Unlike with the MLB offseason, free agency moved incredibly quick in the NFL. Within the first two days, practically every key free agent had signed; it’s safe to assume that each team’s big spending is behind them. With that, let’s review how each team made out during this period, giving each team a grade for their efforts. We’ll go in alphabetical order by city.
Though their main focus lies with the #1 pick, the Cardinals still needed to attack holes in free agency in order to build a foundation under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Though Kingsbury is an offensive-minded coach, most of the moves made by the team were about strengthening the defense. In comes middle linebacker Jordan Hicks on a four-year deal worth $36 million. Though the 26-year-old has dealt with durability concerns recently, he’s one of the game’s best middle linebackers when healthy. Edge rushers Terrell Suggs and Brooks Reed bring a veteran presence to the defense, and also gives the team flexibility to not have to pursue that position in the draft. Corner Robert Alford is overpaid at three years and $24 million, but interior defender Darius Philon is a tremendous addition on a two-year deal. On offense, tight end Charles Clay (one-year deal) is a serviceable option when healthy, while JR Sweezy, Marcus Gilbert and Max Garcia all add depth on the offensive line. Though a greater pursuit of offensive talent would have been ideal, Arizona did an excellent job building what looks to be an above average defense, allowing them to target offensive talent in the draft.
Grade: 9/10 (A-)
After franchise tagging interior defensive lineman Grady Jarrett, the Falcons had practically zero money to spend in free agency. They did make two small deals, however, signing guards Jamon Brown and James Carpenter to beef up the offensive line. With both receiving multi-year contracts, it’s safe to say Atlanta may have gone a little overboard with those two. Those were the best options to fill a weakness, however, since Jarrett’s cap hit of over $15 million from the franchise tag is weighing down the team’s budget. $15 million was the max Jarrett was ever going to get on a multi-year deal; it doesn’t make sense for the Falcons to stall on an extension. Instead, Atlanta is left paying below average offensive lineman starter money while not filling holes at edge rusher and linebacker.
Grade: 7/10 (C-)
Very few teams had as conflicting of a free agency period as the Ravens. The initial wave of free agency saw starters Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, and CJ Mosley all leave, decimating a strong Baltimore defense. However, the team recovered; they signed safety Earl Thomas to a four-year contract worth $55 million and running back Mark Ingram to a three-year contract worth $15 million. Thomas may be coming off a torn ACL, but he’s long been one of the league’s best defensive players. There are concerns with Ingram given his age and diminished production last season, but he at least in an upgrade over anyone the Ravens had in the backfield. The team also re-signed tight end Nick Boyle to a three-year contract, which is a head-scratching move considering they drafted two tight ends in Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst last season, but Boyle’s blocking at least helps strengthen the running game. The best move Baltimore has made so far is without a doubt trading Joe Flacco to the Broncos; they add a fourth-round pick, clear his $18.5 million cap hit, and are able to officially start the Lamar Jackson era. Though not a perfect offseason, the Ravens were able to avoid disaster, and that in itself is a win.
Grade: 8/10 (B-)
With their franchise quarterback in place with Josh Allen, the Bills knew that they had to give the 22-year-old support in order to develop properly. They did just that, signing center Mitch Morse to a a four year deal worth $44 million and recievers John Brown and Cole Beasley to multi-year contracts as well. Morse was the anchor of a strong Chiefs offensive line last season, and will benefit Buffalo’s weak offensive line tremendously. He’s also terrific in pass protection, which is critical considering Allen has the tenedncy to hold onto the football too long. Meanwhile, Brown is a terrific vertical threat for Allen, and Beasley is a solid safety target, though both are probably slightly overpaid. Offensive lineman Ty Nsekhe was a solid acquisition a two-year deal, as were cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and EJ Gaines on one-year deals. The Bills didn’t go delirious in free agency, but they set up the framework for success in the future by putting Allen in a better postion to succeed.
