2012 NFL Free Agency Recap

2012 NFL Free Agent Positions:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Mock

I’ll list the good and bad moves made in free agency on this page. I’ll also break down any significant trades. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Aug. 28 Updates

Jets acquire OT Jason Smith from Rams for OT Wayne Hunter
This is like trading a turd sandwich for a diarrhea burrito. Both of these players suck and would be released if there weren’t cap-penalty ramifications. The Rams win this deal because they save $1.55 million.

Grade for Jets – C
Grade for Rams – B

2012 NFL Free Agency: Aug. 27 Updates

Colts acquire CB Vontae Davis from Dolphins for 2nd-round pick and conditional 6th-round pick
The Colts really need cornerback help, but they’re overpaying in Jim Irsay’s epic trade. Vontae Davis is a talented, 24-year-old cornerback, but the Dolphins were more than willing to deal him because he showed up to training camp out of shape and has endured a shaky preseason as a result. Chuck Pagano better be able to get the most out of Davis, or this will be a very lopsided trade.

Grade for Colts – C
Grade for Dolphins – B+

Bills acquired QB Tarvaris Jackson from Seahawks for late-round pick
I know Vince Young sucked this preseason, but did the Bills really have to give up a late-round pick and agree to pay $4 million to Tarvaris Jackson? I mean, Jackson’s not any better than Young, so it seems kind of ridiculous that they would go out of their way to make what could only be the slightest of upgrades, at best, to their roster. The Seahawks were going to cut Jackson anyway, so they automatically win this trade.

Grade for Bills – D
Grade for Seahawks – A

2012 NFL Free Agency: Aug. 12 Updates

Panthers extend RB Jonathan Stewart (5 years, $36.5M; $22.5M guaranteed): C Grade
What the hell are the Panthers doing? Why have they given a combined $43.5 million guaranteed in consecutive offseasons to a pair of running backs who have yet to prove that they can handle a full workload? I wouldn’t mind this deal so much if Carolina would have just done the right thing and traded Williams two seasons ago. But given that the value of the running back position has diminished so much in recent years, it’s puzzling why the Panthers are paying their runners so much money.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Aug. 7 Updates

Seahawks sign WR Terrell Owens (1 year, $925,000): F- Grade
When I heard that the Seahawks were interested in signing Terrell Owens, I looked at my calendar. No, it wasn’t April Fools Day. This was for real.

Seattle has done some really stupid things this offseason, but this one takes the cake. What the hell is the front office doing by signing a locker-room cancer like Owens? Owens has left on bad terms everywhere he’s been. He’s a douche and he will destroy the Seahawks’ team chemistry. And it’s not like he has anything left. He was a mediocre talent with Cincinnati, and that was two years ago. His Indoor League Football team didn’t even want him – and he was part owner!

2012 NFL Free Agency: Aug. 3 Updates

Eagles acquire CB Kevin Thomas and 7th-round pick from Colts for ILBs Moise Fokou and Greg Lloyd
This trade makes sense for both teams. The Eagles needed corner depth, while the Colts had to find some reserve inside linebackers. I’ll give Philadelphia the slight edge because it netted a draft pick, albeit one in the seventh round.

Grade for Eagles – B
Grade for Colts – B-

2012 NFL Free Agency: Aug. 2 Updates

Rams extend DE Chris Long (5 years, $60.3M; $36.76M guaranteed): A Grade
Think about Chris Long’s contract this way – Long is getting about two-thirds of the money Mario Williams received from the Bills. Is Long better than two-thirds as talented as Williams? Absolutely. And I mean no offense to Williams, who is a dominant lineman, but Long is almost just as skilled. He’s one of the premier ends in the NFL, and given that he’s just 27 years old, the Rams almost had to lock him up.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 31 Updates

Seahawks sign WR Braylon Edwards (1 year): B Grade
Financials are unknown, but I’m going to assume that it’s for very little or no guaranteed money. As long as that’s the case, I like the move. Braylon Edwards was terrible last year, but that’s only because he was hampered by a knee injury. If he’s healthy – which is still unknown – he’ll be an upgrade over Golden Tate as the No. 2 wideout across from Sidney Rice. Thus, this is a very solid transaction because it’s all upside with very little risk.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 29 Updates

Cardinals extend S Adrian Wilson (4 years, $16.5M; $3.25M guaranteed): A Grade
Adrian Wilson will be 33 in October, but this is still a really good contract. Wilson is one of the better safeties in the NFL, so the Cardinals are locking him up for a relatively cheap price – all while giving themselves some immediate cap room.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 28 Updates

Steelers extend WR Antonio Brown (5 years, $42.5M; $8.5M signing bonus): B Grade
Umm… wasn’t the other Steeler receiver supposed to receive the extension? This is a huge slap in the face of Mike Wallace, who has been pining for a long-term deal all spring and summer. If Pittsburgh had to pick one wideout, however, it certainly chose the right one. Antonio Brown may not be as fast as Wallace, but he’s the better overall player. He was going to be a restricted free agent next offseason, so the Steelers would have been in the same position then as they are with Wallace now.

I like this contract, but I’m giving this a B grade because it creates a really bad situation with Wallace, who may now hold out well into the season.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 27 Updates

Bears acquire DT Brian Price from Buccaneers for late-round 2013 draft pick, believed to be a seventh-rounder

Grade by Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

The Bucs gave away 2010 second-round pick Brian Price for a meager late-round selection. While the deal is a clear give-away, Price and the Bucs were in a complex situation. As first reported by WalterFootball.com, Price punched out rookie Mark Barron before a team meeting earlier this offseason. A fractured locker room is the last thing a new coaching staff needs.

Sources told WalterFootball.com that Price wasn’t feeling embraced by the new coaching staff. He felt isolated with the team after the coaching staff that drafted him was fired. Thus, Price wasn’t a good fit in the Buccaneers’ locker room any more. Adding in the fact that he could be damaged goods with injuries and you can’t completely fault Tampa Bay for feeling the need to move on and get something for Price while they could.

Price adds to an ever growing list of draft picks that have gone bust under general manager Mark Dominik. Their 2009 second-rounder was sent for Kellen Winslow, who was given away this offseson. Wide receiver Arrelious Benn, taken in the second round of 2010, hasn’t panned out. The Bucs chose Da’Quan Bowers with their second-round pick in 2011 despite injury red flags, and now Bowers is dealing with another injury on the PUP list. Tampa hasn’t drafted a Pro Bowler in six years, and the series of bad drafts have really taken a toll on the team’s talent base.

That being said, you can’t completely trash Tampa Bay for the Price trade. They have veteran depth at defensive tackle with Amobi Okoye, Gary Gibson, Roy Miller and Frank Okam. For Chicago, meanwhile, this is a low risk, high reward deal. Price is extremely talented and needed a fresh start. He is very fast off the snap and can be a disruptive force on the line of scrimmage. It’s not inconceivable that Price could turn into a stud for the Bears. He was graded out as a first-round pick in the top 25 by many teams entering the 2010 NFL Draft.

Price is a perfect fit as a three technique defensive tackle in the Bears’ defense. Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli will get the most out of Price. Playing next to Julius Peppers will be another asset for Price, and in his third season, he could have a breakout year. In the long-term, Price could give Chicago another piece to a talented young defensive line with end Shea McClellin and defensive tackle Stephen Paea.

Grade for Bears – A
Grade for Bucs – C-

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 24 Updates

Jets acquire OT Jeff Otah from Panthers for conditional late-round draft pick
The Panthers have given up on Jeff Otah, reportedly because they think he’s soft. Thus, there’s a good chance that this acquisition will never pan out for the Jets. But for a late-round conditional selection? Why not? There’s no reason not to take a risk to upgrade Wayne Hunter, the worst starting right tackle in the NFL.

It’s not inconceivable that Otah could recover and finally play well. He’s entering a contract year, and there is precedent for this situation, as Jared Gaither performed remarkably at the end of last season after the Ravens and Chiefs both dumped him. Maybe this will be a wake-up call for Otah, who has the talent to be one of the most talented right tackles in the NFL. Carolina should have given him one more year. Grade for Jets – A
Grade for Panthers – C-


Panthers acquire WR Louis Murphy from Raiders for conditional late-round draft pick
This isn’t as significant as the other trade, obviously. Louis Murphy was on Oakland’s roster bubble, so the Raiders were wise to obtain something for him. The Panthers, meanwhile, needed receiving depth on top of someone to push David Gettis for the third wideout position. The pick Carolina acquired in this deal, by the way, went over to the Jets in the aforementioned trade. Grade for Panthers – B-
Grade for Raiders – B+

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 18 Updates

Ravens re-sign RB Ray Rice (5 years, $40M; $25M first two years): A Grade
Ray Rice is getting about the same amount of money per year as Matt Forte, which means the Ravens are really getting a bargain here because Rice is better in terms of talent and health. Ozzie Newsome absolutely had to retain the key cog in his offense.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 17 Updates

Bears re-sign RB Matt Forte (4 years, $32M; $18M guaranteed): B Grade
This is the right amount of money for Matt Forte considering his talent level and importance to Chicago’s offense. However, I’m giving this re-signing a B grade because Forte’s dubious knee history makes this contract pretty risky. Forte has had multiple knee maladies in the past, including one that sidelined him for the final month of the 2011 season.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 15 Updates

Raiders re-sign S Tyvon Branch (4 years, $26.6M; $17.1M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Tyvon Branch is a talented, young safety, and as I wrote in my free agent rankings, the Raiders couldn’t afford to let him get away. This is about the right value for him, so it’s a good move by a team that lost several key pieces on defense this offseason.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 14 Updates

Saints re-sign QB Drew Brees (5 years, $100M; $60M guaranteed): A Grade
How can this not be an A? The Saints were mired in Bountygate controversy all offseason. Sean Payton won’t be able to coach this year. New Orleans had to do everything in its power to prevent a Drew Brees holdout, and that’s exactly what the franchise did with this contract.

Brees is now the highest-paid player in the NFL. Does he deserve it? If you exclude Aaron Rodgers, maybe. But given what Brees has done for the organization and the city of New Orleans, owner Tom Benson almost had to give his quarterback whatever he wanted.

2012 NFL Free Agency: July 13 Updates

Browns use 2nd-round pick in 2013 NFL Draft on WR Josh Gordon: C+ Grade
The Browns really need a play-maker on offense outside of Trent Richardson, so it’s understandable why they’re making this pick. It’s just that there’s a long list of supplemental-pick busts, so using a valuable second-rounder on one is very risky. Josh Gordon is a freak athlete who has potential to become a No. 1 receiver. However, at this point of his football career, he’s just an athlete and not a football player. He’s a project who probably won’t be able to contribute much this season. Still, I’m not going to give the Browns a terrible grade because they’re desperate for a downfield weapon for Brandon Weeden.

2012 NFL Free Agency: June 20 Updates

Eagles sign S O.J. Atogwe (1 year): B+ Grade
I’m going to assume this contract isn’t worth very much. If so, this is a decent signing. O.J. Atogwe isn’t anything close to the play-maker he once was, but he can provide solid veteran leadership at a safety position comprised of mostly young players.

Titans re-sign S Michael Griffin (5 years, $35M; $15M guaranteed): B Grade
This seems like a lot of money for a player who has had issues with consistency throughout his career. Still, this isn’t a bad signing by any means because with Cortland Finnegan gone, Griffin is the top veteran in Tennessee’s secondary, meaning the front office had to lock him up.

2012 NFL Free Agency: June 12 Updates

Dolphins sign WR Chad Ochocinco (contract irrelevant): F- Grade
I don’t care what this contract is. It could be one year, one dollar. It’s still an F-. Chad Ochocinco is worthless. He has no more explosion. He can no longer get open. He’s stupid and doesn’t know where to line up. He can’t learn any offense. And to make matters worse, he poisons a locker room. There’s a reason he’s had no playoff success in his career.

