2014 Free Agency Deal Grader
A cap rise means NFL players hitting free agency can be expecting some big paydays in their future. Of course as good as that is for them and as easy as it is to get caught up in handing out big money, that doesn’t necessarily make the deal a good one for a team.
So as we do every year we’re bringing back our annual deal grader using the PFF methodology for grading to tell you what we think about how the deals shake up. You’ll get more updated feedback and analysis from our Live Reaction Blog but if you want to see how we see deals compared to each other, here’s the place to be.
Note: We’ll only be grading deals where players have hit the open market. So players cut are fair game, while as players re-signed before 4pm on Tuesday 11th of March will not be.
+2.0: A move that is guaranteed to take your franchise to another level
It would seem unlikely …
+1.5: That’s just great value!
Darrelle Revis (CB) to Patriots: 1-year, $12m all guaranteed
The rich get richer. Even though Revis wasn’t fully comfortable on his return from a torn ACL he was extremely productive. He ended the year our fourth ranked starting corner by coverage grades alone and allowed the fewest yards per coverage snap. And he did all that playing in a scheme that really didn’t get the best out of him. We’ve little doubt that he’ll be even closer to his best next year and that means the Patriots have landed an actual living, breathing, shutdown corner.
+1.0: That should work out very nicely!
Eugene Monroe (LT) to Ravens: 5-year, $37.5m with $19m guaranteed
It strikes us a little odd that more teams were not interested in Monroe. In our eyes he was clearly the cream of the offensive tackle crop, with excellent pedigree and production and no nagging injury concerns. Last year he finished his 11 game stint with the Ravens our 10th ranked left tackle, earning positive marks for his work run blocking and in pass protection. With back to back strong seasons he was the surest thing at tackle and given how Joe Flacco performs under pressure, the move (and the money involved) mean this is a big win for Ozzie Newsome.
T.J. Ward (S) to Broncos: 4-year, $23m with $14m guaranteed
We did caution against Ward getting top tier safety money. As well as he graded out a lot of that owed to how the Browns used him; he’s a lot better closer to the line of scrimmage than he was on his heels. So congrats to the Broncos for finding his true value in a scheme that will get the best out of him without leaving him exposed. He’s a fantastic in the box safety (no defender scored higher in our defense grades) who has a real knack for finding the ball carrier.
Geoff Schwartz (G) to Giants: 4-year, $16.8m with $6.2m guaranteed
The Giants have needed to address their offensive line for a few years now and they wrapped up Schwartz very quickly yesterday. A good move only looks better now that the numbers are out with Schwartz due $4.2 million per year over four years. Schwartz has the versatility to play right guard and tackle opening up a number of potential lineups options for he and Justin Pugh and he brings quality to both spots. His strong suit is at right guard however where his +15.2 overall grade placed him among our Top 10 guards on less than 500 snaps this season. Finally seeing extended action for the first time since 2010 the Giants have bought (relatively) low and if he can extend that form have a top notch guard for far less than teams have paid for those in recent years.
Alterraun Verner (CB) to Buccaneers: 4-year, $26.5m with $14m guaranteed
Talk of him being moved aside at the start of last season in Tennessee led to nothing but a second straight quality season for Verner. On the 79 passes targeted into his coverage last season Verner surrendered a passer rating of 55.8, recording 14 pass defenses to go with his five interceptions. Comparing Verner’s deal to fellow AFC South free agent Vontae Davis sees the Buccaneers making out like bandits with a value deal for a quality cover corner. The only consistent concern for Verner in the last two seasons has been a drop off in form late in the season. After a strong start in 2012 Verner graded negatively in coverage each of the last five weeks of the season and did so in four of the last six weeks in 2013.
DeMarcus Ware (DE) to Broncos: 3-year, $30m with $20m guaranteed
Is it risky? Yes. Does it have the potential to payoff in a big way? Also yes. Ware has looked dinged up the past couple of years but all accounts say he’s elected to go the surgery route to at least clear up his troublesome shoulder injury. Even with these problems he was still our fourth ranked 4-3 defensive end with the eighth best pass rushing productivity of his peers. So pairing him with Von Miller? Well that will solve a lot of problems on the Denver defense, creating arguably the most fearsome pass rushing duo out there.
Golden Tate (WR) to Lions: 5-year, $31m with $13.25m guaranteed
When you talk about hitting a free agent signing out of the park this is the sort of deal you think of. Big but not back breaking money and a brilliant fit in terms of scheme and personnel for both parties. The Lions finally get a worthy complement to play opposite the physical freak that is Calvin Johnson while Tate lands in a situation that allows him to play to his strengths. Not the best going down the field or working intermediate routes Tate is a sure handed receiver who makes things happen after the catch on short passes while adding value as one of the league’s punt returners. Tate led all receivers last year with 21 forced missed tackles, registered 7.9 YAC per catch and averaged 11.5 yards on his 51 punt returns. An excellent fit for both teams filling a huge need for Detroit ahead of the draft.