Grade: 8.75/10 (B+)
Though the Panthers cannot control how healthy Cam Newton’s shoulder is, they still needed to make a concentrated effort to keep him upright if he is able to play this season. That’s exactly what they did; they brought in center Matt Paradis on a three-year deal and re-signed Daryl Williams for one season. Paradis ranked as the second-best center last season, according to Pro Football Focus, while Williams had been one of the game’s better tackles before missing most of last season due to injury; Carolina will be much better in the offensive trenches next season. Bringing back safety Eric Reid on a three-year deal was smart, and Bruce Irvin is a decent addition as a rotational pass rusher. Still, Carolina was thin on cap space, and they probably should have opened more up by not picking up Torrey Smith’s option after a lackluster season. Some holes remain, but Carolina did a great job achieving its main objective.
Grade: 8.5/10 (B)
After trading for Khalil Mack and signing him to a monster contract, the Bears headed into free agency thin on both free agent and draft capital. That forced them to part ways with both slot corner Bryce Callahan and safety Adrian Amos; they signed elsewhere in free agency. Chicago moved quickly to replace both of them; they signed safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix to a one year deal worth $3.5 million and cornerback Buster Skrine to a three-year contract worth $16.5 million. Clinton-Dix is an above average safety, so getting him on such an affordable contract is incredible for Chicago. Skrine, however, has constantly graded horribly by Pro Football Focus and is definitely not an adequate replacement for Callahan. Cordarrelle Patterson is arguably the best returner in football and could also be an effective weapon on offense for head coach Matt Nagy, so signing him to a two-year contract makes perfect sense. After trading running back Jordan Howard to the Eagles in a questionable move that netted them just a swap of late-round picks, Chicago did make up for signing running back Mike Davis, who was solid for the Seahawks last season. The Bears definitely made some curious decisions, but they also did a good job replacing departed players, making this free agency period essentially a wash as far as grades are concerned.
Grade: 8/10 (B-)
The Bengals did a nice job bringing back corner Darqueze Dennard on a one-year deal; he was one of the few bright spots of their defense last season. At least they made one logical move, because the rest was atrocious. Despite being one of the worst tackles in football, Bobby Hart managed to land a three-year deal worth $21 million from the team. Meanwhile, Cincinnati also re-signed tight end CJ Uzomah and linebacker Preston Brown to three-year contracts, yet neither were productive last season. Re-signing tight end Tyler Eifert on a one-year deal is fine value, but at some point, the Bengals are going to have to move on from the 28-year-old. To top it all off, what was the team thinking giving guard John Miller and cornerback BW Webb three-year deals? This was a catastrophic offseason for the Bengals, who seemed to be changing their identity under head coach Zac Taylor, only to continue to make the same mistakes. The only thing holding this back from being an “F” is the Dennard signing.
Grade: 6/10 (D-)
The Browns made the biggest splash of all during the free agency period, but it was a trade; the team acquired star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and pass rusher Olivier Vernon from the Giants in exchange for their 2019 first round and third round selections, safety Jabrill Peppers, and guard Kevin Zeitler. Beckham Jr. is an elite receiver that rarely comes along via the trade market, and the move makes sense for Cleveland considering quarterback Baker Mayfield is on his rookie contract. Though I’m not a fan in trading Zeitler, Vernon is a solid pass rusher that should be an excellent complement to Myles Garrett. Speaking of the defensive line, the team also signed interior defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson to a three-year contract. With 4.5 sacks and a 72.7 grade from Pro Football Focus last season, he’s a major upgrade alongside Larry Ogunjobi along the defensive interior. The team also made some solid depth signings and letting go of linebacker Jamie Collins and his massive salary was a smart decision. This has been a terrific offseason for the Browns, and if they can replace Peppers and Collins, it will be a perfect one.
