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2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: NFC East
Dallas Cowboys: C
OT Ty Nsekhe, DT Brent Urban, DT Carlos Watkins, S Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, P Bryan Anger.
QB Andy Dalton, C Joe Looney, DE Aldon Smith, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, CB Chidobe Awuzie, S Xavier Woods.
Thanks to the absurd contract the Cowboys gave to Dak Prescott this offseason, they were limited in what they could do. They'll be in cap purgatory in the near future because of the huge deal, so they need to be careful with signing players they won't be able to afford.
This is why the Cowboys made several cheap signings. There's some upside with them. Ty Nsekhe can be a viable starter if there are injuries at tackle again. Brent Urban is a quality depth defensive lineman. Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee have major injury issues, but one could rebound.
That said, Dallas still isn't a very good team. It wasn't able to plug some of the holes on its roster because of the ghastly Prescott contract.
New York Giants: B
QB Mike Glennon, RB Corey Clement, RB Devontae Booker, WR Kenny Golladay, WR John Ross, TE Kyle Rudolph, G Zach Fulton, DT Danny Shelton, OLB Ifeadi Odenigbo, OLB Ryan Anderson, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Adoree Jackson.
QB Colt McCoy, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Golden Tate, OT Cameron Fleming, G Kevin Zeitler, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, OLB Kyler Fackrell, OLB Jabaal Sheard.
The Giants signed some big names in free agency. The crown jewel of their haul was Kenny Golladay, who will be Daniel Jones' first legitimate No. 1 receiver. The Giants needed to make sure Jones wouldn't bust, so they made a great signing by obtaining Golladay, even if they overpaid him a bit.
Speaking of overpays, the Giants gave Kyle Rudolph too much money. Rudolph will help with blocking, but he's a regressing tight end. Besides, the Giants lost Kevin Zeitler, so it's not like their blocking will be better overall in 2021, unless Nate Solder can manage to stay healthy for an entire season.
The Giants had mixed results on defense as well. They helped their secondary by signing Adoree Jackson, but they lost an underrated edge rusher, Kyler Fackrell. They also downgraded from Dalvin Tomlinson to Danny Shelton on the defensive front.
This was a middling free agency period for the Giants. Perhaps the Golladay signing makes it slightly net positive, but it could have been better.
Philadelphia Eagles: F
QB Joe Flacco, RB Jordan Howard, RB Kerryon Johnson, DE Ryan Kerrigan, LB Eric Wilson, S Anthony Harris, S Andrew Adams.
QB Carson Wentz, WR Alshon Jeffery, WR DeSean Jackson, OT Jason Peters, DE Vinny Curry, DT Malik Jackson, LB Nate Gerry, LB Duke Riley, S Jalen Mills, P Cam Johnston.
The Eagles had a rough offseason. They lost several key players, including Carson Wentz. They traded Wentz at the absolute lowest price, netting just two second-day picks for a franchise quarterback who has just one poor season in his entire pro career.
Meanwhile, the Eagles signed no players of note, save for Anthony Harris, who will need to bounce back after a poor 2020 campaign. Philadelphia also signed Joe Flacco, paying him double than the Jets did even though Flacco was one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL last year.
This free agency period was clearly a failure. The Eagles are now one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Washington Redskins: A
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Curtis Samuel, WR Adam Humphries, OT Charles Leno, C Tyler Larsen, CB William Jackson, CB Darryl Roberts, S Bobby McCain.
QB Alex Smith, OT David Sharpe, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, OLB Ryan Anderson, LB Thomas Davis, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, CB Ronald Darby, CB Fabian Moreau.
The Redskins were a surprise winner of the NFC East last year, but they strengthened their roster and now appear to be the favorites to repeat as champions of the division.
Quarterback was a major weakness last year, so the Redskins signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to serve as the short-term starter and mentor to either Taylor Heinicke or whomever they draft this April. Curtis Samuel will be a dynamic threat the Redskins can use creatively like the Panthers did last year. Meanwhile, William Jackson is a legitimate No. 1 cornerback. He'll be an upgrade over Ronald Darby.
The Redskins must be graded highly for what they accomplished in free agency. They've had the best offseason of any NFC East team.
2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC East
Buffalo Bills: B+
QB Mitchell Trubisky, RB Matt Breida, WR Emmanuel Sanders, WR Brandon Powell, TE Jacob Hollister, OT Bobby Hart, G Forrest Lamp, P Matt Haack.