The Dolphins have all but secured the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by signing Ochocinco. The organization, run by buffoon Stephen Ross, is a complete joke. This was done for publicity only. Miami got to see Ochocinco twice last season, so the front office has to know that No. 85’s career is essentially over. Signing him is a complete embarrassment, and any remaining Dolphin fans should completely abandon their team until Ross sells the team. What a disgrace.

2012 NFL Free Agency: June 9 Updates

Patriots extend TE Rob Gronkowski (6 years, $54 million): B+ Grade
Rob Gronkowski’s new contract dwarfs what Antonio Gates received from the Chargers in 2010 (six years, $39.8 million), making him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history. But it’s also justified. Gronkowski recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, yet he’s coming off a 2011 campaign in which he hauled in 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. It’s scary to think that he could be even better with 1-3 more years of experience.

The reason I’m bumping this grade down slightly to a B+ is that New England is buying high; the front office had two more seasons to extend the Gronk, so it could have waited for a more opportune moment (i.e. an injury or a slump year) to save some money. Still though, it’s hard to argue that this is not a good move.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 25 Updates

49ers extend P Andy Lee (6 years, $20.5 million): A Grade
The best punter in the NFL is Oakland’s Shane Lechler, but Andy Lee is a very close second. Lee, 30 in August, will be making $1 million per year less than Lechler on his new deal, so the 49ers are getting a hell of a bargain.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 24 Updates

Ravens sign WR/KR Jacoby Jones (2 years, $6.5M; $1.8M guaranteed): C+ Grade
I’d like to thank e-mailer John G. for passing along the contract details of this signing. John commented, “That turd cost us the playoffs on that muffed punt last year and I am looking forward to him blowing some more games, just this time for the Ravens!”

Jacoby Jones is a good punt returner overall, but he really choked in a playoff loss to Baltimore. Giving $1.8 million guaranteed to a special teams-only player coming off a gaffe like that seems a bit too much, but the Ravens aren’t really breaking the bank. This is an average signing.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 23 Updates

Buccaneers sign TE Dallas Clark (1 year, $2.7M; $1M guaranteed): C- Grade
And Mark Dominik’s plan to downgrade the tight end position is now complete. The Buccaneers jettisoned Kellen Winslow Jr. because they think he’s done. Wait until they see Dallas Clark. The 33-year-old tight end/corpse was atrocious for the Colts last year. It was so bad that Peyton Manning and the Broncos didn’t even want him. The $1 million guaranteed might as well have been flushed down the toilet because there’s a good chance Clark won’t even make the final roster.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 22 Updates

Seahawks acquire TE Kellen Winslow Jr. from Buccaneers for conditional 7th-round pick
I really don’t understand what the Buccaneers are doing. Kellen Winslow Jr. is past his prime, but he’s not completely done. Dallas Clark is completely done. I’m not sure what prompted general manager Mark Dominik to downgrade the tight end position. Maybe Winslow ate the last of Dominik’s Cheetos, and this is Dominik’s way of getting revenge.

This is a pretty good deal for the Seahawks. They’re basically giving up nothing for a tight end who is still somewhat functional. Seattle failed to find Matt Flynn a weapon in the 2012 NFL Draft, so the front office is making up for it with a 29-year-old who caught 75 balls for 763 yards last year.

Grade for Seahawks – A-
Grade for Buccaneers – D

Patriots sign DE/DT Gerard Warren (1 year, $925K; $50K guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Patriots are downgraded for not addressing the five-technique position in the 2012 NFL Draft. Because of this, they almost had to bring back Gerard Warren, and they’re retaining him at a great deal. Warren is 34, but he dominated the line of scrimmage against the Broncos in a playoff victory. He’s declining, but can still get it done on occasion. There’s minimal risk with this contract.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 20 Updates

Buccaneers re-sign K Connor Barth (4 years, $13.2M; $4M guaranteed): A- Grade
Connor Barth is one of the league’s top young kickers. He drilled 26-of-28 attempts last year, including 13-of-14 between 40 and 49 yards out. This is a surprisingly reasonable contract for Barth, coming from a general manager infamous for overpaying for pedestrian talents like Eric Wright.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 19 Updates

Jets sign SS Yeremiah Bell (1 year, $1.4 million): C+ Grade
This is not a bad signing because the Jets are trying their hardest to fill a big need. It isn’t a good transaction though because Yeremiah Bell is a 34-year-old safety with declining skills. Bell was a liability in Miami’s defense last season, so it’s not a good sign for New York that he’s expected to start.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 18 Updates

Eagles extend RB LeSean McCoy (5 years, $45M; $20.765M guaranteed): A Grade
LeSean McCoy is easily a top-five NFL running back, so the Eagles are getting a steal with this contract, especially when you consider that Arian Foster, a lesser talent, obtained $22.5 million guaranteed. This is such a great deal because in addition to McCoy being a stud, he’s also just 23 years old and doesn’t have much wear and tear on his body. He has just 635 career carries, so he’ll be able to play at a high level for a very long time.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 14 Updates

Ravens extend S Bernard Pollard (4 years, $12.3M; $3M guaranteed): B Grade
Bernard Pollard can be a big liability in pass coverage, but playing with studs like Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb helped mask some of his weaknesses. This is a fairly appropriate contract for what Pollard can do. The Ravens aren’t risking much, so this is a pretty decent move to make sure there’s continuity in the secondary.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 13 Updates

Cardinals re-sign DE/DT Calais Campbell (5 years, $55M; $31M guaranteed): A Grade
Calais Campbell is one of the top two 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL (Justin Smith). He excels in all aspects of the game, and even frequently blocks kicks on special teams. The Cardinals could not let him go under any circumstances, so they did a great job locking him up for five years.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 12 Updates

Bills sign QB Vince Young (1 year, $2 million): C Grade
The Bills are essentially wasting $2 million. Vince Young couldn’t even help the Eagles’ Dream Team win as a backup last year. Philadelphia achieved a fluky victory over the Giants, but then proceeded to get blown out against the Patriots and Seahawks. Young is very stupid, and can neither learn his own offense nor dissect the opposing defense. Buffalo should have signed Billy Volek, or maybe even Dennis Dixon instead.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 11 Updates

Broncos sign CB Drayton Florence (2 years, $4.5 million): C+ Grade
The Broncos dumped one old cornerback in Andre’ Goodman and signed another this offseason. Drayton Florence is not very good, but Denver could have done a lot worse. He’ll operate as the team’s third corner until Omar Bolden is ready.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 10 Updates

Patriots sign WR Jabar Gaffney (2 years, $2.3M; $250K guaranteed): B+ Grade
This is a decent addition. Jabar Gaffney still has enough left in the tank to challenge Deion Branch to be the third receiver on the roster. Tom Brady is familiar with Gaffney, having played with him in 2006 and 2007, so there won’t be any sort of adjustment period that most free-agent wideouts have to endure.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 8 Updates

Bills extend RB Fred Jackson (2 years, $8.7M; $3M guaranteed): A Grade
When the Bills announced they extended Fred Jackson to a multi-year contract, I was worried that they overpaid for a running back who recently celebrated his 31st birthday. However, obtaining Jackson through 2014 for just $3 million guaranteed is a steal. Jackson was a top-five MVP candidate last year prior to fracturing his right fibula.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 7 Updates

Dolphins extend DE/OLB Cameron Wake (4 years, $49M; $20M guaranteed): A Grade
This is one hell of a deal when you compare it to the ridiculous $50 million guaranteed that Mario Williams received from the Bills. Cameron Wake is arguably the top rush linebacker in the NFL, so he deserves every penny of the $20 million bonus he’s getting with this contract. The Dolphins had to lock him up because he’s the key to their defense, given that he’s their only consistent pass-rusher.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 5 Updates

Buccaneers sign DT Gary Gibson (2 years, $2 million): B+ Grade
Gary Gibson is not an every-down player, but he can contain the run pretty well and occasionally put some pressure on the quarterback, so he’s a quality signing at $1 million per year. He should be a solid rotational lineman for Tampa.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 4 Updates

Vikings sign WR Jerome Simpson (1 year, $2M; $950K guaranteed): C+ Grade
I can’t say I’m a huge fan of this signing; I think the Vikings overpaid a bit for Jerome Simpson. The former Bengal is a talented wideout – he tallied 750 yards last year with a rookie quarterback – but his work ethic and off-the-field issues are troubling. He’s been suspended for the first three games of the season because of a felony. He could pay off, but he could also be more trouble than he’s worth.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 3 Updates

Saints’ Bountygate Penalties (Players)
Here are the player penalties from Bountygate:

– Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma suspended for one year.
– Defensive end Anthony Hargrove (on Packers) suspended for eight games.
– Defensive end Will Smith suspended for four games.
– Linebacker Scott Fujita (on Browns) suspended for three games.

I’ve seen players on Twitter disagree with these penalties, and understandably so; they’re just defending their co-workers. I think Jonathan Vilma is lucky he wasn’t banned for life. To allegedly throw down five figures and ask other teammates to knock someone out with a concussion is despicable. We’ve seen how multiple concussions can affect former NFL players in their 50s and 60s, so this had to stop. A 1-year suspension is a good deterrent to keep someone from repeating what Vilma reportedly did.

I feel bad for the Browns, who signed Fujita last year, not knowing he would be in trouble for this, but I think they can manage without him for three games. It’s not like they had playoff aspirations anyway.

As for the Saints, they signed Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, so they didn’t need Vilma anymore. Will Smith’s absence will hurt, but it’s only for four games, so it’s not the end of the world.

2012 NFL Free Agency: May 1 Updates

Giants sign DT Shaun Rogers (1 year, $925,000): B+ Grade
Shaun Rogers is no lock to make the team, as he recently turned 33 and can no longer get to the quarterback. What he can do is still be an effective run-stuffer on early downs. He’ll provide good depth if he’s on the final roster, so I think he’s worth this $925,000 deal.

Redskins sign ILB Jonthan Goff (unknown): TBA Grade
I’ll have a grade posted once contract details are known.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 26 Updates

Falcons acquire CB Asante Samuel from Eagles for 7th-round pick
The Falcons have also given Asante Samuel a 3-year, $18.5 million contract. They needed depth at cornerback, and I’d say that Samuel fills that need. He’s still a terrific cover corner, though he really struggles in run support. But he’s a play-maker; he’ll record lots of interceptions for Atlanta.

I think this is a pretty good trade for the Falcons. All they’re surrendering for Samuel is a seventh-round pick. It’s unlikely they could have drafted someone at that spot who would be more productive than Samuel will over the next three or so seasons.

As for the Eagles, they’re getting a D because they could have dealt Samuel last year for at least a second-day pick. They waited too long, and as a result, they barely received anything for him.

Grade for Falcons – A-
Grade for Eagles – D

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 25 Updates

Redskins sign K Neil Rackers (1 year, $990,000): B+ Grade
In the NFL, you can never have too many… ummm… kickers? Neil Rackers is a good kicker (32-of-38; 4-of-5 from 50-plus in 2011), but I wasn’t aware that the Redskins really needed an upgrade over Grahan Gano – and it’s not like Rackers is good on kickoffs. Still though, this only set Daniel Snyder back $990,000 (seems so much less than $1 million at first glance), and I suppose some competition for Gano wouldn’t be a bad thing.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 23 Updates

Saints extend CB Jabari Greer (3 years, $15.6 million): A- Grade
Jabari Greer is a solid cornerback who has been a quality starter for the Saints for the past three seasons. However, he’s not great and he just turned 30, so I don’t think he’s worth this kind of money. I can’t really fault New Orleans for doing this because the team lost Tracy Porter and doesn’t have many high draft picks to spend on a successor, but the front office definitely overpaid.