Grade: 9.5/10 (A)
The Cowboys were very quiet in free agency; their cap space is tied to signing edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence (5 years, $105 million) and other key young players to long-term contracts. The team did find a replacement for slot receiver Cole Beasley, however, signing Randall Cobb to a one-year contract. The 28-year-old is productive when on the field, so as long as he stays healthy, he’ll be well worth the investment. It’s hard to analyze the team bringing back tight end Jason Witten, who had retired in the previous offseason, but at the very least he’ll be a veteran presence for this young team. Depth moves to sign the versatile Tavon Austin, offensive tackle Cameron Fleming, edge rusher Kerry Hyder, and defensive lineman Christian Covington are all terrific, zero risk moves that should help the team if injuries present themselves. Also, acquiring edge rusher Robert Quinn from the Dolphins and reworking his contract could also pay dividends; the Cowboys relied too much on young, unreliable pass rushers last season. This was a quite free agency period for the Cowboys, the team made some smart signings and was able to retain Lawrence.
Grade: 9/10 (A-)
To “solve” their quarterback issues, the Broncos acquired Joe Flacco from the Ravens in exchange for a fourth-round pick. There’s a major caveat in that, however; Flacco isn’t much of an upgrade, if any, from previous quarterback Case Keenum. The 34-year-old posted very similar numbers to Keenum in terms of Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A) and quarterback rating and comes at a higher salary. The smarter move would have been to draft a quarterback and hold onto Keenum, who the team traded to the Redskins for a swap of late-round selections. John Elway is clearly trying to find a veteran stopgap in attempt to continue to make a playoff push, but there’s a problem: the rest of this roster isn’t very good either. There’s a lot of risk in signing cornerback Kareem Jackson to a three-year contract when he’s already 30-years-old, and it’s strange that the team signed another nickel corner in Bryce Callahan. Ju’Wuan James is a major upgrade at right tackle, but he’s inconsistent, and the team made very few moves to fill other needs or to add some depth. It’s unclear what Elway is doing; he refuses to go all-in towards winning or towards rebuilding and continues to hang in the purgatory that is known as mediocrity.
Grade: 6.75 (D+)
After looking back on what they’ve done in free agency, it’s clear the Lions were aggressive in building the team the way head coach Matt Patricia wanted it to look like. In comes edge rusher Trey Flowers, who the team signed to a five-year contract. Ranked as the 6th best edge defender with the versatility to play on the inside or outside, he’s a perfect fit in Patricia’s scheme, who coached Flowers as New England’s defensive coordinator. Sticking with the defense, Detroit also signed nickel corner Justin Coleman to a four-year contract, who is a significantly better option than the team’s previous nickel corner Nevin Lawson, who the team cut after signing Coleman. Tight end Jesse James (5 years, $23 million) and receiver Danny Amendola (1 year, $5 million) are slightly overpaid but should give Matt Stafford more weapons to utilize on offense. Though they were a little reckless, the Lions made some sound moves to build a defense to their head coach’s vision and to add some reliable targets on offense.
Grade: 8.5/10 (B)
Green Bay Packers
After years of sitting out free agency, the Packers made several big signing this offseason to solidify their defense. Adrian Amos, one of the game’s best young safeties, was signed on a four-year contract and fills a major hole at the back-end of the defense. His impact will be huge for Green Bay. Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith were also brought in on four-year deals to fortify the pass rush, and although both probably are probably not worth the contracts they signed, they complement one another with different, unique skill sets. Billy Turner was also paid probably too much on a four-year contract worth $21 million, but he’s at least a flexible piece on a weak Packers offensive line. Green Bay was a little too aggressive in pursuing outside talent; they overpaid for everyone outside of Amos. Still, their defense looks much improved from last season, which is crucial for the team as they try to build a winner around Aaron Rodgers. Plus, the team is now able to pursue offensive talent in the draft with their two first-round picks.
Grade: 8.5/10 (B)
Armed with nearly $70 million in cap space, the Texans looked primed to be aggressive in free agency. At the very least, the team was expected to re-sign their key defensive players (Tyrann Mathieu, Kareem Jackson) and add some offensive line depth. They did neither. Houston let Mathieu leave to the Chiefs and Jackson leave to the Broncos and found their replacements in safety Tashaun Gipson (3 years, $22 million) and cornerback Bradley Roby (1 year, $10 million). The problem is, that’s definitely a downgrade from what they previously had. Plus, the only move they made to improve the offensive line was to add Matt Kalil on a one year, $7.5 million contracts, but he’s been so bad recently that him being on the team may be a downgrade in itself. Quarterback AJ McCarron and cornerback Briean Boddy Calhoun were solid depth signings, but they don’t make up for what was a failure of an offseason for Houston.
