Free-agency grades for each AFC West team
With the initial fury of NFL free agency beginning to quiet down, the PFF staff is taking a look at how each team fared through the first few weeks. Signings, re-signings, players lost to other franchises, and the dollar amounts for each of these transactions have been taken into account when assigning a grade (“A” through “F”).
We’ve been rolling out grades for every division throughout the week, and now we’ve moved on to our defending Super Bowl champs and the rest of the AFC West.
Key additions: OT Donald Stephenson, OT Russell Okung, QB Mark Sanchez
Key retentions: RB C.J. Anderson, WR Jordan Norwood
Key losses: DT Malik Jackson, QB Brock Osweiler, G Evan Mathis, LB Danny Trevathan, DT Antonio Smith, QB Peyton Manning (retired), TE Owen Daniels (cut), RB Ronnie Hillman, S David Bruton
No team in the NFL lost more talent through free agency than the Broncos—frankly, it’s not even close. The good news is, though, that Denver’s Super Bowl roster was utterly stacked with talent to begin with. But their still solid roster is missing one giant piece: a quarterback. Letting Osweiler walk for a ridiculous price tag may have been the correct move, but now they’re left scrambling to pick up the pieces. On the defensive side of the ball, Malik Jackson may have been the single biggest loss any team experienced this offseason. Couple that with losing Trevathan to the Bears, and it’s unlikely the Broncos’ defense will retain its utter dominance, though they still have more than enough be a top-10 unit.
If there is any silver lining, it’s that they signed a competent left tackle in Russell Okung to one of the most team-friendly deals of the offseason. That contract gives them flexibility should Ryan Clady not come back fully healthy.
Kansas City Chiefs
Key additions: T Mitchell Schwartz, WR Rod Streater
Key retentions: LB Derrick Johnson, OLB Tamba Hali, DE Jaye Howard
Key losses: G Jeff Allen, CB Sean Smith, S Husain Abdullah, DT Mike DeVito, QB Chase Daniel, S Tyvon Branch, T Donald Stephenson
Of all the key losses, only Sean Smith really seems irreplaceable with their current roster. The Chiefs did well by their offensive line, adding our highest-graded right tackle from a year ago in Mitchell Schwartz for fairly cheap. Outside of him, much of their free-agency dollars were spent simply retaining their defense. Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson signed team-friendly deals that should see them retiring in Chiefs’ uniforms, while they tagged Eric Berry and brought back Jaye Howard.
Key additions: CB Sean Smith, G Kelechi Osemele, LB Bruce Irvin
Key retentions: P Marquette King, WR Andre Holmes, S Nate Allen, LT Donald Penn
Key losses: LB Curtis Lofton (cut), ED Justin Tuck (retired), S Charles Woodson (retired), G J’Marcus Webb, ED Aldon Smith
Can you feel the balance of power shifting in the AFC West? Losing a future Hall-of-Famer that was still playing at a high level like Charles Woodson won’t help an already struggling secondary, but adding a cornerback of Sean Smith’s caliber (and taking him off a division rival’s roster) should soften that drop-off. The big (literally) signing, though, is guard Kelechi Osemele. Along with the re-signing of Donald Penn, Osemele rounds out what looks like a top-three offensive line that will provide a nice, balanced offense in Oakland. The former Raven has been a top-five run-blocking guard each of the past two seasons.
The only real issue I have with the Raiders’ signings is that Bruce Irvin might hinder them from re-signing Aldon Smith, who has been a superior player over the course of his career, but it still looks like they may reunite. The Raiders are the only team in this division that you can feel confident saying they got better in free agency.
San Diego Chargers
Key additions: WR Travis Benjamin, S Dwight Lowery, CB Casey Hayward, DT Brandon Mebane
Key retentions: TE Antonio Gates, T Joe Barksdale
Key losses: TE Ladarius Green, LB Donald Butler (cut), S Eric Weddle, DT Kendall Reyes, WR Malcom Floyd (retired), CB Patrick Robinson
It’s addition by subtraction with the releases of Donald Butler and Kendall Reyes, though the same can’t be said for the losses of Green and Weddle. While the writing was on the wall for Weddle, letting Green walk for mid-tier tight end money in favor of the 35-year-old Antonio Gates is particularly head-scratching. I understand wanting Gates to end his career as a Charger, but that shouldn’t take precedence over the future of your football team. Green has the dynamic receiving ability to allow them to transition seamlessly from Gates, but apparently San Diego didn’t see it the same way.
The saving grace for the Chargers in this free-agency period is the signing of Casey Hayward from the Packers for a shade over $5 million a year. Grade-wise, he was better than guys like Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, who both signed massive deals. He might not have the size or speed that teams love, but few are better in zone coverage. Hayward is an upgrade over Robinson in the slot and showed the ability to play full-time outside as well last season.
More free-agency grades by division:
– AFC East
– NFC East
– NFC West