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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Chris Long, DE: 1 year, $2 million
This is a pretty incredible deal for the former pro-bowler. Long has regressed a bit as a player and pass-rusher since his glory days with the Rams.
He’s still a very smart, physical player and a great short-term solution at the defensive end spot vacated yesterday by Chandler Jones. I love the numbers on this deal, as I was certain somebody was going to overpay Long on past performance.
This deal is, in fact, under market value and he should immediately step in and improve the defensive rotation for the Patriots while minimizing the loss of Jones
Tom Compton, G: no contract details
LaRoy Reynolds, ILB: no contract details
Jim Dray, TE: no contract details
Antonio Allen, S: no contract details
Brynden Trawick, S: 1 year, unknown amount
Aaron Brewer, LS: 1 year, unknown amount
Chris Givens, WR: 1 year, $840,000
Givens never became the receiver the Rams hoped he would when they drafted the speedster in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.
He’s got inconsistent hands and gets bullied by the press, he’s also not a great catcher in traffic which has led to his low career touchdown totals. He’s a fairly dynamic athlete, having starred in track and field in college but never polished his game enough as a receiver.
He’s still a project, and at this point in his career, there’s not much hope he can be much more than what he’s shown. He’s likely just a camp body and there’s no financial risk by the Eagles here, so I like it pretty well, bringing experience into a very young wide receiver room.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
James Laurinaitis, LB: no contract details
Nate Stupar, LB: 3 years, unknown amoung
Evan Mathis, G: 1 year, $6 million
Mathis is still one of the best guards in the NFL. He was that in the stretch run for the Broncos, and he’ll continue to be that for the Cardinals I expect.
Protecting Carson Palmer is paramount to the Cardinals continued Super Bowl aspirations. Mathis will help in that regard and should also provide some juice to the screen and run games.
At just 6 mil, he’s being paid far under market value, and it’s only for one year, so there’s no risk even if he somehow drastically regresses. This one’s pretty easy for me.
NEW YORK JETS
Steve McLendon, NT: 3 years, $12 million
He’s getting older, and he wasn’t very good last season. I mention often how I feel that 3-4 nose tackle is one of the toughest positions to find good players at. This is the proof.
I can’t imagine why the Jets couldn’t figure a way to hold onto Harrison, but this is a major downgrade. McLendon is already 30 and exiting his prime. Soon his strength will begin to wane and he’ll likely get pushed around in the pocket.
His market value at this moment may be something like 3 mil a year, but by the end of this contract, I don’t see it being much more than the vet. minimum. This looks pretty bad to me. I won’t judge too harshly since I don’t know the Jets draft plans.
Sean Spence, ILB: 1 year, $2.5 million
Spence is a young player, and has never really proven that he can be much more than fairly quality depth. He’s getting paid a little over half of what some starters are getting paid, which may be a little much.
Spence has some pass-rush ability from the middle but struggles in run-support, especially with tackling. This may be due to his smaller size. He gets washed out of plays fairly easily. He’s honestly fairly similar to a LB they just let go in free agency, Zach Brown.
I’m not totally sure what the Titans see in this guy, but it’s not the worst contract in the world.
DeMario Davis, ILB: 2 years, $8 million
Davis’ play regressed last year after peaking in 2014, but I have to assume there were other factors at play since he’s only 27. Either way, Davis is a rangy linebacker with good instincts and should fill in well for the departed Karlos Dansby.
I think the money being paid could end up being a bargain, but there’s also the possibility that Davis needs talent around him to thrive, and he’s not going to an upswing in talent with Cleveland, that’s for sure. I’m cautiously optimistic with this one.
Rahim Moore, S: 1 year, unknown amount
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Quinton Coples, DE: 2 years, $9.75 million
I’ve always liked Coples. He’s just the sort of physical specimen that I feel should be playing on the outside of a defensive line. He was cut last year by the Dolphins, but didn’t play poorly by any means.
Of course we all know that being cut by the Dolphins doesn’t mean much since their personnel decisions are clearly run by a 12-year-old Madden player. Anyway, Coples has never become the elite pass rusher many had hoped for, but he’s an excellent rotational player on the first two downs, and may provide some juice from a pass-rushing standpoint yet.
He’s 28 so he likely won’t regress through the life of this deal, so paying him almost 5 mil a year isn’t as bad as it might sound. This is a solid signing in my eyes. Coples could be part of a very strong rotation in Los Angeles.
MARCH 15, 2016
TRADE PATRIOTS AND CARDINALS
Patriots receive: G Jonathan Cooper, 2nd Round Pick
Cardinals receive: DE Chandler Jones
This trade is interesting because it really depends on who you ask when trying to determine the value of these two players.
The book on Cooper is he’s immensely talented (makes sense as he was a pure guard taken in the top 10) but that he doesn’t have the work ethic to thrive. The Patriots will find out quickly either way, the Patriot way has no time for slackers.
Chandler Jones, on the other hand, has proven to be an above-average pass rusher in this league and may just be entering his prime at 26. If it were just a player-for-player swap, the Cardinals clearly win, but the second round pick makes this trade feel very fair.
The defensive line talent goes about three rounds deep in this draft but there should still be some really solid options late in the second where the Patriots will be picking. The extra second rounder also gives them fire power to move up in case there’s a prospect they have serious convictions about.
Overall, this feels like a solid swap for both sides with the caveat that Cooper could turn into the player that he’s billed to be, or he could bust out quickly. I see it as a worthy risk for a an offensive line starved of talent.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Coty Sensabaugh, CB: 3 years, $19 million
At first glance, this signing isn’t awful. Going into the season, Sensabaugh was pretty highly thought of, at least in Tennessee. He’s a nickel corner, but a good one at that.