Grade: 6/10 (D-)
Despite having the most cap space heading into free agency, general manager Chris Ballard restrained from making any huge signings. He did, however, make a few smart signings that should help the team tremendously. That starts with the addition of edge rusher Justin Houston on a two-year deal worth $24 million, who still is a very effective pass rusher. Next was the signing of Devin Funchess on a one-year deal, which gives quarterback Andrew Luck the big body target he previously had been lacking. Indianapolis also managed to re-sign their key free agents, retaining cornerback Pierre Desir on a three-year contract and safety Clayton Geathers on a one-year contract; both were extremely productive last season and are key parts of the defense. Though some may argue that the Colts should have been more aggressive in free agency, they filled most of their glaring holes, kept their pending free agents, and continue to have the flexibility to make a move down the line if needed. As Ballard said prior to free agency, building a winner comes from the draft, not from going crazy in free agency.
Grade: 9.5/10 (A)
The Jaguars made the move that everyone expected them to make; they signed quarterback Nick Foles. What no one expected was for them to pay such a substantial price for him, as he’ll make at least $88 million over the four years of this contract. Considering that it’s unclear that Foles had any other bidders, the size of this contract is puzzling, to say the least, and it forced Jacksonville to part with multiple defensive veterans. That also took up the majority of their cap space, so the rest of the contracts given were minor signings to below average players to add some depth to a thin roster. Whether Foles is equipped to being the team’s franchise quarterback is one thing, but this contract hampers the team now and in the future, and when they didn’t have to pay Foles the amount they did, the contract should have been one that was more team-friendly.
Grade: 7/10 (C-)
Kansas City Chiefs
Falling just short of the Super Bowl after losing in overtime due to a lackluster defense, the Chiefs were expected to add multiple players to solidify that unit. Instead, they subtracted to a degree; they traded edge rusher Dee Ford to the 49ers for a 2020 second round pick, cut edge rusher Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry, and lost cornerback Steven Nelson in free agency. Losing Ford and Houston are likely due to them switching to a 4-3 scheme under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, but those two losses severely damage the team’s pass rush. Signing defensive end Alex Okafor helps but he had only 4 sacks last season; there is more work to be done despite also acquiring Emmanuel Ogbah from the Browns. Berry’s cap hit was too large for a player who played 3 games in the past two seasons, and releasing him allowed the team to sign safety Tyrann Mathieu to a three-year contract worth $42 million. Mathieu is a versatile player whose impact goes beyond his stats, so this is a huge signing for Kansas City. Linebacker Damien Wilson and cornerback Breshad Breeland should bring some depth to the defense but probably aren’t starting-caliber options. An under the radar signing for the team was them signing running back Carlos Hyde to a one-year contract. Hyde has been a starting running back before, and he’s the perfect complement for Damien Williams in the backfield. Still, it’s unclear if the Chiefs actually got better this offseason, which is concerning considering how last season ended.
Grade: 7.75/10 (C+)
Los Angeles Chargers
As always, the Chargers weren’t aggressive in free agency, instead opting for cheaper contracts. To boost the team’s run defense, linebacker Thomas Davis was brought in on a two-year deal worth $10 million. The 36-year-old rated terrifically with a 74.2 grade from Pro Football Focus last season and is at least a terrific veteran presence for a young defense. That stellar young defense also got a boost; the team retained safety Adrian Phillips and linebacker Denzel Perryman on a pair of no-brainer moves, and also brought back defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Plus, to provide insurance for Phillip Rivers in case an injury presents itself, the team brought in Tyrod Taylor, who is definitely one of the league’s best backup quarterbacks with the ability to fill in if needed. It can be argued that Los Angeles should have looked to bring in help on both sides of the trenches. However, there’s always the draft, and with many key players in need of an extension, this cautious approach was probably the smart one.
