Dallas Cowboys: D Acquired: DE Damontre Moore, DT Stephen Paea, CB Nolan Carroll. Lost: OT Doug Free, G Ronald Leary, DT Terrell McClain, ILB Rolando McClain, CB Morris Claiborne, S Barry Church, S J.J. Wilcox.
The Cowboys enjoyed a terrific offseason last spring, but things aren't nearly going as well. They've lost some key pieces of their offensive line (the team's strength) and the secondary (one of the team's weaknesses.) Three starting defensive backs and two starting offensive linemen are all gone, and they haven't been replaced unless you count Nolan Carroll. And I would not.
Making matters worse, Dallas, despite limited cap space, signed Terrance Williams to a ridiculous contract. They retained the awful No. 2 receiver for four years, $17 million, when he's not even worth a third of that money. The Cowboys had to find a new second wideout; not shove more money in a terrible player's face. This is just part of the downward spiral for the Cowboys, who could find it difficult to repeat as NFC East champs in 2017.
New York Giants: C+ Acquired: QB Geno Smith, RB Shaun Draughn, WR Brandon Marshall, TE Rhett Ellison, G D.J. Fluker. Lost: RB Rashad Jennings, RB Bobby Rainey, WR Victor Cruz, OT Marshall Newhouse, DT Johnathan Hankins, CB/S Leon Hall, CB Trevin Wade.
The Giants made some noise right before the beginning of free agency when they signed Brandon Marshall, who was released by the Jets. This drew acclaim from the talking heads, but it's very fair to be skeptical. Marshall has been a problem in the locker room for previous teams, which is why he has never stuck around in one place for a long time. Odell Beckham Jr. is a crazy person, so pairing him with Marshall seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
Signing Marshall to join the other big-name free agents the Giants brought in last year shows that New York is going all in to win now. There's just one problem with that philosophy, and that would happen to be Eli Manning. The long-time Giants quarterback has lost a big step and no longer seems capable of leading the team deep into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the offensive line remains a big concern. I do like that New York was able to retain some key players - Jason Pierre-Paul, John Jerry - but all of this seems for naught.
Philadelphia Eagles: A- Acquired: QB Nick Foles, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR Torrey Smith, G Chance Warmack, DE Chris Long, DT Timmy Jernigan, CB Patrick Robinson. Lost: QB Chase Daniel, RB Kenjon Barner, NT Bennie Logan, DE/OLB Connor Barwin, CB Leodis McKelvin, CB Nolan Carroll.
The Eagles seem to have improved themselves more in free agency than every other team in the NFC East, though that's not saying much. Philadelphia desperately needed legitimate receivers for Carson Wentz, and the front office managed to sign a pair of talented wideouts. Sure, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith come with baggage, but they both possess a high level of upside. At the very least, one will pan out, giving Wentz the potent downfield threat he lacked during his rookie campaign.
Philadelphia didn't do much at the other areas of need, but those positions (cornerback, running back) are very deep in the 2017 NFL Draft. The team lost two former key starters, but the departures of Bennie Logan and Connor Barwin won't be felt because they were poor fits for the Eagles' reestablished 4-3 defense.
Update: I like Philadelphia's new acquisitions of Chris Long and Patrick Robinson, so I'll upgrade this grade from a "B" to a B+.
Update: I'm bumping the grade up to an A-. I love the Timmy Jernigan trade, as the Eagles didn't give up much for a player who will likely end up being a solid starter for them.
Washington Redskins: C Acquired: WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Brian Quick, DT Terrell McClain, DT Stacy McGee, OLB Chris Carter, ILB Zach Brown, S D.J. Swearinger. Lost: WR Pierre Garcon, WR DeSean Jackson, C Kory Lichtensteiger, C John Sullivan, DT Chris Baker, DT Ricky Jean-Francois.
The Redskins entered the offseason needing to do something about the Kirk Cousins situation. They had to decide whether to pay him or trade him, yet they've done neither. There's still time for a deal to get done, but the clock is ticking on it, as it doesn't seem like Washington intends to keep him beyond 2017. Making matters worse, the Scot McCloughan ordeal was an embarrassing stain on the franchise. McCloughan deserved to get fired for what he was doing, but the Redskins handled the situation incredibly poorly.
McCloughan's absence may have resulted in some of the dubious moves the Redskins have been guilty of this offseason. They allowed three key free agents - Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Chris Baker - to leave via the market, and only one spot was properly replaced when Terrelle Pryor was signed. The Pryor acquisition was a great one, and it's the only thing keeping the Redskins out of "D" or worse territory. Washington made some ridiculous deals to bring in the tandem of Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee for a combined $46 million. Both McClain and McGee are replacement-level players, so those acquisitions made no sense, especially when considering that Baker could've been retained for a third of that amount (he signed a 3-year, $15 million deal with Tampa.) I just don't understand what the Redskins are doing at all.
Update: Zach Brown was signed, which was a good move, assuming he didn't cost too much money. The Redskins still have endured an underwhelming offseason, but Brown makes it a bit better.
2017 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC East
Buffalo Bills: C+ Acquired: FB Patrick DiMarco, FB Mike Tolbert, WR Andre Holmes, WR Philly Brown, G Vlad Ducasse, S Micah Hyde, S Jordan Poyer, K Steven Hauschka. Lost: RB Mike Gillislee, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Justin Hunter, WR Marcus Easley, ILB Zach Brown, CB Stephon Gilmore, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, S Corey Graham, S Phillip Thomas, K Dan Carpenter.
