Cardinals re-sign WR Larry Fitzgerald (1 year, $11 million): A Grade
Retirement discussions have surrounded Larry Fitzgerald in recent years, but he'll be back for at least one more season in Arizona. Fitzgerald signed a 1-year extension worth $11 million, so his contract will now expire in March 2019.
This is obviously an outstanding move for the Cardinals. Fitzgerald is 34, but he's still a terrific receiver. He has 60 catches for 677 yards and three touchdowns this season despite being paired with decrepit and pedestrian quarterbacks. Fitzgerald, who is on pace for 106 receptions, would still be lethal with a talented signal-caller, though it remains to be seen if Arizona can find one this upcoming offseason.
I think an "A" grade is very appropriate. The Cardinals get to keep their best offensive player and a legendary icon without risking their future. If Fitzgerald suddenly regresses, which is unlikely to happen, Arizona won't be on the hook for anything beyond 2018.
Eagles re-sign DT Timmy Jernigan (4 years, $48M; $26M guaranteed): B+ Grade
It's difficult to believe that the Eagles acquired Timmy Jernigan this past offseason for just a swap of third-round picks. Think Baltimore could use Jernigan to help its run defense woes?
Jernigan has been outstanding for Philadelphia, stuffing the run extremely well and providing a decent pass rush. He deserves this big contract, so I have to give the Eagles a good grade for getting the deal done. It's not in the "A" range because it's not a great value signing, but a B+ makes sense.
Patriots claim TE Martellus Bennett: B+ Grade
The Patriots were one of the teams I expected to obtain Martellus Bennett on the NFL Trade Block page. The move made so much sense because Bennett helped New England win a Super Bowl last year. With Rob Gronkowski out, Bennett was the team's primary tight end. Bennett obviously knows the system, so he can step in and play if needed.
Bennett has struggled this season because of an injury. However, he could be healthy down the stretch, so having him on the roster could turn out to be beneficial if the injury-prone Gronkowski goes down again. If Gronkowski remains healthy, then this acquisition didn't matter at all, but it's better to be safe than sorry. This is a solid move for New England with some upside.
Jaguars re-sign OLB Telvin Smith (4 years, $50 million): A- Grade
It's hard to believe that Telvin Smith was once a fifth-round pick. Smith had an impact on the team right away, and he has blossomed into one of the top linebackers in the entire league. He's an every-down linebacker for the Jaguars who thrives both in coverage and run support. He has no weaknesses to his game, and he's only 26 years old.
Smith deserved a huge contract, and it's great that the Jaguars were able to lock him up with a deal like this. He's such an important member of the Sacksonville defense, so the front office absolutely had to retain him.
I won't go with an A+ or an "A" grade because those are generally reserved for great bargain deals. This contract isn't a bargain, but it's a crucial one for the long-term success of the Jaguars.
Lions re-sign K Matt Prater (3 years, $11.4 million): B+ Grade
I would normally scoff at a contract like this for a kicker, but Matt Prater is one of the few special players at the position. He's great at making clutch kicks, and he has an extremely strong, accurate leg. He's 4-of-6 from beyond 50-plus this season, which is a downgrade from last year's 7-of-7 from that range in 2016. He was 5-of-6 from 50-plus in 2015.
Prater's ability to drill these 50-yarders with ease is very important for the Lions, who tend to play close games. Thus, I like this contract enough to give it a B+, which is very high for a kicker getting close to $4 million per season.
Seahawks sign DE Dwight Freeney: B+ Grade
It's cool to see that Dwight Freeney is still in the NFL. Freeney, 37, can still get to the quarterback on occasion. He obviously can play just a handful of snaps each week, but he was effective in a small role last year. He recorded three sacks, helping the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl.
The Seahawks needed an edge rusher in the wake of Cliff Avril's injury, so Freeney makes sense. He can be a solid role player off the bench and provide some leadership in the locker room. I like this move, and I think this is worth a B+ grade.
Raiders sign ILB NaVorro Bowman (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
I listed the Raiders as one of the teams most likely to sign NaVorro Bowman because it made so much sense. Oakland had a huge need at linebacker, and Bowman could be obtained cheaply after San Francisco released him.
Bowman hasn't been the same this year after returning from a torn Achilles, but he's still just 29, making him a nice buy-low candidate. He could improve as the year progresses and become a big part of Oakland's defense if the team rallies and reaches the playoffs as a wild card. At just $3 million this year, Bowman is quite the bargain, making this an "A" signing.
49ers re-sign CB K'Waun Williams (3 years, $10M; $5M guaranteed): C+ Grade
K'Waun Williams showed some promise earlier in his career with the Browns. However, he missed all of 2016 with an ankle injury and hasn't performed well whatsoever this season. It's odd timing for the 49ers to give him a 3-year, $10 million extension.
I don't like this contract very much, but I'm not going to grade it too poorly because I can understand the logic behind it. Williams might be struggling now because he's playing hurt. Once he gets to 100 percent, he could go back to his 2015 level. If he does, this contract will seem like a steal. Obviously, this is not a given. Williams may never bounce back. However, I think the gamble here isn't terrible.
Raiders extend OT Donald Penn (2 years, $21 million): A Grade
This seems like a great win-win for both Donald Penn and the Raiders. Penn wanted more money heading into the season, and he was given more than $10 million per year on a short-term deal, which is a substantial amount for a 34-year-old.
As for the Raiders, keeping Penn around for two more years is a great move. Penn might be 34, but he's still a very skilled left tackle who happens to be vital for Derek Carr and the rest of the offense. Even if Penn suddenly regresses as a result of his age, this is just a brief contract that won't hurt Oakland in the long term.
Rams re-sign P Johnny Hekker (2 years, $9.6 million): C+ Grade
Johnny Hekker is one of the top punters in the NFL, so that would explain why the Rams are willing to pay him close to $5 million per year. Then again, all Hekker does is give the ball away to the other team, so I'm not sure how impressive that is.
I won't grade a kicker or punter signing very highly unless it's an extremely cheap contract. This is not. Giving a punter, no matter how good he is, $5 million per year seems crazy. Hekker is a terrific punter, but still. I won't grade this poorly because Hekker is great at his job, but I wonder if the Rams could be using their money better.
Bears re-sign DE/DT Akiem Hicks (4 years, $48M; $30M guaranteed): B Grade
Two big contracts were given to talented 3-4 defensive ends this Saturday. Stephon Tuitt received a 5-year deal earlier in the day, and it was just announced that Akiem Hicks was re-signed as well.
Both Tuitt and Hicks are getting $12 million per season on their new contracts. They're equally talented, so that makes sense. However, the Tuitt deal is better for one reason, and that would be his age. While Tuitt is 24, Hicks turns 28 in November. Hicks should remain dominant throughout the duration of this deal, but he doesn't possess the upside Tuitt does. As a result, I'm going to grade this a bit lower than the Tuitt contract.
Steelers re-sign DE/DT Stephon Tuitt (5 years, $60 million): B+ Grade
This was unexpected, as the Steelers make it a rule not to negotiate during the regular season. Then again, the Steelers haven't played a game yet, so I suppose they can say it technically isn't the season for them just yet.
Tuitt, a second-round pick in 2014, struggled as a rookie, but he has improved markedly ever since. Tuitt was terrific last year, and he should continue to upgrade his play. Tuitt is only 24, so he'll be a crucial member of the defense throughout the duration of this contract. Thus, it was important to lock him up for the long term.
This sort of money may seem like a lot, but if Tuitt keeps improving, this contract could be seen as a bargain in a few years. I think a B+ makes sense.
Bengals re-sign LB Vontaze Burfict (3 years, $38.68 million): B- Grade
This seems like odd timing with Vontaze Burfict being suspended for three games, but given that he didn't need to prepare for September action, I suppose he had enough time to sign a deal. Burfict is getting close to $13 million annually on his new contract.
