Grading every deal of 2016 NFL free agency
During the season, Pro Football Focus grades every player on every play of every game. We are doing the same for every transaction this free-agency period, with the return of our Deal Grader.
How should you feel about the moves your team made? Take a look at our grades for each move, on an A through F scale, which we will update throughout free-agency season as contract terms become known:
(Editor’s note: Grades and analysis for this article may be updated as further details of deals are reported.)
DE Jason Pierre-Paul (NYG): One year, $10 million with $8.5 million guaranteed
When you see what other edge defenders have got, how can you not like this? Even if JPP never completely adjusts to his injured hand, he proved in 2015 he can still get it done, recording one of his best pass-rushing seasons of his career.
DE William Hayes (LA): Three years, $17.5 million with $10 million guaranteed
Whenever called upon, Hayes delivered the goods in St Louis, and he has earned this deal and the starting spot that comes with it. It has been four strong seasons in a row for the one-time Titan who can contribute on every down. This is not a lot of money for a guy who had the 13th-best grade among all edge defenders in 2015. Great value signing.
LB Danny Trevathan (CHI): Four years, $24.5 million with $12 million guaranteed
Is there a more perfect fit in free agency? Chicago desperately needed linebacker help, and the only surprise about this move is how little it cost them to execute. Sure, Trevathan has battled some injury issues in the past. But he’s a guy who had the 10th-highest grade of all linebackers and was one of our top 10 free agents on the open market.
OLB Tamba Hali (KC): Three years, $22 million with $12 million guaranteed
While Hali isn’t getting any younger, he still proved to be a productive pass-rusher this season, even when Justin Houston went down to injury and he had more attention to deal with.
RB Lamar Miller (HOU): Four years, $26 million with $14 million guaranteed
Given that Miller took less money to go to Houston should give you an idea of the value of this move. Miller has graded positively the past three years, with his 2015 effort worthy of a top-five grade at the position. Now he should get the opportunity to carry the load in a way Miami never gave him.
G Ramon Foster (PIT): Three years, $9.5 million with $2.75 million guaranteed
Over the past five years, Foster has developed into one of the most reliable guards in a league devoid of them. To retain his services for so little money, and with the knowledge the team isn’t tied to him if his performance drops, is great work.
CB Casey Hayward (SD): Three years, $15.3 million with $6.8 million guaranteed
Hayward played a full time role for the first time since his rookie season for the Packers last year and recorded a passer rating allowed below 100 for the fourth straight season. Hayward provides a clear upgrade across from Jason Verrett to give the Chargers a strong starting corner pairing.
G Evan Mathis (ARI): One year, $6 million with $3 million guaranteed
While Mathis wasn’t as dominant in 2015 as he was in Philadelphia, he still graded as one of the top guards in the NFL. Mathis was the lone bright spot on Denver’s O-line, but will have much more help with Arizona’s big men.
G Richie Incognito (BUF): Three years, $11.5 million with $5.45 million guaranteed
Buffalo is rewarded for taking a chance on Incognito with a per annum payout far less than his 2015 performance (top ranked left guard) would say he’s worth.
RB Doug Martin (TB): Five years, $35.75 million with $15 million guaranteed
It was a big move for the Buccaneers to keep Martin in town. He was our first-team All-Pro running back and led our rushing rankings with a nice bounce-back year after two years of underwhelming play. If he can maintain that level, he’s well worth this deal, which looks huge on the surface but isn’t too crazy in terms of guaranteed money.
K Adam Vinatieri (IND): Two years, $6 million with $3 million guaranteed
Maybe this is the year age catches up with the leg of Vinatieri, who is one of the greatest kickers of all time.
S George Iloka (CIN): Five years, $30 million with $5 million guaranteed
This was a big move for the Bengals, ensuring they kept an important part of their defense in town. Iloka isn’t your Earl Thomas type of playmaking safety, but he is a more than competent player who can make an impact as a center fielder. The money, given what others have been given, makes this a real win for the Bengals.
DE Derrick Shelby (ATL): Four years, $18 million with $7.5 million guaranteed
Coming off a year where he had the 10th-highest PFF grade of all 4-3 defensive ends, we expected Shelby to walk away a little richer, so kudos to Atlanta for getting value on a day when not everyone did. The former undrafted free agent really took advantage of Cameron Wake’s injury to show himself as more than just a run defender.
OT Mitchell Schwartz (KC): Five years, $33 million with $12.66 million guaranteed
One of the top right tackles in the league, Schwartz was a PFF selection for a second-team All-Pro spot after a strong 2015 season. He did an admirable job against Von Miller this season, but will now get to show whether that was a fluke when he faces off with him and Khalil Mack twice a year.
CB William Gay (PIT): Three years, $7.5 million with $1.9 million guaranteed
This really isn’t a lot of money for a guy who graded above-average and was as good as it got in a disappointing Steelers secondary in 2015. Gay might not be getting any younger, but the structure of the deal ensures the Steelers are covered if his play drops off.
C Alex Mack (ATL): Five years, $45 million with $28.5 million guaranteed
It’s a lot of money for a center, but given that no team lost as many games last year because of the play of their center, it was somewhat necessary. The Falcons retooled offensive line is one of the better ones in the league, especially if Mack can return to his pre-leg break form.
S Tavon Wilson (DET): Two years, $2.2 million with $500k guaranteed
Wilson always impressed in spot duty for the Patriots, but never got the extended look to really showcase that he could turn that small sample size into a sustained career. Now he gets that opportunity in a Detroit system that will offer a path to playing time. For the Lions, the lack of cash means they really have nothing to lose here.
CB Sean Smith (OAK): Four years, $40 million for $20 million guaranteed
The Raiders made a big statement raiding their AFC West rivals, getting our 12th-highest graded cornerback in 2015. Given some of the deals that cornerbacks have gotten recently, this has to be considered a real value get for Oakland.
LB Derrick Johnson (KC): Three years, $21 million with $12 million guaranteed
There’s always the danger when you get to Johnson’s age that his play suddenly worsens. But you have to give someone who has played as well as he has for as long as he has the benefit of the doubt. 2015 showed he is still one of the best linebackers in the league (6th highest rank of linebackers) so credit to the Chiefs for retaining this stud.
