Patriots sign RB Steven Jackson (1 year): B+ Grade
It's hard not to like this move. The Patriots are depleted at running back because of injuries, and they spent all day Sunday rotating Brandon Bolden and some guy named Joey Iosefa as their ground backs. Bill Belichick clearly doesn't trust Bolden for whatever reason, as he gave Iosefa, a big fullback, more carries.
Jackson, 32, could easily be completely done, but he has at least kept in shape, and it's difficult to imagine him being worse than either Bolden or Iosefa. At the very least, the Patriots added some much-needed experience to their backfield.
Chiefs extend OT/G Jah Reid (3 years, $10.2M; $4M guaranteed): D Grade
I can't say I understand this contract. Jah Reid began starting for the Chiefs when they kicked off their long winning streak, so perhaps Andy Reid correlates his team's success with his namesake's presence. That's the only explanation I can come up with.
Jah Reid is just not a good player. While he run blocks somewhat well, he's atrocious in pass protection. Linemen like him are a dime a dozen, so why pay him north of $10 million with $4 million in guarantees? It's pretty reckless spending on Kansas City's part.
Packers extend DE/DT Mike Daniels (4 years, $42M; $12M bonus): B+ Grade
The Packers seldom sign free agents because they concentrate on keeping their own home-grown talent. That's what they did here, extending their top defensive lineman.
Mike Daniels is now the third-highest-paid five-technique in the NFL. Is he a top-three five-tech? Probably not, as I wouldn't put him ahead of J.J. Watt, Fletcher Cox and Muhammad Wilkerson. However, he's very close, as he's in the next tier, so I think this is an acceptable amount for him. Daniels, just 26, has been a dominant force in the trenches over the past few years, both in terms of stuffing the run and putting heat on opposing quarterbacks. The Packers absolutely had to keep him around, and now he'll be with them throughout his prime.
Browns extend TE Gary Barnidge (3 years, $12.3M; $5.5M guaranteed): A Grade
When I heard that the Browns extended Gary Barnidge, I was worried that they overpaid. Barnidge, after all, will be 31 at the beginning of next season, and he hadn't done anything in his carer up until the 2015 campaign. Will he be able to sustain his high production following this year? That's a legitimate question.
However, the Browns are definitely not overpaying with this deal. Giving Barnidge just $5.5 million in guarantees on a 3-year pact is a great move. If Barnidge continues to thrive, Cleveland will have a tier-two tight end on its roster for a very cheap price. If Barnidge regresses, the Browns won't be screwed financially, as his contract is very manageable.
Raiders extend WR Michael Crabtree (4 years, $35M; $19M guaranteed): B- Grade
This is an example of a 1-year "prove it" deal working out for both sides. The Raiders have gotten Michael Crabtree at his absolute best for a cheap price, and Crabtree was rewarded with a great contract extension. His production this year is definitely worth $19 million guaranteed over a 4-year span, and that amount is obviously a nice reward for a player who wasn't sought after very much when he was a free agent.
I don't think this is a slam dunk, however, as Crabtree has a dubious past. He's been a model citizen in Oakland thus far, but will that continue to be the case now hat he has a major extension? I guess we'll find out.
Rams fire OC Frank Cignetti: C- Grade
I'm not sure if anyone outside of St. Louis even knew who Frank Cignetti was prior to his firing. Hell, I don't know if anyone in St. Louis knew, given their turnout for home games.
I think that we can all agree, however, that Cignetti was not at fault for the Rams' offensive woes. He may not have been the solution, but what was he supposed to do with a "scoring" attack comprised of awful starters like Nick Foles, Kenny Britt, Jared Cook and numerous poor offensive linemen? The only play-makers the Rams have are Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin, and even the latter is limited in what he can do.
I'm giving this a C- because this is bad look for Jeff Fisher. The man known as Commander .500 is throwing people under the bus when he's mostly to blame for extending a horrible quarterback and failing to address the offensive line and receiver position.
Dolphins fire OC Bill Lazor: A Grade
I'm usually against firing coaches during non-bye weeks because it creates too much chaos within the organization and usually means that the team will lose. However, the Dolphins have no playoff aspirations, so a defeat is actually beneficial, since it'll improve their draft positioning.
With that in mind, this is a great move. Bill Lazor was as inept as they come; not only was his play-calling very predictable, but Ryan Tannehill regressed under him. Tannehill had never developed mentally, and as a result, he hasn't been allowed to call audibles. He also has no clue how to read blitzes. Perhaps Tannehill will never learn anything, but it became clear that Lazor wasn't going to be the person to teach him. Lazor needed to go as soon as possible.
Saints fire DC Rob Ryan: A Grade
It's about damn time. Rob Ryan should've been fired last offseason, and I was beginning to think that he had unflattering pictures of one of the Saints higher-ups, given how long he was able to hold on to his job despite being utterly incompetent. Well, I guess we'll find out which employee is into bestiality porn soon enough, because Ryan was finally let go.
This is an easy "A," and the only reason it's not an A+ is because the Saints waited too long. Ryan has lived off the fame of his brother and father throughout his career. He clashed with his co-workers, and his defenses were often as sloppy as his unkempt appearance. He never had any answers and could never provide any adjustments. Ryan's defense was dead last in both yards and points this year after being 31st in terms of the former in 2014. It should be a long time (forever?) until he's hired as a defensive coordinator again.
Lions fire GM Martin Mayhew, president Tom Lewand: A Grade
Martin Mayhew's tenure was very promising to start. He spent the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft on Matthew Stafford and then grabbed Ndamukong Suh with the second selection the following spring. Perhaps a tackle would've been the better option to protect Stafford, but there was no doubt that Suh was going to be a great player.
Unfortunately, the Lions have devolved into a horrible team, thanks to numerous poor draft picks and decisions in free agency. The following is a list of first- and second-round players who have been busts under Mayhew's watch: Brandon Pettigrew, Jahvid Best, Titus Young, Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, and Kyle Van Noy. It's disturbing that the Lions have missed on that many early-round players. The Lions were also fleeced in a trade this offseason, acquiring a lemon in Haloti Ngata from Baltimore.
Mayhew's inability to keep Suh around and protect Stafford appropriately has cost him his job, and rightfully so. Though he was much better than his kielbasa-stuffing predecessor, Mayhew was not doing a good job overall, so it was time for him to move on.
Colts fire OC Pep Hamilton: C Grade
I don't get how these teams don't understand that you shouldn't fire coaches during non-bye weeks. The Colts will have way too much adjusting to do, especially on such a short work week. They didn't have a good chance to beat the Broncos, but the probability of that has approached zero in the wake of this move.
Pep Hamilton was not a good offensive coordinator. I've never been a fan of his, as his predictable play-calling has limited Andrew Luck. However, there was no need to do it now instead of after this contest when the Colts will have off in Week 10. The offense's ineptitude this season wasn't even Hamilton's fault, as Luck has been playing with shoulder and rib injuries. Promoting Rob Chudzinski won't help unless Luck suddenly becomes healthy, so what was the hurry?
Titans fire HC Ken Whisenhunt: B Grade
There's no doubt that Ken Whisenhunt was one of the worst head coaches in the NFL. He didn't prepare well for the opposition, he made terrible in-game adjustments, and his players didn't try hard for him all the time. There were also reports that he had lost the locker room. With Tennessee, he was 2-0 in Week 1, but a hilariously bad 1-20 elsewhere. He absolutely had to go, and getting rid of him is a great move.
However, I have to question the wisdom of firing him during the season on a non-bye week. If the Titans wanted to fire him immediately to improve things right away, axing on a regular week wasn't the smartest idea, since teams letting go of their coaches in such situations have a dismal record in their first game. See what happened to the Lions, and that was just their offensive coordinator. Also, since a deep playoff run is unrealistic, why not ride the year out with Whisenhunt to ensure a better selection in the 2016 NFL Draft? Winning too many games will take Tennessee out of the running for a blue-chip player.
Broncos acquire TE Vernon Davis, 7th-round pick from 49ers for 2016, 2017 6th-round picks
Vernon Davis has looked done over the past couple of seasons. Injuries bogged down his 2014 campaign in which he caught just 26 balls for 245 yards. He hasn't been much better in 2015, logging 18 receptions for 194 yards through six contests.
However, Davis might stand a chance in a better offense - i.e. any team without Colin Kaepernick - and he could be a good fit for the Broncos. Denver is getting him at a good price; all John Elway is surrendering are two sixth-round selections, and he's getting back a seventh-rounder in return, so this is well worth it. Davis may not work out, but there's not much risk here.
As for the 49ers, they had a rough Week 8 when a fax machine error prompted Jarryd Hayne to be waived accidentally, but this is a move that actually makes sense. Davis didn't have much of a future left in San Francisco, and the team needs to rebuild, so getting anything for him is a plus.
Giants re-sign DE Jason Pierre Paul (1 year, $8.71M; $1.5M guaranteed): A Grade
The maximum value of this deal is $8.71 million, but that would be after all the incentives are met. The true value of this contract is $2.55 million, with only $1.5 million guaranteed, which is much more reasonable for a player who stupidly blew his fingers off after playing with fireworks on July 4.
This is a nice, safe contract. The Giants aren't risking much by giving Jason Pierre-Paul just $1.5 million. The upside is definitely worth it, as Pierre-Paul can't exactly hurt as pass rush that has been non-existent for the most part this year. New York has accumulated just nine sacks in 2015, the second-fewest in the NFL, with Atlanta being the only team behind it. Even if Pierre-Paul isn't 100 percent - and I don't expect him to be - he'll help the team get to the quarterback in some fashion, even if it's via drawing some double teams and opening things up for his teammates in the process.
Texans cut QB Ryan Mallett: A+ Grade
I never grade teams for cutting players, but I almost had to do it this time. On the podcast recently, Matvei joked about how Ryan Mallett is destined to work at a gas station, and I commented that no sane manager at a gas station would ever hire him.
Mallett is an idiot and a loser. In addition to doing some shady things in college that dropped him to the third round of the draft, he has shown up to practice late, pouted like a little kid when getting benched and missed a team flight. He's even worse on the field, displaying horrific accuracy, poor awareness and no ability to diagnose defenses. He has a rocket arm, but that's about it. He has nothing else going for him, and he was just a miserable person to have in the locker room. The Texans will still suck, but they'll be much better off without him.
Lions fire OC Joe Lombardi: B+ Grade
The issue with this move wasn't whether it should've been made. Joe Lombardi's offense was so predictable that the opposition was actually calling out the team's plays before the snap. Lombardi wasn't creative at all, and Detroit's offense has been stagnant as a result.
The issue, however, is when this move should've been made. I think it's a little stupid to not only fire a coordinator during a non-bye week, but to do so when traveling to London. The Lions should've waited one week because preparing for the Chiefs will be extremely difficult now. Then again, maybe it's best for the Lions that they'll lose Sunday.
Ravens extend G Marshal Yanda (4 years, $32M; $17.8M bonus): B Grade
Marshal Yanda's new contract has made him the highest-paid player at his position. That definitely makes sense, as Yanda is the top guard in the NFL. He's been exceptional for the Ravens over the years. Even now, in his ninth season, he's extremely dominant.
I've made this sound like an "A" signing, but Yanda's grade will earn a "B." The reason is Yanda's age. He just turned 31, so there's a chance that he won't be the same player next year or in 2017. If that's the case, Yanda obviously won't deserve to be the top-paid player at his position. Still though, this is a quality move, as there is a chance that Yanda, as an interior lineman, will be able to play on a very high level while he's well into his 30s.
Patriots extend RB Dion Lewis (2 years, $4.4M; $600K bonus): A+ Grade
This is a fantastic move on the Patriots' part, though I am surprised that Dion Lewis didn't hold out for more money at the end of the year. I suppose Lewis was just happy to be on a team after bouncing around the league.
It's only been three games, but Lewis is off to a terrific start in New England. He has fit into the offense extremely well, rushing for 4.9 yards per carry and also catching 15 balls for 179 receiving yards - an 11.9 average. Bill Belichick really trusts him; Lewis fumbled in the second game of the year, yet Belichick kept feeding him touches, which is unusual for the hoddie-clad coach. Belichick obviously recognizes how dynamic Lewis is in his offense.
Retaining Lewis at such a cheap price almost seems too good to be true. But this extension is great. Lewis is just 25, and he had just 36 career touches heading into 2015, so it's not like he's set to decline in the near future.
49ers acquire LB Gerald Hodges from Vikings for C Nick Easton, sixth-round pick
It feels like I haven't complimented the 49ers for a while because general manager Trent Baalke has been a disaster, but this is a quality move. Gerald Hodges is a solid linebacker who could actually start right away over Michael Wilhoite, who has been a huge liability this year. Giving up a practice-squad player and a sixth-round pick for much better play at linebacker seems like a quality move to me.
As for the Vikings, I guess this is OK. They had tons of depth at linebacker, so they could afford to move Hodges. He was dealt primarily for the sixth-round selection; I don't anticipate Easton doing much for Minnesota outside of providing depth until center John Sullivan returns in Week 10.
Dolphins fire HC Joe Philbin: A+ Grade
I recently said that Joe Philbin reminded me of a farmer whose crops were burning down, yet just stared at them because he didn't know what to do about it. Well, the crops are officially all gone. Philbin has been fired following a 24-28 record in three-plus seasons.
This was long overdue. Philbin was constantly overwhelmed, with Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan coaching circles around him in almost all of their matchups. But it wasn't just his inability to prepare his team or make in-game adjustments; he had zero institutional control over his team. Philbin didn't even know that Bully-gate was happening two years ago, and Ndamukong Suh was calling his own plays earlier this season. The nail in the coffin was the London contest versus the Jets that saw the Dolphins put forth zero effort to save their coach's job.
The Dolphins didn't have a strong alternative for Philbin for the rest of the year from either of the coordinator positions, so tight ends coach Dan Campbell will take over as the interim head coach. He can't possibly be worse than Philbin, so perhaps Miami will be able to salvage its once-promising season. If not, the team can just hire a better coach next spring, unless, of course, incompetent owner Stephen Ross once again blocks the hire by sending that particular person to Michigan as well.
Ravens acquire WR Chris Givens from Rams for conditional draft pick
No one on SportsCenter will ever mention this trade, but this is a nifty little deal for Baltimore. Chris Givens showed some major potential as a rookie in 2012, catching 42 passes for 698 yards and three touchdowns. He was slightly worse in 2013, snatching 34 balls for 569 yards while dealing with an ankle injury before falling off the map in 2014. Givens appears to have failed to progress in St. Louis, but the horrible quarterbacking can be blamed. The Rams have struggled at the signal-caller position for years, so it shouldn't be shocking that they haven't been able to develop any wideouts.
With Steve Smith hurt, Givens might just be the best healthy receiver on the Ravens right now. I expect him to improve with Joe Flacco throwing to him. Givens is just 25, so he has some potential. It's great that the Ravens are surrendering a mere conditional pick for him, so even if Givens doesn't pan out, they probably don't have to surrender anything.
As for the Rams, I can't say that I like this move. They're giving up on a player who has more promise than Kenny Britt, who barely tries most of the time. With Givens gone, St. Louis will have to rely on Britt and Tavon Austin more, yet both are horribly inefficient. This won't help Nick Foles one bit.
Patriots acquire DE/DT Akiem Hicks from Saints for TE Michael Hoomanawanui
This is a minor trade that won't have much of an impact, but the Patriots seem to be getting the better end of it. Akiem Hicks has been a starter over the past few years, and while he's not very good, he's at least a solid, rotational defensive lineman. Hicks will definitely be able to contribute, especially if there are injuries.
Hoomanawanui, on the other hand, is just barely rosterable. He's only a blocking tight end, and not even a good one at that. Hoomanawanui was fourth on New England's depth chart, so if he makes an impact on the Saints, it's only because their other tight ends aren't any good.
Patriots acquire LB Jon Bostic from Bears for sixth-round pick
There's a tiny bit of upside with this trade for the Patriots. Jon Bostic was a former second-round pick, but never really found his way in Chicago, thanks in part to problems with his back. He hasn't even played yet because of that. Back issues tend to linger, so there's a chance Bostic never really contributes for the Patriots. Perhaps he will, and if he does, maybe he'll live up to his second-round billing, but New England fans shouldn't hold their breath.
The Bears continue to acquire draft picks, as they appear to be indicating that they're willing to mail in the rest of the season to obtain the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery have also been discussed as trade options, so stay tuned over the next few weeks.
Panthers acquire DE Jared Allen from Bears for sixth-round pick
Jared Allen, now 33, is obviously nowhere near the player he once was, but he was still a solid contributor for the Bears this season in terms of containing the run. Allen hasn't gotten to the quarterback at all, but that could change now that he's moving back to his more natural 4-3 end position.
It's understandable why the Panthers would make this deal. They need depth up front, so adding a veteran presence doesn't hurt, especially for just a conditional pick. If they believe Allen can't help, Carolina can just cut him without giving Chicago anything.
As for the Bears, I don't blame them for beginning their fire sale this early. They are the worst team in the NFL, and they would be best off tanking so they can land the No. 1 pick this April. Go here for my 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
Update: This was for a sixth-round pick; not a conditional selection. I like this a bit less now for the Panthers, as they have to relinquish that choice. Still, it's not a bad move, as depth was needed in the wake of Charles Johnson's injury.
Bengals extend OT Andrew Whitworth (1 year, $9 million): A- Grade
A previous report suggested that this would be Andrew Whitworth's final year in Cincinnati, but that's not the case anymore. Whitworth will continue to be with the team in 2016, which has to please Andy Dalton, who hasn't taken a sack through two weeks. Whitworth has been one of the best left tackles in the NFL for a very long time, and he's still at the top of his game; he's enjoying a terrific 2015 campaign thus far. First-round rookie Cedric Ogbuehi was expected to replace him after this season, but even if the Bengals want Ogbuehi in the lineup, they can just move Whitworth to guard.
This is certainly "A" or "A-" grade. I listed this as the latter because there's a chance that Whitworth, 34 in December, could decline next year. However, the upside of having his talent and experience around makes this deal a slam dunk, as there's barely any risk.
Cowboys acquire QB Matt Cassel from Bills for 2017 5th-round pick
Matt Cassel obviously won't start for the Cowboys, but Dallas needed a backup quarterback in the wake of Tony Romo's injury (Check the NFL Disaster Ratings to see how that affects the team.) Christian Ponder was the best-available signal-caller on the market, so the Cowboys decided that they needed to acquired Matt Cassel from the Bills for an exchange of 2017 late-round selections.
This seems like a quality trade for both teams. Cassel's days of being a starter are over, but he's a quality reserve who will give the Cowboys some insurance if Brandon Weeden goes down. Exchanging late-round 2017 choices isn't a big deal. As for the Bills, Cassel didn't mean much to them, since they already had E.J. Manuel behind Tyrod Taylor, so getting something for him, even if it's not very significant, is a solid move.
Update: It was initially reported that this deal was for an exchange of 2017 late-round picks. As it turns out, Dallas will be giving up a fifth-round selection without getting another choice in return. With that in mind, I have to downgrade this move for them considerably. Cassel is better than Ponder and all of the other options, but not enough to warrant giving up a fifth-round selection. I'd rather keep my fifth-rounder and sign Ponder than give up what could turn into a solid player. Nice job by the Bills to get a decent choice for a quarterback who didn't even make it through final cuts.
Patriots acquire WR Keshawn Martin, 6th-rounder from Texans for 5th-round pick
The Patriots are essentially moving down 20 or so picks to acquire Keshawn Martin from the Texans. Martin has 38 career receptions, but only six the previous season. He wasn't good enough to come anywhere close to cracking the starting lineup in Houston, where the only viable, starting-caliber wideout this year is DeAndre Hopkins.
New England has shown that it has struggled to identify talented receivers, and this appears to be another instance. I know the team is desperate at the position, but getting Martin seems like a waste. I'll be surprised if he contributes much. Still, moving down about 20 picks in the middle of Day 3 isn't a huge deal, I suppose.
Cowboys acquire WR Brice Butler, 6th-rounder from Raiders for 5th-round pick
The Cowboys brought in some free agent receivers to replace Dez Bryant, but apparently did not like any of them. So, they dealt a seventh-round pick to Oakland for Bruce Butler, who was chosen in that exact frame back in 2013.
I actually like this trade for Dallas. Butler is a physical freak at 6-3, 215 pounds who runs a 4.4. He showed promise at times, catching 21 balls last year, despite being hindered by a rookie quarterback. He'll be in a much better situation in Dallas.
Butler sort of reminds me of Charles Johnson. Like Johnson, Butler was a gifted wideout stuck on a terrible team for a while, but a better organization could help him evolve into a solid player, just as the Vikings did for Johnson. Butler could definitely contribute very soon, as his main competition appears to be Devin Street. Not bad for a swap of fifth- and sixth-round picks.
As for the Raiders, it's difficult to imagine why they'd want to give up on a promising player, just to move up 10-15 selections or so in the middle of Day 3. Then again, general manager Reggie McKenzie doesn't exactly appear to be good at his job.
Cowboys extend DT Tyrone Crawford (5 years, $45M; $25.7M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Tyrone Crawford was a huge surprise in 2014. He missed the prior season with an Achilles injury, so it was unclear how he'd perform. Instead of being just a mediocre starter, Crawford was dominant, especially in terms of being a pass rusher. He collected just three sacks, but he put tons of pressure on opposing passers.
Crawford has just one proven great year, so there is some risk in this contract. However, he's just 25, he could actually improve. Crawford was a very consistent player in 2014, which bodes well for his future.
Bengals extend WR A.J. Green (4 years, $60 million): B+ Grade
Let's take a look at the other prominent receivers who were extended this offseason:
Julio Jones: 5 years, $71.25M; $47M guaranteed
Demaryius Thomas: 5 years, $70M; $43.5M guaranteed
Dez Bryant: 5 years, $70M; $45M guaranteed
Julio Jones' $14.25 million per year was impressive, but A.J. Green is now beating it at $15 million per season. It's unknown what Green's guarantee is at the moment, but if it isn't in line with everyone else's, I'll provide an updated grade.
My current grade for this is a B+. I have Jones an A-, so I think something slightly worse is appropriate. We really have no idea how great Green is because he's been hindered by mediocre quarterbacking, but I think it's almost safe to say that he's a very small step behind Jones. Thus, even though the Bengals almost had to keep him no matter what, this contract deserves a slightly worse grade.
Colts acquire DE/DT Billy Winn from Browns for conditional 7th-round pick
I usually don't cover trades for conditional seventh-round picks because they're whatever, but this one appears as though it could actually be impactful.
I don't really get what the Browns are doing here. I guess they could afford to trade Billy Winn because they have decent depth on the defensive line, but why just for a conditional seventh-rounder? I think I'd rather just keep him around just in case. Winn has played well in the past. He was coming off an injury in training camp, but was still solid enough to make the final roster.
Winn should be able to help the Colts, who have defensive line issues of their own. Arthur Jones is out, so depth was needed up front just in case Zach Kerr or Henry Anderson failed as starters. Giving up just a seventh-rounder at most for a potential starter is a solid move.
Raiders sign DE/OLB Aldon Smith (1 year): B+ Grade
Aldon Smith is an idiot who can't stop drinking and driving. He has also gotten into trouble for other things recently, including a hit-and-run and vandalism. Other than that, he's a pretty good guy!
In all seriousness, Smith can still play, so why not sign him? What's the worst that can happen? Though we don't have the financials on this deal yet, it's likely for the minimum, or something close to it, so this is all upside for the Raiders. It's not like they'll be counting on him to be in the lineup, but if he is, he and Khalil Mack are going to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Plus, if this works out, they can make their arch rivals, the 49ers, look stupid for letting Smith go.
Giants extend QB Eli Manning (4 years, $84M; $65M guaranteed): C+ Grade
Let's take a look at the other prominent quarterbacks who were extended this offseason:
Russell Wilson: 4 years, $87.6M; $60M guaranteed ($21.9M average)
Philip Rivers: 4 years, $84M; $65M guaranteed ($21M average)
Cam Newton: 5 years, $103.8M; $41M guaranteed ($20.76M average)
Ben Roethlisberger: 5 years, $99M; $60.75M guaranteed ($19.8M average)
Ryan Tannehill: 6 years, $96M; $21.5M guaranteed ($16M average)
This deal is identical to Rivers' and slightly better than Wilson's. I disagree with that. Though Rivers doesn't have Manning's playoff success - or Super Bowl rings, for that matter - he's the superior quarterback right now. Wilson, meanwhile, is much better than both. Thus, the Giants overpaid for a signal-caller who appears to be on the decline. Manning will turn 35 in January, so his skills will continue to erode.
I gave the Rivers extension a "B," so this obviously deserves a worse grade. Keeping Manning around is good for the next year or two, but I'm wondering if the Giants wouldn't have been better off trying to find a new franchise quarterback.
Panthers extend ILB Luke Kuechly (5 years, $62 million): A Grade
I know that non-pass-rushing linebackers are undervalued in today's NFL, but a 5-year, $62 million contract for Luke Kuechly on a day in which Marcell Dareus received $108 million for six seasons seems like a crazy deal.
As a baromter, Bobby Wagner was paid $43 million over four years this offseason. Still though, Kuechly is arguably the top player at his position, and managing to keep him around for another five seasons at a manageable price is a terrific move. Better yet, Kuechly is just 24, so he'll be in his prime when this contract expires, so it's not like he'll be declining toward the end of the term.
Colts extend OT Anthony Castonzo (4 years, $42 million): B+ Grade
Nate Solder was extended yesterday, and Anthony Castonzo received a similar contract, except everything is doubled, from the years to the total money. Considering that Castonzo and Solder are similar players - perhaps Solder is a bit better - I think an identical grade is in order.
It goes without saying that keeping Castonzo around is imperative. Protecting a franchise quarterback is extremely important for any team that has one; if Andrew Luck goes down, Indianapolis might just go 3-13, so making sure his blind-side protector was retained for a while is a good move.
Vikings extend WR Jarius Wright (4 years, $14.8M; $7M guaranteed): C Grade
I've liked what the Vikings have done in recent years for the most part, but I can't say that I'm excited about this contract. Jarius Wright is a fine slot receiver, but he just isn't talented enough to receive this sort of money. He's easily replaceable, and a cheaper option would probably be for the best. I don't think this contract is awful because it's not like Wright isn't productive at all - he caught 42 balls in 2014 - but I'm kind of surprised by how much money he obtained.
Bills extend DE/DT Marcell Dareus (6 years, $108M; $60M guaranteed): B Grade
This is extremely difficult to grade. I'm never a big fan of paying linemen tons of money because if they get fat and happy, it's harder for them to shed the excess weight. There's a terrible history of defensive linemen struggling after receiving big contracts, and while Marcell Dareus has been a monstrous force ever since he entered the league, he could be the next player to disappoint after getting paid.
Something that definitely needs to be considered is that Dareus has some off-the-field issues as well; he's suspended for the season opener for violating the substance-abuse policy. Can the Bills count on him to stay out of trouble going forward? If not, this is a very risky contract.
Having said all of that, what were the Bills supposed to do otherwise? Their hands were tied. They couldn't allow a mega-talent like Dareus to walk, and he commanded this sort of money, so Buffalo almost had to pay him this amount. Thus, I can't give the Bills anything lower than a "B" for this deal.