Burfict is one of the top linebackers in the NFL, and based on his talent alone, he's certainly worth this sort of money. However, that's not the entire story with Burfict, as he's very prone to getting into trouble. If he delivers another dirty hit, he could receive a much longer ban than just three games. Thus, I think this contract is a very risky one, so I can't give it a great grade. That said, I don't think this is a bad deal either.
Cardinals sign G Alex Boone (1 year): A Grade
This is an outstanding move by the Cardinals. Alex Boone signed a 4-year, $26.8 million deal with the Vikings last summer, but he didn't live up to it. However, Boone didn't play poorly either. He was just above average, so it made sense for the Vikings to release him, based on his salary.
Getting Boone in for a cheap, 1-year contract is a completely different story. Boone, still fairly young for an interior lineman (turned 30 in May), can challenge Evan Boehm for a starting job. Boehm is the weak link of Arizona's offensive front, so upgrading this area will help the Cardinals make a return trip to the playoffs. Even if Boone doesn't surpass Boehm for some reason, he can still provide quality depth, should Mike Iupati suffer an injury.
Jets sign WR Jeremy Kerley (1 year): B- Grade
When the 49ers re-signed Jeremy Kerley to a 3-year, $10.5 million deal in March, I gave it a "D." I reasoned: "Kerley is not a good player. He's right above being a replacement-level athlete, and his numbers were accumulated because A) the 49ers had no other receiving talent, and B) Kerley was able to accumulate garbage yardage in blowout losses. Plus, Kerley was a decent fit in Chip Kelly's offense."
Bringing in Kerley for one year makes more sense, especially considering that the Jets have very little talent at receiver. Aside from Jermaine Kearse, the Jets didn't have a professional veteran at the position. It's nice that Kerley won't embarrass himself on the field.
Ultimately, however, this is all irrelevant because most of the players the Jets currently have on offense won't be around in a year or two as they rebuild, presumably beginning with taking Sam Darnold first overall, as seen in the 2018 NFL Mock Draft.
Packers re-sign G Lane Taylor (3 years, $16.5M; $5M bonus): C+ Grade
I'm all for keeping continuity on the offensive line, and this contract allows the Packers to do that. However, this still seems like an overpay. Lane Taylor is not a good blocker. He can pass protect OK, but he's woefully inept at opening up any sort of running lanes, which is disappointing, given his first name. I'm not sure why Green Bay thinks Taylor deserves this sort of money, but it's an overpay.
That said, I'm not going to grade this harshly for two reasons. First, as mentioned, keeping continuity up front is an extremely underrated concept. And second, there's a chance that Taylor, 27, makes some improvements to his game, and if he does, this contract could seem like a bargain.
Colts sign RB Matt Jones: A- Grade
The Colts have needed a talented, young running back for years now to succeed Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw before him. Marlon Mack was seen as a possible answer, but now that could be Matt Jones as well.
Jones is a skilled runner - former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said he was the best back on Washington's roster - and he's only 24. His downfall is his ball security, which got him benched with the Redskins. That's still an issue, but perhaps he can be coached up like Tiki Barber once was. If so, the Colts will have a running back for the future once Gore moves on. I like this move quite a bit.
Buccaneers sign S T.J. Ward: A- Grade
It's unclear how much T.J. Ward signed for, but considering that no teams were willing to part with draft picks to acquire him, I can't see this being an expensive contract. With that in mind, this seems like a strong move.
Ward isn't very good in coverage, so Tampa fans shouldn't be too upset with him if he allows some deep completions. Ward specializes in tackling and run support, however, so he'll definitely help the Buccaneers in that regard. Ward turns 31 this season, but he's still a quality player, and bringing him in definitely improves the roster. With that in mind, I'm more than willing to give Tampa a positive grade for signing him. I'm going with an A-, which I'll stand by unless this deal is worth more than I anticipate.
Broncos sign QB Brock Osweiler: B+ Grade
The Broncos needed a backup quarterback with Paxton Lynch injured, so it makes sense that they'd add Brock Osweiler to the roster. Osweiler, of course, played for the Broncos until he chased the money and signed with the Texans. Now, Osweiler will be playing for the veteran minimum, or something close to it in Denver.
I don't like Osweiler very much, but this signing is a solid one. Osweiler has shown that he can be functional in the Broncos' offense, and he makes for a better replacement than Lynch (at the moment) should Trevor Siemian get hurt.
Dolphins re-sign S T.J. McDonald (4 years, $24M; $10M guaranteed): B+ Grade
It's a little weird that the Dolphins signed T.J. McDonald to a 1-year prove it deal, yet extended him to a long-term contract before he actually proved himself. McDonald won't even be available for the first eight games of the season, thanks to a DUI suspension.
That said, McDonald is very talented and young (26). This seems like a team-friendly deal, given that McDonald is getting just $10 million guaranteed for four seasons. It protects Miami from McDonald getting into trouble again. If McDonald can stay clean, he should be able to play on a high level for the duration of his contract.
Texans re-sign WR DeAndre Hopkins (5 years, $81M; $50M guaranteed): B Grade
Some are wondering where the Texans are getting all of this cash from. I saw a tweet from someone joking that it was from all the money that J.J. Watt raised, but it's really the benefit of trading Brock Osweiler. Houston gave up a second-round pick, but it has allowed the front office to retain some of its key players.
This is a crazy amount of money for a receiver. I never thought I'd see a wideout obtain $50 million guaranteed. Granted, Hopkins is one of the top players at his position, and this is simply a great player resetting the market - Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. have to be thrilled right now - but it still seems like too much.
That said, I'm not grading this poorly at all. Hopkins is extremely important to Houston's playoff aspirations, so it's not like the Texans could allow such a great, young talent to walk. This grade cannot be any sort of "A" because it's not a great value, but a "B" seems right to me.
Texans re-sign TE C.J. Fiedorowicz (3 years, $21.5M; $10M guaranteed): C+ Grade
I liked the Jay Prosch re-signing, but this isn't as great. C.J. Fiedorowicz is a fairly decent pass-catching tight end, but I don't think he's worth $7 million annually with $10 million guaranteed. Fiedorowicz hauled in 54 passes for 559 yards and four touchdowns last year despite playing with terrible quarterbacks. His blocking ability isn't very good, however.
I think Fiedorowicz should have gotten a bit more than half of this sum. I don't hate this contract, but it seems like an overpay to me.
Texans re-sign FB Jay Prosch (3 years, $5.75 million): B+ Grade
Jay Prosch doesn't really do anything except run block, but he's pretty solid at his sole job. Considering the state of the Texans' offensive line, it's important to retain him so that he can continue to open up running lanes for Lamar Miller.
This signing isn't exciting, or anything, but it happens to be essential. Giving Prosch slightly less than $2 million per season makes sense for a player of his caliber, so a B+ seems right to me.
Steelers sign CB Joe Haden (3 years, $27 million): B+ Grade
My first instinct when seeing the total money on this contract was to give the Steelers a "B" or a B-. Based on how he has performed over the past couple of years, there's no way Haden deserves $9 million per season. Haden is extremely talented, but injuries have set him back. He has missed 14 games during the past two years, and he hasn't performed well while on the field.
However, the one detail that sticks out is that Haden is guaranteed $7 million this year. If there's not much more to it as far as guarantees are concerned, this is a better signing than I initially thought. While Haden has been declining, he's very physically gifted, and at 28, he can rebound if he can remain healthy.
I'm going to bump this up to a B+ as a result. There's a chance Haden will continue to stink, but he could also play at a high level with his new team. If he does, it'll shore up one of the Steelers' few weaknesses.
Packers sign DE/OLB Ahmad Brooks (1 year): B+ Grade
The Packers lost Julius Peppers this offseason, so they were in the market for depth on the edge. They found it with another veteran, Ahmad Brooks, who was released five days ago.
Brooks is a declining 33-year-old, but the primary reason the 49ers cut him was because he wasn't a great fit for their new defense. He'll fit in well with the Packers, as he'll take over Peppers' role as a rotational edge player. Brooks isn't the same player he once was, but he should still be good for six or seven sacks.