Grade: 9/10 (A-)
Los Angeles Rams
After coming up short in the Super Bowl, the Rams needed to lessen the blow of several key players set to become free agents. That’s exactly what they did; they re-signed edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. to a one-year deal and replaced safety Lamarcus Joyner with Eric Weddle on a team-friendly deal. Though the team shouldn’t expect much from pass rusher Clay Matthews, he still should be productive in a limited role after signing a two-year contract. Blake Bortles may be seen as an awful quarterback, but he’s a sneaky addition as a solid backup quarterback under Jared Goff given his upside, which could be tapped into under head coach Sean McVay. The Rams may not have gone overboard in free agency like last season, but they still did a tremendous job replacing their expensive free agents with cheaper options and will remain one of the league’s top teams as a result.
Grade: 9/10 (A-)
Under new head coach Brian Flores and with general manager Chris Grier now calling the shots, the Dolphins seem to be heading in a different direction. Essentially, they look to be punting on the 2019 season, hoping to earn a high draft pick to select one of the top quarterbacks in the 2020 draft class. Therefore, the signing of Ryan Fitzpatrick as a stopgap is a solid option; he won’t necessarily provide wins, but he’ll provide veteran leadership for a young team. Resigning DeVante Parker was an unexpected move, but his abilities as a vertical threat should work well with Fitzpatrick; perhaps the 26-year-old will breakout. Meanwhile, cornerback Eric Rowe and tight end Dwayne Allen are former Patriots whom Flores is familiar with, and provide depth and are of tremendous benefit to the first year head coach. The best move the Dolphins made was cutting ties with several veteran players; out are quarterback Ryan Tannehill, edge rushers Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn, amongst others. It was a quiet offseason for Miami, but for once, it actually looks like they have a vision.
Grade: 9.5/10 (A)
Heading into the offseason, the Vikings needed to make significant improvements in one area: the offensive line. Naturally, they completely ignored that unit, instead opting to use their available cap space to re-sign linebacker Anthony Barr to a five-year contract worth $87 million to continue to play in a scheme he clearly was uncomfortable playing in. Josh Kline helps the interior of the offensive line, but he’s quickly regressing and isn’t an improvement over guard Nick Easton, who the team lost in free agency to the Saints. The rest of Minnesota’s awful free agency period consisted of re-signing depth pieces; signing Barr destroyed the team’s cap space and prevented them from shoring up their real weaknesses. This is without a doubt one of the clear losers of free agency.
Grade: 5/10 (F)
New England Patriots
Just like with every offseason, the Patriots let some of their key players walk in free agency, replacing them with cheaper alternatives. Trey Flowers will definitely be missed, but Michael Bennett (acquired from Eagles) is still an effective pass rusher capable of filling most of the void left from Flowers’ absence. With first-round pick Isiah Wynn on the roster, New England didn’t even have to replace tackle Trent Brown, who signed with the Raiders. The Patriots did keep some of their players, though; they re-signed cornerback Jason McCourty to a smart two-year contract, while receiver Phillip Dorsett edge rusher John Simon and running back Brandon Bolden were brought back for depth. Defensive tackle Mike Pennel was excellent last season for the Jets, ranking as the 14th best interior defensive lineman with an 87.1 grade, and he may actually turn out to be an upgrade over Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton, players New England chose not to re-sign. Receivers Maurice Harris and Bruce Ellington help round out the receiving corps, and both have some upside to emerge as useful options for the team. The team also brought in tight end Austin Seferian Jenkins on a low risk, high reward type of contract and re-signed kicker Stephen Gostkowski on an affordable to contract to shore up two positions that needed help. The Patriots stayed with their blueprint; they filled holes with bargain contracts and maintained depth. There’s nothing to criticize with this offseason, and the defending Super Bowl champs look reloaded heading into next season.