WR John Brown, TE Tyler Kroft, TE Lee Smith, OT Ty Nsekhe, G Brian Winters, DE Trent Murphy, DT Quinton Jefferson, CB Josh Norman.
The 2021 free agency period for the Bills was more about retaining their key players rather than obtaining new ones. With Josh Allen set to receive a colossal contract in the near future, it would have been irresponsible for the Bills to go on a big spending spree.
That said, keeping Matt Milano, Levi Wallace and Daryl Williams was essential. Buffalo re-signed all three to favorable deals. John Brown got away, but the Bills signed Emmanuel Sanders as a potential replacement if Gabriel Davis disappoints in his second season.
Miami Dolphins: B+
QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Will Fuller, OT D.J. Fluker, C Matt Skura, DT John Jenkins, DT Adam Butler, OLB Scarlett, LB Benardrick McKinney, LB Duke Riley, CB Justin Coleman.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Matt Breida, C Ted Karras, DE Shaq Lawson, DT Davon Godchaux, OLB Kyle Van Noy, OLB Kamu Grugier-Hill, S Bobby McCain, P Matt Haack.
The Dolphins were able to have a successful free agency period, obtaining some players who will fill big needs. They also didn't suffer any catastrophic losses.
Will Fuller is the biggest name in the acquired section, and for good reason. He's a dynamic deep threat the Dolphins didn't have last year, so he'll be able to pair well with DeVante Parker. Benardrick McKinney was a nice piece obtained in a trade to strengthen a previously weak linebacking corps. Meanwhile, Justin Coleman is a solid slot cornerback who will bolster a secondary that was already strong.
Miami didn't have an amazing free agency, but it did enough to give itself a better chance of reaching the playoffs in 2021.
New England Patriots: D
WR Nelson Agholor, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Hunter Henry, TE Jonnu Smith, OT Trent Brown, G Alex Redmond, C Ted Karras, DE Matthew Judon, DT Davon Godchaux, DT Montravius Adams, OLB Kyle Van Noy, LB Raekwon McMillan, LB LaRoy Reynolds, S Jalen Mills.
RB Rex Burkhead, WR Julian Edelman, WR Damiere Byrd, G Joe Thuney, G Jermaine Eluemunor, C James Ferentz, DE John Simon, DT Beau Allen, DT Adam Butler, CB Jason McCourty.
The Patriots were certainly busy this offseason. They either traded for or signed 13 free agents, which would constitute a quarter of their active roster! Building teams through free agency is often a recipe for disaster, as opposed to supplementing rosters with some key pieces. However, if the Patriots obtained great deals, it would be difficult to criticize them.
That is not what happened, however. The Patriots overpaid for several players, including two pedestrian receivers (Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne), and two tight ends, a position that carries a 100-percent failure rate for big contracts to non-elite players. Hunter Henry is very injury-prone, while Jonnu Smith has never lived up to his athletic ability.
The Patriots made some nice moves, like acquiring Trent Brown in a trade, retaining David Andrews and adding Jalen Mills and Matthew Judon. However, they also lost Joe Thuney, which will be a crushing blow to the offensive line.
I can't get behind what the Patriots did this offseason. I gave them an "F" here last year because of the Tom Brady departure. New England should have tanked for Trevor Lawrence, but instead did everything in its power to contend for a .500 record. That appears to be the misguided strategy once again.
New York Jets: B+
RB Tevin Coleman, WR Corey Davis, WR Keelan Cole, TE Tyler Kroft, G Dan Feeney, DE Carl Lawson, DE Vinny Curry, DT Sheldon Rankins, LB Jarrad Davis, CB Justin Hardee, S Lamarcus Joyner.
QB Sam Darnold, WR Breshad Perriman, G Pat Elflein, DT Henry Anderson, OLB Jordan Jenkins, OLB Tarell Basham, LB Neville Hewitt, CB Brian Poole, CB Arthur Maulet, S Bradley McDougald.
The Jets have certainly improved under their new management. Just look at the acquired players versus the departed ones. The ones on top are definitely better as a whole than the ones on the bottom.
The one name that sticks out in the acquired section is Corey Davis. The Jets overpaid him despite the former Titan barely doing anything in his career. However, I liked what the Jets did otherwise. Carl Lawson is a dominant edge rusher New York hasn't possessed in nearly a decade. Sheldon Rankins will be a force in the trenches. Lamarcus Joyner will aid an ailing secondary.