UPDATE: This deal was originally announced as three years, $23 million. It’s officially worth $15.6 million. That makes much more sense. Greer is definitely worth it at that price.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 22 Updates

Patriots sign FB Tony Fiammetta (1 year, $615,000): A Grade
I don’t understand why the Cowboys let Tony Fiammetta get away when all he received was $615,000 from the Patriots. Fiammetta dealt with a concussion last year that knocked him out for six games, but his presence in the lineup really helped DeMarco Murray. He’ll be missed in Dallas, while New England is lucky to have him.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 20 Updates

Raiders sign CB Shawntae Spencer (1 year, $825,000): B Grade
Shawntae Spencer barely played last year because he wasn’t as good as the other Niner corners. He could still have something left in the tank though, so he’s worth a shot at just $825,000.

Raiders sign LB Philip Wheeler (1 year, $700,000): B+ Grade
Philip Wheeler is a solid linebacker who can play outside in a 4-3 or inside in a 3-4, depending on what the Raiders plan to do in terms of scheme. Getting him for just $700,000 is a pretty good deal.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 19 Updates

Bengals re-sign OLB Manny Lawson (1 year, $2.1M; $600K guaranteed): A- Grade
Manny Lawson was miscast as a 3-4 outside linebacker during his tenure in San Francisco. He predictably thrived in Cincinnati’s 4-3. The Bengals traded Keith Rivers away, so retaining Lawson was a really good move – especially at just $2.1 million.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 18 Updates

Bengals sign CB Terence Newman (1 year, $825,000): C Grade
This is neither a good nor a bad signing. Terence Newman is done. However, he’s familiar with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s scheme, and he won’t cost Cincinnati all that much.

Texans sign ILB Bradie James (1 year, $890K; $250K guaranteed): B Grade
Bradie James is no longer the player he once was, but this is a quality signing by the Texans. James played for Wade Phillips in Dallas, so he can fit right in.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 17 Updates

Redskins re-sign ILB London Fletcher (2 years, $10.75M; $5.25M guaranteed): B+ Grade
London Fletcher is amazing. He’s played in 224 consecutive games, and according to Adam Schefter, he has made 1,782 tackles in those contests. I’d normally be skeptical about giving $5.25 million guaranteed to a 36-year-old, but Fletcher has a knack for defying the odds. The Redskins had to bring him back, given that their need at the position and the fact that he’s the leader of their defense.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 16 Updates

Jaguars sign WR Lee Evans (1 year): C Grade
This is a pretty meaningless signing. If Lee Evans has anything left in the tank (unlikely) and can stay healthy (more unlikely), he still won’t catch many passes from Blaine Gabbert because the ball just won’t get to him. It’s hard for a quarterback to find a receiver downfield if his eyes are closed. On the bright side, Evans won’t be able to drop a key touchdown because Jacksonville won’t be in the red zone that often.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 15 Updates

Lions re-sign QB Shaun Hill (2 years, $5.5M; $1M guaranteed): A- Grade
Shaun Hill re-signed with the Lions a month ago, but I’m doing this upon request. This is a very fair deal for Hill, who is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL. This is a good move by Detroit, but it’s a difficult one to grade because the Lions are hoping that Hill will never play. Still though, bringing him back is much better than not having a strong Plan B.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 14 Updates

Saints sign ILB David Hawthorne (5 years, $19.5M; $3.8M guaranteed): A+ Grade
This deal is unbelievable for the Saints. David Hawthorne is a really talented linebacker, yet the Saints were able to get him for just $3.8 million guaranteed. Furthermore, this contract is really cap-friendly, so if Hawthorne sucks for some reason, they can dump him after the season without much of a penalty.

Patriots re-sign C Dan Koppen (2 years, $6 million): A Grade
Dan Koppen hasn’t been signed until now because he carries a pretty big injury risk. But the Patriots aren’t taking much of a chance with this deal. Koppen is well worth $6 million over two years because he’s a really talented center. If he stays healthy, New England really underpaid him. If not, no big deal. The Patriots can cut him without much of a penalty.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 13 Updates

Panthers extend WR Steve Smith (4 years, $37.75M; $16.8M guaranteed): B- Grade
This is a really tough grade. Steve Smith turns 33 in May, which is really troubling because he really relies on his speed. He also mailed in the 2010 season, so his level of effort might be an issue down the road if things aren’t going very well. Giving $37.75 million to an aging guy like that seems pretty irresponsible.

Having said that, I can’t really blame the Panthers for doing this. Smith has been with the team so long and he’s one of the most popular players in franchise history. Not retaining him, especially after his brilliant 2011 campaign, would have been a terrible PR move. That’s why I’m giving this a B-. If some other team decided to give Smith this much money, I’d mark this down as a D.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 12 Updates

Giants acquire OLB Keith Rivers from Bengals for 5th-round pick
Keith Rivers is a really talented linebacker, but the Bengals are letting him go because he’s endured a myriad of injuries over the past couple of years. They feel he’s too unreliable, so they decided to part ways with him for a mere fifth-round pick.

I would have kept him. Injuries are pretty unpredictable. For example, Fred Taylor used to be referred to as “Fragile Fred,” but then he had a stretch where he stayed healthy for a long time. Giving up on Rivers is premature, and it’s not like the Bengals didn’t have the money to pay him.

The Giants are getting a pretty sweet deal. A potential Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker for a fifth-round pick? I’ll take that all day.

Grade for Giants – A+
Grade for Bengals – C-

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 11 Updates

49ers sign RB Brandon Jacobs (1 year, $1.575M; $150K guaranteed): B+ Grade
A surprise signing because the 49ers already had Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, though I guess it’s not a bad idea to have insurance because Gore gets hurt so much. Brandon Jacobs won’t cost much; the 1-year contract is for $1.575 million, but only $625,000 of it is guaranteed if he makes the roster. Thanks to e-mailer John M. for alerting me that the contract details were revealed.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 10 Updates

Eagles sign OT Demetress Bell (5 years, $35 million): A+ Grade
What a big day for Demetress Bell. First, he changed his name from Demetrius to Demetress, and then he received a $35 million contract from the Eagles.

I may alter this grade based on what Bell’s signing bonus is, but I’ll tentatively mark it down as a B-. This seems like a total panic move. I know that Philadelphia had to do something because Jason Peters is out for the 2012 season and perhaps beyond, but Bell isn’t a great solution. He’s a good left tackle when healthy, but that’s the key – he has his own injury issues. He played in only six games last year and has a history of knee problems. I thought the Eagles would sign Bell or Marcus McNeill to a safe, short-term deal, but this seems like a really risky move.

As mentioned though, if Bell can stay healthy, the Eagles are getting a good left tackle. He surrendered one sack in those six starts. That’s why I’m not giving Philadelphia a bad grade. However, I just don’t love the move because Bell could easily miss tons of action, and the Eagles will be right back where they started.

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that Bell’s contract is essentially a 1-year deal. I still want to see what sort of signing bonus he received, but I’ll upgrade this to a B+ in the meantime. Stay tuned.

UPDATE AGAIN: The full details of this contract are now available. The 5-year, $35 million that Bell supposedly received is just a 1-year deal worth $3.25 million. He’ll have an $8 million roster bonus due in 2013, so he won’t see that unless he puts on an Orlando Pace-type performance this season. The Eagles definitely deserve an A+ for this move. Bell is talented, but carries a major risk factor. Philadelphia negated that risk by inking him to such a short-term contract.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 9 Updates

Chargers sign NT Antonio Garay (2 years, $6.6 million): A Grade
This may look like a lot for a declining nose tackle who turns 33 right after Thanksgiving, but the contract is essentially a 1-year deal worth $1.6 million. Garay will be owed $5 million in 2013, but he’ll never see that unless he magically transforms into the best nose tackle in the NFL, which is unlikely at his age. The Chargers did a great job keeping him at such a cheap price.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 8 Updates

Buccaneers sign DT Amobi Okoye (1 years, $2 million): B Grade
This is a decent signing. Amobi Okoye had a quality 2011 campaign as a situational pass-rusher. The Buccaneers need someone to push Brian Price, who has been a disappointment in the NFL thus far.

Raiders sign DE Dave Tollefson (2 years, $2.5M; $1.5M guaranteed): C Grade
Oakland needed defensive end depth, but $1.5 million guaranteed seems like a lot of money to give to a mediocre backup. It’s not a terrible signing by any means, but it’s certainly not a good one. There were better options available.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 7 Updates

Rams sign DE William Hayes (1 year, $1 million): B+ Grade
The Rams needed depth at defensive end behind Chris Long and Robert Quinn, and they’re getting a solid rotational lineman in William Hayes for a pretty cheap price. This signing makes even more sense when you consider that Hayes played under Jeff Fisher in Tennessee.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 6 Updates

Ravens re-sign CB Lardarius Webb (6 years, $52.7M; $10M guaranteed): A Grade
The casual NFL fan has probably never heard of Lardarius Webb, but the 5-10, 182-pound cornerback is one of the top players at his position. He picked off seven passes while surrendering no touchdowns last year. Oh, and he’s also just 26 years old.

This definitely seems like a reasonable contract for someone on Webb’s talent level. Actually, a bonus of $10 million doesn’t seem like much. The Ravens had to lock him up because there was a chance that a team in the bottom of the first round could have pried him away for a draft pick.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 5 Updates

Chargers re-sign DE/DT Luis Castillo (1 year, $1 million): A Grade
The Chargers cut Luis Castillo earlier in the offseason because of cap concerns. That, and the declining Castillo has been really injury-prone. San Diego can’t count on him to stay healthy, but that’s not what A.J. Smith is doing here. Castillo was signed for depth purposes, and at just $1 million this year, there’s hardly any risk. The Chargers did a good job bringing him back at such a cheap price.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 4 Updates

Rams sign OLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar (2 years, $3.05M; $1M guaranteed): C Grade
If Gregg Williams were still an NFL coach, this would make more sense. Jo-Lonn Dunbar played under Williams in New Orleans, so he would have been familiar with the system. With Williams gone, however, it makes you wonder why the Rams gave Dunbar $1 million guaranteed when there were better linebackers out there. Thanks to e-mailer Rajas P. for alerting me of this deal.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 3 Updates

Falcons re-sign C Todd McClure (1 year, $990K; $215K guaranteed): A+ Grade
Todd McClure turned 35 recently, but he still gets the job done at center. The Falcons absolutely had to bring him back because they have no other alternatives, and retaining him at such a cheap price is a great move. Atlanta will have to find a successor very soon, however.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 2 Updates

49ers re-sign QB Alex Smith (3 years, $24 million; $9M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Terms haven’t been announced, but I’m going to assume that it’s for the 3-year, $24 million that was previously on the table. Even though Alex Smith isn’t that good of a quarterback, he excelled in Jim Harbaugh’s system last season. The 49ers had to bring him back; otherwise, they would have had to start Colin Kaepernick or perhaps Josh Johnson, which could have been disastrous for their playoff aspirations.

UPDATE: I’m knocking this down from a B+ to a B because the 49ers gave Smith more than expected.

UPDATE AGAIN: It turns out that Smith did indeed sign a 3-year, $24 million deal with $9 million guaranteed. I’m bumping this back up to a B+.

2012 NFL Free Agency: April 1 Updates

Saints sign ILB Curtis Lofton (5 years, $27.5M; $7.8M guaranteed): A Grade
The Saints obtained a big upgrade over Jonathan Vilma in Curtis Lofton – and he didn’t cost much either. The $27.5 million figure looks daunting, but he’s owed just $700,000 in 2012 and $1.1 million in 2013, though that comes with a $5 million roster bonus. There’s not much guaranteed money either. This is a great deal for a New Orleans team that really needed to improve the interior of its defense.

