I've listed all of the NFL Free Agent Signing Grades here, which included the trades. Because I've begun posting polls for the trades, I thought it would make sense to list just the NFL trades here, so archiving the voting would be easier.
Bills acquire WR Jordan Matthews, 3rd-round pick from Eagles for CB Ronald Darby
When I saw that Sammy Watkins was traded, I tweeted out a link to the NFL Free Agent Wide Receiver Rankings for a potential replacement. Little did I know that Buffalo also dealt for Jordan Matthews.
Matthews is not an adequate replacement for Watkins. The latter is a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the NFL when healthy. Matthews is an above-average No. 2 and a solid slot option. He's definitely not a bad player to have in an offense, but he's the Bills' top wideout right now unless Zay Jones explodes as a rookie. As the Eagles learned last year, Matthews cannot be a No. 1.
That said, the Bills did not lose this trade by nearly as much as they did in the Watkins swap. Acquiring a third-round pick and Matthews for Ronald Darby isn't a bad deal. The 2018 NFL Draft class is loaded - check out the 2018 NFL Mock Draft - so it's nice that Buffalo has two selections in each of the first three rounds.
I still think the Eagles won this trade, however. They were going to get rid of Matthews one way or another, so effectively trading a third-round pick for Ronald Darby is a great move. Darby, a 2015 second-round pick, had an excellent rookie campaign. He struggled last year because of a lingering hamstring injury, but he has the talent to rebound. The Eagles were desperate for a cornerback, and Darby provides a major upgrade. With Sidney Jones coming back in 2018, Philadelphia could have an excellent cornerback duo next year.
Rams acquire WR Sammy Watkins, 6th-round pick from Bills for CB E.J. Gaines, 2nd-round pick
Wow, where did this come from!? Jordan Matthews was rumored to be available via trade, but not Sammy Watkins. Buffalo's star receiver was outstanding in last night's preseason game versus the Vikings, appearing healthy for the first time in a while. The Bills apparently didn't care, dealing him to the Rams for an exchange of draft picks and cornerback E.J. Gaines.
I suppose this is a sign that the Bills are tanking. Aside from LeSean McCoy, Watkins was the only proven play-maker they had on offense. Zay Jones is a mere rookie, while Anquan Boldin is on his last legs. They acquired Jordan Matthews, but he's a mediocre talent. Watkins, when healthy, gave the Bills a legitimate downfield threat, but they don't have that anymore unless Jones proves himself as a rookie.
I can't give the Bills a good grade for this trade. Gaines has some promise, but he struggled immensely last year because he was injured. He could rebound - he was halfway decent as a rookie in 2014, but then missed all of 2015 - but that's not something the Bills can count on. Getting a second-round pick for their sixth isn't enough. This is a solid move if the Bills plan to tank, but if that's the case, why did they re-sign Tyrod Taylor?
As for the Rams, this was an outstanding move for them. They lacked a No. 1 wideout - Robert Woods and Tavon Austin were battling for that distinction - but now Jared Goof has a lethal target at his disposal. Sure, Watkins has injury concerns, but he's absolutely worth it based on what the Rams gave up for him. Going from a second to a sixth and trading Gaines is not a big deal if it means adding a Pro Bowl talent. The Rams won this trade by a long shot.
Chiefs acquire LB Kevin Pierre-Louis from Seahawks for LB D.J. Alexander
I initially wasn't going to grade this trade, but I received multiple requests for it, so here I am. The reason I was reluctant to grade this deal is because both teams are receiving equal, yet partly insignificant assets.
When I say that Kevin Pierre-Louis and D.J. Alexander are the same player, I'm not exaggerating. Neither is a factor defensively, yet both are stellar on special teams. They're both 25, and they both earn somewhere between $600,000 and $700,000. I'm not even sure why the Chiefs and Seahawks made this deal. It's like when two owners in your fantasy league trade a running back for another running back, and you wonder, "Why the hell are they doing this deal?"
Chargers acquire QB Cardale Jones from Bills for conditional 7th-round pick
A couple of days ago, I commended the Chargers for working out Robert Griffin, a young quarterback who could, at the very minimum, serve as an upgrade over pedestrian No. 2 quarterback Kellen Clemens. The upside was developing Griffin to be the quarterback of the future. Perhaps that was far-fetched, but it was a possibility at the very least.