The common belief was that the Bills and Tyrod Taylor were going to part ways this offseason, based on what happened in Week 17. In fact, it was reported that the Bills would undergo a "Suck for Sam Darnold" campaign, signing Nick Foles to bottom out in order to select the USC quarterback, who is atop our 2018 NFL Mock Draft. However, the Bills and Taylor kissed and made up, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, Taylor is a fine quarterback who is capable of leading the Bills into the playoffs for the first time since 1999. On the other hand, Darnold is a franchise-changer, and Buffalo would likely be a Super Bowl contender for 12-15 years with him at the helm.
Elsewhere, the Bills did well to retain two important players in Lorenzo Alexander and Ryan Groy, though I wonder how the former will fit into the new defense. Signing Micah Hyde to fix the safety woes was nice as well. However, the Bills did let Stephon Gilmore get away. Gilmore was coming off his worst year, but Buffalo fans have to feel sick watching Gilmore go to the Patriots. Gilmore will undoubtedly have a resurgence in New England, which will haunt the Bills for years. Zach Brown's potential departure will hurt as well, but he's still a free agent. Re-signing him would bring this grade up from a C+ to a B-.
Miami Dolphins: C- Acquired: TE Julius Thomas, TE Anthony Fasano, C Ted Larsen, DE William Hayes, ILB Lawrence Timmons, S T.J. McDonald, S Nate Allen. Lost: TE Jordan Cameron, TE Dion Sims, OT Branden Albert, DE Mario Williams, NT Earl Mitchell, OLB Jelani Jenkins, S Isa Abdul-Quddus.
The number three was the theme for the Dolphins' offseason, as they were involved in three trades; acquired three new key players; and agreed to three awful contracts.
The three trades were fine. Miami acquired Julius Thomas, a lazy tight end who gave up on his career when he took the money and ran to Jacksonville, but he was acquired for minimal compensation. Obtaining William Hayes from the Rams for a swapping of third-day selections was an even better move. Dealing Branden Albert was questionable, considering the shortage of talent on the offensive line this offseason, but considering how injury-prone Albert was, it might have been for the best.
The three new key players are Thomas, Hayes and Lawrence Timmons, with the latter being one of the three recipients of the aforementioned awful contracts. Timmons (2 years, $12M; $11M guaranteed), Kenny Stills (4 years, $32M; $20M guaranteed) and Andre Branch (3 years, $27 million) were all signed/retained to absurd deals, which will surely cripple the team's cap situation in the future. I automatically can't go above a "C" because of those contracts, and the failure to properly replace Albert and Isa Abdul-Quddus drags this grade down even further.
Update: I'm bumping up Miami's grade from a "D" to a C- in the wake of the T.J. McDonald signing. McDonald will be suspended for eight games, but he's a tremendous player and will be very impactful if the Dolphins are in position to make a playoff push. However, that may not be the case, rendering this signing irrelevant because it's only for one year.
New England Patriots: B+ Acquired: RB Mike Gillislee, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Brandin Cooks, TE Dwayne Allen, DE Kony Ealy, DT Lawrence Guy, CB Stephon Gilmore. Lost: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Michael Floyd, TE Martellus Bennett, OT Sebastian Vollmer, G Tre Jackson, DE Jabaal Shead, DE Chris Long, DE Rob Ninkovich, OLB Barkevious Mingo, CB Malcolm Butler*, CB Logan Ryan.
I put a star next to Malcolm Butler's name because it's assumed that he will be joining the Saints in some fashion. New England is fine with letting Butler go because it signed Stephon Gilmore. The former Buffalo corner was obviously regarded as a much better prospect entering the NFL, considering he was a first-round pick compared to Butler, who was a UDFA. However, Butler outperformed Gilmore last year. Granted, Gilmore had his worst season and is likely to rebound, but the exchange is a confusing one.
That aside, the Patriots are enjoying a terrific offseason. In addition to the Gilmore signing, New England's free agency is centered around three savvy trades it made, acquiring Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen for reasonable compensation. All three players are fairly young - especially the former two - and will help Tom Brady in his quest for his sixth ring.
The actual signings were a mixed bag - the Rex Burkhead contract seems great, while Lawrence Guy was a slight overpay - but overall, the Patriots have improved their roster and appear to be one of the favorites to win Super Bowl LII.
New York Jets: C Acquired: QB Josh McCown, WR Quinton Patton, OT Kelvin Beachum, DT Mike Pennel, CB Morris Claiborne, K Chandler Catanzaro. Lost: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB Geno Smith, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Brandon Marshall, OT Ryan Clady, OT Breno Giacomini, C Nick Mangold, CB Darrelle Revis, K Nick Folk.
It's easy to criticize the Jets for what they've done this offseason because they're going to be so much worse in 2017 than they were this past year. They let some key players leave, including Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall. However, the team is rebuilding for the future and appears set to "Suck for Sam," which is probably a strategy the Bills should be utilizing. I'm a big fan of that, but hopefully it doesn't cost Todd Bowles his job because he seems like a good coach.
That said, I don't understand some of the Jets' moves. If they want to tank for Sam Darnold, that's perfectly fine. Why, then, would they pay Josh McCown, an utterly awful quarterback, $6 million? Why would the Jets sign Morris Claiborne to a 1-year "prove it" deal for $5 million? I like the Claiborne signing in a vacuum, but he's not going to help them win this year, and even if he does, that hurts the overall plan. This is money the Jets could've rolled over into 2018, and with Darnold on the roster, they could've gone all out to improve their roster then. Instead, they squandered resources and hurt their already-fragile cap situation, so they have to be downgraded for that.
2017 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: NFC North
Chicago Bears: MILLEN KIELBASA-CARE ACT Acquired: QB Mike Glennon, QB Mark Sanchez, WR Kendall Wright, WR Markus Wheaton, TE Dion Sims, NT John Jenkins, CB Prince Amukamara, CB Marcus Cooper, S Quintin Demps. Lost: QB Jay Cutler, QB Brian Hoyer, QB Matt Barkley, WR Alshon Jeffery, C Ted Larsen, DE/DT Cornelius Washington, ILB Christian Jones.