Patriots extend OT Nate Solder (2 years, $20.62 million): B+ Grade
It's no secret that New England has issues on its offensive line, so locking up one of the few quality blockers up front is a good decision. Nate Solder didn't play as well last year after a superb 2013 campaign, but he finished the season on a strong note after struggling early; he surrendered just three sacks (including the playoffs) after Week 6.
The money definitely makes sense here, so the Patriots deserve a good grade for making sure Solder sticks around in the near future. It's a solid deal for Solder as well, as this extension guarantees that the Patriots won't be able to franchise him after 2017.
Eagles extend G Andrew Gardner (3 years, $4.7 million): B Grade
The Eagles inexplicably jettisoned Evan Mathis earlier in the offseason after losing Todd Herremans in free agency, so they had to pay one of their replacements, I suppose.
I guess this is an OK deal. It's low-end starter-type money that the Eagles are paying to, well, a low-end starter. Gardner struggled last year, but was better in the preseason. He wasn't playing like a quality blocker, or anything, but he wasn't terrible either, which is definitely an upgrade over how he looked in 2014.
Cowboys acquire RB Christine Michael from Seahawks for conditional 7th-round pick
Running backs grow on trees nowadays, as we've seen today with two runners with upside both dealt for conditional seventh-round draft choices. This wasn't the case 15 years ago, when both Christine Michael and Terrance West would've fetched for more, but the NFL has completely changed.
I like Dallas' acquisition better than Tennessee's. Michael is extremely talented and would have earned a starting job somewhere in the NFL already had he not frustrated the coaching staff with mental blunders. If he can ever get his act together, Michael will become a very productive player in the NFL, but he hasn't taken that next step yet. The Cowboys will be hoping he does so, and why not take a chance on him? Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden aren't exactly the league's most-potent duo, and it's definitely conceivable that Michael could overtake them and eventually become the starter - even as early as this season. Not a bad deal for a conditional seventh-round choice.
Meanwhile, I feel like the Seahawks are giving up a bit too early on Michael. I know they like Thomas Rawls, but Michael wouldn't have been the first player to mature mentally if he somehow got "it" the following offseason. Instead, Seattle is almost getting nothing for him, which has to be disappointing.
Vikings acquire G Jeremiah Sirles from Chargers for 6th-round pick
Who is Jeremiah Sirles? He was an undrafted free agent guard out of Nebraska in 2014. He didn't even play last year until an injury forced him into action at right guard for San Diego. He did fine when initially inserted into the lineup, but struggled a bit in a Week 17 tilt versus San Diego.
I don't quite see why the Vikings felt it was necessary to acquire Sirles in exchange for a sixth-round selection. Sirles, agian, went undrafted just a year ago, and it's not like he was great when he took the field in his brief action. Maybe the Vikings fell in love with his tape, but I don't see why they would have. Sirles will add needed depth to the interior, but it seems like Minnesota could've obtained a comparable player without relinquishing a draft pick.
The Chargers, meanwhile, seem like the clear winners of the deal right now. I guess time will tell, but receiving a sixth-round choice for a backup lineman with almost no experience feels like a great deal to me.
Titans acquire RB Terrance West from Browns for conditional 7th-round pick
Terrance West didn't perform well as a rookie for the Browns. He wasn't terrible, but he failed to gain four yards per carry behind a talented offensive line. He had an opportunity to seize the starting job this offseason when the Cleveland coaches declared Isaiah Crowell to be lazy, but he failed to do so. In fact, he somehow found his way in Mike Pettine's dog house because of maturity issues.
Having said that, this isn't a bad deal for the Titans. They have running back issues of their own, and West might present some sort of upgrade if he manages to get his act together. If not, they're not really losing anything. In fact, they may not even have to relinquish the seventh-rounder. The Browns, meanwhile, did well to obtain anything for a player they most likely were going to cut.
Colts acquire LB Sio Moore from Raiders for 6th-round pick
I'm surprised the Raiders wanted to unload Sio Moore. A solid linebacker, Moore played on all three downs last year, performing well against the run. He probably would've been better as a two-down player because he wasn't that good in coverage, but he was still a decent starter. Moving him for a sixth-rounder doesn't seem all that great, but it's not the worst move Oakland could've made.
On the other end, the Colts are getting solid value in this deal. They didn't have the best depth at linebacker, so Moore should be able to contribute. Moore is just 25, so there's even a chance that he'll improve his game over the next two years before he becomes a free agent.
Cardinals acquire QB Matt Barkley from Eagles for conditional 7th-round pick
I didn't think the Eagles could even get an eighth-round pick for Matt Barkley, so this conditional seventh-rounder is a home run. For the condition to be met, Barkley needs to be on the roster for six games. That may not happen, but even the possibility of obtaining an extra draft pick for a player who was going to be released is a solid move.
As for the Cardinals, I don't know what they are thinking. Barkley is not an NFL quarterback. He has a lollipop arm and can't complete routine passes longer than five yards on a consistent basis as a result. He's not a good fit for Bruce Arians' scheme either, and I'd rather have both Phillip Sims and Logan Thomas over him. In fact, Arizona is saved from an "F" because the front office could realize that this is a mistake and release Barkley before it has to surrender the seventh-rounder.
Giants acquire P Brad Wing from Steelers for late-round pick
I'm all for trimming salary on punters, and this is exactly what the Giants are doing here, as they cut Steve Weatherford earlier in the day. I don't know why they overpaid Weatherford in the first place, given that teams can easily find punters on the street, but I like that they are lowering the cost they have dedicated there.
Having said that, the Giants could be compounding their mistakes. Sure, they've dropped salary, but they had to exchange a draft pick to do so. Even if it's a seventh-rounder, this isn't a particularly good deal. It sounded like the Steelers were going to cut Wing, so couldn't they just have picked him up as a free agent?
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, won this trade for obvious reasons. Acquiring any sort of draft pick for a punter it was more than willing to cut is always a good deal.
Falcons acquire G Andy Levitre from Titans for 2016 6th-rounder, 2017 conditional pick
It's always risky to overpay linemen because if they become overweight - and they tend to, given that they can be fat and happy because of their new contract - it's difficult for them to get back into shape. The Titans learned this the hard way when they signed Andy Levitre to a 6-year, $46.8 million deal in the spring of 2013.
Levitre has been an immense bust for them. A predictable one, too, given that chased the money, instead of going to a team where he could have the most success. There was speculation that Tennessee would have to eat the money and cut him, but the team miraculously found a taker. Thus, this is a great trade for the Titans, as they managed to get something for Levitre when they easily could've gotten nothing.
The Falcons, meanwhile, were desperate for some offensive line help, and it's not like they are giving up huge resources. There is also some optimism that Levitre could rebound in a friendlier system for him. Still, Atlanta has to take on his ugly contract, and there's a chance that the Levitre we once saw play in Buffalo is permanently gone. Lethargy is a real thing.
Panthers extend QB Derek Anderson (2 years, $5 million): B Grade
Derek Anderson and his magic flask have enjoyed some memorable moments over the years, particularly the press conference following a Monday night loss. However, while Anderson isn't much of a starter, he has proven himself to be a capable backup quarterback. Anderson won both games he started last season - albeit against the Buccaneers each time - but he completed 67 percent of his passes in the process and did not throw any drunken interceptions.
This is a pretty reasonable price for a decent backup signal-caller. I can't get excited for it - we're talking about Derek Anderson, after all, so I'm not giving this a B+ or higher - but a solid "B" seems like the appropriate grade.
Steelers acquire K Josh Scobee from Jaguars for 6th-round pick
The Steelers have been snake-bitten in terms of their kicking game this preseason. They lost Shaun Suisham, and then Garrett Hartley was lost for the year. With no appealing options available, Pittsburgh decided to give up a sixth-round selection for Josh Scobee.
I think this trade makes sense for both teams. It's fine that Pittsburgh wanted to relinquish a sixth-round selection to finally settle its kicking woes. Scobee has been a very reliable kicker over the years. He wasn't as effective in 2014, but he has drilled at least 89 percent of his field goals the three years before that. The challenge for Scobee will be kicking in harsher conditions than in Jacksonville, but I would trust him to adjust to his new environment.
As for the Jaguars, they wanted to move forward with a cheaper, younger kicker in Jason Myers. This could be backfire - Myers is unproven, after all - but I don't think they could have gotten more than a sixth-rounder for Scobee in the future, so it makes sense that they'd want to deal him now.
Lions acquire TE Tim Wright from Buccaneers for K Kyle Brindza
Most have heard of Tim Wright, while Kyle Brindza is an unknown, so that means Detroit won this trade, right? No, quite the opposite, actually.
The Buccaneer kickers have been brutal this preseason, so this aspect was a huge concern heading into September. They recently acquired Connor Barth, who was supposed to be better than Patrick Murray in terms of just field goals - he's not nearly as strong on kickoffs - but Barth whiffed in the third preseason game. Kyle Brindza, meanwhile, seems like he could be the solution. He's 3-of-3 this preseason, with all of his tries coming from 40-plus yards. He has also drilled touchbacks on all but one of his kickoff attempts.
So, what is Tampa surrendering to potentially fix its kicking woes? Tim Wright, who is a complete disappointment? I'd say that's fine. The Buccaneers know what they have in Wright, given that they've gotten rid of him twice now. Wright also failed in New England, so I'm wondering what the Lions see in him. Detroit already has Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, so I don't see how Wright fits. Sure, it's for a kicker the team probably wouldn't have kept, but this just seems like a waste of time.
Texans acquire OT Chris Clark from Broncos for 2016 7th-round pick
The Texans didn't have the best situation at tackle heading into Week 1. Duane Brown is dealing with a finger injury, so if he couldn't suit up, there was no real answer in terms of who could take his place. The depth at the position was beyond anemic, so Houston appeared to be in big trouble, considering that it would have to deal with Justin Houston and Tamba Hali in the opener.
Chris Clark helps fix that. Clark is a solid swing tackle who has plenty of experience on the blind side. He provides great insurance and is well worth the seventh-rounder Houston surrendered.
As for the Broncos, this is sort of a "meh" trade. It likely won't have any impact on the team in the present or future, unless, of course, the seventh-rounder turns out to be a solid player, which is unlikely.
Falcons extend WR Julio Jones (5 years, $71.25M; $47M guaranteed): A- Grade
To grade this extension, it's important to look at what Julio Jones' peers obtained recently:
Broncos re-sign WR Demaryius Thomas (5 years, $70M; $43.5M guaranteed)
Cowboys re-sign WR Dez Bryant (5 years, $70M; $45M guaranteed)
In other words, Jones is getting $1.25 million more than both Bryant and Thomas, with $2 million more guaranteed than the former. I think that makes a lot of sense. I gave Bryant a B+, so it would be logical to hand the Falcons a B+ as well, right?
Well, the tie-breaker, if you want to call it that, is that unlike Bryant, Jones has no off-the-field issues. I'd rather have Jones than Bryant on my roster for that reason, so I like this extension more. Either way, Atlanta did well to lock up one of the top receivers in the NFL. Jones is just 26, so he'll be outstanding throughout the duration of this new deal.
Redskins extend OT Trent Williams (5 years, $66M; $43.25M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Upon signing this contract, Trent Williams is now the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL. Is he the best player at his position in the league? No, he's not, but he's definitely close. Williams is an outstanding blocker and happens to be in the prime of his career; he turned 27 this summer.
These types of signing are always difficult to grade. Did the Redskins overpay a bit for Williams? Sure, but what were they going to do, let one of the cornerstones of their team walk in free agency? That was not an option, so Washington did well to retain him, despite the slightly inflated price.
Ravens extend S Will Hill (2 years, $7M; $2.84M guaranteed): A+ Grade
Will Hill has a pretty checkered past, as he's been suspended multiple times for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He was seen as yet another talented athlete who was throwing his career away, but the good news is that Baltimore believes that Hill has turned his life around.
I'll admit that I'm a bit more skeptical because people don't change overnight. However, this is a great contract, regardless. Someone as skilled as Hill should be making WAY more than this - he was fantastic at the end of the 2014 season - yet the Ravens were able to get away with paying him so little because of his history. Even if Hill relapses, Baltimore is taking almost zero risk, as giving $2.84 million guaranteed to a terrific safety isn't breaking the bank, or anything.
Broncos sign G Evan Mathis (1 year, $4 million): A+ Grade
This is a big signing for the Broncos. Evan Mathis is one of the top guards in the NFL, so he'll provide a huge boost for their offensive line, which was looking pretty weak in the wake of Ryan Clady's injury. Mathis obviously doesn't play the same position, but the interior seemed like a liability as well after Orlando Franklin signed with San Diego this offseason.
The one concern with Mathis was his age. He's still playing at a high level right now, but he'll turn 34 in November. That's not an issue with this deal, however, as there is no risk with a 1-year deal. It's a $4 million contract, but the base value is only $2.5 million, so it's not like the Broncos are spending a fortune here. It's a good move for them, as protecting a 39-year-old Peyton Manning is pretty essential to their success in 2015.
Eagles extend ILB Mychal Kendricks (4 years, $29M; $16M guaranteed): A- Grade
So much for Mychal Kendricks being the next Eagle to leave the team. Kendricks, who was the subject of trade rumors, signed an extension that will keep him in Philadelphia through 2019.
I've been critical of many of Chip Kelly's terrible moves, so it would only be fair to praise him for a great one. Kelly's "my way or the highway" strategy will fail quickly if he doesn't have lots of success in the near future, so he's made a mistake of jettisoning players from the old regime. Keeping Kendricks is very smart though. Not only is he one of the better inside linebackers in the NFL - he's fantastic in coverage - he's also just 24. He should be able to continue to perform on a high level for the duration of this contract.
Patriots sign WR Reggie Wayne (1 year): C+ Grade
What do Torry Holt, Chad Ochocinco and Joey Galloway all have in common, aside from the fact that they are all retired NFL receivers? They all were signed by the Patriots in the twilight of their careers, and they all failed to produce in New England.
Reggie Wayne just seems like he'll be the next name on that sketchy list. Wayne, 37 in November, looked like completely done last year, so much so that the Colts had no interest in retaining their long-time future Hall of Famer. The media believes the Patriots have this "magical" touch, so I'm sure other writers will praise this signing. However, the fact remains that New England has a dubious history when it comes to signing washed-up receivers.
I'll be shocked if this signing pans out. It's most likely for the veteran minimum with no guaranteed money, so why not, but it just feels like a waste of time.
Redskins acquire TE Derek Carrier from 49ers for conditional 2017 5th-round pick
The Redskins lost Niles Paul for the year, so there was speculation on whom they would sign to replace him as the team's blocking tight end. It turns out that they had interest in someone else's player instead, sending a conditional fifth-round pick in 2017 (based on stats and snaps) to San Francisco for Derek Carrier.
Carrier played sparingly in 2014. He performed well as a blocker, but caught only nine passes. However, he never got much of an opportunity because he was stuck behind Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald on the depth chart. Carrier is very athletic for a player at his position, so he definitely possesses a decent amount of upside. A conditional fifth-round choice, which the Redskins may not have to relinquish if this doesn't pan out, is quite the bargain for someone who could do a decent job of filling an injured player's shoes.
As for the 49ers, they weren't going to use Carrier much this year anyway, unless there were injuries, so why not obtain a possible fifth-round choice? They are the losers of this trade because they may not get that selection, but this deal, unlike some of their other recent transactions, at least makes some sense.
Cardinals sign RB Chris Johnson (1 year, $2 million): D Grade
Some team was bound to acquire Chris Johnson, and I was bound to give that team a terrible grade for signing him. Arizona is making a huge mistake.
The Cardinals needed help at running back with David Johnson nursing an injury that just won't go away, but they should have signed someone else. Not only is Chris Johnson way over the hill; he happens to be a locker room menace. Johnson hurt the Jets from a morale standpoint last year, and he certainly could easily do the same in Arizona. The Cardinals have better leadership at quarterback to help combat this, but it's not like Chris Johnson still has the talent to warrant taking this risk. He's subtraction by addition, and Arizona will definitely regret adding him to the roster.
Chargers extend QB Philip Rivers (4 years, $84M; $65M guaranteed): B Grade
So much for not wanting to move to Los Angeles. It was rumored this entire offseason that Philip Rivers would be traded in the near future, but that apparently is not going to happen. The Chargers locked up Rivers for four more years, meaning he'll be under contract until he's 37.
This is a tough one to grade. Once the Chargers didn't deal Rivers to the Titans for the chance to select Marcus Mariota, they had to make sure they could keep him; otherwise, they'd transform into one of the worst teams in the NFL. However, Rivers has gotten a huge amount for a quarterback who will turn 34 at some point this upcoming season. Rivers is still very good, but he's not as great as he once was, so giving him $65 million seems like too much, especially when Russell Wilson, a superior quarterback, received less guaranteed money ($60 million).
Having said that, I can't give this anything worse than a "B." San Diego simply didn't have a choice, and the front office had to retain its franchise quarterback.
Colts extend WR T.Y. Hilton (5 years, $65M; $39M guaranteed): B Grade
So much for the Colts letting T.Y. Hilton walk after drafting Phillip Dorsett. The front office wasn't going to let its rising-star receiver leave anytime soon, inking him to a 5-year deal Thursday morning.
Indianapolis did well to keep Hilton, so the team can't get a bad grade for this contract, but is it worthy of an "A?" Well, considering that the Packers managed to keep Randall Cobb on a 4-year, $40 million deal with just $17 million guaranteed, this extension automatically can't be graded that way; unlike Green Bay, the Colts failed to get a hometown discount. Meanwhile, the Cowboys earned a B+ for giving Dez Bryant a 5-year, $70 million contract with $45 million guaranteed. That's close to what this extension looks like, but as good as Hilton is, I wouldn't say he and Bryant are that close in talent.
Again, this can't be graded poorly because Luck will continue to have his No. 1 weapon at his disposal for the next five seasons, but it seems as though the Colts overpaid by just a bit.
Steelers sign K Garrett Hartley (1 year): C+ Grade
The Steelers lost reliable kicker Shaun Suisham to a torn ACL, so they had to bring in a replacement quickly. They settled on Garrett Hartley, who was the No. 2 player available in my Free Agent Kicker Rankings.
Having said that, I wouldn't have signed Hartley if I were the Steelers. Hartley was one of the heroes during the Saints' Super Bowl march back after the 2009 season, but he lost his confidence after that and rapidly unraveled. He was a horrible 22-of-30 (73.3%) in 2013 before getting cut.
There are two concerns here, with Hartley's confidence level being one. The second is that Hartley has never kicked in bad weather. He went to school in Oklahoma, and he spent five years in New Orleans' comfy dome. Kicking in the horrible Pittsburgh conditions come November and December will prove to be quite the challenge, and I'm wondering why the Steelers didn't go with my top kicker, Shayne Graham, who spent many years in Cincinnati and was a solid 19-of-22 in 2014.
Buccaneers extend OLB Lavonte David (5 years, $50.3M; $25.6M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This extension pretty much mirrors the DeAndre Levy deal from a couple of days ago. Lavonte David is getting more per year and a greater signing bonus, but he also happens to be a superior player compared to his Detroit counterpart.
With Von Miller moving to a 3-4, David is arguably the top 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. He's extremely proficient both in terms of shutting down the run and covering. He could continue to hold this distinction for a very long time; he turned 25 this offseason, so he'll likely play on a very high level for the duration of this contract. The Buccaneers did well to lock him up.
Lions extend OLB DeAndre Levy (5 years, $37.2M; $20M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This extension happened a couple of days ago, but I missed it. Better late than never, I guess.
The Lions saw Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley leave this offseason, so they had to lock up one of their few remaining talented defenders in the front seven. In fact, general manager Martin Mayhew called extending DeAndre Levy a "priority."
Levy's $37.2 million deal is a lot for a non-pass-rushing linebacker. However, as far as those go, Levy is one of the best. He's a terrific run defender and can play all three downs because he's not bad in coverage. He's also just 28, so he should have four strong years left in the tank. The Lions did well to make sure he'll be around for a while.
Rams extend QB Nick Foles (2 years, $24.5M; $13.9M guaranteed): B- Grade
The Rams giving Nick Foles an extension may seem strange, given that he has yet to prove that he can play well in their offense. It's not the most ideal situation a football team can be in, but this move isn't a bad one.
Foles was set to hit free agency after this year. If Foles had a strong 2015 campaign, St. Louis would've had to give him a huge contract despite seeing him for only one year. On the flip side, if Foles would've suffered an early injury, the Rams would have been in an odd situation; they either would've had to let him walk or offered him more money than another team would have in free agency. Either scenario could have been dangerous, so St. Louis is doing a good job of protecting itself here, though it is giving him a bit more money than I think he deserves at this point.
Seahawks extend ILB Bobby Wagner (4 years, $43 million): A- Grade
This may seem like a ton of money to give to a non-pass-rushing linebacker, but here's an idea of how important Bobby Wagner is to Seattle's defense: Wagner missed five games last season. When Wagner was in the lineup, Seattle surrendered just 15.6 points per contest. In the five games Wagner missed? That figure rose to 20.4.
Wagner has no weaknesses in his game. He plays all three downs, happens to be prolific in run support, and fares pretty well when covering. Best of all, Wagner turned only 25 a couple of months ago, so he still has the potential to improve. He'll continue to be one of the top linebackers in the NFL for the duration of this contract, making this yet another great deal that general manager John Schneider put together.
Steelers acquire CB Brandon Boykin from Eagles for conditional mid-round pick
Philadelphia's strange offseason continues. Since the beginning of free agency, Chip Kelly has done nothing but rip himself off, cut skilled players and deplete the roster of talent. And he just keeps getting worse.
Brandon Boykin is one of the top nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. He's held that status for a couple of years, and he's just 25. He has a very bright future ahead of him, yet Kelly didn't think so, as he was willing to part with him for a fifth-round selection that will probably turn into a fourth-rounder depending on playing time. Kelly apparently didn't think Boykin had the size for the defense he wanted to run, but that thought process made very little sense, given how potent Boykin has been in that exact defense over the past couple of seasons.
The Steelers are obviously benefiting from this incompetence. They desperately needed cornerback help, and Boykin will provide that; he'll definitely improve a secondary that was constantly torched last year, and as long as the team manages to re-sign him after this season, he'll be a mainstay in Pittsburgh's defensive backfield for a very long time.
Redskins sign DE/OLB Junior Galette (1 year): D Grade
The Redskins are one of the dumbest organizations in the NFL, and this is yet another example of their utter incompetence. Signing Junior Galette might have been one of the worst moves they could have made at this time.
There's no denying Galette's talent; he has collected 22 sacks over the past couple of years. However, the Saints, a superior organization, got rid of him for multiple reasons. Galette was accused of domestic violence in January, and then the alleged video of him leaked out last month where a man looking like him - the Saints believed it to be him because they submitted it to the league office - was beating a woman with a belt. Those two things weren't the only issues with Galette; New Orleans also sent him packing because he was a horrible person in the locker room. He was constantly undermining the coaching staff and getting into fights with teammates. Galette then slammed his former coach and teammates on Twitter upon his release, revealing some secrets that shouldn't have been brought up. Galette, quite frankly, is a terrible person.
A team with veteran leadership could have brought in Galette and had some success with him. The Redskins, however, are an awful fit. They are quarterbacked by a Prima donna who has no desire to improve his game, so how can Galette possibly be a positive influence on him? When things begin to sour in Washington - and they will - Galette will once again make things worse with his poisonous attitude. As a result, many in the organization will lose their jobs, and the loyal fans will continue to be disappointed.
Seahawks extend QB Russell Wilson (4 years, $87.6M; $60M guaranteed): A Grade
Some absurd opinions were made regarding Russell Wilson over the past couple of months. Some coaches who were polled suggested that he wasn't a top-tier quarterback, while a prominent NFL voice said this:
The Seahawks were never going to let Wilson get away, and that's because he is a top-tier signal-caller. Wilson is now being paid more than any other quarterback in the NFL, save for Aaron Rodgers. Some may disagree with what Wilson is worth, but this sort of contract makes sense to me, given that he's the third-best quarterback in the NFL - check the NFL Quarterback Power Rankings - and Andrew Luck hasn't signed his big contract yet.
The argument against Wilson is that he has been successful because of Seattle's great defense and homefield advantage. What those detractors are ignoring is that A) Wilson hasn't had any help on offense except from Marshawn Lynch, and yet he has been extremely productive, and B) Wilson is extremely clutch in the fourth quarter. His team will always be in it because he simply makes great plays when it matters most. With the Seahawks bringing in Jimmy Graham, Wilson is even going to be more potent in 2015 - and he'll prove to everyone that he's worth every penny of this deal.
Redskins extend DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan (5 years, $57.5M; $24.3M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Redskins don't have much going for them. Their quarterback is a Prima donna who is more concerned about his social media updates than his profession; the head coach seems to be in way over his head; while the defense is an abomination. One of Washington's few commodities is Ryan Kerrigan, so the front office at least did well to keep him on the roster for five more years.
Kerrigan isn't discussed much by the national media, but he is one of the better pass-rushers in the NFL; he collected 13.5 sacks in 2014 without much help. He'll only be 27 in August, and he has yet to miss a game in his 4-year professional career, so he'll be able to perform at a high level throughout the duration of this contract.
Vikings extend K Blair Walsh (4 years, $13M; $5.25M guaranteed): B Grade
If this seems like a lot for a kicker, keep in mind that Stephen Gostkowski received a 4-year, $17.2 million contract a few weeks ago. Whereas Gostkowski will earn $4.3 million annually, Blair Walsh will be paid $2.7 million per season.
Walsh, who drilled 35-of-38 attempts as a rookie during the 2012 campaign, including a perfect 10-of-10 from 50-plus, has seen his percentage decline each year. It has gone from 92.1 to 86.7 to 74.3 in 2014. Walsh was just 26-of-35 this past season. He did convert five tries from beyond 50 (out of nine), but some of the shorter misses were troubling.
Having said that, Walsh could definitely rebound with a strong 2015 campaign. He's just 25, and he has just as much talent as any kicker in the NFL, including Gostkowski. This is a good move, considering that the Vikings are buying low and paying Walsh slightly more than half as much as the Patriots are giving their kicker.
Cardinals sign TE Jermaine Gresham (1 year): B Grade
The details of this contract haven't been revealed, but it's not likely to be much above the veteran minimum. So, with that in mind, why not sign Jermaine Gresham? There's a decent chance Gresham won't even make the final roster because he's still recovering from offseason back surgery, but if he can heal up, he'll be a solid addition to the offense. He won't contribute much statistically - tight ends simply don't do that in Bruce Arians' scheme - but he'll be a solid blocker. This signing could amount to nothing, but the Cardinals still deserve a solid "B" for the upside.
Steelers extend HC Mike Tomlin: A Grade
The financials on this deal probably won't be released, so I won't wait for them. Regardless, this is a great move. Something that the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals have learned - and it's appalling that the Browns haven't picked up on this - is that continuity is crucial when it comes to keeping a coaching staff around. Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Cincinnati have all maintained great amounts of success in recent years, while Cleveland has always been terrible.
