10 free-agent additions already making an impact

Which new arrivals have already made their mark with their new teams? Texans QB Brock Osweiler tops the list.

| 2 weeks ago
Texans QB Brock Osweiler

(Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)

10 free-agent additions already making an impact


The days following Week 1 of the NFL season are rife with knee-jerk reactions, drastic swings in opinions, and hot takes. This list isn’t trying to be that. Some free-agent signings are already paying off dividends, though, and it’s worth highlighting those guys who have made big impacts on their new teams early on.

1. Brock Osweiler, QB, Texans (84.5 grade in Week 1)

Osweiler may have had one unsightly interception, but there’s no doubt that he’s already been an upgrade at the most important position on the field. The former Bronco was the sixth-highest graded quarterback in Week 1 after gaining 244 yards through the air, including drops. If he can keep it up, Osweiler is well on in his way to justifying his contract.

2. Chris Long, DE, Patriots (82.3)

Sunday night’s game was vindication on many fronts. For Long, it proved that he still has plenty left in the tank after two injury-plagued seasons in St. Louis. And for the Patriots, it looks like trading Chandler Jones for a second round pick and Jonathan Cooper will be a net gain. Long had two sacks and a hurry along with a forced penalty.

3. Brent Grimes, CB, Buccaneers (82.2)

For a much-maligned secondary a season ago, Grimes presence has been a godsend. Against the Falcons, he allowed a mere 5 yards on three targets and had two pass breakups. No full-time starter allowed fewer yards or had more passes defended—quite the introduction for the former Dolphin.

4. Brandon Mebane, DT, Chargers (81.7)

To say that the Chargers’ interior defensive line was an issue a season ago would be an understatement; they had our lowest-graded run defense by a comfortable margin. Mebane’s production at the nose Sunday was a sight for sore eyes in San Diego. He had two sacks, a hit, and three hurries on only 18 pass rushes.

5. Alex Mack, C, Falcons (86.3)

Mack was well on his way to one of his best seasons back in 2014 before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the year. Kyle Shanahan didn’t forget, and now Mack is once again in a scheme that suits him perfectly in Atlanta. The Falcons’ run game never quite got off the ground against the Bucs, but don’t blame the center; Mack was downgraded only five times all day in 65 snaps.

6. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Bears (80.1)

Only Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander recorded more stops than Freeman’s eight on Sunday. Where the former Colt really shined, though, was in coverage. Freeman may have been responsible for coverage on five catches against the Texans, but those five plays went for a total of 15 yards.

7. Bruce Irvin, OLB, Raiders (82.6)

After multiple quietly-impressive years in the loaded Seahawks’ defense, Bruce Irvin made his arrival known in Week 1 against the Saints. Irvin recorded the 10th-highest pass-rushing productivity mark among 3-4 OLBs after one game, notching a sack, two QB hurries, one QB hit, and two defensive stops in the Raiders’ win.

8. Brandon LaFell, WR, Bengals (77.9)

After the Bengals were unwilling to shill out big bucks to Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu this offseason, the No. 2 receiver spot was up in the air. They brought in LaFell for significantly less than what Jones and Sanu were paid in Detroit and Atlanta, respectively, and through one week, there was no dip in production across from A.J. Green. LaFell hauled in all four of his targets for 91 yards.

9. Isa Abdul-Quddus, S, Dolphins (84.7)

The most surprising defensive performance of the week had to belong to the Miami Dolphins. They held Russell Wilson and company in check for much of the game, and new safety Isa Abdul-Quddus was a big reason why. He only allowed one catch for 9 yards and picked off his only other target for the highest coverage grade of any safety in Week 1.

10. Matt Slauson, C, Chargers (81.8)

One of our favorite budget signings this offseason, Slauson was a drastic improvement over the mess that was the Chargers’ center position in 2015. He didn’t give up a single pressure against the Chiefs, and was the fourth-highest graded center in the league in Week 1. No Chargers center had a single game a year ago grade as highly as Slauson’s debut.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • jdg3

    You forgot one that had a higher grade than any other on this list:

    LG/LT Kelechi Osemele, 86.7

    • Mike Riley

      Right?! Was pancaking dudes at LG & out of necessity was moved to LT & kept on pancaking dudes. Also no sacks allowed for the entire O-line.

    • Johnny Rotten

      Exactly. Higher grade than Alex Mack and he had to play two positions guard and tackle.

    • Felton51

      This Saint fan was not surprised – the Raider OL was great – even with all the shuffling

  • bobbyv

    Forgot Bruce Irvin as well at 82.2

    • Merlin Veltman

      He’s at no. 7

  • http://91digital.net Conrad O’Connell

    How did you all grade out Chris Hogan?

  • crosseyedlemon

    Alex Mack was solid when he had the ball and chain known as the Cleveland Browns tied to him, but now with a fresh start and some support there’s no telling how good he might be.

  • PeTe((25))

    Eric Weddle???

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    if it’s only week one i think that players on teams that lost might not be the best representatives on this list, unless making an impact on being winless is important now

    • crosseyedlemon

      I understand what your saying, but by the same token, a player who has had a strong showing, shouldn’t be penalized because other teammates sabotaged the chances for a win.

      • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

        ya, i know, but i personally think that logic applies better over a larger sample size.

        • crosseyedlemon

          I agree that the small sample sizes often create a distortion. It’s a bit like evaluating a baseball batter on 40 at bats at the start of a 162 game season.

          • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

            difference being 1 win or 1 loss in 162 game season is much less meaningful than 1 in this league, hence why my first point. but, again, feel ya

  • Nelson Cobb

    Hard to believe Grimes played as good as he did. He was embarrassed by Josh Gordon in his return after over a year out of football, and he looked washed up last season. I wouldn’t bet his week 1 was more of a fluke than anything else.