This is a quality move by Green Bay. The Packers take flak from the media for not overspending in free agency, but they make under-the-radar signings like this one that keep them atop the division almost every year.
Chiefs acquire OT/C Cameron Erving from Browns for 5th-round pick
The Chiefs weren't one of the teams I highlighted that could trade for Cameron Erving, as they didn't have a need at center or right tackle. However, Erving was acquired to serve as a versatile backup. He can play four of the five positions up front. He can't play those positions well, but he can at least be penciled into the lineup at four spots.
Erving has been a complete failure thus far as a former first-round pick, routinely whiffing on blocks and getting called for penalties. However, he does have talent, so motivation has been an issue. Perhaps being with a winning organization will help him make something out of his career. We've seen it with Greg Robinson, who has improved in Detroit after floundering with the Rams. For a fifth-round pick, why not take a chance on him?
As for the Browns, it's nice that they got at least something for Erving. I get the sense that they were going to dump Erving during final cuts, so it's great that they received a fifth-round pick for him.
Steelers acquire TE Vance McDonald, 5th-round pick from 49ers for 4th-round pick
The Steelers seemed like they had their answer at tight end when Ladarius Green dominated the Giants during a regular-season victory last year. Unfortunately, Green had major concussion issues he couldn't overcome, and once all three first-round tight ends - O.J. Howard, Evan Engram, David Njoku - were off the board by the time Pittsburgh was on the clock during the 2017 NFL Draft, it was apparent that the Steelers had to trade for someone if they wanted to improve upon Jesse James in the passing game.
Vance McDonald turned out to be the answer. San Francisco's old regime gave McDonald a 5-year, $35 million contract based on his potential, but he never lived up to it. However, McDonald, a 2013 second-round pick, has never played with a competent quarterback. Now, he'll have a future Hall of Famer throwing the ball to him, and I have to think Ben Roethlisberger will make good use of McDonald's talents. Better yet, the Steelers are surrendering next to nothing for McDonald. Pittsburgh will be selecting at the end of the fourth round, while San Francisco will be picking atop the next frame. Thus, the difference between the two selections will be a 3-5 choices, plus however many compensatory picks there are the end of Round 4.
The Steelers definitely won this trade. As for the 49ers, it didn't sound like they wanted to keep McDonald around at his price, so he likely was going to be a final cut. Moving up 6-12 spots in the third day of the 2018 NFL Draft is better than nothing.
Patriots acquire LB Marquis Flowers from Bengals for conditional 7th-round pick
This is a minor trade that seems to make sense for both teams. The Patriots like to collect mix-and-match linebackers they can use depending on the weekly matchup, so Marquis Flowers will provide depth and an option in that regard. He'll primarily serve as a boost on special teams. For a conditional seventh-round pick, he seems worth it.
As for the Bengals, they're deep at linebacker, so they probably figured they weren't going to have Flowers make the final 53-man roster. So, getting something for Flowers is a solid move.
Lions re-sign QB Matthew Stafford (5 years, $135 million): B Grade
It was reported that a huge contract was coming for Matthew Stafford, and that has been confirmed. Stafford, set to earn $135 million over five years, is now the highest-paid player in the NFL.
Stafford is not the best player in the NFL, so he doesn't deserve to make the most money. However, that's the nature of the beast, and the next talented quarterback is going to make more than him. Don't get me wrong; Stafford is great - he's ninth in my NFL Quarterback Rankings - but he shouldn't be making more than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan.
The question is whether or not the Lions could afford to let Stafford go, and the answer is a definite no. He's in his prime as a 29-year-old, so he still has 7-10 great years ahead of him. That said, I can't give this any sort of "A" because this isn't a great bargain. It's not a B+ either, as it's too much money, and it could hinder the Lions from fielding a deep roster. However, I won't go below a "B" because allowing Stafford to walk would be a horrible decision.
Saints acquire LS Jon Dorenbos from Eagles for 2019 7th-round pick
Jon Dorenbos has been a professional long-snapper in Philadelphia since 2006. He's also a magician, as he reached the finals of America's Got Talent a year ago. Now, general manager Howie Roseman can say that he's a magician as well, as he obtained a draft pick for a long-snapper.
There are two ways to look at this trade. On one hand, Dorenbos has been with the Eagles forever. Not only has he been terrific at his job, but he's also served as a great guy in the locker room for a long time. To trade him for a seventh-round pick seems callous. Is a seventh-round pick really worth getting rid of someone who has provided so many great years of service? On the other hand, getting any sort of compensation for a long-snapper has to be considered a win. The Eagles must have faith in replacement Rick Lovato to pull the trigger on this, so from a pure value perspective, the Eagles have won this trade.
As for the Saints, I don't know if it's worth giving up an asset, even if it's a seventh-rounder, for a 37-year-old long-snapper. I don't think it's a horrible trade, however, as they do improve at the position.
Chiefs acquire ILB Reggie Ragland from Bills for 2019 4th-round pick
The Bills continue to dump players acquired by the previous regime. This time, Reggie Ragland was dealt to the Chiefs. Ragland was chosen in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but never played a single down for Buffalo because of a torn ACL.
I think this trade makes sense for both sides. The Bills are tanking, and acquiring as many picks as possible in the next couple of drafts. While it would normally be logical to keep a young player around for the rebuilding process - Ragland turns 24 in September - he just wasn't a good fit for Sean McDermott's scheme. Ragland wasn't practicing or playing with the starters. In fact, he was demoted to the third-team defense in August.
However, he seems like he'd be a better fit for Kansas City's 3-4 scheme. The Chiefs also need linebacker help, as Derrick Johnson is coming off a torn Achilles. It's unclear if Ragland is over his own injury, but Kansas City will at least have a possible successor for Johnson whom defensive coordinator Bob Sutton can develop.
Jets acquire S Terrence Brooks from Eagles for CB Dexter McDougle
Everyone, stop your fantasy drafts right now! A big trade has been made, so you might want to restart all of your drafts!
This trade obviously isn't a big deal at all. Terrence Brooks is a pedestrian special-teams player, while Dexter McDougle is an oft-injured cornerback. McDougle has enjoyed a solid training camp, so the Eagles could get something out of him, depth-wise. I think Philadelphia won this deal, as I'd rather have the upside than a mediocre special-teamer. Still, this trade probably won't matter at all, as the most likely scenario is that neither player will do much for his team.
Bills re-sign C Eric Wood (2 years, $21.2 million): B+ Grade
Center isn't seen as a very important position by casual fans, but it certainly is. In fact, losing a player at that position can be more impactful than any other, save for quarterback. Thus, Buffalo's decision to re-sign Eric Wood is a good one.
Wood is certainly a talented center. I wouldn't say he's elite, but he's very good, and he's an important piece for Buffalo's offense. Wood is 31 now, so a decline is possible soon, but centers typically play on a high level as they approach their mid-30s. As a result, Wood could still be very effective once the Bills are ready to make a playoff run with their new quarterback, presumably in 2019 or 2020.
The Bills aren't getting Wood at a great bargain, so I won't go above a B+. I do think a B+ makes sense though, as this was something Buffalo had to do, and the front office didn't overpay.
49ers sign DT Sen'Derrick Marks: A- Grade
I was wondering when Sen'Derrick Marks would be signed, and I'm surprised that no other team offered him a contract earlier. Marks used to be a solid starting defensive tackle; he recorded nine sacks in 2014, which is a tremendous amount for a player at his position. The problem? Marks tore his ACL in 2015 and wasn't nearly the same player last season.
However, Marks is now two years removed from his knee injury. He's also just 30, so he should still have something left in the tank if he can get over his injury.
I'm not sure if Marks will make San Francisco's final roster - he won't if his knee is still bothersome - but this signing seems like it has the potential to be a great one. The 49ers are taking no risk here, and Marks provides plenty of upside. It should also be noted that Marks played for 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh in 2014 when he accumulated those nine sacks.