The Jets didn't really lose anyone of note, save for Jordan Jenkins and Brian Poole, but neither is a huge departure.
2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: NFC North
Chicago Bears: F
QB Andy Dalton, RB Damien Williams, OT Elijah Wilkinson, DT Angelo Blackson, OLB Jerry Attaochu, LB Christian Jones, CB Desmond Trufant.
QB Mitchell Trubisky, OT Charles Leno, OT Bobby Massie, DT Roy Robertson-Harris, DT Brent Urban, DT John Jenkins, OLB Barkevious Mingo, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Artie Burns, CB Buster Skrine, S Tashaun Gipson, KR Cordarrelle Patterson.
The Bears routinely are graded poorly for their exploits in free agency. They earned an "F" last year after signing a billion tight ends and overpaying for Nick Foles in a trade. This spring wasn't any better for them.
The Bears are worse at several positions in the wake of what transpired this spring. They also overpaid Andy Dalton, Cairo Santos and Mario Edwards. They could have retained some key players like Kyle Fuller and Roy Robertson-Harris instead, yet opted to allow them to walk.
Detroit Lions: F*
QB Jared Goff, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Breshad Perriman, WR Kalif Raymond, TE Josh Hill, TE Darren Fells, DE Charles Harris, DT Michael Brockers, LB Alex Anzalone, CB Corn Elder, K Randy Bullock.
QB Matthew Stafford, RB Adrian Peterson, RB Kerryon Johnson, WR Kenny Golladay, WR Marvin Jones, WR Danny Amendola, TE Jesse James, G Joe Dahl, G Oday Aboushi, C Russell Bodine, DE Everson Griffen, DT Danny Shelton, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Christian Jones, LB Reggie Ragland, CB Desmond Trufant, CB Justin Coleman, CB Darryl Roberts, S Duron Harmon, K Matt Prater, KR Jamal Agnew.
If the Lions' plan is to tank for the top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, they did a great job. They saw tons of talent depart this offseason and failed to find viable replacements in most cases. Detroit is now one of the worst teams in the NFL.
The downgrades begin with the most important position, as the Lions went from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff at quarterback. Goff posted nice stats with the Rams, but was the beneficiary of some great coaching from Sean McVay. Goff won't have any talented receivers to throw to because Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones departed. The offensive line and secondary are worse as well.
This free agency period should be graded as an "F" for Detroit, but with an asterisk because it seems as though the team is intentionally blowing things up to completely rebuild.
Green Bay Packers: F
QB Blake Bortles.
RB Jamaal Williams, OT Ricky Wagner, G Lane Taylor, C Corey Linsley, DT Montravius Adams, DT Damon Harrison, LB Christian Kirksey.
If you're not sure how important Green Bay's offensive line was last year, take a look at the team's results when it had four-plus starters available versus how it performed when three or fewer starters were in the lineup. Spoiler alert: The Packers struggled in the latter situation, either losing or barely beating bad teams.
This is a major concern heading into 2021 because the Packers lost three starters on the offensive line, including two top-level blockers. Green Bay could fix this problem in the 2021 NFL Draft, but then how will it address its issues at receiver and cornerback?
I don't know how I can grade this as anything but an "F." That's three failures in the NFC North! Vikings, can we go 4-for-4?
Minnesota Vikings: A-
C Mason Cole, DE Stephen Weatherly, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Nick Vigil, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Mackensie Alexander, S Xavier Woods.
RB Mike Boone, TE Kyle Rudolph, OT Riley Reiff, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, DT Shamar Stephen, LB Eric Wilson, LB Todd Davis, CB Mike Hughes, S Anthony Harris.
No, the entire NFC North didn't fail. The Vikings actually had a strong outcome in free agency, which could put them in position to claim the division next year.
Minnesota didn't really lose anyone of note, save for Riley Reiff, whom it could replace at No. 14 in the 2021 NFL Draft. Otherwise, the Vikings bolstered some problematic areas on their roster. Their secondary was a mess last year, but that won't be the case in 2021 because of the additions of Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander and Xavier Woods. Meanwhile, the defensive line was upgraded with Dalvin Tomlinson.
The Vikings still have some weaknesses on their roster, but they did a great job of plugging some holes despite having to endure Kirk Cousins' albatross of a contract.
2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC North
Baltimore Ravens: B-
WR Sammy Watkins, TE Josh Oliver, OT Alejandro Villanueva, G Kevin Zeitler.