Saints sign OLB Chris Chamberlain (3 years, $4.05M; $1.2M guaranteed): B- Grade
I’m not as crazy about this signing. Chris Chamberlain is a pretty mediocre player. He’s decent against the run, but gets completely lost in coverage. He got away with it in the NFC West, but it won’t fly in a division with Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Still, it’s not a bad fit, and it didn’t cost the Saints much. Chamberlain will be working with Steve Spagnuolo again, and he’ll play two downs if he secures a starting spot.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 31 Updates

Raiders acquire RB Mike Goodson from Panthers for OT/G Bruce Campbell
This trade makes sense for both teams. The Panthers had way too many running backs and weren’t going to use Mike Goodson anyway. They obtained Bruce Campbell, who has upside. He’ll add much-needed depth to the offensive front. The Raiders, meanwhile, had to acquire a runner because Darren McFadden will get hurt at some point during the 2012 season. Goodson would split touches with Taiwan Jones in that scenario.

Oakland won this deal. Goodson has talent, but fumbles a lot. That’s a fixable problem though, as Tiki Barber learned under Tom Coughlin. Campbell, on the other hand, is a terrible football player. He’s a great athlete, but he lacks football IQ, and thus has never been able to evolve into someone the Raiders could trust to have on the field. Maybe Carolina’s coaching staff can turn him into something, but it’ll take a miracle at this point.

Grade for Raiders – B+
Grade for Panthers – C+

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 30 Updates

Cardinals re-sign OT Levi Brown (5 years, $33.5M; $7M guaranteed): B- Grade
The $33.5 million on this deal is a bit deceptive because Levi Brown will be getting only $1 million in 2012. Still, this seems like a bit too much guaranteed money for a guy who has been a huge disappointment in his career. But I’m not giving Arizona a bad grade because it had to bring him back since it had no other alternatives at tackle. Besides, Brown actually picked up his play at the end of the 2011 season. If he struggles again, the Cardinals can dump him after this year.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 29 Updates

Bears re-sign CB Tim Jennings (2 years, $4.15 million): A Grade
This contract says it’s for two years, $4.15 million, but because only $900,000 of it is due in 2012 (with $3.25 million in 2013), it’s essentially for one season. That’s a really good deal for a starting corner. Jennings isn’t very talented, but he fits Chicago’s scheme very well.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 28 Updates

Bills sign DE Mark Anderson (4 years, $19.5M; $8M guaranteed): B- Grade
This deal is actually worth $19.5 million; not the $27.5 million that was initially reported, per BuffaloNews.com. I’m still not a fan of the signing because I’d be concerned that Mark Anderson did all of this while playing for a contract, but the Bills are taking less of a risk now. I’m bumping this up from a C to a B-. I’m still not confident that Anderson can thrive without Bill Belichick.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 27 Updates

Rams sign WR Steve Smith (1 year): B Grade
Don’t the Rams already have an injury-prone slot receiver? Well, whatever. Assuming that this 1-year contract offers little or no guaranteed money, this isn’t a bad signing for the Rams. It’s no risk and all reward because there’s always a chance Smith reverts to pre-2010 form. If not, St. Louis can just cut him.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 26 Updates

Bengals sign RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (3 years, $9M; $4M guaranteed): C- Grade
This signing happened several days ago, but contract details have been revealed. I don’t know why the Bengals are bothering with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He’s not remotely close to being a good player; he was just the product of New England’s offense. Giving him $4 million in Year 1 is pretty ridiculous. There were other cheaper backs out there on par with Green-Ellis’ talent level.

As mentioned earlier, this signing will not change my second-round pick of Lamar Miller in my 2012 NFL Mock Draft, which, of course, will be updated early this upcoming week.

Patriots sign G Robert Gallery (1 year, $1.8M; $400K guaranteed): C+ Grade
This signing happened several days ago, but contract details have been revealed. Robert Gallery was signed as an insurance policy for Logan Mankins, who suffered a partial ACL tear recently. It’s not the worst idea in the world, but Gallery himself has major issues staying healthy, so getting someone more reliable probably would have been the better move.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 25 Updates

Packers sign C Jeff Saturday (2 years, $7.75M; $4M guaranteed): A+ Grade
This is a rarity. The Packers NEVER sign any free agents. Naturally, it’s a great move. Green Bay desperately needed a center after losing Scott Wells to the Rams. Ted Thompson was able to acquire the top (healthy) player available at the position at a great price.

Broncos sign TE Joel Dreessen (3 years, $8.5 million): C Grade
The Broncos are getting a decent blocking tight end in Joel Dreessen, whom they’ve paired with Jacob Tamme. Still, this seems like a lot of money for a guy who is just a blocker. Blocking tight ends are a dime a dozen.

Ravens re-sign ILB Jameel McClain (3 years, $10.5 million): B Grade
Jameel McClain is a decent, two-down linebacker. This price seems about right for him, so this was a solid re-signing by Ozzie Newsome.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 24 Updates

Colts acquire QB Drew Stanton and 7th-rounder from Jets for 6th-rounder
Good job by the Jets getting something for Drew Stanton, whom they could have easily cut without much criticism. This deal pretty much nullifies the sixth-seventh swap they conducted with the Broncos for Tim Tebow. The Colts, meanwhile, are getting a capable backup at a cheap price. This is a decent move for both teams.

Grade for Colts – B
Grade for Jets – A-

Vikings re-sign OLB Erin Henderson (1 year, $2 million): A+ Grade
Wow, linebackers not named D’Qwell Jackson aren’t seeing any money this offseason. Erin Henderson is a pretty talented, young player, and getting him back for just $2 million is pretty amazing. Henderson will be asked to take on a larger role in 2012 because of his brother’s decline (and departure), so maybe he’ll get a larger contract next spring if he has another good year.

Broncos sign TE Jacob Tamme (3 years, $9M; $3.5M guaranteed): A- Grade
I’m going to give any Colt-to-Bronco signing a good grade, as long as the price is reasonable. Peyton Manning is comfortable with Jacob Tamme, who hauled in 67 receptions for 631 yards and four touchdowns in 2010 when Dallas Clark was injured. Tamme will be Manning’s receiving tight end, while Joel Dreessen, today’s other signing, will be more of a blocker.

49ers sign WR Mario Manningham (2 years, $7.3M; $2M guaranteed): A Grade
I was concerned the 49ers overpaid for Mario Manningham when this signing was first announced, but this is a pretty sweet deal. I doubt Manningham can handle a No. 1 receiving role, but obtaining him for such a low price is a great move.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 23 Updates

Broncos sign CB Tracy Porter (1 year, $4 million): A Grade
This is a great move by the Broncos. They needed cornerback help across from Champ Bailey, so they signed the top player available at the position. Better yet, they were able to obtain Tracy Porter on a cheap, no-risk, 1-year deal. Porter’s play will be even more effective than he was in New Orleans because of Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller’s ability to get to the quarterback.

Lions re-sign ILB Stephen Tulloch (5 years, $25M; $11M guaranteed): A+ Grade
Bravo, Lions. This whole time, everyone assumed they’d only be able to keep Cliff Avril OR Stephen Tulloch. They somehow managed to bring back both. Tulloch is one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL, so retaining him for $11 million guaranteed is quite the bargain, especially when you consider that an inferior D’Qwell Jackson received $19 million guaranteed from Cleveland.

Bears sign RB Michael Bush (4 years, $14 million): B+ Grade
I don’t really understand this signing (especially from Bush’s perspective), but I’m giving the Bears a good grade because they’re getting a great deal. I suppose this provides leverage for Chicago because Matt Forte is threatening to hold out. If, however, Forte comes to his senses, Bush won’t get much work because he’ll be playing behind a talented No. 1 back – again. You have to wonder why Bush didn’t give himself a better opportunity to receive more playing time.

Patriots re-sign WR Deion Branch (1 year): B+ Grade
I’m going to assume Deion Branch didn’t receive much guaranteed money. If that’s the case, this is a really good move because Tom Brady loves relying on Branch as his safety valve.

Lions re-sign OT Jeff Backus (2 years, $6M; $1.5M guaranteed): B Grade
I’m going to assume that this is really a 1-year, front-loaded deal because no other team would have paid Jeff Backus $10 million over two years. The Lions almost had to do this because they don’t have any other solution at left tackle, but they must find a successor soon.

UPDATE: Initial reporting was incorrect. Backus’ deal is for $6 million with $1.5 million of it guaranteed. This is much better because there was no way in hell he was worth $5 million per season. Again, Detroit had to re-sign Backus, but it better find an eventual replacement in the near future.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 22 Updates

Jets acquire QB Tim Tebow and 7th-rounder from Broncos for 4th- and 6th-rounders
This is the best possible scenario for Tim Tebow. Mark Sanchez has regressed enough that the coaching staff and locker room are doubting him. They wanted to bring in competition, and they did just that with Tebow for the mere price of a fourth-round pick, and a swap of sixth- and seventh-rounders.

Tebow should be able to thrive in this offense. Rex Ryan wants to “ground and pound,” and his rushing attack will improve infinitely once Tebow inevitably takes over the starting job. Also, with an actual offseason to work on his passing, Tebow will also improve in that area. He did, after all, torch the Steelers for 316 yards in a playoff victory, which some people inexplicably tend to dismiss.

As for the Broncos, they had to ship Tebow out of town in the wake of the Peyton Manning signing. They would ideally keep Tebow to have him learn from Manning, but he was too expensive to have as a backup.

Grade for Jets – A+
Grade for Broncos – B

Saints’ Bountygate Penalties
I didn’t know where else to put this, but here is what Roger Goodell slapped the Saints and other involved parties with for Bountygate:

– Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.

– Sean Payton has been suspended for the 2012 season.

– General manager Mickey Loomis has been suspended for eight games and fined $500,000 (I tried to promote Loomis to owner. Whoops.)

– Saints have been fined an additional $500,000.

– Assistant coach Joe Vitt has been suspended six games.

– Player penalties (Jonathan Vilma) are forthcoming.

– Saints lose second-round picks in 2012 and 2013.

I thought Payton would get eight games, and I don’t know how suspending the general manager accomplishes anything, but nothing else surprises me. The Saints had to be penalized harshly. It’s one thing to hit players hard; it’s another to attempt to give them concussions intentionally. There’s no place for that in any sport, especially now that we realize how troubling concussions can be long-term. I don’t think Williams should ever be allowed to coach again. He was warned about this, yet he didn’t listen. How do we know that he won’t pull something like this again? He can’t be trusted.

The Saints aren’t totally screwed because Drew Brees is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, and he’ll be able to pull out some victories, even without Payton on the sidelines. However, it still decreases New Orleans’ chances of qualifying for the playoffs, especially with the Falcons and improving Panthers threatening to win the division.

Colts sign C Samson Satele (3 years, $10.8M; $5M guaranteed): C Grade
Andrew Luck needs a new center with Jeff Saturday moving on, so this seems like a good signing on the surface. However, it has to be noted that Samson Satele was arrested for disorderly conduct a few days ago. It’s never a good sign when a player gets into legal trouble when being close to signing a contract. What will Satele do now that he has $5 million guaranteed in his pocket?

Ravens re-sign C Matt Birk (3 years, $8.52M; $2.1M guaranteed): A Grade
Matt Birk can still play pretty well, so why wouldn’t the Ravens re-sign him for such a cheap price? Baltimore can still draft Peter Konz at No. 29. Konz can play guard until Birk retires. Thanks to Facebook friend Ben J. for alerting me of this.

Saints sign DT Brodrick Bunkley (5 years, $25M; $9M guaranteed): B Grade
The timing of this signing is pretty weird, isn’t it? I guess Brodrick Bunkley doesn’t care about not having a head coach for the first season of his contract.

