Free Agency Team Grades

alshon.jpgAlshon Jeffery to the Philadelphia Eagles – 1 year, $14 million: A+

Alshon Jeffery has the potential to be a Pro Bowler every season. He’s coming off a disappointing season, but is looking to rebuild his reputation with a strong year in Philadelphia before becoming a free agent again next offseason. Carson Wentz needs receiver help, and getting Jeffery for $14 million was a no-brainer.

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Calais Campbell to the Jacksonville Jaguars – 4 years, $60 million: C

Calais Campbell has been a dominating player for the Cardinals for many years. He’s currently worth the $15 million per season that the Jaguars are paying him, but he probably won’t be the same player in the third and fourth years of this contract. He’s not a young player anymore, so this contract could be a mistake if his level of play diminishes.

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Dont’a Hightower resigns with the New England Patriots – 4 years, $43.5 million: A-

Usually inside linebackers aren’t worth this amount of money, but Hightower is so much more important to the Patriots’ defense than most inside linebackers. He can also be an edge defender and pass rusher, and is one of the leaders of the Patriots’ defense. He has made huge plays in both of their last two Super Bowls, and will look to continue to help lead the Patriots back to the Super Bowl in the next few seasons. The Patriots have let a few of their top defenders leave during the last few seasons, but they had to try to keep Hightower. They paid a hefty price, but it will be worth it in the end.

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A.J. Bouye to the Jacksonville Jaguars – 3 years, $44 million: B-

A.J. Bouye was a huge piece for the Houston Texans last season. After losing J.J. Watt for the season, few expected the Texans to have the best defense in the NFL. But Bouye helped lead that defense to the #1 ranking in the league after entering the season as a backup. Although he’s always had talent, he finally put everything together last season. Now Bouye has cashed in on a career year and will be the #2 cornerback to Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville. This may be a bit of a risk because Bouye has only had one elite season, but it is well worth the risk for the Jaguars.

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Stephon Gilmore to the New England Patriots – 5 years, $65 million: C-

Stephon Gilmore left the Buffalo Bills for their division rival in New England. The Patriots essentially chose to sign Gilmore over Malcolm Butler (likely will be traded in the near future). Gilmore has not been the most consistent corner since being drafted, but he had his best season last year. Gilmore’s best football might be ahead of him, and the Patriots were willing to bank on him continuing to improve. Doubting Bill Belichick would be a mistake, but paying Gilmore an average of $13 million a year seems a bit rich.

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Kevin Zeitler to the Cleveland Browns – 5 years, $60 million: B-

Kevin Zeitler is one of the best guards in the NFL. Although the guard position isn’t as important as offensive tackles, the Browns have made an effort to build one of the best offensive lines in football. They still have future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas and emerging star Joel Bitonio locking down the left side of the line, and now add Zeitler to a line that may compete with Dallas to be the NFL’s best. Paying an offensive guard $12 million a year is a bit much, but the Browns have plenty of money to spend. They have an identity that they are trying to build, and Zeitler will be an important piece of that puzzle going forward.

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Terrelle Pryor to the Washington Redskins – 1 year, $8 million: A+

Terrelle Pryor finally put together a complete season as a wide receiver. Pryor was one of the few bright spots on the hapless Browns last season. He wasn’t able to turn that production into a long-term deal, but will try to prove this season that his production wasn’t a fluke. The Redskins lost their top two wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency, and will look to Pryor to help fill that void. Josh Doctson will look to bounce back after an injury-plagued rookie season and may build a nice tandem with Pryor. The Redskins are a mess right now and it’s no guarantee that Kirk Cousins will be there all season. But signing Pryor to a one year deal was a no-brainer whether or not Cousins stays in Washington.

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DeSean Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 3 years, $33.5 million: B

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have got their Robin to Mike Evans’ Batman. Although Jackson isn’t a young receiver anymore, he still has plenty of speed to help stretch the field. Evans is a prototypical #1 receiver, so the Buccaneers decided to get a speedy #2 receiver to help out Jameis Winston. Jackson may not put up huge numbers every week, but his ability to stretch the field will open things up for Evans underneath. The key for the Buccaneers is to add offensive weapons to help out their franchise quarterback, and Jackson will be a huge addition for their offense for the next three years.

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T.J. Lang to the Detroit Lions – 3 years, $28.5 million: B

Signing T.J. Lang away from the Green Bay Packers was a smart move by the Detroit Lions. The Lions were able to improve their offense while hurting their division rival. Paying a guard almost 10 million dollars annually could seem like a big risk, but Lang is worth the investment. The Lions offense has been lethal over the past few seasons with a struggling offensive line. If the Lions can fix their offensive line woes, the sky is the limit for what this offense can achieve. Lang will be a strong addition to a team trying to prove they are more than a one-and-done playoff team.