RB Mark Ingram, WR Willie Snead, OT D.J. Fluker, C Matt Skura, DT Jihad Ward, OLB Yannick Ngakoue, OLB Matthew Judon.
The Ravens are preparing to offer Lamar Jackson a huge contract, so they didn't have the luxury of spending big in free agency. However, they made one of their three acquisitions count by signing Kevin Zeitler. The former Giant is coming off a down year, but still blocked well. If he rebounds, he could be a Pro Bowl guard for the Ravens, which they sorely needed in the wake of Marshal Yanda's retirement.
Elsewhere, Baltimore didn't add very much, but it lost two dynamic edge rushers in Yannick Ngakoue and Matthew Judon. Unless the front office addresses this weakness in the early rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, getting to the quarterback could be an issue for the Ravens next year.
Cincinnati Bengals: B-
OT/G Riley Reiff, DE Trey Hendrickson, DT Larry Ogunjobi, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Mike Hilton, S Ricardo Allen.
QB Ryan Finley, RB Giovani Bernard, WR A.J. Green, WR John Ross, OT Bobby Hart, DE Carl Lawson, DT Geno Atkins, DT Christian Covington, CB William Jackson, CB Mackensie Alexander, K Randy Bullock.
The Bengals had a very even free agency period. They lost some key pieces of their roster, but they managed to adequately replace each player who departed.
Carl Lawson, William Jackson and Mackensie Alexander are the three biggest names on the departure list, but Cincinnati did a good job of filling their shoes, signing Trey Hendrickson, Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton. Even Bobby Hart and Geno Atkins were replaced by Riley Reiff and Larry Ogunjobi.
While the Bengals were steady this spring, I expected more. They have a quarterback under a rookie contract, so they have the luxury of spending big now, yet they didn't really take advantage of it, aside from the Hendrickson signing.
Cleveland Browns: B+
DE Jadeveon Clowney, DE Takk McKinley, DT Malik Jackson, LB Anthony Walker, CB Troy Hill, S John Johnson.
DE Olivier Vernon, DE Adrian Clayborn, DT Sheldon Richardson, DT Larry Ogunjobi, LB B.J. Goodson, CB Terrance Marshall, CB Kevin Johnson, S Karl Joseph, S Andrew Sendejo.
Look carefully at the acquired and lost lists. Notice anything weird? Every single player who was added or departed is a defensive player! I don't think I've ever seen that in my 21 years of covering the NFL.
The most prominent names on the acquired grouping are Troy Hill and John Johnson. The Browns had issues defending the pass last year, so it made sense for them to focus on the secondary. They'll definitely be better in that regard. Elsewhere, they'll be about even, save for linebacker. Perhaps Cleveland will target this position early in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Browns did a fine job of improving their roster overall. Under normal circumstances, they could take the next step and advance to the Super Bowl, but that would require going through a determined Patrick Mahomes.
Pittsburgh Steelers: F
RB Kalen Ballage, OT Joe Haeg, C B.J. Finney, CB Arthur Maulet, S Miles Killebrew.
RB James Conner, TE Vance McDonald, OT Alejandro Vilanueva, G Matt Feiler, C Maurkice Pouncey, OLB Bud Dupree, LB Avery Williamson, CB Steven Nelson, CB Mike Hilton, S Sean Davis.
I can't grade the Packers and Steelers any differently. Like Green Bay, Pittsburgh lost three starting offensive linemen this offseason and failed to replace any of them. This is far from ideal for Ben Roethlisberger, who will advance in the twilight of his career with pedestrian blocking in front of him.
Additionally, the Steelers' defense took a hit. The pass rush will be permanently worse with Bud Dupree gone, while the secondary lost two starters in Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton. Neither player was replaced.
Given how bad Pittsburgh's free agency period was, I don't think I'll be predicting the team to make the playoffs in 2021. In fact, if Joe Burrow is healthy, the Steelers have a good chance of finishing last in the AFC North.
2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: NFC South
Atlanta Falcons: D
QB A.J. McCarron, RB Mike Davis, TE Lee Smith, OLB Barkevious Mingo, CB Fabian Moreau, S Duron Harmon, S Erik Harris, KR Cordarrelle Patterson.
RB Todd Gurley, RB Ito Smith, C Alex Mack, DE Charles Harris, CB Darqueze Dennard, S Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, S Ricardo Allen.