DE Robert Ayers (TB): Three years, $19.5 million with $10.5 million guaranteed
Ayers has quietly become a very fine player, and the Giants were badly underusing him in terms of snaps on the field. If the Bucs can get the same player while upping his workload, this could prove to be one of the steals of free agency.
LB Jerrell Freeman (CHI): Three years, $12 million with $6 million guaranteed
The Bears had a big hole on their defense a year ago at inside linebacker and they double-dipped this free agency period, adding both Danny Trevathan and Freeman. Freeman’s grade against the run last year was second only to Luke Kuechly among off the ball linebacker.
OT Kelvin Beachum (JAX): Five-years, $39.5 million with $4.5 guaranteed (voidable after one year)
Beachum was elite in 2014 but a torn ACL ended his contract year short. The Jaguars signed Beachum with voidable option after one season if he doesn’t return to his pre-injury form. If Beachum bounces back, they have an elite player for five years. If not, they cut ties with minimal cap loss.
OT Donald Penn (OAK): Two-years, $14 million with $7 million guaranteed
Even at his old age (will be 33 in a month), Penn still is an excellent OT. He has never graded negatively for a season and with QB Derek Carr’s quick passing game, his pass blocking has improved. Time will only tell if he can keep his production up but there are no red flags that pop up that 2016 will be any different than the rest of his career.
DL Malik Jackson (JAX): Six years, $90 million with $42m guaranteed
Have the Jaguars overpaid? Heck yeah. But they have so much cap room they have to spend that it’s justifiable. Grabbing an inside pass-rushing beast in Jackson (seventh highest grade of all interior defenders) is a win for the team.
OT Joe Barksdale (SD): Four years, $22.2 million with $10.5 million guaranteed
Given the Chargers’ luck with injuries you wouldn’t be surprised if Barksdale got injured signing his contract. But presuming he can make it to the regular season in good shape, Barksdale was a bright spot (21st-ranked tackle in PFF grades) on a terrible offensive line.
TE Antonio Gates (SD): Two years, $12 million with $6 million guaranteed
It was hard to imagine Gates playing anywhere else, and common sense shines through with this re-signing. Sure, Gates isn’t the athlete he once was, but his ability to get open remains excellent, as evidenced by him having the ninth-highest receiving grade of any tight end despite missing nearly half the season.
G Brandon Brooks (PHI): Five years, $40 million with $17 million guaranteed
It’s a lot of money, especially since Brooks didn’t have his best year in 2015. But his work prior to that was of a level of a player who deserved to paid near the top of his position. A rare athlete, he can really open up lanes in the run game.
DT Kenrick Ellis (MIN): One year, $810k with $25k guaranteed
You don’t need to spend big money to make good moves that fill out your roster. Ellis has never got an extended amount of action because wherever he’s ended up there’s been some ridiculous talent in front of him (Damon Harrison and Linval Joseph). But he’s delivered in limited action as an early down run stuffer and if called upon he can do so for the Vikings in 2015.
RB Khiry Robinson (NYJ): One year, $1.175 million with $80k guaranteed
Small outlay up front, and some insurance in case your ageing back drops off. Robinson is a strong runner even if the rest of his game doesn’t compare, and this is the kind of low risk move that can really pay off if things don’t go to plan.
S Eric Weddle (BAL): Four years, $26 million with $13 million guaranteed
Eric Weddle is one of the league’s most reliable and versatile safeties, and should provide an upgrade for Baltimore. Sadly, Will Hill’s latest indiscretion robbed us of potentially one of the league’s best safety tandems since his release.
CB Prince Amukamara (JAX): One-year, $5.5 million with $3 million guaranteed
A talented former first-round draft pick, Amukamara helps improve the Jaguars defensive backfield. While not a ball hawk, he allowed just 1.04 yards per cover snap in 2015. Low-risk-high-reward deal.
ED Charles Johnson (CAR): One-year, $3 million with $562k guaranteed
While 2015 was injury plagued, Johnson is still a very good pass rusher. While Johnson essentially took a massive pay cut, the Panthers get a low-risk-high-reward deal.
LB Rolando McClain (DAL): One-year, $4 million with $750k guaranteed
McClain has been very good for Dallas the last two seasons, his 2015 four game suspension aside. He struggled early but showed his 2014 form the second half of 2015.
DI Ian Williams (SF): One-year, $6 million
As Williams failed his physical, his five-year, $27 million deal was altered to a one-year deal. His status is in-doubt for the season opener. If Williams gets healthy, the 49ers are getting another cheap year for a pro-bowl caliber player. If not, the 49ers can cut ties after the season at low financial risk.
CB Adam Jones (CIN): Three-years, $20 million with $6 million guaranteed
Even at 32-years-old, Jones is still a productive corner in the NFL. A team friendly contract as his dead money is minimal if father-time catches up to Jones. With unproven young talent on the team, this was a much needed resigning.
ED Junior Galette (WAS): One year, $4.1 million with $500,000 guaranteed
Galette seemed primed for a Pro-Bowl-caliber year that could have competed with the likes of Von Miller and Khalil Mack for pass-rush grades, but a torn Achilles derailed his 2015 campaign. The Redskins are giving Galette a one-year “prove-it” deal, and if he can defy the odds, it could be one of the best signings of the offseason.
OL Kelechi Osemele (OAK): Five years, $60 million with $25.4 million guaranteed
We love Osemele at guard, and with the re-signing of Donald Penn, that’s where he’ll be playing for the Raiders. The team simply has to burn some cash in this window, so the price tag isn’t prohibitive; it does, however, limit the grade we can give this move. Osemele is a very good guard, but not the best in the league, and this is best-in-the-league money.
G Alex Boone (MIN): Five years, $26.8 million with $10 million guaranteed
Boone hasn’t really built upon his breakout 2012 season and become one of the best guards in the league. But he has always graded positively, and given the money the Vikings have put into this deal they can consider this a good value pickup as they retool their offensive line.