Grade: 9/10 (A-)
New Orleans Saints
After restructuring Drew Brees’ contract for what feels like the 1000th time, the Saints were able to open up cap space to try to make an aggressive push towards winning the Super Bowl next season. The big signing was tight end Jared Cook on a two-year contract, who gives Brees the target over the middle that he’d been lacking. That signing, plus the signing of guard Nick Easton to replace Max Unger and the signing of running back Latavius Murray to replace Mark Ingram, give Brees a lot of support on offense. Brees’ possible successor was also kept on the roster; Teddy Bridgewater was brought back on a one-year deal that makes perfect sense for the club. New Orleans also signed Malcolm Brown to fill out their defensive line, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, even though he’s an ideal scheme fit in Dennis Allen’s defense. After that, the Saints kept one of the league’s top kickers Will Lutz and kept their special teams and defensive depth intact as well by retaining linebacker Craig Robertson and safety Chris Banjo. New Orleans probably should stop restructuring Drew Brees’ contract, as his future cap hit will destroy the team’s future cap space. Still, they used that available cap space to fill some major needs, which shouldn’t go overlooked.
Grade: 8/10 (B-)
New York Giants
As poorly as the Vikings managed free agency, the Giants are without a doubt the loser of the offseason so far. It started when they traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns, only receiving one mid-first round pick, a third-round pick, and a decent safety in Jabrill Peppers. Peppers wouldn’t have been needed if the team had simply franchise tagged safety Landon Collins, but somehow the team did not complete that easy maneuver. Shipping Olivier Vernon for guard Kevin Zeitler was a smart move to upgrade the offensive line, and edge rusher Markus Golden could thrive back with defensive coordinator James Betcher. However, the signing of safety Antoine Bethea adds another aging player to the defense, and there is no excuse for signing slot receiver Golden Tate to a four-year contract when you already have a young slot receiver in Sterling Shepard, whom the team signed to a four-year extension worth $41 million. This looks to be a team with absolutely no direction; this was an embarrassing offseason for the team.
Grade: 5/10 (F)
New York Jets
Owning the second most cap space in football, the Jets were some of the heaviest spenders in free agency. Looking for a leader in the middle of their defense, the team signed middle linebacker CJ Mosley. Though the 26-year-old is a massive upgrade at the position, it’s safe to say the team went a little overboard giving him $85 million over 5 years. Sticking with the defense, the team made the smart decision to re-sign versatile defensive lineman Henry Anderson to a three-year contract and got a steal by signing nickel corner Brian Poole to a one-year deal worth just $3.5 million. On offense, New York made a massive splash, signing running back Le’Veon Bell to a four-year contract worth $55 million. Though it’s not always a smart idea to invest in a running back, Bell’s presence will take immense pressure off of quarterback Sam Darnold. Plus, since Darnold has four years left of team control, the Jets can afford Bell’s salary. The acquisition of guard Kelechi Osemele for nothing more than absorbing his salary will also help Darnold tremendously. Bell and Osemele were fine investments, but the same cannot be said for slot receiver Jamison Crowder, whom the team signed to a three-year contract. The 26-year-old has struggled to stay healthy and should have only earned a one-year “prove-it” deal, not a multi-year contract worth over $9 million per year. It was a mixed bag for the Jets in free agency; Bell, Anderson, Osemele and Poole were great acquisitions, but Mosley and Crowder were clear overpays. They’ll earn a “B-” by default.
Grade: 8/10 (B-)
The Raiders got started even before free agency began, acquiring star receiver Antonio Brown from the Steelers in exchange for a third and fifth round pick, and promptly reworking his contract to make him the highest paid receiver in football. Though the 30-year-old comes with some risk via his age and character issues, this will likely be a fine move for Oakland in their “reboot”. The Raiders didn’t stop there; they made offensive tackle Trent Brown the highest paid tackle in history and signed safety Lamarcus Joyner and receiver Tyrell Williams to four-year contracts. Making Brown the highest paid tackle makes zero sense considering his one good season came with the Patriots, and Joyner wasn’t of much impact last season for the Rams. Williams, however, checks all the boxes as a well above average receiver, and he complements Browns exceptionally. The team also re-signed defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins on an affordable deal and added veteran linebackers Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict on one-year contracts to shore up the middle of their defense. Josh Mauro was also a sneaky add on a one-year deal as a rotational edge defender, and running back Isiah Crowell should also be worth the one-year contract he was given if he can stay healthy. The signing of Brown weighs down the final grade astronomically, but this was still a solid job by head coach Jon Gruden and general Mike Mayock in their first free agency period together.