The Jay Cutler era is finally over. I imagine that for Bears fans, it must feel like they got out of a long, horrible relationship. So, they're single now, but they've realized that the dating pool kind of sucks, so they settled for a new relationship that will probably be worse than the original. And thus, we had the Mike Glennon signing.
Giving Glennon $15 million per year was an atrocity. The Bears would've been better off retaining Brian Hoyer at a cheaper rate. And the thing is, as awful as the Glennon contract was, it probably wasn't even in the top three of horrible deals Chicago made this offseason! The Bears overpaid wildly for Marcus Cooper, Dion Sims and Markus Wheaton. All three players suck, yet Chicago gave them a combined $40 million. Unreal.
This was very close to an overall Millen grade, but the Bears' acquisition of Prince Amukamara to a very cheap deal prevented that from happening. Still, the fact remains that this is a truly horrible offseason for the Bears.
Update: The Bears signed Mark Sanchez, so I'm dropping this from a D- to a Millen.
Detroit Lions: B+ Acquired: TE Darren Fells, OT Ricky Wagner, G T.J. Lang, DE Armonty Bryant, DT Akeem Spence, ILB Nick Bellore, ILB Paul Worrilow, CB D.J. Hayden. Lost: WR Anquan Boldin, OT Riley Reiff, G Larry Warford, DE Devin Taylor, DT Stefan Charles, OLB DeAndre Levy, OLB Josh Bynes, S Rafael Bush.
All offseason, we've heard how horrible the free agent market is for offensive linemen. Yet, despite losing Larry Warford to the Saints, the Lions managed to upgrade their blocking unit. In fact, Detroit just might have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL right now, and the team could own the best blocking group in the entire league if Laken Tomlinson finally lives up to his first-round billing.
Offensive line play is more important than ever in the NFL because teams don't practice nearly as much as they used to because of the new CBA. The Lions will be able to protect Matthew Stafford, thanks to two crucial acquisitions in Ricky Wagner and T.J. Lang. Neither was an overpay.
I love what the Lions have done this offseason, and their only two blemishes are overpaying for Akeem Spence and failing to upgrade DeAndre Levy, but Detroit can take care of the latter in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Green Bay Packers: C Acquired: TE Martellus Bennett, TE Lance Kendricks, G Jahri Evans, DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois, CB Davon House. Lost: RB Eddie Lacy, RB James Starks, TE Jared Cook, G T.J. Lang, C J.C. Tretter, DE Julius Peppers, DE Datone Jones, DT Mike Pennel, CB Sam Shields, S Micah Hyde.
The Packers are usually inactive in free agency, but they signed Martellus Bennett, a big-name tight end who will undoubtedly thrive with Aaron Rodgers. Jared Cook was an impending free agent, but Bennett offers an upgrade because he's much more consistent. Elsewhere, the Packers added a run-stuffer in Ricky Jean-Francois and brought back Davon House, who just ended a failed stint in Jacksonville.
These were all nice moves, but they weren't enough to offset the losses the Packers incurred. Aside from Rodgers, the reason the Packers have been so great every year has been their outstanding offensive line play. That may not be the case with T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter gone. Green Bay has Corey Linsley to start at center, but now there won't be a viable backup in the event of an injury. Lang's departure will hurt even more.
Meanwhile, the defense took a hit with the departures of Julius Peppers, Datone Jones and Micah Hyde. The Packers will have to nail their draft picks, or their defense will somehow be even worse in 2017 than it was last year.
Minnesota Vikings: C- Acquired: QB Case Keenum, RB Latavius Murray, OT Riley Reiff, OT Mike Remmers, DE Datone Jones. Lost: RB Adrian Peterson, RB Matt Asiata, FB Zach Line, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Rhett Ellison, OT Matt Kalil, G Brandon Fusco, G Mike Harris, C Joe Berger, OLB Chad Greenway, ILB Audie Cole, CB Captain Munnerlyn, P Jeff Locke.
Minnesota's primary goal entering the offseason was to repair its horrendous offensive line, which was the catalyst from the team's collapse from a 5-0 start. The Vikings didn't do a very good job of doing this, but they can't blame their struggles on a lack of available talent because the Lions did a fantastic job of upgrading their blocking.
The Vikings signed two offensive linemen to big contracts: Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, obtaining both for a combined $89 million over five years each. Neither was a quality signing, however. Reiff is a fine right tackle, but he'll be asked to man the blind side in the wake of Matt Kalil's departure. Reiff struggled at left tackle with Detroit and will surely have similar issues. Remmers, meanwhile, is best served as a top reserve swing tackle; not a starting blocker on the right side. Cam Newton took plenty of sacks because of Remmers' poor blocking, and Sam Bradford is obviously far less mobile than Newton.
In addition to these overpays, the Vikings were damaged by the departures of Adrian Peterson, Joe Berger and Captain Munnerlyn. They didn't do anything to replace these players, aside from signing Latavius Murray, who struggled to run well behind on of the top offensive lines in the NFL last season.
2017 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC North
Baltimore Ravens: C- Acquired: RB Danny Woodhead, CB Brandon Carr, S Tony Jefferson. Lost: FB Kyle Juszczyk, WR Kamar Aiken, OT Ricky Wagner, G Vlad Ducasse, C Jeremy Zuttah, DE/DT Timmy Jernigan, DE/DT Lawrence Guy, DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil, ILB Zach Orr, CB Shareece Wright, CB Jerraud Powers, S Lardarius Webb, S Kendrick Lewis, S Matt Elam.
