Free agency grades for every NFC East 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 are taken into account when assigning a grade (“A” through “F”).
PFF will be rolling out grades for every team by division throughout this entire week, starting with the NFC East and AFC East today.
Key additions: DE/DT Cedric Thornton, RB Alfred Morris
Key retentions: LB Rolando McClain, TE James Hanna, CB Morris Claiborne
Key losses: DE Greg Hardy, DE Jeremy Mincey, FB Tyler Clutts, OG Mackenzy Bernadeau, QB Matt Cassel
Dallas was all about staying quiet this free agency period, with the only addition of any significance coming in the form of Cedric Thornton, a run-stuffing lineman from divisional rival Philadelphia. Thornton is an interesting addition because of the different scheme Dallas runs compared to that of Philadelphia’s. Thornton has been employed two-gapping a lot in the Eagles’ defense, but Dallas runs a far more aggressive one-gap system. Thornton has earned impressive grades in the run game in each of the past three seasons, but has offered very little as a pass-rusher. Can the move to a more attacking defensive front discover an untapped side of his game, or will he remain a one-dimensional, two-down player for Dallas?
The other moves Dallas made were in re-signing their own players, keeping LB Rolando McClain, backup TE James Hanna and, for whatever reason, CB Morris Claiborne.
New York Giants
Key additions: DE Olivier Vernon, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Damon Harrison, LB Keenan Robinson
Key retentions: DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Key losses: CB Prince Amukamara, DT Cullen Jenkins, LB Jon Beason, WR Reuben Randle, S Brandon Meriweather
No team has gambled more in free agency than the Giants. They haven’t just spent big ($76.4 million guaranteed tops the NFL by a distance), but they have also gambled on individual players brought in for a variety of reasons, as outlined here. There is no doubt that the Giants’ roster looks to be in better shape now than it did before free agency opened, but they spent huge to make that happen, and each player has a major red flag when it comes to projecting success.
Janoris Jenkins has big-play ability, but has allowed 22 touchdowns since he was drafted, more than all but two other corners in the league. Damon Harrison may be the league’s best run defender, but has been unable to add a pass-rushing element to his play. His fit in this defense, as well as how the likely displacement of Johnathan Hankins at nose tackle affects his play, are unknown quantities. Olivier Vernon was one of the league’s best defenders for an eight-game stretch to end the season, but only for that eight-game stretch. At the mid-way point of the season, he was PFF’s 47th-ranked edge defender, and that is far more his career baseline.
Retaining Jason Pierre-Paul before the free agency period hit may be the best bit of business the Giants did, and he is playing with a permanently disfigured hand, the effect of which we don’t yet fully understand.
Key additions: S Rodney McLeod, G Brandon Brooks, QB Chase Daniel, CB Leodis McKelvin, WR Chris Givens
Key retentions: QB Sam Bradford, DE Vinny Curry, CB Nolan Carroll
Key losses: QB Mark Sanchez, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Kiko Alonso, RB DeMarco Murray, S Walter Thurmond
The Eagles’ off-season was all about cleansing the franchise of any lingering influence of Chip Kelly. Much of the work was focused on getting rid of any player Kelly was directly involved in bringing in. They found a willing trade partner in Miami to offload Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso, and the Titans were happy to take a slightly used, high-mileage workhorse back like DeMarco Murray.
In addition to the deep-cleaning of the roster, the Eagles also made some shrewd acquisitions, with safety Rodney McLeod and G Brandon Brooks, in particular, addressing areas of need. McLeod has back-to-back seasons with solid PFF coverage grades, and makes the kind of monster hits that will endear him to Philadelphia fans in a heartbeat. Brooks has been a Pro-Bowl caliber guard for Houston, and even last season when in a down year, he was still a strong pass-blocking guard, something the Eagles struggled badly with a year ago.
Key additions: DE Kendall Reyes, S David Bruton
Key retentions: QB Kirk Cousins, S Duke Ihenacho, DE Junior Galette
Key losses: DE Jason Hatcher, S Dashon Goldson, QB Robert Griffin III, NT Terrance Knighton, RB Alfred Morris, CB Will Blackmon, CB Cary Williams
“Key” additions and losses might be stretching the definition a little for Washington. They allowed a lot of players to walk (even helping several by cutting them loose), but they haven’t lost much that they shouldn’t be able to replace very easily, either through the draft or simply through depth elsewhere on the roster.
This grade would have been higher had they simply stood still and not brought anybody in beyond David Bruton at safety, but the signing of Kendall Reyes is a move that provokes a mental groan. Reyes has been one of the league’s poorest starting linemen for several years in San Diego, earning heavy negative grades in both run defense and pass-rushing for three straight seasons. Despite playing 2,177 snaps over the past three seasons, he notched just eight sacks and 76 total pressures. That’s a figure more than one interior linemen bettered in 2015 alone. Maybe Washington sees some potential there, but it’s a major long-shot to discover it.
More free-agency grades by division:
– AFC East
– AFC West
– NFC West