This seems like a lot of money for a run-stuffing specialist who can’t get to the quarterback, but I completely understand the move. The Saints lost their second-round pick because of Bountygate, so they wouldn’t be able to fill their dire need for a defensive tackle until Round 3.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 21 Updates

Eagles acquire ILB DeMeco Ryans for 4th-round pick; swap of 3rd-rounders
This is a great trade for the Eagles. They had a desperate need for an inside linebacker, and they now have a stud playing at the position for the mere price of a fourth-round pick and the swap of third-rounders.

Ryans was considered one of the premier inside linebackers in the NFL prior to tearing his Achilles in 2010. He struggled early on last year, but played well toward the end of the season. Now two years removed from that injury, Ryans is ready to play at an elite level. There’s no cause for concern, by the way, about his being in a 3-4 recently because he was more effective in a 4-3 earlier in his career.

Houston fans have to be sad that they’re parting ways with one of their most talented defenders, but Ryans is not an ideal fit for the 3-4. He also cost too much ($5.9 million) for the cap-strapped Texans. I feel like they should have gotten more for him, however.

Grade for Eagles – A+
Grade for Texans – C

Titans sign DE Kamerion Wimbley (5 years, $35M; $13.5M guaranteed): B Grade
The top defensive end available following the Mario Williams signing, Kamerion Wimbley is a bit overrated because he hasn’t notched double-digit sacks in five years. He does have good pass-rushing skills though, collecting 16 sacks over the past two seasons. The Titans are paying a pretty reasonable price for him, while filling their greatest need.

Jaguars sign CB Aaron Ross (3 years, $15.3 million): D Grade
If a pedestrian cornerback like Aaron Ross can get $15.3 million over three years, anyone can, I guess. Ross is pretty bad, so I’m not sure why the Jaguars are paying him this much money. Some stats from last year: Ross surrendered six touchdowns and a completion percentage of 65.9.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 20 Updates

Broncos to sign QB Peyton Manning: A Grade
I love watching Tim Tebow, and I’m upset that he probably won’t get a chance to start next year. The NFL won’t be nearly as exciting as it was in the second half of last season. Having said that, the Broncos made the right move. Landing a future Hall of Fame quarterback is a no-brainer for any team that doesn’t have one.

The Broncos are now the unquestioned top team in the AFC West, and are certainly one of the favorites in the conference. Manning will give them a chance to win every game, even if they fall behind by a few touchdowns against the Patriots in the playoffs. That’s what Manning brings to the table, assuming that he’s healthy.

Denver’s aerial attack will obviously be explosive. Demaryius Thomas has unbelievable talent, and he could easily emerge as a top-five receiver, statistically, with Manning at the helm. The Broncos will have to acquire a No. 2 receiver, a proven tight end, some offensive linemen and a running back because Willis McGahee’s tank is nearing empty. All but the former can be satisfied with Manning’s former teammates (Dallas Clark, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai). The wideout can come via the 2012 NFL Draft (Stephen Hill, Kendall Wright). Once Denver gets all of that shored up, it’ll have the appropriate offense to complement John Fox’s defense, which is infinitely better with a lead because of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil’s ability to get to the quarterback.

Two things prevent this from being an A+. Most prominently is Manning’s neck. There’s always a chance that he could be damaged goods, though I’m sure the Bronco team doctors did a good job evaluating him. Also, the Tebow factor has to be considered. Denver fans love him, so in the unlikely scenario that this Manning signing fails, those people will revolt against Elway. Again, the Broncos had to do this, so I’m not saying that Elway should have stuck with Tebow. But it does come with an added risk of major fan backlash if things go awry.

As for Tebow, the Broncos are expected to trade or cut him. I’m not even sure where he could go. All of the teams that have quarterback openings don’t run an offense suited for him. The Jaguars don’t want Tebow, as we’ve reported. Perhaps the Bills will want to bring him on as a backup. I’d keep Tebow-san and have him learn under Manning if I were Kreese Elway, but I’m not an evil dojo master.

Did Manning make the right decision? Click the link to find out.

49ers miss on QB Peyton Manning. Dolphins affected.
Let’s talk about the two finalists that whiffed Peyton Manning. The 49ers will be most hurt by this if they can’t re-sign Alex Smith. Smith has voiced his displeasure that his team made such a strong push to acquire Manning. He talked to the Dolphins about signing with them, though it’s been reported that his top choice would be returning to San Francisco in the event that Manning goes elsewhere.

I was glad to hear this because I was concerned that Smith had so much sand in his vag. If FOX Sports/Yardbarker dug up William Shakespeare’s corpse and told me that they wanted to replace me with him on this Web site, I’d probably say, “That sucks, but I totally understand. If he can’t write anymore because he’s been dead for hundreds of years, I’ll gladly come back if you’ll have me.” It sounds like Smith has that type of mentality.

It’s a good thing that Smith is so understanding. If he had gone to Miami, the 49ers would have been forced to start a raw Colin Kaepernick next year, which wouldn’t have been good for their playoff aspirations.

So, if we assume that Smith re-signs with the 49ers, what will the Dolphins do at quarterback? It’s a great question because there aren’t any other starting-caliber quarterbacks available. The top available signal-caller, excluding Smith, in my 2012 NFL Free Agent Rankings is Josh Johnson, and he’s not an upgrade over Matt Moore.

Ryan Tannehill will have to be an option at No. 8 in April – I’ll have my 2012 NFL Mock Draft updated Tuesday evening – but he may not be available. The Browns could take him with the fourth pick. Another team could leapfrog Miami. Basically, the Dolphins are epically screwed. They may have to trade up into the back end of the first round for Brandon Weeden or Kirk Cousins – and a month ago, they were talking about possibly landing Manning, Robert Griffin or Matt Flynn. No one will be going to Dolphin games next year, which will make Stephen Ross and his B-list celebrity friends very upset.

Titans miss on QB Peyton Manning. Browns affected.
The Titans aren’t really affected by Peyton Manning’s signing with the Broncos, aside from the obvious fact that he won’t be playing quarterback for them next year. Tennessee will move on as planned prior to the Manning sweepstakes – Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker will compete for the starting gig. Hopefully the correct signal-caller starts in 2012. Mike Munchak made the wrong decision by sticking with Hasselbeck late in 2011, perhaps costing his team a playoff spot.

You could argue that Manning’s decision to go to Denver is better long-term for Tennessee. Locker won’t be blocked from starting, so he can get his reps and perhaps develop into a Pro Bowl-level player (or at least a dependable quarterback).

Cleveland is actually impacted more than Tennessee. Had the Titans signed Manning, they would have cut Hasselbeck immediately. Hasselbeck would have then gone to the Browns because of his familiarity with Mike Holmgren’s offense. With Hasselbeck and Matt Flynn no longer options, Cleveland will now have to draft Ryan Tannehill with the fourth-overall selection on April 26. Holmgren won’t have a choice. The stadium will be empty by October once the Browns are 0-4 with Colt McCoy if Holmgren doesn’t make this move.

Dolphins sign QB David Garrard (1 year): C- Grade
I’m going to assume this isn’t for too much. But meh. David Garrard can be a decent backup, but it seems like the Dolphins are bringing him in to compete for a starting job. Miami has completely botched its second consecutive offseason, now whiffing on Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, Alex Smith, Jeff Fisher and Jim Harbaugh. Owner Stephen Ross is a major problem, as is general manager Jeff “Is your mother a whore?” Ireland. They both have to go, but only the latter can really leave.

Bengals re-sign FS Reggie Nelson (4 year, $18 million): C+ Grade
Reggie Nelson was a liability down the stretch. He’s not very good, so the Bengals could have stood to find an upgrade. However, I can’t blame them for re-signing Nelson even though I feel like they gave him a bit too much. With weak free agency and draft prospect groups at the position, Cincinnati didn’t really have a way to find someone better than Nelson.

Seahawks sign DT Jason Jones (1 year, $4.5 million): B+ Grade
This signing happened a couple of days ago, but contract details are now known. The Seahawks needed an interior pass-rusher, and Jones was one of the top defensive tackles available on the market. This is a pretty good deal even though all of Jason Jones’ $4.5 million is guaranteed. Seahawk fans apparently are displeased by anything worse than an A – I was asked by e-mailer K.D. R. to give this a “Millen After Being Hit With Gamma Rays Grade” based on the response to what I wrote about Matt Flynn – but B+ and B are solid grades.

Panthers sign FB Mike Tolbert (4 years, $10M; $2.7M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This move didn’t make sense to me initially, but reports have surfaced that the Panthers now plan on trading either DeAngelo Williams or Jonathan Stewart prior to the 2012 NFL Draft. Carolina is in this mess because it unnecessarily overpaid Williams last offseason, but this is a good way to get out of it. Mike Tolbert will be a solid No. 2 back behind either Williams or Stewart. He’ll also catch passes as a fullback. I suspect Cam Newton will rely on him heavily on passing downs.

Jets sign SS LaRon Landry (1 year, $4 million): B Grade
This is a pretty desperate signing. The Jets needed major help at safety, so LaRon Landry is worth the minimal risk New York is taking with this 1-year contract. Landry probably won’t stay healthy, however, considering his Achilles issues.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 19 Updates

Seahawks sign QB Matt Flynn (3 years; $26M; $10M guaranteed): B Grade
This is a great signing in theory. The Seahawks couldn’t go into the 2012 campaign with Tarvaris Jackson as their starting quarterback. Ryan Tannehill was an option in the 2012 NFL Draft, but they’d have to trade up for a signal-caller whom analysts widely consider to be a major project. Flynn was the best possible solution – and Seattle got him at a really good price. Flynn is getting just $10 million guaranteed, so the Seahawks can part ways with him if he flops.

Here’s what prevents this from being an A or an A+ – Joe Philbin. The Dolphins were out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, yet they didn’t make much of an effort to acquire Flynn. Why didn’t Philbin want to sign his former quarterback? This reeks of Charlie Weis and the Chiefs passing on Jimmy Clausen twice in the 2010 NFL Draft. We all saw how that worked out.

Bengals sign CB Jason Allen (2 years, $8.2 million): B Grade
Jason Allen is a decent cornerback who could make his way into the starting lineup based on Cincinnati’s dire need at the position. He was signed to a pretty reasonable contract.

Redskins sign CB Cedric Griffin (1 year, $2.5 million): B+ Grade
This signing happened several days ago, but I forgot to post a grade for it. Cedric Griffin is a major injury risk, but the Redskins aren’t really putting that much on the line with this 1-year deal. If Griffin can actually stay healthy, he’ll effectively fill Washington’s cornerback depth (or safety) need. If not, the Redskins can just cut him with no reprecussions.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 18 Updates

Patriots sign WR Brandon Lloyd (3 years, $12 million): A+ Grade
Holy crap, how did the Patriots manage to rope Brandon Lloyd into this contract? This signing makes sense for so many reasons. New England desperately needed a receiver. Lloyd was the top player at his position on the market. He is familiar with Josh McDaniels’ system. And best of all, he signed a ridiculously cheap deal.

Chiefs sign OT Eric Winston (4 years, $22 million): A- Grade
Thanks to @richieguy309 for alerting me of this contract. The Chiefs just solidified their biggest need (right tackle) with the top player at his position on the market – all at a pretty reasonable price. Not too shabby. I’m slightly concerned about why the Texans cut Eric Winston in the first place, but this appears to be a really good move.

Eagles re-sign G Evan Mathis (5 years, $25M; $7M guaranteed): A Grade
I always say that continuity is huge when it comes to the offensive line. With this signing, the Eagles will have all five of their starters under contract for the next two years.

Evan Mathis is very talented, but injury-prone. I was concerned some team was going to offer him too much guaranteed money, but $7 million is a pretty good bargain for someone as risky as Mathis.