Mike Tomlin is one of the better head coaches in the NFL, so this is even more of a no-brainer. Not extending him might have made him a lame-duck coach in 2016, but that won't be the case now. Tomlin, who is now 82-46 as the Steelers' coach, has a good chance of leading his team to a third Super Bowl appearance this upcoming February. Check out my Steelers NFL Season Preview for more.
Steelers extend DE/DT Cameron Heyward (6 years, $59.2 million): B Grade
The guaranteed money in this deal hasn't been reported yet, so if it's an outrageously low or high figure, I'll change this grade. In the meantime, I find it interesting how things can change in just two years. Back in the summer of 2013, Cameron Heyward was deemed a bust. He was chosen at the end of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, yet he performed very poorly in his first couple of seasons, failing to crack the starting lineup. However, he has turned his career around, establishing himself as a dominant five-technique and one of the better players in Pittsburgh's defense.
Assuming Heyward keeps performing like he did in 2013 and 2014, this deal makes a lot of sense. About $10 million per year seems like the appropriate figure for Heyward, who should continue to get better. Heyward just turned 26, so he figures to play at a high level for the duration of this deal.
Broncos re-sign WR Demaryius Thomas (5 years, $70M; $43.5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
I definitely don't like this contract nearly as much as the other ones today. The fact that Demaryius Thomas received almost the exact amount as Dez Bryant doesn't make much sense. Bryant is a much better player. Thomas is talented, but his stats have been inflated because of Peyton Manning; he won't be nearly as productive once the future Hall of Famer calls it a career. The numbers even back it up; Thomas hadn't even eclipsed 600 yards in a season before Manning was brought over to Denver. Granted, this was before Thomas matured as a player, but we haven't seen him without Manning since 2011.
I get why the Broncos gave Thomas this sort of contract; Manning has one or two more seasons left, so they're going "all in" right now. However, unlike the Cowboys and the Bryant deal, Denver will definitely lament this transaction in the future. Manning showed signs of major decline late last year, so if that trend continues, the Broncos won't threaten to reach the Super Bowl. Manning will move on, leaving the Broncos with an overly expensive wideout.
Cowboys re-sign WR Dez Bryant (5 years, $70M; $45M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This looks like a relatively cheap contract for Dez Bryant, considering Justin Houston just signed a 6-year, $101 million pact the very same day. I'd equate Bryant and Houston as being equal in talent level, so the Cowboys seem to be getting a great deal here. Furthermore, Bryant is now the second-richest receiver in the NFL. Considering that Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. haven't inked their big contracts yet - Brown re-signed already, but did so before he established himself as a mega talent - it would make sense that Bryant is now directly behind Calvin Johnson on the pay scale.
If there were no other circumstances, I'd give the Cowboys an "A" grade for this transaction. I have to bump this down to a B+, however, because of Bryant's off-the-field problems. Bryant is extremely fortunate that he, or someone he knew, had the ability to buy an incriminating video of him that was going to surface earlier this year. That episode of Bryant's life is probably behind him, but there's no telling if he'll get into trouble again. If so, he may not be so lucky the next time.
There's a good chance the Cowboys won't regret this deal. Bryant turns just 27 in November, so he'll continue to perform on an All-Pro level for the duration of the contract. The off-the-field stuff could derail everything, but perhaps Bryant will mature and stay clean.
Patriots re-sign K Stephen Gostkowski (4 years, $17.2 million): B- Grade
A kicker was voted into the NFL's top 100 list, which you can see my analysis of if you click the link. It was the wrong kicker, as Stephen Gostkowski is better than Adam Vinatieri. He'll now be paid more than Vinatieri, as well as every other kicker in the NFL.
Although Gostkowski deserves to be the NFL's richest kicker, it's hard for me to get behind this contract. Gostkowski is very accurate and ultra reliable, having connected on 93.6 percent of his attempts, but he's still a kicker. It's pretty easy to find a decent one; both the Broncos and Lions did so by picking up guys off the street during the middle of the 2014 season.
I won't give this a bad grade because Gostkowski is great at what he does. However, I can't go any higher than a B-, considering his position.
Chiefs re-sign DE/OLB Justin Houston (6 years, $101M; $52.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
As a point of reference, the contract J.J. Watt received was a 6-year deal worth $100 million and $51.8 million guaranteed, so Justin Houston has actually received a bit more than Watt. Houston, however, is not better than Watt, nor is he on his level. Thus, the Chiefs overpaid.
Having said that, this is not a bad contract. Houston is one of the top five defensive players in the NFL. He finished just one sack shy of breaking Michael Strahan's single-season record. He has the ability to actually pass Strahan's mark one day, and at just 26, he's going to be playing on a very high level throughout the entire duration of this contract.
The Chiefs won't regret this deal, but I can't give this an "A" because that's what Watt received, and as I wrote earlier, as good as Houston is, he's not as gifted as Watt.
Rams use 5th-round supplemental pick on OT Isaiah Battle: B- Grade
It's no surprise that the Rams used a mid-round selection on Isaiah Battle. After all, the team that picked up Battle would be one that needed help on its offensive line and didn't care about Battle's off-the-field issues. St. Louis qualifies for both.
The Rams' offensive line was a mess prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, and it's still bad after the front office reached on some prospects in the early rounds. If Battle lives up to his potential, he could start this season. Of course, there's no guarantee of that. Battle wasn't taken until the fifth round because of his character concerns. He failed multiple drug tests at Clemson, and sources told Charlie Campbell that Battle has anger management issues and appears to be uncoachable.
Still, this isn't a bad move. If Battle doesn't pan out, losing a fifth-round pick won't be the end of the world. The risk is definitely worth the reward in this case, and the Rams have done well with other players with personality concerns.
Ravens extend P Sam Koch (5 years, $18.75M; $4M bonus): C+ Grade
Ozzie Newsome is the top general manager in the NFL, but I can't get behind anyone giving this much money to a punter. Players at that position can be signed off the street, so using high draft picks and giving them a big contract doesn't make much sense.
Having said that, if you're going to give a punter a 5-year, $18.75 million deal, it might as well be the best one. Sam Koch finished No. 1 in net punting this past season and did well in terms of placing attempts inside the opposing 20. He turns 33 in August, so he should continue to be effective.
Texans extend CB Johnathan Joseph (3 years, $22M; $11.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This extension makes sense for numerous reasons. Johnathan Joseph played well this past year and was entering the final season on his contract. Joseph turned 31 this spring, but he should still have a couple more solid years left in the tank, so even though the team spent its first-round pick on a cornerback, losing Joseph would have hurt in the short term. Having him around could allow Houston to move rookie Kevin Johnson along at a more favorable pace.
Giving Joseph this extension also lowers his cap number considerably. He probably won't play out the duration of the deal, but the Texans will at least be in a better cap situation in the near future because of this contract.
Panthers extend OLB Thomas Davis (2 years): B+ Grade
It's unclear what the true numbers of Thomas Davis' extension are right now, but the bottom line is that he'll be paid $18 million over the next three seasons. Giving one of the top linebackers in the NFL $6 million per year sounds like a good deal to me.
Having said that, this isn't quite in the "A" range. The reason is that Davis turned 32 this offseason and could be set to rapidly decline soon. It could even happen in 2015, so this extension could be a poor one. However, the Panthers are likely to get another strong year or two out of Davis, who has gotten over the injury problems that haunted him several seasons ago.
Chargers extend DE/DT Corey Liuget (4 years, $50M; $30M guaranteed): C- Grade
I thought Corey Liuget's rookie contract (4 years, $8.5 million) was a fair extension for him. This is just absurd. Liuget has been a slight disappointment as a first-round prospect, as he struggles mightily at times in run support. He does have some positive qualities, such as his ability to rush the passer; he has accumulated seven, 5.5 and five sacks in the past three seasons, all of which are solid numbers for a 3-4 defensive end. Liuget is also durable, as he has missed just one game in his career thus far. Keeping him is key, given that the rest of San Diego's defensive front is underwhelming.
Having said that, this is too much money for what Liuget brings to the table. I can't give the Chargers a "D" or a Millen because he's their best defensive lineman (that's not saying much), but there's no question that they overpaid him.
Browns acquire P Andy Lee from 49ers for 2017 7th-round pick
You heard this here first: Five or so years from now, they're going to find Trent Baalke locked in his room, chewing on glue and magic markers. They'll uncover his manifestos about the Many-Faced God and how he was doing his bidding all this time as the general manager of the 49ers. He'll be locked up in an insane asylum, and he'll never be heard from again.
Nothing Baalke has done in the past year and a half has made any sense, beginning with running Jim Harbaugh out of town. This is a strange and horrible move as well; not this trade itself, but the entire process. Baalke, for whatever reason, spent a fifth-round pick on punter Bradley Pinion - he probably won't be as good as Andy Lee - despite the fact that punters can basically be found on the street (as proven by this swap). He then dealt Lee for just a 2017 seventh-rounder, so in summary, he worsened his draft placement by two rounds all while downgrading a position. That's not very smart. Or sane.
There's nothing wrong with Lee. He was fourth in net yardage in 2013, though he saw that ranking drop to 15th this past season. Still, Lee turns only 33 in August, so he has at least five more highly productive years as a punter. The Browns are getting a huge upgrade over Spencer Lanning for basically nothing.
Panthers extend QB Cam Newton (5 years, $103.8M; $41M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Before I begin the write-up of this grade, I have to note that while it's been reported that Cam Newton received $60 million guaranteed, that may not be the true number. If a more-accurate report is released, I'll update this grade.
With that in mind, $60 million with an NFL-record $67.6 million over three years seems like too much for a player who has been inconsistent over his brief career and has never won a playoff game (does beating Ryan Lindley really count as a postseason victory?) Newton is an excellent runner, but something else that needs to be considered is the possibility that he'll be reluctant to sprint out of the pocket as often in the wake of obtaining his contract. No longer playing for a new deal, Newton may decide to protect himself more often, much like other scrambling quarterbacks have done over the years.
Still, with all of that said, this contract is understandable. The Panthers were a mess because they spent the No. 1 overall pick on Newton. They're constantly competitive, and they've won the division two years in a row because of him. So, much like other teams that have had to pay their franchise quarterbacks, Carolina was stuck with paying its franchise signal-caller whatever he asked for because its hands were tied.
June 4 update: CBS' Joel Corry tweeted yesterday afternoon that Newton's deal really has just $41 million guaranteed rather than the $60 million that was initially reported. Thus, I'm moving this grade to a B+ instead of a B. It may still seem like a lot of money for a quarterback who hasn't advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs, but as I wrote earlier, the Panthers' hands are tied. Their only alternative is allowing Newton to walk and going 2-14 as a consequence.
Saints extend DE/DT Cameron Jordan (5 years, $60M; $33.6M guaranteed): B+ Grade
There were rumors of Cameron Jordan being traded this offseason. I guess that's not going to happen. Instead, the Saints managed to lock up their best defensive player through 2020.
It's always hard to grade a contract like this. It contains so much money, yet keeping a player as talented and as young (26 in July) as Jordan is essential. Jordan happens to be one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. He recorded 12.5 sacks in 2013, which would've been seen as an astronomical number for a player at his position if it wasn't for J.J. Watt. Jordan's play slipped a bit this past season, but he still performed well, collecting 7.5 sacks and while being stout versus the run. Jordan is young enough to rebound and perhaps even improve upon his game.
Falcons sign G Chris Chester (1 year, $2.8 million): B- Grade
The good thing about this signing is that Chris Chester has experience playing for Kyle Shanahan when the two were together in Washington. The bad thing is that Chester isn't very good. He's a mediocre blocker, at best, and giving him $2.8 million for one season seems like too much. However, this is not a poor signing by any means. The Falcons had a huge void at left guard which was going to be filled by an unproven player. Chester could provide some temporary stability there to help bolster the blocking in front of Matt Ryan, which has been horrendous the past couple of seasons.
Chargers sign OT Joseph Barksdale (1 year, $1.35M; $350K bonus): A- Grade
Solid right tackle-only players are not difficult to find, so that would explain why Joseph Barksdale floated around as a free agent for a while, despite his ability to start and play well. The assumption was that either the Rams or the Titans would sign Barksdale after the draft, but the Chargers swooped in from seemingly nowhere and snagged him.
It's a very strong move. Barksdale is capable right tackle who excels in run blocking, so rookie Melvin Gordon has to love this acquisition. Barksdale isn't a great pass protector, but he's not inept in that regard. He can start at right tackle, and if he makes the opening lineup, that would move D.J. Fluker inside to provide a major upgrade at guard, which was sorely needed. The price is a great one for Barksdale, who is well worth the meager $350,000 bonus.
Dolphins extend QB Ryan Tannehill (6 years, $96M; $21.5M guaranteed): A- Grade
It feels strange that Ryan Tannehill would get a $96 million contract with $45 million guaranteed. My first thought was that this was too much, and there are many who agree with that opinion, given that Tannehill has no track record of playoff success in his career. However, after thinking about it, I now believe that this is a fair deal and a quality move by Miami.
Here are a few things to consider: First of all, Tannehill is just 26, and he has gotten better every single year. He threw for 4,045 yards, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2014 despite being paired with one of the NFL's least-efficient receivers in Mike Wallace. Sure, Tannehill missed on some downfield throws he should've connected on, but he still managed to complete 66.4 percent of his passes. Only four quarterbacks - Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers - hit on a higher rate. Second, the Dolphins were smart to get this contract done before Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck negotiated their deals. Both would have gotten so much more, giving Tannehill better leverage.
And finally, the Dolphins believe Tannehill is their franchise quarterback for the next decade, and a player with that sort of distinction deserves this sort of money in today's NFL. If Tannehill continues to improve - and I don't see why he wouldn't - Miami will be able to control the AFC East once Tom Brady retires because it'll have a superior signal-caller than the Bills, Jets, and probably the Patriots.
UPDATE: Though it was first reported that Tannehill would receive $45 million guaranteed, the correct amount he'll get no matter what is $21.5 million. Much like the Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick deals, Miami will be paying Tannehill on a year-to-year basis, making this extension so much better for them. I've consequently bumped up this grade from a "B" to an A-.
Ravens sign CB Kyle Arrington (3 years, $7M; $2.8M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Chalk this up as another solid signing by Ozzie Newsome. I still don't understand why the Patriots released Kyle Arrington. He didn't have his best year in 2014, but he still played well in the slot. He'll turn just 29 in August, so he has a couple of decent seasons left in the tank.
The Ravens are definitely benefiting from this mistake. They had cornerback depth problems entering the offseason, but weren't able to address them because they spent their initial two draft picks on needed weapons for Joe Flacco. Arrington will help stabilize the weakest group on Baltimore's roster at a reasonable price.
NFL suspends Patriots; Tom Brady 4 games, 2016 1st-rounder, 2017 4th-rounder, $1M: D Grade
Wow. First of all, I expected Tom Brady to be suspended for a handful of games, and that would've definitely been justified. I actually figured it would be three contests so that he could come back for the heavily watched matchup against Dallas, so I'm fine with four. Brady stuttered and stammered through his press conference, and then the Ted Wells Report showed that while there wasn't any absolute proof, there was at least a good chance that Brady had something to do with the deflated footballs. So, with that in mind, if the NFL wanted to go with eight games for Brady, I would have at least understood it. Four contests makes sense.
But a first-round pick in 2016!? That's insane! I'm OK with the $1 million fine and a fourth-round penalty, but taking away another first-round choice from a franchise just because a handful of people were responsible for deflating footballs is completely unjust.
Roger Goodell once again proved his incompetence by handing down this excessive infraction. This is so much harsher than what the likes of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and others were penalized for, and their crimes were so much worse. It says a lot that New England would have been better off, in the eyes of the NFL, if Brady beat his wife than maybe deflate footballs a PSI or two. It's an absolute joke.
My personal penalty for the Patriots would've been four games for Brady, a 2016 third-rounder and $1 million. Stripping a first-round choice is just too much, but I think this would've been enough of a deterrent.
Bears sign C Will Montgomery (1 years, $950K; $120K guaranteed): B Grade
I missed some free agent-signing grades earlier because all of the contract details weren't available. I'll post some missing grades over the next few days.
The Bears got rid of long-time center Roberto Garza this offseason and replaced him with another blocker in his 30s. Though Will Montgomery was never as talented as Garza once was, this is a quality signing that makes sense for a couple of reasons. Garza's play fell off last year, so Montgomery seems like a definite, short-term upgrade. It also helps that Montgomery played for John Fox and Adam Gase in Denver this past season, meaning there won't be any sort of transition for him on his new team.
Cowboys sign OT/G La'el Collins (3 years, $1.65 million): A+ Grade
So much for not being able to sign until May 9. The Cowboys nabbed an absolute steal in La'el Collins, further improving an offensive line that was considered among the league's best last year.
Collins would have gone anywhere between 10th and 25th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft if some bogus off-the-field concerns didn't surface from a police force that Collins should seriously consider suing. Collins, who lost millions, took paternity and polygraph tests, and the police deemed him not even to be a "person of interest," begging the question why they didn't wait until the NFL Draft was over to talk to him. If they actually considered him to be a suspect, then I could understand rushing the investigation, but that apparently was never the case.
At any rate, the Cowboys win. They obtained an immediate upgrade over Ronald Leary at left guard and someone who could ultimately move to right tackle once Doug Free moves on. Dallas, already considered one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, just strengthened its odds.
Texans extend DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus (4 years, $26M; $10.8M guaranteed): C- Grade
I liked what the Texans did in the draft, but this move is very questionable. Whitney Mercilus was the 26th-overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he has never evolved into the pass-rusher the Texans were hoping for him to become. He hasn't been a complete bust because he has been strong in run support, but he has struggled to get to the quarterback, and most of the sacks he has generated (18 in three years) were a byproduct of the opposition paying attention to J.J. Watt.
Quite simply, this is too much money for a linebacker who can't apply pressure consistently. It's highly doubtful any other team would've given Mercilus nearly as much. That said, Mercilus is only 24, so perhaps he'll be able to improve his pass-rushing skills.
Jets acquire RB Zac Stacy from Rams for 7th-round pick
Zac Stacy was hyped after his rookie year, but there were signs that it was just a fluke. Most of Stacy's yardage came in a handful of games, and he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in that season. He sluggishly gained only 293 yards in his sophomore campaign, so his "Yikes!" tweet could have been a reference to how poorly he played in 2014.
Having said that, a seventh-round pick is a reasonable price for a backup with experience like Stacy, so this is a fair trade for both the Jets and Rams. New York needed another running back with Stevan Ridley's status in doubt because of a knee injury, while St. Louis obtained a quality prospect with the Stacy pick (linebacker Bryce Hager), which you can read about in the NFL Draft Grades page.
Giving both teams a "B" for this deal almost feels like a cop out, but this was a fair trade that made sense for both franchises.
Titans sign WR Hakeem Nicks (1 year, $1.4M; $100K guaranteed): B- Grade
It's hard to believe that just three years ago, Hakeem Nicks was coming off a 1,192-yard campaign with the Giants. Since then, he has descended into oblivion, catching only 38 passes for 405 yards in 2014 despite being paired with Andrew Luck. Nicks was so ineffective that third-round rookie Donte Moncrief proved to be a much better option. Nicks is just 27, but his numerous leg injuries have sapped his explosion.
Having said that, this is not the awful signing that some anonymous fantasy football writers are making it out to be. The Titans are giving Nicks just $100,000 in guarantees, so if he flops, so what? Why not take a chance on him? Perhaps Nicks will be able to rebound a bit and become a somewhat decent third option for the team. At the very worst, he'll be able to provide the coaching staff some information about arch-rival Indianapolis. I'd say that's worth $100,000.
Dolphins sign WR Greg Jennings (2 years, $8 million): B Grade
Greg Jennings, 32 in September, is way past his prime. However, this seems like a solid signing for the Dolphins, who needed a veteran presence in their locker room in the wake of losing both Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline this offseason. Jennings will provide that, and it also helps that he's familiar with Joe Philbin's system. Jennings doesn't have Wallace's talent, but he's actually a professional who will try hard. He's also more efficient than Wallace; I suspect that Ryan Tannehill will hook up more often with the former Minnesota Viking than he did with the current one.
Having said all of this, Miami fans shouldn't expect too much from Jennings, who has already begun declining. As a result, this signing definitely will not preclude the Dolphins from selecting DeVante Parker (if available) at No. 14 on April 30. That's what I currently have happening in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.
Ravens extend CB Jimmy Smith (4 years, $48M; $21M guaranteed): B Grade
Jimmy Smith was performing like one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL last year until he missed the final eight games (plus the playoffs) with a Lisfranc injury. Smith, 27 in July, has improved each season as a pro, and based on his talent alone, he's definitely worth this contract.
I am, however, downgrading this extension just a bit because of one factor: Smith's prior off-the-field concerns. Smith entered the NFL with character issues, and those have persisted; he was arrested last summer, though the charges were eventually dismissed. Giving this type of money to a player with off-the-field problems can backfire, but then again, losing Smith next offseason would've been more detrimental.
Eagles sign QB Tim Tebow (1 year): A Grade
No financial details are available yet, but I'm going to assume that the Eagles are paying Tim Tebow the veteran minimum, or something close to that amount. If that's not the case, I'll adjust my grade.
As of right now, this is a no-brainer "A" signing. Tebow has had more NFL success than current starting quarterback Sam Bradford, as he dismantled the league's No. 1 defense in 2011 by generating 400-plus net yardage against the Steelers in a playoff victory. Tebow will battle for the No. 3 spot at first, but he shouldn't have any trouble beating out Matt Barkley. Once Bradford suffers his usual injuries, Tebow could supplant Mark Sanchez and start (and win) some games. Chip Kelly, unlike many other head coaches, is not homoclitic, so he'll be eager to get the most out of Tebow.
Having said that, there's a chance this signing won't amount to anything. It's unlikely, but Bradford could stay healthy. Also, there's no guarantee Tebow will even make the roster. But he's definitely worth a shot - remember, he vastly outplayed Kyle Orton in Denver back in 2011, and Orton started games last year - and with no risk involved, there was no reason for Philadelphia not to sign the former Heisman winner.
Jaguars sign C Stefen Wisniewski (1 year, $2.5 million): A+ Grade
I normally don't say this about this particular franchise, but the Jaguars made a great move. Getting Stefen Wisniewski for just $2.5 million is an absolute steal.
Wisniewski is one of the better centers in the NFL. He struggled a bit last year because he dealt with a lingering shoulder injury, which he had surgery for this offseason. Because of this issue, Wisniewski had to sign a short-term "prove it" deal. He should be able to recover and play a high level again. With that in mind, the Jaguars are getting a massive upgrade at a major position of need for a very low price. This is an easy A+.
Saints sign DE/OLB Anthony Spencer (1 year, $950K; $150K guaranteed): A- Grade
Anthony Spencer hasn't played well since his microfracture knee surgery back in 2013, but perhaps he'll be able to rebound now that he's two years removed from the injury. He'll also be playing under Rob Ryan again, whom he thrived under when Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys; Spencer collected 11 sacks in Ryan's final season in Dallas.
The issue, however is that Spencer turned 31 this offseason. Microfracture surgery is tough to come back from, so that's another hurdle. Still, the Saints aren't risking much, giving the edge rusher just $150,000 guaranteed.
Jets sign RB Stevan Ridley (1 year, $1.25M; $80K guaranteed): B+ Grade
Stevan Ridley has averaged 4.3 yards per carry throughout his career, but that number figures to decrease now that he won't have Tom Brady commanding attention from opposing defenses. There are also other concerns with Ridley; namely his ball security and knee history.
Having said that, this is a pretty good deal for Ridley. The Jets are barely guaranteeing him anything, so they can cut him without consequences if he disappoints. I wouldn't expect him to bypass Chris Ivory and whomever the Jets draft on Day 2 - T.J. Yeldon in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft - but Ridley could provide decent depth and may work out as a spot starter if there are injuries to the players in front of him.
Buccaneers acquire DE George Johnson from Lions for swap of late-round picks
The Buccaneers signed George Johnson, a restricted free agent, to a 3-year offer sheet worth $9 million. This must have surprised the Lions, who didn't even give him a second-round tender worth $2.36 million. It looked like Detroit was going to lose him, but the teams worked out a deal in which the Buccaneers and Lions swapped late-round selections.
Assuming the picks aren't too far apart - I'll have an update if they are - this is a good trade for the Buccaneers. They're getting a promising pass-rusher who accumulated six sacks last year despite playing half the snaps. It was Johnson's first real action as a defensive player in the NFL, and he thrived when given the chance. It's unclear if he can be a starter, but he'll at least be a solid rotational player for Tampa.
As for the Lions, their reluctance to give Johnson a second-round tender has to be factored into this grade. I have no idea why they would allow him to walk like this. Sure, they're moving up a bit on Day 3, but the depth Johnson would've provided in 2015 would be more valuable.
Update: It's now been reported that the Lions have moved up from the seventh to the fifth round. Thus, their grade has to improve. I'd rather have Johnson than a two-round jump on Day 3, but I can at least understand why they pulled the trigger now.
Raiders sign WR Michael Crabtree (1 year, $3 million): C+ Grade
Michael Crabtree hasn't been the same since he tore his Achilles in the spring of 2013. He struggled mightily this past year, averaging a career-low 10.3 yards per reception. He was going to have to sign a short-term "prove it" contract this offseason. At just 28 in September, Crabtree was still young enough to rebound from such a devastating injury, though there's a good chance he'll never be the same again.
I'm usually all for "prove it" deals, but I'm not a big fan of this one for two reasons. First, Crabtree was generating virtually no interest, so I'm not sure why the Raiders thought they had to give him $3 million. Second, Crabtree can be poisonous in a locker room, and I don't think pairing him with such a young quarterback is a good move. If Crabtree feels he's not getting enough targets, he may lash out at Derek Carr and hurt his confidence, as he did with Alex Smith on numerous occasions.
Having said that, there's a chance this signing could work out. I just wouldn't have taken the risk.
Packers re-sign FB John Kuhn (1 year, $870,000): A Grade
John Kuhn is one of the better lead-blockers in the business. He's effective in short-yardage situations, and he also happens to be a fan favorite among the Packer faithful. Thus, the organization has to be thrilled to have him back for one year, especially at this incredibly low price.
The one concern with Kuhn entering free agency was his age; he'll turn 33 in September. However, this deal mitigates that one issue, as the Packers aren't taking any sort of risk on a short-term contract like this. That makes this grade an easy "A."
Dolphins extend C/G Mike Pouncey (5 years, $52.15M; $22M guaranteed): B- Grade
So much for the concept of buying low. Mike Pouncey is coming off the worst season of his career. He was a turnstile on the offensive line, yet the Dolphins are rewarding him by making him the richest center in the NFL.
This doesn't make much sense on the surface, but it's not a bad deal. Pouncey was coming off hip surgery last year and had to play right guard instead of his usual center spot. Pouncey had been a terrific center in the seasons beforehand, and now that he's healthy, he should be able to revert to form. He'll turn 26 in July, so it's likely that he'll perform at a high level for the duration of this deal.
This is a bit too much for Pouncey, as he's not the best center in the NFL, so he doesn't deserve to be the highest-paid one. He's close though, but I wish Miami could've gotten a better deal out of it considering how poorly Pouncey played in 2014.