This trade is similar to the Griffin signing, except the Chargers are going younger for more upside but less certainty this year. It's unclear if Jones can unseat Clemens this year, but he's only 24, and with some great coaching, perhaps he can compete to be Philip Rivers' successor in a few years. It probably won't work that way, but the Chargers aren't really taking a risk by giving up just a seventh-round pick.
As for the Bills, this trade isn't surprising, given that they selected Nathan Peterman in the middle rounds this past April. Buffalo should've gotten a bit more for Jones; he was a fourth-round choice in 2016 and flashed a bit in the preseason. However, he was part of the old regime, so dealing him made sense.
Broncos acquire G Allen Barbre from Eagles for conditional 2019 late-round pick
It was initially reported that the Eagles released Allen Barbre, but the Broncos weren't willing to risk losing him to another team on the open market. They ponied up by offering a conditional late-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft to acquire the 33-year-old guard.
This seems like a great move for Denver. The team spent a first-round choice on tackle Garett Bolles and signed Ronald Leary, but still had a major hole at left guard. Barbre, who was once a journeyman blocker, has worked hard and evolved into a capable starter. He'll be a definite upgrade for the Broncos, so it was a terrific decision by John Elway to acquire him, surrendering just a late-round conditional selection.
As for the Eagles, it's nice that they were able to obtain something for Barbre, considering that they were willing to release him. However, I still disagree with the decision to part ways with Barbre, so Denver is the clear winner of this trade.
Lions acquire OT Greg Robinson from Rams for 6th-round pick
It's amazing to think that Greg Robinson was once the second-overall pick in the NFL Draft. Robinson was seen as raw, but incredibly talented coming out of Auburn. Unfortunately, he has never developed. He's been awful in every facet for the Rams. They gave him numerous chances, and he has failed every time. He was recently beaten out at right tackle by someone named Jamon Brown, and there was some speculation that he would be released. Instead, he was dealt to the Lions.
There's a good chance Robinson won't make Detroit's final roster, so the front office may have just flushed a sixth-round pick down the toilet. However, I can't exactly blame the Lions for taking a shot on Robinson either. They won't have stud left tackle Taylor Decker for most, if not the entire year. They need to find a capable replacement. Robinson is highly unlikely to be capable in any sense of the word, but he at least has potential.
I won't give the Lions a poor grade for this deal because I understand where they're coming from. They're using a sixth-round pick in order to hit a home run. Unfortunately, this home run would be like a AAA player facing Roger Clemens in his prime, considering how horrendous Robinson has been in his career thus far. The Rams, meanwhile, deserve the higher grade, as they're at least getting something for a terrible player they were going to cut.
Browns acquire S Calvin Pryor from Jets for LB Demario Davis
The Browns and Jets have made a one-for-one swap on Thursday, exchanging defensive players. Both Calvin Pryor and Demario Davis have been disappointments in their careers, but this trade makes sense for both teams.
Cleveland needed a safety to start next to Jabrill Peppers. Pryor may not beat out the other safeties on the roster, but he'll have a shot. He was a first-round pick in 2014, so he at least has potential, despite the horrible start to his career. Davis, meanwhile, is back with the Jets after spending one season with the Browns. The Jets needed depth behind David Harris and Darron Lee, and Davis seems like he could be a passable third inside linebacker.
This trade seems about even, but I'm going to give the Browns a slight edge. Pryor is younger and has more potential than Davis. He's been terrible as a pro thus far, but he could turn things around and become a solid player in the NFL. It probably won't happen, but I can envision a scenario in which it does.
Raiders acquire RB Marshawn Lynch, 2018 6th-rounder from Seahawks for 2018 5th-round pick
Beast Mode is headed for Oakland. The Raiders acquired Marshawn Lynch for a swap of third-day selections in 2018, effectively giving up almost nothing to acquire the former Seattle runner.
If you're surprised that the Seahawks are receiving so little for Lynch, don't be. They weren't expected to really obtain anything of substance, as this trade was just a formality. Lynch was still under contract with Seattle and wasn't going to play for them, so the Seahawks did well just to receive anything.