The Rams have a hole after letting Janoris Jenkins walk in free agency so it makes sense. And this pick will probably make more sense when the Rams select a corner in either of the first two rounds of the draft.
Ultimately though, Sensabaugh majorly regressed amidst nagging injuries last season and his market value was pretty low as a result, so I can’t really imagine why the Rams felt the need to pay him as much as they did.
The going rate for good nickel corners is probably around 2-4 mil per year, this is quite a bit above that, but I imagine he’ll be playing outside, so it’s a little tougher to grade. I’m going to settle on an optimistic C.
David Bruton, S: 3 years, $9 million
Bruton has quietly developed into one of the most reliable reserve safeties in the NFL after Starring at Notre Dame.
Bruton combines good instincts with reliable tackling to be a very solid tackling presence in the box.He’s no slouch in coverage though, and if forced against tight ends, he can win those one-on-ones against most.
He’ll step in immediately as the best Redskins safety, a position they’ve been devoid of talent at for years. At just 3 million a year, the Redskins are getting a solid starter. This seems like pretty incredible value to me.
J’Marcus Webb, OT: 2 years, $6 million, $2.5 million guaranteed
Webb graded out as one of the worst tackles available in free agency on 1089 graded snaps. He’s always been massive and physically imposing but has never been able to use that size to dominate at the point of attack.
Webb is a slightly better pass-blocker than run-blocker but is average to below average at both. There’s the slightest possibility he puts it all together with the Seahawks, but it isn’t likely and he certainly hasn’t earned a contract over the veteran minimum with his play.
Not to mention, this seems to be their contingency plan if Russel Okung indeed signs somewhere else and all indications say he will. To say Webb is a step down is a large understatement.
DeMarcus Van Dyke, CB: no contract details
Aldrick Robinson, WR: no contract details
Robert Turbin, RB: no contract details
Ryan Harris, OT: 2 years, $3.9 miillion
Harris was seen as a 1b option for Denver in 2015 before Ryan Clady went down with a season-ending injury. In his place, Harris was somewhat of a liability on the blind side.
For the Steelers, it’s likely Harris will man the right tackle slot, and in that role, he should be better, since he’ll naturally see worse pass rushers typically, and will also often have extra blocking help.
Harris is a smart guy with a lot of starter experience, so adding him for just under 2 mil per year seems like a really solid move to me. He easily could have been overpaid.
Mike Wallace, WR: 2 years, $11.5 million
I’m surprised Wallace’s market value hasn’t gotten lower by now, considering he’s proven to be a malcontent almost everywhere he’s been in the league.
Certainly, this could all be circumstancial, but patterned behavior like this usually isn’t, so he comes with strong character concerns. It’s clear that Flacco represents the best quarterback matchup for Wallace since Roethlisberger and should be able to toss some deep balls to him.
At just under 6 mil per season, the Ravens are investing a lot in the hope that Wallace suddenly becomes a team player and hasn’t at all regressed or lost a step as he gets older. Typically for these speed guys, speed is the first thing to go. I’m weary of this trade.
MARCH 14, 2016
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Ray Drew, DE: no contract details
Daren Bates, LB: no contract details
Paul Soliai, DT: 2 years, $7 million
Clearly a regressing player, Soliai is not worth starter money, but he’s ideal as depth, where the Panthers can play him behind a dominant duo of Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.
I often like the idea of a team with few needs investing in strong depth and continuing to bolster the defense makes sense. However, I have concerns with the Panthers offensive capabilities.
They just let G Amini Silatolu walk, he may yet be re-signed but that leaves a hole at guard, and the receiver position is also lacking in depth. Still, Soliai didn’t break the bank and should continue playing at or near his current level through the life of this contract.
Matt Cassel, QB: 1 year, $2 million
Cassel showed that he can still play at a somewhat competent level in the NFL. He wasn’t winning games, but he was competing.
I believe he’s a veteran option to potentially push Zack Mettenberger, who played very poorly in relief of Marcus Mariota last year.
I worry about the Titans if Mariota goes down, since they don’t really have a special offense or defense. They don’t have quite the supporting cast Cassel had with Dallas.
I understand the deal, but giving him over the veteran minimum may be overpaying a bit.
Eric Weddle, S: 4 years, $26 million
Weddle is getting on in age and isn’t quite the league’s best safety like he was a couple years ago. Still, he hasn’t majorly regressed either and was a bright spot in San Diego’s secondary last year.
The Ravens are buying high here to fill a need. I think that right now, Weddle is a bargain at a little over 6 million a year, but he won’t be for much longer. By the end of this contract he should be in full regression at age 35.
He’s a very smart, instinctive player so any loss in athleticism should be masked for awhile. Overall, this was a huge area of need for the Ravens and I see them getting at or near full value for this contract. It’s solid.
Prince Amukamara, CB: 1 year, $6 million, $3.5 million guaranteed
Amukamara just had his best season as a pro corner, so it makes sense that he gets paid.
I was actually expecting a longer term contract, but it’s clear the Jags are all-in for this season, they know they have to show major improvements. I’m concerned with the idea of building a defense in free agency: it takes time if it works at all.
The 2012 Eagles are the cautionary tale, while Elway’s Broncos show a successful implementation of that strategy. Regardless of whether it works, this is a steal of a deal for a top-flight free agent corner and the Jaguars have endless money to spend this year anyway.
Scott Tolzien, QB: 2 years, $3.5 million
Tolzien is another guy that sat behind Aaron Rodgers. Presumably, these guys have a golden opportunity to learn and develop, but there’s not a great history of success for these understudies in the NFL.
In preseason, Tolzien has shown solid decision-making, but an underwhelming NFL arm in terms of both accuracy and power. There’s not much more to glean from this.