The Ravens signed two big-name players in free agency, obtaining Tony Jefferson and Danny Woodhead at reasonable prices. Jefferson was one of the top free agents available. He's a stud safety who is only 25, so he'll likely be a Pro Bowler in the Ravens' secondary for years to come. Woodhead will be a nice weapon out of the backfield for Joe Flacco to utilize, especially when Kenneth Dixon is serving his suspension.
However, it wasn't all positive for Baltimore this offseason. The team lost two quality offensive linemen in Ricky Wagner and Jeremy Zuttah, neither of whom was replaced. I have the Ravens selecting Cam Robinson in the first round of my 2017 NFL Mock Draft, thanks in part to Charlie Campbell's report that Baltimore loves Robinson. That said, there's no guarantee Robinson will be as good as Wagner. Meanwhile, some key front-seven players like Lawrence Guy, Elvis Dumervil and Zach Orr weren't replaced either. Despite the Jefferson acquisition, it could be possible that Baltimore's defense is slightly worse in 2017.
Update: The Ravens lost another talented player in Timmy Jernigan. They're being downgraded to a C-.
Cincinnati Bengals: D Acquired: OT Andre Smith, ILB Kevin Minter, CB Bene Benwikere. Lost: RB Rex Burkhead, OT Andrew Whitworth, G Kevin Zeitler, DE Margus Hunt, DE Domata Peko, OLB Karlos Dansby, ILB Rey Maualuga.
The Bengals have reached the playoffs in all but one year of Andy Dalton's tenure in Cincinnati, but don't think the red-headed quarterback was the primary reason for this. Rather, Dalton's blocking deserves recognition. The Bengals have maintained one of the top offensive lines in the NFL over the past several seasons, but that's no longer the case.
Both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler are gone. They've been among the top offensive tackles and guards, respectively, and their departures are going to be enormous for Cincinnati's 2017 prospects. Dalton, who was already considered limited, is going to be exposed, and the Bengals' playoff aspirations have all but disappeared.
This is a disastrous offseason for the Bengals. They would be under Millen consideration - Brandon LaFell's atrocious contract is also a factor - but the Kevin Minter signing was a very nice one. That upgrades this to a "D."
Cleveland Browns: B+ Acquired: QB Brock Osweiler, WR Kenny Britt, G Kevin Zeitler, C J.C. Tretter. Lost: QB Robert Griffin, QB Josh McCown, WR Terrelle Pryor, WR Josh Gordon, WR Andrew Hawkins, OT Austin Pasztor, CB Tramon Williams.
I've been harping about the importance of the offensive line, so I'd be remiss if I didn't open this discussion by pointing out what Cleveland managed to do this offseason. The Browns retained elite guard Joel Bitonio, and then signed Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter. The latter is a solid center, but the jewel of the offseason was Zeitler, who is arguably the best guard in the NFL. Cleveland's offensive line play was poor this past season when Bitonio got injured, but it will be so much better in 2017.
With that in mind, I love what the Browns have done this offseason. In addition to acquiring two talented blockers, they also obtained a second-round pick in the stacked 2018 NFL Draft, solely for taking on Brock Osweiler's contract. Cleveland was able to do this because of the enormous amount of cap space it possessed. With tons of selections in the next two drafts, and a very talented offensive line already in place, the Browns have a good chance of becoming competitive again in the near future.
I want to give the Browns an A+, but I can't. Not with the Kenny Britt signing. Britt, a lazy, injury-prone receiver, was signed to a 4-year, $32.5 million contract, which was bizarre, to say the least, because $3.25 million over four years actually would've made more sense. I have no choice but to deduct the Browns a full letter grade for this move.
The Steelers typically aren't big players in free agency, and that proved to be the case again this year. The two "prominent" pieces they signed this offseason - if you want to call them that - are Tyson Alualu and Coty Sensabaugh. The two were signed for a combined $8.6 million, so they could both be irrelevant next year.
Pittsburgh didn't really lose anyone of note - Lawrence Timmons might be an exception, but he was in severe decline - so this has to be considered a positive offseason overall. In fact, the Steelers did make a couple of positive moves, re-signing Antonio Brown and James Harrison. They did give Landry Jones an absurd contract for some reason, but that's really the only blemish.
2017 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: NFC South
Atlanta Falcons: C+ Acquired: FB Derrick Coleman, WR Andre Roberts, G Hugh Thornton, DE Jack Crawford, NT Dontari Poe. Lost: FB Patrick DiMarco, WR Aldrick Robinson, WR Eric Weems, TE Jacob Tamme, G Chris Chester, DE Dwight Freeney, DE Tyson Jackson, DT Jonathan Babineaux, OLB Sean Weatherspoon, ILB Paul Worrilow.
The Falcons are typically active in free agency. They didn't make any huge splashes, however, aside from signing Dontari Poe, and even that wasn't to a big contract. Poe was given $8 million for 2017 alone.
Atlanta didn't really lose anyone of note this offseason, aside from fullback Patrick DiMarco, who can easily be replaced. So, was it a positive free agency for the Falcons? Not really. I didn't like some of the contracts they gave to pedestrian players, like Levine Toilolo (3 years, $12 million) and Jack Crawford (3 years, $10.3 million). Both of these guys are replacement-level talents who should've been given something close to the minimum. It's almost as if the Falcons were so used to spending big in free agency that they couldn't resist funneling lots of money to some players.
Still, it wasn't a bad free agency for the Falcons, so I won't grade them very harshly for the two poor contracts. I liked the Poe move, but I just wish Atlanta didn't give substantial money to a pair of scrubs.
