - at least not for a while.

    With all of that said, I don't like this move for the Raiders. The late-round pick is no big deal; it's the $11 million that Oakland must pay that is crucial. Schaub is not a good quarterback, so he definitely doesn't deserve that sort of money. Also, there's a chance that Schaub won't even be the Week 1 starter. The Raiders are still in play for a franchise signal-caller at No. 5 overall or perhaps the second round. If they take one, that quarterback could easily beat out Schaub before the season begins.

    As for the Texans, they deserve a high mark because they were able to obtain something for Schaub. Everyone assumed they were simply going to cut him, yet they were somehow able to dupe the Raiders into surrendering a draft pick for him. That's nice work by Houston being patient.

    UPDATED: Oakland surrendered a sixth-round pick for Schaub. I initially gave Oakland a C- because of Schaub's $11 million salary, but as it turns out, Houston will be on the hook for some of the money. Given that, I like this move more for Oakland. There's still a good chance Schaub won't be the starter in the opener - it's a joke to say that he's a lock to be the starter - but at least the team won't be financially obligated to keep him on the roster.

    Grade for Raiders - C+
    Grade for Texans - A-

    Packers re-sign RB James Starks (2 years, $3.17M; $725K guaranteed): B+ Grade
    This is a solid move by the Packers, as they needed to keep James Starks around to have a reliable backup behind Eddie Lacy. Starks played well last year when Lacy was out of the lineup, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Paying him just $725,000 in guaranteed money for a 2-year deal is a pretty good bargain.

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    Raiders sign G/C Kevin Boothe (2 years, $2.625 million): A- Grade
    Kevin Boothe is a slightly below-average starter, but his key trait is his versatility, as he can play both guard and center. Boothe will be stationed at the former spot in his new home - barring injuries to Stefen Wisniewski - and he'll fill a big need there, as left guard was a major weak spot for Oakland in 2013. This is a steal for the Raiders considering the price (it was initially reported as 2 years, $6.25 million).

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    March 20 Updates

    Vikings sign DE Corey Wootton (1 year, $1.5 million): B+ Grade
    Corey Wootton struggled this past season because he was hampered with a hip injury. He's ordinarily decent both in terms of stopping the run and getting to the quarterback (he had seven sacks in 2012). This is a good price for Wootton, who will be working hard for a larger contract next spring. I also like that the Vikings poached Wootton away from one of their divisional rivals.

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    Panthers sign WR Jerricho Cotchery (5 years, $8.015M; $2.25M guaranteed): C- Grade
    This looks like a weird contract, but it's essentially a short-term deal that spreads out the bonus due to Carolina's dubious cap situation. Still though, $2.25 million in guarantees is a ridiculous amount to pay for a mediocre No. 3 receiver who turns 32 in June. The sad thing is that Cotchery is the top wideout on the Panthers' roster, and that's exactly why I'm not going to give them a Millen (F) grade. They're just so desperate for receiver help, and there are such limited options that they really didn't have a choice.

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    Cowboys sign DT Henry Melton (4 years; $2.5M guarantee): A- Grade
    I'm not even going to bother mentioning the full terms of this contract because this is essentially a 1-year option with $2.5 million guaranteed. If Melton plays for Dallas in 2014, he will get $5 million. After that, if he's on the roster on the first day of the 2015 season, a 3-year, $24 million option kicks in. ESPN's Todd Archer explained it best: "The Cowboys have a deal that is the ultimate 'prove it' concept. If Melton plays like he did in 2012 when he earned Pro Bowl honors, then he will be paid. If he doesn't, then the Cowboys maintain financial flexibility."

    With that in mind, I love this signing. Melton can be great if fully healthy and motivated. He'll be working hard for a new contract (or an extension of this one), so his health is the only question. Coming off a torn ACL will be difficult, but players have recently been much more effective returning from that particular injury, so it's conceivable that Melton could be close to 100 percent. If so, he'll be a worthy replacement for the Washington-bound Jason Hatcher.

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    Buccaneers sign CB Mike Jenkins (1 year, $1.5 million): B Grade
    Mike Jenkins has had a disappointing career as a former first-round pick. He fizzled out in Dallas and was just mediocre in Oakland. However, there's some potential here, as Lovie Smith could coach him up and get the most out of his talent. The Buccaneers needed a third corner behind Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, so Jenkins fills that need at a decent price. This is a solid signing.

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    Bills re-sign TE Scott Chandler (2 years, $4.75M; $1.2M guaranteed): B- Grade
    I don't think there's anything wrong with this signing, outside of the Bills maybe slightly overpaying because Scott Chandler didn't receive any interest from other teams. With that said, the contract isn't egregious or anything, and Chandler will be a somewhat reliable intermediate target for E.J. Manuel in 2014 if Buffalo can't upgrade the tight end position in the draft. I'll be surprised if they don't spend an early selection on the position, however.

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    Bears sign S Ryan Mundy (2 years, $3M; $650K guaranteed): B Grade
    Chicago desperately needed some help at the safety position entering the offseason. Ryan Mundy didn't exactly shore it up, but he at least provides solid depth as a strong run supporter. This is definitely fair money for the former Giant, who played very well last year in relief of some injured defensive backs.

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    Bears re-sign CB Charles Tillman (1 year, $3.25 million): C Grade
    I'm all for one-year "prove it" contracts, but this seems like a lot of money to give to a 33-year-old corner coming off a torn triceps injury who happened to struggle immensely this past season. It's nice that Tillman knows the system and happens to be comfortable with the rest of his teammates, so there won't be any sort of adjustment period, but I find it hard to believe that anyone would have paid Tillman this much money for one season.

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    March 19 Updates

    Ravens sign ILB Daryl Smith (4 years, $16.1M; $3.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Daryl Smith did a great job last year of filling the void that Ray Lewis' retirement created. Smith became Baltimore's new defensive leader, and he also played very well after missing 14 games in 2012 with an injury. However, he was the top non-rushing linebacker on the free-agent market, so I thought some team would overpay and snatch him away from Baltimore. That, of course, did not happen.

    The Ravens are getting Smith at a very good price. He's 32, so there's some danger that he might decline, but giving him just $3.5 million in guaranteed money helps mitigate those concerns. Even if Smith's production dips a bit, he'll still have value as a great presence in the locker room.

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    Cowboys sign DT Terrell McClain (3 years, $3.05 million): D Grade
    Terrell McClain was waived by one team and declined a tender offer at $1.43 million from another in the past six months. McClain, slotted as the 46th of 48 defensive tackles in my NFL Free Agent Tracker, is a practice squad-caliber player at best. Despite all of this, Jerry Jones decided to give the undersized lineman a 3-year deal. Amazing.

    It's getting ridiculous now, but Jones is continuing to run his team into the ground. For the most part, at least. The Henry Melton signing looks promising, so I'll have that grade for you when the financials are revealed.

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    Raiders sign WR James Jones (3 years, $10M; $3.65M guaranteed): B Grade
    I often criticize teams for signing receivers who take money and leave a superior squad. Those signings never work out (save for Vincent Jackson). James Jones is obviously going to an inferior team - think Packers to Raiders is a bit of a drop-off? - but receiving $10 million overall and $3.65 million isn't exactly "taking the money."

    Jones has been a product of Aaron Rodgers. He has talent, but he's not nearly as skilled as his statistics indicate. He also has issues with drops that could resurface on a team currently without leadership at the quarterback position. However, this price is right for Jones, so I can't give the Raiders a bad grade for this signing.

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    Giants sign WR Mario Manningham (1 year, $795,000): A- Grade
    I love the concept of buying low, so I have to be in favor of this grade because that's exactly what the Giants are doing by bringing back Mario Manningham.

    Following a solid 4-year run with the Giants, Manningham signed on with the 49ers, where he disappointed. Thanks to injuries, he played just 18 games in two seasons, catching only 51 passes. However, Manningham looked good in his physical with the Giants, so that's an indication that he has recovered from his troublesome knee. If so, he can reprise his role as an effective weapon for Eli Manning. New York just lost Hakeem Nicks to the Colts, after all, so it'll be happy to have Manningham back on board. If, however, Manningham continues to struggle with injuries, the Giants won't face any repercussions, as this signing contains zero risk.

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    Raiders sign OT Donald Penn (2 years, $9.6M; $4.2M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    When I heard the Raiders signed Donald Penn, I was immediately afraid that they offered too much money. I still can't get that Rodger Saffold contract out of my mind, apparently. This, however, is a very fair deal.

    Penn has motivational issues. He's always had trouble with his weight in Tampa. Perhaps being released will spark him to put more effort into his career. If so, the Raiders will have a decent replacement for the Arizona-bound Jared Veldheer. This is important, as Oakland's rookie quarterback next year won't have to worry about the disappointing Menelik Watson protecting his blind side. That would have been a disaster.

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    Jets re-sign G Willie Colon (1 year, $2 million): A- Grade
    Poor Willie Colon tore his biceps in the final game of the 2013 season - just as he was about to hit the free agent market. This undoubtedly killed his value, but the Jets can't mind too much, given that they're bringing him back for a very cheap deal. Colon blocked extremely well this past season, so he's a great bargain for just $2 million. He may not be 100 percent because of the injury, but New York will at least know that he'll be trying his hardest, given that he's on a 1-year "prove it" deal in an attempt to cash in next spring.

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    Patriots sign WR Julian Edelman (4 years, $17M; $8M guaranteed): B Grade
    Julian Edelman isn't as good as his stats indicate - 105 receptions for a player of his caliber is insane - but the Patriots absolutely had to keep him after letting Wes Welker defect for Denver in the previous offseason. Edelman became Tom Brady's favorite target this past season, so allowing Edelman to walk as well would have disastrous, as it would have completely frustrated the future Hall of Fame quarterback. New England might be slightly overpaying for Edelman's services, but the team didn't exactly have a choice.

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    March 18 Updates

    Bills sign RB Anthony Dixon (3 years, $3.5M; $750K guaranteed): C Grade
    The Bills apparently needed a better No. 3 running back, so they signed Anthony Dixon. I can't exactly give Buffalo a bad grade for this because the team isn't paying the former 49er runner very much. However, Dixon isn't very good, and there were better running backs available, so I can't give the Bills a good grade either. Dixon will at least be useful on special teams.

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    Bears sign DE Israel Idonije (1 year, $950K): B- Grade
    The Bears have added what seems like 5,000 defensive ends and safeties this offseason. Israel Idonije is the notable acquisition today, as he notched seven sacks with Chicago in 2012. He had just half a sack with the Lions this past season, but he didn't play very much. He could have more success in Chicago again, though it's possible that he might be finished, given that he turns 34 in November. I think this is a semi-decent move. There's no risk, so why not bring back the long-time Bear?

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    Browns sign WR Andrew Hawkins (4 years, $13.6M; $4M guaranteed); Bengals decline to match
    I have to give both teams a grade for this acquisition because the Bengals had the chance to match Cleveland's offer. They rightfully declined, but they're getting a "D" because they foolishly tagged Andrew Hawkins for the bare minimum. They had to have known someone would try to sign him. For about $1 million more, they could have given him a second-round tender, which means Cleveland would've had to surrender a second-round pick to sign Hawkins. There's no way the Browns would have done that, so Cincinnati lost Hawkins because it was being cheap.

    The Browns, on the other hand, are overpaying for Hawkins. The 5-foot-7 slot receiver has great speed, but he's an injury-prone, unreliable weapon. He'll have some flashy highlights for Cleveland and will have several strong outings, but it's unlikely that the production will match his price tag. Having said that, I don't hate this move, as the Browns are starved for offensive play-makers beyond Josh Gordon.

    Grade for Browns - C
    Grade for Bengals - D


    March 17 Updates

    Giants sign CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (5 years, $39M; $15M guaranteed): D Grade
    Everyone on Twitter is pointing out how great of a signing this is, and how this is part of a wonderful offseason the Giants are having. The popular opinion is often wrong, however, and that is definitely the case when it comes to this transaction.

    People tend to have short memories. Just one year ago, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was coming off an awful stint in Philadelphia. The Eagle fans and media all agreed that instead of "Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie," the DRC acronym should stand for "Doesn't Really Care." DRC, after all, gave zero effort with Philadelphia, so he had to take a 1-year "prove it" deal with Denver, where he actually played up to his potential. Thanks to that great season, Rodgers-Cromartie was able to cash in - and in doing so, he conned another team into overpaying him.

    I don't know what the hell the Giants are thinking. How can they pay so much money to a player who has shown on multiple occasions that he's willing to be lethargic as long as he's compensated well? Didn't they pay attention to what happened with their divisional rival in 2011 and 2012? Why would they suddenly think Rodgers-Cromartie has turned things around, especially when he was so easily willing to back off his retirement promises in the wake of receiving a big contract like this?

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    Dolphins sign G Shelley Smith (2 years, $5.5M; $1.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
    New Dolphins' general manager Dennis Hickey has made some dubious decisions in his first offseason. This is one of them, though it's not nearly as egregious as some of the others, including that ridiculous Cortland Finnegan contract.

    The free agent and draft guard classes are both pretty deep. There were many better options than Shelley Smith available. With that in mind, it's strange that Hickey thought Smith was worth $1.5 million in guarantees. It's not a lot, but Hickey probably could have found a better option for the same amount of money.

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    49ers sign CB Chris Cook (1 year, $730K): A Grade
    Chris Cook has never lived up to expectations. In addition to underperforming, he also has some off-the-field issues. Signing him to a moderately sized deal could have been a waste of money, but the 49ers are getting a great bargain here. Cook will be on his best behavior, since he's making only $730,000. He also has a chance to finally be the player he was expected to be when Minnesota chose him atop Round 2 in 2010 because he'll be working with a superior coaching staff. Cook should provide great depth for San Francisco this upcoming season.