Bears re-sign OT Charles Leno (4 years, $38 million): D Grade
I was wrong about Charles Leno last year. I wrote that he would be atrocious as Chicago's left tackle. Instead, he was just bad. But I was wrong, so I'll definitely admit whenever I make an error.
This contract, however, implies that the Bears believe Leno is on the cusp of being great, as they've given Leno close to $10 million per season. This makes him paid in the top 15 of left tackles, which is absurd. I'm all for maintaining continuity on the offensive line, but only when the blockers are talented. Leno is not.
I don't think this deal is Millen-worthy, but it's close. The Bears are getting a "D" for re-signing Leno to this contract. They could have paid him half as much, and I believe he would've accepted it. This actually reminds me of the Mike Glennon signing, as Chicago was the only team willing to pay a pedestrian player an outrageous sum of money.
Colts sign CB Chris Culliver (1 year): C+ Grade
Chris Culliver's travels throughout the NFL have included San Francisco, Washington and Miami. After sitting out all of 2016, Culliver is back with the Colts.
Indianapolis has one of the worst defenses in the league, so I can understand why the front office would be desperate. And this is certainly a desperate move. Culliver was absolutely atrocious in six games during the 2015 campaign and then proceeded to tear his ACL. He's back, but given that he's coming off a bad injury and was already brutal, I can't see him contributing much.
I can't grade this too poorly because the Colts aren't spending much - I doubt this is for anything more than the league minimum - but I also can't go above a C+ because Culliver hasn't played well in a long time. I think a C+ is about right; there's a very slim chance Culliver will improve, but he's probably not going to make the 53-man roster.
Dolphins sign LB Rey Maualuga (1 year): B Grade
The Dolphins had to obtain a replacement for second-round rookie Raekwon McMillan, who suffered a season-ending injury a week ago. Their options were limited, but they ultimately decided on former Bengal Rey Maualuga.
Maualuga isn't the most exciting option. His play had declined in recent years, and he was awful in 2016. Granted, that may have been because of a leg injury he suffered, but Maualuga turned 30 this offseason, so he should continue to decline.
That said, I had just one available player slotted ahead of Maualuga in the NFL Free Agent Inside Linebacker Rankings, excluding Rolando McClain, who has numerous legal issues. That would be Perry Riley, who would've been a much better replacement for McMillan. I would have signed Riley, but I won't complain too much about Maualuga, who isn't a terrible option, considering the circumstances.
Ravens sign C Jeremy Zuttah (2 years): A Grade
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome pulled off a nice heist this offseason. He moved up 12 spots in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft for free. He did so by trading Jeremy Zuttah to the 49ers, who then proceeded to cut Zuttah, allowing Newsome to scoop up his Pro Bowl center once more. Sure, it's only 12 spots in the penultimate round, but it was still an impressive feat!
Re-acquiring Jeremy Zuttah was crucial for the Ravens, as they were leaking oil on the offensive line. They lost Ricky Wagner and John Urschel this offseason, and they saw guards Nico Siragusa and Alex Lewis suffer season-ending injuries. They still had Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda, but possessing just two of five capable blockers was not ideal. It's now three of five, as Zuttah is back to play center after his vacation in San Francisco.
The financial details aren't available yet, but I'm going to assume this deal isn't for much, given that the 49ers cut Zuttah, and he wasn't scooped up immediately. If so, the Ravens deserve an "A" for this. Aside from Nick Mangold, whose health is in doubt, Zuttah was the best option available to fix the interior.
Update: This contract is worth up to $6 million, which is a very reasonable price for Zuttah. This grade will remain an "A."
Seahawks re-sign C Justin Britt (3 years, $27 million): A- Grade
The Seahawks arguably have the worst offensive line in the NFL, but Justin Britt is the one bright spot they have. Britt played very well at center last year after spending his first two NFL seasons at guard and tackle. Britt's ability to play anywhere up front makes him a huge asset for the team, and the fact that he performs on a high level allows him to hold even more value.
I usually reserve the "A" and A- grades for terrific bargains. I wouldn't say $9 million for Britt qualifies necessarily, but considering how awful the rest of Seattle's offensive line is, the team absolutely had to re-sign Britt, who, as a 26-year-old, should continue to improve. Center is arguably the second-most-important position in the NFL, so keeping Britt around through 2020 is an important move.
Seahawks sign CB Tramaine Brock (1 year): A Grade
Tramaine Brock was one of the few 49ers who played well last year, but he was released because of domestic violence charges. Brock has since been cleared, so it's not a surprise that he signed with a team. The Seahawks were the lucky organization to scoop him up, and they deserve a high grade for doing so.
It's unclear how much Brock signed for, but I imagine it's close to the veteran minimum. If that's not the case, I'll adjust this grade, but I think Seattle deserves an "A" for the time being for bringing in Brock. The Seahawks needed a cornerback in the wake of Deshawn Shead's torn ACL, and Brock will compete with rookie Shaq Griffin to start across from Richard Sherman.
Panthers re-sign OLB Thomas Davis (1 year, $6.75 million): C Grade
So, Dave Gettleman was fired because he didn't want to give Thomas Davis a 1-year extension worth close to $7 million? I don't understand. It seems ridiculous that the Panthers would let go of a smart personnel man for this and hire proven failure Marty Hurney as a replacement.
Davis has been a great Panther since 2005. Well, to be more precise, he had been a great Panther. Davis was once a Pro Bowler, but his talent has dropped off recently, and understandably so. He's 34 now, and he's not nearly the player he once was. He's no longer worth anything close to $7 million for a season. This is an obvious overpay.
That said, I won't grade this worse than a "C." The Panthers could've used the $6.75 million elsewhere, but there aren't long-term ramifications for spending this money unwisely. Plus, it's a classy move by the Panthers to give a retirement gift to Davis for his many years of service. It makes them look good, which might be worth something, but this is still a bad deal.
Bears sign K Roberto Aguayo (waiver claim): B+ Grade
This is technically a waiver claim, but I thought it was worth discussing because the move could impact the Bears this year.
Roberto Aguayo was one of the worst draft picks in recent memory, as Tampa selected a kicker in the second round. Even worse, they traded up to do so. Facebook friend Jonathan M. asked me what I believed the thought process was behind the move...
Despite all this, I like this move by the Bears. They needed competition at kicker, as Connor Barth struggled last year, hitting 78.3 percent of his field goals. Aguyao has been awful thus far, but he definitely has talent. It's all mental with Aguayo, so perhaps Chicago can find a good psychologist for him. If so, they'd potentially obtain a talented kicker without surrendering a second-round selection.
I'm not going above a B+ because this claim may not result in anything. However, the potential is there for Chicago to have made an upgrade, and they're not taking any sort of risk in doing so.
Bills acquire WR Jordan Matthews, 3rd-round pick from Eagles for CB Ronald Darby
When I saw that Sammy Watkins was traded, I tweeted out a link to the NFL Free Agent Wide Receiver Rankings for a potential replacement. Little did I know that Buffalo also dealt for Jordan Matthews (Thanks to my friend Drew, for alerting me of this.)
Matthews is not an adequate replacement for Watkins. The latter is a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the NFL when healthy. Matthews is an above-average No. 2 and a solid slot option. He's definitely not a bad player to have in an offense, but he's the Bills' top wideout right now unless Zay Jones explodes as a rookie. As the Eagles learned last year, Matthews cannot be a No. 1.
That said, the Bills did not lose this trade by nearly as much as they did in the Watkins swap. Acquiring a third-round pick and Matthews for Ronald Darby isn't a bad deal. The 2018 NFL Draft class is loaded - check out the 2018 NFL Mock Draft - so it's nice that Buffalo has two selections in each of the first three rounds.
I still think the Eagles won this trade, however. They were going to get rid of Matthews one way or another, so effectively trading a third-round pick for Ronald Darby is a great move. Darby, a 2015 second-round pick, had an excellent rookie campaign. He struggled last year because of a lingering hamstring injury, but he has the talent to rebound. The Eagles were desperate for a cornerback, and Darby provides a major upgrade. With Sidney Jones coming back in 2018, Philadelphia could have an excellent cornerback duo next year.