Bengals sign G Travelle Wharton (3 years, $10 million): A Grade
The Bengals deserve a ton of credit for not signing overpriced players in the always-overrated free-agency period. This is their first acquisition, and it’s a great one. Travelle Wharton is a quality starting guard who excels in run blocking. Getting him at just $10 million over three years is an incredible bargain. Now, all Cincinnati needs to do is find itself a good running back to create a dominant ground attack.

Rams sign DT Kendall Langford (4 years, $24M; $12M guaranteed): B Grade
The Rams had a huge need at defensive tackle, and Kendall Langford is a pretty talented lineman. He’ll definitely provide an upgrade up front for St. Louis, if only by default. The one reservation I have with this signing is that Langford has yet to play in a 4-3 defense in the pros. He does project as a good fit though in Jeff Fisher’s wide-nine formation, so I’m not going to penalize the Rams too much.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 17 Updates

Falcons re-sign DE John Abraham (3 years, $21 million): B Grade
Thanks to Scott Carasik (@scar988) of Bleacher Report for alerting me of this. John Abraham is old (34 in May) and overrated. He seldom steps up in big games. Thus, I think this is a bit too much for him, though I’ll allow for some leniency because I don’t know what the guarantee is. I’ll assume it’s not too high, which would permit Atlanta to get out of this contract. So with that in mind, this is a decent re-signing because of continuity and the fact that the Falcons would have had a big hole at defensive end if they allowed Abraham to walk.

Texans re-sign C Chris Myers (4 years, $25M; $14M guaranteed): A Grade
The Texans had to do this. Forget for a second that Chris Myers is one of the better centers in the league; if Myers walked, Houston would have lost three starters on its offensive front (Mike Brisiel, Eric Winston). Continuity is key when it comes to the line.

Rams sign C Scott Wells (4 years, $24M; $13M guaranteed): B Grade
Scott Wells is one of the top centers in the NFL, so Sam Bradford has to be a happy man tonight. Bradford’s offensive line was a sieve last year, so Jeff Fisher needed to find upgrades to make sure his quarterback doesn’t turn into David Carr. Wells’ deal of $24 million with $13 million guaranteed is pretty reasonable. The only thing I’d question is Wells’ motivation of going from Green Bay to St. Louis. Why play for the Rams when you can win Super Bowls with Aaron Rodgers? Maybe Wells senses that Fisher might be building something special. I don’t know.

Raiders sign G Mike Brisiel (5 years, $20 million): C- Grade
The Raiders had a need for an interior lineman, and Mike Brisiel is a quality guard. But why overpay for a zone-blocking lineman when you’re cap-strapped? It makes no sense to me. Oh, and there’s also the fact that Brisiel is taking more money to go from a great team to a franchise in disarray. He doesn’t seem too concerned about winning.

Raiders sign CB Ronald Bartell (1 year, $3 million): B+ Grade
I like this Oakland signing much better than the other one. Ronald Bartell is a talented injury risk, but the Raiders aren’t taking much of a chance with this contract. If Bartell hasn’t recovered from his brutal neck injuries, Oakland can just part ways with him.

Cowboys sign ILB Dan Connor (2 years, $6.5M; $2.7M guaranteed): A+ Grade
Dan Connor’s financial terms have been revealed. Thanks to @stevenlourie of Football Fan Spot for alerting me of Connor’s contract.

I can’t believe the Cowboys obtained him so cheaply. Connor should have received way more than $6.5 million from another team that needed an inside linebacker. Instead, Dallas gets to fill a big hole next to fellow Penn Stater Sean Lee with a quality defender.

Chargers sign WR/KR Eddie Royal (3 years, $13.5M): B Grade
This contract was just released. Eddie Royal probably won’t contribute much as a receiver – he’ll catch some passes out of the slot, but shouldn’t be counted on for much offensively – but his primary function will be contributing on punt returns, an area in which San Diego really struggled last year.

Cardinals sign G/OT Adam Snyder (5 years, $17.5M; $5M guaranteed): C- Grade
This contract was just released. The Cardinals desperately needed some help on the offensive front, but overpaying a mediocre talent like this is pretty irresponsible. The good news is that Adam Snyder is versatile, so he can fill in at right tackle and both guard positions.

Cowboys sign G Nate Livings (5 years, $19M; $6.2M guaranteed): D Grade
Nate Livings was Cincinnati’s lone liability on the offensive front last year. Why then, did the Cowboys pony up $19 million ($6.2 million guaranteed) for him? We’ve seen some teams misevaluate talent this offseason (i.e. Buccaneers with Eric Wright; Browns with Frostee Rucker; Vkings with John Carlson). This is yet another instance, though this contract isn’t as bad as the others.

Cowboys sign G Mackenzy Bernadeau (4 years, $11 million): D Grade
Thanks to e-mailer Bill D. for pointing out that I missed this signing amid all the mayhem this week. Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, I’m going to have to give them another bad grade. Mackenzy Bernadeau is a mediocre backup at best, so I have no idea why anyone would think he’s worth $11 million over four years.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 16 Updates

Titans sign G Steve Hutchinson (3 years, $16 million): A+ Grade
Three years, $16 million for a great guard? How did the Titans pull this one off? Not only is Hutchinson a huge upgrade over the crappy Leroy Harris; he could be used to bring Peyton Manning into town. Hutchinson and Manning are good friends. They also share the same agent. This grade is a no-brainer A+ because the Titans are getting a cheap, major upgrade and inching closer to bringing a Hall of Fame quarterback onto the roster.

Chiefs sign TE Kevin Boss (3 years, $9 million): B+ Grade
The Chiefs needed some insurance for the injury-prone Tony Moeaki. I’d say Kevin Boss at three years, $9 million is cheap and quality insurance. Boss won’t post any big fantasy numbers, but he’s a good red-zone target and blocker. He’s a solid No. 2 tight end.

Patriots sign CB Steve Gregory (3 years, $8.5M; $3M guaranteed): C- Grade
The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that Steve Gregory will start at free safety for New England. That’s the reason for this bad grade. Gregory was torched quite often in coverage last year, so I have no idea what Bill Belichick sees in him. The only reason this isn’t a D, an F or a Millen is because the Patriots didn’t pay too much for the former Charger.

Bills sign DE Mario Williams (6 years, $100M; $50M guaranteed): B- Grade
Reports are that Mario Williams is now the richest defensive player in NFL history. Williams’ contract will dwarf Peppers’ 6-year, $84 million deal.

I’m not a huge fan of this signing. As I’ve written repeatedly, players who go from good teams to bad franchises for the money seldom pan out. Sure, getting Mario Williams seems great now, but that’s exactly how Redskin fans felt when Daniel Snyder signed Albert Haynesworth. There’s a reason why successful NFL organizations build through the draft and not free agency.

Williams could have taken a bit less money to play for a winner. Instead, he has shown us that his top priority is his paycheck. With that in mind, is he going to care if the Bills make the playoffs? If he wanted to contend for a Super Bowl, he would have stayed with Houston or gone to another good team. His ultimate goal, as he has proven, does not involve winning the Super Bowl. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have signed with Buffalo.

I do not completely hate this signing though because it’s big for the Bills’ organization (at least at the present moment). The front office needed to give its fan base some hope, as the team hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 1999. Maybe this acquisition will spark a culture change in Buffalo. Maybe Williams will help turn this franchise around. I wouldn’t bet on it, but crazier things have happened.

Chargers re-sign OT Jared Gaither (4 years, $24.6M; $8M guaranteed): A Grade
The Chargers absolutely had to re-sign Jared Gaither. San Diego’s offensive line was a complete sieve last year until Gaither stepped up in replacing an injured Marcus McNeill. Gaither’s troublesome back will always be an issue, but San Diego is giving up just $8 million guaranteed, so the front office isn’t risking much. This move has a ton of upside because Gaither is a top-tier left tackle if healthy.

Jaguars sign QB Chad Henne (2 years, $6.75M; $3M guaranteed): C Grade
The Jaguars signed Chad Henne yesterday, but the contract details have been revealed.

As I tweeted @walterfootball, “Sad day when you sign Chad Henne and think you might have an upgrade at QB. #startprintingmattbarkleyjerseys.” The Jaguars are going to be terrible next year if they expect Henne to push Blaine Gabbert. I suspect Henne will start at least a few games, but it won’t matter because both quarterbacks are awful.

Chargers sign FB Le’Ron McClain (3 years, $8.25 million): B+ Grade
The Chargers signed Le’Ron McClain yesterday, but the contract details have been revealed.

Mike Tolbert won’t be back next year, so San Diego needed a power complement for Ryan Mathews. McClain will serve that role, and he will also contribute as a blocker – all at a pretty reasonable price.

Redskins sign S Brandon Meriweather (2 years, $6 million): C Grade
The Redskins aren’t paying much for the pedestrian Brandon Meriweather, but I’m giving them a bad grade because it appears as though he’ll be one of their starting safeties next year. If so, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Philadelphia’s quarterback will easily torch their secondary.

Chargers sign DE/OLB Jarret Johnson (4 years, $19M; $7M guaranteed): A- Grade
The Chargers signed Jarret Johnson yesterday, but the contract details have been revealed.

I’d say that this is a pretty good bargain. Jarret Johnson is underrated because he does so many things. He can’t get to the quarterback, but he’s terrific in coverage and run support. San Diego’s defense was a sieve last year, but Johnson will help bolster the stop unit.

This signing probably means that San Diego won’t look at Courtney Upshaw in the first round, as the team will use a rotation of Johnson and Antwan Barnes across from Shaun Phillips. The Chargers will likely target a pass-rusher on Day 2.

Browns re-sign CB Dimitri Patterson (3 years, $16M; $6M guaranteed): C- Grade
Dimitri Patterson is a pretty mediocre nickel corners. It’s not smart to pay mediocre nickel corners $16 million over three years with $6 million of it guaranteed.

Saints sign G Ben Grubbs (5 years, $36M; $16M guaranteed): A Grade
Ben Grubbs is not as good as Carl Nicks, but he’s a really good replacement. He’s also a pretty good bargain. I feel like Grubbs could have gotten a bit more than $36 million ($16 million guaranteed).

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 15 Updates

Dolphins sign CB Richard Marshall (3 years, $16M; $6M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Dolphins needed to obtain cornerback depth, and they certainly found it with Richard Marshall, who was very solid for Arizona last year. Getting him at $16 million with six of it guaranteed is a pretty good bargain.

Chiefs sign RB Peyton Hillis (1 year, $3 million): A- Grade
You know, it’s a shame for Todd Haley that he didn’t have Special Agent Peyton Hillis on the roster last year. He could have used Agent Hillis to find all of the bugs in his office that the owners planted.

This is a really good signing regardless of the poor Haley timing. Agent Hillis could always retire and join the CIA, but the Chiefs aren’t risking anything. If Agent Hillis focuses on football and stays healthy, Kansas City will have a great one-two punch at running back – something that is essential considering that Jamaal Charles is coming off a torn ACL.

Patriots sign DE/DT Jonathan Fanene (3 years, $12M; $3.85M guaranteed): B+ Grade
I don’t think Jonathan Fanene satisfies New England’s need for a starting 3-4 defensive end, but he’ll provide depth on a currently thin front. Fanene stops the run pretty well, so $12 million over three years with about $4 million in guarantees is a pretty good price.

Jaguars sign WR Laurent Robinson (5 years, $32.5M; $14M guaranteed): MILLEN Grade
There are many reasons why this is a terrible signing:

1. I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again: Players who go from good teams to crap franchises for a big pay day seldom pan out. The Jaguars experienced this when they signed wide receiver Jerry Porter several years ago.