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    Giants sign LB Jameel McClain (2 years, $4.1 million): C Grade
    This isn't a terrible signing, but I fail to see how Jameel McClain is worth slightly more than $2 million per season. McClain is just an above-average backup who has a history of spinal and neck injuries. He's better than what New York already had in terms of reserve linebackers, but the team's entire group has been pedestrian for years now, and will apparently continue to be so.

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    Patriots sign CB Brandon Browner (3 years, $17M; $1M guaranteed): A+ Grade
    You read that right - there's just $1 million guaranteed on Brandon Browner's 3-year deal with the Patriots. That makes this an outstanding signing.

    Browner is a talented corner, but there's major risk involved with him. He has to serve a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He'll be back in early October, but he's one infraction away from being banished for an entire season.

    However, the Patriots did a great job of protecting themselves in case Browner screws up. If he's hit with another suspension, New England can just cut him without any sort of penalty. In the meantime, they'll have a talented No. 2 corner across from Darrelle Revis, meaning it'll be very difficult to throw on them.

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    Seahawks re-sign K Steven Hauschka (3 years, $9.15M; $3.35M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    It's currently very easy to find strong kickers, as players who can nail 50-yard field goals effectively grow on trees right now. Steven Hauschka converted 33-of-35 attempts in 2013, including 3-of-3 from 50-plus. However, he was just a combined 3-of-8 from that range in 2011 and 2012, so it's fair to wonder if his 2013 performance was a fluke.

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    Eagles re-sign S Nate Allen (1 year, $2 million): B Grade
    Nate Allen has been considered a draft bust, but he showed some promise this past season, as he finally started performing like the player the Eagles expected him to be when they selected him in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Giving him a big contract would have been insane, given his inconsistency, but this 1-year agreement for $2 million seems right. Allen gets another chance to prove himself, and perhaps he'll be a quality starter next to Malcolm Jenkins. If not, Philadelphia won't exactly be penalized for bringing him back.

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    Saints re-sign OT Zach Strief (5 years, $20.5M; $8.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
    I'm not a fan of this contract at all, and the only reason the Saints aren't getting a D or lower is because they are helping Drew Brees' protection. The thing is, you can find right tackles anywhere, especially in this loaded draft class. Strief is a mediocre lineman who was completely abused by Chris Long in the Week 15 loss to the Rams. He played well at other times, but it really wouldn't be that difficult to replace (or even upgrade) him. Also, Strief turns 31 in September, so New Orleans is paying a bit for past production. It's likely that Strief's skill will begin to erode soon.

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    March 16 Updates

    Broncos sign WR Emmanuel Sanders (3 years, $15M; $6M guaranteed): B Grade
    I've always felt as though Emmanuel Sanders was an overrated commodity. I thought it was nuts that the Patriots were willing to give up a third-round pick for him a year ago, and I thought it was crazier that Pittsburgh didn't happily take the third-rounder. Sanders has never generated more than 750 receiving yards in any of his four NFL seasons. He has potential, but he has never proven it on the field.

    Having said that, I'd be a hypocrite if I gave the Broncos a poor grade for this signing. I often criticize receivers for taking more money to play for inferior teams (something that has never worked out in the past decade, aside from Vincent Jackson going to Tampa), yet Sanders is doing the opposite. He probably could have gotten more from the other teams that were interested, but he chose to do the best thing for his career, which is to play with Peyton Manning for a couple of seasons. Sanders' numbers are bound to increase, which will create much more of a demand for him when he hits free agency again in 2-3 years.

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    Jets re-sign DE/OLB Calvin Pace (2 years, $5 million): B Grade
    Calvin Pace registered 10 sacks this past season, but that number is inflated and isn't indicative of how he played. He also turns 34 in October. However, this is a solid move to bring back some depth at the rush linebacker position. Pace figures to still be a solid reserve, and it's important that he already has chemistry with all of the defenders on the Jets. The price is right for him.

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    Giants sign CB Walter Thurmond (1 year, $3.5 million): A Grade
    As I've said earlier, I love 1-year "prove it" deals. They usually work out, and I believe this one will as well. Walter Thurmond is a talented corner, but I didn't list him very highly in my NFL Free Agent Tracker because he was suspended for four games in 2013 for violating the league's substance policy. He's just one infraction away from being banished for an entire season, so there would have been major risk for any team signing him to a long-term deal.

    The Giants aren't taking any sort of risk, however. If Thurmond gets suspended, there won't be any long-term ramifications. That scenario is unlikely, as he'll be trying to prove to all 32 teams that he's worthy of a long-term contract. In the meantime, the Giants have temporarily shored up their big need at cornerback.

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    Patriots sign WR Brandon LaFell (3 years, $11 million): C- Grade
    If this is Bill Belichick's solution for the receiver position, then he must not like Tom Brady very much. Brandon LaFell isn't a very good player. He doesn't have much talent, as he struggles to separate and also maintains a high drop rate. Giving him nearly $4 million per year is a bit preposterous. Having said that, LaFell has never worked with a great passing quarterback (bring on the Panther-fan hate mail), so perhaps there's a chance this will work out. I wouldn't bet on it though.

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    March 15 Updates

    Vikings re-sign G Charlie Johnson (2 years, $2.5 million): B Grade
    There were better guards available in free agency, but the Vikings are presumably retaining Charlie Johnson to be a reserve. The left guard position remains a big need, but bringing back Johnson as a backup makes a lot of sense, as he can play multiple positions, including tackle. He's also familiar with the blocking scheme and his teammates, so there won't be an adjustment period as there would be for someone new.

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    Panthers sign S Roman Harper (2 years, $4.5M; $1.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    Roman Harper has struggled in coverage the past few seasons, but he can still be effective in run support. He's definitely a downgrade from the safeties Carolina started last year, but the Panthers don't have much of an alternative, given their cap situation. This amount of money is about right for Harper, who turns 32 in December. He'll ideally be a backup or a situational player, but that may not be an option for Carolina, given its financial situation.

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    Browns sign RB Ben Tate (2 years, $7 million): A Grade
    I was worried some team was going to overpay for Ben Tate this offseason. Tate is a talented player, but he hasn't shown an ability to stay healthy. Handing him a large contract would have been disastrous, especially considering how devalued the running back position is.

    The Browns are getting a great deal. A 2-year, $7 million contract for the top running back in free agency? That's incredible value. If you're not convinced, think about it this way: Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart received deals with just as much money per season, yet Tate is much better than either of them.

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    Titans sign LB Wesley Woodyard (4 years, $16M; $4.75M guaranteed): C Grade
    Wesley Woodyard was ranked highly in my NFL Free Agent Tracker even though he was benched in Denver this past year. The reason for this was because Woodyard was playing out of position. Woodyard is a natural 4-3 weakside linebacker, but was asked to start in the middle, where he predictably struggled.

    That ties into this grade. Woodyard is a skilled linebacker, but Tennessee is once again asking him to play out of position. The 28-year-old linebacker has some experience in the 3-4 from back when Josh McDaniels coached the Broncos, but he didn't play as well in that scheme. With that in mind, why is Tennessee asking Woodyard to do that again? Woodyard would start in a huge hole on the Titans' roster, but what good is it if he's not going to be an ideal fit in the system?

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    Redskins sign CB Tracy Porter (2 years, $6 million): D Grade
    Tracy Porter's career has really gone downhill ever since he intercepted Peyton Manning for the Super Bowl-sealing pick-six. He went on to struggle with the Saints, Broncos and Raiders, and now the Redskins will be his fourth team in four years.

    Porter actually wasn't too bad in the first half of this past season, so there might be some hope. However, he was absolutely brutal down the stretch, so I don't know how Washington can justify giving him $6 million.

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    Packers sign DE Julius Peppers (3 years, $30M; $7.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    The Packers almost never sign free agents, so when they do, you know it's going to be a headliner. This signing is quite complicated, as there are multiple positives and negatives to it.

    Let's begin by acknowledging that Peppers sucked last year. He tallied 7.5 sacks, but that's not indicative of how poorly he played. He struggled to place pressure on the quarterback and was also poor in run support. He just turned 34 in January, so he's probably never going to be the same player ever again. Also, the scheme fit is a strange one. Peppers has never been in a 3-4 before, so how will he adjust? He probably had the natural talent to be a 3-4 defender earlier in his career, but that may not be the case anymore.

    There are some reasons why this could work, however. First, the price tag isn't that big of a deal. The Packers had plenty of cap space for 2014. This contract doesn't include much guaranteed money beyond this season, so $7.5 million guaranteed won't exactly kill Green Bay.

    I also like that the Packers are stealing Peppers away from their biggest rival. That also plays into another reason why this acquisition could work, which is Peppers' motivation. Peppers has always been one to slack off at times, so that may have been the reason he stunk last year. Perhaps he'll be fired up to prove to Chicago that he didn't deserve to be released. There's definitely bounce-back potential here.

    All in all, I feel like this signing deserves a B- or C+ (I must have changed it four times). It probably won't work out, but there's plenty of upside and very little risk involved for Green Bay.

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    March 14 Updates

    Bills sign ILB Brandon Spikes (1 years, $3.25M): B+ Grade
    Buffalo fans know I don't say this very often, but this is a solid move by the Bills. The team was searching for a run-thumping linebacker in the middle, and they certainly found one in Brandon Spikes. The former Patriot can only play two downs, but that's all Buffalo needs him to do.

    Two other reasons why this is a quality signing: First, the price is right; Spikes will be at his best because he's playing on a 1-year "prove it" deal. Second, Buffalo was able to poach a solid defender from its bitter rival. The Patriots will surely survive without Spikes, as they have other options at linebacker, but they'll be a little weaker versus the run without Spikes on the field.

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    Redskins sign DE/DT Jason Hatcher (4 years, $27.5M; $10.5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    Jason Hatcher is coming off an outstanding year, but some are criticizing this signing because they question the former Cowboy's ability to play in a 3-4. That's a non-issue. Hatcher has been in the 3-4 before - when he played under Wade Phillips - and he performed very well in that scheme. The 4-3 might be a more natural fit for him, but he's going to be fine in Washington's 3-4.

    I'm going to criticize this deal because the Redskins are paying too much money. Hatcher has been an outstanding player, but Washington doesn't know what it's getting with him because he turns 32 in July. The front office is essentially paying him on past performance, which is never a good thing (as all Redskin fans know after watching Daniel Snyder splurge in free agency year after year). Hatcher will begin to decline soon, especially in the wake of receiving this new contract, so Washington will once again not get what it's paying for.

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    Chiefs sign DE/DT Vance Walker (3 years, $13M; $3.75M guaranteed): C Grade
    The price isn't the issue for Vance Walker, who is a quality rotational defensive lineman. I think $3.75 million guaranteed for a 3-year deal is more than fair for him. My issue is the scheme. Walker has always played in a 4-3, and he just doesn't seem built for a 3-4. These things can be somewhat unpredictable, so maybe Walker will pan out in Kansas City, but he probably should have signed with a team that runs a 4-3.

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    Raiders sign DE/DT Antonio Smith (2 years, $9 million): B+ Grade
    After looking foolish early on in free agency, Reggie McKenzie is on fire. The Raiders suddenly have some strong defensive talent on their roster, thanks to the additions of Tarell Brown, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, and now, Antonio Smith.

    Smith has played in Houston's 3-4 the past five years, but he's more than capable of thriving in the 4-3. He can be a left defensive end who shifts inside on obvious passing downs, or he could just stay at defensive tackle. He's 32, so he's definitely not the same player he once used to be, but a 2-year deal worth just $9 million negates the age risk.

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    Raiders sign CB Tarell Brown (1 years, $3.5 million): A+ Grade
    Very strange. Usually when players sign 1-year "prove it" deals, they do so with winning organizations so they can have a shot at the Super Bowl. Tarell Brown, on the other hand, did so with the worst team in football.

    This all makes zero sense to me, but the fact remains that the Raiders made a great move. Tarell Brown was the top cornerback available, and he happens to fill a huge need in Oakland's secondary. Brown may have had to showcase himself after missing some time this past season with a rib injury, but at just 29, he's set to have a strong 2014 campaign.

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    Colts sign WR Hakeem Nicks (1 years, $3.5 million): A- Grade
    How does a receiving trio of Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks sound? Andrew Luck has to be loving this. I do too, hence the A- grade.

    I listed Hakeem Nicks relatively low in my NFL Free Agent Tracker because signing him to a long-term deal would have been disastrous. The Giants have grown tired of his injuries and lethargy, and there's no doubt his new team would have as well. However, Nicks can't be lazy this upcoming season because he's on a 1-year "prove it" deal. The Colts will consequently get Nicks at his best, as the 26-year-old will try his best to show why he's worthy of a long-term contract.

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    Cardinals sign RB Jonathan Dwyer (1 years, $790K; $500K bonus): B+ Grade
    This is a solid move for the Cardinals, as Jonathan Dwyer is a nice complement to Andre Ellington. Dwyer, who is strong in pass protection, is a very capable short-yardage back. He's also very familiar with Bruce Arians' offense. Dwyer is actually a slight upgrade over the plodding, injury-prone Rashard Mendenhall, who recently announced his retirement.