DE Olivier Vernon (NYG): Five years, $85 million with $52.5 million guaranteed
In three years time, when people are re-grading this free-agent period, Vernon won’t sit here in the middle of the pack. No, he’ll either be right at the top because he delivered, or right near the bottom because he failed to. If he can play close to the way he did in the second half of the 2015 season, then he’ll be considered a success. He was as good as any edge rusher in the league during that stretch, and he did it against top tackles like Dallas’ Tyron Smith. But if he reverts closer to how he played earlier in his career — when he was a solid player, not an elite one — he won’t come close to justifying this contract.
LS Morgan Cox (BLT): Five years, $5.6 million with $700k guaranteed
Long snappers are people, too! Cox is one of the more reliable ones in the league, and this kind of figure puts him rightfully near the rest of the top earners at the spot.
LB Audie Cole (MIN): One year, $760k with $40k guaranteed
He caught our eye with some impressive play in 2014 but then got bitten by the injury bug last year. There’s definitely talent there, and given the money involved the Vikings will be happy to get at the very least a solid depth player and a good special teamer.
TE Ben Watson (BAL): Two years, $7 million with $3 million guaranteed
He’s not getting any younger, but the Ravens’ need at tight end combined with his good work in the passing game show what a valuable weapon he could be for Joe Flacco. The worry is if they’re expecting an every-down guy, his blocking isn’t what it once was.
RB Matt Forte (NYJ): Three years, $12 million with $8 million guaranteed
When it’s a running back who has had as many touches as Forte over the years, you always worry that the cliff is just around the corner. For that reason it’s a little scary that the team is tied to him for a couple of years, but on the plus side the Jets have added a do-it-all back who had the 10th-highest grade of all running backs last year.
T Chris Clark (HOU): Two years, $6 million with $3.25 million guaranteed
Outside of a game against Miami during which he was torn apart, Clark had a nice first year in Houston. He has his limitations, but the Texans are paying a small chunk of change for a guy who can play both tackle spots at a serviceable level. He might lose some battles, but at this cost he’ll win more than enough.
S Isa Abdul-Quddus (MIA): Three years, $12.75 million with $4.23 million guaranteed
This was an underrated move by the Dolphins, as they picked up a safety in the prime of his career who didn’t cost them an arm and a leg. Sure, he isn’t the flashiest player, but generally if you can get a safety who keeps it safe, you’ve done all right.
S Dwight Lowery (SD): Three years, $7.2 million with $1.5 million guaranteed
Similar to the William Gay deal, the Chargers have lined up a tried and tested veteran who can ably fill in without hurting the team’s cap space. Lowery had a solid year in Indianapolis after resurrecting his career somewhat in Atlanta.
WR Rishard Matthews (TEN): Three years, $15 million with $2.5 million guaranteed
It felt a little odd that Matthews couldn’t get more of an opportunity in Miami, but with a tidy little outlay from Tennessee he should get the chance to showcase his skills in extended playing time.
DE Cedric Thornton (DAL): Four years, $17 million with $9 million guaranteed
The only question is where Dallas see Thornton playing on its defensive line. Will he play 1-technique defensive tackle, or early down 3-technique DT? It’s a smart signing for the Cowboys, and a very average salary for a player who has shown himself to be good against the run throughout his career, so long as they can figure out the position fit.
FB Mike Tolbert (CAR): Two years, $3.75 million with $700k guaranteed
Did Tolbert deserve his All Pro nod as a full back? No. Because in pure full back terms he’s not quite average. But he is an extremely versatile piece of an offense that keeps you off guard with it’s versatility. He can block a little, he can run a little and he can catch a little. When you add those things up this is good value.
LB Tahir Whitehead (DET): Two years, $8 million with $4.75 million guaranteed
It certainly took Whitehead a while to get on the field, but these past two years he’s proved he belongs on it. He’s posted positive grades in run defense the past two years.
WR Jermaine Kearse (SEA): Three years, $13.5 million with $6.3 million guaranteed
When you look at what other receivers have been paid you have to give the Seahawks some credit here. Kearse isn’t a stud by any stretch but, as the playoffs have showed, he is capable of big moments. In the current market he may have converted that into a bigger deal.
DE Akiem Hicks (NE): Two years, $10 million with $5.5 million guaranteed
There may be questions about his ceiling, but Hicks has now been a productive member of the rotation in two different places. Chicago’s defensive line needed help and Hicks should provide an immediate upgrade without breaking the bank, even if it isn’t exactly a bargain. Only the cost keeps this away from a higher grade.
TE Zach Miller (CHI): Two years, $5.5 million with $3.5 million guaranteed
Millr had been out of the league for three years before coming back with a bang last season and ending the year as PFF’s 6th graded TE. The Bears brought him back for pretty reasonable money, and if he repeats that kind of performance it could be a steal.
OT Russell Okung (DEN): One year, $5 million, none guaranteed (with five years, $53 million with $10.25 million option after one year)
The definition of a “prove-it” deal, Okung fired his agent before the free-agency period began and gave himself a contract that demands high performance to be paid. Okung is an average OT that had one elite season in 2012.
DT Ryan Davis (JAX): One year, $2.5 million with none guaranteed
Davis looked like a star in the making in 2014, grading close to J.J. Watt on a per-snap basis. He looked much of the same the first four games of 2015 before reality caught up to him. Davis will look to regain his 2014 form and cash in next offseason.
OLB Bruce Irvin (OAK): Four years, $37 million with $12.5 million guaranteed
This contract is a bit rich for a player who never delivered consistently, despite getting ample opportunities. But at the very least Irvin is a solid starter to whom the team isn’t tied for the long term, and when you have the cap room Oakland has, it’s hard to go wrong front-loading these deals.
DB Tyvon Branch (ARI): Two years, $10 million with $5 million guaranteed
Is Branch an insurance plan in case Tyrann Mathieu can’t come back early next season? In any case, the Cardinals love themselves players who can do multiple things, and Branch is a guy who can line up all over the defensive backfield and provide solid play.
CB Kyle Wilson (NO): One year, $840k with $80k guaranteed
Wilson never delivered on his first-round potential, but has developed into the definition of an average slot corner. Not every player on your team needs to be a star, so if you can land contributors for less than market value it’s got to be considered a marginal win.