+0.5: Common sense shines through
Karlos Dansby (LB) to Browns: 4-year, $24m with $14m guaranteed
While Dansby proclaimed on the radio this morning that he was going to be the best linebacker in the league, period, the truth is he’s a little way short of that while still being a fine player. The Browns definitely upgraded at the position with the swapping out of D’Qwell Jackson and the import of Dansby. Despite his age he earned a +13.3 grade from PFF last year thanks to some fine coverage work that saw him end up with four interceptions and 10 PDs.
Linval Joseph (DT) to Vikings: 5-year, $31.5m with $14m guaranteed
The Vikings entered free agency with a ton of holes on the D-line and it was vital that they added at least one edge player and an interior presence. They addressed the former before the ball dropped by retaining Everson Griffen to a big-money deal. Linval Joseph became their answer in the middle. Joseph is a strong run defender with a +8.0 grade against the rush last season and should pair with last year’s top pick Sharrif Floyd to give the Vikings a new-look interior.
Red Bryant (DL) to Jaguars: 4-year, $17m with $5.25m guaranteed
There’s not an awful lot of guaranteed money, but it’s hard not to see some guaranteed production. Bryant will fill the 5-tech defensive end role that Tyson Alualu failed to make his own in 2013. His play in Seattle (+12.3 run defense grade in 2013) represents an early down upgrade, even if you wouldn’t expect him to break 600 snaps a season or generate much pass rush.
Louis Delmas (S) to Dolphins: 1-year, $3.45m
Any more years on this deal and a positive it would not get. 2013 was as healthy as Delmas has been which means that he has either turned the corner, or due a breakdown in 2014. On the field he’s not quite the player his reputation would suggest, and it might be something of a risk asking him to play deep safety as much as Chris Clemons did (but who knows what changes are in store for the Miami defense).
Michael Johnson (DE) to Buccaneers: 5-year, $43.75m with $24m guaranteed
The reason this isn’t higher is that it’s a lot of money to pay a guy who isn’t a consistent pass rusher. But what Johnson does represent is a massive upgrade on any defensive end the Bucs currently have on the roster and is one of the very best defenders of the run, able to make plays inside of tackles and tight ends while maintaining outside contain. He was our fourth ranked defensive end overall last year.
Donte Whitner (S) to Browns: 4-year, $28m with $13m guaranteed
A lot of people have knocked this move, seemingly forgetting that Whitner reinvented himself to a degree last year. Many look at his designation as a strong safety and assume all he did was play in the box. But with just 21. 4% of his run defense snaps here he’s a far more versatile talent and he really upped his game in coverage after his disastrous 2012. Only 28 he’s in the prime of his career and he’ll add something to that Browns defense.
Jared Veldheer (OT) to Cardinals: 5-year, $35m with $17m guaranteed
The only concern with this deal and the only thing holding it back from a higher grade is the sample size of quality play we have from Veldheer. The second half of his 2012 season was as good as any tackle in football but a triceps injury ahead of the 2013 season robbed him of the opportunity to build on that and demonstrate consistent performances. From Week 8 to the end of the 2012 season Veldheer graded positively in pass protection nine times out of 10 and only surrendered 17 pressures. If that is the real Jared Veldheer, the Cardinals finally have their left tackle and at a very good value.
Lamarr Houston (DE) to Bears: 5-year, $35m with $15m guaranteed
The Bears’ defense needed help and in Houston they have added a versatile and productive defensive lineman in the hope of reinvigorating a unit that struggled in 2013. Houston’s top quality run defense (+14.9 in 2013) will be a welcome boost though he isn’t quite the top-drawer pass rusher that they might be hoping for. That, however, is reflected in his price tag and he will be a solid and productive contributor so long as the Bears don’t expect him to turn around their pass rush single-handedly. If deployed correctly this has the potential to be a bigger hit than just a “+0.5” grade signing.
Jairus Byrd (S) to Saints: 6-year, $54m with $28m guaranteed
Probably the only elite, blue chip player available in free agency this season, Byrd is one of those rare and coveted free safeties with the range, discipline and instincts to play as a Cover-1 safety. In the last two seasons Byrd has only earned a negative coverage grade in seven times and the lowest of those was a -1.0 grade against the Texans in Week 9 last season. His last “red” coverage (of only four in his career) came back in 2011. The only thing holding this deal back from a higher grade is the sheer dollar value.