Carolina Panthers: C+ Acquired: WR Charles Johnson, WR Russell Shepard, OT Matt Kalil, DE Julius Peppers, CB Captain Munnerlyn, S Mike Adams. Lost: RB Mike Tolbert, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR/KR Ted Ginn, WR Philly Brown, OT Mike Remmers, DE Kony Ealy, NT Paul Soliai, ILB A.J. Klein.
The Panthers welcomed back two former players this offseason, signing Julius Peppers and Captain Munnerlyn. It's clear that Peppers is no longer the player he once was, but he was still an effective pass-rusher for the Packers in 2016. He was brought in on a cheap deal (1 year, $3.5 million). Munnerlyn can still perform on a high level. He was signed to a reasonable contract. Additionally, I liked the move to bring in Mike Adams. Like Peppers, Adams is in his late 30s, but he's coming off a great year.
Now that Carolina fans have enjoyed their member berries, let's talk about two poor moves the Panthers made this offseason. They dealt Kony Ealy to the Patriots for a mere swap of second-day selections. Granted, Ealy disappointed last year, but he was still very young, and Carolina shouldn't have given up on him. Also, Matt Kalil was obtained on an absurd contract. I have no idea what sort of demon possessed general manager Dave Gettleman when he signed a pedestrian, injury-prone tackle to a 5-year, $55 million deal, but I imagine that this evil abomination had a kielbasa in his hand.
As you can see, it's been a mixed bag for the Panthers this offseason, so they deserve to be somewhere in the "C" range. I'm actually going to upgrade them to a C+ because they should be better than they were in 2016, assuming that there are no setbacks with Cam Newton's shoulder surgery.
New Orleans Saints: B- Acquired: WR/KR Ted Ginn, G Larry Warford, DE Alex Okafor, ILB Manti Te'o, ILB A.J. Klein, CB Malcolm Butler*. Lost: QB Luke McCown, RB Tim Hightower, WR Brandin Cooks, G Jahri Evans, G Tim Lelito, DE/OLB Paul Kruger, CB B.W. Webb, CB Kyle Wilson, S Jairus Byrd, S Roman Harper, S Jamarca Sanford.
As with the Patriots grade, I'm going to assume that Malcolm Butler will be joining the Saints in some fashion. This is obviously a huge deal for New Orleans, a team that has sported a horrible defense for the past several seasons. Butler is a legitimate shutdown cornerback, and he'll improve the Saints' stop unit exponentially. This is very important, as New Orleans hasn't really done anything else to upgrade the defense. Manti Te'o was signed, but he's hardly an impact player. In fact, he was overpaid. More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, the Saints' offense will be different in 2017. Brandin Cooks was dealt for the No. 32 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, which is fair compensation. New Orleans had two other talented receivers, so it had the luxury of trading Cooks, who didn't want to be on the team anymore. Meanwhile, the Saints signed Larry Warford, who will provide a much-needed boost in the interior of the offensive line. Drew Brees hates pressure up the middle more than anything else, so Warford's presence will help prevent that.
The Saints have had a positive offseason overall, but I can't grade them too highly because of some of their contracts. They overpaid for Te'o, A.J. Klein and Nick Fairley, plus it's unknown how much they'll have to surrender for Butler. I'm going to mark this down as a B- for now, but that could change in the near future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B+ Acquired: WR DeSean Jackson, DT Chris Baker, S J.J. Wilcox, K Nick Folk. Lost: QB Mike Glennon, WR Vincent Jackson, OT Gosder Cherilus, DE Jacquies Smith, DT Akeem Spence, OLB Daryl Smith, CB Alterraun Verner, S Bradley McDougald.
The big name the Buccaneers acquired this offseason was DeSean Jackson, but there were actually two other players who were better additions. Defensive tackle Chris Baker and safety J.J. Wilcox were great signings - especially the former. Baker has played on a very high level for the Redskins over the years, and he'll provide the Buccaneers with a talented, interior complement for Gerald McCoy that they've been missing for a very long time. Wilcox, meanwhile, thrived for the Cowboys last season and should serve as an upgrade for a poor safety group.
As for Jackson, the speedy receiver has always been overrated. However, he'll definitely draw at least some attention away from Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, so his presence will improve the offense. I think the Buccaneers overpaid him a bit, as well as William Gholston in a re-signing, but they're having a positive offseason overall.
2017 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC South
Houston Texans: D- Acquired: None. Lost: QB Brock Osweiler, RB Jonathan Grimes, G Oday Aboushi, G Tony Bergstrom, DE/DT Antonio Smith, NT Vince Wilfork, DE/OLB John Simon, CB A.J. Bouye, S Quintin Demps.
The Texans haven't obtained a single player in free agency thus far. They've also lost some key players, particularly A.J. Bouye, Quintin Demps and John Simon. Bouye's loss will be huge if Houston doesn't find a proper replacement in the 2017 NFL Draft. Fortunately for the Texans, the 2017 NFL Draft Cornerback Prospects are very talented.
This makes it seem that the Texans are having a disastrous offseason thus far, but that could all change if they sign Tony Romo. Houston dealt Osweiler to clear out cap space for Romo, but the team can't obtain him until Jerry Jones stops living in a fantasy land where he can trade Romo. Jones is actually acting quite terrible toward his long-time quarterback, as it'll be more difficult for Romo to get acclimated to his new team the later he joins them. Jones needs to stop acting like a petulant child and just release Romo. He owes him that much.
At any rate, I'm giving the Texans an incomplete grade. I'll revisit this grade once all of the Romo drama is over.
Update: Tony Romo has announced his retirement. He was favored to go to Houston, so this is a crushing blow to the Texans' 2017 campaign. Given that Houston lost multiple key free agents and didn't get anyone back, the team deserves a poor grade.