S Keith Tandy (TB): Two years, $1.85 million with $250k guaranteed
It might win the award for least flashy move, but free agency isn’t just about finding starters. It’s about finding reliable depth players who can contribute on special teams and Tandy checks those boxes nicely.
DT Haloti Ngata (DET): Two years, $12 million with $6 million guaranteed
Ngata proved he still has some juice in the tank with a strong finish to his 2015 season. He might not be the player he once was, but he can still make the kind of plays you look for at an interior spot. This is a reasonable move Detroit couldn’t afford not to make.
G Lane Taylor (GB): Two years, $4.15 million with $600k guaranteed
He didn’t look out of place when forced into the starting lineup. This is a useful chunk of change for the insurance of having someone fill in should either of the Packers’ stellar guards be forced from the field.
WR Marvin Jones (DET): Five years, $40 million with $20 million guaranteed
It is certainly a great year to be a free-agent receiver. Jones broke out in 2013 but nothing he did in 2015 (he was PFF’s No. 38 wide receiver) suggested this big of a pay day was coming his way. The talent is certainly there, but is the consistency? He’ll be vying with Golden Tate to be the Lions’ top target.
LB Frank Zombo (KC): Three years, $3.5 million with $500k guaranteed
With Tamba Hali locked up, the Chiefs are in consolidation mode on defense, and the signing of Zombo brings back a guy who can help at any of the linebacker spots, as well as on special teams. He may not wow you when on the field, but for the cost involved it’s worth it.
TE Ladarius Green (PIT): Four years, $20 million with $4.75 million guaranteed
This is a somewhat aggressive move for a team scrambling to replace the excellent (and now retired) Heath Miller at tight end. Green must be happy to be out of the shadow of Antonio Gates, and you’d imagine he’s set to improve upon his career-high mark of 686 snaps in a season.
S Robert Golden (PIT): Three years, $5 million with $1.25 million guaranteed
A shrewd re-signing by the Steelers who have brought back a guy who did a decent job in his 400 regular season snaps. Added benefit of having top end special teams ability.
CB Leodis McKelvin (PHI): Two years, $6.2 million with $3 million guaranteed
McKelvin isn’t coming off the best two years of his career, but he’s not so far removed from his career year in 2013 that this doesn’t have some upside to it.
ED Nick Perry (GB): One-year, $5 million with $1.5 million guaranteed
While Perry has never lived up to his first-round draft status, he’s been solid as a backup. Don’t ask him to drop into coverage as he grades negatively every year of his career.
LB Justin Tuggle (CLE): One year, $700,000 with none guaranteed
A one-year deal for a solid special teams player who provides depth at the linebacker position.
DE Chris Long (NE): One year, $2 million (guaranteed not reported)
If Belichick can get Long to perform like his 2010–2013 self, this will be a steal. The problem is that Long hasn’t shown that ability the past two seasons, grading poorly in each. Belichick is known to utilize players to the best of their abilities, so anything can happen.
S David Bruton (WAS): Three years, $9 million with $3.4 million guaranteed
A career backup, Bruton should start in D.C. He has graded positively in three straight seasons, but really improved in 2015 with one of the best defenses of all time helping. He has allowed just two TDs in his career.
DT Pat Sims (CIN): Two-years, $2.3 million with $250,000 guaranteed
Sims has been a solid situational player the past three years. While his snap totals have decreased in those seasons, he has been productive in his limited reps.
DT/DE Adrian Clayborn (ATL): Two years, $9 million with $5.5 million guaranteed
While Clayborn struggled against the run in 2015, he was highly productive as a pass rusher—in fact, he ranked as PFF’s seventh-overall DT in terms of pass-rushing productivity. If he can turn his pressures into sacks and shore up his run defense, Clayborn can be a force inside.
RB Jonathan Grimes (HOU): One year, $900,000 with none guaranteed
Grimes averaged 5.0 yards per carry while grading very well in three games down the stretch in 2015. He did have just an 18.1 elusive rating, worst on the team.
WR Rod Streater (KC): One year, $810,000 with $110,000 guaranteed
Streater’s fall from grace is an interesting case. Seemingly with a break-out 2013 campaign, injuries halted his 2014 season and he couldn’t make the active roster in 2015. Streater hopes to join forces with Alex Smith to get back on track.
TE Dwayne Allen (IND): Four years, $29.4 million with $16 million guaranteed
On his recent performance this deal makes little sense. But Allen has talent like few others at the position. If he can find the kind of form he did in his rookie year, and if the Colts can figure out how to use him more often, he has the talent to get Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods.
C Ben Jones (TEN): Four years, $17.5 million with $7.5 million guaranteed
While we don’t like this is verging on top-10 center money, we do like that the Titans are rectifying their big-time issues at the pivot. The three guys they started at center last year had a combined minus-47.0 grade, so they simply had to do something here.
S Rodney McLeod (PHI): Five years, $37 million with $17 million guaranteed
McLeod is very much an ascending player, and brings with him an intensity and aggressiveness you don’t often see from safeties. But as good as he is, it’s an almighty leap of faith to pay him like a top-5 safety when he’s never played like one.
DT Damon Harrison (NYG): Five years, $46.25 million with $24 million guaranteed
We love the play of “Snacks,” who has developed into a one-man wrecking crew in the run game, regularly leading the league in defensive stops against the run. There is no doubt that he makes the Giants better on early downs, but we can’t go higher with our grade because of the money involved. It’s simply too much for a guy who doesn’t get after the passer.
WR Travis Benjamin (SD): Four years, $24m with $13m guaranteed
It’s a terrible market for teams in need of wide receivers, and the result is guys getting paid far more than they warrant. Benjamin may be coming off a career year, but he still only finish 66th in our wide receiver rankings. He is a dangerous deep threat. Is he the kind of receiver Philip Rivers needed?
RB Chris Ivory (JAX): Five years, $32 million with $10 million guaranteed
It’s hard for the Jaguars to make bad moves, given how much money they have to spend. But that doesn’t mean every move they’ve made sees them hitting it out of the park, and there is a question whether Ivory was a player they really needed to go after, especially with the impressive rookie year of T.J. Yeldon. Nonetheless, they have acquired one of the better runners in the league.