Jon Asamoah (G) to Falcons: 5-year, $22.5m with $8m guaranteed
You might think handing a guy who was benched last year $8m guaranteed foolish. Only Asamoah didn’t lose his job down to his own poor play but rather the excellence of Geoff Schwartz, and was more than serviceable when he was in the line up. You might also think serviceable isn’t good enough, but when you suffered through the Falcons right guard woes you realize just how much of an upgrade that is. Asamoah was our 20th (out of 80) ranked guards last year.
Ryan Mundy (S) to Bears: 3-year, $3m with $650k guaranteed
After some solid early season displays with the Giants, Mundy was pushed out of the starting lineup by the returning Will Hill and found chances hard to come by after Week 7. He started his only season in the big apple with a bang earning a +3.5 grade (+2.8 coverage) in the Giants defeat to Dallas. This isn’t a flashy signing but considering how the Bears’ safeties played last season this can be nothing but a solid upgrade if he is able to win significant playing time.
Rashad Jennings (RB) to Giants: 4-year, $14m with $3m guaranteed
After some uninspiring play for the Jaguars, Rashad Jennings looked like a different player in Oakland last season, running hard and having some impressive games where he carried the load for a team that had to lean on its running game lest it actually risk one of its quarterbacks attempting a pass. Of his 733 rushing yards for the silver and black 456 of them came after contact, a 2.8 yards per carry average and he forced 16 missed tackles along the way. Given what the Giants were forced into playing at RB last season this is potentially a nice move.
Captain Munnerlyn (CB) to Vikings: 3-year, $14.25m with $7m guaranteed
Everybody figured that the Vikings would be chasing Alterraun Verner when the ball dropped on free agency but in Captain Munnerlyn they have found a similar player for significantly less money. Like Verner, Munnerlyn covers the slot and gives the Vikings some flexibility when they shift to sub-packages. He is a good fit for the kind of zone defense that Mike Zimmer has operated in the past and will play the run as well as the pass. Last year he was thrown at 98 times and surrendered just a single touchdown.
Eric Decker (WR) to NYJ: 5-year, $36.25m with $15m guaranteed
Cashing in on two extremely productive seasons catching passes from Peyton Manning in Denver this will be a more severe test of how good a receiver Decker is. Not the most sure handed of receivers (21 drops in those two seasons) Decker is a clear and substantial upgrade for the Jets’ receiving corps but the question remains as to whether Geno Smith will nail down the starting job and use Decker to develop the Jets anemic passing offense. In a four week spell after Thanksgiving Decker caught 28 passes for 464 yards and seven touchdowns, with only one drop. That’s the kind of form the Jets will hope to see from him on a consistent basis.
Willie Young (DE) to Bears: 3-year, $9m with $3.95m guaranteed
Last season was the first that Young saw a really sizeable body of snaps over a season. Formerly a situational pass-rusher, Young played 801 snaps a season ago – more than any other Lions defensive end – and graded well as both a pass-rusher and against the run. The Bears will be handing him a starting role and hoping that with another year of experience he can continue his upward trend and become a really impressive player at the position. At the very least he looks like a significant upgrade over what they had a year ago.
Anthony Collins (OT) to Bucs: 5-year, $30m with $15m guaranteed
The only thing keeping this deal away from the heady heights of the +1 grade is the money that Tampa Bay ended up committing to Collins. In the switch from Donald Penn to Collins the Bucs likely upgraded (assuming Collins can continue his strong performances), but the contract he received isn’t far short of the tier-one offensive tackles on the market from whom he is a distinct level away from. Collins last year had the best Pass Blocking Efficiency (97.2) of any OT that played a qualifying number of snaps.
Chris Clemons (DE) to Jaguars: 4-year, $17.5m with $5.8m guaranteed
Jacksonville really is becoming Seattle-East, with David Caldwell adding player after player that will be familiar to head coach Gus Bradley. Clemons found himself as the odd-man out in Seattle’s formidable defensive rotation but the Jaguars snapped him up and will expect him to get back to something approaching his best now he is fully recovered from an ACL injury. Despite working back from that, Clemons notched 41 total pressures for the Seahawks last season, not far short of the figure a fully-healthy Cliff Avril posted on similar snaps. The Jaguars needed a legitimate pass-rusher and they have one who is familiar with the system.
Tony McDaniel (DT) to Seahawks: 2-year, $5.75m with $1.25m guaranteed
The Super Bowl bonus clearly wasn’t out there for McDaniel who brings his solid brand of run defense back to the Pacific Northwest for another two years. Part of the Seahawks’ deep defensive line rotation McDaniel played more than 500 snaps in the regular season (only 4 less than starter Brandon Mebane) earning a positive run defense grade in 12 of his 19 appearances. His 33 regular season stops placed him second on the Seattle defense behind only Bobby Wagner and his run stop percentage of 11.9% was fourth best among defensive tackles.