I understand what the Colts envision with Tolzien, but I don’t see him being much of an upgrade over Ryan Lindley and Josh Freeman as a backup to Luck now that Hasselbeck has retired.
Akiem Hicks, DE: 2 years, $10 million
A deal like this is surprising for a guy that’s always been “on the cusp” but never really lived up to expectations in New Orleans.
Traded to New England mid-season for TE Michael Hoomanawanui, Hicks found his footing in the stretch run and started to play like the inside dominator he was always billed to be, so perhaps the Bears could be getting a steal.
The pickup makes sense when you consider that current Bears GM Ryan Pace was formerly Director of player personnel with the Saints. He’s familiar with Hicks’ abilities. I question Hicks’ effort and motor more than anything. There’s no doubting he can be dominant when he wants to be.
Because of this, I neither love, nor hate the deal, but the upside boosts the value a bit. He doesn’t have any real injury history or character concerns either. It’s a worthy risk.
MARCH 13, 2016
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Casey Hayward, CB: 3 years, $15.3 million
Hayward has really come on in recent years as a coverage specialist. He’s somewhat of a liability in run-support but likely won’t be asked to do that much in San Diego.
This is a solid job by the Chargers to be proactive in cycling their talent since Brandon Flowers is getting older and slowing down.
At a little over 5 mil per year, the Chargers aren’t paying Hayward a crazy contract or anything. This is pretty reasonable, especially considering what his running mate Davon House made last year.
MARCH 12, 2016
Jerrell Freeman, ILB: 3 years, $12 million, $6 million guaranteed
The Bears clearly have made it a point to improve this dismal area of their defense. Now instead of toting out Christian Jones and Jon Bostic, they boast an incredibly talent rich and versatile duo in Freeman and Trevathan.
Freeman is excellent in coverage and pretty good against the run. Trevathan is obviously the younger and more well-rounded player, but this contract is structured accordingly.
Being 31 now, Freeman will be 34 at the end of this contract, since he’s probably at the end of his prime, the Bears should expect him to regress, but at least this year, they should get quality starter snaps from him on a consistent basis. It will help having such a talented running mate.
At just $4 million per season, Freeman will be a steal this year, and the value of the contract should even out accordingly if Freeman begins to decline. I love this deal.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Rod Streater, WR: 1 year, $4.8 million
In a market where guys who haven’t proven a thing are getting paid fringe-starter money, we have this strange deal.
For one, it’s a one-year pact so it seems the Chiefs want to kick the tires on this guy and see if he can put his impressive skill-set together, recapturing the magic of a 60-catch 2013 season. On the other hand though, they’re paying him almost $5 million on what seems to be little more than a hunch.
While I think that’s a little too much, the Chiefs have already done a great job keeping their fearsome defense together, so they should certainly be investing in improving their offense, which held them back in the playoffs.
Streater may or may not be the answer, I believe he could potentially unseat Albert Wilson as a slot guy. If that ends up being the case, this is a steal. If not though, he plays maybe 15 snaps a game for $5 million. So it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.
Rafael Bush, S: 1 year, $2.4 million
I never fully understood why the Falcons came after him so hard in the 2014 off-season or why he’s thought of as much more than a solid backup and special teamer (which can be found for cheaper)
He had his best pro season in 2013 (along with the rest of that Saints defense) and has been battling injuries and inconsistency ever since.
I suppose the Lions just want an injury insurance policy, and in that role, perhaps Bush could thrive. He was asked to play too often for an injured Jairus Byrd in New Orleans.
The price isn’t too bad either considering how much playing experience and solid snaps he has to his name. He just can’t be relied upon to start for any stretch of time.
MARCH 11, 2016
EAGLES AND BRONCOS TRADE
Eagles Receive: Conditional Late Round Pick
Broncos Receive: QB Mark Sanchez
I understand what fueled this trade: necessity. The Broncos simply have no options at QB. Sanchez isn’t a great one, especially going to a new system.
He’ll still be the same inconsistent, inaccurate player he’s always been. It’s not the worst move, but there’s nothing really inspiring about it.
For the Eagles though, this is a coup. Sanchez had no place left on this team, and they actually might get something out of him. Brilliant trades by the Eagles this offseason.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Justin Tuggle, OLB: no contract details
Alvin Bailey, OT: no contract details
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Robert Ayers, DE: 3 years, $21 million
This is the exact contract I felt Ayers deserved.
He’s not getting paid like a premium pass rusher, because he isn’t one on every down. He consistently grades out as a dominant rotational end, so he was a prize in this free agency period.
The Bucs have had some awful contracts, but I like this one. Ayers had 9.5 sacks in 12 games as a part-time guy with the Giants in 2015. He also doesn’t have much tread for a 31-year-old. He could regress, but it’s not too likely he’ll fall off completely through the life of this contract.
Mackenzy Bernadeau, OG: 2 years, $4 million
Bernadeu is solid depth on the interior of any line. He’s getting paid for just a bit more than that on the open market, which is to be expected.
As long as he’s not counted on to start, I like this move pretty well.
Brad Nortman, P: 4 years, $8.8 million
Nortman is a fine punter, and the Jaguars needed one since Bryan Anger is a free agent.
I don’t much understand paying more than the veteran minimum for Nortman though. He’s nothing special.
And locking him up on a 4 year deal? It’s just kind of strange.
Jermon Bushrod, OT: 1 year, unknown amount
Kendall Reyes, DE/DT: 1 years, $2.5 million
Reyes had a pretty bad season in 2015 and has generally never lived up to his potential.
He’s 26 so if he still has time to get better, but he’s entering his prime years, so the jump should come very soon if it ever does.