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    Jaguars sign DE Jason Babin (3 years, $7.06M; $500K guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Jason Babin notched 7.5 sacks in 2013, most of which were in the second half of the season, but he's a declining player who will turn 34 in May. I do like the decision to bring him back though. He'll provide needed depth for a team that finished dead last in sacks last year. However, the main reason for my B+ grade is that Babin's contract includes only $500,000 in guaranteed money. Almost the entire deal is incentive-based, and Jacksonville can cut him any time without any sort of penalty.

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    Titans sign OT Michael Oher (4 years, $20M; $9.5M guaranteed): C Grade
    I just bashed Ozzie Newsome's decision to sign Steve Smith, but Newsome, as I said, is one of the top general managers in football. He was willing to let Michael Oher walk without any resistance despite his team having issues on the offensive line. That should have alerted the Titans that signing Oher to a big deal would be a bad move, but apparently not.

    Considering the Jets just signed Breno Giacomini, a right tackle who has performed pretty equally to Oher over the past couple of years, to a contract with $2.5 million less guaranteed, Tennessee obviously overpaid. Oher simply never improved in Baltimore, so why would he suddenly grow as a player in Tennessee?

    With that said, I'm not giving the Titans an awful grade for this. Oher is an upgrade at right tackle and has untapped potential, so there's a chance this could work out. I wouldn't bet on it though.

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    Buccaneers sign C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith (4 years, $14.25M; $7.25M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Aaron Rodgers has to be fuming right now. He begged his front office to retain his center. Ted Thompson apparently has other plans, as Evan Dietrich-Smith signed on to play with Green Bay's former NFC Central rival.

    Dietrich-Smith will help improve a weak interior, though it's unclear whether he'll play center or guard. He could start at center, which would move Jeremy Zuttah to guard. The other option is keeping Zuttah at center and using Dietrich-Smith at guard. Either way, Tampa added a talented, versatile lineman at a reasonable price.

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    Dolphins sign CB Cortland Finnegan (2 years, $11M; $5.5M guaranteed): MILLEN NATIONAL PI KIELBASA DAY Grade
    It's like NFL general managers went brain-dead during the 4 p.m. hour. Maybe they were trying to rush out of their office and start their weekend early, so they sent over the wrong contract details to their legal team.

    Then again, Dennis Hickey is incompetent, as Charlie Campbell wrote when Miami brought him in to be its general manager. The only reasonable explanation for this signing is that Hickey hasn't watched one second of Finnegan's film over the past couple of years. Anyone who has actually seen Finnegan play knows that he's been one of the NFL's worst cornerbacks over that span. Hickey must have been busy doing something else instead of checking out how awful Finnegan has been recently.

    Most normal teams would've given Finnegan a 1-year "prove it" deal. Hickey, meanwhile, offered Finnegan $10 more million than he deserved.

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    Ravens sign WR Steve Smith (3 years, $11M; $3.5M guaranteed): MILLEN BLOOD AND GUTS KIELBASA Grade
    Ozzie Newsome is one of the top NFL general managers, but he's only human. He's made draft selections that haven't worked out, and he's signed some free agents who have disappointed. This looks to be Newsome's worst transaction ever.

    It's mind-boggling that Steve Smith received a $3.5 million signing bonus and an $11 million deal. Smith doesn't deserve any sort of signing bonus based on the way he played last year, and to be honest, I was expecting him to sign a 1-year contract for the veteran minimum.

    Smith is done. He has lost his elite speed. He failed to register more than 69 yards in a single game this past season. He's no longer a starting-caliber receiver. He's also a potential locker room distraction. This signing makes zero sense. The only possible reason for bringing Smith in is to energize the team and fan base following a mediocre 2013 campaign, and that doesn't even come close to justifying this sort of contract for a has-been.

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    Eagles extend RB Darren Sproles (3 years, $10.5 million): C+ Grade
    I gave the Eagles a B+ for trading a fifth-round pick for Darren Sproles (scroll down for analysis), but this contract isn't nearly as good of a move. I didn't mind the swap because a fifth-rounder for one year of Sproles made a lot of sense. Three more years of Sproles isn't as good, considering that he'll turn 31 in June and was already slowing down. Sproles probably won't be very effective in 2015 and especially 2016.

    Having said that, I'm not giving Philadelphia a terrible grade because it has lots of money to spend, and a 3-year deal worth $10.5 million won't exactly kill its cap situation.

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    Packers re-sign NT B.J. Raji (1 year, $4 million): A- Grade
    B.J. Raji had a monstrous season during Green Bay's Super Bowl run back in 2010, but he has played sluggishly two of the past three years. He was especially awful in 2013. He also doesn't happen to fit what Green Bay wants to do now defensively, which is to become much faster to combat the 49ers and other teams with mobile quarterbacks.

    So, why are the Packers getting a good grade for this? Well, Raji is very talented, so giving him a 1-year "prove it" deal could pay off. Raji will have to try hard to get a big contract next spring, so Green Bay will be getting him at his best. Besides, the Packers have plenty of cap room, so they're taking zero risk by bringing Raji back.

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    Jets sign OT Breno Giacomini (4 years, $18M; $7M guaranteed): B Grade
    As a comparison, the Raiders signed former Jets' right tackle Austin Howard for five years, $30 million overall and $15 million guaranteed. Breno Giacomini is getting about half of that, yet the difference between Howard and Giacomini isn't that great. Both are solid, but unspectacular right tackles. With that in mind, the Jets deserve a decent grade for finding a cheaper option at the position without downgrading it very much.

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    Giants sign C J.D. Walton (2 years, $5M; $3M guaranteed): C- Grade
    This is probably $3 million down the drain. J.D. Walton hasn't played a full game since September 2012 because of a bum ankle. He wasn't even a good center before that - he's shown some flashes, but mostly struggled - so he likely won't help the Giants if he can somehow stay healthy.

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    Falcons re-sign C Joe Hawley (2 years, $6.5M; $3M guaranteed): B Grade
    Joe Hawley was just a reserve in the first half of the 2013 season, but he took over for the anemic Peter Konz in Week 11 and proved to be a big upgrade. Hawley wasn't great or anything, but he at least was a capable starter. He's also just 25, so there's lots of room for improvement, especially with Mike Tice on the staff to coach him up. The money is definitely right for Hawley, so Atlanta gets a solid grade for this move.

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    49ers sign S Antoine Bethea (4 years, $26M; $5M bonus): B- Grade
    The 49ers had to find a replacement for Donte Whitner after watching him leave for Cleveland. They managed to poach Antoine Bethea away from Indianapolis. Bethea is an average starting safety, so he's definitely a downgrade from Whitner. Bethea can struggle sometimes in coverage, and he'll be turning 30 in July. However, the 49ers aren't paying him much guaranteed money, and by looking at the numbers, it appears as though Bethea will only be in San Francisco for two seasons. All in all, this is a fairly decent signing, but the 49ers should probably look for someone in the 2014 or 2015 NFL Draft to compete with Bethea.

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    Lions re-signed TE Brandon Pettigrew (4 years, $16M; $8M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    What? Eight million guaranteed for Brandon Pettigrew? Why? What did he do to deserve this? Pettigrew is a completely unreliable player. If he's not dropping a key pass in the fourth quarter, he's running the wrong route. If he's not doing that, he's missing a blocking assignment. If that's not the case, he's fumbling the ball away, though he was better in that regard in 2013 - perhaps because he was in a contract year. This is a terrible contract for a pedestrian tight end who will hit 30 in 11 months.

    Update: Pettigrew's contract is essentially just a 2-year, $8 million deal, so I'll increase this grade from a D to a C+. I still don't know why the Lions are bringing him back though.

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    March 13 Updates

    Cardinals sign WR/KR Ted Ginn (3 years, $9.75M; $5.2M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    I don't know if I can be unbiased with this grade because Ted Ginn hates me. Ginn can sometimes play well as a receiver, but he's inconsistent. He'll serve as a deep threat in Arizona's offense, and he'll also be the team's new return specialist after Patrick Peterson had a shockingly pedestrian season in that regard. I feel like Ginn is getting a bit too much guaranteed money, but it's not anything atrocious.

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    Seahawks re-sign DT Tony McDaniel (2 years, $5.75 million): B Grade
    Tony McDaniels is a stout two-down run-stuffer, but doesn't offer any sort of pass rush. Still, this is a quality contract, as the price is about right for the 29-year-old. The Seahawks need to be as strong against the rush as possible, given that they have to deal with the run-heavy 49ers and Rams twice per year.

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    Seahawks sign QB Tarvaris Jackson (1 year, $1.25 million): B+ Grade
    It's the backup quarterback grading hour, apparently.

    If Kellen Clemens' grade cap is a B, I think Tarvaris Jackson's should be a B+. Jackson is a solid backup quarterback - better than Kellen Clemens and Charlie Whitehurst - yet the Seahawks are paying him less this year than those other two signal-callers. So, as with Clemens, Jackson is getting the best grade possible.

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    Titans sign QB Charlie Whitehurst (2 years, $4 million): C- Grade
    I'm shocked that Charlie Whitehurst will be 32 in August. And wow, I just noticed that he shares my exact birth date. Man, I feel old.

    Anyway, look at the money Kellen Clemens is getting (right below this). Now, take a glance at Whitehurst's contract. This makes zero sense, as Clemens is better than Clipboard Jesus. In fact, Whitehurst is worse than a number of available free agent quarterbacks, so outside of the Ken Whisenhunt connection, it's puzzling that Tennessee would settle on him as Jake Locker's new backup.

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    Chargers sign QB Kellen Clemens (2 years, $3 million): B Grade
    I refuse to give Kellen Clemens anything better than a B, so with that in mind, the Chargers will get the highest grade possible for this signing. An average salary of $1.5 million per season is a great bargain for a backup quarterback. Consider that Chad Henne, who isn't that much better than Clemens, received $8 million over two years. Clemens wasn't awful as St. Louis' starter in the second half of the 2013 season, which was a pleasant surprise.

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    Raiders sign DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley (2 years, $12 million): B Grade
    The Raiders screwed up twice with Rodger Saffold, but they've rebounded today. I don't like this signing as much as the Justin Tuck acquisition because LaMarr Woodley has never played in the 4-3 before. However, if Oakland can somehow make it work, the team will suddenly have a decent pass rush with Justin Tuck and Woodley teaming up to get after opposing quarterbacks.

    The money is definitely right for Woodley. In fact, these are the sort of contracts Reggie McKenzie needs to be dishing out; not that 5-year disaster that he offered to Rodger Saffold. Oakland has tons of money to spend to get to the salary floor, but long-term deals would hurt the team in the long haul. One- and 2-year contracts like this, on the other hand, accomplish the salary-floor goal without sacrificing the future.

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    Vikings sign CB Captain Munnerlyn (3 years, $14.25M; $7M guaranteed): A Grade
    I love this signing for Minnesota. Captain Munnerlyn was one of the top cornerbacks at the start of free agency, and he was unquestionably the best player remaining at his position as of Thursday evening. Munnerlyn, who had an outstanding 2013 campaign, will only be 26 in April. Thus, the Vikings are getting him at an incredible price.

    The secondary was a huge weakness for Minnesota this past season, but that no longer will be the case. Xavier Rhodes figures to be even better than he was in his terrific rookie season. Harrison Smith will be fully back from injury. And now Munnerlyn will be able to start across from Rhodes or cover slot receivers. If the Vikings upgrade the other safety position, their defensive backfield will suddenly be a major strength.

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    Giants re-sign FB Henry Hynoski (1 year, $1 million): A Grade
    Henry Hynoski is a strong blocker, but he barely played this past season (three games) because of a shoulder injury. The Giants are buying him low on a 1-year "prove it" deal, and these sorts of contracts usually tend to pan out well. New York has redeemed itself a bit with this after that sketchy contract it handed to Jon Beason earlier.

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    Jaguars sign DT Ziggy Hood (4 years, $16M; $5.5M guaranteed): MILLEN $1 BILLION PERFECT KIELBASA Grade
    Of all the Millen grades I've handed out this week, this might just be the worst. I don't think I've seen anyone praise the Jaguars for this signing. There are usual contrarians who like to deviate from the norm, but no one thinks this is a good move. I must have seen a dozen tweets simply saying "LOL Jaguars" this afternoon.

    Here's what I think happened: Caldwell thought highly of Ziggy Hood when he was coming out of Missouri a few years ago. He wanted to sign him, so he had his people draw up a contract for the former Steeler. He told them that he wanted to give Hood four years worth $1.6 million. Unfortunately, the lawyers forgot the decimal point, and that is how Hood happened to sign a $16 million deal.

    In all seriousness, I just can't explain this. Hood has been terrible throughout his entire career. He has shown no signs of living up to his first-round billing. He's not good at anything. What in the world made Jacksonville believe that he's worth this sort of money? He may not even make the roster, meaning the Jaguars are effectively flushing $5.5 million down the toilet. Now that's one costly decimal point.

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    Texans re-sign TE Garrett Graham (3 years, $11.25M; $4.5M guaranteed): MILLEN MCKENZIE SHOULDER Grade
    I can't begin to explain this signing. Garrett Graham is a sub-par blocker and a mediocre receiver. He had a chance to shine in the wake of Owen Daniels' injuries this past season, yet he posted just 49 catches for 545 yards and five touchdowns. The right value for him was about just $1-$1.5 million per year, if that. There's just no reason Houston should have offered him this much money. It's so inexplicable that I'm wondering if Graham has pictures of Bob McNair downloading kielbasa porn, or something. Hence, the Millen (F) grade.