Randy Starks (DT) to Dolphins: 2-year, $12m with $5m guaranteed
Believe it or not Randy Starks is not actually approaching 45 years old. Though he seems to have been in the league forever and a day he is only actually 30 years old, and finished last season as our 7th-ranked defensive tackle, one spot ahead of Jason Hatcher, who just signed a considerably more lucrative deal in Washington. Starks plays both the run and the pass to a high level and is still well capable of playing a starting load of snaps, with 742 of them under his belt a year ago. Given his history with the Dolphins they have managed to secure themselves quite the bargain with this retention.
Jason Hatcher (DT) to Redskins: 4-year, $27.5m with $10m guaranteed
On the surface it seems like a lot of money for a man as old as Hatcher. But given the tread he should have left on his tyres as well as the amount of guaranteed money involved, this is as good a move as the team has made in free agency. Last year Hatcher excelled rushing the passer, finishing fourth overall in our defensive tackle rankings in that regard. But don’t think he’s a bad scheme fit in the Redskins 3-4. Go back to 2012 and you’ll see a guy who was our fourth ranked 3-4 end overall. He’s just a good player and he’ll make Washington a better team.
Justin Tuck (ER) to Raiders: 2-year, $11m with $5.5m guaranteed
The danger with Tuck was someone would fall in love with his late season sack numbers and overpay. That didn’t happen here with the Raiders instead giving him a very fair price relative to his all round contribution. What’s more they’ve addressed a big position of need and arguably in the short term improved, with Tuck our seventh ranked defensive end last year.
Tarrell Brown (CB) to Raiders: 1-year, $3.5m fully guaranteed
Brown may have lost his starting job late in the year with the 49ers but that was less about him and more about the talent around him. While you wouldn’t try and get him going man to man with the opposition’s best, he’s the type of number two corner you can leave on one side of the field and he won’t let you down. Go back to 2012 and he was our fourth ranked cover corner.
Steve Smith (WR) to Ravens: 3-year, $11m with $3.5m guaranteed
Clearly Joe Flacco needs a receiver who isn’t afraid of some physical contact. Now while Steve Smith isn’t Anquan Boldin v2.0, he is still good enough that he fills a hole the current 49er left when he was traded last year. For such a small amount of guaranteed money this move is a pure win for the Ravens who are covered in case Father Time finally catches up with the one time face of the Panthers franchise. Smith was our 18th ranked receiver in 2013.
Evan Dietrich-Smith (C) to Bucs: 4-year, $14.25m with $7.25m guaranteed
When we see the Bucs spending in free agency there’s an immediate fear they’ll overpay. Not so here as “EDS” comes at a very affordable price, and with just 28 career starters under his belt there’s less chance of him wearing down the way some of their other linemen have. We wouldn’t expect him to wow you with pancakes left, right and center but nor will you notice him getting breezed past in pass protection. A truly solid hand.
Julius Peppers (ER) to Packers: 3-year, $30m with $7.5m guaranteed
We’re giving Peppers the benefit of the doubt and the Packers a tip of our hat for offering just $7.5m guaranteed. That means it’s a calculated risk that even if it doesn’t come off won’t be hurting the team down the line. The truth about Peppers is he played on a bad defense last year and appeared to have some of his less than 100% days. Fully motivated to prove the Bears wrong for cutting him and to ensure the Packers don’t follow suit, it’s a gamble that could pay off.
Zach Strief (OT) to Saints: 4-year, $20.5m with $8.4m guaranteed
Strief would finish the year our top ranked right tackle, largely on the strength of his pass blocking. Indeed while Charles Brown was getting his backside handed to him Strief was by and large doing an extremely admirable job. That’s what made it so important for the Saints to retain his services because this team runs through Drew Brees and he’s a much better player when he’s protected.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB) to Giants: 5-year, $39m with $15m guaranteed
On talent alone this move is closer to the +1.5 category than it is here. But when you look at DRC the player you can’t help but consider some of the red flags. Whether it be his retirement chatter during Super Bowl week, his “business decisions” in Arizona or his inconsistent play in Philadelphia, he is an incredibly frustrating cornerback. But you need only see how well he played last year, when he was our fourth ranked corner in coverage to know if you can get his head right you’re onto a winner.