Indianapolis Colts: B- Acquired: WR Kamar Aiken, TE Brandon Williams, C Brian Schwenke, DE/DT Margus Hunt, NT Johnathan Hankins, NT Al Woods, DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB John Simon, ILB Sean Spence, ILB Jon Bostic, P Jeff Locke. Lost: RB Robert Turbin, TE Dwayne Allen, G Joe Reitz, G Hugh Thornton, DE/DT Arthur Jones, NT Zach Kerr, DE/OLB Trent Cole, DE/OLB Erik Walden, ILB D'Qwell Jackson, CB Patrick Robinson, CB Darryl Morris, S Mike Adams, P Pat McAfee.
Inept general manager Ryan Grigson might be gone, but that doesn't mean that the Colts are finished handing out absurd contracts to players in free agency. The most egregious contract was given to Jabaal Sheard, who was signed to a $25.5 million deal over three years. That's an insanely high amount considering that Sheard was benched in New England this past season. Was new general manager Chris Ballard not paying attention to this? Meanwhile, Jack Doyle was given $19 million over three seasons even though he's a pedestrian talent whose stats were enhanced last year because of Andrew Luck.
That said, it wasn't an entirely negative offseason for the Colts. They made some solid signings, bringing in a pair of talented linebackers in Sean Spence and John Simon. Both will provide upgrades for a defense that was horrific last year. Sheard will do that as well, though the fact remains that he's still highly overpaid.
Though the Colts lost Mike Adams, they should be better than they were in 2016. They made a couple of poor signings, but overall, the positives slightly outweigh the negatives. For once, since the firing of Bill Polian, Indianapolis did not endure an abomination of a free agency period.
Update: The Johnathan Hankins signing upgrades this from a C+ to a B-, as he fills a big need.
Jacksonville Jaguars: D+ Acquired: TE Mychal Rivera, OT Branden Albert, G Earl Watford, DE/DT Calais Campbell, DT Stefan Charles, OLB Lerentee McCray, ILB Audie Cole, ILB Josh McNary, CB A.J. Bouye, S Barry Church. Lost: RB Denard Robinson, WR Bryan Walters, TE Julius Thomas, OT Kelvin Beachum, G Luke Joeckel, DE/DT Jared Odrick, DE/DT Tyson Alualu, DT Roy Miller, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, OLB Dan Skuta, CB Prince Amukamara, CB Davon House, S John Cyprien.
Every year, the Jaguars make a big splash in free agency. Every year, I grade the Jaguars poorly for these moves. And every year, the Jacksonville fans bash me for it, claiming that I hate their team for some unknown reason. It's like clockwork.
Jacksonville went overboard this spring, bringing in huge names like Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church. They spent nearly $150 million on these three players alone. All of them are very talented, but are they worth the money?
Campbell, Bouye and Church don't want to be Jaguars. As with previous big-name free agents the Jaguars signed in the past, Campbell, Bouye and Church have all left playoff-caliber teams and signed with one of the worst franchises in the NFL. They've effectively taken the money and retired to Florida. If they cared about their NFL careers, they would've taken slightly less money and remained with their superior franchises in an attempt to stay relevant and win a Super Bowl. That's exactly why at least two of these three players will be flops. Perhaps all three will bust.
The Jaguars haven't remedied their two big problems: quarterback and the offensive line. Blake Bortles is someone else who doesn't care about his professional career, while the blocking unit remains in shambles. Branden Albert was acquired via trade, but he can't stay healthy.
Jacksonville did have a bright moment in free agency when it re-signed Patrick Omameh to a very cheap deal, but that's about it. Many will say the Jaguars won the offseason because they signed a bunch of well-known players, but as we've seen in the past, teams that are proclaimed as the kings of free agency seldom fare well in the ensuing season.
Tennessee Titans: A- Acquired: WR/KR Eric Weems, G Tim Lelito, NT Sylvester Williams, LB Darren Bates, CB Logan Ryan, S John Cyprien, S Brynden Trawick. Lost: WR Kendall Wright, OT Byron Bell, TE Anthony Fasano, G Chance Warmack, C Brian Schwenke, NT Al Woods, ILB Sean Spence, CB Jason McCourty, CB Brice McCain, CB Antwon Blake, S Rashad Johnson, S Daimion Stafford.
The Titans entered this offseason desperately needing to upgrade their secondary. They managed to do so, signing a pair of talented defensive backs in Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The combined price for these players? Just $55 million. And I say "just" because another AFC South team spent $150 million on a trio of new players. Compared to that, Tennessee got quite the bargain.
We'll see what happens during the draft, but Tennessee is enjoying a terrific offseason, as the team seems poised to make a deep playoff run. The Titans have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and now their secondary is mostly shored up. They didn't lose anyone substantial in free agency either, save for Sean Spence, who can be replaced in the 2017 NFL Draft.
I'm giving the Titans an A-. They've done a great job overall. Two bad contracts to Sylvester Williams and Matt Cassel are preventing this from being an "A," but neither deal was overly egregious.
2017 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: NFC West
Arizona Cardinals: D Acquired: DE/OLB Jarvis Jones, LB Karlos Dansby, S Antoine Bethea, K Phil Dawson. Lost: RB Chris Johnson, WR Jaron Brown, TE Darren Fells, G Evan Mathis, G Earl Watford, DE/DT Calais Campbell, DE/OLB Alex Okafor, ILB Kevin Minter, CB Marcus Cooper, S Tony Jefferson, S D.J. Swearinger, K Chandler Catanzaro.
The Cardinals have endured a pretty rough offseason as far as losing starters is concerned. Five starters are gone, with four coming from the defense: Calais Campbell, Kevin Minter, Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger. I could also include Marcus Cooper, but he's terrible.