That in mind, the Redskins are buying low on potential but high on lack of production. Because of this, I don’t love the deal.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Frank Kearse, DE: no contract details
Chris Hogan, WR: 3 years, $12 million
Hogan has been on the cusp of a good season for years and he has the skill-set.
The Patriots are a good landing spot for him to potentially realize his potential since their corps is thin and he’s a smart tough receiver who runs good routes.
He fits the mold of an Edelman or Amendola and is a little bigger and faster to boot. 4 mil a year is fairly steep for a guy that hasn’t produced yet, but I imagine the Patriots will likely get the most out of this. I like it, I don’t love it.
Sean Smith, CB: 4 years, $40 million, $20 million guaranteed
It’s becoming clear that Raiders brass recognizes their needs, which is encouraging.
They’re also finding some really solid options to fill their holes. The main issue I have is paying a corner $10 million a year. It reminds me of a few years ago when the Cowboys did the same thing with an ascending Brandon Carr.
That move helped get them into a cap mess they’re still working out of and Carr in no way lived up to the contract. I’m not saying that will happen, but it’s tough for a corner to earn $10 million a year, especially one without a penchant for turnovers like Smith.
NEW YORK JETS
Jarvis Jenkins, DE: 3 years, $6 million
Jenkins has been a disappointment since he came into the league. He’s got all of the physical tools to dominate but can’t put it together.
He’s 28 now so he probably won’t get much better, and right now he’s just an ok backup.
I question the Jets for signing a guy like that for 3 years, especially when it’s above the veteran minimum.
MARCH 10, 2016
Bobby Massie, OT: 3 years, $18 million
Grade: BAALKE AND TORREY SMITH IN A CLOSET GRADE
Massie has been fairly dreadful for most of his time as a pro, he’s been mostly below average, even on the right side of the line, which is where tackles who can’t pass block go.
The problem is Massie doesn’t offer much in the run block either. He certainly doesn’t have starter qualities. Still, he has some utility as a swing tackle.
I have some qualms with paying $6 million per year to a swing tackle. That’s the kind of idiotic move a guy who thinks Torrey Smith can be a WR1 would make… oh yeah. So this is definitely a Baalke (F) grade.
Danny Trevathan, LB: 4 years, $28 million
For a player with a complete skill set like Trevathan (he can cover, run-stuff and rush the passer on occasion) I would have expected somewhere in the realm of $10 million a year.
This deal is absolutely fantastic for the Bears as Trevathan is just entering his prime and has gotten better every year he’s been in the league.
Reuniting with coach John Fox just sweetens the deal. Top marks to the Bears for this move.
Johnson Bademosi, CB: 2 years, $4.5 million
This is a tough one since literally everywhere I look, I see Bademosi referred to as a “special teams ace”.
While that is a seriously undervalued talent in the NFL today, I think teams can find contributors on special teams for the veteran minimum.
Bademosi was pretty bad as a corner for the Browns so he likely won’t help the Lions’ secondary too much. I like the idea here, I just don’t think he’s worth the contract.
Stefan Charles, DT: 1 year, unknown amount
Tavon Wilson, CB/S: 2 years, $2.2 million, $500,000 guaranteed
While Wilson has just average athleticism, he excels in coverage and is a strong tackler. He offers solid special teams snaps to go with decent defensive snaps.
He’s not a player to be counted on to start, and shouldn’t be expected to for this amount. He’s ideal as a reserve player, especially in light of the recent Rafael Bush signing. The money is actually pretty good here.
NEW YORK JETS
Khiry Robinson, RB: 1 year, $1.175 million
In a market for running backs that’s seen mediocre players like C.J. Anderson getting paid $4 million, it blows my mind to see a contract like this.
I’ve seen quite a bit of Robinson, and he has a punishing running style, reminds me of a poor man’s Chris Ivory. That fits since he’s helping replace Ivory for the Jets, and for significantly less.
This is a coup for the Jets who have refueled their running back corps very well.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Brent Grimes, CB: 2 years, $16.5 million
Grade: BAALKE EVIL GRIN GRADE
Wow. Just wow. Grimes was awful last season and has starkly regressed.
He was playing at a high level as recently as 2014 and granted, this deal is fairly heavily incentivized, but the base is still over 6 mil a year.
He’s old, slowing down, not a viable starter anymore, and it’s kind of unbelievable that he got more than $2 million a year to be honest. Baalke (F) Grade material.
J.R. Sweezy, G: 5 years, $32.5 million
Sweezy is a solid road-grader, so it makes sense that they follow up the Doug Martin signing with some help for the offensive line.
However, Sweezy is not a great pass-protector and will be asked to do that with Jameis Winston behind center.
He’s getting paid a little less than the other guards that have signed today, which makes sense because he’s a little worse than the rest of them.
Tashaun Gipson, S: 5 years, $35.5 million
I really like Gipson but it has to concern the Jags whether or not last year was an anomaly.
He had a brilliant 2014 and he’s still young and likely entering his prime, so there’s upside, but it remains to be seen whether he can be the lynchpin to hold together a poor secondary, which is what the Jags have right now.
At 7 mil per year, the Jags are betting a fair amount that he is.
Sean Weatherspoon, LB: 1 year, unknown amount
Mohamed Sanu, WR: 5 years, $32.5 million, $14 million
Grade: BAALKE FIRES JIM HARBAUGH GRADE
I saw the buzz that the Falcons were going to throw 7 mil a year at Sanu. I honestly still can’t believe it happened.
This is an egregious overpayment for a player that would generously be worth $4 million a year. Don’t get me wrong, Sanu has a solid skill set and some versatility (he can run and throw as well).