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (NO): Three years, $5.2 million with $1.85 million guaranteed
In a league filled with terrible run-blocking tight ends, being around average has a level of value. Hoomanawanui won’t pull up any trees, but he will serve a function as a No. 2 tight end in an offense not afraid to use them.
P Brad Nortmann (JAX): Four years, $8.8 million with $1.65 million guaranteed
While Nortmann isn’t a top tier punter, that’s okay, because the Jags haven’t paid him top dollar. He’ll do a job worth the money on offer.
G Jeff Allen (HOU): Four years, $28 million with $12 million guaranteed
It’s a big investment in a player who until last year didn’t inspire confidence when he got on the field. But the versatile and tough lineman did enough last year that Texans fans should be relatively happy with this move. Allen was our 10th-ranked guard in 2015.
TE Coby Fleener (IND): Five years, $36 million with $14.6 million guaranteed
Was it Fleener’s inability or the all-around ability of Dwayne Allen that limited Fleener’s contributions in Indianapolis? Well, there will be no excuses for the tight end in New Orleans, where the team will be counting on Fleener to best his 491 receiving yards of 2015.
S Tashaun Gipson (JAX): Five years, $35.5 million with $12 million guaranteed
If Gipson can get back to his 2014 form, then this move will prove much better than the grade we’ve currently given it. But we can’t ignore how Gipson struggled last year and that’s what makes this move something of a leap of faith.
CB Ron Brooks (PHI): Three years, $5.5 million with $1.55 million guaranteed
This is a solid signing by the Eagles, and it reunites new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz with another player from his time in Buffalo. Brooks struggled to get on the field last year, but given the money involved he should provide handy depth and special teams assistance.
DE Jaye Howard (KC): Two years, $10 million with $5.8 million guaranteed
A versatile lineman who can play over the center or all the way out to a 5-technique defensive end in a three-man front, Howard had a breakout 2015 season. And while he didn’t deliver the consistency we wanted to see from him, there was enough to show he can start in this league. He was our 24th-ranked interior defender in 2015.
RB Bilal Powell (NYJ): Three years, $11.25 million with $6 million guaranteed
The price is a little bit steep for a player who will almost certainly be Matt Forte’s backup. Powell is coming off his best season, and is a solid backup running back, but did they need to spend that much on a backup?
QB Luke McCown (NO): Two years, $3 million with $500k guaranteed
This is a quiet move that keeps McCown as Drew Brees’ backup once again. He started one game last year and held his own, but the best part about this deal is that it doesn’t cost the Saints too much money.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (PIT): Three years, $3.8 million with $400k guaranteed
LB Tank Carder (CLE): Two years, $2.5 million with $300k guaranteed
While not the most impressive player, Carder is a guy who has experience on defense and can do a job on special teams. Bonus points for being the first guy the Browns were able to re-sign.
QB Thaddeus Lewis (SF): One year, $600k with no guarantees
The worst case scenario? A camp arm. Lewis isn’t a starting calibre quarterback but not every move is about who contributes on game day.
LB Mason Foster (WAS): Two year, $2.5 million with $350k guaranteed
After struggling in Tampa Bay Foster salvaged his career with a solid enough effort in Washington. The jury is very much out on him right now, with this being a waste of money if he reverts to old ways, but a bargain if he continues his 2015 play.
K Nick Novak (HOU): One year, $965k with 80k guaranteed
Accurate enough but doesn’t have the leg you look for in kickoffs or the big field goals.
CB Sherrick McManis (CHI): Two years, $2.85 million with $600k guaranteed
McManis bombed as a cornerback, but if you keep him off defense and let him star on special teams this is worth the money.
CB Brent Grimes (TB): Two years, $13.5 million
Grimes has hit the age where he has started to decline, and this is still pretty strong money for a corner who is on the way down. This past season, he allowed a passer rating of 103.2.
TE James Hanna (DAL): Three years, $8.25 million with $2.75 guaranteed
Hanna played 231 snaps last season for the Cowboys as the primary backup to Jason Witten. He blocked well, but offered little as a receiver.
G Mackenzy Bernadeau (JAX): Two years, $4 million
Bernadeau was playing very well the last time he saw significant game action, but that was now two full seasons ago, so the Jaguars are taking a bit of a shot into the unknown with him. At this kind of money, though, it’s a risk worth taking.
NT Al Woods (TEN): Three years, $10.5 million with $5 million guaranteed
Woods is a strong run defender, but offers virtually nothing as a pass-rusher, and has never seen more than 362 snaps over a season. This is big money for a player that likely won’t see more than a third of the team’s defensive snaps.
TE Logan Paulsen (WAS): One-year, $840k with $35k guaranteed
Paulsen missed all of 2015 but has been a solid run blocker throughout his career. The Redskins have an easy out if he doesn’t return healthy from his injury.
QB/WR Joe Webb (CAR): Two-years, $1.86 million with $200k guaranteed
A versatile player that excelled on special teams in 2015.
LB Travis Lewis (MIN): One-year, $810k with $50k guaranteed
No risk signing for position depth and potential special teams production.
HB Travaris Cadet (NO): One-year, $840k with $35k guaranteed
No risk signing for position depth and potential special teams production.
S Rafael Bush (DET): One-year, $1.5 million with $250k guaranteed
No risk signing for an experienced player that will provide position depth and potential special teams production. Bush spent most of 2015 on IR.
QB Dan Orlovsky (DET): One-year, $1.1 million with $160k guaranteed
Just a veteran backup QB. The Lions should look to draft a mid-to-late round project.
OT Charles Brown (DAL): One-year, $760k with none guaranteed
A veteran backup offensive tackle at a cheap contract.
LB Sean Weatherspoon (ATL): One-year, $1.5 million with $150k guaranteed
A solid one-year “prove-it” deal. Weatherspoon comes back to Atlanta to try to reset the market for himself. A stellar 2011 season seems like a mere blip. Dan Quinn was able to elevate poor talent in 2015, he hopes to bring the best out of Weatherspoon in the 4-3 D.
OT Jermon Bushrod (MIA): One-year, $1.5 million with $985k guaranteed
Brought in as a swing tackle when either Branden Albert or Ja’Waun James gets injured, which is a frequent occurrence. Bushrod isn’t very good but won’t be disastrous when filling a need.
