Free Agency 2011 – 10 Positional Downgrades

| August 8, 2011

Yesterday we brought you our 10 moves that showed teams getting better after moving on from one player and bringing in a replacement.
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Today we look at teams that opened a hole by losing a free agent, or by cutting or trading a player and are filling the gap with someone new who should be seen as a downgrade. It’s the ultimate admittance that losing a guy hurts more than you’d like to say as you actively scour the market desperately searching for a suitable filler.
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Here are 10 moves that made teams weaker.

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Arizona Cardinals, Cornerback

From: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

To: Richard Marshall

2010 Grade: From -14.7 (Rodgers-Cromartie) to -13.2 (Marshall)

The Downgrade: On the surface it may not seem like going from our bottom ranked cornerback in 2010, to our third lowest is much (if any) of a downgrade and there should be a giant asterisk next to this given the performance of DRC last year (and reports about his attitude). But Marshall has never displayed the talent of the man he’s about to replace. Just look at how good he Rodgers-Cromartie was in 2009 where he was our fourth ranked cornerback to see the heights he’s reached.
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Baltimore Ravens, Safety

From: Dawan Landry

To: Bernard Pollard

2010 Grade: From -6.1 (Pollard) to +10.5 (Landry)

The Downgrade: It remains to be seen whether Pollard will get the nod over Tom Zbikowski, but neither man projects to have the impact Landry did. The new Jaguars safety was our fourth ranked safety last year, while Pollard was down in 70th.
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Cincinnati Bengals, Cornerback

From: Johnathan Joseph

To: Nate Clements

2010 Grade: Coverage From -0.3 (Joseph) to +2.6 (Clements)

The Downgrade: While Joseph had a lower grade than Clements last year, a lot of that can be attributed to an injury that limited him to 611 snaps (playing hurt for a number of them). No, a more accurate portrayal of how good Joseph is, would be his 2009 year – he was our sixth highest ranked cornerback that season. So, while Clements is still a serviceable player, he’s seen better days and doesn’t offer the short or long term production that Joseph does.
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Jacksonville Jaguars, Outside Linebacker

From: Justin Durant

To: Clint Session

2010 Grade: +3.0 (Durant) to -1.1 (Session)

The Downgrade: While Session probably offers more every down ability than Durant, the fact that the Jags have two players built to succeed in sub packages suggests Session may be destined for a two down role. It’s not that he doesn’t flash ability (he does), but from play to play you never know what you’re going to get from him. At least Durant was the kind of run defender who would excel in a two down role.
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Minnesota, Wide Receiver

From: Sidney Rice

To: Michael Jenkins

2010 Grade: Receiving grade from +1.6 (Rice) to +5.9 (Jenkins)

The Downgrade: Jenkins is a useful player and a solid pair of hands that can be relied upon. But he’s not Sidney Rice. Rice is the kind of downfield threat that teams crave, with the kind of vertical leaping ability that is near enough impossible to defend. There are injury concerns, but a healthy Rice gave a whole new dimension to the Vikings defense (it’s what made him our top receiver in 2009). Michael Jenkins, as solid as he is, doesn’t.
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Minnesota Vikings, Defensive Tackle

From: Pat Williams

To: Remi Ayodele

2010 Grade: Run defense grade, from +11.9 (Williams) to +4.4 (Ayodele)

The Downgrade: While Williams is slowing down, he’s still stout enough against the run that teams are best served shying away from running at him. Ayodele may fill the role of ‘big man on the line’ but he’s not got the ability even an elderly Williams had last year. The Vikings just became a lot easier to run on.
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New York Giants, Defensive Tackle

From: Barry Cofield

To: Gabe Watson

2010 Grade: From +16.3 (Cofield) to -6.2 (Watson)

The Downgrade: While Watson won’t be the only one taking over the snaps from the departed Cofield, he’s the one we’re going to focus on. The Giants defensive line took a big hit with the Cofield loss, and they’re going to be hoping that one of their young players or Watson can go some way to replacing the production from our 12th ranked defensive tackle in 2010.
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San Francisco 49ers, Outside Linebacker

From: Manny Lawson and Travis LaBoy

To: Antwan Applewhite

2010 Grade: Pass rushing grade from +12.3 (Lawson)/ +15.4 (LaBoy) to -3.5 (Applewhite)

The Downgrade: The 49ers will be hoping Aldon Smith steps straight up, because the loss of consistent pass rush could hurt them almost as much as losing Aubrayo Franklin and Takeo Spikes. Applewhite picked up a pressure for every 9.65 pass rushes, while the combined duo of Lawson and Laboy picked up a pressure for every 6.09 pass rushes.
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Tennessee Titans, Middle Linebacker

From: Stephen Tulloch

To: Barrett Ruud

2010 Grade: +13.6 (Tulloch) to -13.3 (Ruud)

The Downgrade: While some Titan fans may bemoan Tulloch’s coverage skills, they’re likely to bemoan the inability of Ruud to shed blocks even more. Ruud had our lowest grade of all middle linebackers in run defense, and was just as bad when he blitzed. He’s not terrible in coverage, but that’s not the point. It’s that seeing him when a lineman gets their hands on him will make Titans long for Tulloch’s play.
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Washington Redskins, Running Back

From: Clinton Portis

To: Tim Hightower

2010 Grade: +6.6 (Portis) to -7.5 (Hightower)

The Downgrade: This isn’t so much for an every down role, but what they offer a team on third downs. Portis will go down as an all time great with his blitz pick up, while Hightower gave up three sacks and six pressures last year. To put things in perspective have a look at this article to see how good Portis is.

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