As for the Raiders, it's unknown what they're getting with Lynch. He sat out all of 2016 after struggling the year before, failing to even average four yards per carry. Lynch looked done and worn out. Perhaps his sabbatical will give him fresh legs, and the Raiders were apparently fine with his conditioning; otherwise, they wouldn't have signed him. Lynch could do well in Oakland, as the Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Then again, he turned 31 this week, so no one should be surprised if we don't see the Beast Mode of old in 2017.
Overall, I like this move for Oakland. The Raiders needed a running back, and they're at least taking a chance on someone who was one of the best players at his position a few years ago. If Lynch struggles, the Raiders haven't really lost anything, so this is all upside.
Update: Having seen Lynch's contract, I'm downgrading this deal from an A- to a "B." Lynch could work out very well for the Raiders, but paying him $4.5 million per season seems like a lot for a 31-year-old running back who missed all of 2016 and struggled mightily the season prior to that. The Raiders overpaid, but not egregiously, so I have to drop their grade.
Patriots acquire RB Mike Gillislee from Bills for 5th-round pick
This isn't technically a trade, as the Patriots signed restricted free agent Mike Gillislee to a 2-year, $6.4 million offer sheet a week ago. The Bills had five days to match, but opted not to do so. Gillislee, as a result, is now a Patriot. New England, in turn, had to surrender a fifth-round pick to Buffalo.
I like this move for the Patriots. They wanted another running back despite signing Rex Burkhead, and Gillislee is likely better than anyone they could get in the fifth round. Gillislee is just 26, and he averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 101 attempts in 2016, scoring nine touchdowns in the process. Gillislee can take LeGarrette Blount's role, as Blount apparently was asking for more money than New England was willing to pay him. It shouldn't surprise anyone if Gillislee reaches the end zone 10-plus times in 2017.
As for the Bills, this all could've been avoided had they given Gillislee a second-round tender. Instead, they'll likely be punished for this move in their games versus New England. Sure, they're getting a fifth-rounder (No. 163 overall) back in return, but odds are that they won't be able to land a player who makes the roster with that selection.
Eagles acquire DT Timmy Jernigan, third-round pick (No. 99) from Ravens for third-round pick (No. 74)
Timmy Jernigan played extremely well as a second-round rookie in 2014. His play has regressed each year since, but wasn't a bad player by any means this past season. Jernigan notched five sacks and performed well when trying to stop the run. Still, the Ravens were frustrated by his declining performance, and Jernigan was upset about his reduced snaps, prompting this trade.
I love this move for the Eagles. They're moving down 25 spots in the third round, which isn't a huge deal considering that some of the players they're targeting in that particular round could be there at 99. Philadelphia needed defensive tackle help in the wake of Bennie Logan's departure, and Jernigan figures to fit in nicely. Jernigan is just 24, so he could turn things around and develop into a major asset for the Eagles.
The Ravens probably shouldn't have given up on Jernigan. He still has so much potential, so moving up 25 spots in the third round doesn't seem all that exciting. It's at least something though, so if Baltimore was considering cutting Jernigan, at least it got something for him.
49ers acquire C Jeremy Zuttah, 6th-rounder from Ravens for 6th-round pick
It was initially reported that the Ravens were going to cut Jeremy Zuttah, but the 49ers called in right away and asked if they could trade for him. Something like this happened earlier in the offseason when the Jaguars and Dolphins orchestrated a trade involving Branden Albert, so this sort of action is definitely not unheard of.
I like this trade for both teams. The 49ers couldn't count on courting Zuttah, so they've opted to slide down 12 spots in the sixth round to make sure they can obtain the 31-year-old. Despite being in his 30s, Zuttah is still performing on a high level. Centers typically play well into their mid-30s, so the 49ers don't need to worry about any sort of regression. He'll be a big upgrade over Daniel Kilgore, providing a much-needed boost for San Francisco's poor offensive line. That all sounds great, especially considering the price tag. Twelve spots in the sixth round is irrelevant.
As for the Ravens, they were going to release Zuttah anyway, so why not obtain something for him? Even if that something is moving up 12 spots in the sixth frame, it's at least something.
Patriots acquire WR Brandin Cooks, 4th-rounder from Saints for 1st- and 3rd-round picks
My apologies for being slow with these grades Friday evening. I just got home from a wedding rehearsal dinner (my fiancee's sister is getting married tomorrow), and I'll get to all of the grades shortly.