TE Marcedes Lewis (JAX): Three years, $12 million with $5.5 million guaranteed
Lewis’s prime years are behind him, as he hasn’t graded positively in a season since 2013. While not exactly a liability yet, his true value came in his elite run-blocking ability, where he was arguably the NFL’s best from 2008 to 2012. However, Lewis has been a shell of himself over the past three seasons.
S Chris Conte (TB): One year, $3 million with $2.5 million guaranteed
Conte had his best year in 2015; if he can prove that his improvement wasn’t a fluke, he can expect to strike a good contract next season.
TE Jermaine Gresham (ARI): One year, $3.5 million with $1 million guaranteed
Gresham had a small resurgence in Arizona, and hopes to show more in 2016 to reset his market. While he disappointed as a receiver, his blocking took a leap.
WR Chris Givens (PHI): One year, $840,000 with $180,000 guaranteed
Givens caught just 39.2 percent of his targets in 2015, seemingly out of sync with QB Joe Flacco. If Sam Bradford wins the starting position, he’ll at least have a more accurate QB throwing him passes.
HB Donald Brown (NE): One year, $965,000 with $300,000 guaranteed
Brown has bounced around the league and now gets to play for Bill Belichick. The Patriots’ backfield is crowded, but Brown has shown solid production when given the opportunity.
S Rahim Moore (CLE): One year, $1.85 million with $400,000 guaranteed
Moore will forever be remember for his 2013 AFC divisional game blunder. He has graded positively in coverage in four straight seasons, but has missed 17 tackles the past two seasons.
DT Paul Soliai (CAR): Two years, $6.5 million with $3 million guaranteed
Soliai has been a good situational player the past three seasons in Atlanta, and will provide solid depth on an elite Carolina defensive line.
DT Tyrunn Walker (DET): One year, $1.6 million with $150,000 guaranteed
Walker showed promise in 2013 and 2014, but broke his fibula after just 180 snaps in 2015. If Walker bounces back to his pre-injury form, he could see a solid payday next offseason.
OT Andre Smith (MIN): One year, $3.5 million with $500,000 guaranteed
Smith had three really good seasons from 2011 to 2013, but that production has taken a nose-dive the past two seasons. If the former Bengal can just get back to being average, the Vikings will be happy.
HB Christine Michael (SEA): One year, $725,000 with $25,000 guaranteed
Seattle knows how to get the most out of Michael, as he graded positively in five straight games to end the season, including the playoffs.
DT Sealver Siliga (SEA): One year, $1 million with $200,000 guaranteed
Siliga will provide a good run-stopper with positional depth in Seattle. He has just five career sacks.
DE Mario Williams (MIA): Two years, $17 million with $7.5 million guaranteed
Rarely has Williams lived up to what is expected of him, but last season was a borderline disaster for him, as he ranked dead-last in pass-rush grade among edge defenders. It was less an aberration and more the culmination for a player who has rarely delivered against top competition. He is by no means a bad player, and the relatively little money involved here makes this worth a flyer. But why has the team gotten older and less explosive at a premium position?
DT Ahtyba Rubin (SEA): Three years, $12m with $5.5m guaranteed
Rubin did get better towards the end of the season, but he has a skill set that is readily available in the NFL. It’s a move that means the team doesn’t need to go out shopping for an early-down player, and it’s relatively cheap, so consider this a giant “meh.”
T Eric Winston (CIN): One year, $1.1m with $80k guaranteed
It’s not a lot of money for a guy who more than likely acts as insurance, given the team spent their first two picks last year on offensive tackles. Once one of the best right tackles in the league, Winston isn’t that guy any more — but in a pinch he could fill in.
DT Brandon Mebane (SD): Three years, $13.5 million with $5.5 million guaranteed
While Mebane had a good run in Seattle, he’s not the player he once was, and it’s hard to envision him making a big impact on the nose in a Chargers defense that is devoid of talent. Mebane had the 70th-highest grade of 123 qualifying interior defenders last season.
T LaAdrian Waddle (NE): Two years, $2.35 million with $250k guaranteed
If Waddle can forget his 2015 performance and play more like he did when he entered the league, then this isn’t such a bad deal. But there’s no guarantee of that, and this deal seems rich for a guy who will do well to even make the roster.
CB Jeremy Lane (SEA): Four years, $23 million with $11 million guaranteed
Is Lane a bad player? No. But has he done enough to warrant double digits in guaranteed money? We’d say no, given that in four years he’s never managed more than 356 snaps. He’s a guy you’d want on your roster, but it’s hard to imagine many teams getting close to paying him that figure.
CB Shareece Wright (BAL): Three years, $13 million with $4.76 million guaranteed
Wright put some tough years in San Diego behind him with a decent showing in 2015. But this is a little too much money and we’d have rather seen a little less up front.
LB Ramon Humber (NE): One year, $965k with $25k guaranteed
It’s unlikely that Humber sees the field on defense, and truth be told he’s just another guy on special team. Sure there’s not a lot guaranteed but given he’ll do well to hold onto a roster spot, did they need to guarantee any cash?
T Bobby Massie (CHI): Three years, $18 million with $6.5 million guaranteed
One of these frustrating players. Massie can be very good, but there are stretches where pass rushes just work over him. Turned it on in the second half of the year and if he continues to play like that the Bears will be happy with their outlay.
T Sam Young (MIA): One year, $910k with $150k guaranteed
Young was not good in Jacksonville. On a per snap basis one of the weakest tackles in the league, he should be grateful for a chance to redeem himself and extremely grateful the Dolphins decided to guarantee part of his deal.
LB Nigel Bradham (PHI): Two years, $7.5 million with $4.5 million guaranteed
Bradham showed promise in 2013 and 2014 but struggled mightily in Rex Ryan’s system in 2015. Bradham might be best in a situational backup role like he was in 2013. For a player that has missed 19 tackles the past two years, $4.5 million guaranteed is a bit steep for someone more deserving of a one-year “prove-it” deal.
DE Frank Kearse (NE): One year, $825,000 with $30,000 guaranteed
No-risk signing that Belichick will try to work his magic with.