Panthers sign CB Charles Tillman (1 year, $1.75M; $350K bonus): C Grade
Charles Tillman is still a big name, but that doesn't mean this signing is very good. Tillman just turned 34 and has played just 10 games over the past two seasons because of injuries. Perhaps there's a chance that Tillman, like Rashean Mathis in Detroit, will find some sort of Fountain of Youth in a new home, but that's unlikely.
The Panthers aren't taking much of a risk, but this will probably be wasted money. What's scary is that it's sounding like Carolina expects Tillman to start, which could prove to be disastrous. The Panthers better have a backup plan at the position.
Bengals sign WR Denarius Moore (1 year, $825K; $25K bonus): B Grade
There are many similarities between Denarius Moore and Daenerys Targaryen. In the spirit of Game of Thrones returning to HBO at 9 p.m. Eastern on Sunday night, here's a breakdown:
First, Denarius Moore and Daenerys Targaryen have similar-sounding names; that much is obvious. Second, they both provide some sort of flare; Daenerys with her looks, and Denarius with his excellent athleticism. Third, they both got off to an exciting start; whereas Daenerys had that hot tub scene in the premiere and then torched Warlock Dean Pelton in the Season 2 finale, Moore teased us with some flashes of greatness, accumulating 618 receiving yards as a rookie and seven touchdowns in his sophomore campaign.
Unfortunately, fourth, both have disappointed lately. Daenerys is wasting her time in Essos, freeing cities she can't maintain and locking up her growing dragons in a tomb. Denarius, meanwhile, has struggled with drops and injuries; he caught only 12 balls in 2014.
I'd give the Bengals an A+ if they signed Daenerys Targaryen, because, well, dragons. I imagine her three "babies" would do some damage on the football field. Cincinnati, however, gets a solid "B" for Denarius Moore. Perhaps Marvin Lewis can turn Moore's career around, as he has done with other troubled players. If not, Cincinnati isn't risking much with his small contract.
Colts sign S Dwight Lowery (1 year, $950K; $80K bonus): A- Grade
Dwight Lowery would be considered a quality starting safety if it weren't for his extensive concussion history. He managed to play all 16 games in 2014, but he missed 20 contests in the two prior seasons.
Lowery was solid last year, so perhaps he'll be able to continue to play that way in his new home. It wouldn't be a surprise if he missed time, but the Colts aren't taking any sort of risk here, given the small amount of money on this contract.
Browns sign TE Rob Housler (1 year, $1.76M; $750K bonus): D Grade
A few weeks ago, I implored someone to stop Browns' general manager Ray Farmer before he hurt himself. No one listened, as Farmer once again made a foolish free-agent signing.
This acquisition is embarrassing. Housler has done nothing in his career but drop passes and disappoint his coaches and fans, so I'm not sure why Farmer believed that the former Cardinals' tight end deserved any sort of signing bonus. In fact, the Ravens, who are in need of a tight end and have one of the smartest front offices available, thought so little of Housler that they offered him just the veteran minimum. I can see why the Browns would pay slightly more than that to lure Housler away from one of their rivals, but this is way too much money for a 27-year-old tight end who has accomplished nothing in the pros.
Titans sign TE Anthony Fasano (2 years, $5.25M; $1.125M bonus): C Grade
The Titans have enjoyed a quality offseason, but it's hard to like this signing very much. Giving a 31-year-old blocking tight end this much money is questionable to begin with, and then Anthony Fasano's 2014 performance has to be taken into account. Fasano's blocking ability took a sharp dive this past season, though injuries did play a factor. Given that, however, the Titans should've been able to obtain Fasano at a cheaper price as a buy-low target. Instead, they're paying too much for a player who could continue to regress as he enters his 30s.
Texans sign WR Nate Washington (1 year, $1 million): B Grade
This signing makes sense. The Texans happen to be very thin at receiver. With Andre Johnson gone, all Houston had after DeAndre Hopkins prior to this signing was Cecil Shorts, who hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his career. Nate Washington will serve as a situational deep threat as the No. 3 wideout - or the fourth receiver if the Texans pick a player at the position early in the 2015 NFL Draft - and he may even start some games if Shorts misses action, as expected. The price makes sense for Washington, as the only bonus money included is just $30,000. Given that, the Texans aren't taking much of a risk if the 32-year-old (in August) happens to regress.
Dolphins sign QB Josh Freeman (1 year, $765,000): B+ Grade
Meh, why not? A couple of years ago, we were the first to report that Josh Freeman had personal issues that would derail his season with the Buccaneers. That came to fruition, with Freeman sitting out all of 2014 after playing just four games the previous year. We don't have an update on that story, but it's possible that Freeman may have gotten his life together after some time away from football. Freeman has the physical talent to be successful, so if he has gotten things together mentally, he could possibly emerge as a starter sometime in the future.
In the meantime, he'll have to fight for the No. 2 job with Matt Moore. He might win it, but even if he doesn't, he could be dealt for a late-round pick if he looks sharp in the preseason. Perhaps a team like the Jaguars could acquire him; offensive coordinator Greg Olson got the most out of Freeman when the two were together in Tampa.
Bears sign RB Jacquizz Rodgers (1 year, $785,000): B+ Grade
The Bears didn't exactly have the best depth behind Matt Forte, so the Jacquizz Rodgers signing makes a ton of sense. Rodgers isn't the best runner, but he can catch passes effectively, as evidenced by his 52-reception campaign in 2013. He'll split touches with Ka'Deem Carey if Matt Forte gets hurt, so he's a nice insurance policy to have at the running back position, especially at his extremely cheap price.
Bears sign DE/DT Ray McDonald (1 year, $1.05 million): A- Grade
I trashed the Cowboys for signing Greg Hardy, but this acquisition is much different. Hardy had to pay off his accuser, which indicated that he almost certainly was guilty, while Ray McDonald is now suing the woman who accused him of sexual assault. That's exactly what I would do if I were innocent and pissed that someone wrongfully tarnished my image, so unless further evidence presents itself, I'm going to assume that McDonald is not the monster that the public made him out to be when the news first broke.
With that in mind, this is a fantastic signing. McDonald turns 31 in September, but was still a terrific player last year, both in terms of generating pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run. With the Bears turning to a 3-4 defense, McDonald fills a big need at the five-technique position. Chicago's defense still needs a ton of work, but getting McDonald on the roster will surely help.
Eagles sign WR Miles Austin (1 year, $2.3M; $1M guaranteed): SURPRISE KIELBASA IN EASTER EGG MILLEN Grade
I've been waiting for contract details on the Miles Austin signing for quite a while. The acquisition made little sense to begin with, but it could've been somewhat defensible had the Eagles not paid Austin any guaranteed money. That, apparently, is not the case.
Philadelphia has given Austin $1 million fully guaranteed. And I can't understand why. Austin is completely done. He hasn't played well in years because injuries have sapped his athleticism and explosiveness. He generated absolutely no interest in free agency, taking zero visits from other teams prior to signing with Philadelphia. Thus, the Eagles offering him a deal with any sort of guaranteed money doesn't make sense.
This is yet another dubious acquisition by the Eagles this offseason, and it's getting an "F" (or a "surprise kielbasa in Easter egg Millen grade" in honor of the holidays). The contract makes no sense, and I'm beginning to wonder if Chip Kelly is just trolling his fans at this point. He's so obsessed with injured players that I imagine he tuned into the Walking Dead finale and thought, "Man, that Glenn can certainly play football for me" while watching him limp around. It's not a good thing to obtain so many injury-prone players, but unlike some of the other players like DeMarco Murray and Kiko Alonso, Austin can't actually play anymore.
Redskins acquire S Dashon Goldson, 2016 7th-rounder from Buccaneers for 2016 6th-rounder
Dashon Goldson was a first-team All-Pro in 2012, but was always an overrated player. The Buccaneers didn't recognize this and made the mistake of paying him $41 million over five years back in 2013. Goldson will turn 31 during the season and is probably not a starting-caliber safety anymore. Thus, it's puzzling why the Redskins would trade for him, especially when it was reported earlier this offseason that Tampa Bay would release him if it couldn't find a trading partner.
It's not like there was a hot market for Goldson's services. If the Redskins really wanted him - and I can't figure out why they would - they could've patiently waited for the Buccaneers to terminate his contract. Instead, Washington dropped down an entire round in the 2016 NFL Draft and now will have to pay Goldson way more money than what he's worth. That's some bad management.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, did well to get anything for a player they were more than happy to release. Moving up from the seventh to the sixth round next April isn't going to win them the Super Bowl, but it's better than nothing. The best part of the trade is getting rid of Goldson's obscene salary.
Update: It's been reported that the Buccaneers will be paying some of Goldson's salary. That makes this deal better for the Redskins, but it's still strange that they wouldn't wait for him to hit free agency.
Broncos sign DE/DT Antonio Smith (1 year, $2 million): A- Grade
Antonio Smith, 34 in October, showed signs of regression last year. Or, perhaps it was his transition into a 4-3 scheme. Regardless, Smith struggled mightily against the run this past season, though he did show that he can still apply decent pressure on the quarterback. That's exactly what he'll be asked to do in Denver.
I like this signing a lot. Smith still has something left in the tank, and at just $2 million this year, he's not any sort of risk. Smith also played under Gary Kubiak in Houston, so the Broncos will be getting a familiar player who will be trying to prove that he still deserves to get paid a decent amount.
Broncos acquire C Gino Gradkowski and 2016 5th-rounder from Ravens for 2016 4th-rounder
Moving back 30 or so spots in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft isn't the end of the world, so it's hard to hate this trade for the Broncos. It's hard to like it, however, given that it doesn't make much sense.
Gino Gradkowski has not shown that he can even be a reliable backup in the NFL. He started in 2013, but was an abomination, prompting Ozzie Newsome to find an upgrade at center the following offseason. Gradkowski then barely played last year, so I'm not sure what Denver sees in him. New head coach Gary Kubiak coached Gradkowski in Baltimore last year, so perhaps he knows something the rest of us don't.
The Ravens did well to get rid of a lineman who hasn't proven that he can play on the professional level in exchange for moving up an entire round next April. They are the clear winners of this trade.
Cowboys re-sign ILB Rolando McClain (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
I thought Rolando McClain was going to be a risky free agent signing this offseason. He had an excellent 2014 campaign for the Cowboys, but has off-the-field issues in both his past and present; in terms of the latter, he's currently facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Giving him a big deal with lots of guaranteed money could've been disastrous.
The Cowboys don't have to worry about that; at least not in 2015. McClain was signed to a 1-year "prove it" deal, so Dallas will likely be getting him on his best behavior. The team probably won't have him for the first four games, but the wait will be worth it if McClain plays anywhere near as effectively as he did in 2014.
Ravens sign QB Matt Schaub (1 year, $2 million): C+ Grade
There are corpses buried in cemeteries than can play quarterback better than Matt Schaub at this point, but there wasn't much left in terms of free agent quarterbacks. In fact, the only available signal-caller I had higher in my NFL Free Agent Rankings was Tarvaris Jackson. The Ravens needed a backup quarterback, and while Schaub isn't ideal, there weren't many viable options. Thus, I won't penalize Baltimore very much with this grade.
Packers re-sign NT B.J. Raji (1 year, $3.5 million): B+ Grade
I wrote this when B.J. Raji re-signed with the Packers on a 1-year, $4 million deal last spring:
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.
I don't see why the Packers shouldn't get a similar grade. I'm going from an A- to a B+ because Raji is a year older and happens to be coming off a lost season due to a torn bicep, but this is still a quality "prove it" contract.
Eagles extend ILB DeMeco Ryans (1 year, $7.5M; $6.25M guaranteed): C Grade
It's hard to like this extension very much. DeMeco Ryans is coming off a torn Achilles and wasn't even set to be the backup behind Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks in 2015 because of that injury. Giving Ryans $6.25 million guaranteed on a short-term deal when he may not be close to 100 percent doesn't seem like a very intelligent move.
I can't go below a "C" though. Ryans, if healthy, will provide quality depth even though he's not a good fit for the 3-4. He's also a great leader to have in the locker room, so letting him go would've hurt from a team morale perspective.
Packers re-sign NT Letroy Guion (1 year, $2.75 million): B Grade
Letroy Guion had to step in at nose tackle for an injured B.J. Raji last season and did a half-decent job. Guion struggled in run support - not a surprise, considering that 315 pounds is light for a nose tackle - but was able to provide a solid push in the pocket while rushing the passer.
The Packers had to bring back at least one of Guion or Raji, so they did well to re-sign the former. However, this is a bit too much for a player with off-the-field problems who is better served as a backup. Granted, the full details of this contract haven't been disclosed, so I'll alter the grade, if needed. But even with that in mind, the Packers deserve a solid "B" for this re-signing, given that they are addressing a need and aren't risking anything long term because this is just a 1-year pact.
Bears sign ILB Mason Foster (1 year, $825,000): B Grade
A third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Mason Foster showed some promise early in his career, particularly in his second season. However, he has regressed since, and he missed nearly half the 2014 campaign with a shoulder injury.
This is a reasonable deal for Foster, however. Perhaps he'll play better in a new home and scheme, so the Bears are wise to take a flier on someone who could possibly rekindle his decent play from 2012. If not, Chicago doesn't really stand to lose anything.
49ers sign G/OT Erik Pears (2 years, $4.7M; $1M guaranteed): C- Grade
General manager Trent Baalke has done some awful things over the past 13 months. This signing has gone under the radar, but it's yet another item to add to his scrapbook of ineptitude.
There's no reason to give Erik Pears $1 million guaranteed. Forget the million; I'm not even sure if the former Buffalo Bill should be getting $1 guaranteed. Pears has shown major signs of regression over the past couple of seasons, and it's gotten so bad that he couldn't block anyone last year. Pears will turn 33 in June, so there's no reason to think he'll get any better. I'm not sure why Baalke believes this will happen, but he has shown that his judgment can't be trusted. He's out of control, and if the 49ers had a competent owner, Baalke would've been replaced already.
Bears sign DE/DT Jarvis Jenkins (1 year, $825K; $80K bonus): B- Grade
I've been asked a lot about another defensive line signing the Bears have made, but I can't grade the Ray McDonald acquisition quite yet because the contract details haven't been released yet.
The financials on this signing have. Jarvis Jenkins was downright awful for the Redskins last year, but that may have had something to do with a rib injury he incurred in late September. Ever since that point, he struggled mightily. Perhaps he'll rebound in Chicago. At the very least, he'll provide some depth in the Bears' new 3-4 scheme at a very reasonable price.
Vikings sign CB Terence Newman (1 year, $2.5M; $750K guaranteed): B- Grade
Terence Newman has enjoyed a ton of success playing under Mike Zimmer throughout his career, so it's no surprise that he signed with the Vikings to once again team up with his former defensive coordinator with the Cowboys and Bengals.
I'm not sure Newman will have success in Minnesota, however. The veteran cornerback turns 37 in early September, and he did not play very well last season. He also missed some time with a knee injury, which was perhaps a sign that his body is beginning to break down. This signing isn't bad, as it could work out in terms of Newman providing solid depth under Zimmer, but I don't think the Vikings needed to give him $750,000 guaranteed.
Patriots sign CB Robert McClain (1 year, $1.24M; $150K bonus): B+ Grade
The Patriots continue to thrive in free agency despite losing Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Vince Wilfork. The media will talk about all of the players they've lost, but Bill Belichick's ability to make solid, under-the-radar acquisitions like this is one of the reasons why New England always triumphs in the AFC East.
Robert McClain has been a solid nickel cornerback for a few seasons now, but he had a down 2014 campaign. That's because he was forced outside to compensate for all of the injuries the Falcons incurred. Kyle Arrington plays nickel for New England right now, but McClain, a buy-low acquisition, is a very cheap option if Arrington goes down.
Falcons re-sign DE Kroy Biermann (1 year, $1.925M; $500K bonus): B+ Grade
Kroy Biermann tore his Achilles in Week 2 of the 2013 campaign, but he rebounded nicely last season. He was able to stop the run effectively and also got to the quarterback on occasion. He registered 4.5 sacks, a career-high figure, though a third of that came in one game against the hapless Buccaneers. Biermann turns 30 in early September, so even though he'll be two years removed from his Achilles tear, his best days are likely behind him.
Having said that, those concerns are mitigated by the details of this contract. Biermann is signed on for only one year at a very reasonable $1.925 million, which includes a small bonus of $500,000. He's well worth that money; even if he declines a bit on the field, his veteran presence will help in the locker room.
Dolphins sign QB Matt Moore (1 year, $2.6 million): A- Grade
The lack of interest in Matt Moore this offseason was puzzling. Moore, one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL, would have been a reasonable option for the Jets, Browns or Bills as their starting quarterback in 2015. Moore is unquestionably better than Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown and Matt Cassel, so it's strange that the three teams all passed on him. Then again, we're talking about three incompetent NFL franchises that haven't had success in a long time, so perhaps this should've been predictable.
As a result of teams not knowing what they are doing, the Dolphins were able to benefit. A 1-year, $2.6 million contract is a great deal for Moore. Again, he's one of the top No. 2 signal-callers in the league, and Miami won't skip a beat if Ryan Tannehill goes down with an injury.
Broncos sign S Darian Stewart (2 years, $4.25M; $1.25M bonus): A- Grade
This signing wasn't discussed very much, but I feel like it's one of the better acquisitions we've seen all offseason when factoring in everything (contract size, need, etc.)
Darian Stewart dealt with numerous injuries when he was with the Rams, but he put together a healthy and strong 2014 campaign in Baltimore. I thought he would generate more interest on the open market and would consequently receive a bigger deal, which would've been risky given his health history. However, the Broncos managed to reel him in for just a bit more than $2 million per season with only a $1.25 million bonus, which is a fantastic bargain. Denver had to replace the departed Rahim Moore, and Stewart will definitely be able a solid starter at the safety position as long as he can stay on the field.
Browns sign WR Dwayne Bowe (2 years, $12.5M; $9M guaranteed): D Grade
Someone stop Ray Farmer before he hurts himself. The man is obviously crazy, as evidenced by some of his nonsensical moves this offseason. This latest signing might be the worst one yet.
What in the world made Farmer believe that Bowe should be given $9 million guaranteed? Long known as one of the most overrated receivers in the NFL, Bowe failed to score a touchdown last season with Alex Smith, so how can he be expected to be productive with an inferior Josh McCown? Bowe, who is unreliable because of poor hands and inconsistent route-running, turns 31 in September, so his best days are actually behind him.
I figured Bowe would have to settle for a 1-year "prove it" deal this offseason, but the Browns think giving him $9 million in guaranteed is a good idea. It's not. Bowe's sole motivation is clearly money; otherwise, he would've taken less to join a team with a talented quarterback to revive his career. Instead, he has signed in Cleveland, where he will slack off and effectively steal an incompetent owner's cash.
Steelers re-sign DE/OLB James Harrison (2 years, $2.75M; $500K bonus): B+ Grade
Rumors circulated earlier in the offseason that James Harrison wouldn't be returning to Pittsburgh, and that he would instead follow Dick LeBeau to the Titans. Those did not come to fruition, as Harrison signed a 2-year contract with the Steelers.
Harrison, who had 5.5 sacks in 2014 despite not playing the first six weeks, is a key re-signing. He turns 37 in May, so he could completely regress, but he at least gives the Steelers some stability at outside linebacker, which is a major weak spot for them right now. Harrison's presence in the locker room will also be huge, especially given that the team is hoping to cut ties with Troy Polamalu, per a recent article by Ed Bouchette. This price is a good one, as the $500,000 bonus won't hurt Pittsburgh at all if Harrison declines.
Browns sign DT Randy Starks (2 years, $8M; $3M guaranteed): A- Grade
Randy Starks took a step backward this past season after putting together a dominant 2013 campaign. He was only 30 for most of the year though, so I don't think age was a factor. It could've easily been because of a back injury he dealt with in the middle of the year.
With that in mind, I love this signing. The Browns are getting a player who can be a ferocious interior pass-rusher when healthy, and because of Starks' injury last season, Cleveland is getting great value with him. The Browns have done some strange things this offseason - overpaying for Josh McCown and Tramon Williams, and reportedly offering a first-round pick for Sam Bradford stands out - but this is a strong move.
Falcons sign TE Jacob Tamme (2 years, $4 million): C Grade
Jacob Tamme doesn't do anything particularly well, but should fight for the lead in receptions at the position in Atlanta's offense, barring an early-round selection used on a tight end. Tamme caught 67 and 52 receptions in 2010 and 2012, respectively, but that was with Peyton Manning. In fact, aside from the 2011 campaign in which he logged just 19 catches, Tamme has never played without Manning. Thus, he's a bit overvalued, and I feel like Atlanta overspent a bit. Having said that, it's not a terrible move, or anything, as Kyle Shanahan's offense requires multiple tight ends.
Patriots sign TE Scott Chandler (2 years, $5.3M; $2M bonus): B- Grade
Scott Chandler is as mediocre as it gets, and I've been campaigning for the Bills to find an upgrade at the tight end position for years. However, Chandler projects as a solid backup. The Patriots gave him a bit more than I would have, but unlike Tim Wright, Chandler will definitely contribute as a solid blocker, making this a quality move. He can also step into the starting lineup in the event that Rob Gronkowski gets hurt again.
Colts sign DE/OLB Trent Cole (2 years, $16M; $8M guaranteed): B Grade
I'm obviously catching up on grades I missed from earlier during the free-agency period, as some contract details weren't available at the time. I'm amazed that Trent Cole is getting just about the same amount of guaranteed money as Marcus Gilchrist, even when considering that the term is half as long.
Cole turns 33 in October, but he was highly effective for the Eagles this past season, proving that he can be a strong defender in the 3-4 after spending most of his career in the 4-3. Cole has registered 14.5 sacks over the past two years, and that number is misleading because he constantly put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. There's a chance that Cole could regress this upcoming season, given his age, so that's why I can't go above a "B" for this. However, this is a quality signing that should help Indianapolis take the next step.
Jets sign S/CB Marcus Gilchrist (4 years, $22M; $8.5M guaranteed): BLUE AND BLACK MILLEN KIELBASA (NOT WHITE AND GOLD MILLEN KIELBASA) Grade
San Diego fans have to be laughing at this contract. Marcus Gilchrist was chosen in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, but turned out to be a bust. His one non-poor season was in 2013, when he was just sub par. He has otherwise been atrocious in coverage, so I rated him as a 1.5-star safety in my NFL Free Agent Rankings. I had him behind Colt Anderson, who is just a core special-teamer. I figured Gilchrist would receive a contract for the league minimum, or perhaps something just a bit more than that. A 1-year, $1.2 million deal would have been appropriate.
I nearly spat out my Cocoa Puffs when I saw the details of this contract. Forget the guarantee; the base value of this pact shouldn't have been $8.5 million over four years. I have no idea why the Jets felt the need to overpay for Gilchrist like this, but it's just another curious signing by the front office in what has been another underwhelming offseason for this franchise.
Raiders sign QB Christian Ponder (1 year, $2.25M; $1.5M bonus): B Grade
Christian Ponder failed as a starter in Minnesota, so he'll have to focus on being a backup for the rest of his professional career. He should be a fairly decent one, as his experience will definitely help.
There were only a couple of reserve quarterbacks available who were better than Ponder when the Raiders signed him. He'll be a cheaper, better upgrade over Matt Schaub. I have no issues with this addition, as the money is just right for a No. 2 signal-caller.
Buccaneers sign CB Sterling Moore (1 year, $1.525 million): B+ Grade
Sterling Moore didn't play much in 2013, but was forced into action this past season when Morris Claiborne was benched and subsequently injured. He played well, both in coverage and run support as Dallas' nickel.
The Buccaneers, in need of cornerback help, just made a quality signing. Moore is probably worth more than $1.525 million, so Tampa is filling a hole at nice value.
Ravens sign S Kendrick Lewis (3 years, $5.4M; $1.4M bonus): A- Grade
Kendrick Lewis' career got off to a great start in Kansas City, but he regressed every season until the team gave up on him. However, he rebounded this past year in Houston, so perhaps he'll keep playing well, continuing to revive his career.
I imagine the Ravens will get the most out of Lewis, and that's one of the reasons I love this signing. Another is that Lewis potentially fills a big need at safety, while a third is that he's insanely cheap. Lewis should have gotten a bigger contract than one that pays him less than $2 million per season. As it stands, the Ravens aren't risking anything by bringing him on, so this is all upside.
Seahawks sign NT Ahtyba Rubin (1 year, $3.1M; $1M bonus): A- Grade
The Seahawks made a value signing by buying low on a player? You don't say! Ahtyba Rubin struggled mightily in 2014, but that may have been because of an ankle injury that hindered him early in the season and caused him to miss several games. He showed signs of improving late in the year, performing like he did the previous season when he was a monstrous run-stuffer for the Browns.
Rubin is a strong addition on a 1-year "prove it" deal. He'll be working hard to redeem himself so he can cash in with a bigger contract next spring, so it's safe to assume that Seattle's run defense will be strong in 2015.
Dolphins re-sign S Louis Delmas (1 year, $3.5 million): B+ Grade
Louis Delmas didn't generate much interest in free agency because he tore his ACL in early December. It was a shame, as he had been playing very well in 2014. With Delmas set to hit free agency, Miami had to find a solution at the safety position. Bringing Delmas back could be the answer.
I like this re-signing. The Dolphins will be fine at safety if Delmas returns in time and doesn't show any signs of his most-recent injury. That may not be the case though, but even still, the Dolphins aren't taking any sort of risk by bringing Delmas back for just one year, even when considering his extensive injury history.
Giants sign DE George Selvie (1 year, $1.4 million): B Grade
This is a solid depth addition. George Selvie is pretty strong in run support, and he can get to the quarterback on occasion; he recorded seven sacks for Dallas in 2013, though he saw that number fall to three last year. Still, he's a nice player to have in a defensive line rotation, and the Giants needed to add some depth up front. This price is definitely right for Selvie.
Colts sign ILB Nate Irving (3 years, $9.25 million): B Grade
The Colts had a huge need at inside linebacker. They had to find two upgrades there, so they're now one down, one to go in that regard.
Nate Irving is a solid, two-down run defender. He struggles in coverage, so the Colts shouldn't put him in a position to guard opposing tight ends too often. However, he's an upgrade over what the team had on early downs, as he'll help Indianapolis improve its poor rush defense from a year ago. Irving makes sense at this price, even when considering the fact that he tore his ACL in the middle of the 2014 season.
Bills sign TE Charles Clay (5 years, $38M; $20M guaranteed): C Grade
I've been calling for the Bills to upgrade Scott Chandler for what seemed like decades. I don't know why they were so content with mediocrity at the tight end position when they've had quarterbacks who needed to depend on reliable intermediate options. Well, it took forever, but Buffalo finally improved the position.
Having said that, this is a very questionable signing. Charles Clay is a skilled receiving threat at tight end, but he is not worth this sort of money. As a comparison, Jimmy Graham was given a 4-year, $40 million contract with $20.9 million guaranteed. Graham got a bit more, but he's a much better player than Clay.