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    Bills sign CB Corey Graham (4 years, $16M; $8.1M guaranteed): B- Grade
    This move was a bit surprising because the Bills are set at cornerback with Leodis McKelvin and Stephon Gilmore. They did need depth, however, and Corey Graham will certainly be a strong third option at the position. He'll also fill in well as a starter in the event of an injury. I called Graham, who played well for the Ravens in the past year and a half, an "average starter going forward," though he was probably the best corner available who would have settled for a reserve role.

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    Chargers sign ILB Kavell Conner (3 years, $2.7M; $270K bonus): B Grade
    Another Colt moves to San Diego, thanks to the Tom Telesco connection. The Chargers had to find some depth at inside linebacker behind Manti Te'o and Donald Butler. They simply couldn't have Bront Bird or Andrew Gachkar playing lots of snaps again. Kavell Conner will be a better backup, and the price is right for him. This is a solid move.

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    Jaguars sign DE Chris Clemons (4 years, $17.5M; $5.475M guaranteed): B- Grade
    This seems like a lot of money to give to a 32-year-old pass-rusher who struggled for most of the previous season, recording just 4.5 sacks. However, there are a couple of things to consider. Chris Clemons was coming off a torn ACL, so he'll probably be better in 2014, given that he'll be two years removed from his injury. Also, Clemons played under Gus Bradley in Seattle and happens to be a perfect fit for Jacksonville's LEO position. Clemons fills a big need for a team that ranked dead last in sacks this past season, though there's a chance he'll never be the same player again.

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    Raiders sign DE Justin Tuck (2 years, $11 million): A Grade
    When you hear a high-profile name like Justin Tuck sign with the woeful Raiders, you'd expect Reggie McKenzie to dish out a 5-year, $70 million contract with $35 million guaranteed, or something of that nature. Instead, this acquisition may have saved McKenzie's job - for now, at least.

    The Raiders needed something positive to happen after that Rodger Saffold gaffe, and this certainly qualifies. Tuck is on the wrong side of 30, but he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, as we saw when he notched 9.5 sacks in the final six games of the 2013 season. The Raiders, who have tons of money to spend, aren't risking much with this 2-year, $11 million deal. They're filling a big need with a quality player at a good price. This signing deserves an A.

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    Redskins sign ILB Darryl Sharpton (1 year, $2 million): B Grade
    The Redskins needed a short-term, two-down solution next to Perry Riley at inside linebacker, and they may have found one in Darryl Sharpton. This is a decent signing. Sharpton can't play all three downs because he's a major liability in coverage, but he can be an effective thumper against the run. The price is definitely right for him.

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    Packers re-sign DE/DT/OLB Mike Neal (2 years, $8M; $2.5M bonus): B Grade
    Mike Neal showed versatility this past season, as he was asked to play outside linebacker instead of his standard five-technique position in the wake of injuries. He didn't perform as well at his new position, but he still rushed the passer effectively. Getting Neal back is a nice move for the Packers, especially considering that he was generating interest from several other teams.

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    Jaguars sign OLB Dekoda Watson (3 years, $6.25M; $1.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    Dekoda Watson is a two-down linebacker who plays decently against the run. It's slightly more than I would have paid for him, but he could be an upgrade over the lackluster Geno Hayes. Watson is not the long-term solution for Jacksonville's linebacker woes, however.

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    Patriots sign CB Darrelle Revis (2 years, $32 million): A+ Grade
    If you don't believe this is an incredible move for New England, just check out the reaction from Jet fans on Twitter. Here's one from @LilMissNYJet:

    "God hates Jets fans. I hate everything. And if youíre ok with this? Go buy a f***ing Pats jersey."

    This is a huge win for Bill Belichick. After losing Aqib Talib to the Broncos (and also watching DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward sign there), Belichick had to do something to keep his team competitive with Denver. That something was sign the top free agent this offseason.

    Those who didn't follow Darrelle Revis closely enough this past year might think he regressed, but that's not even remotely the case. Revis didn't play as well in Tampa's zone early on, but he thrived once he went back to man coverage. He was also coming off a torn ACL, so given that he'll be two years removed from that injury, he'll be even better in 2014.

    The money is more than fair for Revis. After all, aside from perhaps Richard Sherman, he's the top cornerback in the NFL. He was set to make $16 million with Tampa, so New England is getting him for $4 million less. This is also just a 1-year deal, so unlike the Broncos, the Patriots aren't risking their future by bringing in a future Hall of Famer.

    UPDATE: Darrelle Revis deal is actually two years, $32 million. However, it's effectively the same as the initial term because the Patriots have a $20 million team option in 2015, which they almost certainly won't use. The only real difference is that New England won't be able to franchise Revis after this season, so this grade remains an A+.

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    Bears sign DE Willie Young (3 years, $9M; $3.95M guaranteed): A- Grade
    The Bears may have lost Julius Peppers, but they strengthened the defensive end position this offseason by acquiring Lamarr Houston and Willie Young.

    Young had just three sacks in 2013, but that's not nearly indicative of how frequently he rushed the quarterback. Young is capable of applying a heavy pass rush, and he also happens to be solid in run support. This is a very good signing for the Bears, and the cherry on top is that they poached a solid player from a divisional rival they could not beat this past season.

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    Buccaneers sign OT Anthony Collins (5 years, $30M; $15M guaranteed): D Grade
    If you've ever done a fantasy football auction, you're familiar with the scenario when the last remaining player in his tier is up for bid. Owners overpay for him because he's the last one remaining of his kind. That's what the Buccaneers just did by offering Anthony Collins a 5-year, $30 million deal with $15 million guaranteed.

    This is a TON of money for Collins, who has just 12 starts in his past four seasons. In fact, I called Collins a "passable starter" in my Free Agent Offensive Tackle Rankings. He's barely an upgrade over Donald Penn, so I just don't understand the need to spend this much money on him, especially when Jake Matthews could easily be sitting there at No. 7 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft.

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    Rams re-sign G/OT Rodger Saffold (5 years, $31.7M; $19.5M guaranteed): C Grade
    Wow. The Raiders tried to sign Rodger Saffold to a 5-year, $42.5 million deal with $21 million guaranteed two days ago, but owner Mark Davis thought that was obscene and voided the trade via a failed physical. Maybe he read the "Millen Sochi Two-Toilet Experience" grade below. Either way, Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie is done after this fiasco. How embarrassed is he that the Rams were able to get Saffold for $11 million less overall?

    At any rate, I still think this is too much money for Saffold. He's highly injury-prone, and he isn't very effective as an offensive tackle. Giving him $19.5 million guaranteed is pretty outrageous. I'm not going to fail St. Louis as I did with Oakland, however, because the Rams saw the market for Saffold and ended up paying less for him. Plus, Saffold is familiar with the rest of the Rams' linemen, so there won't be any chemistry issues as there would have been in Oakland.

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    Giants re-sign ILB Jon Beason (3 years, $19M; $7M guaranteed): C Grade
    You know that when many praise an agent for getting a great deal for his client, the team got screwed over. That's what happened here. Jon Beason has a very extensive injury history, so the Giants could easily regret this contract in the near future. Beason isn't even that good anymore when healthy. Beason was a huge liability this past season in coverage. He was consistently abused, as he's no longer the same player because of the many maladies he's incurred over the years. He's still good in run support, but New York is paying too much money for a linebacker who should only be playing two downs at this point in his career. The Giants should consider themselves lucky if Beason even gives them 12 games in 2014.

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    Eagles sign CB Nolan Carroll (2 years, $5 million): A- Grade
    I really like this move for Philadelphia. Nolan Carroll has the talent to be a No. 2 corner in this league, which is something the Eagles need, given Cary Williams' inconsistency and Bradley Fletcher's injury history. Carroll, a tall corner (6-1, 205), had just an above-average 2013 campaign, but that can be attributed to multiple injuries, which he played through. He could enter the starting lineup early in the year, especially if Fletcher gets hurt again.

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    Eagles acquire RB Darren Sproles from Saints for 5th-round pick
    To give you an idea of how the Eagles made out in this trade, they used the selection they acquired from New England for Isaac Sopoaga to obtain Darren Sproles. Pretty crazy.

    However, this isn't a slam-dunk "A" for Philadelphia. There's a reason the Saints were willing to dump Sproles before they realized that they could actually trade him. Sproles, 31 in June, is no longer the player he once was. He's still an effective weapon coming out of the backfield - 71 receptions, 604 yards in 2013 - but he's slowing down. He's worth the fifth-round selection, but New Orleans was going to cut him to save $3.5 million. Granted, the Saints were way more strapped for cash than the Eagles were, but still.

    The fit for the Eagles is obvious. Chip Kelly loves utilizing running backs as receivers, a la De'Anthony Thomas. Sproles will play that role effectively. Once again, he won't be the game-breaker he once was, but he just adds a new element to Philadelphia's offense. And for a fifth-round pick? Why not?

    The Saints aren't going to receive a bad grade for this because they had to save money to both retain Jimmy Graham and bring in Jairus Byrd. They were willing to let Sproles walk, so at least they got something for him.

    Grade for Eagles - B+
    Grade for Saints - C+

    Jets sign WR Eric Decker (5 years, $36.25M; $15M guaranteed): C Grade
    Free agents, especially receivers, who go from great teams to mediocre or poor ones, often disappoint. Vincent Jackson has been the one exception over recent years, and Eric Decker is unlikely to be the second.

    The Jets are paying Decker like a borderline No. 1 wideout, yet he's really just an average second receiver. Decker has been a product of Peyton Manning the past couple of years. Some will point out that he caught eight scores in the Tim Tebow year, but touchdowns are fluky. Decker is bound to disappoint his new team, especially considering the colossal downgrade at quarterback. Decker has proven that he prioritizes money over his career, and his output with the Jets is sure to show that.

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    March 12 Updates

    Buccaneers sign QB Josh McCown (2 years, $10 million): B+ Grade
    The popular opinion is to criticize the Buccaneers for bringing in a "journeyman" quarterback who apparently is bound to regress without Marc Trestman. Of course, the popular opinion is often wrong. There are two things to consider regarding the Trestman factor:

    First, McCown played well without Trestman in Chicago, albeit in limited action. He had some solid games in 2011 when Jay Cutler was injured despite playing on a completely depleted offense (no Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte was injured). Second, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford is a pretty solid quarterbacks coach, so he'll get a lot out of McCown. Perhaps he won't be as effective as Trestman, but McCown should still play well.

    Considering McCown was the top free agent quarterback available, a 2-year, $10 million price tag is very reasonable. The Buccaneers are much better off offensively than they were yesterday.

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    Titans sign NT Al Woods (2 years, $5 million): C+ Grade
    The Titans, who are moving to the 3-4, need personnel for that scheme. Al Woods fits the bills as a backup nose tackle who can also play some defensive end. Tennessee probably could have found an equal option for less money, but it's not like this is a bad signing. I wouldn't call it a good one either though.

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    Giants sign RB Rashad Jennings (4 years, $14M; $3M guaranteed): B Grade
    Rashad Jennings disappointed in 2012 when he had a shot to start once Maurice Jones-Drew got hurt. He thrived in Oakland, however, surprising everyone. The Giants are buying a bit high here, but the money is pretty fair for a player who could be New York's starting running back in 2014. This is a solid signing for New York.

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    Vikings sign DT Linval Joseph (5 years, $31.5M; $12.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Most quarterbacks hate interior pressure more than anything. Aaron Rodgers stands in Minnesota's way of winning the NFC North, so the front office had to some interior pass-rushing help this offseason, given that Kevin Williams is departing. They definitely found a replacement for Williams in Linval Joseph.

    Joseph is a 325-pound defensive tackle who stuffs the run and can get to the quarterback pretty well for a man his size. And considering that he'll be just 26, there's a good chance that he'll continue to improve. This is a good price for Joseph, given that Paul Soliai, an older defensive tackle of near-equal talent, received a bit more from the Falcons.

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    Dolphins re-sign DT Randy Starks (2 years, $12M; $5M guaranteed): A Grade
    This grade is pretty logical. The Dolphins' two defensive tackles were free agents. Randy Starks happens to be slightly better than Paul Soliai, who received a 5-year deal worth $33 million overall and $14 million guaranteed from Atlanta. Starks, meanwhile, is being brought back for much less. Thus, Miami deserves an A.

    The Dolphins have to be thrilled to be getting Starks back. He has been one of the better players at his position over the past few years, thriving both in terms of stuffing the run and getting to the quarterback. Miami couldn't afford to lose both interior linemen, so Starks returning is huge.

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    Bills sign OLB Keith Rivers (2 years, $5 million): C Grade
    Maybe Buffalo is like the Twilight Zone. Perhaps it's lucrative to overpay for the worst free agents up there. I don't know; I've never been.

    All kidding aside, this signing means one of two things: Either Jim Schwartz is planning to move to the 4-3, or he's completely oblivious to the fact that Buffalo ran a 3-4 last year. I'm not a fan of unnecessary scheme changes, and I'm also not in favor of giving seven figures to injury-prone backup fodder like Keith Rivers.

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    Falcons sign G Jon Asamoah (5 years, $22.5M; $8M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    This isn't nearly as bad as the contracts the Redskins and Bills dished out to their new guards, but the Falcons are overpaying a bit for Jon Asamoah. The former Chief was benched in the second half of this past season. I think he can still be a starter, but he doesn't project as a very good one. Besides, I don't know why the Falcons are spending a chunk of money on linemen when they just brought in Mike Tice to coach everyone up.