QB Matt Moore (MIA): Two years, $3.55 million with $2.25 million guaranteed
Moore likes holding the clipboard in sunny South Florida, and he’ll get paid well to do just that. He graded very well in 2011, his last season with significant snaps.
RB Robert Turbin (IND): One year, $760,000 with none guaranteed
Turbin will provide depth in Indianapolis and compete for a roster spot.
LB Sean Spence (TEN): One year, $2.5 million with $500,000 guaranteed
Spence gets to play for Dick LeBeau again in 2016 on a one-year “prove-it” deal. He needs to show that his first two seasons were simply him getting acclimated to the pros, and not his career norm.
DB Antonio Allen (HST): One year, $840,000 with $80,000 guaranteed
No-risk signing for a player returning from a torn Achilles tendon.
RB Matt Asiata (MIN): One year, $840,000 with $60,000 guaranteed
The Vikings know what they’re getting with Asiata—someone to give Adrian Peterson a rest on passing downs.
RB James Starks (GB): Two years, $6 million with $1.5 million guaranteed
On the plus side, Starks provides a quick spark to the running game and familiarity in the Packers’ offense. On the downside, Starks is a 30-year-old running back that hasn’t shown any consistency since the seven-game stretch in his rookie season that helped lead Green Bay to a Super Bowl.
OT Ryan Harris (PIT): Two years, $4 million with $675,000 guaranteed
Perhaps 2015 was an aberration for Harris because it was such a massive decline in his performance. While he had struggled to protect Peyton Manning the past four seasons, his run-blocking was solid. The whole O-line (minus Evan Mathis) was out of sorts all year. A change of scenery might help get Harris back to the level of an average OT.
QB Colt McCoy (WAS): Three years, $9 million with $1.8 million guaranteed
McCoy is a below-average backup that is familiar with Jay Gruden’s playbook.
WR Brian Quick (LA): One year, $3.75 million with $1.5 million guaranteed
For a guy who has never managed more than 400 snaps in a year, with a career best of 375 yards, you wonder if the Rams couldn’t have sweated a lower figure out of a guy who you imagine will be competing for a roster spot.
DL Kedric Golston (WAS): One year, $1 million with no guarantees
At some point you have to cut the cord. We love their being no guarantees, but Golston has been a below average player since entering the league, and nothing is going to change that now.
CB Tracy Porter (CHI): Three years, $12 million with $4.25 million guaranteed
He got hot in the middle of the season, but all that did was serve as a sandwich to the usual replacement level play. Porter is worth having on the roster, but not at this dollar amount.
S Eddie Pleasant (HOU): Two years, $2.15 million with $300k guaranteed
Just not good enough on special teams that you can be certain he’ll crack the final 53. At which point the question is why guarantee him cash?
P Shane Lechler (HOU): One year, $1.8 million with $500k guaranteed
A great career, but his leg isn’t what it once was and boy is it showing.
WR Chris Hogan (NE): Three years, $12 million with $7.5 million guaranteed
Odd move given that Hogan never really produced in Buffalo. You think the Bills had to think twice about not matching this offer?
CB Morris Claiborne (DAL): One year, $3 million with $500k guaranteed
Claiborne was supposed to become an elite cornerback, but since being drafted has been anything but. His grade has been getting worse each season and if there was one team for whom his upside should seem unattainable at this point it is Dallas. Only relative low cost prevents this being even worse.
OL J’Marcus Webb (SEA): Two years, $6.25 million with $2.5 million guaranteed
It’s unclear just yet whether the Seahawks see Webb as a tackle or guard and frankly I’m not sure it matters. At this point we know what he is at guard or tackle and it’s a backup level player. He’s improved a tad in pass protection since his first two seasons where he gave up 24 total sacks, but he was still 31st among starting guards in pass blocking efficiency a year ago.
QB Matt Cassel (TEN): One-year, $2 million with $750k guaranteed
Cassel comes in to compete with Zach Mettenberger for the backup spot and to provide a veteran presence in the QB room.
QB Matt Schaub (ATL): One-year, $2.75 million with $500k guaranteed
With no reliable backup option, the Falcons sign an unreliable backup QB.
LB Vincent Rey (CIN): Three-years, $10.5 million with $3 million guaranteed
Rey has one positively graded season out of four of his seasons with significant snaps yet just received a solid contract. Familiarity plays a part but with AFC North being more pass happy than the smash-mouth it’s made out to be, Rey’s inability in pass coverage is too much of a risk. With former CFF favorite Paul Dawson waiting in the wings, Rey should have been given a contact half the size it is.
LB Keenan Robinson (NYG): One-year, $2.6 million with $1 million guaranteed
As bad as the Giants linebackers are, Robinson does nothing to elevate this group. Robinson is a liability against the run and missed 15 tackles in 2015. As much as one-year “prove-it” deals are team friendly, this one seems steep even for that.
OT Alvin Bailey (CLE): Three-years, $6 million with $1 million guaranteed
While the Browns are on the hook for just $1 million, it’s $1 million that could be better spent elsewhere. Bailey struggled as badly as Cam Erving struggled in his spot starts and Cleveland fans know all too well how those games went for Erving.
LB Demario Davis (CLE): Two years, $8 million with $4 million guaranteed
Brought on to replace Karlos Dansby, Davis brings youth, but also a lot of missed tackles (39 the past three seasons). He graded slightly above-average in 2014 and showed well when demoted to a part-time role in the final six weeks of 2015. Perhaps the analytical team sees something in Davis’s tape they can utilize, but $4 million guaranteed to find out is steep for a player never showing consistent ability.
DT Stefan Charles (DET): One year, $1.75 million with $550,000 guaranteed
Nothing in Charles’ career has shown that he should get a deal worth up to nearly $2 million. For an interior defender with 14 career pressures, he’s getting a nice paycheck.
G Zane Beadles (SF): Three years, $11.75 million (guaranteed not reported yet)
Beadles looked out of sorts in 2015, but the warning signs were there, with his run-blocking grades free-falling and his pass-blocking grades inconsistent year-to-year. While the guaranteed money is key in this deal, the 49ers need the positional depth.