But he hasn’t proven that he can consistently be a threat. Especially not to the point of getting paid fringe-starter money. Reminds me of the idiot that fired Jim Harbaugh, a Baalke (F) Grade if ever there was one.
Derrick Shelby, DE: 4 years, $21 million
Shelby graded out as the fifth best edge player in a talent-rich free agent pool in 871 graded snaps last season according to Pro Football Focus.
He’s also 27 and will not be expected to save the defense since the Falcons already invested in Vic Beasley a year ago. This is a brilliant signing with a ton of upside for a solid rate.
Teams tend to pay for the pass rush, but in this case, the Falcons got a steal.
Matt Schaub, QB: 1 year, $1.25 million
Schaub was a solid starter for years with the Texans after backing up Michael Vick to start his career. In fact, he had three consecutive 4,000+ yard seasons.
He’s fallen off quite a bit since then and developed an absurd penchant for pick sixes. He gives them out like they’re going out of style.
Still, he’s a savvy veteran that could potentially recapture his above-average ability in short bursts. It’s not the worst Matt Ryan insurance policy, especially considering Ryan simply doesn’t miss time.
C.J. Anderson, RB: 4 years, $18 million
This is an offer sheet so the Broncos will have an opportunity to match, they should not.
Anderson is bad at the beginning of the season. He gets decent when everyone else is hurt because he’s sturdy. There are better runners four rounds deep in this draft so I have no idea why the Dolphins would pay for him.
For that matter, Jay Ajayi, who they drafted last year, has a far superior skill-set overall. This deal sucks. But at least they’re not paying him Martin money. I hate Anderson. He sucks.
Sam Young, OT: 1 year, veteran minimum
Sam Young is barely rosterable, so this is barely better than average. That’s it. Good night.
Isa Abdul-Quddus, S: 3 years, $12.75 million
Quddus is an adequate backup at safety who should not be relied upon to start. He might be a possibility as a nickel safety.
At a little over 4 mil a year, it’s a little steep for a guy that probably won’t offer meaningful starter snaps.
Still, he’s fairly young and likely in the midst of his prime, so I like the length of the contract.
Travis Lewis, LB: 1 year, $810,000
Lewis is a special teamer primarily, and a good one at that. He also had some solid experience playing as a reserve linebacker in 2015 for the Lions.
He’s still young so there’s potential to grow, but he’s likely already entered his prime so he’s probably pretty close to his peak as a pro.
For the vet. minimum, I like this deal quite a bit.
Emmanuel Lamur, LB: 2 years, $6 million
Grade: BEEF WITH BAALKE GRADE
Lamur was absolutely dreadful in limited snaps in 2015. He’s shown potential before, which is why Zimmer brought him in.
What makes no sense at all is why he paid anything more than bottom dollar for him. Three mil per year is absolutely absurd for a guy who’s never even kind of proven it. He likely had virtually no market.
This one is pretty bad, worthy of a Baalke (F) grade.
Michael Griffin, S: 1 year, $2.5 million, $750k guaranteed
Griffin is over the hill. No doubt about that. He is, however, still all right.
He’s being paid a little bit over veteran minimum with hardly any guaranteed money at all, so the signing makes sense for depth purposes.
Griffin cannot start any longer.
Gino Gradkowski, C: no contract details
Rishard Matthews, WR: 3 years, $15 million
As expected, Rishard Matthews was going to be the best value of the “top-flight” free agent options.
The Titans did a nice job buying fairly low on a guy who graded out very well last year and showed some play-making ability out of the slot.
It’s still a little too much since Matthews really hasn’t shown the ability to consistently produce yet. Still, I think he’s the best receiver deal so far.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Keenan Robinson, LB: 1 year, $3 million
Robinson was an ok rotational linebacker for the Redskins but I don’t see much upside here. He probably shouldn’t have earned much more than the vet. minimum.
Still, there’s no risk here. It’s just another case of the Giants overpaying. They’ve been pretty incompetent this off-season.
Olivier Vernon, DE: 5 years, $85 million, $52.5 million guaranteed
Grade: BAALKE BLAINE COLIN MENAGE A TROIS
Holy Crap. This is one of the most egregious over-payments to a defensive player I’ve ever seen.
The Giants must think they’re a couple of players away from a Super Bowl. They aren’t. This is going to cripple them. Vernon is not the best pass rusher in the league. He may not be in the top ten.
And yet, the Giants are paying him the largest deal in history for a defensive end. He’s getting paid almost as much per year as Osweiller. That is outrageous, and a definite Baalke (F) Grade.
Damon Harrison, DT: 5 years, $46.25 million, $24 million guaranteed
Harrison is one of the last great nose tackles left in the NFL. He’s a brilliant run-stuffer that can get after the passer from time-to-time.
A presence like his is desperately needed on a Giants defense that was devoid of talent in 2015 and he should come in and produce up to expectation. The concern is obviously how much talent he had around him in New York, but I expect his skills to translate.
A little over $9 million per year is overpaying, but not egregiously. This was just a small amount over the expected going rate of a top free agent like Harrison.
Cedric Thornton, DT: 4 years, $18 million
Here’s what I like about this: the Cowboys are addressing their needs so they can take the BPA at 4 overall.
Here’s what concerns me: Thornton hasn’t really ever produced at a high volume and he’s 29. Paying over $4 million a year is a little much, but it makes sense considering he’d easily become the most talented d-tackle on the roster.
It’s not close. It’s also smart to take him away from a division rival.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Dwight Lowery, S: 3 years, $7.2 million
He was in the middle of the pack of available free agents according to Pro Football Focus on 11oo graded snaps.
He’s 30 so he figures to regress by the end of this contract, still if they don’t expect him to start, this deal should be fine for depth purposes.