Given that the Falcons had severe financial problems entering free agency, it's a miracle they signed anyone. The front office managed to poach Mike Davis away from rival Carolina. Davis figures to be a solid third-down back in his new home.
Otherwise, the Falcons didn't accomplish anything in free agency. They lost some key depth in their secondary, and they also parted ways with their center. Granted, Alex Mack is a regressing player, but Atlanta won't find anyone as good as him by the 2021 opener.
I understand the financial restrictions the Falcons had entering free agency, but I can't use that as an excuse. They'll be worse next year based on what transpired in March.
Carolina Panthers: C
QB Sam Darnold, WR David Moore, TE Dan Arnold, OT Cameron Erving, G Pat Elflein, DT DaQuan Jones, DT Morgan Fox, OLB Haason Reddick, LB Denzel Perryman, CB A.J. Bouye, CB Rashaan Melvin, S Delano Hill.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Mike Davis, FB Alex Armah, WR Curtis Samuel, TE Chris Manhertz, OT Russell Okung, G Chris Reed, G Michael Schofield, C Tyler Larsen, DE Stephen Weatherly, DT Kawann Short, LB Tahir Whitehead, CB Rasul Douglas, S Tre Boston.
The Panthers lost some talent this offseason. Curtis Samuel, Russell Okung and Kawann Short will all be significant losses. Despite this, the Panthers weren't able to properly replace them.
Linebacker was the one area Carolina upgraded, adding Haason Reddick and Denzel Perryman. The defense will be better as a consequence, but the offense will struggle. Despite trying, Carolina failed to upgrade its quarterback situation, while its offensive line will be worse unless help is obtained in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Carolina is a bit worse overall after free agency. Its plans went awry when Deshaun Watson was made unavailable as a result of his legal issues, but that can't really be factored into this grade.
New Orleans Saints: F
FB Alex Armah, TE Nick Vannett, DT Tanoh Kpassagnon.
QB Drew Brees, FB Michael Burton, WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Jared Cook, G Nick Easton, DE Trey Hendrickson, DT Sheldon Rankins, DT Malcom Brown, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Kwon Alexander, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Ken Crawley, S D.J. Swearinger, P Thomas Morstead.
The Saints had the worst cap situation in the NFL entering free agency this spring. They obviously weren't going to be able to sign anyone significant, and they were also bound to incur several key losses. As you can see, their roster will be weaker as a result.
Despite the financial issues, the Saints gave Jameis Winston way too much money for 2021, and they also franchised a safety. Marcus Williams is a terrific player, but given how deep the safety class is in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Saints would have been better off finding a rookie to replace him in an attempt to free up more money. Then again, it wouldn't even matter if they didn't give a backup quarterback so many funds to begin with.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A+
RB Giovani Bernard.
C A.Q. Shipley.
The Buccaneers had numerous key players entering free agency. Surely, they were going to lose some of them. With huge talents like Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, Shaq Barrett, Antonio Brown, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette set to enter the open market, Tampa was going to have issues retaining everyone.
And yet, almost everyone has returned. The only exception is Brown, who is likely to re-sign as well. It's amazing that the Buccaneers were able to keep everyone. They didn't sign a new player, but they didn't need to because, aside from Brown at the moment, they didn't lose anyone of significance. That earns them an easy A+.
2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC South
Houston Texans: F
QB Tyrod Taylor, QB Ryan Finley, RB Phillip Lindsay, RB Mark Ingram, WR Chris Conley, WR Alex Erickson, WR Chris Moore, TE Ryan Izzo, OT Marcus Cannon, G Lane Taylor, G Cole Toner, C Justin Britt, DE Shaq Lawson, DT DeMarcus Walker, DT Maliek Collins, DT Vincent Taylor, DT Jaleel Johnson, OLB Jordan Jenkins, LB Christian Kirksey, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Neville Hewitt, LB Joe Thomas, LB Tae Davis, CB Terrance Mitchell, S Desmond King, S Terrence Brooks, P Cameron Johnston, KR Andre Roberts.
RB Duke Johnson, WR Will Fuller, G Zach Fulton, C Nick Martin, DT J.J. Watt, DT Carlos Watkins, OLB Brennan Scarlett, CB Gareon Conley, P Bryan Anger.
The Texans earned an F- in this spot last year, and yet this offseason may have been even worse. Obviously, Deshaun Watson is the ultimate lowlight. The Texans had an opportunity to trade Watson for three first-round picks and extra compensation, but that's now off the table in the wake of his legal issues.