Rams acquire WR Sammy Watkins, 6th-round pick from Bills for CB E.J. Gaines, 2nd-round pick
Wow, where did this come from!? Jordan Matthews was rumored to be available via trade, but not Sammy Watkins. Buffalo's star receiver was outstanding in last night's preseason game versus the Vikings, appearing healthy for the first time in a while. The Bills apparently didn't care, dealing him to the Rams for an exchange of draft picks and cornerback E.J. Gaines.
I suppose this is a sign that the Bills are tanking. Aside from LeSean McCoy, Watkins was the only proven play-maker they had on offense. Zay Jones is a mere rookie, while Anquan Boldin is on his last legs. They acquired Jordan Matthews, but he's a mediocre talent. Watkins, when healthy, gave the Bills a legitimate downfield threat, but they don't have that anymore unless Jones proves himself as a rookie.
I can't give the Bills a good grade for this trade. Gaines has some promise, but he struggled immensely last year because he was injured. He could rebound - he was halfway decent as a rookie in 2014, but then missed all of 2015 - but that's not something the Bills can count on. Getting a second-round pick for their sixth isn't enough. This is a solid move if the Bills plan to tank, but if that's the case, why did they re-sign Tyrod Taylor?
As for the Rams, this was an outstanding move for them. They lacked a No. 1 wideout - Robert Woods and Tavon Austin were battling for that distinction - but now Jared Goof has a lethal target at his disposal. Sure, Watkins has injury concerns, but he's absolutely worth it based on what the Rams gave up for him. Going from a second to a sixth and trading Gaines is not a big deal if it means adding a Pro Bowl talent. The Rams won this trade by a long shot.
Falcons re-sign RB Devonta Freeman (5 years, $41.25M; $22M guaranteed): MILLEN ATTACKS HURNEY'S BACKSIDE WITH FIRE AND FURY Grade
Paying non-elite running backs this sort of money was something that once transpired in 1997 when rushing attacks were more prevalent. Teams have since wizened, with some exceptions, particularly Marty Hurney's Panthers of several years ago. I'm not sure why the Falcons are copying Hurney's horrible tactics, as they appear to be stuck 20 years in the past.
Freeman is a good running back for sure, but he's certainly not elite. He rushed for 4.8 yards per carry last year, scored 13 times and caught 54 passes, but he did this behind a top-five offensive line. Any half-decent running back would have posted comparable numbers, at least on the ground. It was telling that the year before, despite some amazing performances early in the season, Freeman averaged just 4.0 yards per carry, as he wore down the stretch. It's also noteworthy that something similar happened in 2016. Including the playoffs, Freeman averaged 4.1 yards per carry or worse in seven of his final 10 games, with two of the exceptions being against the 49ers and Saints' horrid defenses. The other exception was in the Super Bowl. In that game, Freeman broke free for a 37-yard burst, but was otherwise bottled up.
I have no choice but to give the Falcons a poor grade for this. I initially graded this as a "D," but the more I thought about it, this signing deserves to be an "F," as Freeman should have been given a contract worth half this size; instead, he's the highest-paid running back on a multi-year contract. Given that, I needed to include Hurney somehow in the grade.
Bills sign WR Anquan Boldin (1 year, $2.75 million): A Grade
This signing almost makes too much sense. The Bills have needed a No. 2 wide receiver for quite a while, and even though rookie Zay Jones could end up being that player, he's an unknown commodity right now. Besides, when Sammy Watkins suffers one of his annual injuries, the Bills will need to still have two viable options at wideout. Anquan Boldin was the top receiver available in free agency, and his veteran presence should help Jones develop.
I like this signing a lot. Boldin turns 37 in October, but he can still play; he caught 67 passes and eight touchdowns last year with the Lions. I expect his numbers to dip a bit with the Bills, but he should still serve as a strong end-zone presence for Tyrod Taylor.
Dolphins sign QB Jay Cutler (1 year, $10 million): A+ Grade
When I compiled the list of top 10 candidates for the Dolphins to replace Ryan Tannehill, I slotted Jay Cutler No. 2. He was the second-best option for sure, only behind Tony Romo, who was an unrealistic choice. Surely enough, the Dolphins agreed to a deal with Cutler for one year.
This is an excellent signing, and it's the best Miami could have done in a tough situation. Cutler made so much more sense than the other candidates, including Colin Kaepernick. Not only is Cutler a better quarterback, but he's had experience in Adam Gase's system. Cutler thrived under Gase with the Bears in 2015, so with a strong supporting cast, he should be able to perform on a high level this upcoming season.
The Dolphins stand a chance to make the playoffs with Cutler, so this was an essential move. They have the running game, receiving corps and offensive line (if Mike Pouncey is healthy) to complement Cutler, while the pass rush will help on the other side of the ball. The Dolphins won't win the division, but they could earn a wild-card spot once again, and that didn't seem realistic without Cutler.
Vikings re-sign DT Linval Joseph (4 years, $50M; $31.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Linval Joseph was snubbed from the NFL Top 100 List, and as one reader pointed out, I snubbed Joseph in my snubs list via the link. Joseph is an underappreciated defensive tackle who provides terrific run defense and can also apply decent pressure on the quarterback; he's good for 3-4 sacks each year, which is not a bad number for someone his size.
It's nice to see Joseph being paid appropriately. He's one of the best players on Minnesota's stout defense, and he's only 28, so he should be able to perform on a high level throughout the duration of this deal.
I can't give this an "A" grade of any sort because there's no value in this contract, but the Vikings did well to lock up their stud defensive tackle.
Seahawks re-sign S Kam Chancellor (3 years, $36M; $25M guaranteed): A Grade
When I first saw this contract, I was surprised by how low the numbers were. Kam Chancellor has been pining for a pay raise for what feels like decades now, and he was finally rewarded with a deal worth "just" $36 million.
I was equally shocked to learn that this makes Chancellor the third-highest-paid safety in the league, so it makes more sense. Still, it's quite the bargain, as talented players who receive new contracts generally become the highest-paid players at their positions. Chancellor is third now, yet it could be argued that he's the best safety in the league. There are several other candidates, but it just seems like Chancellor should've been able to get more money. I'm going to give the Seahawks an "A" as a result.
Lions re-sign S Glover Quin (2 years, $13 million): A- Grade
We heard rumblings that Glover Quin could be traded this offseason, but the Lions have decided to retain him for a couple more seasons instead. Quin inked a 2-year deal worth $13 million on Sunday.
This looks like a pretty good deal for the Lions. Quin is a solid starter, and quite a dependable one at that; he has missed just one game in his entire career. Quin turned 31 this offseason, but considering that safeties tend to perform well close to their mid-30s, it's unlikely there will be much, or any sort of decline from Quin. Even if there is, Detroit isn't risking much with this cheap, short-term deal.
Vikings re-sign CB Xavier Rhodes (5 years, $70M; $41M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Xavier Rhodes is now the second-highest-paid cornerback in the NFL, trailing only Josh Norman. Based on how Rhodes has played over the years, this deal is warranted.
Rhodes is arguably a top-10 cornerback in the league, and he's only 27, so he's going to be playing on a high level throughout the duration of this contract. It's nice that the Vikings were able to lock him up, as they'll continue to sport one of the better secondaries in the league as long as Rhodes and Harrison Smith are on the field.
I'm not going to grade this in the "A" range because Minnesota isn't getting a great deal, but a B+ makes sense, as this extension is a very logical one.
Titans re-sign DE/DT Jurrell Casey (4 years, $60.4M; $40M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Jurrell Casey has been one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL this decade, and now he's going to be paid like one. With this contract, Casey will be the third-highest-paid 3-4 defensive end in the league.
Casey is a tremendous player, and the Titans did well to lock him. He's still just 27, meaning he'll be playing on a high level throughout the duration of this deal. He has also missed just two games in his pro career, so the Titans know they can rely on him.
I'm grading this as a B+. It's not a super bargain deal, or anything, so this won't be in the "A" range, but Tennessee did a solid job to keep its top defensive player, so a B+ makes sense.
