Free-agency grades for Jaguars, Texans, Colts, Titans
Analyst Gordon McGuinness assigns free-agency grades to all four AFC South teams.
Free-agency grades for Jaguars, Texans, Colts, Titans
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”).
PFF will be rolling out grades for every team by division throughout this entire week, with the NFC South and AFC South debuting today.
Key additions: QB Brock Osweiler, G Jeff Allen, RB Lamar Miller, G Tony Bergstrom
Key retentions: RB Jonathan Grimes, S Eddie Pleasant, P Shane Lechler, K Nick Novak, T Chris Clark
Key losses: G Brandon Brooks, C Ben Jones
The Texans made a lot of noise early in free agency, re-shaping their offense with the signings of quarterback Brock Osweiler and running back Lamar Miller. While they did spend a lot on Osweiler, despite seeing so little playing time from him in Denver to base the contract on, it was clear that the Texans needed to improve at the position this offseason. Signing Miller was huge—he was our fourth-highest-graded player at the position in 2015, with an overall grade of 85.6, while Alfred Blue (70.0) and Arian Foster struggled (63.7).
The biggest losses for Houston came on the offensive line, and while replacing guard Brandon Brooks (66.7) with Tony Bergstrom (76.4) looks like an upgrade based on last year, Brooks was our eighth-highest-graded guard in 2014, and seventh in 2013, so it’s likely that the Texans will miss him. Ben Jones was just our 18th-highest-graded center last year, but he has shown himself to be a good run-blocker in the past, and right now it leaves a hole in the middle of the Texans’ offensive line.
Key additions: CB Patrick Robinson
Key retentions: TE Dwayne Allen, K Adam Vinatieri
Key losses: LB Jerrell Freeman, TE Coby Fleener
Allen is an interesting re-signing for Indianapolis, and a gamble given how he’s graded throughout his career so far. His rookie year really was something to get excited about, grading well as a receiver and as a run-blocker, finishing the 2012 season as our highest-graded tight end. A knee injury ruined his 2013 season, though, and he hasn’t really been the same since, finishing 2015 with the fifth-lowest run-blocking grade of any tight end in 2015. If he can get back to the level he played at as a rookie, we’re looking at one of the best tight ends in the league—but at this point, it’s a huge question mark.
If the Colts view Allen as an all-around No. 1 tight end, then you can see why they opted to keep him as opposed to Fleener (who signed with the Saints), but given Allen’s play since that injury, it might be a move the Indianapolis front office regrets down the line. Fleener was a solid red-zone threat, with 18 receiving touchdowns in four years, and will likely be productive for Drew Brees in New Orleans. Freeman (signed with Chicago) was our second-highest-graded inside linebacker, but had never graded positively against the run in the previous three seasons, so it’s understandable that they opted to not pay him after an impressive contract year.
Key additions: DT Malik Jackson, RB Chris Ivory, CB Prince Amukamara, S Tashaun Gipson, OT Kelvin Beachum
Key retentions: TE Marcedes Lewis
Key losses: None (C Stefan Wisniewski remains an unrestricted free agent)
The Jaguars came into free agency looking to make a splash, and they have done just that. Jackson was the biggest signing, coming off a season where he racked up seven sacks, 12 hits, and 56 hurries (including the playoffs). Jackson has seen his pass-rush grade improve every season since entering the league in 2012, and gives the Jaguars the ability to generate interior pressure in 2016. Elsewhere on defense, they added cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Tashaun Gipson. At 78.9, Amukamara was our 32nd-highest-graded cornerback. That might not seem like much, but it still makes him the highest-graded CB on the Jaguars’ roster at the moment. Gipson struggled in 2015, but was our 15th-highest-graded safety in 2014.
On offense, Kelvin Beachum would be an immediate upgrade over Luke Joeckel and, while injuries limited his 2015 season, the former Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle was our second-highest graded OT in pass protection in 2014. Chris Ivory (81.2) was another player who they potentially overpaid for, but they had the money available, and get to pair him with T.J. Yeldon (83.2), giving Jacksonville two of the 11 highest-graded running backs from the 2015 season.
Key additions: WR Rishard Matthews, C Ben Jones, HB DeMarco Murray, CB Antwon Blake
Key retentions: NT Al Woods, TE Craig Stevens, OL Byron Bell
Key losses: S Michael Griffin and CB Coty Sensabaugh
DeMarco Murray was the Titans’ headline signing, and if he can get back to his 2014 form, where he had the second-highest rushing grade in the league, forcing 67 missed tackles and falling short of 1,000 yards after contact by 2 yards, then it’s a huge signing for Tennessee. That being said, he wasn’t much better than terrible in Philadelphia last year, forcing just 25 missed tackles on 193 carries. Ben Jones solidifies the center position after the combination of Andy Gallik, Joe Looney, and Brian Schwenke shared the role in 2015, combining for the fourth-lowest grade amongst centers. Matthews at wideout is a signing I really like, as he ranked 17th amongst receivers last season with a 2.08 yards per route run average.
Michael Griffin posted a positive grade in coverage in just two of the past seven seasons, but that’s not the most interesting loss in the defensive backfield. Losing Coty Sensabaugh (46.1) had the potential to be addition by subtraction, given that he ranked 88th out of the 111 cornerbacks with enough qualifying snaps last year. It doesn’t help, however, when you replace him with the 107th ranked player at the position in Antwon Blake (35.1). Blake gave up 1,074 yards in coverage last year, more than any cornerback since PFF began grading games in 2007. That’s not the record you want.
More team free-agency grades by division:
– AFC East
– NFC East
– AFC West
– NFC West
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.