Free agency grades for every NFC East team

Sam Monson assigns a free agency grade to every NFC East team, looking at signings, re-signings, and key losses.

| 1 year ago
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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.

Dallas Cowboys

Grade: C+

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

Grade: B-

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.

Philadelphia Eagles

Grade: A-

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.

Washington Redskins

Grade: C-

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 North

NFC North

AFC South

NFC South

AFC West

NFC West

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • McGeorge

    Since when is removing Mark Sanchez ever a key loss?

    >>Key losses: QB Mark Sanchez, CB Byron Maxwell, LB Kiko Alonso, RB DeMarco Murray, S Walter Thurmond

    As for Demarco Murray, removing him isn’t a key loss. They got rid of a big salary and got something in return.

    Same for Byron Maxwell.

    • Tim Edell

      It’s just showing what players were signed by other teams. Obviously Matt Cassell and RG3 aren’t key losses for their respective teams either.

  • Nikrizzi17

    Losing rueben Randle is an addition get your shit together pff

  • MFBomb

    This is lazy work. Some of this stuff needs to be edited, like Morris going to Dallas or Blackmon re-signing with the Skins. Is there an actual professional monitoring this stuff, or does PFF have some intern with his head in the clouds posting and Tweeting unedited work?

    • Kelly Lord

      It was probably written before the Morris signing. It was posted 2 days ago. Is your editor an intern with his head in the clouds posting unedited comments?

  • Adam Fogarty

    Here’s my take, I don’t know what the Cowboys are thinking bringing back Claiborne, Thornton was a good signing though, I think if Myles Jack is available at 4 then the Cowboys need to jump on that to fix the hole they have at outside linebacker. …….as for the Giants I think they overpaid for Vernon and Harrison but I understand why, I personally think Victor Cruz will be fine when he comes back, but if Randle was signed for that cheap I feel like they could’ve kept him, with how poorly flowers played at left tackle I was really surprised they cut beatty when they could’ve given flowers one more year to learn, I also feel like they could’ve got Sean Smith for cheaper than Jenkins and had a better corner, but it looks like another free agency is gonna pass without the Giants upgrading their linebacking Corp……the eagles did a great job this free agency, they unloaded bad contracts like maxwell and murray, made smart signings like McLeod and brooks, and even managed to move up in the first round for practically nothing, they do need to upgrade their skill positions though at receiver and running back…… for the redskins I don’t see a repeat division title on the horizon unless Matt Jones kick starts this offense, and they still have holes in the middle of their defense and still lack a legit number 1 receiving option for cousins to throw to