Chiefs acquire LB Kevin Pierre-Louis from Seahawks for LB D.J. Alexander
I initially wasn't going to grade this trade, but I received multiple requests for it, so here I am. The reason I was reluctant to grade this deal is because both teams are receiving equal, yet partly insignificant assets.
When I say that Kevin Pierre-Louis and D.J. Alexander are the same player, I'm not exaggerating. Neither is a factor defensively, yet both are stellar on special teams. They're both 25, and they both earn somewhere between $600,000 and $700,000. I'm not even sure why the Chiefs and Seahawks made this deal. It's like when two owners in your fantasy league swap a running back for another running back, and you wonder, "Why the hell are they doing this trade?"
Steelers re-sign OT Alejandro Villanueva (4 years, $24 million): A- Grade
It's pretty remarkable that the Steelers were able to re-sign their left tackle to a contract worth $6 million per season. That's exactly what they did when they gave Alejandro Villanueva $24 million over four years.
Villanueva isn't a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he's a solid blind-side protector for Ben Roethlisberger. He doesn't have much experience - just 26 starts for someone about to turn 29 - but he has done well thus far and should continue to improve over the next couple of seasons. The Steelers couldn't risk losing him, as they don't have any sort of backup plan behind him. If he goes down, their offense will take a huge step backward, and it's nice that Villanueva won't have to worry about his next deal this season.
Saints sign G Orlando Franklin (1 year): A Grade
There are no financial details available yet, but I'm going to assume that this 1-year deal isn't worth more than a couple million dollars. If so, this is an outstanding acquisition.
Orlando Franklin is very talented; he signed a $36.5 million contract two offseasons ago with the Chargers. Unfortunately for Franklin, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. Things could change for him now that he's on a new team with a different training staff. If so, he can be a big upgrade over Andrus Peat at left guard, which was looking like the one dubious spot for New Orleans up front, assuming first-round rookie Ryan Ramczyk isn't a bust.
Having talent on the offensive line is extremely important in the post-CBA NFL, and Franklin certainly brings that to the table. Whether he can stay healthy remains to be seen, but either way, it doesn't appear as though the Saints are taking any sort of risk.
Chargers acquire QB Cardale Jones from Bills for conditional 7th-round pick
A couple of days ago, I commended the Chargers for working out Robert Griffin, a young quarterback who could, at the very minimum, serve as an upgrade over pedestrian No. 2 quarterback Kellen Clemens. The upside was developing Griffin to be the quarterback of the future. Perhaps that was far-fetched, but it was a possibility at the very least.
This trade is similar to the Griffin signing, except the Chargers are going younger for more upside but less certainty this year. It's unclear if Jones can unseat Clemens this year, but he's only 24, and with some great coaching, perhaps he can compete to be Philip Rivers' successor in a few years. It probably won't work that way, but the Chargers aren't really taking a risk by giving up just a seventh-round pick.
As for the Bills, this trade isn't surprising, given that they selected Nathan Peterman in the middle rounds this past April. Buffalo should've gotten a bit more for Jones; he was a fourth-round choice in 2016 and flashed a bit in the preseason. However, he was part of the old regime, so dealing him made sense.
Broncos acquire G Allen Barbre from Eagles for conditional 2019 late-round pick
It was initially reported that the Eagles released Allen Barbre, but the Broncos weren't willing to risk losing him to another team on the open market. They ponied up by offering a conditional late-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft to acquire the 33-year-old guard.
This seems like a great move for Denver. The team spent a first-round choice on tackle Garett Bolles and signed Ronald Leary, but still had a major hole at left guard. Barbre, who was once a journeyman blocker, has worked hard and evolved into a capable starter. He'll be a definite upgrade for the Broncos, so it was a terrific decision by John Elway to acquire him, surrendering just a late-round conditional selection.
As for the Eagles, it's nice that they were able to obtain something for Barbre, considering that they were willing to release him. However, I still disagree with the decision to part ways with Barbre, so Denver is the clear winner of this trade.
Vikings extend DE Everson Griffen (4 years, $58M; $34M guaranteed): B Grade
With this deal, Everson Griffen is now the third-highest-paid 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, trailing only Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul. While Griffen is a very talented player, I don't believe he deserves this distinction.
Griffen is not an elite defensive end. He has cleared double-digit sacks just twice in his career and has never topped 12. He notched eight sacks in 2016. He's better than his sack numbers indicate, and while it certainly can be argued that he's a top-10 4-3 end, he's not in the top three. Furthermore, he turns 30 during the 2017 season, so there's a chance he could regress in the next couple of years, making this contract a bit of a risk.
I know I've sounded negative, but I don't hate this extension. It's fine. The Vikings couldn't let Griffen go, so I'm not grading this poorly. However, it seems like a bit of an overpay.
Dolphins sign CB Alterraun Verner: B Grade
Alterraun Verner signed with the Buccaneers during the 2014 offseason for a $25.5 million deal. He was benched in 2015 and ultimately released in February. He played well for the Titans prior to 2014, so he effectively took the money and went to Florida to retire.
It's unclear how much Verner signed for, but if it's close to the minimum, I think this grade warrants a "B." I don't trust Verner to suddenly be revitalized in Miami, but it's possible he could be a solid player again. It's not much of a risk for Miami if I'm right about the money, though I ultimately think this signing won't amount to anything.
Jaguars re-sign G/C Brandon Linder (5 years, $51.7M; $24M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Jaguars have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, but don't blame Brandon Linder. He's the best blocker Jacksonville has - assuming Cam Robinson doesn't have an unexpected prolific rookie campaign - and he can play all three spots in the interior.
There's no way this is a bad deal, though it may look like a lot of money for a guard-center hybrid. However, Jacksonville needs to make sure that its blocking is improved. Losing Linder would be a crushing blow in that regard, so keeping him around, even at this price, is a very good move worthy of nothing lower than a B+.
Cardinals re-sign RB Chris Johnson (1 year): C+ Grade
The Cardinals apparently weren't happy with their running back depth behind David Johnson, as Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington were next in line for carries. Chris Johnson strengthens the group a bit, but the move wasn't completely necessary, as Williams seemed capable enough to be the No. 2 back. Also, there seemed to be a better option in Rashad Jennings, though Johnson's familiarity with the offense must have been a deciding factor.
I'd give Arizona a C+ for this. I wouldn't say this signing wasn't needed, and Johnson, 32 in September, is a shell of his former self. However, bringing him in doesn't hurt either, though he shouldn't get touches over Williams at this stage of his career.
Panthers re-sign G Trai Turner (4 years, $45M; $20.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Here comes the Marty Hurney money! It's no surprise at all that Hurney has begun dishing out big contracts to his players, though in this case, it's the right thing to do.
Trai Turner was a third-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He had a solid rookie campaign and was even better in 2015. He struggled this past season because of multiple injuries, but should be able to rebound. He can be one of the better guards in the NFL when healthy, so it makes sense to make him a top-three-paid guard in the league, especially considering that he's only 24 years old.
This contract is very similar to that of the Raiders re-signing Gabe Jackson (scroll down a bit). I gave a B+ for that move, so this should be graded similarly.
Raiders re-sign G Gabe Jackson (5 years, $56 million): B+ Grade
Derek Carr's new contract is backloaded, which would allow the Raiders to re-sign some of their other key players. Gabe Jackson is the first player on the list, as he inked a 5-year, $56 million deal.
Jackson, a third-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, has evolved into one of the better guards in the NFL. He's a key member of one of the top offensive lines in the league, which is a primary reason Oakland's offense is so explosive. Blocking is more important than ever in the post-CBA NFL, so keeping the front line together is extremely important if the Raiders want to contend for the Super Bowl.
I won't give this contract anything in the "A" range because it's not a great bargain, but the deal makes sense, and it's an imperative one for the Raiders.