Watson aside, the Texans jettisoned tons of talent, including Will Fuller and J.J. Watt. In return, they signed a bunch of scrubs, many of whom they overpaid. I don't know what they were thinking by handing out relatively large contracts to Tyrod Taylor, Mark Ingram and Christian Kirksey.
Free agency wasn't a total bust because Houston made some nice acquisitions like Phillip Lindsay and Jordan Jenkins, but this team is just a disaster right now.
Indianapolis Colts: B
QB Carson Wentz, OT Eric Fisher, OT Sam Tevi, OT Julie'n Davenport, G Chris Reed, DT Isaac Rochell, S Sean Davis.
QB Philip Rivers, QB Jacoby Brissett, TE Trey Burton, OT Anthony Castonzo, DE Justin Houston, DT Denico Autry, LB Anthony Walker, CB T.J. Carrie, S Malik Hooker.
The Colts needed to find a solution at quarterback for the second offseason in a row. They signed Philip Rivers last year, but the aging signal-caller had an uneven season, often struggling to connect with T.Y. Hilton. Rivers retired, so Indianapolis traded for Carson Wentz. The former Eagle is coming off his worst season, so the Colts were able to buy him at a low price.
Indianapolis didn't sign any major players otherwise, but the front office did a great job of retaining some of its star talents. The Colts' offseason should be deemed a success for that reason, but it can't be a total win because the front office had tons of money to spend, yet didn't do so outside of the Wentz trade. Not trying to replace Anthony Castonzo could have some ramifications if a new left tackle isn't obtained early in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A
QB C.J. Beathard, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Marvin Jones, WR Phillip Dorsett, TE Chris Manhertz, TE Tim Tebow, DT Roy Robertson-Harris, DT Malcom Brown, DT Jihad Ward, CB Shaq Griffin, S Rayshawn Jenkins, S Rudy Ford, KR Jamal Agnew.
WR Dede Westbrook, WR Keelan Cole, TE Tyler Eifert, TE Josh Oliver, DT Abry Jones, CB D.J. Hayden.
The Jaguars had the most money available entering free agency. They're also going to have a quarterback under a rookie deal for the next four years, so this was the perfect opportunity to go on a big, albeit responsible spending spree. Jacksonville did just that.
Trevor Lawrence will provide a huge boost to the offense, so it made sense that most of Jacksonville's prominent signings were used on the other side of the ball. The Jaguars acquired two big upgrades to the secondary, Shaq Griffin and Rayshawn Jenkins. Roy Robertson-Harris was obtained to bolster the defensive line. These three players will make sure the Jaguars won't have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, which was the case last year.
The Jaguars also upgraded their receiving corps with Marvin Jones, which was essential because that group didn't have a veteran presence. Lawrence has to love this, as Jacksonville did a great job of putting him in position to win right away.
Tennessee Titans: D
RB Brrian Hill, WR Josh Reynolds, OT Kendall Lamm, DE Denico Autry, OLB Bud Dupree, CB Janoris Jenkins, CB Kevin Johnson.
WR Corey Davis, WR Adam Humphries, TE Jonnu Smith, OT Dennis Kelly, DT DaQuan Jones, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, CB Malcolm Butler, CB Adoree Jackson, CB Tye Smith, S Desmond King, S Kenny Vaccaro, K Stephen Gostkowski.
The Titans had an excellent offense last year, but their defense couldn't stop anyone. Their task this offseason was to bolster the stop unit, which is something the front office didn't do for the most part.
The one exception is Bud Dupree, though he was overpaid. Dupree had never enjoyed a great season when not in a contract year, plus he's coming off an injury, so he was a major risk. Meanwhile, two cornerbacks were signed - Janoris Jenkins, Kevin Johnson - yet they were worse than the two cornerbacks Tennessee lost in free agency (Malcolm Butler, Adoree Jackson.)
Tennessee didn't do much to help its offense either, which will be worse because of the departures of coordinator Arthur Smith, plus Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith and Dennis Kelly. As you can tell, the Titans' free agency period was a huge disappointment.
2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: NFC West
Arizona Cardinals: A
QB Colt McCoy, RB James Conner, WR A.J. Green, G Brian Winters, C Rodney Hudson, DT J.J. Watt, CB Malcolm Butler, S Shawn Williams, K Matt Prater.