James Jones (WR) to Raiders: 3-year, $11.3m with $4.5m guaranteed
So Jones isn’t coming off the best year of his career. What makes this a win for Oakland is that they haven’t overspent yet have added some experience to a group of receivers desperately crying out for it. Jones is a danger after the catch and has really worked on his catching to become a dependable target. Now if only they had a quarterback throwing to him …
0.0: Color us indifferent
Aqib Talib (CB) to Broncos: 6-year, $57m with $26m guaranteed
There is no doubting that Talib is a talented corner, but he has a world of red flags whether it be off-field concerns, injuries or just awful tape (he was truly victimized by Josh Gordon in the Cleveland game last season). Denver chose to make a run at Talib and hand him big money despite already getting impressive play from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in-house. It’s a deal that has the potential to work out OK for them, but there are a lot of risks attached to that significant investment.
Earl Mitchell (DT) to Dolphins: 4-year, $16m with $9m guaranteed
Mitchell is a player that was miscast at nose tackle in the Houston 3-4 despite it’s penetrating one-gap principles. The thought is that he will improve as a 4-3 player and generate more pressure. The truth though is that Mitchell has spent plenty of time in that role in Houston’s sub-packages and has rarely looked any better than average. Miami haven’t committed much money to him, but we wouldn’t expect him to outperform that contract either.
John Carlson (TE) to Cardinals: 2-year, $4.65m with $100k guaranteed
Why don’t we hate this move? The lack of guaranteed money and the lack of viable tight end options the Cardinals have. Carlson made out in free agency once when he took advantage of some poor work by the Vikings, failing to realize that he’s never been the receiving threat many touted him as. He’s an inconsistent receiver who the Cardinals hope has settled down, because his blocking (-13.1 career grade) won’t ever get the job done.
Paul Soliai (DT) to Atlanta: 5-year, $33m with $14m guaranteed
We like Soliai a lot. He’s a fantastic run defender who will help the Falcons use more conventional 3-4 fronts if that is what they want to do. But this team had and still has bigger problems, and loading up to stop the run ignores that they desperately need some consistent pass rush. Still you can’t say it’s a bad move because Soliai is better than anything else they have on the roster, we just think the Falcons attentions should have been turned elsewhere.
Branden Albert (OT) to Miami: 5-year, $46m with $25m guaranteed
Certain things we like about this deal. Albert is a good pass protector and in that regard he’s a big get for Miami, improving an area that needed something of an overhaul. But is he better than Eugene Monroe? In one more start than Monroe he had a worse pass blocking grade and he’s never been a consistent mauler in the run game. The reason this doesn’t get a positive though is the money involved. Far too much is guaranteed for a player who is not elite and who has missed four games each of the past two years.
Donald Brown (RB) to Chargers: 3-year, $10.5m with $m guaranteed
A disappointing career and destined to be a first-round bust, Brown turned himself around in 2013 finding himself a niche running from sub-packages for the Colts and saw him outshine new acquisition Trent Richardson. Netting 5 yards per carry in 2013 Brown forced 26 missed tackles and earned 3.0 yards per carry after contact. In his own role Brown offers an intriguing backfield stable for San Diego in addition to Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead.
Toby Gerhart (RB) to Jaguars: 3-year, $10.5m with $4.5m guaranteed
Emerging from the shadow of Adrian Peterson in Minnesota the Jaguars are gambling (not a lot of money admittedly) on Gerhart being fresh and ready to run after playing only 1,131 snaps in the first four years of his career. Back-to-back starts in 2011 yielded 181 yards on 40 carries against the Lions and Broncos including 14 missed tackles. Wait and see here on a back starved of opportunities behind one of the league’s best workhorse backs thus far in his career.
Mike Mitchell (S) to Steelers: 5-year, $25m with $5.25m guaranteed
On the surface this seemed like an overpay for a guy with one year of spotty production under his belt. But the lack of guaranteed money protects the Steelers in a way a lot of their recent contracts have failed to. Mitchell is a younger, more dynamic and less reliable version of Ryan Clark who can play the deep safety role while his partner in crime (last year Quintin Mikell and this year Troy Polamalu) can get up close to the line of scrimmage.
Antoine Beathea (S) to 49ers: 4-year, $23m with $6m guaranteed
We’re clearly not as high on Beathea as some with his average grade the past three years a -1.1 but that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible move. The small amounts of guaranteed money and the experience he brings ensures the 49ers won’t suffer such a big drop off when moving on from Donte Whitner. Though San Fran do tend to play both safeties we’d expect to see a bit more of Bethea around the line of scrimmage than they’ve come to expect out of their safeties.
Ted Ginn Jr. (WR/KR) to Cardinals: 3-year, $9.75m with $5.2m guaranteed
This is a significant sum of money for the former first round pick but Ted Ginn has been able to emerge from the shadow of his draft bust status and become a useful player at the NFL level. He still has speed to burn as a receiver but it is his ability as a return man that teams really covet. He is a useful addition for the Cardinals, but they haven’t got him for cheap.