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    Lions sign WR Golden Tate (5 years, $31M; $13.25M guaranteed): D Grade
    These teams don't listen. Outside of Vincent Jackson, when has a receiver gone to an inferior team than the one he has already on and thrived in his new home? It's a formula that just doesn't work. This signing doesn't make any sense for a number of other reasons as well:

    First, there were better receivers than Tate available. Tate has never even had a 900-yard season. I've seen bogus analysis out there about how Tate's stats were limited because of Seattle's run-heavy attack. That's a load of crap. If Tate happened to be a starting-caliber wideout, he would have produced more consistently. The fact remains that Russell Wilson liked to spread the ball around for a reason. Tate just wasn't good enough to be relied upon as a major target.

    Second, this draft class is loaded at receiver. Why overspend on a wideout who isn't even as good as several rookies in this upcoming class? And third, the Lions want to utilize a run-heavy attack, so why are they throwing all of this money on a No. 2 receiver, especially one who isn't proven like Tate?

    This is an awful signing by the Lions. It'll be lauded by others, but Tate will ultimately become the latest of many free agent receiver busts.

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    Colts re-sign RB Ahmad Bradshaw (1 year, $855,000): A- Grade
    Ahmad Bradshaw has dealt with way too many foot and neck injuries over the years to be relied upon. A deal like this, however, is perfect. The Colts are taking zero risk by bringing back Bradshaw, yet there's plenty of upside. If Bradshaw can somehow give Indianapolis even eight effective games, he'll help mitigate the loss of Donald Brown to San Diego.

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    Ravens re-sign WR/KR Jacoby Jones (4 years, $14M; $4.5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    Jacoby Jones is a dynamic return specialist. Or maybe I should say that Jones has been a dynamic return specialist. Jones turns 30 in July, and as we've seen from many others, kick-returners can fall over very quickly as they hit 30. With that in mind, the Ravens are unquestionably overpaying Jones, especially considering that he's solely functional on special teams; he has proven that he's completely useless at receiver.

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    Cowboys sign DE Jeremy Mincey (2 years, $4.5M; $2M guaranteed): B Grade
    This has the potential to be a decent signing. Jeremy Mincey hasn't done much since recording eight sacks in 2011 (five sacks combined in 2012 and 2013), but part of the issue was that he didn't fit Gus Bradley's defense, prompting Jacksonville to send him packing. Mincey flashed a bit in limited action with Denver late in the year, so perhaps he can use this opportunity as motivation to show everyone that he deserves a better deal in a couple of seasons.

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    Giants sign G/OT Geoff Schwartz (4 years, $16.8M; $6.2M guaranteed): B Grade
    While the Redskins and Bills were offering scrubs like Shawn Lauvao and Chris Williams around $5 million guaranteed, the Giants managed to ink a far superior player at the same position for just a bit more.

    Geoff Schwartz missed all of 2011 with a hip injury. He didn't start in the first half of this past season, but was dominant in the second half. Thus, the money is right for him.

    The plan for Schwartz is to have him play right tackle, while Justin Pugh moves to the blind side. If William Beatty can somehow make it back from his injury, either Pugh or Schwartz will slide inside and fill the void at guard.

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    Broncos sign DE DeMarcus Ware (3 years, $30M; $20M guaranteed): A+ Grade
    Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware on the same defense? I think every quarterback in the AFC West just crapped their pants.

    Ware is coming off a down year, but if he can get healthy in 2014, he has the potential to lead the NFL in sacks, especially with Miller commanding attention on the other side. Ware has endured several injuries recently, so there's no guarantee that he'll be close to 100 percent, but the risk is definitely worth the reward.

    It's just unbelievable that the Broncos are getting deals like this. As a reference, Lamarr Houston, who has 16.5 career sacks, was given nearly as much guaranteed money ($15 million) from Chicago. Michael Johnson, who notched just 3.5 sacks in 2013, received more guaranteed money ($24 million) from Tampa Bay. And my personal favorite, Everson Griffen, who has just one career start, signed a larger contract with Minnesota ($42.5M overall; $20M guaranteed). John Elway is just trolling these teams at this point.

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    Chiefs re-sign S Husain Abdullah (2 years, $2.27M; $750K bonus): A Grade
    Husain Abdullah started the final two games of this past season, but he had an excellent performance in the playoff loss to the Colts. It made me wonder why Andy Reid started Kendrick Lewis over him for most of the year. Maybe Abdullah will rightfully become the starter in 2014. Regardless, a 2-year, $2.27 million contract is quite the bargain for the underrated 29-year-old safety.

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    Steelers sign S Michael Mitchell (5 years, $25M; $5.25M guaranteed): C- Grade
    The narrative with Michael Mitchell is that Al Davis ultimately "got this one right" after everyone laughed at him once he spent a second-round pick on yet another height-weight-speed guy. However, Mitchell has enjoyed just one quality NFL season thus far. He struggled in Oakland before thriving in Carolina, but he may have just been successful in 2013 because the Panthers' front seven was so ferocious.

    With that in mind, I don't like this signing at all for Pittsbrugh. The Steelers are often cautious in free agency, so this move surprises me. It's not like them to throw money at a one-year wonder like Mitchell. Perhaps Mitchell will continue to have success, but there's more of a chance that he'll revert to pre-2013 form.

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    Bills sign G Chris Williams (4 years, $13.5M; $5.5M gtd): MILLEN YELLOW KING KIELBASA Grade
    I just gave the Redskins a "D" for giving $17 million overall and $5 million guaranteed Shawn Lauvao, yet Chris Williams is worse than Lauvao, and he's getting even more guaranteed money from Buffalo. This obviously has to be a worse grade, so you know what that means. Millen time!

    Chris Williams is not a good player whatsoever. His best role would be as a backup lineman, and a mediocre one at that. Yet, the Bills are paying him to be their new starting left guard. Maybe they're overcompensating because they never replaced Andy Levitre properly, but they're just making things worse by giving a pedestrian player like Williams this much money.

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    Redskins sign G Shawn Lauvao (4 years, $17M; $5M guaranteed): D Grade
    This is an obscene amount of money for someone who should be a reserve lineman. Shawn Lauvao has played three full or near-full seasons in the NFL. He was mediocre in 2011 and 2012, but was downright awful this past year. Perhaps that was because of an ankle injury that knocked him out for the first few games, but the fact remains that Washington is paying him way too much money. Even half of this contract would have been excessive.

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    Chargers re-sign S/ST Darrell Stuckey (4 years, $7.6M; $1.75M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    I don't know if anyone else would've given Darrell Stuckey close to $2 million per season, but the Chargers apparently really wanted to keep their special-teams captain and reserve safety. I don't blame them for wanting to do so, but they overpaid a bit. I won't penalize them too much for it though, however, because it's not like they offered him Rodger Saffold money.

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    Giants re-sign S Stevie Brown (1 year, $4 million): A Grade
    Stevie Brown is a talented safety, but any team that signed him to a long-term deal this offseason would have been taking a risk because he happens to be coming off a torn ACL. The Giants completely eliminated that risk with this contract.

    I love 1-year "prove it" deals like this. They almost always work. The Giants are going to be able to retain Brown's great services at a cheap price, and they're also going to get Brown at his best, as he tries to showcase why he deserves to be handed a big contract next spring.

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    Falcons sign DE/DT Tyson Jackson (5 years, $25M; $11M guaranteed): C- Grade
    Holy crap, this is a lot of money for Tyson Jackson. I don't get it. Jackson offers zero as a pass-rusher. He's a dominant force against the run, but it's not often wise to play defensive linemen this sort of money if they happen to be one-dimensional like Jackson is. Besides, it's not like Jackson has the best track record. He struggled for years in Kansas City before breaking out in 2013. What's to stop him from reverting to his 2009-2012 sluggish form?

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    Buccaneers sign DT Clinton McDonald (4 years, $12M; $4.75M guaranteed): B- Grade
    Clinton McDonald can't be a starter - he's undersized, and therefore a major liability against the run - but he's a solid situational pass-rusher, as he registered 5.5 sacks in 2013 despite being released by Seattle right before the season. The Buccaneers are paying a bit too much for his services, but all in all, this is a decent signing considering that Tampa needed to improve its ability to get to the quarterback in order to beat Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan.

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    March 11 Updates

    Raiders sign OT Austin Howard (5 years, $30M; $15M guaranteed): C- Grade
    Reggie McKenzie... why? What are you doing, Reggie? Why are you throwing tons of money at a right tackle when right tackles, as we've seen, are a dime-a-dozen? Why didn't you just franchise Jared Veldheer? Why haven't you noticed that you just gave Austin Howard nearly as much guaranteed money as Jason Peters received from the Eagles ($19 million)?

    I like this move better than the Rodger Saffold acquisition, which was just awful, but it still deserves a poor grade. Howard will provide an upgrade at right tackle, but there's no question that Oakland has overpaid for his services.

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    Browns sign S Donte Whitner (4 years, $28M; $11M guaranteed): B- Grade
    The Browns just lost T.J. Ward, but they managed to replace him with Donte Whitner. Ward received a 4-year deal worth $23 million from Denver, while Whitner is getting $28 million over the same span. So, in typical Cleveland fashion, the team has downgraded a position with someone who has a greater contract. Oh, Browns...

    This deal isn't bad though. Whitner is a two-time Pro Bowler who has missed just one game in the past four seasons, and at 29, he still has at least two quality seasons left.

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    Buccaneers sign TE Brandon Myers (2 years, $4.25M; $2M guaranteed): B Grade
    The Buccaneers had to find another tight end, and Brandon Myers was (sadly) one of the better options on the market. Myers is a sub-par starter, but he can at least be a semi-decent intermediate target for Tampa's 2014 quarterback, whoever that may be. Also, this sort of money is definitely in the right range for Myers.

    I want to note that this signing should not preclude the Buccaneers from spending an early selection on an upgrade, as I have happening in my 2014 NFL Mock Draft.

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    Chargers sign RB Donald Brown (3 years, $10.5M; $4M guaranteed): C Grade
    This is a weird signing. The money is right for Donald Brown, who is coming off a career year, but the Chargers had many other holes they needed to address. They did have to find some depth behind the injury-prone Ryan Mathews, but they could've settled for a cheaper option than Brown, who can't really handle all of Ronnie Brown's duties because he can't pass protect as well as Brown could. With that in mind, Brown would be a solid starter in the wake of another Mathews injury, so I don't hate this acquisition.

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    Broncos sign CB Aqib Talib (6 years, $57M; $26M guaranteed): B Grade
    I love Aqib Talib for 1-year deals. I hate Aqib Talib getting a long-term contract. Talib has frequent meltdowns and is always in danger of getting into some off-the-field incident, so in ordinary circumstances, handing him a 6-year, $57 million contract with $26 million guaranteed could be completely disastrous.

    With all of that said, this is a quality signing for a couple of reasons. First, the Broncos are thinking short-term. They know they have just a couple more seasons left with Peyton Manning, so they're going "all in" now while sacrificing the future. This is a fine strategy for them because they're in for a major decline once Manning moves on regardless. Second, I love that Denver is once again spitting in the face of its arch rival by stealing one of its valuable players. Talib was great for the Patriots last year, yet now Denver will have his great coverage on its side.

    John Elway did a great job of fixing his questionable secondary on the first day of free agency. The Broncos have solidified themselves as the favorites to come out of the AFC, and it's not even looking remotely close right now.

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    Titans sign WR/KR Dexter McCluster (3 years, $12M; $4.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
    I didn't think the Titans needed a receiver of any sort, but they apparently didn't agree with that. Dexter McCluster will be a nice weapon for Jake Locker, and he'll also be a factor on special teams, where he's very dangerous as a returner. The money is right for McCluster, but I just feel like Tennessee should be spending its resources elsewhere.

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    Dolphins sign DT Earl Mitchell (4 years, $16M; $9M guaranteed): D Grade
    It's almost as if Jeff Ireland never left. Then again, Charlie Campbell heavily criticized the Dolphins for hiring general manager Dennis Hickey because Hickey was so incompetent with the Buccaneers, so perhaps Miami will be even worse off with Hickey than it was with Ireland, as difficult as that is to believe.

    What has Earl Mitchell done in this league to warrant $4 million per season and $9 million guarantee? Mitchell was an inconsistent nose tackle in Houston's defense who wasn't particularly good at anything. Perhaps Mitchell was miscast - and that's the only reason this isn't earning Miami a dreaded Millen grade - but there were better players available for the Dolphins who could've been signed for less. It's almost as if Hickey panicked upon losing Paul Soliai and just signed the first guy he could get on the phone.

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    49ers acquire OT Jonathan Martin from Dolphins for conditional pick
    I don't think Jonathan Martin has the mentality to play in the NFL. He's not even a good player. He struggled at both left tackle and right tackle in Miami. I suppose there's a chance he'll improve under a better coaching staff, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were a San Francisco fan. Martin is just going to be a backup anyway.

    With that said, I'm giving the 49ers an A. Why? Because this trade might be an indication that Jim Harbaugh and the front office might be on the same page, which is great news for the team. Harbaugh has stated all along that he wanted to bring in Martin, whom he coached at Stanford. If Trent Baalke listened to him, it's a sign that the two men have kissed and made up.

    The Dolphins get a C because I don't really know what to give them. They may not even get anything as compensation for Martin depending on what the conditions are for this selection.

    Grade for 49ers - A
    Grade for Dolphins - C

    Jaguars sign RB Toby Gerhart (3 years, $10.5M; $4.5M gtd): MILLEN SEXY SUSPENDERS Grade
    It's almost as if general manager David Caldwell watched zero film of Toby Gerhart in the pros. It also seems like Caldwell had zero awareness that the running back market had completely dried up. If this wasn't common sense enough for him, all he had to do was tune into ESPN and listen to Bill Polian for two seconds.