Something else that needs to be considered is Clay's durability. He has played just one full season in his 4-year career, so I'm not sure why the Bills think it's a great idea to guarantee him so much money.
Panthers sign CB Alan Ball (1 year, $2 million): B+ Grade
This is another solid signing for a short-term contract given to an underrated cornerback. Alan Ball had a quality 2013 campaign before struggling a bit last year. He ultimately landed on injured reserve with a torn bicep, so that's why he's available so cheaply.
Ball won't be asked to start though, so he'll be a strong backup at a very reasonable price. He'll get to prove his worth on this 1-year contract, so I like this signing.
Chargers sign CB Patrick Robinson (1 year, $3M; $1.25M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Patrick Robinson was torched early and often during the beginning of the 2014 season. He was ultimately benched, but then moved into nickel duties, where he performed very well. That's why I gave him a two-star rating in my NFL Free Agent Rankings.
I was wondering if teams took notice about Robinson's solid play as a nickel in the second half of the season, and the Chargers' smart front office apparently did. Besides, Robinson had some positive moments as an outside corner in the past, so I think this is a quality signing at just $1.25 million guaranteed.
Cowboys sign DE Greg Hardy (1 year, $11.3 million): C+ Grade
This signing is extremely difficult to grade. Had Greg Hardy not been dealing with off-the-field issues, he would've been one of the top five NFL free agents, and he definitely would've signed a long-term mega deal on the first day of free agency. Alas, that's not the case, as Hardy dealt with a domestic-violence case that caused him to miss all but one game in 2014.
Hardy is a massive upgrade for a Dallas defense in dire need of play-makers, but that's not the issue. Otherwise, this would be an "A+" signing. The problem is two-fold: Hardy's impending suspension, as well as the ramifications that comes from signing someone like him.
For the first, Hardy is bound to serve some sort of suspension this season, quite possibly for six games. Given that, the Cowboys are paying a lot of money to a player who will be around for about half the season. Hardy will obviously help for the playoffs, though Dallas would have to qualify first, and it might be difficult for the team to do that without Hardy being on the field for the first six weeks.
The second issue is something that's bothering me. The NFL has spent a lot of energy making commercials featuring sorrowful players and celebrities talking about "no more" domestic violence - and yet the league is just allowing Hardy to return? It's so hypocritical. Hardy wasn't convicted, but it sounds like he would have if the accuser hadn't "disappeared." Hardy and his lawyers paid her off, and they obviously wouldn't have had to do that if he wasn't guilty. Think about it this way: Would Hardy be in the league right now if there happened to be video of his domestic-violence incident like there was of Ray Rice's?
Overall, this signing will probably help the Cowboys, but it could backfire if the team gets off to a slow start, and the public-relations backlash may hurt the franchise. I'm giving the Cowboys a "C" for this, but like I said, this was a difficult one to grade.
Update: It's been pointed out that most of Hardy's money is tied into per-game bonuses, meaning that if he's suspended for six, or however many contests, the Cowboys won't be on the hook for the full $11.3 million. That makes much more sense from a financial perspective.
However, that was never really the issue, as this signing still doesn't feel right. Again, if the NFL truly cares about domestic violence as much as it would have you believe with the commercials it airs, the league would've prevented Hardy from returning to the field. The NFL is sending out a horrible message, and there would be so much outrage right now if people saw video of Hardy. But there's no video, so no one cares? How does that make any sense?
I've increased this grade to a "C+," but whatever. If Dallas fans want to root for DE Woman Abuser, they can go ahead. If no one cares, there's no point in ranting about it anymore.
Bills sign WR Percy Harvin (1 year, $6 million): B Grade
It's official now. The 49ers tried to pry Percy Harvin away from Buffalo, but Harvin ultimately decided to follow Rex Ryan to the Bills.
I feared that Buffalo would give Harvin a bigger contract than this, but that apparently is not the case. This is more of a "prove it" deal, which I usually love. The Bills aren't taking much of a risk with Harvin, and they need a secondary weapon to take attention away from Sammy Watkins, so why not see if he can contribute this year and become a long-term option? The only possible downside is that Harvin will cause headaches in the locker room (get it, headaches?), which ultimately could hurt team morale, but it's not like the Bills had Super Bowl aspirations anyway.
Lions re-sign CB Rashean Mathis (2 years, $3.5 million): A- Grade
Rashean Mathis is a freak of nature. Ordinary cornerbacks usually regress by the time they're in their mid-30s. Mathis, on the other hand, continues to thrive. Despite the fact that he turns 35 in August, he has played extremely well for the Lions over the past couple of seasons.
Mathis will regress eventually, but he doesn't come with any sort of risk at this price. The Lions almost had to bring him back, given their issues at the position. Mathis will return as the team's starting cornerback for 2015, and he'll continue to serve as a strong locker room leader.
Patriots sign CB Bradley Fletcher (1 years, $2.5 million): C- Grade
Bradley Fletcher was downright awful this past season. He was torched in almost every game, prompting Chip Kelly to eventually bench him. Fletcher had injury issues early in his career, and those appear to have sapped his skills, as he used to be a fairly decent cornerback.
Having said that, we've seen Bill Belichick turn other people's trash into his own treasure before. He did it this past season with Patrick Chung, who was a solid safety after struggling mightily in Philadelphia. Perhaps Belichick will get the most out of Fletcher. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but if Belichick can turn Fletcher into a decent contributor, he'll truly be a miracle worker.
Ravens re-sign DE/DT Chris Canty (2 years, $4.65 million): B Grade
Chris Canty hinted at retirement earlier in the offseason, prompting Baltimore to release him. Apparently, he's going to keep playing, and the Ravens will be more than happy to have him back for one more season.
This is a 2-year deal, but the second season in this contract is a team option, so the Ravens aren't locking themselves into anything beyond the 2015 campaign. Canty, 33 in November, can still play somewhat well. He has regressed over the years, but he apply pressure on the quarterback as a key rotational player. He's also a veteran presence in the locker room - something the Ravens need in the wake of Haloti Ngata's departure.
Steelers sign RB DeAngelo Williams (2 years, $4M; $1.3M bonus): C Grade
I guess it doesn't hurt to have a veteran backup behind Le'Veon Bell, which is something Pittsburgh lacked this past season when it released LeGarrette Blount. DeAngelo Williams can provide some stability in case Bell gets hurt again.
Unfortunately, Williams won't be able to offer much more than that. Williams, 32 in April, seemed done last year when he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. Carolina's offensive line can't even be blamed for that poor figure because Jonathan Stewart looked great at the end of the season. With that in mind, I don't know why the Steelers felt like they needed to give Williams a $1.3 million signing bonus. It won't bankrupt the Steelers, or anything, but it just seems like a waste.
Raiders sign RB Trent Richardson (2 years, $3.9 million): MARCH MILLEN MADNESS Grade
I was planning on giving the Raiders a grade like a "C-" or a "D" had they signed Trent Richardson to the league minimum. Paying him nearly $2 million per season is downright irresponsible and stupid.
I have no idea what Reggie McKenzie is thinking. Richardson is absolute trash, both as a player and as a presence in the locker room. If you're thinking that there isn't much risk to this acquisition because Richardson isn't signed on for that much money in the grand scheme of things, that's absolutely wrong. The risk is that Richardson will poison the team with his horrible attitude and lethargy. He's not a good person to surround Derek Carr with, and it's not like Richardson has ever accomplished anything in his career.
Chargers sign WR Stevie Johnson (3 years, $10.5 million): B Grade
This seemed like a lot of money for Stevie Johnson at first glance. He barely did anything last season, catching just 35 passes for 435 yards and three touchdowns. However, based on what the 49ers went through this past year, Johnson's 2014 campaign should probably be disregarded. Colin Kaepernick regressed, Jim Harbaugh didn't care because his inept front office was undermining him, and the team in general was stuck in a malaise.
Johnson, who was pursued heavily by the Patriots, will have a better chance to produce in San Diego. Philip Rivers revived Eddie Royal's career, so he might be able to do the same for Johnson, who is more talented than the departed Royal.
Texans sign NT Vince Wilfork (2 years, $9M; $5M guaranteed): A- Grade
The Texans had a huge need at the nose tackle position, as it was apparent that Louis Nix was not ready to be a starter. They needed to bring in a short-term option who could play while Nix was getting groomed for the job. Vince Wilfork is the perfect solution.
I like this signing a lot. Wilfork is a monstrous run-stuffer and a tremendous presence in the locker room. He's a perfect fit in Houston's defense, filling one of the team's greatest needs. He also comes at a very reasonable price at just $5 million guaranteed. The only downside is that he turns 34 in November, but he'll be able to clog rushing lanes effectively for the next year or two.
Texans sign WR Cecil Shorts (2 years, $6M; $2.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
Cecil Shorts has been the king of garbage time throughout his career. In other words, he racks up yardage at the very end of games that are blowouts, yet he doesn't do anything in meaningful action.
Having said that, Shorts is not a bad addition as a complementary receiver as a replacement for Andre Johnson. Shorts is not a No. 2 option, so Houston should still look for a second receiver in the 2015 NFL Draft so that Shorts can be a tertiary wideout in 2015. The price is right for Shorts here as a third target, as he's guaranteed just $2.5 million.
Browns sign CB Tramon Williams (3 years, $21 million): C Grade
The Browns must not have a lot of faith in Justin Gilbert, or they wouldn't have paid Tramon Williams $7 million per year. Giving him that much money is a mistake, regardless.
This has "bust signing" written all over it. The Packers offered Williams a set amount, but he bolted for a worse franchise that is currently in shambles. He clearly doesn't care about winning, and his No. 1 priority is money. Signings like this almost never pan out, and it doesn't help that Williams, who actually turned 32 today, is on the downside of his career and will regress going forward. Thus, the Browns are obviously overpaying for his services.
Redskins sign S Jeron Johnson (2 years, $4 million): B Grade
The Redskins tried to sign other safeties to bolster the position, but were unsuccessful in doing so. They had to settle for Jeron Johnson, who has just one career start under his belt. Johnson did look somewhat decent in that start, however, and in the worst-case scenario, he can bolster the special-teams unit. And at $4 million over two years, why not? This appears to be a cheap, yet solid signing for Washington.
Dolphins sign TE Jordan Cameron (2 years, $15 million): B+ Grade
I gave the Browns a B+ for re-signing Jordan Cameron when that false news first broke. I don't see why the Dolphins would deserve anything different, as this is a solid move; the risk that comes with Cameron is mitigated by the brief duration of this deal.
Ryan Tannehill has had problems connecting on deep passes to his receivers - though that could've just been Mike Wallace's fault - so it would make sense to find an upgrade for him in the intermediate passing game. Cameron is highly athletic and can be very productive if he stays healthy. Unfortunately, his durability has been a big issue, as concussions and other maladies have caused him to miss 17 games in his 4-year career. This signing could be a bust for that reason, but the Dolphins aren't risking much, given that this is just a 2-year pact.
49ers sign RB Reggie Bush (4 years, $16M; $4M guaranteed): D Grade
The 49ers' descent into the cellar of the NFC West continues. Reggie Bush struggled for snaps last year because he was so ineffective and mistake-prone. He averaged just 3.9 yards per carry and screwed up way too often, whether it was dropping passes or missing blocking assignments. Bush, now 30, has lost his explosiveness, as he's no longer the dynamic threat he once was. He can still catch passes out of the backfield, but it's not like he's going to do much with the ball in his hands anymore.
With that in mind, it's puzzling as to why the 49ers paid him all of this money. Bush could've been a somewhat-decent complement to Carlos Hyde, but not at this price. I suppose the 49ers would've known this had they watched film of Bush from 2014, but they apparently were too busy undermining their stellar coach to do that.
Steelers extend QB Ben Roethlisberger (5 years, $99M; $60.75M guaranteed): B+ Grade
It took a while for Ben Roethlisberger's official numbers to be released, so that's why I waited two whole days to grade this extension. We learned yesterday that the total value of Roethlisberger's contract was $99 million, but it wasn't apparent how much of a guarantee he received, which is more important than anything else. As of this morning, we know that Big Ben obtained $60.75 million guaranteed.
To properly grade this, I wanted to look at some of the other big contracts quarterbacks have received recently:
Aaron Rodgers: 5 years, $110M; $62.5M guaranteed
Joe Flacco: 6 years, $120.6M; $52M guaranteed
Matt Ryan: 6 years, $103.75M; $59M guaranteed
Drew Brees: 5 years, $100M; $40M guaranteed (in 2012)
Compared to Flacco and Ryan's deals, Roethlisberger's contract seems pretty stellar. It sucks when looking at what Drew Brees received, but that was back in 2012, and the cap has risen significantly since.
Contracts like this are always difficult to grade. On one hand, it may cause problems for the Steelers in terms of retaining some of their players, and by the time Roethlisberger is in Year 4 of this deal, he could be on the decline. On the other hand, Roethlisberger is way too important to the team and could effectively name his own price. Losing Ben Ben would be disastrous, especially now that he's playing at the top of his game.
I typically hand out a standard "B+" to all of these quarterback contracts, so that's what I'll give the Steelers for extending Roethlisberger.
Bengals sign DE Michael Johnson (4 years, $24 million): C Grade
Michael Johnson was an absolute disaster for Tampa Bay after signing a 5-year, $45 million contract last offseason. He was cut after just one year, as he was completely inept all while looking like he wasn't trying very hard. I figured Johnson would have to sign on with some team for a short-term "prove it" deal, but Cincinnati apparently has no concerns.
I do, however, so I can't give this a good grade. Johnson has had lethargy problems dating back to college, so I'd worry that he wouldn't give 100 percent after getting another big contract. There's a chance that Marvin Lewis will get the most out of Johnson again, so he does potentially fill a big need at defensive end. However, all of this money may have just made Johnson fat and happy.
49ers sign CB Shareece Wright (1 year, $4 million): D Grade
While this isn't the worst signing of the offseason - we can thank Reggie McKenzie overspending on Nate Allen for that - this one is pretty bad. Shareece Wright is an inept cornerback who can barely cover anyone, so I don't see why the 49ers thought that they needed to pay him $4 million to play for them next season. San Francisco had to find some cornerback help, but there were so many better options available, as you can see in the NFL Free Agent Rankings lists.
Falcons sign LB Justin Durant (3 years, $10.8M; $3M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Justin Durant is a solid, starting-caliber linebacker when he has been on the field. He played well for the Cowboys last year prior to tearing his bicep in October. Unfortunately for Durant, his durability has been a major issue. He hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his career. He has played just one full season in his eight years, and he has missed 16 combined games in the past two seasons.
Having said that, this is a nice signing because the Falcons are paying Durant just $3 million guaranteed in this 3-year deal. If Durant's injury problems persist, Atlanta can just cut him without much of a penalty. On the other hand, if Durant manages to stay healthy, the Falcons will have an upgrade at linebacker at a very reasonable price.
Titans sign CB Perrish Cox (3 years, $15 million): B+ Grade
The Titans have done a great job of adding solid talent to what was a completely woeful defense last year. The team wasn't competitive at all in most games, but that will hardly be the case this upcoming season. Tennessee already acquired Brian Orakpo and Da'Norris Searcy, and now they've upgraded the cornerback position with Perrish Cox.
Cox had a nice start to his career, but got into off-the-field problems and struggled as a consequence from 2011 to 2013. He rebounded nicely this past season, both in terms of staying clean and playing well. There's always a chance Cox will regress and get into more trouble, but this contract won't exactly set the Titans back if that happens. It's a solid bargain for Cox, who is well worth the risk at this price.
Saints sign RB C.J. Spiller (4 years, $18M; $9M guaranteed): B- Grade
I like the fit of C.J. Spiller in New Orleans. The Bills had absolutely no idea how to utilize him, but I have to imagine that Sean Payton and Drew Brees will transform him into a Darren Sproles-type weapon. Not that Spiller and Sproles have the exact same skill set, but the former Buffalo back can serve as a potent pass-catching threat coming out of the backfield.
Having said that, I think the Saints are paying Spiller a bit too much. Giving him $9 million guaranteed is a bit risky considering that he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. Spiller has missed just 10 games in five years, but he has constantly been banged up and was ineffective the past two years as a consequence.
Chiefs re-sign S Ron Parker (5 years, $30 million): D Grade
Uhh... did the Chiefs mean to re-sign Ron Parker to a 5-year, $3 million deal? Because that would've made more sense. Parker is barely a starter; he would be better served as a backup. He was decent enough in coverage this past season, but was an abomination in run support. In fact, aside from the injuries, Parker was the primary reason why Kansas City struggled to stop the rush in 2014.
Making matters worse, Parker has been a starter just one season in his 4-year career, so it's not like he even has a proven track record prior to his pedestrian 2014 campaign. I just don't get this signing, but I won't give the Chiefs a Millen grade because other teams were inexplicably interested in Parker's services as well.
Chargers sign CB/S Jimmy Wilson (2 years, $4.85 million): B Grade
Jimmy Wilson shouldn't be used as a starter, so it's a good thing the Chargers aren't paying him like one. Wilson is a solid backup though, as he can play both cornerback and safety. His versatility will be nice to have, as San Diego dealt with numerous injuries in its secondary last season.
Wilson will be replacing Marcus Gilchrist, who signed with the Jets. The numbers on Gilchrist's contract aren't available yet, but he signed a 4-year deal, which I assume will be worth more per season than Wilson obtained. The thing is, Wilson and Gilchrist are about on the same talent level, so it's hard not to like this acquisition.
Chiefs extend G Ben Grubbs (4 years, $24M; $8M guaranteed): B- Grade
I'm not as big a fan of this extension as I was of the initial trade. Giving away a fifth-round pick for a temporary upgrade at one of the guard positions made a lot of sense, but an extension with $8 million guaranteed isn't as good of a move.
This isn't a terrible extension, or anything, as it won't set Kansas City back very much if Grubbs flops. However, there's a chance that he will continue to regress. He's been a strong player throughout his career, but his play dropped off last year. He just turned 31, so that could continue. He should still be a temporary upgrade, but it's conceivable that Kansas City may want to cut him Year 2 into this deal.
Rams re-sign WR Kenny Britt (2 years, $14M; $4.3M guaranteed): C+ Grade
I liked it much better when Kenny Britt received a 1-year "prove it" deal last offseason with just $550,000 guaranteed. This contract has $4.3 million guaranteed attached to it, making this re-signing much more risky.
Britt, who has been known to have lethargy issues, has been very injury-prone over his career. I don't like the idea of giving him so much when he has proven to be so reliable over his career. Britt is a skilled player, so this contract could work out, especially now that the Rams have a quarterback who might actually be able to stay healthy, but that doesn't mean that Britt will.
Broncos sign G Shelley Smith (2 years, $6.5 million): D Grade
The Broncos desperately needed an upgrade at guard in the wake of losing Orlando Franklin in free agency. That's fine, but they could have done much better than Shelley Smith, who was rated as the 21st guard in the NFL Free Agents Rankings list.
Smith signed with the Dolphins last offseason and was an absolute flop. He couldn't open up any running lanes, and he struggled a bit in pass protection. He was displaced as a starter after two weeks and was only used as a reserve after that. It's strange that the Broncos would give him anything more than $1 million per year.
Vikings acquire WR Mike Wallace and 7th-round pick from Dolphins for 5th-round pick
It was pretty much a forgone conclusion that Mike Wallace wouldn't be back in Miami next year. He quit on his team on multiple occasions this past season, including the finale when he walked off the field and refused to go back into the game. It sounded like the Dolphins were going to just cut him, but they were able to turn their seventh-round pick into a fifth-round choice.
I like what Miami did. Wallace was bad for the locker room, and he never developed chemistry with Ryan Tannehill anyway. The fact that the Dolphins were able to get something back for him is a plus, and this is effectively addition by subtraction. Besides, with Kenny Stills on the roster via the trade this morning, Miami already found a new deep threat at receiver.
As for the Vikings, they're taking a big chance here. They're just downgrading two rounds in the 2015 NFL Draft, and that's not really a big deal, but Wallace could poison the locker room like he did in Miami. Then again, perhaps he and Teddy Bridgewater will build a strong rapport. There's a chance this could work out, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Raiders sign S Nate Allen (4 years, $23M; $11.8M guaranteed): CAPTAIN KIELBASA Grade
I actually laughed for a good minute when I saw these numbers posted on Twitter by Aaron Wilson. I then tweeted - @walterfootball - that the numbers in the contract must have been displaced. Signing Nate Allen to a 4-year, $2.3 million contract actually seems more reasonable than this.
I don't get it. Allen was one of the worst starting safeties in the NFL last year. He was partly responsible for the ineptitude of Philadelphia's secondary, and the team was more than happy to watch him walk away in free agency. Allen wouldn't have gotten a quarter of the value of this deal from anyone else, so why in the world did Oakland give him all this money? It makes absolutely no sense.
This is an easy "F" grade, and it's arguably the worst signing of the offseason thus far. I'm giving the Raiders a "Captain Kielbasa" - half for Matt Millen, half for owner Mark Davis and his ridiculous Captain Kangaroo haircut.
Browns extend DE/DT John Hughes (4 years, $14.4 million): B Grade
The Browns had some issues on the defensive line last year. Part of the problem was that John Hughes was knocked out for the season with a knee injury. Hughes, a decent run-stopper, can also get a bit of pressure on the quarterback for a man his size (6-2, 320). He turns just 26 in April and seems to have a bright future ahead of him.
I'm mixed on this grade though. On one hand, there was no reason for the Browns to extend Hughes, given that he was coming off a knee injury. On the other hand, if Hughes had a dominant 2015 campaign, he would've commanded more money next offseason.
Eagles sign CB Walter Thurmond (1 year, $3.25M; $2M bonus): C+ Grade
Chip Kelly sure loves his injured players. Walter Thurmond hasn't been able to stay healthy at all in his career. In five seasons, he has played just 36 of 80 possible games. He makes Sam Bradford look like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable.
Having said that, I don't mind this signing very much, though the grade would be much better if the Eagles didn't unnecessarily give Thurmond a $2 million signing bonus. There is definitely upside in this acquisition, as Thurmond will provide an upgrade in the secondary, if healthy. That probably won't happen though, as Thurmond's legs and knees are shot. Still, there isn't too much risk in this transaction.
Titans re-sign K Ryan Succop (3 years, $7.2 million): C Grade
Ryan Succop did his best to make the Chiefs regret cutting him last year, hitting 19-of-22 attempts, including both of his tries from 50-plus. However, Kansas City cut him for a reason, and that's because his conversion percentages in the four seasons prior to 2014 were: 78.6, 82.4, 80.0 and 76.9. Succop is not a reliable kicker, so it's a bit puzzling why Tennessee offered him a contract worth close to $2.5 million per year.
Dolphins acquire WR Kenny Stills from Saints for LB Dannell Ellerbe and 3rd-round pick
It's almost as if Sean Payton is having a garage sale outside of his house. I can imagine someone going up to him and asking, "How much for your Drew Brees?" only for Payton to respond, "I'm not selling him! But everything else is available! Look at all of these great deals!"
Payton has reportedly been getting rid of all the players Brees wasn't a fan of last year, so it's hard to hate anything he's doing. I'm actually a fan of the Saints acquiring a third-round selection for Kenny Stills, who is just a one-dimensional deep threat. He wasn't even on the field that much before Brandin Cooks suffered an injury in the middle of the season, so it's not a big loss. I'm not fond of Dannell Ellerbe, who is overpaid and injury-prone, but obtaining a selection in the middle of the third round makes this a solid trade for the Saints.
I'm not as crazy about it for the Dolphins. They do need a speed receiver with Mike Wallace constantly quitting on the team, but they may have been able to obtain a better player than Stills with their third-round selection. Unloading Ellerbe's contract is nice - hilarious that Miami was willing to give up a third to do that - so I don't hate this move, but New Orleans is the clear winner in this swap.
Rams sign DT Nick Fairley (1 years, $5 million): A+ Grade
St. Louis' defensive line was sick last year. It was hard to believe that it could actually improve, but that is the case in the wake of this signing. Nick Fairley would be the No. 1 defensive tackle on many teams, and yet, he'll be the third player at that position in St. Louis this upcoming season.
Fairley, a terrific interior pass-rusher who also thrives in run support, is not just a luxury signing. The Rams had to add some depth at the defensive tackle position in the wake of Kendall Langford's departure. I figured they'd draft someone in the middle rounds, but signing Fairley for just a 1-year, $5 million deal is obviously a much better option. Fairley will be able to bring his explosive pass-rushing ability when either Aaron Donald or Michael Brockers needs a breather, and he's a heck of an insurance policy in case one of them gets injured.
It's also worth noting that Fairley will be extremely motivated in St. Louis. I was worried some team would sign him to a big deal, and that he would disappoint them by being lethargic, but this 1-year "prove it" contract ensures that the former Lion will be working hard for his new organization in 2015.
Cowboys sign RB Darren McFadden (2 years, $5.85M; $200K bonus): B Grade
If this were truly a 2-year, $5.85 million contract, the Cowboys would get some sort Millen-kielbasa "F" grade. We reported last winter that Darren McFadden was expected to stay with the Raiders for one more season because the team offered him a new workout regimen to keep him healthy. Well, it worked, as McFadden didn't get hurt in 2014. Unfortunately, he looked completely done. Showing no burst whatsoever, McFadden mustered just 3.4 yards per carry.
So, why the "B" grade? It's because this is a risk-free signing with at least some upside. All the Cowboys are giving McFadden is a $200,000 signing bonus. If he doesn't show any sort of improvement, they can just cut him without losing anything outside of that bonus. With that in mind, McFadden is at least worth a shot. He was considered one of the league's most-explosive running backs a couple of seasons ago, and now he'll have an excellent offensive line paving the way for him. There's definitely a chance he'll rebound - he'll only be 28 this summer, after all - which will make Jerry Jones thrilled because he has always coveted the former Razorback.
Titans sign DE/OLB Brian Orakpo (4 years, $32M; $13.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
This signing is being lauded by many. Brian Orakpo, after all, was one of the better free agents available. I'm not as crazy about it, however. I think it's a solid move, but it can certainly backfire.
Brian Orakpo is obviously talented, but he's also very injury-prone. He has missed 22 games in the past three seasons, which is absurd. He's coming off a torn pectoral, and he wasn't even that good for Washington this past year prior to getting hurt. I thought he'd have to sign a short-term "prove it" deal of some sort, but that apparently was unnecessary with Tennessee willing to give him $13.5 million in guarantees.
Having said that, I don't hate this move. Orakpo could easily rebound and have a stellar 2015 campaign. If so, he'd fill a huge need the Titans have at the outside linebacker position across from the recently re-signed Derrick Morgan. Also, the Titans had to pay a bit of a premium for Orakpo; otherwise, why would he want to go to a franchise that fielded the least-competitive team in 2014?
Titans re-sign DE/OLB Derrick Morgan (4 years, $30 million): B Grade
There was some question about whether or not Derrick Morgan would be able to transition into the 3-4. He did so remarkably, well enough for the Titans to give him a $30 million contract this offseason.
Morgan was one of the few talented players on Tennessee's defense this past season. Losing him would've been detrimental, as it would've made the most-inept team in the NFL even worse. Morgan notched 6.5 sacks in 2014, which is a deflated number considering that the Titans were seldom ahead and didn't have as many chances to rush the passer. Morgan was also stellar in run support.