Arizona hasn't done anything to replace these players. Jarvis Jones is a nice flier at his price, but he likely won't make an impact. Meanwhile, Antoine Bethea and Karlos Dansby are both decrepit has-beens. It's unlikely they'll contribute positively either. It's pretty clear that the Cardinals are in regression, as they've lost so many key players from the team that went to the NFC Championship a couple of years ago. They better nail the 2017 NFL Draft to prevent the decline from continuing.
I have no choice but to grade the Cardinals poorly. They've given out just one horrible contract - I have no idea what Jermaine Gresham did to deserve $28 million over four years - but the fact remains that Arizona will likely be worse in 2017 because of all the key departures.
Los Angeles Rams: MILLEN Acquired: RB Lance Dunbar, WR Robert Woods, OT Andrew Whitworth, C John Sullivan, DT Tyrunn Walker, DE/OLB Connor Barwin, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB Kayvon Webster. Lost: QB Case Keenum, RB Benny Cunningham, WR Kenny Britt, WR Brian Quick, TE Lance Kendricks, C Tim Barnes, DE William Hayes, DE Eugene Sims, S T.J. McDonald.
I know some of you are concerned that I haven't handed out a Millen grade yet. Fear not, for the Rams have yet to be analyzed.
I don't understand what the Rams are doing at all. Their previous offseason was a complete disaster, as Jeff Fisher seemingly sabotaged the team by trading the farm for Jared Goff even though Carson Wentz was widely considered the better prospect, including by multiple members of the Rams' staff. The insanity continues despite Fisher no longer being with the franchise. The Rams began by hiring Wade Phillips. The former Bronco and Texan coordinator is a defensive genius, but he has a history of causing division in the locker room by pitting his defensive players against the offensive players if things aren't going well. He's also installing a new 3-4 defense, and it's not clear how the Rams' two top talents, Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, will be able to adjust.
As for actual free agency, the Rams signed Robert Woods to one of the dumbest contracts anyone has ever seen. Woods, on a 5-year deal, is probably worth about $5 million. Maybe $6 million. Yet, the Rams gave him $39 million for some reason. Woods is a horrible receiver, yet he's being paid like a second-tier No. 1 wideout. It's ridiculous.
Furthermore, the Rams overpaid for a horrible corner in Kayvon Webster, and they also dumped a ton of money onto Andrew Withworth's lap. This may have been a good idea a few years ago, but Whitworth is now 35. He knows he won't win in Los Angeles, so it's painfully obvious that he's just taking the money and retiring to California. He might as well break into Stan Kroenke's house and steal a fancy-shmancy chandelier.
The one positive thing the Rams have done this offseason is sign Connor Barwin to a 1-year "prove it" contract, but that's not enough to save them from the dreaded Millen grade.
San Francisco 49ers: C- Acquired: QB Brian Hoyer, QB Matt Barkley, RB Tim Hightower, FB Kyle Juszczyk, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Marquise Goodwin, WR Aldrick Robinson, TE Logan Paulsen, C Jeremy Zuttah, OLB Dekoda Watson, OLB Malcolm Smith, ILB Brock Coyle, S Don Jones, K Robbie Gould. Lost: QB Colin Kaepernick, QB Blaine Gabbert, RB Shaun Draughn, RB DuJuan Harris, WR Torrey Smith, WR Quinton Patton, DT Earl Mitchell, DT Glenn Dorsey, ILB Gerald Hodges, ILB Nick Bellore, ILB Michael Wilhoite, CB Tramaine Brock, CB K'Waun Williams, S Antoine Bethea, K Phil Dawson.
When the 49ers hired John Lynch to be their new general manager, I thought it was an insanely stupid move. I still think it's a stupid move, but not an insanely stupid one, as San Francisco has done some nice things this offseason.
The 49ers have done a great job of courting Kirk Cousins. They haven't pried him away from the Redskins just yet, but it seems like a matter of time before that'll happen. It helps that they obtained Cousins' favorite target, Pierre Garcon, at a cheap price. San Francisco also acquired a solid center in Jeremy Zuttah for basically nothing in a trade with the Ravens.
So, why was hiring Lynch stupid if San Francisco has done some good things? Well, several of the contracts handed out to players made absolutely no sense. Malcolm Smith (5 years, $26.5M; $13M guaranteed), Marquise Goodwin (2 years, $8 million), Jeremy Kerley (3 years, $10.5 million) and Earl Mitchell (4 years, $16 million) all earned "D" grades or worse. The Smith and Mitchell signings were designated as Millens. I have no idea what the 49ers were thinking when they gave Smith that much money. That contract had Raider fans laughing hysterically, as they've seen Smith first-hand over the past couple of seasons.
All in all, I'd say this is a "C"-level offseason for the 49ers thus far. I'll increase this grade if Cousins is obtained.
Update: The 49ers lost Tramaine Brock, as he was released because of his domestic violence arrest. That obviously makes their offseason worse, though Brock's departure isn't devastating by any measure.
Seattle Seahawks: B Acquired: RB Eddie Lacy, G Luke Joeckel, G Oday Aboushi, ILB Michael Wilhoite, ILB Terrance Garvin, ILB Arthur Brown, S Bradley McDougald, K Blair Walsh. Lost: FB Marcel Reece, TE Brandon Williams, OT Bradley Sowell, DE Damontre Williams, DT Tony McDaniel, NT John Jenkins, OLB Michael Morgan, S Steven Terrell, K Steven Hauschka.