    Gerhart wasn't even close to being one of the top running backs available. In fact, he's just a mediocre backup. Yet, the Jaguars apparently think he can start for them, which is just insane. They could have waited things out and snagged a more talented runner for less money, but they decided to burn more cash on yet another crappy free agent.

    Once again, any Millen grade is an F. Caldwell definitely deserves one for being so completely inept.

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    Saints sign S Jairus Byrd (6 years, $54M; $28M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    When it was announced that Jairus Byrd inked a 6-year deal, I wondered what the value of his contract would be. I thought that a pact worth $45 million with $22 million guaranteed would earn the Saints a B+ or maybe a B. I was not expecting $54 and $28 million, respectively.

    Byrd is one of the top free agents on the market, but this is too much money for a non-quarterback and non-pass-rusher, especially for a team as strapped for cash as New Orleans. Having said that, Byrd is going from a reeling franchise to a perennial Super Bowl contender, so unlike the free agents who defect for inferior squads, he could be motivated, even in the wake of signing an extremely lucrative contract.

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    Buccaneers sign CB Alterraun Verner (4 years, $26.5M; $14M guaranteed): B Grade
    Alterraun Verner was nearly benched during training camp and happened to struggle down the stretch, but all in all, he had a strong 2013 campaign. He's not a very good No. 1 corner and would be at his best as a second corner, but he'll have to be the main guy in Tampa with Darrelle Revis hitting the road.

    Having said that, this is a decent signing for two reasons. First, Verner is a much better fit for Lovie Smith's defense than Revis despite the talent disparity. Second, this is a fair price for Verner, as the max value of his deal is $12.5 million less than what Sam Shields earned. Shields is better than Verner, of course, but both signings are fine.

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    Ravens re-sign OT Eugene Monroe (5 years, $37.5M; $19M guaranteed): A Grade
    A 5-year, $37.5 million contract contains a lot of money for any non-quarterback, but Eugene Monroe is worth it. Monroe is one of the top left tackles in the NFL, and at just 27 years old, he has 4-5 more Pro Bowl-caliber seasons remaining. Baltimore's offensive line was already a mess, so bringing Monroe back was crucial.

    What makes this an especially excellent deal is the fact that both the Dolphins (Branden Albert) and Raiders (Rodger Saffold) foolishly dished out more money to inferior offensive tackles. But is anyone surprised that Ozzie Newsome pulled off such a terrific move like this?

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    Colts re-sign CB Vontae Davis (4 years, $39M; $20M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    This is a lot of guaranteed money for Vontae Davis, but he's worth it. Despite his poor performance in the playoffs - he was hobbled with an injury - Davis is one of the better cornerbacks in football. Considering that the Colts have to go through Denver and/or New England to reach the Super Bowl, keeping a stud corner like Davis was essential for their chances.

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    Broncos sign S T.J. Ward (4 years, $23M; $14M guaranteed): A+ Grade
    Wow. How did the Broncos land T.J. Ward, one of the top free agents on the market, to a deal worth less than $6 million per year? This is an amazing signing, and it's well worth the first A+ of the day (not counting the Jaguars actually getting something for Blaine Gabbert, because that still seems unreal).

    The safety position was a big need for Denver - Broncos team needs page - and getting a major talent like Ward really improves the pass defense. The Broncos just got a lot better.

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    Colts sign DE/DT Arthur Jones (5 years, $33M; $16M guaranteed): A- Grade
    I usually like to chide Ryan Grigson for overspending in free agency, but I like this move. Obtaining Arthur Jones makes sense for many reasons. First, Jones played under Chuck Pagano in Baltimore, so there won't be any sort of scheme transition for him. Second, Jones fills a huge need on the defensive line, as Indianapolis desperately needed an upgrade. And third, Jones was the top 3-4 defensive end available on the market.

    Given all of those things, a 5-year, $33 million deal for a talented player like Jones almost seems like a bargain.

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    Dolphins sign OT Branden Albert (5 years, $46M; $25M guaranteed): C- Grade
    With Jared Veldheer obtaining $35 million overall and $17 million guaranteed, it's only natural that the Dolphins paid more for an inferior player at the same position. It is the free agency period, after all.

    Branden Albert has played all 16 games just once in his career. He's very injury-prone, and he's not even elite when healthy. This sort of contract is elite left tackle money. Albert certainly doesn't fit that description. He does fill a big need, but there's no question that Miami is overpaying for his services.

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    Cardinals sign OT Jared Veldheer (5 years, $35M; $17M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    It's about time the Cardinals landed a legitimate starting left tackle. Carson Palmer is as immobile as quarterbacks get, so protecting him was paramount. They'll be able to do so with Jared Veldheer manning the blind side.

    Veldheer was the second-best offensive tackle available on the market after Eugene Monroe, and he'll be just 27 in June, so $35 million over five years is a very good price for him.

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    Raiders re-sign RB Darren McFadden (1 year, $4 million): A Grade
    Thanks to Charlie Campbell's great reporting, we were able to call this one a month ago. As I discussed in the Fantasy RB Rankings, the Raiders were able to convince McFadden to stay by offering him a new training regimen. McFadden's workout habits have always been poor, so there's hope that he'll stay healthy and rebound with a strong 2014 campaign with some better training.

    This is a great move for both parties. If McFadden has a breakout season like I expect him to, he'll get a big deal next spring. The Raiders, meanwhile, can keep their starting running back for a no-risk deal worth just $4 million.

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    Eagles sign S Malcolm Jenkins (3 years, $16.25M; $8.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
    The good news is that Malcolm Jenkins is only 26 and has flashed some of his first-round potential at times. The bad news is that he's inconsistent, as he struggled more often than not in New Orleans.

    Jenkins is an upgrade over what the Eagles had at safety, but saying that is like giving a homeless person a larger cardboard box than the one he already has. Jenkins is not an ideal NFL starter based on the way he has played over his career. He has the potential to improve though, so this isn't a terrible signing.

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    49ers acquire QB Blaine Gabbert from Jaguars for 6th-round pick
    It's unusual to see the 49ers screw up like this, but trading for Blaine Gabbert was a bone-headed move. The Jaguars were bound to release Gabbert, so San Francisco simply could have signed him without giving up any sort of selection. And if the front office was willing to part with a third-day choice, why Gabbert? He sucks.

    The Jaguars earn an A+ for this. Getting anything for Gabbert is a borderline miracle.

    Grade for 49ers - F
    Grade for Jaguars - A+

    Falcons sign NT Paul Soliai (5 years, $33M; $14M guaranteed): B- Grade
    Paul Soliai is a great fit for the Falcons. He can play in any scheme, and the Falcons play multiple fronts, so it makes a ton of sense. Soliai is a monstrous run-stuffer and can also get after the quarterback, so he'll provide a massive upgrade for Atlanta on the interior.

    I'm giving this a B- grade, however, because Soliai will turn 31 during the season. He's near the end of his prime, and he probably won't be the same player by 2016. Thus, this contract could hurt Atlanta down the road.

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    Giants sign DE/OLB O'Brien Schofield (2 years, $8 million): D Grade
    This is strange. O'Brien Schofield has never had more than 4.5 sacks in his career, thanks in part to his inability to stay healthy. I figured Schofield would be signed to a deal for about $1 million per season, but giving him $4 million per year seems egregious. Schofield is also a questionable scheme fit for the Giants.

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    Jaguars sign G Zane Beadles (5 years, $30M; $13M guaranteed): D Grade
    David Caldwell strikes again. Zane Beadles is coming off a down year, especially in terms of pass protection, an area he especially struggled in. Despite this, Caldwell signed Beadles to... improve the pass protection...? How does that make any sense?

    I hate to keep harping on this, but this is yet another instance in which a player coming from a great team takes a big pay day to play for a crappy organization. Beadles is going to be a bust signing for Jacksonville because he's not very good.

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    Bears sign DE Lamarr Houston (5 years, $35M; $15M guaranteed): B- Grade
    Lamarr Houston, who will replace Julius Peppers, isn't nearly the pass-rusher that Peppers was, but he's still pretty potent in terms of getting to the quarterback. He's even better against the run.

    Considering that Houston was the second-best defensive end available in free agency after DeMarcus Ware, this is a fairly decent signing. I think it's a bit too much for a player with just 16.5 career sacks, but Houston will have an opportunity to add plenty to that total now that he's on a good team and will actually have the lead in most games. He's also just 26, so he figures to improve.

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    Raiders sign G/OT Rodger Saffold (5 years, $42.5M; $21M guaranteed): MILLEN SOCHI TWO-TOILET EXPERIENCE Grade
    *** THIS TRADE HAS BEEN VOIDED ***

    Reggie McKenzie continues to destroy the Raiders. From the man who spent a first-round pick on a second-round corner prospect with a heart problem and refused to franchise anyone this offseason, McKenzie's latest deal might be the biggest joke of all.

    I don't understand this. Why didn't McKenzie just franchise Jared Veldheer, who happens to be better than Rodger Saffold? And does McKenzie really think Saffold can play left tackle? Because he can't. He can't even stay healthy. Saffold has missed 17 games in the past three seasons, so why would he suddenly remain healthy on the West Coast?

    I get that McKenzie has lots of money to spend this offseason, but this is the type of deal that will screw Oakland down the road. And yes, for those wondering, any "Millen" grade is an F. I just try to be creative with those. Besides, a "Millen Sochi two-toilet experience" properly describes this horrible signing.

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    Browns sign ILB Karlos Dansby (4 years, $24M; $14M guaranteed): C- Grade
    Sigh... same old Browns. Only inept teams like Cleveland would pay this much money to a soon-to-be 33-year-old linebacker who is almost certain to decline sometime soon. Granted, Dansby played out of his mind this past season, but he was on a 1-year deal, so he was extremely motivated to land another big contract. Cleveland naturally fell for this charade.

    Once again, free agents who take big money to go to inferior franchises almost always disappoint. Dansby has shown that his No. 1 priority is money, so how motivated will he be while playing for a perennial loser? This is a disastrous move by Cleveland's new front office.

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    Falcons re-sign DT Jonathan Babineaux (3 years, $9M; $4M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Jonathan Babineaux was very strong against the run this past season, but his pass-rushing skills seemed to diminish quite a bit. It's fair to wonder if they'll ever return, given that he'll turn 33 in October. Having said that, this is a very good deal for the Falcons, who are paying very little for a solid starting defensive tackle. Atlanta's entire starting defense will now return for the 2014 season, minus Asante Samuel.

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    Lions re-sign RB Joique Bell (3 years, $9.3M; $4.3M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Joique Bell may only be Detroit's No. 2 running back, but he's an important part of its pass-happy offense, as he's caught 50-plus balls in each of the past two seasons. He has also shown an ability to step in as a starter when Reggie Bush is screwing up too much. This is a very fair deal for Bell.

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    Redskins sign WR Andre Roberts (4 years, $16 million): C+ Grade
    I don't like this move as much for the Redskins. Andre Roberts is just a decent slot receiver who should be a tertiary target at best. He's had issues with drops in the past as well, so giving him $4 million per season seems a bit excessive. If Washington thinks Roberts can be a solid No. 2 wideout for Robert Griffin, the front office is horribly mistaken.

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    Redskins re-sign ILB Perry Riley (3 years, $13 million): B+ Grade
    I like this contract for the Redskins because they're buying low on Perry Riley. The 26-year-old inside linebacker had a terrific 2012 campaign, but struggled this past season, so if Washington had given him a new contract last spring, the money on the deal would have been much greater.

    Riley can definitely rebound to 2012 form. He's only 26, and considering the turmoil in Washington this past season, many players were bound to struggle. Things will certainly be much better with a new coaching staff in place.

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    Buccaneers sign DE Michael Johnson (5 years, $43.75M; $24M guaranteed): C Grade
    Michael Johnson is strong in terms of stopping the run, but he's inconsistent as a pass-rusher. He had 11.5 sacks in 2012, but saw that number drop to 3.5 this past season. Johnson, however, will fill Tampa's biggest hole, as you can see in our Buccaneers team needs page.

    Having said that, this is not a good signing. We see teams that spend frivolously on the first day of free agency ultimately regret their moves, and that's likely what's going to happen with Tampa. We've witnessed time and again that players who take more money to go from a perennial playoff contender (i.e. Bengals) to a cellar-dweller (i.e. Buccaneers, who are going to lose Darrelle Revis) often fail to meet expectations.

    What's the motivation here for Johnson? He has shown that he doesn't care about winning; his No. 1 priority is clearly money. With all of this new cash, what's his lifestyle going to be when he's hanging out in Ybor every single night?

    With Revis likely gone and Johnson certainly bound to flop, this is not a good start for Tampa's offseason.

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    Giants re-sign CB Trumaine McBride (2 years, $3.1 million): B Grade
    Trumaine McBride was forced into the lineup last year because of injuries. He started 10 games and handled himself fairly well. However, he's really a backup, so this is fair money for him. New York still needs cornerback help though, as you can see in our Giants team needs page.

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    March 10 Updates

    Dolphins sign S Louis Delmas (1 year, $3.5 million): B+ Grade
    Jeff Ireland often did stupid things in free agency, so it's a relief to see Miami's new regime off to a good start. Louis Delmas would've been a risky signing for a multi-year deal, given his extensive injury history. However, there's minimal downside with this acquisition because it's only for one year. Delmas will be highly motivated to show everyone that he's worthy of a long contract - much like Michael Bennett, Aqib Talib, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, etc. - so Miami will be getting him at his best, all while filling a position of need.