Jacoby Jones (WR/KR) to Ravens: 4-year, $14m with $4m guaranteed
A star turn in the Ravens’ Super Bowl run Jones is a one-dimensional receiver who adds value in the return game. Returning from a Week 1 injury this season Jones failed to replicate his big play habit of the 2012 season. Having notched a 20 yard catch in nine games only managed that in four games this season with a long of 66 yards against the Jets in Week 12. Jones’ return implies the Ravens will still be very vertical and not terribly efficient in the passing game as a result.
Garrett Graham (TE) to Texans: 3-year, $11.25m with $4.5m guaranteed
There are two seasons with Graham playing a representative number of snaps for the Texans and they mirror the team’s fortunes. In 2012 he played well above average but his most recent body of work was like that of the team – dodgy at best. Last year Graham’s biggest issue was run blocking, earning a -7.8 grade over the season. The Texans haven’t committed huge money to him but will be hoping that he can bounce back along with the team in 2014.
Mike Neal (ED) to Packers: 2-year, $8m with $2.5m guaranteed
Making the tough conversion from the defensive line to playing outside in the Packers’ 3-4 last season Mike Neal had a productive year that wasn’t without its growing pains. With such a severe position move that wasn’t to be expected and the Packers have got Neal back at a reasonable price to try and continue that development and iron out the difficulties he had this season. Thanks to Clay Matthews’ injuries Neal led the Packers in total pressures with 46 (5 Sk, 4 Ht, 37 Hu) but still graded negatively in every facet of the game as he got to grips with his new position.
Josh McCown (QB) to Bucs: 2-year, $10m with $4.75m guaranteed
Possibly the most intriguing and polarizing free agent this season and the first quarterback off the board the Bucs have indicated that McCown will start over Mike Glennon. If they get the Josh McCown that the Bears got in relief of the injured Jay Cutler this season then they have an excellent short term starter who provides a sizable upgrade under center. The question being asked is how much of McCown’s performance was down to favorable circumstances? How much better did he play for having Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to throw to and Marc Trestman guiding his resurgent season? We won’t start to know the answers to those questions until he starts taking snaps for the Bucs; a late career renaissance or a one off blip?
Jeremy Mincey (DE) to Cowboys: 2-year, $4.5m with $500k guaranteed
The Cowboys certainly needed to add bodies to their defensive front. With DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer – 3/4 of their defensive line – either out of the door or not under contract. Mincey is a player with the ability to be better than he has shown lately and they haven’t committed big money to him (if for no other reason than with their cap situation they can’t). A year ago he played for both Jacksonville and Denver but his season can essentially be summed up as a lot of white noise and three standout performances against the Colts, Cardinals and Chargers. You can’t hate this deal, but the Cowboys will certainly be hoping that Mincey can outperform it and hit his potential.
Joe Mays (LB) to Chiefs: 2-year, $6m with $3m guaranteed
Paying two-down linebacker money for a strictly two-down linebacker the Chiefs have added some more punch to their interior run defense. In his one season with the Texans, Mays recorded 36 defensive stops placing inside the league’s top 20 inside linebackers with a stop on 10.1% of snaps in run defense.
Arthur Jones (DL) to Colts: 5-year, $33m with $10m guaranteed
The Colts are still making use of the cap space that Andrew Luck’s relatively modest contract gives them, but in Jones they’ve added a player who is fairly one dimensional. He was our 12th ranked 3-4 DE last season but was almost entirely average as a pass-rusher, making him a very expensive role player in the Colts’ rotation.
Breno Giacomini (OT) to Jets: 4-year, $18m with $7m guaranteed
The team lost one tackle but managed to limit the damage by saving cash on a slightly inferior replacement. Giacomini is coming off his best year as a pro but it remains to be seen how he’ll fare moving away from the zone blocking scheme that Seattle used so heavily. One things for sure he won’t have to adjust much to Geno Smith holding onto the ball given his last quarterback was Russell Wilson.
Shelley Smith (OG) to Dolphins: 2-year, $5.5m with $1.5m guaranteed
On the strength of his run blocking this is a fantastic deal with Smith turning limited snaps into the fourth highest grade in run blocking of all guards. But his pass protection was woeful and you wonder if a starting role might see him exposed. In two years time this will either look like a masterstroke or mistake.
Emmanuel Sanders (WR) to Broncos: 3-year, $15m with $6m guaranteed
Sanders is a solid enough receiver who does bring an added dimension after the catch that you didn’t really get from Eric Decker. As a fourth target in the passing game he’s more than serviceable though you do wonder if they could have got similar production spending less guaranteed money.
-0.5: Did you really need to make that move?