Ideally, he won’t see the field often, so over $3 million per year might be a bit much.
Brandon Mebane, DT: 3 years, $13.5 million, $5.5 million
I love this signing. Evaluators say he still has the ability to wreck a game plan and his play on the field backs that up.
He’s good against the run and has pass rush ability, and since he’s already out of his prime, his regression shouldn’t be too stark until he’s done.
Basically, he should play at a fairly above-average level for the life of this contract and the Chargers are paying him average starter money.
Ladarius Green, TE: 5 years, $20 million
Green is an ascending player who never really got a chance to show off his insane skill-set.
He’s a scary height-weight-speed combination that should thrive as a starter for the Steelers who needed it after the retirement of Heath Miller.
My one worry is that he hasn’t had that breakout season yet, but other teams paid more for less potential.
Ron Brooks, CB: 3 years, $8.7 million
This is a tough one to grade since Brooks didn’t get meaningful snaps last year.
He is, however, familiar with Schwartz and I’m a big fan of good coaches bringing in their guys since there’s almost certainly a proper scheme fit.
The Eagles needed to find better depth at corner, which they have. Now they need a true number 1.
Nigel Bradham, LB: 2 years, $7 million
Bradham was among my favorite players available in free agency since I know someone was going to buy low on him and get a massive bargain. I also correctly predicted he would land in Philadelphia with his former coordinator.
Bradham should enjoy a resurgence, being back in a system that fits his skill-set best. He’s an absolutely solid tackler whose good both in coverage and against the run. He has solid instincts to go with good-enough athleticism.
He should be a high-volume tackler for the Eagles next year. Likely their tackles leader if he stays healthy. At a little over 3 mil per year, it’s an absolute steal.
Brandon Brooks, OG: 5 years, $40 million
Brooks is a solid guard and only 27 so on the surface, this seems like a solid deal.
This move was, however, clearly dictated by need in a thin market and so the Eagles were forced to grossly overpay for his services.
That much, I do not love. It is good that the Eagles recognize their needs and are continuing to allow themselves more draft flexibility with so many picks.
They are in line to develop a talented roster in the next couple of years.
Chase Daniel, QB: 3 years, $21 million, $12 million
Daniel is an excellent option at backup for the Doug Pederson-led Eagles.
He represents a major upgrade over Mark Sanchez, who struggles with consistent accuracy and poise. Daniel has all of those in spades and can immediately step in and run the offense effectively.
However, the Eagles overpaid just a bit for his services. 7 mil per year is certainly a premium for a guy that doesn’t have extensive starting experience. Word is he’ll have a chance to compete for the starting job and will likely see time anyway since Bradford is so injury-prone.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Thad Lewis, QB: 1 year, $760,000
Now that’s what I’m talking about. Thad Lewis has played fairly well as a starter in his young career and reminds me of a young Tarvaris Jackson.
He hasn’t yet entered his prime and is an ideal candidate as a reserve quarterback. He’ll get to compete for a backup spot, and at the vet. minimum that’s an ideal scenario.
Tyvon Branch, S: 2 years, $10 million, $5 million
I loved Tyvon Branch’s level of play for the Chiefs when he was on the field last season.
He’s a fringe starter that was stuck behind some really solid safeties in Kansas City. He should add some juice to the Cardinals safety corps.
The Cardinals defense loves its play-makers.
Jeff Allen: 4 years, $28 million
Allen is a slight upgrade over the departed Brooks and is getting one million a year less.
He’s 27 years old so he could potentially grow as a player, either way he’s just entering his prime and is well-rounded as a pass and run-blocker.
I still think 7 mil per year is a little bit too much for an above-average starting guard. But it’s very close to correct market value.
Tony Bergstrom, C: 2 years, $5.75 million, $1.5 million guaranteed
Bergstrom was an above-average player when called upon for the Raiders in 2015. He excels as a run-blocker, while not being quite as strong in the pass.
This is probably an ideal landing spot for Bergstrom as the Texans want to rely on their strong zone-block running game, with the passing game as more of a supplement.
If Bergstrom is asked to start, he should be up to the task. In a full-season, some of his weaknesses would be revealed so the value is pretty much right, at a little under $3 million per season.
MARCH 9, 2016
EAGLES AND TITANS TRADE
Eagles Receive: Titans 4th Round Pick
Titans Receive: Eagles 4th Round Pick, RB DeMarco Murray
For the Eagles, this is another great job of getting rid of an undesirable contract, only swapping fourths is a little disappointing considering Murray was the league’s top rusher just two years ago and one year into a 5 year $40 million contract.
Still, Murray was a malcontent, so it’s good for both parties to move on. The Titans receive a back who is likely motivated to prove his detractors wrong so I could see this working out fairly well for them, and they only dropped 13 spots in the 4th to do it.
There is the possibility that Murray really isn’t the same back, considering his injury issues, heavy wear from the 2014 season and the fact he won’t be running behind an incredible offensive line like Dallas, but Tennessee will scheme their running game for Murray, so he’ll be in the best possible position to recapture the magic.
EAGLES AND DOLPHINS TRADE
Eagles Receive: Round 1 Pick 8
Dolphins Receive: Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, Round 1 Pick 13
For me, this is a deal that could pay off greatly for both sides.
I imagine there wasn’t anyone at 8 the Dolphins had strong convictions of, so they’re ok to move back and pick up some pieces. Kiko Alonso, when healthy, is an excellent young inside linebacker, he reminds me of Sean Lee. The Dolphins had nothing close to that at linebacker before.
Byron Maxwell also came on for the Eagles last year late and ended up with a decent season overall. He’ll certainly be an improvement over old, bad Grimes.
