The further removed we get from those first few frenetic days of free agency, the more we can really break down what happened.
That’s what we’re telling ourselves as we take our latest evaluative look at what teams did when the lockout was lifted. This time we’re focusing on specific positions where teams swapped out one player (via free agency, release, or trade) and brought in another that should represent an upgrade (restricted to free agency additions, so no presumptions over drafted players).
We’ll look at the downgrades tomorrow, but right now, which teams got better and where? Here are ten upgrades that stand out.
Washington Redskins, Cornerback
From: Carlos Rogers
To: Josh Wilson
2010 Grade: -4.5 (Rogers) to +13.0 (Wilson)
The Upgrade: Rogers isn’t a terrible player (even though he has terrible hands), but Wilson has something special about him. Despite only getting into the Ravens team halfway through the season, he played well enough to earn our fifth highest grade of all cornerbacks. He also only allowed 46.9% of balls thrown his way to be complete, compared to Rogers’ 69.4%.
St Louis, Guard
From: Adam Goldberg
To: Harvey Dahl
2010 Grade: -29.0 (Goldberg) to +14.4 (Dahl)
The Upgrade: Goldberg played pretty well in 2009 when he was lined up at RT, but has been a monumental failure at the guard spot. He was our lowest ranked guard in 2010, while Dahl had the third highest rating of any right guard. He may struggle a tad away from his Atlanta colleagues as they made each other better, but even on a bad day Dahl is a far more effective player than Goldberg. Dahl gave up 19 quarterback disruptions last year compared to the 40 of Goldberg.
From: Ellis Hobbs and Dimitri Patterson
To: Nnamdi Asomgha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
2010 Grade: -13.5 (Hobbs and Patterson) to +1.9 (Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie)
The Upgrade: Don’t be fooled by the ‘+1.9’ rating, it owes a lot to a big down year by DRC and there’s a huge difference between the pairings. Asomugha is a player who only allowed 13 receptions all year. Rodgers-Cromartie was second in the league in pass break ups in 2009 with 16. Hobbs and Patterson just don’t have that kind of talent.
New Orleans, Defensive Tackle
From: Remi Ayodele
To: Aubrayo Franklin
2010 Grade: In run defense, +4.4 (Ayodele) to +24.3 (Franklin)
The Upgrade: There are worse defensive tackles than Ayodele, but there are few better than Franklin. He had the second highest grade in run defense of all defensive tackles. The move from a 3-4 to 4-3, shouldn’t prove problematic for Franklin who will have the same role: keep men off his linebackers who struggle to shed blocks. Ayodele just couldn’t do that. Franklin is one player who will make a lot of guys around him look a lot better.
Jacksonville, Middle Linebacker
From: Kirk Morrison
To: Paul Posluszny
2010 Grade: +6.0 (Morrison) to +4.8 (Posluszny)
The Upgrade: It may seem odd to have this given we graded Morrison higher, but put things in context. Posluszny, ill fitted for it as he was, played in a 3-4 that didn’t bring out his best. Go back a year and Posluszny was given a +16.6 grade for his work as a MLB. He gives the Jags the every down linebacker they desperately needed to play alongside Daryl Smith. Their coverage unit improves with this swap of talents.
From: Bernard Pollard/ Eugene Wilson
To: Danieal Manning
2010 Grade: -6.1 (Pollard)/ -11.1 (Wilson) to +9.5 (Manning)
The Upgrade: It’s a little unclear where Manning may be used, but wherever it is he’ll represent a huge improvement on what the Texans saw last year. Neither Pollard or Wilson did much to increase their stock, with Pollard particularly shoddy in given up six touchdowns. By using Manning as the strong safety, maybe the Texans are thinking he can match up well with tight ends (he didn’t give up a single touchdown last year).
Denver, Defensive Tackle
From: Ronald Fields
To: Brodrick Bunkley
2010 Grade: In run defense, -1.4 (Fields) to -0.2 (Bunkley)
The Upgrade: On the surface not that much of an upgrade. But Bunkley missed a lot of last year hurt, with the year before scoring a +11.9 for his work in run defense. The Broncos needed a guy who could have a positive impact on their run D, with it looking a little lightweight at the moment. Bunkley is that guy.
Arizona, Tight End
From: Ben Patrick
To: Todd Heap
2010 Grade: Receiving grade, -0.7 (Patrick) to +7.5 (Heap)
The Upgrade: Given the state of the Arizona offensive line, Kevin Kolb is going to need a reliable target to dump the ball off to. That’s what Heap gave Joe Flacco, and it’s what he should give the new Arizona quarterback. It’s going to be weird seeing the Cardinals throw to their tight end.
Indianapolis, Defensive End
From: Keyunta Dawson
To: Jamaal Anderson
2010 Grade: -13.6 (Dawson) to +8.8 (Anderson)
The Upgrade: Finally the Colts aren’t trying to fit square pegs into round holes. For years they’ve been trying to fatten up players like Raheem Brock and Keyunta Dawson, to make them stouter against the run and more of a physical threat inside on passing downs. It hasn’t worked. Now they have the prototypical guy to spell Dwight Freeney and/or Robert Mathis. Anderson is pretty effective in run defense (our sixth highest grade of all defensive ends) and can eat up snaps inside in nickel packages.
From: Zach Follet, Landon Johnson and Julian Peterson
To: Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant
2010 Grade: -11.9 (Follet, Johnson and Peterson) to +16.6 (Tulloch and Durant)
The Upgrade: The Lions need linebackers who can shed and make plays. Last year they just didn’t have that, and it left them vulnerable when their defensive line was too busy getting up field to offer some form of protection. Durant and Tulloch are two physical linebackers who do just this. Tulloch can man the middle, while Durant is a two down linebacker who can see his biggest weakness (coverage) limited by taking him off the field in sub packages.