RB Kenyan Drake, WR Larry Fitzgerald, TE Dan Arnold, OT Marcus Gilbert, G J.R. Sweezy, C Mason Cole, LB Haasan Reddick, LB De'Vondre Campbell, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, CB Johnathan Joseph, K Zane Gonzalez.
The Cardinals signed some big names, though all of them would've been far better as acquisitions several years ago. A.J. Green, Rodney Hudson, J.J. Watt and Malcolm Butler were better in the past, though most of them will still help Arizona reach the playoffs.
Hudson, in particular, was a great addition. The Cardinals traded for him, but got a great deal from the Raiders. He'll bolster Kyler Murray's protection in the middle of the offensive line, which is huge. Watt and Butler will aid the defense. I'm not too high on Green, but the Cardinals don't really need him to produce, given the other talent at the position.
The Cardinals deserve to be graded highly for what they did this offseason. They play in the toughest division in the NFL, so they needed to strengthen their roster to compete with the rebounding 49ers, improving Rams and Russell Wilson-led Seahawks. They did just that with bargain signings and trades.
Los Angeles Rams: B-
QB Matthew Stafford, WR DeSean Jackson.
QB Jared Goff, RB Malcolm Brown, WR Josh Reynolds, TE Gerald Everett, C Austin Blythe, DE Morgan Fox, DT Michael Brockers, OLB Samson Ebukam, CB Troy Hill, S John Johnson.
The Rams weren't in a position to add anyone in free agency because of Jared Goff's albatross of a contract. Fortunately, they were able to get rid of it. They gave up some draft capital to move Goff to the Lions, receiving Matthew Stafford in exchange. Stafford has an extensive injury history, but when healthy, he's a far better quarterback than Goff. He gives the Rams a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl. He won't forget his own snap count in a big moment.
Unfortunately, the Rams lost a couple of key pieces to their secondary, with Troy Hill and John Johnson signing elsewhere. The Rams' defense will be worse as a result, but this was still a fine offseason for them because they were able to upgrade the most important position in football.
San Francisco 49ers: B+
QB Nate Sudfeld, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Mohamed Sanu, C Alex Mack, DE Arden Key, DT Maurice Hurst, OLB Samson Ebukam, LB Nate Gerry, S Tavon Wilson.
RB Jerick McKinnon, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Jordan Reed, C Ben Garland, DE Kerry Hyder, DE Solomon Thomas, CB Richard Sherman, CB Ahkello Witherspoon.
The 49ers suffered countless injuries last year. Unless they endure the same misfortune in 2021, they'll rebound with a potential deep playoff run. A new quarterback will help, but the 49ers did some key things in free agency to help as well.
The big signing was Alex Mack. The former Falcon declined a bit last year, but he's still a very good pivot, and he'll be a big upgrade on the offensive line.
Otherwise, the 49ers didn't land any impact players, but they at least were able to re-sign many of their own free agents. They lost some known names, but no one who will be greatly missed, save for Richard Sherman. He can be replaced early in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Seattle Seahawks: B-
TE Gerald Everett, G Gabe Jackson, DE Aldon Smith, DE Kerry Hyder, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, CB Pierre Desir.
RB Carlos Hyde, WR Josh Gordon, WR David Moore, TE Greg Olsen, TE Jacob Hollister, G Mike Iupati, DT Jarran Reed, OLB Bruce Irvin, LB K.J. Wright, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Shaq Griffin, CB Quinton Dunbar.
Russell Wilson openly complained about his offensive line for the first time. The Seahawks didn't sign a blocker, but they traded for one with the Raiders. They acquired Gabe Jackson, who figures to be a monstrous upgrade at guard. If Seattle spends an early pick on another lineman, Wilson will be thrilled.
That said, this offseason wasn't all positive for the Seahawks. They lost their top two cornerbacks and managed to find only the inconsistent Ahkello Witherspoon as a replacement. The pass rush wasn't really addressed either, which was a mistake. Still, the fact that Seattle finally addressed its poor blocking makes it so it can't possibly receive a low mark.
2021 NFL Free Agent Team Grades: AFC West
Denver Broncos: B+
QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Mike Boone, OT Bobby Massie, OT DT Shamar Stephen, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Ronald Darby.
RB Phillip Lindsay, OT Ja'Wuan James, OT Demar Dotson, DT Jurrell Casey, DT DeMarcus Walker, DT Elijah Wilkinson, OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, CB A.J. Bouye, S Will Parks.