I have to say that despite it being speculated for days now, I'm still shocked that this deal went through. It's kind of crazy that the Patriots will have Brandin Cooks in their offense. I didn't even think they'd be in the market for a receiver because they had Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and maybe Michael Floyd on the roster (plus Rob Gronkowski), but Bill Belichick apparently thought differently.
It's going to be fun to watch Tom Brady have a new weapon like Cooks. He hasn't had a dynamic, downfield threat like Cooks since Randy Moss. It might be instinctive to point out that Cooks could decline because he won't be playing with Drew Brees anymore, until you remember that he'll now be paired with Brady, and there theoretically shouldn't be a drop-off. The price is a bit steep for my blood, but at least New England didn't have to surrender Malcolm Butler.
I like the move for the Patriots, but I think the Saints are the winners of this deal. Cooks made it known that he didn't want to be on the roster anymore, and the Saints have two strong receivers without him in Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. New Orleans now has two first-round selections in a very deep draft, so they can use those picks to improve their woeful defense.
Patriots acquire DE Kony Ealy, 3rd-rounder from Panthers for 2nd-round pick
The Patriots are involved in their second blockbuster trade of the offseason. They acquired Dwayne Allen from the Colts a few days ago, and now they've obtained a promising player on the other side of the ball.
Kony Ealy had a tremendous performance in the Super Bowl loss against the Broncos, and he was expected to have a huge 2016 campaign. That didn't happen, however. He recorded five sacks and happened to be a liability in run support. The Panthers were apparently so disappointed with him that they were willing to deal him to New England for a swap of second-day selections.
That said, there's definitely upside for the Patriots. Ealy was a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and he won't turn 26 until December. We've seen him play lights out on the biggest stage in football, so he's definitely capable of thriving in the NFL. Perhaps he'll do that under Bill Belichick's excellent tutelage. If so, Ealy would fill a huge need at defensive end, replacing Chris Long. If not, then New England sacrificed only eight draft spots, which is probably meaningless.
For the Panthers, it's a bit odd that they're giving up on Ealy so quickly. They're moving up from the beginning of the third round to the bottom of the second frame, which just doesn't seem worth it. Why not give Ealy another shot?
Dolphins acquire DE William Hayes, 7th-rounder from Rams for 6th-round pick
I don't understand what the Rams are doing. They spent countless millions on Robert Woods on Thursday, and then they sent William Hayes packing to Miami for almost nothing Friday morning. The Rams were apparently going to cut Hayes, so they at least got something for him. That part is at least logical. What doesn't make sense is why they'd want to release Hayes in the first place.
Hayes is a solid rotational defensive end. He can play about half the snaps and do everything pretty decently. He has recorded 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons and hasn't been a liability in run support. He's a nice player to have on the defensive line, so I don't understand why the Rams were so desperate to get rid of him.
I'm sure the Dolphins don't get it either, since, you know, they traded for him. As mentioned, the Dolphins are giving up almost nothing. They're moving down from the sixth to the seventh round, which is almost meaningless. They seem like the clear-cut winners of this trade.
Browns acquire QB Brock Osweiler, 2018 2nd-round pick, 2017 6th-round pick for 2017 4th-round pick
Wow, I don't ever recall seeing anything like this in the NFL. It happens all the time in the NBA, where one team sends a highly paid player and a draft pick to another franchise for cap relief, but this doesn't happen in football. It's prevalent in basketball because of guaranteed contracts, but the Texans effectively had to pay $16 million to Osweiler no matter what. Well, not anymore. They're completely off the hook.
I actually think this is a fantastic trade for both teams. For the Texans, they now have the cap space to either sign or trade for Tony Romo. Osweiler was a complete failure, and they already admitted that they made a mistake by benching him in favor of Tom Savage. I like that they're getting rid of him and just admitting that he's a sunk cost. That's the smart thing to do rather than to stubbornly keep him around. Sure, it has cost them a second-round pick in 2018, but if that means getting Romo and competing for the Super Bowl this year, then it's worth it.
As for the Browns, they had the most cap space in the NFL entering free agency, so they can afford to have Osweiler hang out for a year for $16 million. And for a second-round pick in a loaded 2018 draft class? Why not? On top of that, perhaps the Browns will be able to develop Osweiler. He was once considered a promising quarterback, and he's only 26. Perhaps he'll amount to something. And if not, well, the Browns can just cut him next spring and not worry about it.