Raiders re-sign QB Derek Carr (5 years, $125M; $70M guaranteed): A Grade
Derek Carr is set to make $25 million per season with this deal, which makes him the highest-paid player in league history (annually). Carr is not the best quarterback in the NFL, but he seems like he's moving into top-tier territory, and with an expanded salary cap, it only makes sense that Carr would strike this sort of deal.
While the annual figure is the largest we've seen, the guaranteed money is well short of what Andrew Luck received, as Indianapolis' quarterback obtained $87 million guaranteed in his deal. So, this contract definitely is not outrageous.
The bad thing about deals like this is that it hurts the team's depth. The Raiders will now have lots of money tied into Carr, and they'll suffer in multiple areas as a result. However, they didn't exactly have a choice. What were they supposed to do, allow Carr to walk away? Oakland has suffered enough with JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell, Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter, Matt McGloin, Terrelle Pryor and all of the other awful quarterbacks they've had since Rich Gannon retired. Having Carr on board for the next half decade will at least allow the Raiders to be very competitive each year.
Update: More details have been revealed, and Carr has structured his deal to make it so the Raiders can sign other players to complement the roster. Carr did this by backloading the money on this contract. With that in mind, I'm going to bump this grade up to an "A." Anyone who thinks Oakland is overpaying needs to remember how awful the Raiders were for 15 years with all of the horrible quarterbacks they had on the roster.
Patriots sign ILB David Harris (2 years, $5 million): B+ Grade
It figures that the Patriots would land David Harris. They have a penchant for signing savvy veterans, and Harris is the latest one to join the team. He'll help fill one of the few weaker points on the roster.
Harris used to be a tremendous linebacker, but his play has fallen off in recent seasons. However, he was still a capable defender this past season, and he'll be able to serve a role with New England as a two-down run-stopper. Besides Dont'a Hightower, the Patriots have a bunch of specialty linebackers on their roster, and Harris, like the others, will be asked to only do specific things he's capable of doing well.
This is a solid signing, as New England certainly isn't overspending for Harris. I think a grade of a B+ makes the most sense, as this isn't a crazy bargain, but a decent move.
Titans sign WR Eric Decker (1 year, $3.85 million): A+ Grade
The Titans seemed poised to make a deep run into the playoffs, and signing Eric Decker only strengthens their chances of having a great 2017 campaign. Decker, cut by the Jets on Monday, was scooped up by Tennessee on Sunday night in what figures to be a terrific move.
Decker just turned 30, but it's almost certain that he can still perform on a high level. Prior to an injury-ridden 2016 season, Decker had eclipsed 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in three of four years. He'll serve as a great red-zone option for Marcus Mariota, who has never thrown an interception deep in opposing territory in his entire career.
I'm giving this an "A." I'll change it if the Titans paid Decker a ton of money, but it doesn't seem that way. Besides, Decker was brought in for just one season, so if he struggles again with injuries, Tennessee can just let him walk away any repercussions beyond not saving the cash they spent on Decker.
Update: This signing was cheaper than I thought it would be. I figured the Titans inked Decker to a 1-year deal worth $6 million or so. Getting him for less than $4 million is a steal. Given that Decker will help Mariota's development, this is a great signing, and I'm willing to bump this grade up to an A+.
Lions acquire OT Greg Robinson from Rams for 6th-round pick
It's amazing to think that Greg Robinson was once the second-overall pick in the NFL Draft. Robinson was seen as raw, but incredibly talented coming out of Auburn. Unfortunately, he has never developed. He's been awful in every facet for the Rams. They gave him numerous chances, and he has failed every time. He was recently beaten out at right tackle by someone named Jamon Brown, and there was some speculation that he would be released. Instead, he was dealt to the Lions.
There's a good chance Robinson won't make Detroit's final roster, so the front office may have just flushed a sixth-round pick down the toilet. However, I can't exactly blame the Lions for taking a shot on Robinson either. They won't have stud left tackle Taylor Decker for most, if not the entire year. They need to find a capable replacement. Robinson is highly unlikely to be capable in any sense of the word, but he at least has potential.
I won't give the Lions a poor grade for this deal because I understand where they're coming from. They're using a sixth-round pick in order to hit a home run. Unfortunately, this home run would be like a AAA player facing Roger Clemens in his prime, considering how horrendous Robinson has been in his career thus far. The Rams, meanwhile, deserve the higher grade, as they're at least getting something for a terrible player they were going to cut.
Ravens sign WR Jeremy Maclin (2 years, $11 million): B+ Grade
The Ravens needed something like this. They've endured a rough offseason, losing talented players Ricky Wagner, Steve Smith, Jeremy Zuttah and Timmy Jernigan to free agency, retirement or trades. Makng matters worse, talented young cornerback Tavon Young suffered season-ending injury. Maclin, as a result, will be a very welcome addition.
Maclin struggled last year because of injuries, but he's only 29 and should have plenty remaining in the tank. After all, he generated 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014 and accumulated 1,088 yards and eight scores a season later. This was despite being paired with Nick Foles and Alex Smith. Joe Flacco is certainly better than both, so Maclin should be rejuvenated in Baltimore.
It's currently unclear how much this deal is worth, but as long as it's not for an obscene amount of money - which is unlikely - I like the move, and I think it's worth at least a B+. If this deal is super cheap, I'll be willing to increase this to an A- or an "A."
By the way, my apologies for being late on this. I was out of the house all day with prior engagements; otherwise, I would've posted this much earlier.
Update: Maclin's deal is two years, $11 million. This is pretty much what I expected the rate to be for him, so I'll stick with the B+ grade.
Chargers re-sign DE Melvin Ingram (4 years, $66M; $42M guaranteed): B- Grade
Melvin Ingram is no longer the top edge rusher on the Chargers, but that's only because Joey Bosa has been so prolific in his brief career thus far. Nevertheless, Ingram is still a great talent, as he has notched 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons. The Chargers have awarded him with a 4-year, $66 million deal with $42 million guaranteed.
This signing will probably be something the Chargers don't regret, but there are two potential issues. The first is that the Chargers are moving to a 4-3, so Ingram will have to adjust to a new system. Will he thrive in this new scheme, or will his play diminish a bit? This is something the Chargers don't know, though they'll find out soon enough. The second issue is Ingram's durability. He's been fine over the past two years, but he has played more than nine games in just three of his five NFL seasons. This is a lot of money to give to someone who has missed a huge chunk of time thoughout 40 percent of his young career.
That said, I don't hate this signing at all, and a B- isn't a bad grade. However, there are some hang-ups that should concern the Chargers a bit.
Patriots re-sign WR Julian Edelman (2 years, $11M; $9M guaranteed): A+ Grade
When I initially heard that Julian Edelman would be receiving an extension, I was ready to criticize it, as I assumed he would be overpaid. Edelman just turned 31, and he's a system player. Granted, he's absolutely terrific in New England's system, but he's not worth an enormous contract.
Then, I remembered that the Patriots are the smartest team in the NFL. New England signed Edelman to a 2-year contract worth $11 million, $9 million of which are guaranteed. This is an unreal bargain. While Edelman doesn't deserve a huge deal - the Rams gave Robert Woods $39 million over five years, for crying out loud - this is a steal for sure. Edelman certainly deserves something between what he received and the amount of cash Woods obtained, so I'm willing to give New England an A+ for this signing.
49ers sign DE/OLB Elvis Dumervil: B+ Grade
Elvis Dumervil was released in March, yet despite having a great career, he didn't receive any interest on the open market. In fact, the 49ers were the only team to host him in three months! Nevertheless, Dumervil agreed to a deal with San Francisco, signing a 2-year contract.
Dumervil struggled last year, to say the least. He produced only three sacks in eight games. However, he dealt with a foot injury for most of the 2016 campaign, so perhaps he can bounce back. Dumervil is 33, meaning he's past his prime, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's too far gone. He could have one or maybe two more half-decent seasons remaining in the tank.
I think this is a solid move, and I'm willing to give the 49ers a B+ for it. They needed another edge rusher, and Dumervil could be someone great for Solomon Thomas to learn from as he develops.