CB Antwon Blake (TEN): One year, $1.5 million with $200,000 guaranteed
Blake was really bad in 2015—only Brandon Browner graded worse. Reuniting with Dick LeBeau might help, but there is little in 2015 to like about Blake’s game. He did grade positively in the two playoff games, however.
QB Brock Osweiler (HOU): Four years, $72 million with $37 million guaranteed
There are those who like Osweiler’s potential and those who don’t, but wherever you stand you can’t deny there’s a huge air of uncertainty about a guy who was benched for a fading Peyton Manning last year. Osweiler did a serviceable job when coming into the lineup, but enough to think that he could be “the guy”? He ranked just 20th in PFF quarterback grades and second-worst in deep-ball accuracy percentage this season. This is the kind of risky move that could define Bill O’Brien’s time as Texans head coach.
S Andrew Sendejo (MIN): Four years, $16 million with $3.9 million guaranteed
It’s starter money for a guy who isn’t all that likely to start (certainly not in an every-down role), and isn’t all that good. Sendejo had the 85th-highest grade of 88 safeties in 2015.
T Donald Stephenson (DEN): Three years, $14 million with $10 million guaranteed
Paying Stephenson starter money is fine if he can play like he did Week 2 of the 2015 season against the Broncos. He was impressive then, but that was the exception to his season, and not the rule. He’s consistently been one of the weaker starters in the league, and paying him to be something else seems unnecessary.
C Tim Barnes (LA): Two years, $5.6 million with $2.5 million guaranteed
It’s not so much the max value of the deal that bothers us. In any move there’s an element of projection, and the Rams will hope that Barnes is better for having a year’s worth of starts under his belt. But the guaranteed figure seems unnecessary, given that Barnes could only finish the year 29th out of 39 ranked centers.
G J.R. Sweezy (TB): Five years, $32.5 million with $14.5 million guaranteed
He of the highlight-reel block. Sweezy can do things that coaches and fans can’t help but fall in love with, but it’s the lack of consistency (especially in pass protection) that has us shaking our heads at this deal. He’s earned a negative grade in each of his four years and looks to be quite the drop-off from the recently retired Logan Mankins.
LB Mark Barron (LA): Five years, $45 million with $15 million guaranteed
The league may be shifting to smaller linebackers, but this seems like an overpay for a guy who produced his first decent season in the NFL last year. And we emphasize the word decent, because while he was much improved in St. Louis, he was still only our 20th-ranked linebacker on the year. He’ll need to play at a level we haven’t seen from him yet to justify this cash.
LB Emmanuel Lamur (MIN): Two years, $6 million with $2.2 million guaranteed
While Lamur is familiar with Mike Zimmer from their time in Cincinnati, he really isn’t a guy who has gotten better the more he played. In fact, the past two years he’s really struggled, to the point where he’s really a guy you bring into compete for a spot on a roster, rather than offering enough in guarantees that you’re pretty much obliged to keep him.
G Tony Bergstrom (HST): Two years, $5.75 million with $1.125 million guaranteed
Given how little he has got on the field, did Houston really need to guarantee this much money? He flashed starting potential at center, but he still has a lot to prove with just 367 career snaps to his name.
S Johnson Bademosi (DET): Two years, $4.5 million with $2.9 million guaranteed
Bademosi not look good when he got a longer run on defense, and while he is on a lot of special teams tackles, tackles alone do not equal talent.
DE Kendall Reyes (SD): One year, $2.5 million
Washington was able to re-sign Kedric Golston for $1 million, so adding Reyes to the mix (given his proven history of awful play every season outside of his rookie year) makes little sense. $2.5 million is hardly rich, but it isn’t chump change, either, for a player with this kind of track record.
C Gino Gradkowski (CAR): Three years, $3.15 million with $450,000 guaranteed
A backup offensive linemen for moderate money, Gradkowski has only played significant snaps once, and he was bad in that season with a -13.1 overall grade.
DE Eugene Sims (LA): Three year, $10 million with $3.75 million guaranteed
The Rams had a lot of talent on the D-line, but despite over 500 snaps of action last season, Sims was the only member of the unit to grade worse than Chris Long—who was already cut loose this offseason. Sims offers little as a pass-rusher, and last season his play against the run deserted him, too.
DI Jarvis Jenkins (NYJ): Two-years, $7 million with $3 million guaranteed
$3 million guaranteed is no chump change for a player that has never graded positively in an area in his career.
DE Andre Branch (MIA): One year, $2.75 million with $2.5 million guaranteed
Branch stays in sunny Florida, robbing the Dolphins blind with guaranteed money. Branch has never graded positively overall, and just once as a pass-rusher (2014).
LB Shea McClellin (NE): Three years, $12 million with $3.5 million guaranteed
Unless Bill Belichick sees something in McClellin that PFF doesn’t, this is a lot of money for a first-round bust. While McClellin graded well against the run in 2014, that seems to be more of a fluke than anything, as he has graded very negatively every other year.
Janoris Jenkins (NYG): Five years, $62.5 million with $29 million guaranteed
This is just an awful lot of money for a good corner who still gambles way too much. Big plays win games, and while Jenkins can make them, he’s been on the wrong end of more than his fair share. The Giants paid top-10 cornerback money for a guy who barely cracked the top 20 in our 2015 cornerback grades.
QB Chase Daniels (PHI): Three years, $21 million with $12 million guaranteed
It’s just an awful lot of money for a backup, and if he isn’t a backup, then why was so much money spent on Sam Bradford? In some respect you have to trust new head coach Doug Pederson, who has more knowledge of Daniels than any of us, but even he hasn’t seen how Daniels might handle significant game action.
WR Mohamed Sanu (ATL): 5 years, $32.5 million with $14 million guaranteed
This is a lot of money for a player with a negative receiving grade in each of the past three seasons. He likely comes to Atlanta as the No. 2 receiver next to Julio Jones, but the salary, and his play to date, don’t really justify that.
QB Chad Henne (JAX): Two years, $8 million with $5 million guaranteed
The last time we saw Henne, he was benched for rookie QB Blake Bortles. His last full game as a starter saw him get sacked 10 times while completing just three passes under pressure. When the backup QB market is this weak, familiarity gets paid well.