Patriots acquire TE Dwayne Allen, 6th-round pick from Colts for 4th-round pick
I have no idea what's going on with the free-agency tight end market. It makes absolutely no sense. The Redskins are giving Vernon Davis $5 million per year. The Colts have paid Jack Doyle more than $6 million per year. And the Cardinals handed the pedestrian Jermaine Gresham $7 million per year. These contracts would be awful in a vacuum, and that's not even taking into account the incredible 2017 NFL Draft Tight End Prospects in this class. With so many great tight ends available, there's absolutely no reason for any team to overpay for sub-par talents like Gresham, Doyle and Davis.
While smart teams that need a tight end will draft one, the Patriots did something equally intelligent. They sent what's reported to be a late-round pick to the Colts for Dwayne Allen. Indianapolis signed Allen to a $29.4 million contract a year ago, but New England will only be on the hook for $2.5 million in 2017 and $4.5 million in 2018. Yes, Allen will be earning less than the three aforementioned tight ends, and it could be argued that he's better than all of them!
The one concern with Allen is that he's injury-prone. That'll keep New England from earning an "A" grade, but I still think they won this trade if all they're giving up is a late-round selection. They needed a replacement for Martellus Bennett, who will be set to earn a ton of money based on the other tight end contracts. The Colts, meanwhile, can't be graded harshly for getting a selection for Allen, given that they just overpaid for Doyle. It makes sense for them to get rid of Allen because of that contract, but this could've been avoided had they not overpaid Doyle.
Update: The compensation is Allen and a sixth for a fourth-round pick. That's not bad at all for the Patriots, as they obviously have a late selection in the fourth frame, so moving down a round-and-a-half for a decent tight end is pretty solid. The Colts, meanwhile, will save $3 million in cap space, but that's not important because they were in the top 10 in cap space entering this week.
Dolphins acquire TE Julius Thomas from Jaguars for 2017 late-round pick
So, why couldn't the Dolphins and Jaguars just make one trade that involved sending Julius Thomas in exchange for Branden Albert? Why construct two separate deals? Do they love paperwork, or something?
This trade is pretty much like the other swap, as one team is acquiring an overpaid underachiever for almost no compensation. The only difference in this situation is that Julius Thomas is still young - he's 28, while Albert is 32 - so he has a better chance of panning out in his new home.
That said, it'll take some work. Thomas has good talent, but he's never been productive without Peyton Manning. He's also very injury-prone. He's never played a full season, missing seven of 32 possible games as a Jaguar. He potentially fills a big need for the Dolphins, but he could very easily flop.
I'm willing to grade the Dolphins slightly better than I did the Jaguars, as Thomas has more potential. Plus, Miami didn't surrender much and had $42.4 million in cap space to pay Thomas, so I won't be giving its front office a bad grade for this trade.
Jaguars acquire OT Branden Albert from Dolphins for conditional 2018 late-round pick
It was reported last week that the Dolphins were going to cut Branden Albert. They then rescinded that transaction once they learned that a team was interested in trading for him. Of course, that was the Jaguars, who were rumored to be willing to deal Julius Thomas for him. Thomas wasn't involved in this transaction, however, as Jacksonville surrendered a conditional late-round pick in 2018 for Albert.
The Dolphins have to be considered the winners of this trade at the moment. They were going to release Albert for nothing, yet the Jaguars were willing to give them compensation for him. A 2018 late-rounder isn't much, but at least it's something.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, is getting a left tackle, which it sorely needs. The team just cut Kelvin Beachum, who was damaged goods. The problem is that Albert is damaged goods as well. Albert hasn't played a full season since 2011, missing 13 games in the past three years. Albert struggled mightily in 2016, as he was never healthy. He could rebound next season, but he's now 32 and may never be the same as he once was.
The Jaguars now have to pay Albert's contract, as he counts $7.2 million against the cap. Jacksonville had more than $67.2 million in cap space, so that's not an issue. My problem is the Jaguars not really changing anything. They couldn't count on Beachum, and they now are in the same exact situation with Albert. The only thing that's different is that they possibly don't have a late-round pick in 2018. That's not the worst thing to surrender, and I'm not going to grade the Jaguars too harshly, but it's difficult to understand the thought process, given that the Dolphins were so willing to cut ties with the player Jacksonville just acquired.