D’Qwell Jackson (LB) to Colts: 4-year, $22m with $11m guaranteed
At his peak Jackson was one of the best inside linebackers in the game. His great instincts saw him flow to the ball and make plays. But age and injury have caught up to him to a degree, while playing in a 3-4 system has often times left him struggling to get off blockers at the second level. That is what makes this a negative move with Jackson accumulating a -20.9 run defense grade over the past two years. His saving grace? His work in coverage.
Zane Beadles (G) to Jaguars: 5-year, $30m with $13m guaranteed
On one level you have to concede the team got better. By virtue of simply taking Will Rackley out of the lineup the team will regard this as a win. But does Beadles really offer value here? There’s a reason the Broncos were prepared to let him go despite having the room to re-sign him and it was his on field production, with him clearly the weak link on a talented line. 2012 is the only season he received a positive grade from us and last year despite the ability of Peyton Manning to get rid of the ball quickly, only three guards gave up more combined sacks, hits and hurries than him.
Malcolm Jenkins (S) to Eagles: 3-year, $16.25m with $8.5m guaranteed
Jenkins is a fine athlete who can play pretty much anywhere you’d want a safety to. The problem is that his production, in every facet of play, doesn’t come close to his measurables, which may make him good depth but not the kind of starter who sets your heart a flutter. He does offer some scheme flexibility, particularly in the transition from base to nickel packages, but he misses too many tackles (16 last year) and is out of position far too much for our liking.
Vontae Davis (CB) to Colts: 4-year, $39m with $20m guaranteed
If we could guarantee that Davis was going to play to his potential then this would be closer to a positive. The problem is for as good as he can look (see his performance against Denver this year that was the highest we ever graded a cornerback) he can turn around the next week and look like a completely different player. He is a good player but $9.25m a year is an awful lot of your cap to wrap up in someone so inconsistent.
Dexter McCluster (WR) to Titans: 3-year, $12m with $4.5m guaranteed
For less money and for a role simply returning punts we’d like this move. McCluster is a dynamic playmaker in that regard. Using him as a receiver? Well it makes little sense to us from a Titans perspective since he’s not tested as an outside receiver and the team has the excellent Kendall Wright they use in the slot. They may get a few highlight reel plays but it’s hard to see there being a whole lot else.
Tyson Jackson (DE) to Falcons: 5-year, $25m with $11m guaranteed
Make no mistake Tyson Jackson is still a bust and hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft hype but as time went by he grew into a solid run defender for the Kansas City Chiefs. This, however, is too much money for a player who offers nothing more than run defense for you. This is a passing league and Jackson’s career total of 38 pressures (10 Sk, 3 Ht, 25 Hu) was bettered by 11 players at his own position in the 2013 season, one fifth of the time frame.
Austin Howard (OT) to Raiders: 5-year, $30m with $15m guaranteed
In a two seasons as a starter in New York, Howard has shown promise as both a run blocker and pass protector but not in the same season. A raw building block to develop on the offensive line but the Raiders have made a big statement and investment in his development and this feels like an overspend. After surrendering 51 pressures in 2012 Howard reduced that to 38 in 2013 but his run block grade fell from +9.6 to -10.1. This deal will be what the Raiders and Howard make of it, at present he isn’t worth this much money but that doesn’t mean he won’t develop to earn it over the course of the contract.
Shawn Lauvao (G) to Redskins: 4-year, $17m with $5m guaranteed
Not quite the colossal contract they handed Derrick Dockery all those years ago but on prior form the Redskins have not made a big improvement to their interior offensive line. Never earning a positive overall grade for a single season since he entered the Browns’ starting lineup (best of -3.7 in 2011) Lauvao’s time with the Browns ended badly with a career worst -15.7 overall mark last season on just 771 snaps. Washington paid more for Lauvao and his track record than division rival New York paid for Geoff Schwartz’s far superior body of work.
Charlie Whitehurst (QB) to Titans: 2-year, $4m with $2m guaranteed
There can’t be many players to have earned as much money as Whitehurst by consistently getting paid solely to carry a clipboard. He has had his chances to play and shown repeatedly that he isn’t even capable of keeping the ship off the iceberg for a couple of games while the starter recovers. At this point he’s being signed purely as a meeting room presence. And possibly for his beard.
Rodger Saffold (G/T) to Rams: 5-year, $31.7m with $19.5m guaranteed
Making his second appearance in the deal grader this week Saffold is back in St Louis but still on the red side of our ledger. This is a better deal for the player Saffold is but still not a good one, it’s tackle money for a player who is better at guard and the Rams are overpaying for that versatility and uncertainty. A strong run blocker at guard this season (+5.8) Saffold is also a year removed from some solid play at left tackle (+8.6 overall) but this is simply too much money for a player who is yet to put together a full season of quality play at any or a combination of positions.
