The NFL season is officially underway with the start of free agency. An active first day gives us plenty of moves to grade, so let’s get started!
ARIZONA CARDINALS: B
- DE JJ Watt: Two years, $28 million
- OLB/DE Markus Golden: Two years, $9 million
With Matt Stafford coming to the division, the Cardinals looked to give Chandler Jones some help. They came out of nowhere and signed JJ Watt, who may be past his prime, but is still a force on the field. They also resigned Markus Golden to a very modest deal to be a solid third option.
BALTIMORE RAVENS: B+
- G Kevin Zeitler: Three years, $22.5 million
The Ravens went out and got one of the best avaliable interior lineman on the market, Kevin Zeitler. He’s coming off a little bit of a down season, but at $7.5 million a year, he’s a very solid starter.
BUFFALO BILLS: B-
- T Daryl Williams: Three years, $24 million
- LB Matt Milano: Four years, $41.5 million
- G Jon Feliciano: Three years, $17 million
While he’s never been a great option, Williams has always been a solid starting right tackle. They got him for good value. Matt Milano deserved his contract, he’s developed into one of the best cover linebackers in the league. At over $10 million a year though, it is going to make it difficult to resign Tremaine Edmunds when his contract extension comes up. And Jon Feliciano? He honestly didn’t deserve a contract, I don’t know what the thinking was here.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: D
- G Pat Elflein: Three years, $13.5 million
- OT Cam Erving: Two years, $10 million
The Vikings offensive line is one of the worst in the league and they were comfortable letting Elflein walk. He has got progressively worse every year he’s been in the league. I didn’t even know Cam Erving was still in the league.
CHICAGO BEARS: C
- IDL Mario Edwards Jr.: Three years, $11.6 million.
They didn’t get better, didn’t get worse. Edwards is an above average rotational player, and they resigned him to a solid deal.
CINCINNATI BENGALS: B
- DE Trey Hendrickson: Four years, $60 million
Hendrickson is a great player, don’t get me wrong. However, the Bengals let Carl Lawson walk, and sign with the Jets for the same price (three years, $45 million). Lawson is by far the better player. The grade comes more for letting Lawson walk, more than how good Hendrickson is.
CLEVELAND BROWNS: A+
- S John Johnson III: Three years, $33.8 million
Cleveland’s defense runs three safeties. So in 2021 you’re going to have Johh Johnson III, Ronnie Harrison Jr., and Grant Delpit. That is a lethal combination. Johnson is young, and one of the most versatile safeties in the league. He can play center field, play slot corner, man up tight ends, play in the box. One of, if not the best signings of the day.
DALLAS COWBOYS: B+
- QB Dak Prescott: Four years, $160 million
This happened last week, but was the biggest signing of free agency. Dallas locked up their franchise quarterback locked up to a long term deal. Regardless what your opinion is of Dak, he’s a top 10 quarterback in this league and deserved a deal.
DENVER BRONCOS: B+
- IDL Shelby Harris: Three years, $27 million
- CB Ronald Darby: Three years, $30 million
Shelby Harris is a top 20 interior defensive lineman in this league, and at $9 million a year, it’s a solid deal. Darby has always been a good corner, he just hasn’t always been healthy. If he stays healthy, $10 million a year is right where he should be paid at.
DETROIT LIONS: B
- DE Romeo Okwara: Three years, $39 million
Okwara was a lone bright spot on a bad Detroit defense. He’s a emerging star at a premier position in the NFL. There is always a risk playing a player who doesn’t breakout until his contract year. If he continues on his current path, this is a value deal, but if not, they overpaid. Only time will tell.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: B
- RB Aaron Jones: Four years, $38 million
I like Jones, I do, but the Packers spent a second round pick on AJ Dillon, who looked good late last year. Running backs typically decline on their second contract, so I don’t think this was a good value signing.
HOUSTON TEXANS: B-
- RB Mark Ingram: One year, $2.5 million
- WR Andre Roberts: Two years, $6 million
- IDL Maliek Collins: One year, $6 million
An aging running back, after you traded for David Johnson last year. A return specialist. A rotational defensive tackle. Nothing special, and I don’t think they’re a better team after these signings. However, they didn’t overpay for these guys, so that earned them a B-.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: C-
- IDL Roy Robertson-Harris: Three years, $24.4 million
- WR Jamal Agnew: Three years, $21 million
- DE Dawuane Smoot: Two years,$14 million
- RB Carlos Hyde: Two years, $6 million
The team that really let me down. Coming into the day, they had $70 million in cap space. Instead of making a splash, they signed two rotational defensive lineman, a return man, and a backup running back. Now paying for depth, I don’t mind, but OVERPAYING for depth players is unforgivable. They overpaid for every player they signed. Not a good start for the Urban Meyer era.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: A
- G Joe Thuney: Five years, $80 million
The Chiefs started free agency by shockingly letting starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz walk. They did that to go out and sign best interior lineman available, great signing.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: B+
- DE Yannick Ngakoue: Two years, $26 million
Ngakoue is a great pass rusher which is what the Raiders are desperate for. He isn’t great against the run, but will be a nice piece opposite of Maxx Crosby.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: A
- C Corey Linsley: Five years, $62.5 million
- CB Michael Davis: Three years, $27 million
- G Matt Feiler: Three years, $21 million
The Chargers went all in on fixing their offensive line to protect Justin Herbert. Corey Linsley was the best center on the market, and Matt Feiler has quietly had a good career in Pittsburgh. Two guys who can immediately come in and start. Michael Davis has been lost in all the talented names in the Chargers secondary, he’s a solid starter.
