NFL Free Agency Grades
This was a slightly above average offseason so far for the Cardinals. While the Cards lost the big man on the line (Darnell Dockett) and Antonio Cromartie in the secondary, it frees up some cap space for Arizona while allowing for the injection of some youth into the team. Bringing in players like Lamarr Woodley and Sean Weatherspoon beefs up the linebacking core after a year riddled with injuries. Bringing back Larry Fitzgerald was also a pretty smart move. All-in-all, this was a pretty good free agency period for Arizona.
The Falcons got the right man for the job when they hired Dan Quinn as their new head coach. The defensive-minded guy has already made some prime moves. The release of Steven Jackson and Harry Douglas were somewhat shocking but necessary moves to help the team sign more middle-of-the-road players. Bringing in players like Justin Durant, Jacob Tamme, Leonard Hankerson, and Brooks Reeds gives the Falcons immediate, veteran contributors on both sides of the ball.
The Ravens took some tough blows this offseason. Baltimore was able to bring back key contributors like Justin Forsett and Chris Canty, but they lost some big names. The Ravens were forced to trade away Haloti Ngata to the Lions, which will be a big loss to their defense. Losing other players like Owen Daniels, Jacoby Jones, and Torrey Smith will also hurt the offensive production in 2015. Not to mention, another Raven running back was recently arrested this offseason. The Ravens are having a tough offseason.
I really like the Rex Ryan fit in Buffalo. That defensive line probably had Sexy Rexy foaming at the mouth to coach again. Not to mention, sending away an injured linebacker for one of the five best running backs in the NFL is a pretty damn smart move by the front office. Adding Percy Harvin and Charles Clay to that offense now gives the team some explosiveness on that side of the ball. However, the quarterback situation still remains a question mark with Matt Cassel expected to compete to be the starter.
The Panthers didn't make any particularly flashy moves in free agency, but they did help improve their team subtly. Bringing back tight end Greg Olson greatly helps Cam Newton and his continuing progression as an NFL passer. Adding Michael Oher to that offensive line and Ted Ginn Jr. to the receiving core will also be some added production to the team and more help for Newton. The removal of DeAngelo Williams from the team will also assist the Panthers in their pursuit for a return to the playoffs because of all the money they will save from not having him.
The Bengals were another team that quietly made strong free agency moves. The Bengals were able to make a bunch of key re-signings, but none were more important than the return of middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. Adding AJ Hawk and Michael Johnson to the defense for the cost of almost nothing brings two immediate, veteran contributors to the team. Cincy impressed this offseason, but they still need to win a playoff game.
I think John Fox is a decent pickup for the Bears, simply because he is a coach that has had winning experience before. Beyond that though, the signing was not too impressive. I was also blindsided when the Bears traded away Brandon Marshall to the Jets for practically nothing, a move that will only hurt Jay Cutler's performance. The Bears did make some wise pick-ups though. Adding Eddie Royal and Antrelle Rolle are two players that will be difference makers on both sides of the ball in the passing game. The Bears still have a lot of work to do to improve though.
Cleveland had a successful free agency period also, considering that they signed a number of players that were previously starters on other teams. The Browns were able to greatly improve their wide receiver situation by adding Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline to the offense, two players that have had success at their positions previously. Signing Tramon Williams away from Green Bay further helps the Browns beef up a young, talented secondary. The quarterback question mark is still up in the air though now that Josh McCown has also been brought in to compete for the starting job. I do like what Cleveland has done so far though.
The amount of good players that the Cowboys lost this offseason would drive any fan crazy. However, the Cowboys are loaded with talent so they could afford some of these releases. DeMarco Murray was the big free agency release that the Cowboys made, but the offensive line could help new running back Darren McFadden get his career back on track. Finally, the re-signing of Dez Bryant was an amazing move. Dez has proven that he is a top three receiver in the NFL right now so that move was huge.
Gary Kubiak is a smart choice for the Broncos as a coach because the man's offensive mind will bring more balance to the team and help out Peyton Manning. Oh yeah, the return of Peyton Manning essentially means the return of the Broncos to the playoffs, for one more year at least... I think. Also, Demaryius Thomas's return is huge for the offense as well. However, the loss of Julius Thomas at tight end will inevitably hurt the Broncos next season when they want a big end zone target for Peyton.