Corey Graham (CB) to Bills: 4-year, $16m with $8.1m guaranteed
Not so much a bad move as a puzzling one by the Bills here. They’ve added a solid and versatile corner which is never a bad thing but it is to a secondary that already boasts a solid rotation of outside corners and a promising young slot corner in the shape of Nickell Robey. Off to a dire start last season after surrendering three touchdowns in the Ravens’ opening defeat to Denver he recovered his more solid form thereafter but quite how Graham fits in to this secondary remains to be seen. He brings quality and depth but this price tag would suggest he is pushing someone out of the Bills’ secondary who doesn’t need to be.
Jon Beason (LB) to Giants: 3-year, $19m with $7m guaranteed
Once upon a time Jon Beason was an exciting linebacker prospect who gave the Carolina Panthers new life on defense. Injuries have derailed his career since then and the last time he finished a season with a positive grade was 2010. He has never finished a season in the PFF era with a grade that would land in the green. Last season he played 804 snaps for the Giants and finished with a career-low -17.1 grade thanks to some truly awful coverage where he allowed 80.8% of all targets into his coverage to be caught for a passer rating of 114.4. The Giants though think Beason’s affect on the locker room is off the charts and have brought him back as much for his affect behind the scenes as on the field. Sadly that’s just not worth that kind of cash outlay to us.
Brandon Pettigrew (TE) to Lions: 4-year, $16m with $8m guaranteed
The Lions ask a lot out of Pettigrew, perhaps too much. But to his credit he is the rare tight end that stays on the field and attempts to do everything, often having success. The problem is when he isn’t having one of his good moments it’s invariably because he’s getting flagged for a penalty, dropping a pass or allowing a defender past him for a tackle. Tools without executing them effectively.
Wesley Woodyard (LB) to Titans: 4-year, $16m with $4.75m guaranteed
There’s a reason Woodyard was bench and it was his work as an early downs linebacker. The Titans have added the kind of talent they already have on the roster without really plugging the spine of their defense on early downs.
-1.0: That’s an awfully big gamble there
Andre Roberts (WR) to Redskins: 4-year, $16m with $8m guaranteed
Roberts has something of a cult following with people who remember the exciting college player. The problem is in the pros he’s been anything but. Even accounting for his position on the depth chart and the play of his quarterbacks in years gone by he’s still been remarkably unproductive. This year he was better but so much you can simply wipe away the memory of his 2011 and 2012 play that saw him earn a -20.3 rating. It looks like the team might be counting on him to start and that is why this is a move we really can’t get behind at all.
Ziggy Hood (DT) to Jaguars: 4-year, $16m with $5.5m guaranteed
There are times when the Jags make great moves and then there are times when they sign Ziggy Hood. Since coming into the league as a first round pick out of Missouri, Hood has been consistent in his inability to generate any kind of positive impact for the Steelers, even clinging onto his starting job when they had Cameron Heyward outperforming him from the bench. The Jags will be hoping a change in scheme back to something closer to his Mizzou defense will rejuvenate him, but the truth is he spent plenty of time trying to penetrate and pass-rush as part of the Pittsburgh nickel sub-packages. Maybe Ziggy Hood comes good in a fresh new surrounding, but we’d be surprised.
Cortland Finnegan (CB) to Dolphins: 2-year, $11m with $5.5m guaranteed
Perhaps Finnegan’s time in St Louis should be forgotten. He showed glimpses of talent and played hurt. But 2011 is a long time ago to be investing in, especially when you’re giving $5.5m guaranteed to a guy with a -10.8 coverage grade the past two years. It’s hard to believe he would have commanded this much money elsewhere.
Michael Oher (OT) to Titans: 4-year, $20m with $9.5m guaranteed
You’ve just cut the declining but reliable David Stewart. We get why because injuries have certainly taken their toll. But why would you give a player like Oher a contract that ensures he’ll be around for a couple of years? Perhaps a new coaching staff can do a better job developing linemen than the Titans did recently because Oher has regressed so much since his fine early years you’ve got a lot of work to do.
-1.5: Now why would you go and do that?
Chris Williams (G) to Bills: 4-year, $13.5m with $5.5m guaranteed
Our first -1.5 move of free agency comes in the form of prototypical draft bust, Chris Williams. Since being drafted with the 14th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft Williams has been a consistent failure at both tackle and guard for multiple teams. The Bills have committed significant money (not that far short of what the Giants gave Geoff Schwartz) to a player that has repeatedly shown to be a liability on the field. Bad move.
-2.0: You’re bringing back Brett Favre?
Currently more invested in growing a kick-ass beard.