The Broncos didn't sign many players in free agency, but they made their acquisitions count. Cornerback was a big issue for them last year, so they fixed their problem at the position by signing Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby. The latter will be a solid player for Denver if he can stay healthy. Fuller will be great, especially when considering his familiarity with Vic Fangio's defense.
Denver lost some starters in free agency, though no one is irreplaceable. Many of the departed players were either old or injury-prone, so if the Broncos draft well, they won't miss anyone who left.
Kansas City Chiefs: B+
RB Jerick McKinnon, FB Mike Burton, TE Blake Bell, G Joe Thuney, G Kyle Long, C Austin Blythe, DT Jarran Reed, CB Mike Hughes, S Will Parks.
RB Le'veon Bell, RB Damien Williams, FB Anthony Sherman, WR Sammy Watkins, OT Eric Fisher, OT Mitchell Schwartz, C Austin Reiter, C Daniel Kilgore, DE Alex Okafor, DT Tanoh Kpassagnon, DT Mike Pennel, LB Damien Wilson, CB Baushad Breeland.
The Chiefs didn't get off to a good start in free agency. They cut both their tackles, which seemed like a grave mistake after what transpired in the Super Bowl. Patrick Mahomes' blocking was atrocious versus the Buccaneers, and it seemed as though things would remain that way in 2021.
That, however, was just a temporary concern because the Chiefs made some nice upgrades to the offensive line. They signed one of the top players in free agency, Joe Thuney, who can play everywhere up front. Kyle Long and Austin Blythe were nice additions as well. Tackle help is still needed, but the Chiefs can address that area in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Aside from the offensive line, nothing really happened. The Chiefs made a decent signing by obtaining Jarran Reed, but that's about it. Still, it's nice that Kansas City was able to strengthen its interior blocking. Assuming a tackle is found in the 2021 NFL Draft, this offseason will be seen as a success.
Las Vegas Raiders: F
RB Kenyan Drake, WR John Brown, WR Willie Snead, C Nick Martin, DE Yannick Ngakoue, DE Solomon Thomas, DT Quinton Jefferson, CB Casey Hayward, CB Rasul Douglas, S Karl Joseph.
WR Nelson Agholor, WR Tyrell Williams, TE Jason Witten, OT Trent Brown, G Gabe Jackson, C Rodney Hudson, DE Arden Key, DE Takk McKinley, DT Maurice Hurst, OLB Vic Beasley, S Erik Harris, S Lamarcus Joyner, S Jeff Heath.
I have no idea what Mike Mayock is doing. He somehow failed to recognize that his previously stout offensive line was the reason why his team was competitive in recent years despite Derek Carr's mediocrity. He was willing to cut more than half of his blocking unit even though other teams were willing to sign some of the players in question. Mayock opted to cut Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson, only to have the Cardinals and Seahawks call him for those respective players. Somehow, Mayock had no idea what he even possessed on his own roster.
The Raiders were able to at least re-sign Richie Incognito, but they lost Hudson, Jackson and Trent Brown (via another trade.) Their offensive line is in shambles, which means this free agency period is automatically a failure. I loved the Yannick Ngakoue acquisition, and signing John Brown was nice, but the Raiders must be given an "F" because they won't be competitive with their current blocking unit.
San Angeles Chargers: A
QB Chase Daniel, TE Jared Cook, G Matt Feiler, G Oday Aboushi, C Corey Linsley, DT Christian Covington.
QB Tyrod Taylor, TE Hunter Henry, OT Sam Tevi, G Trai Turner, G Forrest Lamp, G Dan Feeney, C Mike Pouncey, DT Isaac Rochell, OLB Melvin Ingram, LB Denzel Perryman, CB Casey Hayward, S Rayshawn Jenkins, S Jahleel Addae.
I love what the Chargers did this offseason. They have a second-year quarterback playing under a rookie contract, so they made sure to spend big money on blocking help. The offensive line betrayed Justin Herbert at times in 2020, but that won't be the case moving forward.
Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler were both excellent additions. If the Chargers find a solid left tackle early in the 2021 NFL Draft, and if Bryan Bulaga can remain healthy, they'll have one of the top blocking units in the NFL, which will make them a potential sleeper for Super Bowl contention.
Elsewhere, the Chargers lost some talent on defense that they also must replenish through the draft, but I still love their free agency haul enough to give them an "A" grade.
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