The Eagles, meanwhile, dump a fairly insane salary with Maxwell and the regime further cleans their hands of the Chip Kelly era, for better or worse.
Moving up in the draft a bit just sweetens the deal. It’s better compensation than I was expecting, but it definitely opened up some holes on the roster which is why I’m not giving it an A.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Mitchell Schwartz, OT: 5 years, $33 million, $15 million guaranteed
Schwartz was one of the top right tackles in the NFL last year.
This was, however, one year removed from being a complete liability on the Browns offensive line. There’s always the question of a player playing for a contract.
But there is the possibility, especially considering he’s still young, that he’s turned a corner and about to enter his prime. If that’s the case, less than $7 million per year is a very solid price to pay. Still, there’s a bit of risk here so I don’t love it.
Jonathan Massaquoi, DE: no contract details
Efe Obada, DE: no contract details
Marvin Jones, WR: 5 years, $40 million, 17 million guaranteed
Don’t get me wrong, this is too much for Jones. He’s an excellent WR2 getting paid like a borderline WR1 which I am not a fan of.
He cannot, and should not be expected, to headline a wide receiving corps, and will not replace the production Calvin Johnson provided, even in Johnson’s later years.
However, he was easily the best available receiver with the most potential, he’s 26 and just had his best season as a pro, and probably will get a bit better before he peaks.
If the Lions draft a receiver high, they could potentially have one of the best young corps in the league, immediately. They just have to understand Jones is not a number 1 guy.
NEW YORK JETS
Matt Forte, RB: 3 years, $12 million, $8 million
What’s kind of tough to grade about this is the running back market is clearly different this season than it was last offseason.
Last offseason, premium running back numbers (Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller) received $4 million a year. Those two guys in this market would probably get 5-6 mil.
My main point here is Forte is still an excellent all-around back who should still be a viable starter through the life of his deal and the Jets are getting him for less than the current going rate.
So it’s a win.
Malik Jackson, DL: 6 years, $85.5 million, $31.5 million guaranteed
Malik Jackson was the best available player on the market at the time. That doesn’t mean he is worth the nearly $13 million per year the Jags are handing him.
He will not live up to this contract, for many reasons. The biggest thing to consider is the talent around him on the defensive line: there is none. Dante Fowler Jr. is an unknown commodity and Jared Odrick is an average starter. There’s not much else to get excited about.
Jackson is a good player, but he will not change that defense without some help.
Chris Ivory, RB: 5 years, $32.5 million, $10-15 million guaranteed
Running backs are not worth almost $7 million per season. They are not.
Consider also that Ivory is expected to be in a timeshare with T.J. Yeldon and you see why this deal feels a bit egregious.
I can at least admit I understand it. When healthy, Ivory was one of the most dominant backs in the NFL last season and Gus Bradley, David Caldwell and company have one year left to show the results of their master plan.
With $90 million to spend in free agency, they have the flexibility to buy the pieces they need and they clearly feel Ivory could be a missing piece on their offense.
I don’t necessarily agree, as I think they should probably be looking more toward their offensive and defensive lines (even after the Malik Jackson signing), but to each his own.
Alex Mack, C: 5 years, $45 million, $28.5 million
Mack is just reaching the end of his prime, and will not get any better.
In fact, with inferior talent around him on the Falcons line as opposed to a talent-rich Browns line, he might get worse.
The other side of that coin, though: he’ll make everyone else’s job on the line easier. That’s an exciting prospect for the Falcons, as they have not had a premiere lineman since Matt Ryan arrived.
It’s just a bit too much to pay, $9 million a year, for a guy that has clearly left his prime, so I’m not in love with the signing. It’s all right.
Mario Williams: 2 years, $16 million
I still think Williams has a lot to offer as a player, my concern is pairing him up with a bad influence like Suh, who could bring out the worst in him.
From what I understand, Williams’ main beef was being played out of position by Coach Rex Ryan, and it’s a reasonable frustration when it’s clear where a player best fits. That’s essentially Ryan screwing with Williams’ value by not putting him in the best position to succeed and produce at a high volume.
The Dolphins will likely slide Williams in as a replacement to Olivier Vernon and the production should not see much of a dip.
$8 million per year is a little steep for an older player like Williams, but he likely has a few good years left and it’s a short contract, so it’s not like they’ve shackled themselves for years to a player that could majorly regress.
This could go bad, but I find it a somewhat reasonably calculated risk.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Ramon Humber, LB: 1 year, unknown amount
I have nearly no doubt this is a veteran minimum deal.
Humber is ok depth at linebacker and a very good special teamer. He just should never be asked to take signifcant snaps.
The Patriots have a solid history of acquiring Saints castoffs like Rob Ninkovich, Donte Stallworth and Akiem Hicks to name a few, so I expect them to maximize Humber’s skill set.
Alex Boone, G: 4 years, $26.8 million, $10 million guaranteed
This is probably the best offensive lineman signing of the season so far.
Boone is an excellent mauler run-blocker that should bust open plenty of holes for Adrian Peterson through the life of his contract.
To get a top-flight free agent guard at a little over 6 mil per year is an excellent signing. It’s a bit under market value.
Ben Jones, C: four years, $17.5 million, $7.5 million guaranteed
N0t much to see here.
Ben Jones is 27, and he probably won’t get too much better. He’s an average starter getting paid slightly more than he should on the open market.
The Titans did address a need here and it opens up more draft possibilities for them, which is why I’m giving this higher than a C.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Janoris Jenkins, CB:5 years, $62.5 million, $29 million guaranteed
I love Janoris Jenkins’ potential. I do not love paying him premium starter money just because it’s a thin market.