The Lions didn't really make moves in terms of signing and releasing free agents, but Detroit made a big offseason splash nonetheless. The departures of Suh and Fairley will certainly hurt the strength of that defensive line. However, the addition of Haloti Ngata is massive and provides a level of talent to the unit that can almost match last season's production. The Lions gave away some golden gems, but got back some silver stones in return.
Green Bay Packers
I love everything that the Green Bay Packers did this offseason, except for two moves. The Packers brought back the key players they needed when they re-signed Cobb and Bulaga. 59 of the Packers' 60 players have never played a game for another team (Julius Peppers is the exception). Releasing Tramon Williams and AJ Hawk though resurfaces some defensive questions that the Packers were able to smother last season. The Packers can make a deep playoff push once again next year.
The Texans didn't lose any strong players in free agency and made some additions that will certainly help this young team flourish. The signing of Vincent Wilfork adds a veteran presence to the defense that can become a game-changer and a teacher to other players like Watt and Clowney. Cecil Shorts III coming to the offense was another great move, but it comes with a grain of salt because the Texans were forced to part ways with their all-time player, Andre Johnson. Houston is getting better.
Indy was able to make their presence felt in the NFL offseason for the second year in a row. Not only did the Colts steal Andre Johnson away from his old team, but they also added Frank Gore, Trent Cole, and Kendall Langford to this growing team. The Colts needed to rid themselves of Trent Richardson, which they did, allotting the team a chance to begin rebuilding at the running back posit
ion with veterans and young, late-round draft picks. That being said, much respect goes out to Reggie Wayne for a great career with Indy.
Nobody ever talks about assistant coaches, but bringing in Doug Marrone will definitely help the Jaguars in their never-ending rebuilding process. The only other big move that Jacksonville made was signing Julius Thomas, which is a brilliant choice in an effort to develop Blake Bortles into a great quarterback. Beyond that, Jacksonville has been exactly what we expected this offseason, nothing too interesting.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were an interesting bubble playoff team. I had high hopes for them last season, but they did not live up to those expectations. Departing with Anthony Fasano and Dwayne Bowe were head-scratching moves considering the offense only mustered 18 passing touchdowns last year. However, I love the Jeremy Maclin pickup and I am even more impressed with the Ben Grubbs signing. The Chiefs were able to bring in two top-flight players that I expect will give them the push they need to get back to the playoffs.
The Dolphins had the ultimate roller coaster offseason. The Phins started off poorly by sending away Charles Clay, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Randy Starks through trades and releases. However, Miami turned their fortunes around later in March by signing Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Cameron. This was a clear case of the football Gods closing a door and then opening a window. The Dolphins came out of this offseason as slight winners.
The Vikings haven't really done much in this free agency period. The names that the Vikings brought in are pretty small, and the re-signings they made were just alright. The most curious move they made was releasing Greg Jennings. While Jennings has been a disappointment, it doesn't hurt to keep him around now that they have added Mike Wallace to the group. That being said, I'm sure the money on his contract was too much to keep Patterson, Wallace, and Jennings.
New England Patriots
The Patriots lost a number of key players from their Super Bowl team. The departure of Darelle Revis, Vincent Wilfork, and Brandon Browner will definitely be felt next season. However, bringing back Devin McCourty for five years is the smartest move they could have made. McCourty has been the life-blood of this defense for as long as he has been there. The Patriots have, and will, survive this free agency period once again.
New York Giants
The Giants made a number of quiet moves in the free agency period thus far. Signing George Selvie not only adds a potent pass rusher to the defensive line but takes away a weapon from the Dallas Cowboys. Shane Vereen's addition to the offense could certainly fix the rushing attack that has been so abysmal the last few seasons. The Giants didn't get better, but the certainly aren't worse than they were before.