Grade: 8.5/10 (B)
It looked as though the Eagles would have to sit out free agency; they had very little financial resources available. Yet, somehow, general manager Howie Roseman managed to find a way to spend once again. The team added another piece to the defensive line following a trade of Michael Bennett to the Patriots, signing former Jaguar Malik Jackson to a three-year contract. The 29-year-old is coming off a rough season, but still can be an effective interior pass rusher. Philadelphia also reunited with receiver DeSean Jackson, acquiring the 32-year-old for an exchange of late-round picks, and signed him to a three-year extension. This is another questionable move given Jackson’s age and recent regression, but he’ll at least be a solid deep threat. The best signing for the team was without a doubt them re-signing cornerback Ronald Darby to a one-year contract. Darby looked prime to earn a multi-year contract from someone, and back with the Eagles, he’ll be the team’s a #1 corner if he recovers from his ACL injury. Meanwhile, linebacker LJ Fort, edge rusher Vince Curry, and safety Anderson Sendejo were all solid depth signings, and round out a solid roster. Jordan Howard, acquired from the Bears for a 2020 sixth round pick, was also a great addition; he’ll help fix a rushing attack that struggled last season. The acquisition of the two Jacksons was strange, to say the least, but Philadelphia made up for it by bringing back Darby and shoring up depth in key areas.
Grade: 8/10 (B-)
Though it had to be done, it’s safe to say the Steelers probably should have gotten slightly more for Antonio Brown than a third and fifth round pick. The team wasn’t very aggressive in free agency after, but they did bring in cornerback Steven Nelson on a three-year, $25 million contract. Nelson was picked on heavily in Kansas City’s secondary last year and struggled against top corners, but he’s a solid pickup and should thrive in a #2 or #3 cornerback role. Donte Moncrief has always been a decent vertical threat, and on a two-year contract, he’ll likely mesh well with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Linebacker Mark Barron is coming off an awful season and should not have gotten a multi-year contract, but he at least brings much-needed athleticism to a linebacking core. After that, Pittsburgh made minor depth signings; they stuck to their usual blueprint and refrained from any massive free agent signings. Brown’s trade isn’t the colossal disaster some are making it out to be, but it still would have been nice to see the Steelers do a little better in patching their defense.
Grade: 7.5/10 (C)
San Francisco 49ers
After an aggressive offseason last year, general manager John Lynch stayed energetic in acquiring premier talent, this time focusing on the defense. The team sent a 2020 second-round selection for edge defender Dee Ford, who had 13 sacks last season, and gave him an extension for five years and $85 million. There are no guarantees after the first season, however, so this is essentially still a one-year deal in that the team can cut ties with the 28-year-old if he struggles. Linebacker Kwon Alexander is coming off of a Torn ACL and has regressed ever since his first two seasons; signing him to a four-year contract is clearly not as logical as the Ford acquisition. In Jason Verrett, whom the team signed to a one-year contract, San Francisco has acquired a starting-caliber corner if he stays healthy. The team couldn’t refrain from making one offensive signing though; they signed running back Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal worth $10 million. Coleman’s best season came with head coach Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator; he should produce like a starting running back in Shanahan’s scheme. Though the Alexander signing was a clear miss, San Francisco made several smart moves this offseason, and have set themselves up to be a playoff contender if this strong offseason continues.