The Seahawks entered this offseason desperately needing to fix their offensive line, but with limited cap space, that was going to prove to be quite difficult. The only prominent blocker they signed was Luke Joeckel, who was a bust as the former No. 2 overall pick. However, Joeckel has good talent and could improve under Tom Cable's tutelage. Cable is a much better offensive line coach than Doug Marrone was, as all Marrone did was try to undermine Gus Bradley the entire time. He was successful in that regard, but failed to coach up his linemen.
Outside of that, Seattle made some minor moves that will help the team. The front office re-signed Deshawn Shead to a very cheap deal, and it also obtained a talented third safety in Bradley McDougald for just $2 million in 2017. Eddie Lacy was signed as well, but it remains to be seen if he'll make the team because he has weight clauses in his contract.
The Seahawks didn't lose anyone of consequence this offseason, so even though the free agency period may have been a bit boring from a fan's perspective, Seattle still did a solid job of improving its roster.
2017 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC West
Denver Broncos: D+ Acquired: OT Menelik Watson, G Ronald Leary, DT Zach Kerr, DT Domata Peko. Lost: WR Jordan Norwood, OT Russell Okung, DE/DT Vance Walker, NT Sylvester Williams, DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware, LB Dekoda Watson, CB Kayvon Webster.
Much like the Texans, the Broncos' overall grade can't yet be determined because Jerry Jones is holding Tony Romo hostage. Romo, once he's eventually released, will have to choose between Denver and Houston. Both teams have intriguing offensive weapons and outstanding defenses, so it might come down to Houston being closer to home. However, the Broncos are certainly in the mix.
Aside from the Romo drama, the Broncos have made a couple of dubious moves. They signed Menelik Watson to an absurd, 3-year, $18.3 million contract even though he was atrocious for the Raiders. I get that Denver was desperate for offensive line help, but Watson won't help in the slightest. Newly acquired guard Ronald Leary will, so at least that's something. The other poor decision was signing Domata Peko, who is a shell of his former self.
With Russell Okung, Vance Walker, Sylvester Williams and especially DeMarcus Ware gone, the Broncos won't be as good next year. Of course, that'll completely change if Romo is signed. As a result, I'm giving this an incomplete grade, just as I did with the Texans.
Update: Tony Romo has announced his retirement. The Broncos weren't the favorites to land Romo, but they had a legitimate chance. Now, they'll have to hope Paxton Lynch progresses, or it'll be a long season for the Broncos, who have a worse roster than they did at this time last year.
Kansas City Chiefs: B- Acquired: RB C.J. Spiller, TE Gavin Escobar, NT Bennie Logan. Lost: QB Nick Foles, RB Jamaal Charles, RB Knile Davis, DE/DT Jaye Howard, DE/DT Kendall Reyes, NT Dontari Poe.
The Chiefs haven't really done anything to grade. They signed Bennie Logan and lost Dontari Poe, which is probably a lateral move. They also cut an injured Jamaal Charles and moved on from the pedestrian Nick Foles... and that's it.
I'm not really sure how to grade something like this. Everything for Kansas City is pretty much status quo, as the team hasn't improved or worsened. The Chiefs could've stood to add a piece or two - perhaps a linebacker or an offensive lineman - but it's not the end of the world that they're heading into the 2017 campaign with effectively the same roster. I'm going to give them a B-, which makes the most sense.
Los Angeles Chargers: C+ Acquired: RB Kenjon Barner, OT Russell Okung. Lost: RB Danny Woodhead, WR Stevie Johnson, OT King Dunlap, G D.J. Fluker, ILB Manti Te'o, CB Brandon Flowers.
The Chargers' greatest problem in recent years has been their offensive line. They've had talented blockers, but they've always been injured for some reason. That will apparently continue to be the case because the one blocker they signed is Russell Okung. The former Seahawk and Bronco is very talented, but he's just as injury-prone. I don't blame the Chargers for trying, due to a lack of options, but Philip Rivers will probably have to play some games without his blind-side protector once again.
Making matters slightly worse, the Chargers lost some key components. Danny Woodhead left for the Ravens, while D.J. Fluker signed with the Giants. Brandon Flowers, meanwhile, remains a free agent. However, all three of these players have constantly been banged up, so their departures aren't a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.
Oakland Raiders: B+ Acquired: QB E.J. Manuel, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Jared Cook, OT Marshall Newhouse, NT Dan Williams, OLB Jelani Jenkins. Lost: RB Latavius Murray, WR Andre Holmes, TE Mychal Rivera, OT Menelik Watson, DT Stacy McGee, OLB Malcolm Smith, ILB Perry Riley, CB D.J. Hayden, S Nate Allen, S Brynden Trawick.
The Raiders didn't make very many moves in free agency, but they made them count. They signed Cordarrelle Patters and Jared Cook to very reasonable deals, and they'll help on special teams and offense, respectively. Patterson is a dynamic kick returner, while Cook has great talent that Derek Carr will surely utilize. The best signing Oakland made was bringing in Jelani Jenkins for just $1 million for 2017. Jenkins is coming off a down year, but only because he dealt with a knee injury. He'll help the team's poor linebacking corps.
Oakland lost several players, but only two of consequence. Latavius Murray is gone, but he was an overrated commodity anyway. Perry Riley's departure will hurt more, but Riley is still somehow a free agent, so perhaps the Raiders will be able to re-sign him.
I think the Raiders have done a solid job this offseason. They already had a great roster, and it's going to be even better this upcoming season. If Carr stays healthy, Oakland has a great shot at winning Super Bowl LII.
@Walterspickshavegottenworsethelasr3years If I had 20,000 I'd bet u in a Heartbeat SAM DARNOLD goes in the top 5! Hopefully to my CLEVELAND BROWNS!!!!! He will be the next great NFL QB! and Better than any of the 2017 class!