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    Seahawks re-sign DE Michael Bennett (4 years, $28.5M; $16M guaranteed): A Grade
    It amazes me that Michael Bennett received less amount of money per year as the unproven Everson Griffen (from Minnesota) despite being a far superior player. Bennett actually took less to remain with Seattle, however. The Bears offered him a bit more, but staying with a perennial Super Bowl contender had to be a no-brainer.

    Bennett is a stud defensive lineman. He's a force against the run and is also very effective as a pass-rusher, particularly in nickel situations when he moves inside. He was key for Seattle's Super Bowl defense, so the Seahawks' ability to retain him is obviously a great move.

    My only concern with this contract is what happens two years down the road once most of the team's key players will be set to hit the market. However, keeping Bennett around will help the Seahawks contend for the Super Bowl over the next couple of seasons.

    Update: I'm bumping this up to an A after learning that the final two years of Bennett's deal have no guaranteed money (his 2016 and 2017 seasons are non-guaranteed years worth $12.5 million). This quells my earlier concern.

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    Chargers re-sign G Chad Rinehart (2 years, $6M; $2M guaranteed): B Grade
    This money is right for Chad Rinehart. A strong backup and spot starter, Rinehart was in the opening lineup for 10 games this past season. Rinehart could pass as a sub-par starter if he didn't constantly endure foot problems. At this price, however, San Diego won't have to worry very much about those issues.

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    Jaguars sign DE/DT Red Bryant (4 years, $17M; $5.255M guaranteed): A Grade
    When I first saw that Red Bryant - not Michael Bennett - signed with the Jaguars, I was ready to chide him for taking the money and signing with a far-inferior team. However, I wanted to wait until all of the numbers were in, and now that they are, I can say that this appears to be a great deal.

    The Jaguars are not paying very much for Bryant. Giving a talented player like him $5.255 million guaranteed for a 4-year pact is pretty much nothing. And as for Bryant, he gets to be reunited with his former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, whom he thrived under.

    Bryant isn't much of a pass-rusher, but he's a monstrous run-stopper. He'll be huge in terms of containing Arian Foster, as he provides a massive upgrade over Tyson Alualu.

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    March 9 Updates

    Vikings re-sign DE Everson Griffen (5 years, $42.5M; $20M guaranteed): D Grade
    Wow. My jaw literally hit the floor when I saw these numbers. Then again, I shouldn't have been so surprised, given that general manager Rick Spielman paid tons of money to backup tight end John Carlson a couple of years ago.

    This signing is almost as bad. Griffen has started just ONE game in his career. One game. Sure, he has flashed some potential - he notched 5.5 sacks this past season in a reserve role - but this is way too much money to give to a player solely for the dreaded "P-word." Griffen hasn't proven that he can be an every-down player, so this deal has "disaster" written all over it.

    I don't get how a personnel man in the NFL, one who's getting paid millions of dollars, can spend lots of money so carelessly. It's baffling. The only question is whether or not Spielman will use Mike Zimmer as a scapegoat once this signing fails, just as he fired Leslie Frazier because Carlson, Christian Ponder and Josh Freeman predictably didn't live up to expectations.

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    March 8 Updates

    Packers re-sign CB Sam Shields (4 years, $39M; $12.5M bonus): B Grade
    This is a ton of money for a cornerback who has missed eight games over the past two seasons, but Sam Shields has a ton of talent and the ability to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL. He's also just 26, so there's a good chance he'll improve on his game. I don't blame general manager Ted Thompson for overpaying just a bit to keep a key member of his defense. I can't give the Packers a great grade for this contract, but they certainly don't deserve a bad one.

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    Jets re-sign TE Jeff Cumberland (3 years, $3.7M; $1M guaranteed): B Grade
    He's a backup tight end. That's pretty much all I have to say about this. Jeff Cumberland is a mediocre player, but this amount of money is right for him. He's currently slated to be the Jets' starter, but that will almost definitely change after the 2014 NFL Draft (check out my 2014 NFL Mock Draft to see which tight end I've mocked to New York.)

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    March 7 Updates

    Jaguars re-sign QB Chad Henne (2 years, $8M; $4.5M guaranteed): C+/F Grade
    I'm giving this contract two grades. The first is just for Chad Henne. A 2-year, $8 million pact is the standard going rate for backup quarterbacks, and Henne is an OK reserve. So, whatever.

    The second grade is based on the latest NFL Draft Rumors about the Jaguars, stating that they won't be drafting a quarterback in the third round because they're bringing Henne back. If this is true, well, no one should be surprised, given that general manager David Caldwell selected Luke Joeckel because an Internet article told him that Blaine Gabbert would be so much better with protection on the right side.

    Jacksonville fans better hope that this is just a bogus rumor; otherwise, they can look forward to cheering on one of the worst teams in the NFL again next season.

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    Colts sign P Pat McAfee (5 years, $14M; $5M guaranteed): C- Grade
    Pat McAfee has a big leg and handles kickoffs, but he was just 25th in net average this past season. With that in mind, it's a little nuts to make him the fourth-highest-paid punter in the NFL. It's even crazier that general manager Ryan Grigson is dishing out lots of cash to punters and old linebackers who don't fit his defense, and yet he's struggling to negotiate a deal with his top free agent, cornerback Vontae Davis (check out our NFL Free Agent Rumors page for more).

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    March 6 Updates

    Colts sign ILB D'Qwell Jackson (4 years, $22M; $11M guaranteed): C Grade
    What is up with the Colts and overpaying for mediocre defensive players in free agency? They did so last spring with Erik Walden, Ricky Jean-Francois and LaRon Landry, and it begins again this offseason with D'Qwell Jackson.

    This would've been a good move a couple of years ago. However, Jackson turns 31 in September and obviously won't be getting any better. He has struggled against the run in the past couple of seasons and will continue to do so. He's also not a good fit for the 3-4 - he has always performed better in the 4-3 - so I just don't understand how general manager Ryan Grigson doesn't understand this. Perhaps he was too busy warding off reporters from discovering whom he interviewed at the Combine to watch the appropriate amount of tape on a player who's going to turn out to be his latest free agent bust.

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    March 5 Updates

    Bills extend S Aaron Williams (4 years, $26M; $14.625M guaranteed): C- Grade
    The 0.1-percent chance that Jairus Byrd would return to Buffalo is now zero, as Aaron Williams reached a 4-year extension Wednesday morning. Williams, a second-round pick in 2011, struggled at cornerback for two years before making the move to safety last season, where he played well.

    Having said that, Buffalo definitely overpaid for Williams. The Texas product is now the eighth-highest-paid safety in the NFL, yet he's not the eighth-best safety. I'm not even sure he's in the top 15. Williams has just one quality season under his belt, so he doesn't exactly have a proven track record. The Bills probably should have waited a year to see if Williams could repeat his 2013 performance before dishing out this sort of money.

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    March 4 Updates

    Falcons re-sign DT Corey Peters (1 year, $1.6 million): A- Grade
    As @ScottCarasik pointed out on Twitter, Corey Peters' 1-year deal contains a $1 million base. This is a very good deal for the Falcons, as Peters was a strong run-defender in 2013 before tearing his Achilles in the final Monday night game of the season. I had Peters slotted relatively low in my free agent rankings because of this injury, but he is reportedly making good progress and could be ready by the start of the season.

    There's a chance this signing will be irrelevant, as any big player coming off a torn Achilles is always a question mark, but the Falcons deserve a very good grade for this because there is no risk involved.

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    Chargers re-sign ILB Donald Butler (7 years, $48M; $28M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    The Chargers pretty much gave Donald Butler a 3-year deal, as they essentially have an option after the third season. Butler, as a consequence, won't see $48 million. Butler is a solid player, capable of being on the field on all three downs. He's also just 25, so there's plenty of room for improvement.

    Having said that, the $28 million guaranteed is an obscene figure for a linebacker who can't rush the passer. Butler could get better, as mentioned, but he's just a solid player right now. He's not great, so San Diego overpaid him.

    I'm not going to give the Chargers a terrible grade because they locked up a key member of their defense, but they'll get into trouble down the road if they dish out too many contracts like this.

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    March 3 Updates

    49ers re-sign WR Anquan Boldin (2 years, $12M; $9M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    The $9 million stands out for Anquan Boldin, considering that he signed a 2-year deal and has just $3 million of non-guaranteed money. Still though, this is a fair price for Boldin, who was huge for San Francisco this past season when Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis were out of the lineup. Boldin became just a tertiary option when everyone returned to the lineup, but he was still utilized heavily, as seen when he posted a 9-149-1 line in the season finale at Arizona.

    There's some risk with Boldin because he'll turn 34 in early October. However, Boldin doesn't rely on speed very much; he uses his large frame instead, so he's the type of receiver who can play well into his mid-30s. He's on board for just two more years anyway, so it's not like San Francisco is risking much.

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    Dolphins re-sign CB Brent Grimes (4 years, $32M; $16M guaranteed): B+ Grade
    Despite turning 31 in July and being one year removed from a torn Achilles, Brent Grimes was the top free agent cornerback on the market. This is a fair price for Grimes, who was surprisingly dominant this past season considering that he was coming off such a devastating injury.

    The Dolphins need some stability, so re-signing Grimes was a great move. However, I'd be concerned that at 31, Grimes, who has an injury history (he missed four games in 2011 and 15 in 2012), could regress soon. It may not be in 2014, but there could be a sharp decline in Year 2 or 3 of this new pact. Still though, Miami deserves a solid grade for bringing back one of the league's better corners.

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    Redskins re-sign CB DeAngelo Hall (4 years, $17M; $5.4M guaranteed): B- Grade
    DeAngelo Hall was signed last month, but his contract details weren't known right away. Here's the grade for the signing with all of the information made public.

    This is a Band-Aid on a flesh wound. DeAngelo Hall, 31 in November, is hardly the answer for Washington's putrid cornerback situation. He's just an average No. 2 at this stage of his career. However, given that the team has no first-round pick and tons of holes on its roster, Washington almost had to retain Hall.

    The key figure is that most of Hall's $5.4 million guarantee will be paid out this season. The Redskins have lots of money to spend, so they were smart to frontload this deal. They'll save money if they cut Hall beginning in 2015, so they've protected themselves in case his performance really drops off.

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    March 1 Updates

    Ravens re-sign TE Dennis Pitta (5 years, $32.5M; $16M guaranteed): B Grade
    This seems like a lot of money for a non-elite tight end at first glance, but Dennis Pitta's new annual salary makes him one of the nine highest-paid players at his position. Pitta is definitely a top-nine tight end, so that makes sense.

    The Ravens also had to keep Pitta around based on what happened this year. Joe Flacco didn't have Pitta because of an injury for most of the year, and he also happened to lose Anquan Boldin to the 49ers. Flacco struggled mightily, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time in his career as a consequence. Ozzie Newsome simply couldn't let another highly valued weapon get away.

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    Feb. 28 Updates

    Eagles re-sign WR Jeremy Maclin (1 year, $5.5 million): A- Grade
    I was ready to give a bad grade to any team that signed Jeremy Maclin to a long-term contract, but this deal makes a ton of sense. Maclin, who was already considered highly injury-prone heading into the 2013 campaign, tore his ACL before the year began. Maclin has never eclipsed more than 1,000 receiving yards in a season, partly because of his inability to stay healthy. With all of that in mind, he was bound to be an overrated commodity had he hit the open market.

    Giving Maclin a 1-year "prove it" deal is great for the Eagles. They get a talented receiver back for this upcoming season without any long-term ramifications. There's always a chance Maclin will disappoint again, but there's no downside for Philadelphia.

    Discuss Free Agent Signing Grades in this thread.

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    Panthers re-sign K Graham Gano (4 years, $12.4 million): C Grade
    Graham Gano was one of the league's best kickers last year. He nailed 24-of-27 tries, including a perfect 6-of-6 from 50-plus. So, why the sub-par grade? Well, excluding his 2013 performance and his rookie campaign in which he attempted just four field goals, Gano has never converted better than 81.8 percent of his kicks. He's had just one good year, so this seems like a lot of money for someone who doesn't have much of a proven track record. Also, the Panthers don't exactly have much cap space, so their decision to give a kicker a ton of money is rather questionable.

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    Redskins re-sign NT Chris Baker (3 years, $12M; $4M guaranteed): D Grade
    This is Daniel Snyder at his finest. Chris Baker is just a mediocre backup, albeit a versatile one. He might have to start next year, but only because Washington is so incredibly thin on the defensive line. That still doesn't excuse this ridiculous contract. What could the Redskins possibly be thinking? Baker is just a big body; otherwise, he's a jack of no trades, and obviously, a master of none. He has no strong skill set. He doesn't make a difference in terms of stuffing the run or putting pressure on the quarterback. Why is he suddenly worth $4 million per year with $4 million guaranteed?

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    Feb. 27 Updates

    Eagles re-sign WR Riley Cooper (5 years, $25M; $10M guaranteed): C+ Grade
    The Eagles overpaid a bit for Riley Cooper. Did they think other teams were going to give him a big contract after he used racial slurs at the infamous Kenny Chesney concert? Cooper caught 47 passes for 835 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, but he struggled to separate at times. In fact, most of his numbers came in a two-game span against the Raiders, who didn't try in that game, and the Packers, who possessed a disgraceful secondary. Cooper topped 53 yards just once in the final six games of the season.

    Having said that, I'm not giving Philadelphia a terrible grade for this because Cooper emerged as Nick Foles' favorite receiver. The two just clicked, so it's difficult to put a price on that. Cooper is also a tremendous end-zone target because of his 6-3, 222-pound frame, so he should continue to score plenty of touchdowns.