The price is a little more than I would've paid Morgan, but this is a special situation, as Tennessee had to be desperate to keep him around, and it might have had to pay a premium to keep him.
Redskins sign CB Chris Culliver (4 years, $32 million): B- Grade
It seems like the Redskins are overpaying a bit for Chris Culliver, who played well in 2014 after sitting out the year before with a torn ACL. They're paying him like a No. 1 corner, and he's not that. He's a solid second cornerback, so he should've commanded less money than this.
Having said that, Washington is not giving Culliver an egregious amount, or anything. The team is also filling a massive need at cornerback. Culliver won't completely fix the secondary, as other upgrades need to be made, but it's a start. Thus, while I don't think this acquisition is great, it does make sense and should help the Redskins improve.
Bears sign WR Eddie Royal (3 years, $15M; $10M guaranteed): B- Grade
I thought the amount of guaranteed money Eddie Royal received was way too much at first. He had 62 receptions for 778 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014, but he hadn't cracked 631 yards in a season before that since 2008. Paying for one fluky year of production didn't seem like such a good idea.
However, I was reminded that Royal had the best season of his career when he played with Jay Cutler. The two were together in Denver for the 2008 campaign, when Royal hauled in 91 balls for 980 yards as a rookie. Perhaps Royal and Cutler will be able to rekindle their magic, and if not, it was worth a shot. Plus, Royal recently developed into a reliable No. 3 option for Philip Rivers in San Diego, so perhaps he'll be able to serve the same role in Chicago.
I still think this is a bit too much for Royal, as Chicago is buying high. However, it's not an egregious amount, as I initially thought, and there is some upside in this acquisition, so I don't hate it, or anything.
Rams sign DE/OLB Akeem Ayers (2 years, $6M; $3M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Rams needed a third linebacker to go along with James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree. Perhaps Akeem Ayers can be that guy. Ayers is a jack-of-all-trades player. He can put some pressure on the quarterback and cover tight ends somewhat well, and his best trait is being able to help in run support. There's a good chance he could win the team's starting strongside linebacker job.
This is a solid price for Ayers. Giving a potential starter, albeit a two-down player, just $3 million in guarantees over a 2-year pact seems like a good idea to me. At the very worst, Ayers will be a capable backup who won't cost the team much if it wants to cut ties with him.
Cowboys sign FB Jed Collins (1 year, $810,000): B+ Grade
It's amazing that DeMarco Murray won the league's rushing title by a wide margin last year despite getting poor play from the fullback. That's how good he, and more prominently, his offensive line were. Tyler Clutts was the team's fullback in 2014, and he struggled as a lead blocker.
Jed Collins will be a big upgrade. He's not the best lead blocker in the league, or anything close to that, but he's pretty solid in that regard. He's also capable of catching about a dozen passes, so he'll offer Dallas that dimension as well - all at a very cheap price.
Redskins sign NT Terrance Knighton (1 years, $4 million): A+ Grade
It was initially shocking that Terrance Knighton was barely generating any interest on the open market, but then the reports came out that the former Bronco was out of shape. I guess the Bridgestone Tire scientist's comment about Knighton never being on a treadmill was actually true.
Regardless of how fat Knighton is, this is a terrific signing. When in shape, Knighton is a dominant nose tackle in terms of stuffing the run. He can also put pressure on the quarterback well for a man his size (6-3, 330). The Redskins desperately needed help at nose tackle, so Knighton potentially could solve that issue. Perhaps this "prove it" contract will help motivate him. If so, the Redskins will have a force in the interior of their defensive line. If not, they won't be penalized at all because this is just a 1-year contract. That's why this is a fantastic signing, as it's risk-free and full of potential.
Chiefs sign DE/DT Vance Walker (2 years, $4 million): B Grade
Vance Walker signed a 3-year, $13 million contract with the Chiefs last offseason as a potential replacement for the Atlanta-bound Tyson Jackson. Walker played well for the Raiders the year before, but flopped in Kansas City. Perhaps he'll rebound in Denver on what is essentially a "prove it" deal. The Broncos should offer him more playing time as they search for pieces for their transition into Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense. Walker has solid tape, and he'll be just 28 in April, so this could end up being a solid signing.
Chiefs sign G Paul Fanaika (3 years, $8.1 million): D Grade
Quite frankly, this is not a good move whatsoever. The Chiefs traded for Ben Grubbs earlier today - scroll down for that grade - but they wanted to add another guard. That's fine, but they could've done much better than Paul Fanaika. The former Arizona Cardinal was a dreadful blocker this past season in all regards. He doesn't seem like an upgrade, so it's puzzling that the Chiefs would sign him for nearly $3 million per year, especially when there were so many equal or better guards available, per the NFL Free Agent Rankings list.
Browns re-sign TE Jordan Cameron (2 years, $15 million): B+ Grade NOTE: This signing has been voided, as Jordan Cameron has opted to sign with the Dolphins instead. I'll have a grade for that transaction once financial terms are known.
I'm shocked that Jordan Cameron agreed to go back to Cleveland. The Browns are an absolute mess right now, as Josh McCown is expected to start with Johnny Manziel still stuck in rehab. Cameron won't be able to hit his statistical potential with his current team, so he probably should've gone to a franchise that will actually be able to put up some points in 2015.
The Browns, on the other hand, have made a nice move to retain Cameron. He's their top play-maker - or, to be more accurate, their only play-maker with Josh Gordon suspended again - so losing him would've hurt. They were able to keep Cameron at a decent price; a 2-year, $15 million is great, as it protects Cleveland if Cameron continues to have concussion problems.
Falcons sign DE Adrian Clayborn (1 year, $4.5 million): C+ Grade
I'm usually a big fan of 1-year "prove it" deals, but I don't think that applies to this transaction. It's not like Adrian Clayborn was once a solid player who is looking to revive his career. Clayborn has never been good. He managed six sacks in 2013, but struggled immensely in run support that season. He played just one contest last year because of a torn bicep. I don't think this signing will help the Falcons very much. However, there isn't any risk either, so if Clayborn doesn't pan out, it won't be the end of the world.
Eagles sign RB Ryan Mathews (3 years, $11.5M; $5M guaranteed): B Grade
Most injury-prone backfield of all time, confirmed. In a shocking move, the Eagles signed Ryan Mathews to go along with DeMarco Murray. Mathews has to feel disappointed that he won't be Philadelphia's featured back at the start of the season, but he can be content in knowing that he'll start once Murray inevitably gets hurt. And then Mathews will get injured, too.
Mathews is made of glass and can't be counted on to stay healthy. He's a nice player when on the field - he rushed for 1,255 yards in 2013 - but he's just not reliable at all. However, he won't be counted on to carry the workload at the start of the season, and really, the odds are that either he or Murray will manage to stay healthy. That, along with Mathews' cheap price tag, is why I don't mind this transaction as much as the Murray signing. Mathews is very affordable and offers Philadelphia a solid insurance policy.
Saints sign CB Brandon Browner (3 years, $15 million): B Grade
New Orleans fans better get used to pass interference flags. Brandon Browner was whistled for a whopping 19 penalties in 2014 (including the playoffs), and that's after missing the first six games of the season!
Having said that, this is a fairly decent addition. The Saints were desperate for cornerback help, and Browner was the fourth-best-available player at his position as of his signing. Browner is better than what the Saints already had at corner across from Keenan Lewis, so this is definitely an upgrade. Browner will turn 31 this summer, but the Saints aren't throwing a ton of money his way. This price seems about right for him.
Texans sign S Rahim Moore (3 years, $12 million): B+ Grade
Rahim Moore is extremely fortunate to be signing this contract. That's because nearly lost his leg more than a year ago because of lateral compartment syndrome. He consequently regressed a bit in 2014. He didn't perform poorly or anything, but he wasn't the same player.
However, Moore just turned 25, and he'll now be two seasons removed from the incident. There's a good chance he'll rebound, making this a potential value acquisition for the Texans, who are filling a big need they had at the safety position. Houston has now addressed enough of its needs thus far this offseason that it can take the best player available at No. 16 overall, which is what I have happening in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.
Jets sign CB Antonio Cromartie (4 years, $32 million): C+ Grade
Antonio Cromartie struggled in his final season with the Jets. He was hampered with an injury and had to take a 1-year "prove it" deal with Arizona to rehabilitate his stock. He managed to do just that, as he even outplayed Patrick Peterson in 2014.
Cromartie managed to cash in with a 4-year, $32 million deal. It's a nice contract for him, but it might be one that the Jets will regret down the road. Cromartie will turn 31 next month, so his best days are obviously behind him. New York is paying Cromartie on his 2014 production and may not see that level of play from him at all. I like that Cromartie will be playing for former Cardinals' defensive coordinator Todd Bowles again, and he's undoubtedly an upgrade over Dee Milliner across from Darrelle Revis, but New York still overpaid.
Ravens re-sign RB Justin Forsett (3 years, $9 million): A- Grade
I imagine Ozzie Newsome had a good laugh this week while observing teams that routinely miss the playoffs overpay for overworked running backs. Newsome, one of the best general managers in the business, was not going to make that mistake. Thus, he re-signed his feature back to a 3-year deal worth just $9 million.
This is an incredible bargain for Forsett. The former journeyman running back found a home in Baltimore last season and managed to rush for 1,266 yards on just 235 carries. He definitely benefited from Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme, but new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman did great work with Matt Forte in Chicago. Trestman will turn Forsett into a pass-catching machine.
The one slight downside of this deal is that Forsett will turn 30 in October. But that's not much of a concern because Forsett doesn't even have 600 career carries under his belt, so like Fred Jackson, he could play effectively into his 30s.
Eagles sign RB DeMarco Murray (5 years, $42M; $21M guaranteed): C Grade
When the Eagles appeared to sign Ryan Mathews yesterday, I wrote that the team had the most injury-prone backfield in NFL history. Mathews apparently didn't sign with Philadelphia after all, but it still applies: Even with the addition of Murray, the Eagles have the most injury-prone backfield the league has ever seen.
Paying Murray this sort of money - or any running back with a large workload under his belt, for that matter - is a big mistake. Murray had a whopping 498 touches last year, including the playoffs. That's crazy. Murray, who led the NFL in carries by a wide margin during the regular season (393), is bound to regress. A fantasy football-related study I've been posting over the past six seasons shows that running backs who lead the NFL in carries decline the following year. There have only been a handful of exceptions. Perhaps Murray will be one, but history is against him.
There are three other reasons why this is a sketchy signing. First, Murray has an extensive injury history. Prior to the 2014 campaign, Murray had failed to play a full season in his professional career, having missed 11 games in three years. Given how many times he handled the ball in 2014, it's likely that he'll be banged up next season. Second, this incoming running back draft class is loaded, so Philadelphia could've easily found a cheaper replacement for LeSean McCoy next month. And third, some of Murray's success last season came because of the offensive line. Murray is an outstanding player, no doubt, but his numbers were definitely inflated. Some people who have no idea what they're talking about are trying to argue that the Eagles have just as good of an offensive line as Dallas, but with Evan Mathis reportedly on the trading block and Jason Peters turning 33 this offseason, that's simply not the case.
This is not an awful signing because Murray will be a dynamic play-maker when he's on the field for the Eagles. However, he's too expensive, he's going to miss time, and he won't be as effective as he was last year, given that he's bound to wear down.
Chiefs acquire G Ben Grubbs from Saints for 5th-round pick
The Saints had to make drastic changes after last year's debacle. Two days after shockingly trading Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks, Sean Payton dumped off a former Pro Bowl guard to the Chiefs.
Grubbs signed a 5-year, $36 million contract with New Orleans back in March 2012. He had a couple of excellent seasons for the Saints, but fell off in 2014. He wasn't terrible, but he was far from the dominant force who blocked so effectively for Drew Brees. Grubbs just turned 31, so perhaps this downward trend will continue. If so, it's a good thing the Saints are unloading him now. Even though it's just for a fifth-round pick, it's better than getting nothing for him a year from now.
Meanwhile, I can't really blame the Chiefs for taking a shot on Grubbs. Their offensive line was atrocious last year, struggling mightily to block for Alex Smith. Grubbs will definitely be an upgrade, even if he doesn't revert to his former, dominant self. Kansas City probably wouldn't get anything better than two seasons of a mediocre Grubbs in the fifth round, so why not acquire him?
Titans sign S Da'Norris Searcy (4 years, $24M; $10.5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
This is not a poor signing by any means, but it doesn't seem like it's a very good one. It has drawn some acclaim elsewhere, but it's a very risky move.
Da'Norris Searcy's 2014 campaign was his first full one as a starter. He was on the field for the majority of the snaps in most games, but he wasn't an every-down player. He doesn't have much experience, and thus isn't a proven player. He's young - he won't be 27 until November - so he has promise, but he doesn't have much of an extensive track record of success.
Having said that, this definitely could pan out. Plus, I don't blame the Titans for making this move. Searcy was the second-best safety available when signed, and he fills a big need. I just think he's getting too much money when he hasn't been a starter for very long.
Bears sign S Antrel Rolle (3 years, $11.25M; $5M guaranteed): B Grade
Antrel Rolle had a stellar 2013 campaign, but regressed this past season. That's not much of a surprise, given that he turned 32 back in December. Rolle will definitely continue to decline, but he's a nice, short-term signing for a Chicago team that is desperate for safety help. Even if he has some struggles like he did in 2014, he'll be miles better than what the Bears had at the position last year.
This is a decent price for Rolle, as the Bears aren't committing to him on a long-term basis. Even if they have to cut him after one season, they won't face much of a cap hit, so there's minimal risk involved for a player who is almost certain to be an upgrade.
Colts sign DE/DT Kendall Langford (4 years, $17.2 million): B- Grade
The Colts are having a strong offseason. They managed to upgrade some of their skill positions and add some talent on defense. Kendall Langford is part of that, as he'll fill a void created by the departure of Cory Redding.
Langford hasn't played well the past few years because he was a poor fit as a defensive tackle in St. Louis' defense. He was a better performer in Miami when he played defensive end in the 3-4. He'll take on that role again in Indianapolis. He's more expensive than Redding, who signed a 2-year, $6 million contract with the Cardinals, but Langford is also younger. He just turned 29, so he should be able to play at a relatively high level for most of the duration of this contract. I think he's getting a bit too much money - Indianapolis should've been able to buy low after Langford's tenure in St. Louis - but he's still an adequate replacement and a decent pick-up.
Raiders sign OLB Malcolm Smith (2 years, $7 million): B Grade
The Raiders have a dubious history signing former Super Bowl MVPs. Both Desmond Howard and Larry Brown busted for them, so will Malcolm Smith be next? No, but that's only a definite because everyone seems to be expecting Smith to fail.
Smith had a solid 2013 campaign, but struggled this past season. He barely saw the field most weeks, and he barely played in the playoffs. However, he was dealing with an ankle injury. He had surgery the prior offseason and never fully recovered. Perhaps he'll be 100 percent in 2015, and if so, Reggie McKenzie will deserve credit for correctly buying low.
Bengals sign LB A.J. Hawk (2 years, $3.25M; $500K guaranteed): B- Grade
A.J. Hawk has regressed over the past couple of seasons and got so bad last year that he barely played down the stretch. He could be completely finished. I wouldn't even be surprised if Hawk retires sometime soon. If he doesn't make the roster - which is a realistic possibility - he could decide to call it a career.
Having said that, this isn't a bad signing. The Bengals are giving him just $500,000 guaranteed, and if they deem him worthy enough of their 53-man roster, he'll serve as a valuable backup and a good locker-room presence. I would've rather seen Cincinnati give Hawk no guaranteed money after how poorly he played in 2014, but it won't be the end of the world if he flops.
Patriots sign DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard (2 years, $11M; $5.5M guaranteed): A Grade
The Patriots lost Darrelle Revis because the Jets overpaid for him. No worries. New England just signed a talented edge player at a very cheap price to help compensate for the Revis departure.
Sheard was ranked in the top 40 of my Top NFL Free Agent Rankings list, so getting him for just $11 million over two years and $5.5 million guaranteed is such incredible value. Sheard didn't have his best year in 2014, but that's because his skills aren't particularly suited to playing the 3-4. Not that he struggled in that scheme, but he would've been so much more effective had he remained in the 4-3. Sheard will be much better in New England, serving as both a decent pass-rusher and a stout run-defender.
Dolphins sign CB Brice McCain (2 years, $5.5M; $3M guaranteed): B- Grade
Brice McCain was awful for Houston in 2013. He signed with the Steelers after being released and rebounded nicely. He didn't play great, or anything, but he was a somewhat decent starter down the stretch, though he struggled during the middle of the season.
This is a fairly decent signing. McCain will give Miami some much-needed depth at the cornerback position in the wake of Cortland Finnegan's retirement. It would be a mistake for the Dolphins to rely on McCain to be the starter next year, so they still need to add a cornerback in free agency or the 2015 NFL Draft.
Buccaneers sign OLB Bruce Carter (4 years, $20 million): C- Grade
The Buccaneers overpaid for Michael Johnson and Anthony Collins last year, and it appears as though they're doing the same thing with Bruce Carter. The former Cowboy thrived as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the past, but struggled in the 4-3 during the previous two seasons. I suspected that Carter would go back to a team that runs a 3-4, but he opted to sign with Tampa and its 4-3.
I don't get how the Buccaneers aren't aware of Carter's ineptitude in the 4-3. Did they not watch his film from the past couple of years? And why would they offer him so much money after two mediocre seasons? This signing doesn't make much sense.
Colts sign WR Andre Johnson (3 years, $21 million): B Grade
Andre Johnson is an Indianapolis Colt. It's strange, and Houston fans have to be feeling sick right now. Aside from J.J. Watt, Johnson has been the Texans' best player in the franchise's brief history, and now he'll be on a team that Houston has barely been able to beat since entering the league in 2002.
Johnson is not the receiver he once was - his yardage dropped from 1,407 to 936 last year in only one fewer game - but he's still capable of being a solid No. 2 possession receiver. He'll be a reliable target for at least one season across from T.Y. Hilton.
I think this price is a bit high for Johnson, but the Colts had lots of money to spend, and they're going "all in" for a Super Bowl run this upcoming season. Johnson will help Andrew Luck in 2015 and perhaps 2016. He'll turn 34 in July, so he doesn't have much left in the tank, but he'll almost certainly be an upgrade over what the injured Reggie Wayne provided last year.
Bengals re-sign G Clint Boling (5 years, $26 million): B+ Grade
Clint Boling was the No. 3 overall free agent guard entering the offseason, as seen in the NFL Free Agent Rankings list. Boling is an excellent run-blocker who also happens to be decent in pass protection. Having him back will be huge for Jeremy Hill, who enjoyed the huge holes that Boling blasted open for him toward the end of this past season.
Boling, who will turn only 26 in May, might even get better over the next couple of seasons. Thus, I think this is a solid price for him. Continuity is extremely important when it comes to the offensive line, and Cincinnati will now retain all five of its blockers with Boling back on the team.
Cardinals sign DE/DT Cory Redding (2 years, $6 million): A Grade
I love this move. Cory Redding will turn 35 in November, but he still played at an extremely high level for Indianapolis last year, especially in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback. He's also a fantastic guy to have in the locker room, and his veteran leadership will definitely help in Arizona.
I figured Redding would sign a bigger contract, so I was a bit shocked to see him get just $6 million over two years. It's an incredible bargain for a player I had in the top 50 of my Top NFL Free Agent Rankings list. In fact, I had Redding rated higher than the departed Darnell Dockett, so Arizona made an upgrade up front while cutting salary.
Giants re-sign FB Henry Hynoski (2 years, $2 million): A Grade
A fullback re-signing isn't going to generate much buzz, but this was a great move by the Giants, who needed something positive after acquiring several overpaid players yesterday. Henry Hynoski is one of the top fullbacks in the NFL. He's an elite lead blocker, and all of the New York running backs have to be thrilled that he'll be returning. This is a no-brainer "A" grade.
Texans signed QB Brian Hoyer (2 years, $10M; $4.75M guaranteed): A- Grade
Brian Hoyer had some nice moments early last year, including a 19-of-25, 290-yard, one-touchdown, no-interception performance against the Ravens in Week 3, and of course, the amazing comeback at Tennessee two weeks later. However, he completely unraveled at the end of the year, throwing just one touchdown compared to nine interceptions beginning in Week 11. He was ultimately benched in favor of Johnny Manziel.
A couple of things happened to go against Hoyer. First, losing Alex Mack, arguably the top center in the NFL, was absolutely huge. Hoyer was never really the same after Mack went down. Things got worse after that when Josh Gordon came back from suspension. Gordon's return was supposed to be beneficial for Hoyer, but that wasn't the case at all because Hoyer kept trying to force the issue to Gordon, which resulted in many poor throws and even worse decisions.
Hoyer needed to get out of Cleveland, and I think this is the right spot for him because he used to play for Bill O'Brien in New England. The Houston head coach got the most out of Ryan Fitzpatrick, so he should be able to do the same with Hoyer, who is better than Houston's starter from last year. That's why I think this is a pretty solid signing. The fit makes sense, and Hoyer is the best possible solution available for the Texans.
Jets acquire QB Ryan Fitzpatrick from Texans for conditional late-round pick
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 17 touchdowns compared to only eight interceptions while completing 63.1 percent of his passes on an 8.0 YPA last year. And yet, he was benched in November in favor of Ryan Mallett. Fitzpatrick was solid against most teams with poor defenses, but he had a few dreadful showings against better teams and was yanked as a consequence. We've seen enough of Fitzpatrick to determine that he's not a viable starting quarterback in the NFL. He's a strong backup, but he's not going to lead a franchise into the playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they'll probably have to start him if/when Geno Smith capsizes. I like that they were able to obtain him for just a conditional late-round selection, as strong backup signal-callers usually fetch more, so I'll give them a decent grade for this. However, the quarterbacking situation in New York is so bleak that it doesn't even matter.
As for the Texans, they were going to get rid of Fitzpatrick anyway, so why not obtain a potential late-round choice?
Jaguars signed DE/DT Jared Odrick (5 years, $42.5M; $22M guaranteed): B Grade
Jared Odrick is a perfect fit for Gus Bradley's defense and should end all speculation that the team will take Leonard Williams at No. 3, as I mentioned in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft. Odrick will be the five-technique, or the "big" defensive end, serving the same role as Michael Bennett in Seattle.
Odrick nearly played as well as Michael Bennett last season until a late-season injury hindered him. He's a terrific pass-rusher who holds up well enough in run support not to be a liability in that regard. He'll be a huge asset when it comes to playing the Colts, given that Jacksonville needs to put as much pressure as possible on Andrew Luck to have a chance.
This is a bit more than I would've spent for Odrick, but as I mentioned in the Julius Thomas grade below, the Jaguars are free to pay a bit of a premium for players because of all of their cap space.
Chiefs sign WR Jeremy Maclin (5 years, $55M; $22.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
This move is getting a ton of hype, but it's all unjustified. This is not a very good signing - and that goes for both Jeremy Maclin and the Chiefs.
Paying $11 million per year and $22.5 million in guarantees to Maclin is insane, considering his dubious injury history. Maclin finally stayed healthy last year and thrived as a consequence, but he has two bum knees and can't be counted on to have many more healthy seasons. It's also worth noting that Maclin's 2014 stats were inflated because of the number of snaps he played in Chip Kelly's offense. I'm not saying Maclin is a mediocre player, or anything; on the contrary, if he can stay healthy, he's very effective. He's just not the stellar No. 1 receiver that his 1,318 receiving yards say he is, and that's without even factoring in his health.
As for Maclin, you have to wonder what he's possibly thinking. I can't completely bash him because he's reuniting with his former head coach, but he's effectively sabotaging his career by choosing to play with Alex Smith. Maclin should've consulted Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, James Jones, etc. about how it feels to take more money to play in a worse offense. All three receivers are regretting their decisions.
Redskins sign DE/DT Stephen Paea (4 years, $21M; $15M guaranteed): B Grade
Daniel Snyder's teams have had a dubious history in terms of overspending in free agency. This signing isn't nearly as bad as many of the other ones; on the contrary, it's pretty decent and could definitely work out.
Paea isn't good in run support despite his overwhelming strength - he set the NFL Combine record in the bench press - but he can get to the quarterback effectively, registering six sacks last year, which is a good figure for any defensive tackle. The Redskins needed to bolster their defensive line at two positions. Consider one filled, with the former Bear joining Jason Hatcher. Now, a nose tackle is just needed, and I have Washington taking one at No. 5 overall in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.
Falcons sign DE/OLB/ILB Brooks Reed (5 years, $22 million): B- Grade
Brooks Reed is not going to settle Atlanta's pass-rushing woes. Not at all. He's not good whatsoever in terms of rushing the quarterback. That's just not what he does well. His forte is shutting down the run, and he's also not bad in coverage. He's very good in the former aspect, which will help Atlanta, but he has just 14.5 career sacks.
It seems like the Falcons are overpaying for Reed a bit here, but it's hard to tell because the guaranteed money hasn't been announced yet. Still though, it's a decent signing, as Dan Quinn will be able to creatively use Reed in different roles.
Giants sign OLB Jonathan Casillas (3 years, $10.5 million): D Grade
I don't understand why Jerry Reese is handing out all of this money to these pedestrian players. It's almost as if someone has drugged him. Jonathan Casillas barely played last year for the Patriots on the defensive side of the ball, and when he did, he struggled for the most part. Casillas also wasn't very good for the Buccaneers before that. He's just a special-teams player, and you can pretty much find those anywhere. Casillas shouldn't have received more than $1 million per season, so I don't get why the overall value of his contract is breaking eight figures.
Broncos sign TE Owen Daniels (3 years, $12 million): C+ Grade
It's no surprise that Owen Daniels signed with the Broncos. Once Gary Kubiak was hired as the team's head coach, it was pretty obvious that Daniels would be headed there, especially in the wake of Julius Thomas' departure.
I like the other Denver tight end signing more, however. Virgil Green is probably just as good as Daniels right now overall, yet he got less per year. Daniels, meanwhile, will turn 33 in November, so it's fair to wonder if he'll regress at all despite the perceived upgrade at quarterback. Then again, there's also a chance he could have his best season yet as part of the Peyton Manning effect.
Broncos re-sign TE Virgil Green (3 years, $8.4M; $4.2M guaranteed): B Grade
Owen Daniels is generating all of the talk as the new tight end in Denver, but he may not be the best player at the position on his new team. That could be Virgil Green, who re-signed with the Broncos on a 3-year deal.
Green is a raw player in terms of pass-catching ability, but he's a very solid blocker. He's also very athletic, so perhaps he'll be able to evolve into a potent, pass-catching threat for Peyton Manning despite the addition of Daniels. This a very fair price for Green as well, given that the inferior Lance Kendricks is getting more from the Rams.
49ers re-sign QB Blaine Gabbert (2 years, $2 million): 0% USDA MAN MILLEN Grade
The 49ers should have just grabbed $2 million in bills and put them through the shredder. That will have gotten them more than Blaine Gabbert ever will throughout the duration of this contract. A quarterback who closes his eyes when throwing the ball has no business being in the NFL, even if it's as someone's backup. The 49ers would've been better off getting anyone else to be the No. 2 behind Colin Kaepernick.