2. Laurent Robinson is very injury-prone. He’s missed 27 games in the past four seasons.

3. Robinson is a one-year wonder. Prior to 2011, he never caught more than 37 passes in a single campaign.

4. On a related note, Robinson hauled in 54 receptions last season. That’s his career-high reception total. How do you give a guy $14 million guaranteed when he’s never caught more than 54 balls in a single year?

Dolphins re-sign NT Paul Soliai (2 years, $18 million): A Grade
Paul Soliai could have received more money elsewhere (like Denver), but he opted to take a hometown discount to stay in Miami. Good for him. And good for the Dolphins, who were able to retain the top nose tackle on the market.

Eagles re-sign WR DeSean Jackson (5 years, $51 million): C Grade
I’m not a fan of this. DeSean Jackson is a bad teammate. He drops passes, has lapses in concentration and is scared to go over the middle of the field. Ever since taking a nasty hit against the Texans in December 2010, he’s only put together three 100-yard performances. He’s turned into a one-trick pony, and it’s only a matter of time before opposing defensive coordinators discover this (I’m shocked they haven’t already), but he will continue to serve as a deep-threat decoy in the meantime. The Eagles should have traded him.

Cowboys sign CB Brandon Carr (5 years, $50.1 million): A- Grade
The Cowboys needed a cornerback across from Mike Jenkins, and they signed the top unrestricted free agent on the market. Brandon Carr is very talented and is definitely worth $50.1 million over five years ($100,000 more than Cortland Finnegan). Dallas obviously won’t be looking at Janoris Jenkins or Dre Kirkpatrick at No. 14 in the 2012 NFL Draft now, and can instead set its sights on David DeCastro to bolster the offensive front.

Browns sign DE Frostee Rucker (5 years, $20-plus million): MILLEN ON ACID Grade
It’s a good thing the Browns cut Eric Steinbach today. They needed the cap space to sign Frostee Rucker to a big deal. You know, because Rucker is so awesome.

Rucker is a good run-defender, but he offers nothing in terms of getting to the quarterback. Cleveland needed a guy who could do the latter, so I’m not sure why the front office would throw more than $20 million at a rotational lineman.

Giants sign TE Martellus Bennett (1 year, $2.5 million): B Grade
Martellus Bennett has always had talent, but he’s never lived up to it. The Giants needed a tight end, and they’re not risking very much with this signing. Perhaps Bennett will thrive in a new environment. If so, great. If not, no big deal.

Eagles extend DE Trent Cole (4 years, $53M; $15M guaranteed): A+ Grade
Trent Cole is one of the top defensive ends in the NFL, so this extension was a no-brainer. Paying $15 million guaranteed to a Pro Bowl-caliber player seems like quite a bargain, especially considering that a pedestrian tight end received just $4 million fewer than that the very same day.

Vikings sign TE John Carlson (5 years, $25M; $11M guaranteed): F Grade
The Vikings are apparently trying to recreate New England’s two-tight end offense. The problem is that one of their tight ends suck. And it’s the guy they just gave $25 million to.

Talk about overpaying. Carlson is both mediocre (at best) and injury-prone. In what bizarro universe is he worth $25 million, with $11 million of it guaranteed? An even more important question: Did Matt Millen and his LSD-laced kielbasas have a hand in this transaction as well?

Colts sign DE/DT Cory Redding (3 years, $10.5 million): B Grade
This is a solid signing. New head coach Chuck Pagano is installing a brand-new 3-4 defense, so he wanted to bring in some of his guys from the Ravens. Cory Redding is 31, but he can still play pretty well. This is a pretty reasonable price for him.

Bucs sign CB Eric Wright (5 years, $37.5M): MILLEN ON LSD-LACED KIELBASA Grade
This is the worst signing in NFL history. That sentence is not an exaggeration.

Eric Wright is terrible. I gave him 1.5 stars in my 2012 NFL Free Agent Rankings for a reason. He’s been torched numerous times per week over the past few seasons. Detroit and Cleveland fans know how bad Wright is, and the Buccaneers are about to find out.

Seriously, what the hell was Mark Dominik thinking? He couldn’t have been sober when he made this transaction. I refuse to believe it. A plausible explanation is that Matt Millen snuck into his office, strangled him, shoved some LSD-laced kielbasa into the general manager’s back side, and then slipped Wright’s agent’s number into his hand. When Dominik awoke, he was still delirious, so thought that paying $37.5 million to one of the worst cornerbacks on the market was a great idea.

Yes, that’s exactly what happened. You heard it here first.

Buccaneers sign G Carl Nicks (5 years, $47.5M; $31M guaranteed): C+ Grade
Once again, I can’t support a signing like this. I’ll repeat: Players who come from great franchises and go to bad teams solely for the money seldom pan out. It’s apparent that Carl Nicks doesn’t care about winning. He just wanted a few extra million that the Buccaneers were able to offer him. Now that he has his mega contract, will he give 100 percent? Will he care if Tampa Bay makes the playoffs or not? Because if he wanted to win and have the best career possible, he would have stayed with Drew Brees.

Colts acquire OT Winston Justice and 6th-round pick from Eagles for 6th-round pick
If I were an NFL player, I’d be insulted if I were traded for a same-round swap. But Winston Justice sucks. If he starts at right tackle for the Colts, Andrew Luck will be in trouble. Justice should be a backup. The Eagles, meanwhile, reportedly shaved $2.3 million off the cap, so they are the clear winners of this meaningless trade.

Lions extend WR Calvin Johnson (7 years, $132M; $60M guaranteed): A- Grade
I don’t even know how to grade this. Calvin Johnson just became the richest receiver in NFL history, but then again, he is the top player at his position in the league. He also might go down as the second-best wideout of all time by the time his career is finished. So, he’s definitely worth the money. The one thing I wonder about is Matthew Stafford – Detroit will have to pay him more than this when his contract is up because he’s the quarterback. I’m sure the Lions will do this, but will they be able to afford anyone else? Will they be like the Colts, who have always been plagued with top-heavy contracts, and as a result, a weak supporting cast? What this does in the meantime though is free up $9 million in cap space.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 14 Updates

Jaguars re-sign DE Jeremy Mincey (4 years, $27.2M; $9M guaranteed): A Grade
How in the world did Jeremy Mincey receive a less lucrative contract than Robert Meachem? This has been a strange day.

Jacksonville had to retain Mincey; otherwise, it would have needed to find two new defensive ends this offseason. This is a really reasonable price for Mincey, who had eight sacks in 2011 in addition to stopping the run pretty well.

Chargers sign WR Robert Meachem (4 years, $25.9M; $14M guaranteed): MILLEN Grade
This might be the worst signing of the offseason. Robert Meachem has underachieved his entire career despite playing with one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. What makes the Chargers think that he’ll finally live up to expectations with $14 million guaranteed in his bank account?

It’s clear that A.J. Smith is overreacting to today’s events. He lost Vincent Jackson, and watched all day as the receiving market dwindled away. That’s why he overpaid for Meachem. I have a feeling he’s going to regret this.

Colts sign WR Reggie Wayne (3 years, $17.5 million): A Grade
Reggie Wayne was able to get only $17.5 million over three years? I find that difficult to believe. Why didn’t he wait until Peyton Manning signed with a team? I’m sure they would have accommodated him with a better deal. Well, whatever. I like this move for the Colts. Andrew Luck needs someone reliable to throw to (just ask Sam Bradford), and Indianapolis isn’t spending very much on bringing its top wideout back.

49ers re-sign CB Carlos Rogers (4 years, $29.3 million): B+ Grade
This is a lot of money to pay to a 31-year-old cornerback, but Carlos Rogers is coming off a great season. The 49ers would have had to find help at corner if Rogers left, so why not just bring him back? Continuity is important, and with Rogers being retained, San Francisco will return all 11 starters on defense next season.

Rams sign CB Cortland Finnegan (5 years, $50 million): A- Grade
This is a really good signing for the Rams. They’re filling a big position of need with the top free agent available.

If you’re wondering, I’m not penalizing the Rams for signing a guy who took the money to go to an inferior team because Cortland Finnegan wanted to play for Jeff Fisher again. Finnegan knows that Fisher will have his new squad in playoff contention in a couple of years, so his decision to go to St. Louis was a football move.

Buccaneers sign WR Vincent Jackson (5 years, $55.5M; $26M guaranteed): C+ Grade
Only a C+!? The media is raving about this signing, yet I’m giving it just a C+? I obviously hate the Buccaneers!

I don’t hate this signing (or the Buccaneers), but I don’t like it very much either. Is that because Vincent Jackson hasn’t caught more than 68 passes in a single season? No, but it doesn’t help. Is that because Jackson hasn’t played with a non-elite quarterback in his NFL career? No, but it doesn’t help.

Here’s my reasoning: Players who take tons of money in free agency, going from a playoff-caliber team to a crappy squad, have a really checkered history. Think about Sidney Rice last summer. Think about Albert Haynesworth. Think about O.J. Atogwe. Think about Zach Miller. Think about all of the bums Daniel Snyder has brought in over the years.

These players often fail because money is a greater priority for them than football. Of course money is important, but when you’re getting a $55 million contract, why should $5 or so extra million command where you play football? Josh Freeman is a decent quarterback, but he won’t maximize Jackson’s potential like Philip Rivers could. As a consequence, Jackson’s career will never be as great as it could have been. But like Rice, he doesn’t care because he squeezed an extra few million out of a terrible team.

Redskins sign WR Pierre Garcon (5 years, $42.5M; $21M guaranteed): C- Grade
Pierre Garcon is a No. 1 receiver. What, you don’t believe me? Then why, I ask, did he get $42.5 million with $21 million guaranteed? Oh yeah, I forgot who signed him for a second.

What the hell are the Redskins doing? Garcon is not a No. 1 wideout. He won’t be able to beat double coverage, he drops way too many passes, and he runs poor routes. I’m not giving this an F because I love the Robert Griffin-Garcon fit. Griffin has impeccable deep accuracy, and Garcon will be the recipient of some long bombs. However, Washington really overpaid for a secondary receiver.

Bears acquire WR Brandon Marshall for two third-round picks
Peyton Manning to the Dolphins? This is the first thing that popped into my head when this trade was announced. Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense. Why would Miami deal its top wideout for a pair of third-round picks? It’s been reported recently that Manning didn’t want to go to the Dolphins because Marshall was such a head case. This is a great move if it leads to Miami landing Manning. If not, the Dolphins screwed up.

This is a terrific trade for Chicago regardless of what happens with Manning. The Bears needed a No. 1 wideout, and Marshall is quite comfortable catching passes from Jay Cutler. They no longer have to pray that Michael Floyd drops to them or think about reaching for Stephen Hill at No. 19. Chicago can look elsewhere with that selection.

Saints re-sign WR Marques Colston (5 years): A Grade
I’m making this grade without seeing the contract details because the amount of money the Saints plan on paying Marques Colston ultimately doesn’t matter. No price is high enough to appease Drew Brees, and that’s exactly what New Orleans is doing here. Considering Bountygate and the fact that he was franchised against his will, Brees must have been mulling leaving New Orleans next offseason. This is a step toward making him happy – which is really important because New Orleans would be almost as bad as the 2011 Colts without their All-Pro quarterback.

Bears sign QB Jason Campbell (1 year): A Grade
The Bears really need a backup quarterback, and they signed the best one on the market. It’s a shame they didn’t have Jason Campbell last year; he could have held down the fort and gotten Chicago into the playoffs. Nevertheless, the important thing is that the Bears finally have insurance for Jay Cutler.

Redskins sign WR Josh Morgan (5 years, $12M; $7.5M guaranteed): D Grade
This contract may not seem like much, but it’s really a 2-year deal because the rest of the contract is voidable. With that in mind, the Redskins overpaid for another mediocre receiver. I don’t know why they needed Josh Morgan; Leonard Hankerson is talented and could easily beat out Morgan for a starting job. Washington is spending its money pretty frivolously and foolishly considering the major cap penalty it incurred recently. No one should be surprised that Daniel Snyder is doing this though.