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    Eagles extend C Jason Kelce (6 years, $37.5M; $13M guaranteed): A- Grade
    A figure of $37.5 million may seem like a lot, but the Eagles are only giving Jason Kelce $13 million guaranteed, which is a pretty fantastic number considering the length of this contract.

    With that in mind, the Eagles made a great move by extending Kelce, who was one of the top centers in the NFL this past season. Kelce blasted open huge running lanes for LeSean McCoy and also protected Nick Foles well; he surrendered just three sacks, but only one after Week 5.

    Chemistry and stability are key for offensive line play, and with this contract, the Eagles have their entire front under contract through 2016. That's huge for Foles' development.

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    Bears re-sign C Roberto Garza (1 year, $1.5 million): A Grade
    A team captain and a member of the Bears since 2005, Roberto Garza served as a solid center this past season, surrendering just one sack. He'll be 35 in March, so there's a chance for a major decline. However, Chicago isn't risking much with a 1-year deal worth $1.5 million. That's a great price for such a valuable member of the roster.

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    Feb. 26 Updates

    Eagles extend OT Jason Peters (4 years, $41.3 million): B Grade
    With this 4-year extension, Jason Peters' overall contract is worth five years, $51.3 million with $19.55 million guaranteed. That's not bad for a guy whose career was in doubt the previous offseason because he was coming off a torn Achilles.

    Peters shook off the injury and had a very strong 2013 campaign. He wasn't nearly as dominant he was in the past, but that's understandable, given that he was returning from the Achilles. He surrendered four sacks, and he should be better in 2014, as he'll be two years removed from the injury.

    I think this is a quality deal for the Eagles, but what's keeping me from making this an A- or B+ is that Peters recently turned 32. It seems like the Eagles are buying a bit too much on past performance instead of what Peters will be doing in 2015 and 2016. This contract could end up hurting Philadelphia down the road - the team did draft Lane Johnson, so it could have slid him over and found a cheaper right tackle - but having Peters around will definitely help in the short term.

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    Feb. 17 Updates

    Ravens extend OLB Terrell Suggs (5 years, $30M; $16M guaranteed): B Grade
    This extension sounds good on the surface because it saves the Ravens $4.6 million in cap room this season and allows Terrell Suggs to play out his career in Baltimore. However, there are a couple of issues with it.

    First, while Baltimore is clearing money now, there will be bigger problems down the road. This is almost a Jerry Jones-type deal, except the Ravens are giving lots of money to a pass-rusher instead of a kicker. Second, Suggs slowed down at the end of last season. Perhaps this was just a fluke, but Suggs will be 32 in October. His best days are behind him. A 5-year, $30 million contract seems like a lot of money to give to someone on the downside of his career. Granted, Suggs could still have another dynamic season, but that's why I'm not completely ripping this move.

    UPDATE: If new details come to light, I will adjust these grades. That's what has happened with the Suggs contract. It's been revealed that $16 of Suggs' guaranteed money will be in the first two seasons, so Baltimore won't be screwed over later on like the Cowboys will with their kicker. I should have known better than to doubt Ozzie Newsome. I've bumped this up from a C+ to a B. I still think this is a lot of money for an older player who declined in the second half of this past season, but Suggs is capable of rebounding.

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    Feb. 11 Updates

    Browns fire GM Michael Lombardi: C+ Grade
    This is one of the hardest grades I've ever have to give. Seriously. On one hand, the decision to fire Michael Lombardi is stupid. The Browns have made one playoff appearance since reentering the NFL in 1999 because they've lacked stability. They've gone through countless coaches and general managers. They need to stick with one regime for several years to finally give themselves a chance to turn things around.

    On the other hand, Lombardi was so incredibly incompetent that this firing falls under the "sunk cost" category. Lombardi did make the right move by trading Trent Richardson, but his firing of Rob Chudzinski made absolutely no sense. No one wanted to work with him as a consequence, and coordinators opted to stay at their posts rather than coach the Browns because this organization is such a mess.

    So, average an F for lacking stability and an A+ for canning a sunk cost, and I guess you get a C+. That's how I came up with the grade.

    I hope owner Jimmy Haslam gives new general manager Ray Farmer AT LEAST four seasons to improve this situation. Then again, Haslam could be in prison by then, so a new owner may want to do something else. Cleveland is in such disarray that Roger Goodell almost needs to step in and fix this problem fore Haslam can do even more damage.

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    Jan. 26 Updates

    Dolphins hire GM Dennis Hickey: F Grade
    Dennis Hickey was with the Buccaneers beforehand, so I'll let Charlie Campbell handle the write-up for this grade:

    Sources with the Buccaneers told WalterFootball.com that internally, many staff members expected director of player personnel Dennis Hickey to be let go after the draft. Many around the league and with the Buccaneers were surprised that Hickey wasn't fired with former general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Greg Schiano. Hickey took over running the Bucs drafts in 2006, and their poor performance in the drafts played a huge role in the Bucs' 28-52 record over the past five seasons. Sources with the Buccaneers said that Hickey's future would be up to the new general manager to decide, but many staffers didn't believe he'd survive the post-draft turnover in scouting departments.

    Some sources found it laughable that Hickey was interviewed for the Dolphins general manager position and believe that was further proof that Miami owner Stephen Ross doesn't know what he's doing. Some in the league view Hickey as a coach and general-manager killer. In the scouting community, Hickey has the reputation of making a lot of poor evaluations that have led to a plethora of busted picks for Tampa Bay. Making matters worse, Hickey has terrible people skills; some of the Buccaneers' top scouts left the team because they didn't like working with him. The Patriots, Jets and Bills just got a gift.

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    Jan. 24 Updates

    Cowboys extend K Dan Bailey (6 years, $22.5M; $7.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
    Dan Bailey is one of the top three kickers in the NFL. He went 28-of-30 last year, including 6-of-7 from 50-plus. In his three-year career, he has missed just nine tries out of 98 attempts. That's just ridiculous.

    So, why the C- grade? Because the Cowboys can't afford this deal. They're currently close to $22 million over the salary cap. They have to move money around to get under the cap, which is what they're doing, but they're making things worse for themselves in the long term. Dallas will sink further into debt, meaning Jerry Jones will have to cut star players to get into the black in the future.

    This is further proof that Jones desperately needs a general manager. He's absolutely clueless, and it's no wonder that his team has been the epitome of mediocre since Bill Parcells departed.

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    Jan. 23 Updates

    Browns hire HC Mike Pettine: C Grade
    The search is finally over. The Browns, the final team yet to hire a head coach, have settled on former Jets and Bills' defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to replace Rob Chudzinski.

    I don't hate this hire, but it's hard to like it very much. First of all, Pettine wasn't even close to being Cleveland's top target. The front office wanted Josh McDaniels and Adam Gase, but both offensive coordinators turned the Browns down, and understandably so. Second, Pettine has never been a head coach on any level. Granted, there have been instances where coaches with this sort of lacking experience have thrived in the NFL, but again, Pettine wasn't one of the top two guys Cleveland wanted, so the team probably had some reservations about this.

    As I always say, it's difficult to gauge new coaching hires. It's unclear what sort of leadership level Pettine has. Can he rally his troops to get them to play hard for him? How will he be with time and game management? He's never been a head coach before, so this will all be new to him. He does have promise, so I'll give this a "C" instead of the standard Cleveland Millen grades, but the Browns, as always, probably could have done better.

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    Jan. 15 Updates

    Vikings hire HC Mike Zimmer: A- Grade
    I'm glad to see Mike Zimmer finally get a chance at a head-coaching gig. He probably should've been hired as a head coach a few years ago, but as with Bruce Arians, another guy who was passed over too many times, it's better late than never.

    Zimmer seems to have the personality of a head coach. His defensive players always went above and beyond for him in Cincinnati, as Zimmer got the most out of them. He particularly has a knack for improving defensive backs, which definitely had to interest Minnesota, a team that couldn't stop the pass whatsoever in 2013.

    It remains to be seen how good Zimmer's game-management skills will be, but this appears to be a very good hire. I still don't think Leslie Frazier should've been let go, but the Vikings definitely aren't any worse with Zimmer now running things.

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    Jan. 14 Updates

    Lions hire HC Jim Caldwell: C Grade
    I really like Jim Caldwell as an offensive coordinator, but he just doesn't seem to have the personality to be a head coach. Some will point to his Super Bowl appearance in his first season as the Colts' head coach, but he did that with Tony Dungy's team. Bill Callahan had similar success taking over for Jon Gruden's Raiders, but Oakland tanked after that year. The same thing happened with Indianapolis. The Colts were much worse in 2010, losing to Mark Sanchez (blegh) in the opening round of the playoffs.

    The Colts bottomed out during Caldwell's final season, finishing with the league's worst record. Sure, they didn't have Manning, but Caldwell's inability to adjust and get anything out of his remaining players was disappointing, and it ultimately led to his dismissal. That Indianapolis team didn't just lose; it wasn't even close to being competitive.

    Caldwell must accomplish two things to have success in Detroit: He has to improve Matthew Stafford's mechanics, and he has to make sure the team is disciplined and doesn't make dumb mistakes as a consequence. Caldwell might be able to accomplish that first item, but I don't see him getting the players under control.

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    Jan. 13 Updates

    Titans hire HC Ken Whisenhunt: A Grade
    I love this hire for the Titans. First of all, Ken Whisenhunt has a proven track record as a head coach. He completely turned around the slumping Cardinals and led them to a Super Bowl. He was 45-51 with them, but that record is impressive considering that he had to deal with John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Max Hall as his starting quarterbacks for two seasons. And let's not forget about the inept Matt Leinart either.

    Second, Whisenhunt is a brilliant offensive mind who has gotten the most out of all of his quarterbacks. Jake Locker has untapped potential, and he might just be able to turn into a strong starter with Whisenhunt's tutelage - provided he can stay healthy.

    Whisenhunt is the best coach Tennessee could have hired, so the front office deserves a great grade for this move. For more on this team, check out the Titans Team Needs and Impending Free Agents.

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    Jan. 10 Updates

    Bears re-sign G Matt Slauson (4 years, $12.8M; $4.9M guaranteed): A Grade
    Matt Slauson played well at left guard for the Bears this past season and was instrumental in keeping both of Chicago's quarterbacks upright. Slauson surrendered just two sacks and opened plenty of running lanes for Matt Forte. He'll only be 28 in February, so this is a great contract, considering Chicago will pay him only $4.9 million in guaranteed money. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.


    Jan. 9 Updates

    Redskins hire HC Jay Gruden: B Grade
    I've always said that it's tough to grade head-coaching hires because it's difficult to gauge what sort of leader a person will be until they're put into a situation to lead. Gruden, the younger brother of Jon, was a head coach in the Arena League, but the NFL is obviously a completely different animal.

    I have no issues with this hire. Gruden has a very good offensive mind. He got the most out of the incredibly mediocre Andy Dalton (during regular-season games, at least), so maybe he'll do more for Robert Griffin. The issue with Griffin, of course, is his prima donna attitude, so it remains to be seen whether Gruden can control him.

    I'll have many more grades throughout the offseason. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.


    Jan. 8 Updates

    Raiders retain HC Dennis Allen: C Grade
    One trait that quality head coaches possess is an ability to make good half-time adjustments. Dennis Allen could not do that. The Raiders would've been 7-7-2 this season had their halftime scores stood as the final result, so keep that in mind when I tell you how much they were outscored by in second halves this year: 214-135!

    Allen hasn't shown any signs that he can be a head coach in the NFL. His team didn't try hard in some games this year (Week 9 vs. Eagles, Week 14 vs. Jets, Week 17 vs. Broncos come to mind). Allen is also extremely fortunate that he had offensive coordinator Greg Olson to coach up Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin; otherwise, Oakland's 2013 season could've been a complete disaster.

    I'm not giving the Raiders a terrible grade for not making a move, however, because it's not exactly Allen's fault that he's had crap quarterbacks to work with. Outside of Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh, who could possibly win with Pryor and McGloin?

    I'll have many more grades throughout the offseason. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.


    Jan. 7 Updates

    Dolphins fire GM Jeff Ireland: A+ Grade
    Is there a single Miami fan out there who is displeased by this firing? Jeff Ireland has been one of the worst general managers over the years, so every person who cheers for the Dolphins has to be celebrating Ireland's dismissal.

    Here are some players Ireland has spent lots of money on: Gibril Wilson, Jake Grove, Richard Marshall, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, Ernest Wilford, Justin Smiley, Reggie Torbor and Charlie Anderson. This doesn't even include Mike Wallace, whom Ryan Tannehill struggled to gel with for most of the year. And then there were Ireland's legendary draft picks. He chose the following players in the first four rounds: Pat White, Jonathan Martin, Chad Henne, Phillip Merling, Michael Egnew, Daniel Thomas, Clyde Gates, A.J. Eddis, Patrick Turner and Shawn Murphy. He traded up for Dion Jordan this past spring, and Jordan has yet to do anything. The same goes for second-day corners Jamar Taylor and Will Davis.

    But Ireland didn't just make poor transactions. He also acted like a scumbag, calling Dez Bryant's mother a whore and shouting expletives at fans. He also oversaw the entire Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin debacle, yet he didn't do anything about it. I think I speak for all Miami backers when I say good riddance.

    I'll have many more grades throughout the offseason. 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.


    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.

    Charlie Campbell, who covered the Buccaneers for Pewter Report, wrote about what the Buccaneers should do after firing Schiano and Dominik.

    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.

    Charlie Campbell, who covered the Buccaneers for Pewter Report, wrote about what the Buccaneers should do after firing Schiano and Dominik.

    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.



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