LOS ANGELES RAMS: B
- OLB Leonard Floyd: Four years, $64 million
The Rams are in cap hell, but that didn’t stop them from locking up Floyd. He’s coming off a career year, but he’s an above average starter, this seems like a bit much for a player of his caliber.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: B+
- IDL Dalvin Tomlinson: Two years, $22 million
Tomlinson is a good starter and is great against the run. He will immediately bolster the Vikings front seven.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: C+
- TE Jonnu Smith: Four years, $50 million
- IDL Davon Godchaux: Two years, $16 million
- OLB Matt Judon: Four years, $56 million
- CB/S Jalen Mills: Four years, $24 million
- WR Nelson Agholor: Two years, $26 million
- WR Kendrick Bourne: Three years, $22.5 million
- IDL Henry Anderson: Two years, $7 million
The big spenders of the day, but it doesn’t seem like New England has a plan for the future, they’re still in win now mode. The problem is, this isn’t a win now team, it’s an aging team that is about ready to hit the reset button. I love the Smith signing. Godchaux is average at best. Judon is solid, but he’s aging and you paid him a lot. Mills had a good season last year, but has had a streaky career. Agholor and Bourne are speed guys who will open up the offense, but struggle with drops. I also do like the Anderson signing, he’s been good the last few years in New York. The Patriots had the cap room to spare, but could’ve made moves for the future instead of moves for right now. Maybe Bill knows something we don’t, I just do see it right now.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: B+
- OL James Hurst: Three years, $9 million
- QB Jameis Winston: One year, $9 million
Despite being over the cap, the Saints were able to make some solid moves. Hurst has played all over the line in his career and will provide good depth. With a lot of QB needy teams out there, bringing back Winston was a good move. I expect Winston to be the starter in 2021 and I think he will exceed expectations.
NEW YORK JETS: A-
- LB Jarrad Davis: One year, $7 million
- WR Corey Davis: Three years, $37.5 million
- DE Carl Lawson: Three years, $45 million
Outside of Jarrad Davis, who only got a one year deal, this was a great start to free agency for the Jets. Corey Davis will come in and be the number one receiver after a career year. Carl Lawson is a great pass rusher and consistently gets pressure. Young talent to start getting this team on the right track.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: B+
- CB Cameron Sutton: Two years, $9 million
Out of Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton, the Steelers prioritized Sutton, and that was the right move. Hilton is a slot corner, while Sutton has the versatility to man the slot and work on the outside.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: B
- FB Kyle Juszczyk: 5 years, $27 million
- CB Jason Verrett: One year, $5.5 million
- OLB Samson Ebukam: Two years, $12 million
Fullback has virtually disappeared in the NFL, but Juszczyk is the best one in the league he is an integral part of the 49ers offense. A lot of a money for a fullback? Yes. But if any fullback deserves it, it’s Juszczyk. Verrett has always been a good corner, he’s just never healthy. He remained healthy in 2020 and got a contract. He’s well worth that contract if he’s on the field. Ebukam is average, will be a rotation player at best. With Bosa coming off a major injury, this seems like an insurance policy, a little expensive, but something.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: A+
- LB Lavonte David: Two years, $25 million
- DE Shaq Barrett: Four years, $68 million
- TE Rob Gronkowski: One year, $10 million
The big question for the Buccaneers going into the offseason was how will they resign all their talented free agents. The Super Bowl champs were able to retain them all and look primed to make another run at the Super Bowl.
TENNESSEE TITANS: C
- IDL Denico Autry: Three years, $21.5 million
- OLB Bud Dupree: Five years, $82.5 million
Autry is an average starter, that’s all I have to say. I’m not a Dupree fan, I think the limited success he had was due to playing with players like TJ Watt and Cameron Heyward, I think this signing comes back to bite them.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: B+
- QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: One year, $10 million
The legendary journeyman continues his legacy. I like Heinicke to start this year with Fitzpatrick as a mentor. If he doesn’t pan out though, Fitzmagic is a great option to have waiting in the wings.
Featured image courtesy of Michael Beswick/The Republican
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