Giants sign WR/KR Dwayne Harris (5 years, $17.5M; $7.1M guaranteed): C- Grade
I'm not sure what Jerry Reese is thinking today. He usually does a good job in the offseason, but he overpaid for a pair of players on Tuesday afternoon. The J.T. Thomas contract was awful, and this move isn't much better.
Dwayne Harris isn't much of an offensive player. In fact, he has caught only 16 combined passes in the past two years. He'll have to thrive on special teams to make this contract worth it. He has two punt return touchdowns dating back to 2012, though he didn't score at all last season. He's very effective as a returner, but I don't think that warrants $7.1 million in guarantees.
Vikings sign QB Shaun Hill (2 years, $6.5 million): B Grade
Shaun Hill gets to go back to where he first began his career back in 2004. He'll be a backup again, as he'll serve as Minnesota's new No. 2 behind Teddy Bridgewater in the wake of Matt Cassel's departure. This is a fair deal for Hill, who has proven over the years that he can do a solid job if asked to start a handful of games. Hill was actually the second-best quarterback still on the market, per the NFL Free Agent Rankings, and the money is fair for him, so this is a decent move.
Raiders sign RB Roy Helu (2 years, $4 million): A Grade
Reggie McKenzie has taken a ton of flak over the past few years as the general manager of the Raiders, and rightfully so. Some of his moves have been downright terrible. This, however, is a very strong transaction that will almost certainly help the team without any risk.
Roy Helu can't handle a full workload, but he's a skilled pass-catching running back who operates very well on third downs. He'll serve as a nice complement for Latavius Murray. Also, the price is outstanding. Two years for just $4 million is well worth Helu's services, and if he doesn't pan out, the Raiders won't suffer any sort of setback as a result.
Jets sign CB Darrelle Revis (5 years, $70M; $39M guaranteed): C+ Grade
When I first saw that Darrelle Revis was heading back to New York, the first thought that popped into my head was: "Uhh... Darrelle, what the hell are you thinking?" Revis won a Super Bowl in New England and would have re-signed with the Patriots if he cared about winning primarily. Revis going to the Jets ensures a bigger contract, but will he be truly happy going 6-10 every year? Whether you're getting $30ish or $39 million guaranteed, once you pass a certain threshold, it doesn't really matter. Taking a little less to be happy goes a long way. New York is a big market, so Revis will get his marketing deals, but he'll be rotting away in football oblivion for the rest of his career.
As for the Jets, they're being praised for this contract by everyone on Twitter. I can understand all the hype, given that Revis was the No. 1 player in my Top NFL Free Agent Rankings list, but I don't see how it'll help the Jets win a Super Bowl, or even get close, for that matter. Revis turns 30 this summer. That's not good because the Jets aren't anywhere close to winning now. They have nothing at the quarterback position, and they possess tons of holes elsewhere. By the time they find a capable signal-caller and address their other needs, Revis could be headed into his age-32 or age-33 season. By then, he almost certainly won't be nearly as dominant of a player. In fact, the Jets may have to cut him then because he'll be too expensive.
I don't think this is a terrible transaction, or anything. The Jets' fans don't have anything else to cheer for, so getting the beloved Revis back is nice for them. This just isn't a very savvy football move. Unless New York can somehow really luck out and find a second-day quarterback gem in the 2015 NFL Draft (or somehow land Marcus Mariota at No. 6), Revis just won't have the opportunity to help the Jets have much, if any, playoff success.
Rams re-sign TE Lance Kendricks (4 years, $18.5 million): D Grade
Uhh... did the Rams look at the wrong stats when drawing up this deal for Lance Kendricks? Or did Kendricks drug the general manager and convince him to offer nearly $5 million per season? I suppose either scenario could have occurred.
If not, I don't get it. Lance Kendricks is a mediocre player at best, and it's not like he's even the starting tight end. He can block well, but 4-year, $18.5 million contracts shouldn't be handed out to blocking tight ends. The Rams won the Sam Bradford-Nick Foles trade by a long shot - the analysis is below - but they screwed up with this deal.
Eagles acquire QB Sam Bradford, 2015 5th-round pick, 2016 3rd/4th-round pick from Rams for QB Nick Foles, 2015 4th-round pick, 2016 2nd-round pick
Apparently, some NFL teams didn't get the memo that this was the beginning of free agency. The Rams and Eagles are among those that believe that this is the trade deadline, apparently.
The Rams are easier to analyze. They've shed Sam Bradford's awful contract and obtained Nick Foles in return. They even improved their positioning in the 2015 and 2016 NFL Drafts on top of it to sweeten the deal. Bradford has not been able to stay healthy at all, and while Nick Foles is somewhat of a limited quarterback, he's more reliable in terms of staying on the field. He has also posted better numbers than Bradford thus far, though, to be fair, he has enjoyed better weapons at his disposal. He'll have more trouble being effective in St. Louis, though the Rams will be able to move on from him much easier than they could have from Bradford, otherwise.
As for the Eagles, this move is puzzling, to say the least. It was initially reported that the Eagles and Rams would swap first-round picks, which made sense because it gave Philadelphia ammunition to move up for Marcus Mariota. However, the first-round swap wasn't even close; Philadelphia actually worsened its draft position this and next April in this deal. Making matters worse, it basically guarantees that Bradford will be the starter in Philadelphia this upcoming season.
With that in mind, Philadelphia deserves an "F" grade (Duck Kielbasa?) for this trade. Bradford is highly overpaid and extremely injury-prone, and he doesn't fit Chip Kelly's offense any better than Foles did. Bradford will be hurt by the middle of October, meaning Sanchez will have to start again. Perhaps that's why Kelly overpaid Sanchez.
My condolences to all Philadelphia fans. I've gotten many frustrated texts this evening, and I can understand why. One such Eagles' fan, my friend Body Burner, texted me, "Is Chip Kelly playing Madden?" I replied: "No, because the Madden computer would've rejected this trade."
Rams acquire QB Case Keenum from Texans for 2016 7th-round pick
The Texans were going to cut Case Keenum after re-signing Ryan Mallett and acquiring Brian Hoyer, so getting anything for him, even a seventh-round pick in 2016, is a plus. The Rams, meanwhile, needed a third quarterback behind Nick Foles and Austin Davis. Keenum could eventually evolve as the direct backup behind Foles or another quarterback when/if Davis moves on. For a seventh-round pick in 2016, that's not a bad deal.
Jaguars sign TE Julius Thomas (5 years, $46M; $24M guaranteed): C Grade
I have to wonder if David Caldwell had Julius Thomas on his fantasy roster in 2013. Perhaps that would explain his interest in the former Denver tight end at this price.
Thomas has never really played without Peyton Manning. The future Hall of Fame quarterback made Thomas, throwing a whopping 24 touchdowns to him the past couple of seasons. Thomas is athletic, and there is a chance that he can be productive outside of Denver's offense, but paying him this sort of money is very risky. Thomas is obviously bolting a Super Bowl contender for a big contract with a terrible team, and those sorts of signings seldom work out.
I'm not going to give the Jaguars a Millen (or a Caldwell) grade for this though. Thomas is talented, unlike Dan Skuta and Davon House, so he could actually make an impact. Also, the Jaguars have to spend a lot of money to get over the salary floor, so why not give it to a skilled player?
Giants sign LB J.T. Thomas (3 years, $12M; $4.5M guaranteed): D Grade
I liked the Giants' signing of Shane Vereen, but this one makes very little sense. J.T. Thomas, who was once waived by the Bears of all teams, played for the Jaguars last year and was terrible, to say the least. He was on the field for all three downs, but was especially brutal in run support. He's a backup at best, so I don't understand why the Giants paid him $4.5 million in guarantees when they just as easily could've given a similar player a 1-year, $850,000 deal, or something of that nature.
49ers sign WR Torrey Smith (5 years, $40M; $22M guaranteed): C Grade
I have to say that I don't understand Torrey Smith's thought process. The 49ers have been capsizing for a full year now, ever since Jed York and Trent Baalke first decided to undermine Jim Harbaugh. Fast forward 12 months, and Harbaugh, Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Justin Smith and Vic Fangio are all gone. The team doesn't have a real head coach and appears to be in shambles. Colin Kaepernick, meanwhile, has been the subject of trade rumors. And yet Smith signed with San Francisco. Why? Because of the money? If so, that's not a good omen. All Smith had to do was ask how Greg Jennings, James Jones and Mike Wallace enjoyed chasing money.
This doesn't make much sense from the 49ers' side either. Baalke, proving to be incompetent, threw No. 1 receiver money at Smith even though the former Raven is not a No. 1 wideout. Smith is a deep-threat, secondary option. General manager Ozzie Newsome recognized this and refused to give Smith the money he was asking for. The 49ers did, and they'll soon regret it.
Jets sign CB Buster Skrine (5 years, $25M; $13M guaranteed): IDZIK Grade
I always considered it a possibility, and I even joked about it during the Brandon Marshall trade, but now I firmly believe it: John Idzik is still the general manager of the New York Jets.
That's the only logical explanation I have for this signing. Buster Skrine is not a starting-caliber cornerback. He has been horribly inconsistent for the Browns despite the fact that he's been paired against No. 2 wide receivers, thanks to Joe Haden's presence. Skrine, who is now being paid like a No. 1 corner for some strange reason, will undoubtedly struggle to cover opposing top receivers.
This move makes absolutely no sense. Perhaps the Jets' lawyers added an extra zero on Skrine's contract? Maybe the new general manager is secretly Idzik's best friend and is sabotaging the Jets on purpose to get revenge? I have no idea.
Cardinals sign G Mike Iupati (5 years, $40M; $22.5M guaranteed): B Grade
I'm not crazy about this signing, but it's a decent one. The Cardinals had major issues at guard last year - much longer than that, to be more accurate - so Mike Iupati fills a huge need. Iupati is not great in pass protection, but he's a massive run blocker. He'll blast open huge running lanes for Andre Ellington and whomever else the Cardinals acquire to play running back, which will make life easier for Carson Palmer.
As for the money, it's just about right. Iupati will turn 28 in May, so he'll be able to play at the top of his game for most of the duration of this deal. The Cardinals also did well to poach a top player from one of their biggest rivals, which is always a plus. It'd be nice if Iupati were better in pass protection, but this is still a nice move by Arizona.
Lions acquire DT Haloti Ngata from Ravens for 4th-, 5th-round picks
It was rumored earlier in the offseason that the Ravens were thinking about releasing Haloti Ngata. The 340-pound defensive tackle just turned 31 and was due $8.5 million in a contract season. I don't think two mid-round selections is appropriate value for such a dominant player under normal circumstances, but given Ngata's contract, the Ravens did well to get a couple of picks for him when they could have just as easily cut him.
Having said that, Ngata was still dominant in 2014 and should continue to be so with the Lions this upcoming season. Detroit obviously had to find a replacement for Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Dolphins. Ngata is older and less talented in terms of pass-rushing, but he'll be a stout run defender for the Lions. Giving up a pair of mid-round choices for him isn't that big of a deal, and it allows the front office to look elsewhere in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. For more, check out my 2015 NFL Mock Draft, which was updated today.
Seahawks acquire TE Jimmy Graham, 4th-round pick from Saints for C Max Unger, 1st-round pick
Remember a year ago when the Saints gave Jimmy Graham all that money? It's amazing how quickly things can change in the NFL. Graham is now gone to the Pacific Northwest, and the Saints acquired Max Unger and a first-round choice in return.
I don't think there's a concise winner in this deal, as it makes sense for both teams. For Seattle, throwing the ball to Graham in the end zone makes a lot more sense than targeting Ricardo Lockette, or any of the other mediocre targets Seattle had. Graham's presence on the field will also open things up for Marshawn Lynch, who won't face stacked boxes anymore. More importantly, Wilson finally has a stud weapon to work with, so he'll be even better in his fourth season.
Wilson, however, loses a center, but that's not a huge deal because of how mobile he is. It would mean far more for a pocket-passing quarterback, but the offensive line isn't as prevalent for Wilson. It is for Drew Brees, who was beaten up last year because center Jonathan Goodwin was incompetent. Unger is a huge upgrade, and the Saints are getting a first-round pick on top of it.
Brees does lose Graham though, which is huge. Perhaps the Saints will use their second opening-round draft selection on a replacement in Maxx Williams, who fits the range at the end of the first round, though I currently have Williams going in the second frame. For more, check out my 2015 NFL Mock Draft, which was updated today.
Cardinals sign DE/OLB LaMarr Woodley (1 year, $870,000): B- Grade
LaMarr Woodley did absolutely nothing in six games last year before tearing his biceps and going on injured reserve. Woodley, 31 in November, has regressed rapidly the past few seasons and now appears to be done. However, there's a chance he could rebound. He's not that old, and he'll be back in a 3-4, playing under Bruce Arians again. Perhaps he still has one or two more mediocre years left in the tank.
With that in mind, this is a semi-decent signing. The Cardinals aren't even paying Woodley $1 million for the 2015 season, so why not give him a shot? If anything, the Cardinals can just cut him without being penalized. The most realistic scenario is that Woodley serves as a somewhat capable backup.
Giants sign RB Shane Vereen (3 years, $12M; $5M guaranteed): A Grade
It makes absolutely no sense that a 26-year-old Shane Vereen is getting less money than a 32-year-old Frank Gore, but that's NFL free agency for you. I think this is a great signing. Vereen is the perfect complement to Andre Williams, as he happens to be a great pass-catching threat and third-down option to go along with Williams' power running.
Vereen will threaten to haul in 50 or more receptions with the Giants in 2015. He'll serve as a nice safety vale for Eli Manning, whose pass protection hasn't improved yet. Vereen will help the blocking issues, as Manning will just be able to dump the ball off to him amid a heavy rush. Vereen will also command attention out of the backfield, which can only help Odell Beckham Jr.
Packers re-sign OT Bryan Bulaga (5 years, $35 million): B+ Grade
Bryan Bulaga is one of the top right tackles in the NFL. Ted Thompson understands the importance of protecting Aaron Rodgers, especially now that the quarterback is in his early 30s. Keeping Bulaga around will ensure that Rodgers remains healthy throughout the second half of his career.
As for the price, compare it to the one Jermey Parnell received. Jacksonville gave Parnell $32 million over five years despite the fact that the former Dallas tackle is both worse and more unproven than Bulaga, who received just $3 million more overall. And it's not like Parnell is younger and has more potential; Bulaga will turn only 26 in less than two weeks.
Colts sign RB Frank Gore (3 years, $12M; $7.5M guaranteed): B Grade
Frank Gore essentially got the same deal he was given to sign with the Eagles. I graded that as a C-, but Gore to the Colts is getting a "B" from me. Why? Because it just makes so much more sense.
Gore will turn 32 in May, meaning he might have one more strong season left in the tank. He may have played well for that one year in Philadelphia, but it wouldn't have meant anything because the Eagles weren't in a position to make a Super Bowl run, thanks to their quarterback situation. On the other hand, the Colts are poised to perhaps win it all. With the Patriots set to take small step backward, the AFC could be wide open. Andrew Luck really needed help in the backfield, and Gore will provide a boost in 2015.
Jaguars sign CB Davon House (4 years, $25 million): CALDWELL Grade
Yes, David Caldwell has finally earned his own grade. He's not yet as bad as Matt Millen - he needs to shout homophobic remarks at his own players and criticize Polish people on live television to get there - but he might be just as inept at his job as Millen was, albeit without the impressive longevity Millen maintained.
To be clear, the $25 million figure is an approximation. We know Davon House will be getting $6.25 million per year over four seasons, so I'm assuming the sum total of this deal is $25 million, but it could be more or less. Regardless, it's an awful signing. House has the size that Gus Bradley likes out of his defensive backs, but that's about it. House is not a good player, which is why he was 21st in my Free Agent Cornerback Rankings. He didn't even warrant a write-up.
Chiefs sign S Tyvon Branch (1 year, $2 million): A Grade
I stated a couple of days ago that I love 1-year "prove it" contracts because they have a high tendency of working out with very little downside. That applies to this transaction, as Kansas City is getting a potential steal in Tyvon Branch.
Branch has played just five games in the past two seasons, but he's extremely talented. Had he been able to stay healthy, he would've fetched a big contract this offseason. His lingering foot problems are obviously an issue, but Kansas City can afford to take that risk with just a $2 million deal for one year. The Chiefs really needed a replacement for Eric Berry, and Branch actually could end up being an upgrade if he can manage to stay healthy.
Seahawks sign CB Cary Williams (3 years, $18 million): C- Grade
Unlike his former teammate Bradley Fletcher, talent was never the issue with Cary Williams. Sure, he had some bad games, but he also had his bright moments in Philadelphia. The problem was his terrible attitude and indifference, which hurt team morale. I'd normally say that this wouldn't be an issue for the Seahawks, who happen to have strong leadership in their locker room, but we just saw them have major problems with Percy Harvin, whom they had to release. That could end up being Williams' fate.
I obviously don't like this signing very much. Williams fills a need and fits the scheme Seattle likes to run, but bringing him in could end up backfiring big time.
Jaguars sign OLB Dan Skuta (5 years, $20.5 million): MILLEN Grade
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first Millen grade of the 2015 NFL offseason. No one should be surprised though, as it wouldn't be an NFL free agency period if David Caldwell didn't wildly overspend on a mediocre player.
I wasn't even planning on doing a grade for this signing because I assumed the Jaguars obtained Dan Skuta for a 1-year, $2 million deal, or something of that nature. I almost choked on a brownie I was eating when I saw these numbers. A 5-year, $20.5 million contract for a career backup with just 5.5 sacks, two of which came against the beleaguered Rams on Monday Night Football this past season? What!?
This is truly embarrassing for Caldwell. He could've obtained Skuta for half this price, and he still would've spent too much. Skuta is a career backup and a special-teams ace. That's all he is, but Caldwell is paying him to be a starter. I suppose Caldwell watched Skuta intently in that aforementioned Monday Night Football contest and nothing else, given that was Skuta's only good game of the 2014 season. He was very mediocre otherwise, so I have no idea what Caldwell is thinking. I'm truly baffled by this.
Cardinals sign DE/DT Corey Peters (3 years, $10.5 million): B Grade
Corey Peters tore his Achilles late in 2013, but managed to rebound quite nicely last season. He wasn't overly dominant, but handled himself well in run support. He could be even better in 2015, given that he'll be two years removed from his Achilles tear.
With that in mind, this is a solid signing. The Cardinals needed someone to replace Darnell Dockett at defensive end in their 3-4 scheme, and while Peters won't be playing in any Pro Bowls anytime soon, he'll at least serve as an adequate starter. The price is definitely right for the former Falcon.
Browns sign WR Brian Hartline (2 years, $6 million): C Grade
Brian Hartline just made a dumb decision. The Patriots showed interest in him, so he should've gone to New England and played with Tom Brady. His career would've been resurrected, and he could have signed a bigger contract elsewhere once Brady retired. Instead, he'll be catching passes from Josh McCown or Johny Manziel in 2015. Way to kill your own career, Brian.
This is just a "meh" signing. The Browns aren't surrendering much money, and Hartline is better than what Cleveland had at receiver, save for Andrew Hawkins, so the move makes sense on a basic level. However, Hartline is as mediocre as they come, so he won't be making much of an impact.
Eagles re-sign DE/OLB Brandon Graham (4 years, $26M; $14M guaranteed): A- Grade
Philadelphia's offseason has been a disaster thus far, but at least the team did something right with this re-signing. Losing Trent Cole and Brandon Graham would've been too much for the team to handle, as the pass-rushing depth was looking completely depleted.
I'm surprised Graham came back to the Eagles, as he expressed interest in playing in a 4-3 scheme. He would be better as a defensive end instead of an outside linebacker, but he proved last year that he can be extremely productive standing up. He was strong in run support all while registering 5.5 sacks in very limited snaps behind Cole and Connor Barwin. He'll obviously take on a larger role this upcoming season with Cole gone.
Steelers re-sign ILB/OLB Arthur Moats (3 years, $7.5 million): B Grade
This is a solid move by the Steelers to re-sign one of their top backup defenders. Arthur Moats is capable of playing both outside and inside linebacker, and he filled in well on the edge last year when some injuries occurred. Moats is also a solid special teams player, so he'll continue to contribute even if everyone is healthy.
Jaguars sign OT Jermey Parnell (5 years, $32M; $13M guaranteed): D Grade
So, let me get this straight: Doug Free, who is the better, more-proven right tackle who played for Dallas last year, received just as much overall money in his contract as what Jermey (not Jeremy) Parnell is seeing in guarantees. Huh?
Someone needs to send a raven to Jacksonville to let general manager David Caldwell know that the right tackle position, contrary to his belief, is not that important of a position. There's absolutely no reason the Jaguars should've spent this much money on a player who has just seven career starts. Sure, Parnell has looked good when thrust into action, but he's an unproven commodity.
Contracts like this are always scary. The Jaguars truly don't know what they're getting in Parnell. Maybe he'll work out, but he has no track record of success. In fact, the one pattern here is a negative one, and it's that bottom-tier teams that sign free agents like this away from superior franchises almost always end up with busts. Sure, it works on occasion, but the probability that this signing won't work out is extremely high.
Texans re-sign QB Ryan Mallett (2 years, $7 million): B Grade
Who gonna give Ryan Mallett an offseason contract? His own team, apparently.
I was never a believer in Ryan Mallett because, despite his great physical gifts, I don't think he has the mental ability to process what's happening on the field. Most NFL teams apparently have the same concerns; otherwise, Mallett would've received a much bigger contract from someone else, given that the league is starved for quarterback talent. Instead, he gets to go back to Bill O'Brien's offense and compete for the starting job with Brian Hoyer.
I think this is a decent signing. It's not for much - remember, the Eagles are foolishly paying more to Mark Sanchez to be their backup - so it's all about the upside. O'Brien got Matt McGloin to play well at Penn State, so perhaps he'll be able to get the most out of Mallett. It's possible that Mallett won't even start next year, but the Texans are desperate at quarterback, so they have to be creative.
Chargers sign G/OT Orlando Franklin (5 years, $36.5M; $20M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The primary reason the Chargers missed the playoffs last year was because they couldn't protect Philip Rivers. The veteran quarterback was constantly knocked around and picked up some injuries as a consequence. San Diego's primary mission this offseason was to bolster Rivers' blocking. The front office re-signed left tackle King Dunlap a couple of weeks ago, and now it made a big move to acquire Orlando Franklin.
I like this signing quite a bit. Franklin was the top guard available in the NFL Free Agent Rankings, and he fills a huge need, as San Diego's primary blocking problems occurred in the interior last year. Franklin can also play right tackle in the event of an injury to D.J. Fluker.
Two other reasons why I like this move: First, this happens to be a fair price for Franklin; as a comparison, the Raiders just signed Rodney Hudson to a 5-year deal worth $44.5 million, so Franklin will be earning close to $2 million per year less than the former Chief. Second, the Chargers are poaching a very valuable player from their biggest rival, so they're strengthening their own roster while weakening Denver's.
Bills re-sign DE/OLB Jerry Hughes (5 years, $44.5M; $22M guaranteed): B Grade
Jerry Hughes was deemed a draft bust when the Colts got rid of him three years after spending a first-round pick on him. He resurfaced in Buffalo and completely turned his career around. It seemed like a fluke at first, but Hughes has managed to put together two dominant seasons, registering a combined 19 sacks since 2013.
Hughes is an important member of Buffalo's defense, so the team did well to re-sign him. However, I can't help but feel that Hughes will somehow regress based on how poorly he played in Indianapolis, so I'm hesitant to give this signing an "A" grade. Having said that, the Bills made what should be a solid move. Hughes projects as a terrific fit in Rex Ryan's defensive scheme, so I'm excited to see how the Jets' former head coach utilizes the 26-year-old edge rusher.
Bears reportedly sign DE/OLB Pernell McPhee (5 years, $40M; $16M guaranteed): C- Grade
The Bears are a moving to a 3-4 under new coordinator Vic Fangio, so one of the things on his long grocery list was a pass-rushing outside linebacker. He apparently found one in Pernell McPhee, who played well for the Ravens last year. He notched 7.5 sacks in limited snaps and stopped the run well.
The issue with this deal is two-fold. First, McPhee is an unproven commodity, so giving him this big of a contract is too risky. McPhee has only six career starts under his belt, and he registered just a combined 3.5 sacks in 2012 and 2013. Sure, he didn't get to play as much as he normally would have because he was stuck behind Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, but McPhee has never been a near-every-down player, so there's no proof that he can actually serve well in that role.
Second, motivation is a big concern. McPhee took the money and ran from a perennial Super Bowl contender to a team that's an absolute mess right now. The Bears are a train wreck in the wake of the Jay Cutler situation and Brandon Marshall trade. Why would any player want to join that hot mess right now? McPhee has made it known that his No. 1 priority is money, so this union probably won't end well.
Raiders reportedly sign C Rodney Hudson (5 years, $44.5 million): C Grade
Reggie McKenzie is at it again. The beleaguered Raiders' general manager overpaid for players in last year's free agency, and it appears as though he's willing to do the same thing this spring.
Unlike some of the aging bums McKenzie added a year ago, Rodney Hudson is actually a very good player. In fact, he's one of the league's best centers, as he was slotted in the top 20 of my Top NFL Free Agent Rankings list. So, why the "C" grade? It's because the Raiders could've paid less money to Stefen Wisniewski, who is just as good of a center as Hudson. Oakland inexplicably let Wisniewski get away, probably because the team struggles to evaluate talent (even its own).
Hudson's motivation also has to come into question. Why is he willing to go from a team on the cusp of playoff contention every year to one of the worst-run franchises in the NFL? It appears as though it's solely because of money, and if so, that's a terrible omen for this pact. Hudson apparently doesn't care about winning, so there's a good chance that this will be a bust signing.
Cardinals reportedly sign ILB Sean Weatherspoon (1 year, $4 million): A- Grade
I really like these type of 1-year "prove it" deals, as they tend to work out more often than not. And even if they fail, there's no risk involved for the team. They can simply move on from the player once the season is over with no financial penalty.
Sean Weatherspoon was an obvious candidate for a "prove it" contract. He tore his Achilles in June and was already dealing with knee problems that caused him to miss extensive action in 2013. He's a talented player though, and if healthy, he can have a big impact in Arizona's defense. The two questions are: 1) Can he stay healthy? 2) And if he does, will he still perform close to 100 percent in the wake of all of his leg injuries? Even if one of those answers is "no," Arizona won't be setting itself back, so this transaction is all upside.
Patriots re-sign S Devin McCourty (5 years, $47.5M; $28.5M guaranteed): A Grade
For a while, it seemed like the Patriots would lose Devin McCourty to the Eagles, Giants or Jaguars, all of whom pursued him. McCourty, however, did the right thing for his career, re-signing with the team that gave him the best shot to keep winning, all while staying relevant.
This is a good deal for McCourty. As a comparison, the Seahawks re-signed Earl Thomas to a 4-year, $40 million deal with $27.7 million guaranteed recently. Thomas and McCourty are comparable players, so the fact that McCourty signed for less money per year and about the same guaranteed makes this a great deal. New England already lost Vince Wilfork earlier this offseason, so it couldn't stand to lose an even more important player of their defense.