New York Jets
Todd Bowles is going to be a great fit for the Jets. I think Bowles can be one of the next great coaches in the NFL. He will do wonders for a defense that is once again stacked with Antonio Cromartie and Darelle Revis in the same secondary. Brandon Marshall's presence on the Jets will certainly help the offense improve in the passing game. Plus, Ryan Fitzpatrick provides the Jets with a quarterback that won't turn the ball over four times a game but rather just three, so they can improve. The Jets have killed it so far this offseason.
New Orleans Saints
There were fascinating moves made across the board by the Saints this offseason. The trading away of Ben Grubbs and Jimmy Graham shocked the NFL world. However, the pick up of multiple draft picks and one of the league's best centers in Max Unger certainly justify the moves. Brandon Browner and CJ Spiller will also be two veterans that will make a splash on both sides of the ball for the Saints. New Orleans needs to get back to the postseason, quickly. Saints fans are getting restless for another deep postseason run.
The Raiders have been making moves since free agency started, but they have been ignored by flashier transactions in the league. The Raiders lost a number of players who had high hopes: Darren McFadden, Matt Schaub, Lamarr Woodley, and others. There is some hope that Trent Richardson could revitalize his career in Oakland, but that is just another in a long-line of low-risk/high-reward moves that the Raiders are used to making.
Can you say quack? The Eagles are the biggest story of this offseason so far. The birds traded away a top flight running back for an injured linebacker and then traded for another injured quarterback. Furthermore, the Eagles let great players like Trent Cole and Jeremy Maclin walk to other teams. That being said, the addition of DeMarco Murray makes this offseason somewhat of a success if you ask me. However, the overall moves made by Philly have confused me.
The most important move that was made by Pittsburgh was the announcement of Dick Lebeau's retirement from the team. Lebeau has been one of the best defensive coordinators of all time. His presence on the team will be missed, without a doubt. Beyond that, things are looking good for the Steelers. Pittsburgh was able to re-sign Roethlisberger and even added DeAngelo Williams to the team.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers are definitely going to be hurt by the retirement of Nick Hardwick along an offensive line that is in the middle of rebuilding. That being said, the other moves the Chargers made this offseason have been solid. The additions of Stevie Johnson and Orlando Franklin provide the offense with new weapons that are familiar with opponents within their division. Add on top of that the re-signing of Brandon Flowers, you have one respectable offseason.
San Francisco 49ers
This has got to be one of the worst offseasons for any team in any sport on any level... ever! The 49ers parted ways with their head coach and also lost their two great middle linebackers to retirement. Furthermore, Frank Gore, Stevie Johnson, and Michael Crabtree leaving the team will certainly make this offense worse. The 49ers are going to S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E next season.
St. Louis Rams
I think the Rams finally have their franchise quarterback now that they traded away Sam Bradford and brought in Nick Foles. Foles will learn to be a good quarterback under a great coach like Jeff Fisher. Also, putting Nick Fairley on one of the NFL's best defensive fronts is going to make the Rams that much more difficult to deal with in the NFC. Watch out for the Rams.
The Seahawks took a step back from a coaching perspective because they lost their offensive and defensive coordinators to head coaching positions. However, the players that the Seahawks brought in make up for them. Seattle was able to bring back Marshawn Lynch temporarily. Also, bringing in Jimmy Graham adds a weapon in the passing game that these Seahawks have never had before. Seattle might have just reloaded on another Super Bowl run.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa made some questionable moves this offseason. Releasing players like Michael Johnson, Dashon Goldson, and Adrian Clayborn almost counteract all the offseason moves the Bucs made last season. The bright spot for this team though is that they have the first pick in the draft, so the future has some hope. Tampa Bay still continues to struggle though this offseason.
The Titans lost some good offensive linemen to free agency and retirement, but improved almost everywhere else on the team. Placing Dick LeBeau on the coaching staff will help the defense a lot, along with the Brain Orakpo signing. However, the retirement of Jake Locker continues to perpetuate the question: what are the Titans going to do at quarterback?
The Redskins are still building. Losing Brian Orakpo isn't going to help that already atrocious defense. Also, the quarterback situation still baffles the teams' fans. The biggest move that the Redskins have made this year has been the addition of Chris Culliver and Terrance Knighton to the defense. Washington still stinks though, long story short.