Inevitably, some team was going to overpay for his services so I can’t knock the Giants too hard. They desperately need help everywhere on the defense, but the departure of Amukamara made corner a big concern.
Jenkins should come in and provide solid starter snaps, but I feel like this might end up very similar to the Maxwell deal last year. Hint: Maxwell is no longer on the team that overpaid for his services.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Travis Benjamin, WR: 4 years, $24 million, $13 million guaranteed
I like the idea of getting Rivers more weapons, and with Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson already in the fold, San Diego is building itself a nice little corps.
Benjamin should be able to step into the slot and provide meaningful snaps fairly quickly.
Unfortunately, the Chargers paid him WR2 money, 6 mil per year is just too much for a guy that should not be seeing the field on every offensive snap. If they expect to make a jump, fine. I just don’t see it.
Bruce Irvin, OLB: 4 years, $37 million, 12.5 million guaranteed
Irvin is not a game-changing linebacker, and although this was a position of need, the Raiders overpaid here.
There is very little chance Irvin lives up to over $9 million per year. The saving grace on this one is the low guarantee number which would allow the Raiders to essentially opt out after the 2016 season since the guarantee is completely front loaded.
That’s a good plan by Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. Still, as it stands, this is too much for a marginal starter.
Kelechi Osemele, OL: 5 years, $58.5.million, 25.4 million guaranteed
This is another case of the Raiders overpaying, big-time.
The key here is that the buzz says the Raiders see Osemele’s value at tackle. That is not where his value lies, as he is just an above-average left tackle.
He is a dominant guard, however, and it’s possible Raiders brass will recognize that and play him accordingly.
Unfortunately, paying $11 million a year to a fringe starter at tackle or a dominant guard, regardless, is too much money. Like the player, but the numbers don’t work for me.
Rodney McLeod, S: 5 years, $37 million, $17 million guaranteed
I actually really like this move. The need at safety was pretty large next to Malcolm Jenkins. McLeod is a legitimate starter, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ third best available safety in 1180 snaps last season.
He’s 26 years old, so he should just be entering his prime. This is actually a lot like the Malcolm Jenkins signing from a couple years ago. The Eagles are getting a player that may ascend, and is very unlikely to regress.
The money is a bit too much for him though, I see his value more in the $6 million per year range, but the Eagles did a nice job not getting pushed around by the market. They got their guy and now they have more draft flexibility.
Leodis McKelvin: 2 years, $6 million
McKelvin may not be an above-average starter anymore, but he can be what Byron Maxwell was for the Eagles in 2015. He’s also coming at a hugely discounted rate.
The main reason for this is that he’s getting up there in age and has some injury concerns, but this is a good move for the Eagles, buying low on a guy who probably has a few good years left.
This should in no way preclude them from drafting a corner, however.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Coby Fleener, TE: 5 years, $36 million
This is reportedly a back-loaded contract, which I’m not a fan of.
However, the Saints are clearly attempting to still make a run with the couple of years Brees has left, so the deal makes sense.
Fleener is a smart guy, and should pick up the complicated Saints offense quickly. The Saints just turned Ben Watson into a highly productive tight end at 35 so I expect Fleener should be able to produce similar numbers and for a longer amount of time.
A little over 7 mil is a lot. But it’s likely the going rate for top tight ends in a starved market. Fleener is almost certain to live up to the contract due to the way Brees and Payton use tight ends.
Josh Scobee, K: 1 year, veteran minimum
There is no risk in signing Scobee, who had a very solid career with the Jags before stinking it up in Pittsburgh.
Word is he was dealing with a hip issue and that could have contributed to his poor performance.
Obviously Saints are hoping he returns to form, and if he does they’re set at kicker for years. If not? Dump him for no money down.
Lamar Miller, RB: 4 years, 26 million, $14 million guaranteed.
The Texans clearly needed to find an answer as they’re moving on from Arian Foster.
Miller represents a downgrade, however, and at a little over $5 million per season, he’s getting paid more than a very comparable running back in New Orlean’s Mark Ingram.
This is another case of overpaying in a thin market, and these teams are going to regret these deals.
Brock Osweiler, QB: 4 years, $72 million
Grade: OH BOY CHEF BOYAR-BAALKE GRADE
Osweiler was only a viable starter because he was such a scheme fit for the Broncos.
He will not be better than Brian Hoyer and if the Texans expect him to be their quarterback of the future, they’re delusional.
This deal is warm, like some good Chef Boyardee, because it does my heart good to see dumb teams overpaying mediocre quarterbacks. $18 million a year? Really? He’s a backup. Oh man, this one is funny. The definition of a Baalke (F) grade.
Donald Stephenson, OT: 3 years, $14 million, $10 million guaranteed
Word was if the Broncos lost Jackson, they’d be in the market for a serious O-lineman.
Stephenson is an upgrade over Michael Schofield, who started at right tackle, and provides a solid backup option if Clady can’t go or if Sambrailo isn’t ready.
The Broncos overpaid by quite a bit on this contract. A little under $5 million for a guy that still has potential, but was dreadful last year is a concerning signing for a team that had hardly any cap flexibility.
Ben Watson: 2 years, $8 million
The Ravens are paying for Watson’s 2015 production in a Payton scheme with Brees throwing him the football.
Baltimore represents a downgrade in both scheme and quarterback play. Pair that with the natural regression the 35-year-old Watson is sure to have and you can start to see why I’m not crazy about this move.
However, Watson is still a good blocker and should provide some solid depth behind Crockett Gilmore and Maxx Williams.
He’s also a wonderful presence both on and off the field as a leader and humanitarian. It’s always smart to add a guy like that to a young locker room. They’re just paying too much of a premium for it for my taste.
Forrest Hill, LS: no contract details