Grade: 8.75/10 (B+)
Coming off of a surprising 10-6 season in which they made the playoffs, many expected the Seahawks to continue to upgrade the roster in order to make another playoff push next season. Instead, Seattle did practically nothing. In an effort to continue the rebuild of their offensive line, the team signed guard Mike Iupati and re-signed guard DJ Fluker. However, neither are effective options in the offensive trenches; the offensive line remains an issue. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks is fine on a one-year deal if his legal issues sort itself as, and re-signing linebacker KJ Wright wasn’t flashy but makes sense. However, the secondary was already an issue, and after letting slot corner Justin Coleman walk and not signing anyone, it’s an even greater problem. The best move the team actually made was signing kicker Jason Myers to a four-year deal; he’ gives Seattle the surefire kicker they’ve lacked for some time. This was a disappointingly quiet free agency period for the Seahawks; they don’t look to be a serious playoff contender at the moment.
Grade: 6.75/10 (D+)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Armed with little cap space, the Bucs were always going to have a tough time making additions to a team that won just 5 games last season. However, they certainly didn’t help matters by using almost all their available cap space to re-sign left tackle Donovan Smith to a three-year deal worth up to $41 million. All the guarantees come in the first two years, but last season was the 25-year-old’s first season of not being a liability; retaining him should not have been a huge priority even at a premium position. Meanwhile, edge rusher Shaquil Barrett, linebacker Deone Bucannon, and receiver Breshad Perriman all are solid depth signings, but only Barrett comes with the upside to be a possible starter. That was it for the Bucs in free agency; the team did not fill the holes necessary for them to compete, and they’ll continue to hang out in the horrors of mediocrity.
Grade: 7/10 (C-)
Barely missing the playoffs at 9-7, the Titans knew they had to be aggressive in free agency to put themselves in position to make the playoffs next season. That’s what they did; they upgraded the offense by signing guard Rodger Saffold and receiver Adam Humphries to four-year deals, signed defensive end Cameron Wake to a three-year contract, also re-signed safety Kenny Vaccaro. Saffold, although 31-years-old, was the safest bet amongst the offensive lineman in free agency, and solidifies the offensive front for Tennessee. Now, their run-first strategy with Derrick Henry is in a better position to succeed. There’s a lot Humphries brings to the table as a safety target for quarterback Marcus Mariota, but as well in the short passing game with screens that makes him a dangerous offensive player. Though 9 million a year is a lot, he’s the type of weapon that the offense has lacked. Wake may be 37-years-old, but he has shown no signs of slowing down, and $23 million over 3 years for an effective edge defender is excellent value. Vaccaro struggled at times as a Saint, but with Tennesee last year, he was very effective with a 66.4 grade from Pro Football Focus; bringing him back makes a lot of sense for the team. The Titans filled all their major needs and set themselves up to be able to draft the best player available in the draft rather than reach for need. Even more impressive, none of these deals feel like overpays.
Grade: 9/10 (A-)
The Redskins came into the offseason with a glaring quarterback hole, but little financial flexibility thanks to Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury that will keep the team’s highest-paid player potentially off the field for the rest of this career. The team traded for quarterback Case Keenum under a reworked contract worth around $3.5 million, and although he is nothing more than a veteran stopgap, he’s the best Washington could have done given their limited assets. What the team didn’t need to do, however, was further compromise their finances by investing in an outdated type player. Run support safties that play in the box and have limited coverage ability aren’t valued in today’s NFL, but that didn’t stop the Redskins from signing Landon Collins to a six-year contract worth $84 million. Out of all the signings in free agency, this looks to be the worst one; the Redskins ignored several key holes and wasted all their money on a position where teams aren’t supposed to invest heavily in. Because they destroyed their cap space with the Collins signing, the only other two contracts given were to running back Adrian Peterson (two years, $8 million) and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (one year). Both are fine for depth, but cannot be expected to be anything more than that. It’s hard to fathom how Washington though giving Collins this mega-deal was a good idea. This has a chance to seriously harm the team’s future; they have invested significantly in the secondary on two players that are nowhere near worth the value of their contracts (Josh Norman and Collins).
Grade: 6/10 (D-)