Seahawks re-sign DE/DT Red Bryant (5 years, $35M; $14.5M guaranteed): B Grade
I was going to berate the Seahawks for spending way too much money on a pure run-defender who has issues getting to the quarterback. Then, I remembered what I wrote on the Seahawks Offseason Needs page: “Red Bryant is so instrumental in Seattle’s ability to stop the run. He’s a free agent who must be brought back.” Can’t argue with that. I still feel like Seattle paid a bit too much, but Bryant is essential to the defense.

Redskins re-sign DE/DT Adam Carriker (4 years, $20M; $7M guaranteed): D Grade
Umm… what? Adam Carriker is not a starting-caliber defensive lineman, yet the Redskins have decided to pay him like one for some strange reason. Carriker can get to the quarterback on occasion, but he’s a major liability against the run. Given Washington’s recent massive cap penalty, I can’t understand why it would spend so much money on a lineman who is just a rotational player at best.

Chargers re-sign C Nick Hardwick (3 years, $13.5 million): A+ Grade
Wow, just $13.5 million over three years? How the hell did A.J. Smith do that? The Chargers just retained one of the top centers in the NFL for an incredibly cheap price. Great move.

Giants re-sign CB Terrell Thomas (4 years, $28M; $11M guaranteed): B Grade
Terrell Thomas is definitely worth this money based solely on his talent. The problem is that he suffered his second torn right ACL back in August. He’ll be ready to go by training camp, but will he be 100 percent? This is a risky re-signing, but I’m sure general manager Jerry Reese got the green light from his team doctors.

Eagles extend OT/G Todd Herremans (3 years, $21M; $11M guaranteed): A+ Grade
I’m sure most people had their doubts when Todd Herremans was moved to right tackle and asked to protect his quarterback’s blind side last year. Herremans thrived at his new position, allowing just four sacks. He’s worth every penny of this new deal.

Bears re-sign CB Tim Jennings (2 years): TBA Grade
I’ll have a grade posted for this when details are known.

49ers sign CB Perrish Cox (2 years): C Grade
The 49ers have shown us in the last two days that they sure as hell don’t care about character issues. Perrish Cox was acquitted of sexual assault recently, but he still had other off-the-field issues in the past. As with Randy Moss, having Cox on the roster could be detrimental to San Francisco’s 2012 playoff hopes. I have no idea why the 49ers are signing these losers.

Titans re-sign SS Jordan Babineaux (2 years, $5M): B- Grade
Meh. I’ll give this a B- for continuity. The Titans would have had a big need at strong safety if they weren’t able to retain Jordan Babineaux. The problem is that Babineaux isn’t a good player. Bringing him back for just $5 million over two years isn’t a big deal though.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 13 Updates

49ers sign WR Randy Moss (1 year): C- Grade
There are dark times ahead for the 49ers. I think this is a terrible signing that could really derail San Francisco’s 2012 campaign.

How could it be terrible, you ask? Isn’t this an incentive-laden 1-year contract? Sure. But Moss can do a ton of damage even before Jim Harbaugh decides to release him. He will almost certainly poison the locker room, as he has done for every single team he’s been on, save for the 2007-08 Patriots. The reason Moss toed the line in New England was because of Tom Brady. Alex Smith is not Tom Brady. When Smith can’t connect with Moss, is the aging receiver going to stop running routes? Because that’s what he’s done throughout most of his career. Smith isn’t the type of leader who can make sure Moss doesn’t act up.

And here’s another question: Can Moss even produce? He couldn’t even get on the field for the Titans, and that was back in 2010. Sure, he’s looked great running the 40 in shorts, but will that translate to actual games? Will being out of football make it more difficult to take hits?

I absolutely hate this signing for the 49ers. It could be a catalyst for their 2012 collapse. I’m not marking this as an F because I’d like to give Harbaugh the benefit of the doubt, but I’ll be pretty shocked if Moss isn’t on the waiver wire by Thanksgiving.

Jets re-sign NT Sione Pouha (3 years, $15M; $9.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This seems like a bit too much for a 33-year-old nose tackle, but did the Jets really have a choice? Sione Pouha is a monstrous run-stuffer, and New York didn’t really have a proven replacement for him. The front office spent a third-round selection on Kenrick Ellis last April, but he could be deported due to legal issues.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 11 Updates

Falcons sign ILB Lofa Tatupu (2 years, $5.75 million): B Grade
This contract is all incentive-based, so the Falcons aren’t risking much here. With that in mind, this is a pretty good deal. If Lofa Tatupu, the “beest defeenceman,” hasn’t gotten over his injuries, Atlanta can cut him and just insert Akeem Dent into the lineup. If he’s healthy, however, the Falcons will have a damn good inside linebacker on their roster. They almost had to do something like this, given that Curtis Lofton won’t be back next year.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 10 Updates

Redskins acquire No. 2 overall pick from Rams for No. 6 pick, two future first-rounders, future second-rounder
I don’t usually like to say this, but this is a GREAT trade for both teams. The Redskins will finally have a franchise quarterback for the first time since Joe Theismann. Robert Griffin will be a stud, and he’s well worth this price. Washington is now relevant again, and every NFC East team should be scared.

As for the Rams, they got what they should have received. Three firsts and a second, despite what the Browns may think, is the right price for a franchise quarterback. St. Louis will presumably pick Justin Blackmon, Riley Reiff or Morris Claiborne at No. 6.

Speaking of Cleveland, doesn’t it seem comical that it didn’t want to part with the No. 22 overall selection for Griffin? That sort of thinking is why the Browns haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2002 campaign.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 8 Updates

Falcons re-sign DE Kroy Biermann (3 years, $9 million): C+ Grade
Kroy Biermann was solid in 2010, but struggled last year. The Falcons are buying a bit low here, but I thought they’d be able to retain him for a bit less.

Jaguars re-sign CB Rashean Mathis (1 year, $5 million): C Grade
It seems like $5 million is a lot to pay for a 32-year-old cornerback coming off an ACL tear. Mathis may really struggle in 2012.

Buccaneers re-sign G Jeremy Zuttah (4 years, $16 million): C+ Grade
This is from a few days ago, but contract details are now known. The Buccaneers are overpaying, but I guess Greg Schiano just wants to keep one of his former players. Jeremy Zuttah is a decent lineman capable of playing multiple positions, but he’s not worth $16 million over four years.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 7 Updates

Falcons re-sign S Thomas DeCoud (5 years, $17.5M; $4M guaranteed): B Grade
Thomas DeCoud isn’t a very good player. He plays the run well, but happens to be a major liability in coverage. But I’m not giving the Falcons a bad grade because they’re re-signing one of their own and only giving him $4 million in guarantees. Atlanta can pursue an upgrade at this spot next spring if the 27-year-old doesn’t improve.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 6 Updates

Colts re-sign DE/OLB Robert Mathis (4 years, $36M; $15M guaranteed): D Grade
I don’t really get this. Robert Mathis just turned 31. He has no experience in the 3-4. He projects as a good fit, but that’s all it is – a projection. Why in the world would the rebuilding Colts offer an aging, declining pure pass-rusher $15 million in guarantees? By the time Indianapolis is ready to compete for a playoff spot, Mathis will be 32 or 33, and his skills will be completely eroding by then. This does not look like a good start for the Colts’ new regime.

Bills re-sign WR Steve Johnson (5 years, $36.25M; $19.5M guaranteed): A- Grade
Steve Johnson makes too many mental errors to even be in the conversation about being an elite receiver, but perhaps he’ll mature over the years. Regardless, the Bills needed to re-sign him, and I feel like they’re retaining him at a great price.

Texans re-sign RB Arian Foster (5 years, $43.5M; $20.75M guaranteed): A Grade
I’m never a fan of signing running backs to long-term deals considering how fragile the players are at the position. However, the Texans are getting an incredible bargain for one of the NFL’s best. Arian Foster is a stud, and he received less money than the injury-prone DeAngelo Williams. How does that happen? This is a great job by Houston’s front office.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 5 Updates

Seahawks re-sign RB Marshawn Lynch (4 years, $32M; $18M guaranteed): B- Grade
Marshawn Lynch has been amazing ever since he trampled the Saints in the crazy playoff upset last January. He’s become a fan favorite. However, this contract could really backfire. Lynch has serious lethargy issues throughout his career, and there’s a chance he could once again pack it in now that he has $18 million guaranteed in his back pocket. If I were a Seahawk supporter, I’d be glad to have Lynch back, but at the same time, I’d be scared to death that he could quit. Seattle is essentially buying high here, which is never a good thing to do. Lynch should have been franchised.

2012 NFL Free Agency: March 2 Updates

49ers re-sign DE/OLB Ahmad Brooks (6 years, $44.5M; $17.5M guaranteed): B- Grade
This is a ton of money to give to a player who had seven sacks last year. Ahmad Brooks is a good defender, and the 49ers are definitely making the right move by retaining him, so I won’t give them a bad grade. However, the fact remains that they really overpaid.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Feb. 28 Updates

Browns re-sign ILB D’Qwell Jackson (5 years, $42.5 million; $19M guaranteed): B Grade
The Browns just paid $42.5 million ($19 million guaranteed) to a linebacker who played just six total games in 2009 and 2010. Talk about a risky contract. I’m not going to give them a poor grade, however, because they almost had to do this. Jackson is the leader of Cleveland’s defense. The front office couldn’t afford to let him go.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Feb. 24 Updates

Eagles sign QB Trent Edwards (1 year): No Grade
I’m not giving this signing a grade because it’s pretty irrelevant. Trent Edwards will only make the roster if he’s substantially better than Mike Kafa. The Eagles want a veteran backup at the ready when their starter will inevitably go down with some sort of injury next year, so they’re going to have Edwards compete with Kafka for the job. If it’s close, it’s hard to imagine Andy Reid not siding with Kafka because he was a recent draft pick. Edwards was out of the league for most of last year for a reason.

Keep in mind that this will not prevent the Eagles from selecting someone like Brock Osweiler, Nick Foles or Kirk Cousins on the second day of the 2012 NFL Draft. Armed with three Friday picks, Philadelphia will be searching for a long-term solution at quarterback because its current starter is way too injury-prone and unreliable.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Feb. 23 Updates

Packers re-sign TE Jermichael Finley (2 years, $15M): A+ Grade
Jermichael Finley has yet to live up to expectations. He kills his team with mistakes despite being so physically gifted. He had 14 drops last year compared to only 55 receptions. Packer fans understandably are constantly frustrated with him.

Having said that, this is a great re-signing. Not only is Green Bay not dedicating lots of long-term money to him; it gives itself the chance to franchise Matt Flynn. With Flynn franchised, it’ll allow Ted Thompson to secure at least one high draft pick for him. If the Eagles received a second-round pick and a starting cornerback for Kevin Kolb, the Packers can get just as much for their young reserve quarterback.

2012 NFL Free Agency: Feb. 21 Updates

Chiefs sign CB Stanford Routt (3 years, $19.6M; $4M signing bonus): B- Grade
I don’t think Stanford Routt is a particularly good cornerback. He was whistled for 17 penalties and gave up eight touchdowns in 2011. He can create turnovers, but Kansas City fans are going to get tired of all the infractions pretty quickly. Routt is going to be part of tomorrow’s Top 10 Most Overrated Players in the NFL article.

Having said that, this is not a bad signing by any means. Routt isn’t getting much guaranteed money, so the Chiefs can dispose of him if he doesn’t work out. I just wish Kansas City would have re-signed the superior Brandon Carr. Carr will, of course, land a larger contract, but the Chiefs had the most cap room in the NFL.

2012 NFL Free Agent Positions:
QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Mock

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