We’ve had a few looks at changes teams are making through free agency. Coming at it from a number of angles, we’ve seen some that have improved a position by swapping an inferior talent for a better one. We’ve also looked at some who’ve become worse for it and others that are promoting from within to fill a vacated spot with a home-grown option.
Our last piece in this bunch will highlight 10 spots where teams have not filled holes, but instead, added to what they already had in place. This is simply about bringing in a stronger guy to help address an acknowledged area of weakness or securing a new skill set to add breadth to their attack.
Houston Texans, Cornerback
From: Glover Quin and Kareem Jackson
To: Johnathan Joseph
2010 Grade: Coverage grade, from -3.7 (Quin)/ -10.9 (Jackson) to -0.3
The Upgrade: Substantial. Joseph was far better than either man despite suffering from injury in 2010. If you go back to 2009 you see what Joseph was really capable of – he finished the year our sixth-ranked cornerback on the year. That top end talent is a world away from what Quin, and especially Jackson showed last year. Each man gave up 924 receiving yards, fourth most for any tandem.
Atlanta Falcons, Defensive End
From: Kroy Biermann
To: Ray Edwards
2010 Grade: From +15.1 (Biermann) to +31.2 (Edwards)
The Upgrade: Biermann actually played pretty well last year, but as good as he can be, he’s not the player Edwards is. So while No.71 ranked 19th in our defensive end rankings, Edwards was seventh, with his rare ability to stand up to offensive tackles and rush the passer. For people downplaying Edwards as a guy who benefited from the Vikings system, don’t. He wasn’t running around unblocked and he was the third most productive rusher on a per play basis this year.
Cleveland Browns, Running Back
To: Brandon Jackson
2010 Grade: Pass blocking and receiving, +9.9
The Upgrade: It’s fair to say to the Browns were a little bit over reliant on Peyton Hillis last year. He was the every-down back who pounded the ball, and hence took a pounding. Cleveland had to go out and get a back who could limit his workload without challenging his dominance in carries. Step forward Brandon Jackson. The former Packer isn’t a threat running the ball but get him in space or picking up the blitz and he’s among the best. Cleveland gets good production in the pass game from their back, and at the same time, get to rest Hillis.
Seattle Seahawks, Tight End
From: John Carlson
To: Zach Miller
2010 Grade: From -12.7 (Carlson) to +7.4 (Miller)
The Upgrade: As much as Seahawk fans may never admit it, John Carlson just hasn’t lived up to expectations. He came onto the scene in a blaze of fire but failed to deliver, struggling in all facets of the game in recent years. The same can’t be said of Miller, who is coming off a strong year. The former Raider is the kind of every-down tight end the Seahawks were craving for last year, taking a weakness of the field and making it a strength.
Seattle Seahawks, Wide Receiver
From: Ben Obomanu
To: Sidney Rice
2010 Grade: Receiving Grade, from +4.1 (Obamanu) to +1.6 (Rice)
The Upgrade: While Rice had a tough year, you can blame a lot of it on missed time and injury. Compare that to 2009, where he was our top ranked receiver, and you see what kind of impact he can make. Rice is the kind of deep threat that makes his quarterback look like a better player by coming down with balls he doesn’t appear to have any right to. Whoever is playing quarterback figures to benefit from chucking it up to a healthy Rice.
Kansas City Chiefs, Inside Linebacker
From: Corey Mays
To: Brandon Siler
2010 Grade: From +1.3 (Mays) to +2.6 (Siler)
The Upgrade: Last year we only saw a noticeably out of shape (via injury) Siler pick up a marginally better rating than Mays. On the surface, not enough to make this article, but move back a year and you’ll see a Siler who has the kind of physical traits that earned him our fifth-highest grade for all inside linebackers. He’s the perfect complement for Derrick Johnson – the athlete who can make plays in coverage paired with the front footed linebacker that Siler is. The Chiefs have got themselves a great pairing there.
Philadelphia Eagles, Defensive End
From: Juqua Parker
To: Jason Babin
2010 Grade: From +16.7 (Parker) to +18.8 (Babin)
The Upgrade: Not the largest difference in terms of grades, but you can attribute a lot of that to the nine extra penalties that Babin gave up. In terms of during the play production however, Babin was on another level. He has the kind of physical skill set that sets tackles up to the outside and leaves them vulnerable to the inside if they over compensate. It’s just a shame it’s taken him this long to be taken advantage of. Parker is a very handy player, but the combo of Babin and Cole is damn near unstoppable.
Philadelphia Eagles, Guard
From: Todd Heremans
To: Evan Mathis
2010 Grade: +1.9 (Herremans) to +6.2 (Mathis)
The Upgrade: We’re in danger of getting the tag “Evan Mathis Lovers”, but it’s hard to ignore just how good he’s been when on the field. Last year he achieved such a strong rating on just 114 snaps, lending further credence to the argument of him being underused. A superb pass protector, Mathis offers a different type of guard who can make things happen at the next level. Whether he gets his chance is very much up in the air at this point.
St Louis Rams, Safety
From: James Butler
To: Quintin Mikell
2010 Grade: From +2.4 (Butler) to +17.0 (Mikell)
The Upgrade: Is it cheating to compare Mikell to Butler given OJ Atogwe was the starter last year? Perhaps, but Atogwe left before the lockout so I’ll roll with this. Mikell is, as we’ve often said, the most underrated safety in the league. He makes plays in coverage and in run support, and offers the exact type of safety Steve Spagnulo so desperately wanted with Butler and Atogwe but couldn’t get. Great find.
Washington Redskins, Guards
From: Will Montgomery
To: Chris Chester
2010 Grade: From -1.2 (Montgomery) to +3.9 (Chester)
The Upgrade: While there isn’t the greatest difference between the two, the Redskins signing of Chester allows them to move Montgomery elsewhere, move on from the disappointing Casey Rabach, and get an athletic lineman into the line up. Chester isn’t likely be a superstar at the guard spot, but teams need players like him that they can rely on.
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