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Martellus Bennett to the Green Bay Packers – 3 years, $21 million: B+

After a championship season in New England, Martellus Bennett has decided to move on to another championship contender. Bennett will now catch passes from one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, something that he became accustomed to last season. Although he entered last season as the number two tight end, he emerged as a starter once Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season. Bennett will now be depended on as the number one tight end in Green Bay for an offense that loves to throw the ball to a plethora of receivers. This was a smart signing for both parties.

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Andrew Whitworth to the Los Angeles Rams – 3 years, $33.75 million: B-

At 35 years old, Andrew Whitworth should be past his prime. But he continues to be a dominant left tackle against the best defensive ends in the NFL. Whitworth was a bit upset when the Bengals spent their first two draft picks on offensive tackles in 2015, but played at such an elite level that they weren’t able to wrestle away his starting position. Now he’s decided to take his talents to Los Angeles for the next three seasons. Although it’s hard to imagine that Whitworth will continue to play at an elite level over the next three seasons, the Rams decided to take a chance on him. The Rams are desperate to get help on the offensive line to protect their young quarterback and open holes for superstar runner Todd Gurley, and have whiffed on past draft picks including former number two overall pick Greg Robinson. Whitworth may be a bit of a gamble, but he has the talent and experience necessary to help improve a putrid offensive line.

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Pierre Garcon to the San Francisco 49ers – 5 years, $47.5 million: B

Pierre Garcon is one of the best complementary receivers in the NFL. Although he’ll never be a number one receiver, he was able to put together four straight solid seasons in Washington. Now that he’s left the Redskins for the 49ers, he’ll be counted on to help a struggling offense find their identity. He doesn’t have any outstanding traits, but he is smart and polished enough to get open against the best cornerbacks in the league. Signing Garcon to an expensive long-term contract may be a risk, but it was a chance the 49ers had to take.

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Logan Ryan to the Tennessee Titans – 3 years, $30 million: A-

Logan Ryan was one of the more underappreciated defenders on the New England Patriots over the last few seasons. Although he isn’t a number one corner, he has the ability to play on the outside or in the slot. He can play both man and zone coverage and rarely makes mental mistakes. He took well to coaching from Bill Belichick, and will be counted on to continue his consistent play in Tennessee. He isn’t going to be able to shut down half the field like an elite corner, but he will compete with some of the best receivers in the NFL and hold his own. Paying Ryan 10 million a year will seem like a bargain if he plays as well as he did in New England.

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Ricky Wagner to the Detroit Lions – 5 years, $47.5 million: C+

Ricky Wagner is one of the better right tackles in the NFL. Although he’s a right tackle only, teams are putting more of an emphasis on finding elite right tackles. Many defensive schemes have their best pass rushers going up against right tackles, so having a player of Wagner’s caliber will come in handy for the Detroit Lions. But paying Wagner nearly 10 million dollars annually is a bit of a risk. Wagner will have to continue his excellent play due to his inability to move positions if he struggles. Teams want their backups to be versatile because they are only able to dress a few backups during games, so Wagner will have to lock down the right side of the offensive line if he wants to make the Lions’ investment in him worthwhile.

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Kenny Britt to the Cleveland Browns – 4 years, $32.5 million: C+

Kenny Britt’s breakout season in Los Angeles has helped him secure a long-term contract with the Cleveland Browns. Although he’s always had the talent to become a premiere receiver in the NFL, he’s never played up to the potential that led him to being a first round draft pick in 2009. Britt has been the classic “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” player until his breakout season in 2016. While playing for a struggling offense in Los Angeles, Britt took it upon himself to be dependable when others failed around him. It’s tough to project Britt’s future due to his inconsistency in the past, but the Browns need receiver help and are willing to gamble on his potential. Only time will tell if this gamble pays off.

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Eddie Lacy to the Seattle Seahawks – 1 year, $5.55 million: B+

Eddie Lacy signed a short-term contract with the Seahawks in an attempt to increase his value for next offseason. Lacy was once seen as one of the best up-and-coming running backs in the NFL, but has struggled with his weight and injuries over the last few seasons. The Seahawks already have Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise on their roster, but both have sustained injuries in the past. The Seahawks were at their best when Marshawn Lynch was the leader of their offense. Lacy is a physical runner like Lynch, and should be able to get yards behind a poor offense line by using his strength and size. This was a gamble by the Seahawks due to Lacy’s weight issues, but this could end up being a signing that helps them return to the Super Bowl if Lacy is able to stay healthy and in shape.

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Brandon Marshall to the New York Giants – 2 years, $12 million: A+

The New York Giants are making one last push to try and win another Lombardi trophy during the Eli Manning Era. With an improved defense last season, the Giants were able to make the postseason before getting embarrassed in Green Bay. Their wide receivers were highly scrutinized for their boat party the week before the game. With superstar Odell Beckham Jr. and emerging receiver Sterling Shepard already on the roster, the Giants decided to get another playmaker to help out Manning. Brandon Marshall is one of the best receivers in the last decade, and will be a huge addition to an already explosive offense. Paying him six million dollars annually is a no-brainer, and could be a signing that helps Manning surpass his brother with three Super Bowl victories.