Bengals re-sign K Mike Nugent (2 years, $4 million): D Grade
Mike Nugent is one of the worst kickers in the NFL. He hasn't hit better than 82.6 percent of his kicks since 2011, and he's 4-of-9 from 50-plus in the past three years in a day and age that kickers blast long field goals routinely. The only reason this isn't getting a "Millen" grade is because all of the top kickers were already off the market. Still, giving Nugent $2 million per season is inexcusable.
Eagles re-sign QB Mark Sanchez (2 years, $9M; $5.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
It's almost like Chip Kelly robbed a bank and is throwing away all of the money out on the street to cause mayhem. Mark Sanchez is a solid backup quarterback, as he proved last year that he can win some games when called upon. However, he's getting more than backup money. As a point of reference, the Browns paid Josh McCown $14 million over three years with $6.25 million guaranteed to be their starter. That's just about as much overall and less guaranteed per year than what Sanchez received to be the No. 2 signal-caller.
I suppose Kelly wanted a viable option in case he can't trade up for Marcus Mariota - whom I have going No. 2 overall in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft - but he still could've found a comparable backup quarterback for less money. It's possible that Kelly envisions Sanchez as next year's starter as a bridge to Brett Hundley, but it's not like the former Jet is going to take the Eagles to the playoffs. Thus, there's no real reason Kelly should've given Sanchez this type of contract.
Eagles reportedly sign CB Byron Maxwell (6 years, $63M; $25M guaranteed): D Grade
Kareem Jackson received a 4-year deal worth $34 million on Saturday. Brandon Flowers inked a 4-year, $36 million contract earlier today. Both Jackson and Flowers are better and more proven than Byron Maxwell. So, with that in mind, why in the world is Maxwell getting a 6-year, $63 million deal with $25 million guaranteed from Philadelphia?
This contract makes no sense. Maxwell is physically gifted, but he has never been a No. 1 cornerback in the NFL. Richard Sherman was on the other side of the field in Seattle, but Maxwell won't have that sort of luxury in Philadelphia. He also won't have two excellent safeties like Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor aiding him. Asking him to do everything in Philadelphia's secondary is a bit ridiculous, and it's almost certain to backfire.
There's a slight chance this signing works out. As mentioned, Maxwell has lots of talent, and at 27, he'll be in his prime for most of the duration of this contract. He also fits into the defensive scheme well. However, the Eagles are overpaying a player who has never proven that he can cover No. 1 receivers, so there's too much of a risk involved.
Eagles reportedly sign RB Frank Gore (3 years, $7.5 million guaranteed): C- Grade SIGNING HAS BEEN NULLIFIED; FRANK GORE SIGNED WITH COLTS INSTEAD
Adam Schefter has reported that the Eagles have signed Frank Gore to a 3-year deal, which includes $7.5 million guaranteed. I may have an updated grade once all of the final numbers are announced.
As for now, I can't say I'm a fan of this signing. Frank Gore played well for the 49ers last year, but he turns 32 in May. He also has 2,442 career carries under his belt, so he's not going to last very long, and there's also a good chance that he completely regresses in 2015.
If the Eagles made this move three years ago, I would've been fine with it. But Gore is too old right now for this sort of money, and as I've been saying in other signings, there's absolutely no need for any NFL team to spend like this on a free agent running back, given how talented the crop of backs in this upcoming draft class is.
Vikings re-sign DT Tom Johnson (3 years, $7M; $3M guaranteed): B Grade
This isn't a splash move like the Dolphins signing Ndamukong Suh or the Chargers retaining Brandon Flowers, but it's a solid one. Tom Johnson is a decent rotational defensive tackle who can get pressure on the opposing quarterback. He recorded 6.5 sacks in 2014, so Minnesota did well to bring him back at a reasonable price. The one downside is that Johnson will turn 31 in August, but he should still be productive for a season or two.
Chargers re-sign CB Brandon Flowers (4 years, $36 million): B+ Grade
Brandon Flowers is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. The Chargers were able to obtain him cheaply last offseason after the Chiefs jettisoned him because he was a poor fit for their new defensive scheme. San Diego got a great bargain with him, and now they're paying him the money he deserves.
This price is definitely right for Flowers, who was the No. 9 player in my Top NFL Free Agent Rankings list. He just turned 29, so he should be able to play at a very high level for at least three more years. Losing Flowers would have hurt a lot because the Chargers still have to deal with Peyton Manning twice per year, so credit them for being able to retain one of their top defenders.
Dolphins reportedly sign DT Ndamukong Suh (6 years, $114M; $60M guaranteed): C Grade
"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." I had to look to do a Google search in order to find out who said that quote, and it apparently was someone named George Santayana. I knew for sure that it wasn't Dolphins' owner Stephen Ross, based on this contract.
Any Miami fan who wants to defend this transcation has to remember two words: Albert Haynesworth. The former Tennessee defensive tackle was absolutely dominant for the Titans. He signed a $100 million contract with the Redskins and proved to be an absolute abomination. He became fat and lazy, and he constantly argued with the coaching staff. He didn't last very long as a consequence.
I think Ndamukong Suh will fare better in Miami than Haynesworth did in Washington, but there's a big chance he'll bust. First of all, paying this much money (reported by Chris Mortensen) to any non-quarterback is insane. And it's even worse for a defensive tackle - a position in which players have trouble maintaining weight. What if Suh becomes fat and happy with this contract? It's safe to say that there's a good chance the Dolphins won't get him at 100 percent.
Second, Suh has some disciplinary issues, which could hurt the Dolphins. What if he's suspended for a key game? What if he gets too wild in South Beach? All of these are factors that Ross should have considered.
And finally, this is just too much for Suh. J.J. Watt received nearly $10 million less guaranteed. Suh is not a better player than Watt, so the Dolphins obviously overpaid - something they've done way too many times in free agency. The list includes Mike Wallace, Philip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe, Earl Mitchell... I can keep going and going, but you get the point.
I don't think this is an atrocious move, which is why I'm giving the Dolphins a "C" instead of a Millen grade. However, I think there's a high chance that Ross and his front office will ultimately regret giving the former Lion this much money.
Bills extend RB LeSean McCoy (5 years, $40M; $26.5M guaranteed): C Grade
Again, I don't understand why the Bills feel the need to dedicate so many resources to a running back with about 1,450 career carries and 300 receptions, especially with a very strong running back class available this April. Players at this position pretty much grow on trees right now, so paying one with that much of a career workload under his belt isn't very smart.
Granted, McCoy is one of the better running backs in the NFL right now, but he won't hold that distinction for very long. In two seasons, he'll be north of 2,000 carries and 400 catches. He'll be 29 by then, so chances are he'll regress rapidly beginning in 2017. The problem is that the Bills don't have a quarterback right now, and by the time they obtain one - perhaps one of the three I have slotted in the first round of my 2016 NFL Mock Draft - McCoy won't be nearly as effective. And that's exactly the issue. The Bills currently need to think long term because they aren't winning now with Matt Cassel or E.J. Manuel, but McCoy is a short-term player.
Colts sign G Todd Herremans (1 year, $3.5 million): B Grade
It's unclear how much money is actually guaranteed on this deal; Todd Herremans can earn as much as $3.5 million through incentives, so he's not getting this entire amount.
I think this is a solid move for the Colts, who have to bolster their offensive line. Todd Herremans probably shouldn't be starting at this point in his career, but he's better than what Indianapolis already had at the right guard spot. Herremans struggled immensely last year, but only because he was playing through a biceps injury. He should still be able to run block pretty well, though he tends to get beaten in pass protection.
Packers re-sign WR Randall Cobb (4 years, $40 million): A Grade
Randall Cobb apparently learned from the mistakes his predecessors committed. Both Greg Jennings and James Jones ruined their careers by separating from Aaron Rodgers and signing with teams that had inferior quarterbacks. When the NFL Free Agent Rumors surfaced about Cobb potentially signing with the Jaguars and Raiders, I was set to criticize him for being guilty of the same errors as Jennings and Jones.
Cobb has proven to be smarter than that. He reportedly took $1-$2 million less per season to stay with the Packers, which is smart because he'll just make that money back in his next contract. He'll continue to be a highly productive weapon for Rodgers, who will remain in his prime for the duration of this contract. So, barring an injury to his quarterback, Cobb won't have to worry about his numbers declining, which is something both Jennings and Jones experienced.
As for the Packers, this is a no-brainer "A" grade. Cobb could've gotten paid more elsewhere, so giving $10 million per year to one of the top play-makers in the league seems like a great bargain. Cobb, who will turn only 25 in August, might even perform on a higher level than he did in 2014.
Titans re-sign P Brett Kern (5 years, $15 million): D Grade
Brett Kern was fifth in punting average (46.8) and tied for sixth in net punting average (40.8) last year. That's great and all, but no punter deserves $3 million per season. That's just ridiculous. Half-decent punters can be found on the street, so I don't get why Tennessee dished out all of this money. I understand that Kern is one of the better punters in the league, but the Titans should be spending their cash on players who actually have an impact on the game.
Saints re-sign RB Mark Ingram (4 years, $16 million): C Grade
I may change this grade once I find out how much guaranteed money Mark Ingram will earn in this new contract. That figure is currently unavailable.
I wouldn't have been so eager to pay Ingram if I were the Saints. First of all, this incoming class of running backs is outstanding, so finding a replacement wouldn't have been that difficult. Second, Ingram was a chronic underachiever prior to the 2014 season. I suspected Ingram might have his best year because he was playing for a new contract. Now that he has more money, will he become lethargic again? I'm not saying Ingram will definitely regress, but it's definitely a strong possibility.
Texans re-sign CB Kareem Jackson (4 years, $34M; $20M guaranteed): B Grade
Unlike Houston's other move today, this is a solid one. I still can't believe such a sub-par right tackle like Derek Newton received all that money. I figured he'd get a 2-year deal worth $5 million or so. I'm so perplexed by that contract.
At any rate, Kareem Jackson is a legitimate No. 1 cornerback in the NFL, and he's only 26 (27 in April), so he'll be able to play at the top of his game throughout the duration of this deal. The contract comes with a hefty price tag, but it could be argued that Jackson is well worth it. He was the No. 17 player in my Top NFL Free Agent Rankings list, so I expected him to receive a big pay day.
The one concern with Jackson was that he was overweight prior to the beginning of the 2013 season and struggled that year as a consequence. He has been in terrific ever since, but will all of this guaranteed money make him fat and happy again? The Texans better hope not, but regardless, I don't blame them for giving Jackson this deal, given that they needed to keep one of their better defenders on the roster.
Texans re-sign OT Derek Newton (5 years, $26.5 million): D Grade
I can't say I understand this contract. As I mentioned in the Doug Free re-signing below, chemistry is very important when it comes to the offensive line. However, Derek Newton is just not that good.
Newton played well in the second half of the season last year, but he has otherwise been a pedestrian blocker in his 4-year career, especially when it's come to pass protection. Newton, while run blocking well, was poor when it came to shielding Ryan Fitzpatrick and the other quarterbacks in 2014, so there's no reason to expect him to improve in that regard going forward. I would've been fine with Houston retaining him cheaply, but this contract is just outrageous. Quite simply, the Texans overpaid.
Cowboys re-sign OT Doug Free (3 years, $15M; $6M guaranteed): A- Grade
Chemistry is extremely important when it comes to maintaining a strong offensive line. Dallas finally got the talent together up front, so keeping all of the blockers together for another season is huge for Tony Romo and whomever starts at running back next year.
Doug Free is a talented right tackle who has played exceptionally well the past couple of seasons. Age is beginning to be a concern with him - he turned 31 in January - but the price is extremely good; $6 million guaranteed over three years for one of the better right tackles in the business is a great deal.
Seahawks re-sign RB Marshawn Lynch (3 years, $31 million): B Grade
Marshawn Lynch was initially due $8.5 million, but was unhappy with that amount of money. He's apparently fine with this increase of $2.5 million, which is completely justified. Lynch, arguably the best running back in the NFL, still has at least one great season left in the tank, as he'll turn just 29 in April.
I'm excited to see what Christine Michael can do as the team's lead back, so it wouldn't have been the end of the world had Seattle parted ways with Lynch, but retaining him is best for another run at the Super Bowl. It's especially great that the Seahawks were able to keep him on the roster without jeopardizing their future with a long contract; giving him a long-term deal wouldn't have made sense, given that Lynch is a running back nearing 30. But having him back for only one more year? Why not?
Update: So much for Lynch not receiving a multi-year deal. The Seahawks have given Lynch a 3-year, $31 million extension, and he's set to make $12 million this year. I obviously don't like this as much as the 1-year, $11 million contract that was initially reported, so I have to drop this grade, which was originally an "A." It's currently unclear how much Lynch will be guaranteed following this season, so this extension might not be too bad. It depends on the details of the deal, which are unknown at the present moment. I'll give this a solid "B" for now, but I'm not a fan of the Seahawks keeping Beast Mode around for more than one season, given that he'll turn 30 after the 2015 campaign.
Chargers sign WR/KR Jacoby Jones (2 years, $5 million): B+ Grade
Jacoby Jones isn't going to see the field much on offense in San Diego, as he won't pass Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd or even the promising Dontrelle Inman on the depth chart. However, the Chargers needed a boost in their return game, and they're getting exactly that in Jacoby Jones, who has six special-teams touchdowns over the past four years, including one last year. Jones, who takes back both kickoffs and punts, was among the league leaders in return average in both aspects last season.
Jets re-sign ILB David Harris (3 years, $21.5M; $15M guaranteed): D Grade
Good lord, what are the Jets doing? In a span of just four hours, they managed to poison their locker room and overpay for an aging defender. Is it too late to bring John Idzik back? Because as awful as he was, he was even too smart to pull a move like this.
This is a terrible contract. David Harris, who just turned 31, is a mere two-down linebacker. He's strong against the run, but struggles in coverage. He's not getting any younger, and his best days are obviously behind him, so it's puzzling why the Jets would throw $15 million guaranteed his way. If they offered him $5 million guaranteed, I still would've thought that would be too much. They're paying on past performance, which is a horrible error to make in free agency.
New York endured a nightmare offseason last year, and it appears as though history is repeating itself. It's getting embarrassing, and it doesn't appear as though the team will have much success until Woody Johnson sells the team.
Jets acquire WR Brandon Marshall from Bears for a fifth-round pick
Credit Aaron Leming of BearReport.com for having this trade at 10 a.m., whereas Adam Schefter announced it an hour later. I just wanted to make that clear because some publications are giving Schefter credit.
As for this trade, the Jets have a new front office, but they are doing the same, stupid things. Brandon Marshall is not the same receiver he once was. Many will remember Marshall for his many 100-reception seasons - he had five of them - specifically his 2012 campaign in which he registered 118 catches for 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Those days are long gone. Marshall caught 61 balls for 721 yards and eight scores last year, and that downward trend will continue, especially given that he'll now be playing with a limited or inexperienced quarterback. Marshall is no longer a young player; he turns 31 later this month. It's also fair to say that his attention is elsewhere. He focused on being a weekly analyst on Inside the NFL last year, and it obviously distracted him from actually playing football. Being in New York will make it easier on him, since he won't have to travel, but then there's issue of his locker room antics. The Bears wanted to jettison Marshall to clean up their locker room, so why are the Jets taking him on?
I understand that New York surrendered just a fifth-round selection and addressed a huge need, but this trade is a classic case of subtraction by addition. In addition to costing the front office $9.575 million against the cap, Marshall will hurt the team's morale if things go south, and they will because the Jets have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. This will not end well for New York.
As for the Bears, the fifth-round choice isn't as significant as getting rid of a player who, by their own admission, hurt the team in the locker room and was costing the franchise close to $10 million in cap space. Now, if only Chicago could also dump Jay Cutler. If the front office manages to convince the Jets to take on Cutler's contract as well, it'll have a very successful offseason.
Panthers extend TE Greg Olsen (3 years, $22.5M; $12M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Greg Olsen is coming off the best season of his career. He caught 84 passes for 1,008 yards, both of which were career-highs. He also scored six touchdowns and blocked extremely well, as usual. He was highly important for Carolina's offense, and helped lead the team to a playoff spot during its hot stretch at the end of the season. Olsen, who was heading into his contract year, definitely deserved this sort of money.
I'm giving the Panthers a B+. It would be a slightly higher grade, but my only concern is Olsen's age. He'll turn 30 a week from now, and while he should still be great in 2015, there's a chance, albeit a slim one, that he could decline in 2016 and beyond. The Panthers could be paying a bit based on past performance, but this is still a quality extension.
49ers sign DE/DT Darnell Dockett (2 years, $7.5M; $2M guaranteed): C Grade
Darnell Dockett is one of the most overrated defensive players in the NFL. He's a big name, yet he hasn't put together a quality season since 2011. Now, he's coming off a torn ACL as a 34-year-old (in May), so he might even be less effective than he already was in the first place.
The 49ers are overpaying for Dockett's services. Even though he's getting "just" $2 million guaranteed, it's still too much for a player who may offer San Francisco absolutely nothing. Still, it's not an egregious amount, and Dockett does potentially fill a need at the defensive end position, which has been vacated by the troubled Ray McDonald.
This isn't an awful signing by any means, since it won't set the 49ers back much when it doesn't work out. Still, the team should be spending its money on younger, healthier players who have a better chance of contributing.
Bills acquire QB Matt Cassel from Vikings for draft picks
Here's the composition of the trade: The Bills are swapping their first 2015 fifth-round pick for the Vikings' 2015 sixth-round pick. Minnesota will also receive a 2016 seventh-round choice from Buffalo.
With that in mind, this seems like a quality deal for both sides. Matt Cassel is a veteran stopgap quarterback, and the asking price for one is about a fifth-round pick, so the compensation is fair. Cassel is incapable of leading the Bills deep into the playoffs, or anything, but he can manage games and have Buffalo in contention for an 8-8 or 9-7 record, just like Kyle Orton did last year. With Cassel on the roster, Buffalo won't have to count on E.J. Manuel starting anytime soon. The team can either let Manuel develop or draft another quarterback this April or next spring.
As for the Vikings, Cassel was not in their long-term plans whatsoever, so obtaining something for him is a plus, especially considering that they were able to unload his salary. Minnesota will now need a No. 2 quarterback with Christian Ponder headed for the open market, but one can just be acquired via free agency. Check out the NFL Free Agent Quarterback Rankings to see who's available for Minnesota.
Bills acquire RB LeSean McCoy from Eagles for LB Kiko Alonso
LeSean McCoy is the more prominent player, but Buffalo is definitely the loser in this trade. McCoy is only 26 (27 in July), but he already has 1,463 carries under his belt, and that doesn't include all of the receptions he has secured over his career. His numbers were down this past season (4.2 YPC), as his 2013 figures (5.1 YPC) were inflated because teams paid so much attention to DeSean Jackson. McCoy will have the same luxury in Buffalo with Sammy Watkins serving as a downfield threat, but the Bills won't be getting the best of McCoy for very long, as he'll undoubtedly be crossing 2,000 career carries after the next two seasons.
As you can tell, I don't like this move very much for Buffalo. The running back class entering the 2015 NFL Draft is a very talented one, so why trade a stud defensive player for an aging back? Why not just select a running back in the second or third round?
The Eagles, meanwhile, are getting a very talented linebacker in Kiko Alonso. The former Duck - no shock that Chip Kelly traded for him - had a superb rookie year, especially in coverage. He was a three-down player who will serve as an upgrade over DeMeco Ryans, who didn't play as well in 2014. Alonso is coming off a torn ACL, but that happened before the season, so he's had plenty of time to recover. Alonso is only 24, so there's no reason to think that he won't be 100 percent by the start of the season.
Philadelphia now has a major hole at running back, but that's not a huge deal. As mentioned, the running back class is a great one, and running backs effectively grow on trees, so Kelly will be able to land a replacement.
Cowboys re-sign WR Cole Beasley (4 years, $13.6M; $7M guaranteed): C+ Grade
I can't say I'm a fan of this contract. Cole Beasley has never caught more than 39 passes in any of his three NFL seasons. He's an undersized slot receiver who could've been retained for just a second-round tender this offseason, given that he was a restricted free agent. Granted, he would've commanded more money had he posted greater numbers in 2015, but on the flip side, he would've been much cheaper if he would've tallied fewer than 40 receptions again.
Having said that, this wasn't a bad move. Beasley had a strong finish to his 2014 campaign, serving as a reliable tertiary option for Tony Romo. I just don't think any other team would've offered him this kind of money, and again, Dallas didn't even have to give him this sort of contract for another year.
Browns sign QB Josh McCown (3 years, $15 million): D Grade
The Browns are always good for some laughs in the offseason. This contract is ridiculous for multiple reasons. One is that McCown failed on a 2-year, $10 million deal with Tampa Bay last season despite having Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to throw to. McCown won't have anything close to that sort of talent in Cleveland. Another reason is that the Browns could've just re-signed Brian Hoyer for about the same amount of money, or perhaps even less. Hoyer is both younger and better than McCown. Neither is a viable starter, but I don't see how a 36-year-old McCown is any sort of upgrade over Hoyer.
Redskins sign DE/DT Ricky Jean Francois (3 years, $9M; $4M guaranteed): D Grade
Ricky Jean-Francois is best used as a backup; he's a below-average starter at best who doesn't do anything particularly well. With that in mind, the Redskins are paying too much. They could've obtained a player of equal talent for much less had they been patient. I just don't get why they had to give him $4 million guaranteed.
Chargers re-sign OT King Dunlap (4 years, $28 million): B- Grade
It's unknown how much guaranteed money King Dunlap has received, so I may change this grade if that amount is either outrageous or underwhelming. As it stands now, it's just a mediocre move. Dunlap was awful in Philadelphia, but found a home as an above-average blind-side protector in San Diego. He was great in 2013, but regressed a bit last season. He turns 30 right after the 2015 campaign begins, so his skills could erode soon.
Dunlap is definitely not worth $7 million per year, but again, the contract details could paint a better picture. Besides, if the Chargers had let Dunlap walk, they'd have a major void at the left tackle position.
Cardinals re-sign WR Larry Fitzgerald (2 years, $22 million): B+ Grade
The Cardinals were $12 million over the cap entering Wednesday, so they had to ask some of their players, primarily Larry Fitzgerald, to take a pay cut. Fitzgerald was set to count more than $23 million against the cap, which is unacceptable for any receiver, let alone a soon-to-be 32-year-old who hasn't eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in the past three years.
Fitzgerald did, in fact, take the pay cut, though he is now guaranteed all of this money. It's still a lot for him, but Arizona was able to clear close to $13 million off the cap, so the front office will actually be able to do something in free agency, especially once some other salaries are reduced.
Raiders hire DC Ken Norton Jr.: B Grade
As with the Seattle hire, there's nothing to base Ken Norton's play calling off of, as he's never been a defensive coordinator on any level. However, he definitely deserves a chance, as he did a great job as Seattle's linebackers coach over the past five seasons. This acquisition definitely makes a lot of sense, though Norton could just as easily prove to be an incompetent play-caller.
Seahawks hire DC Kris Richard: B+ Grade
Kris Richard has never been a coordinator on any level, so it's impossible to know how well he'll do now that he's being asked to call the plays. However, he did a great job as Seattle's secondary coach, getting the most out of the defensive backs, most of whom were taken in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft. It's also nice that the Seahawks have continuity with Richard, so this seems like it should be a good hire.
Titans hire Dick LeBeau: A Grade
Dick LeBeau isn't technically the defensive coordinator, but he'll be in charge of the stop unit, taking over for the ineffective Ray Horton. LeBeau is a major upgrade over Horton, so this is obviously a positive move. In fact, I like it a lot. Horton has proven to be an incompetent coordinator over the years, helping to derail Darnell Dockett's career and keeping Tennessee's defense near the bottom of most categories.
LeBeau will provide a boost, but it won't really matter until the Titans add some defensive talent to their roster; they have tons of holes at most positions, especially the secondary. Once they do make upgrades though, they'll be in better position to have a superior stop unit.
Falcons hire head coach Dan Quinn: B Grade
The Falcons can't get an "A" grade for this hire because they bungled their chance at landing Rex Ryan, who was the clear-cut top candidate for the job. Bringing in Dan Quinn does make sense, though I do disagree with some publications that believe Quinn will just be able to snap his fingers and revive Atlanta's defense. Quinn was an NFL defensive coordinator for just two seasons, and he did it with the Seahawks, who have a ton of talent. The Falcons obviously don't have that sort of talent. There's a ton of work Atlanta's front office has to do to change that, and the team won't sport a quality stop unit until many upgrades are made.
It's always hard to tell how coordinators will fare as head coaches because they've never had to take on a full leadership role. Quinn has never been a head coach on any level, but that doesn't mean he's a bad hire. It just makes the decision difficult to grade. Like I said, the acquisition makes sense, but how Quinn will perform is anyone's guess.
49ers hire OC Geep Chryst: MILLEN SLAVE Grade
I can only imagine a 49er fan dressed as Mr. Slave learning of this hire and saying to himself, "Geep Chrysth."
It's amazing how incompetent the 49ers have become. They had one of the top three head coaches in the NFL, an offensive guru who has gotten the most out of mediocre quarterbacks, and the front office has transformed that into a line coach who is now calling all the shots and a new coordinator who has no positive experience at the position.
Geep Chryst was the offensive coordinator of the Chargers in 1999 and 2000. His offenses ranked 26th and 28th, and he was fired after the 2000 campaign in which San Diego went 1-15. Chryst has since had time off and served as a positional coach for various teams, including the quarterbacks' coach for San Francisco.
The 49er players are reportedly dismayed by this promotion, and it's easy to see why. The team made a cheap hire, as Chryst is another "yes man." Chryst has done nothing to deserve this job, as he failed to develop Colin Kaepernick. It's a shame to see this proud franchise decay into oblivion, but that's exactly what's happening because both ownership and the front office are so incompetent.
Broncos hire DC Wade Phillips: A+ Grade
With Peyton Manning, now 39, set to decline once again, the Broncos will need to lean on their defense more than ever. The stop unit failed down the stretch last year because the overmatched Jack Del Rio didn't do a very good job. Wade Phillips, on the other hand, will get the most out of the talent on Denver's defense.
Phillips failed as a head coach in Dallas, but he remains one of the best defensive minds in football. He has succeeded as a coordinator wherever he has gone, and he'll have the pieces in place to maintain a dominant stop unit in Denver. Phillips will run his 3-4, and the Broncos have the personnel for that, with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware being the edge rushers. Terrance Knighton, assuming he's re-signed, is a perfect nose tackle, and he would be flanked by Derek Wolfe and Sylvester Williams up front. Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan will be stationed at inside linebacker.
This is the best possible move the Broncos could've made. The head-coaching hire they made was uninspired, but they'll at least have one of the top defensive coordinators in the business.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
49ers hire HC Jim Tomsula: C 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.
Note: After learning what happened to Adam Gase - the 49ers refused to hire him because he wanted to bring in his own coordinators - I've decided to drop this from a B- to a C. Trent Baalke is single-handedly ruining this great franchise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 that�s just a dumb call. That�s why I changed it.'"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.