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Jared Cook to the Oakland Raiders – 2 years, $10.6 million: B+

Jared Cook has been a tease throughout his career. He’s an incredible athlete that looks like he can become a dominant tight end but has never lived up to his potential. The Raiders have a young tight end in Clive Walford that has yet to live up to his potential, but Walford is still young and has enough potential to become an above average starter. Cook will never reach that level, but could be a nice receiving option for emerging star Derek Carr. The Raiders made a smart move by signing Cook to a contract worth roughly five million dollars annually.

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Mike Glennon to the Chicago Bears – 3 years, $45 million: C

Mike Glennon is one of the most intriguing free agents in recent memory. He hasn’t started a game in years, but flashed potential when he played. He may end up being the Brock Osweiler of this offseason, but wasn’t signed to as big of a contract as Osweiler. The Chicago Bears have moved on from Jay Cutler and need stability at the quarterback position. Glennon is a complete wild card, so this could end up being the best or worst signing of the offseason. It’s a big gamble, but it’s a chance the Bears had to take.

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Russell Okung to the Los Angeles Chargers – 4 years, $53 million: D

Although Russell Okung was a high first round pick and former Pro Bowler, the Chargers made a huge mistake by signing him to a deal worth more than 13 million dollars annually. Experts laughed at the deal Okung signed last offseason because of the Broncos ability to cut him after the first year, but now Okung has the last laugh because this contract pays him more than the contract that he signed with Denver. Okung is extremely injury prone and has seen his play steadily decline since his Pro Bowl season in 2012. This signing will end up being a huge mistake for the Chargers.

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Latavius Murray to the Minnesota Vikings – 3 years, $15 million: C+

Latavius Murray was an above average running back in Oakland over the last few seasons. Although he put up decent numbers, he was only able to secure a 15 million dollar contract from the Vikings. Murray goes from one of the best offensive lines in Oakland to a putrid offensive line in Minnesota that couldn’t even open holes for Adrian Peterson when he was healthy. Murray is a large running back with great speed and agility for his size, but his instincts are below average. Having a great offensive line in Oakland helped mask some of his flaws, which is a luxury that he won’t have in Minnesota. The Vikings are hoping that Murray can help replace future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson, but there’s a good chance he won’t be able to win the starting job away from Jerick McKinnon. Murray has some nice traits, but will likely be used in a committee in Minnesota.

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Matt Kalil to the Carolina Panthers – 5 years, $55.5 million: D-

Although Matt Kalil was a high first round pick and played at an elite level as a rookie, he has seen his play rapidly decline due to a number of injuries. Kalil will likely never be able to reach the level of excellence he played at in college and as a rookie for the Vikings, so giving him 11.1 million dollars annually looks like a huge mistake. The Panthers have Kalil’s brother on the team, but that’s no excuse for signing this terrible contract. The Panthers need offensive tackle help and likely won’t be able to find it in this year’s draft, so it’s understandable that they’d look to free agency to fill that void. But signing a below average tackle to a long-term deal of this magnitude shows how desperate they are to improve their struggling offensive line.

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Cordarrelle Patterson to the Oakland Raiders – 2 years, $8.5 million: B

Cordarrelle Patterson has never developed into the receiver that the Vikings had hoped when they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft. He was a very raw receiver coming out of Tennessee, and is still a raw receiver today. His hands are inconsistent and his route running is poor, but he’s an electric player with the ball in his hands. As one of the best returners in the league, Patterson’s contract isn’t going to be an issue if he doesn’t develop as a wide receiver. But if the Raiders are able to help him become a more consistent receiver, they could have an absolute steal on their hands. Derek Carr is an emerging quarterback and could use a few more weapons at his disposal, so the Raiders decided to take a minimal risk on Patterson’s upside to translate his raw athleticism into a weapon as a wide receiver.

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Joel Bitonio resigns with the Cleveland Browns: 6 years, $51.2 million: A

The Cleveland Browns decided to use their large amount of cap space to help create an identity for the future. The Browns already had some nice pieces on their offensive line including future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, so they wisely decided to keep around emerging star Joel Bitonio for the next six seasons. Coming out of college, Bitonio was an excellent offensive tackle that had the body of a guard. Although he likely would have succeeded at tackle, the Browns decided to kick him inside and watched him dominate next to Thomas. Bitonio has suffered a few injuries throughout his time in Cleveland, but played at a Pro Bowl level when healthy. Hugh Jackson wants a physical offensive line, so re-signing Bitonio was necessary to help forge that identity.

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