Colts sign RB Christine Michael: B Grade
The Colts are starting Frank Gore again this year. Gore is 34, and it's unlikely that he'll be able to last the entire season. Even if he does, Indianapolis needs a successor for 2018 and beyond if Marlon Mack doesn't pan out. As crazy as it sounds, Christine Michael could be that guy.
"Could" is the key word here. Michael is extremely talented, but has never been able to get his act together. However, late bloomers in the NFL aren't unheard of, and it's not out of the question that Michael could mature and emerge as Indianapolis' running back of the future. Of course, there's a great chance Michael could be released at final cuts or earlier, but he's definitely worth a shot. I like this enough to give it a "B."
Browns acquire S Calvin Pryor from Jets for LB Demario Davis
The Browns and Jets have made a one-for-one swap on Thursday, exchanging defensive players. Both Calvin Pryor and Demario Davis have been disappointments in their careers, but this trade makes sense for both teams.
Cleveland needed a safety to start next to Jabrill Peppers. Pryor may not beat out the other safeties on the roster, but he'll have a shot. He was a first-round pick in 2014, so he at least has potential, despite the horrible start to his career. Davis, meanwhile, is back with the Jets after spending one season with the Browns. The Jets needed depth behind David Harris and Darron Lee, and Davis seems like he could be a passable third inside linebacker.
This trade seems about even, but I'm going to give the Browns a slight edge. Pryor is younger and has more potential than Davis. He's been terrible as a pro thus far, but he could turn things around and become a solid player in the NFL. It probably won't happen, but I can envision a scenario in which it does.
Browns extend ILB Christian Kirksey (4 years, $38M; $20M guaranteed): B Grade
The Browns don't have very many play-makers on defense, but they seem set at inside linebacker. They traded for Jamie Collins last season, and they managed to extend Christian Kirksey to a 4-year, $38 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.
This deal makes Kirksey the fourth-highest-paid player at his position. Kirksey is a terrific linebacker. I wouldn't say he's the No. 4 player at his position at all, but the Browns have plenty of cap space and couldn't afford to lose him. So, if they have to overpay him a bit, that's perfectly fine.
I think a "B" grade is in order. It's not a great bargain by any means, but it seemed like a necessary move, and it wasn't too much of an overpay.
ESPN hires former 49ers HC Chip Kelly: D Grade
Chip Kelly was rumored to be heading to either New England or Alabama to work with Bill Belichick or Nick Saban, respectively. Instead, he'll be taking a job at ESPN as a college football and NFL analyst.
This hiring wouldn't be so bad if ESPN weren't currently in a downward spiral. Hemorrhaging viewers at an alarming rate, ESPN had to fire more than 100 on-air employees a month ago. Now, they're bringing in a high-priced failed NFL coach to discuss the NFL? How does that make any sense?
This is the sort of idiotic decision-making we've come to expect from ESPN. Rather than hiring Kelly, why not retain some of the fired employees? For instance, I'd rather hear what Adam Caplan or Ed Werder have to say about NFL matters, and I'd opt for Danny Kanell's opinion over Kelly's as far as college football is concerned. Kelly might have some interesting things to say about college football, but he has always talked so quickly at his press conferences that I never understood everything he has said. I suppose I can turn on subtitles whenever he's in studio, but that's far from ideal.
I'm giving this a "D." Like I said, if my subtitles are on, I might learn something from Kelly about college football, but I don't know why they fired better talent just to pay for him. Also, the decision to have him talk about the NFL, where he's been a complete and utter failure, is completely perplexing. But that's ESPN in a nutshell; they're completely out of touch with their viewers, and they don't seem to have any clue what their audience wants.
Bills sign ILB Gerald Hodges (1 year): A Grade
It's still obviously way too early to tell if new general manager Brandon Beane will work out for the Bills, but he appears to be off to a good start with his new team. This appears to be a terrific signing.
The Bills selected Reggie Ragland in the second round last April, but he missed his entire rookie campaign with a knee injury. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Ragland has been limited in OTAs, as he has yet to recover from his malady. Linebacker was already a problem area for the Bills, and it was considered an even greater issue in the wake of that news.
Hodges is a very nice insurance policy. Scratch that. He's more than just a very nice insurance policy, as he could determine into a long-term player for the Bills, should they retain him following 2017. Hodges, just 26, had a solid season for the 49ers after NaVorro Bowman went down, and given his age, he might get even better. With Ragland ailing, it appears as though Hodges could be Buffalo's best linebacker. Not bad for a low-cost signing at the end of May!
Bears sign WR Victor Cruz (1 year): C Grade
Victor Cruz's career has been tragic. He enjoyed three terrific seasons heading into 2014, which is when he suffered his fateful torn patellar tendon. Cruz has yet to recover from it; he missed all of 2015, and he managed to catch just 39 passes in 2016 as an ineffective player who struggled to get open.
Cruz, 31 in November, almost certainly won't be a big-time contributor ever again, as only two players (Robert Brooks, Jimmy Graham) have been highly productive following a torn patellar tendon. He could be an OK depth player for the Bears, but I imagine that the coaching staff is hoping that the younger receivers with higher upside - Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton - emerge as the Nos. 3 and 4 receivers behind Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.
I'm giving this a "C." Cruz won't be much of a factor in Chicago's offense, and he may not even make the final roster. However, giving him a chance to prove himself isn't a horrible idea.
Bears sign DE/DT Jaye Howard (1 year): A- Grade
Here's another grading request; this one is from the comment boards. The reader cited that I graded the Chiefs signing Jaye Howard with an "A" last spring, so I should provide a similar mark for Chicago. That's pretty much the case.
Howard was a very productive player for the Chiefs in 2015, recording 5.5 sacks, which is a solid number for a player at his position. However, Howard struggled this past season with a hip injury. He was limited to eight games, and he was ineffective in those contests because he was playing hurt. Howard could rebound if healthy, and if so, he'll be a very solid rotational player for Chicago. There's a chance, however, the hip injury will linger, hence why this is an A- and not an "A." Still, Howard is well worth the minimal risk.
Texans sign OT Breno Giacomini: C Grade
I'm grading this signing as a request from e-mailer Scott S. I wasn't planning on grading this initially because there's a chance Breno Giacomini won't even make Houston's final 53-man roster, but I will certainly take grading requests from e-mailers for any minor signings I haven't done.
While Giacomini may not make the final roster, there's a chance he could as well, given how dire Houston's right tackle situation is. Derek Newton is coming off double torn patellar tendons, a horrible injury that has taken many NFL careers. Newton has two of those, so he may never play again. The anemic Chris Clark and raw rookie Julie'n Davenport were expected to battle for the job, but Giacomini is now in the mix.
Giacomini has plenty of experience, so he has that going for him. However, he's just as horrible as Clark is, so he doesn't offer any sort of upgrade. There were better free agent tackles available, namely Austin Pasztor and King Dunlap. One of those two would've been a better choice. Instead, Giacomini will battle with Clark to see who is less horrible, and the loser will be booted off the team because Davenport surely isn't going anywhere. This isn't a horrible signing, but the Texans could've gotten someone better.
Buccaneers sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: B+ Grade
There are no contract details available for this signing yet, but I'm going to assume that it's not for very much. Then again, maybe I shouldn't assume that after an offseason in which the Bears paid Mike Glennon an obscene amount of money. Something acceptable would be $3-4 million for 2017, which is the going rate for a backup quarterback.
The Buccaneers needed a No. 2 signal-caller in the wake of Glennon's departure. Fitzpatrick has been a starter for way too long, but he's finally taking on a backup job. Fitzpatrick, once upon a time, was a great reserve, and it's nice that he's finally ready to reprise that role.
I like this move. Fitzpatrick, along with Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin, were the three best quarterbacks available, and Fitzpatrick is the best pure backup. He obviously has starting experience as well, so if Jameis Winston gets hurt and is out for a few games, Fitzpatrick should do a decent job of filling in. He won't embarrass himself, especially with the talent available to him.
Packers sign G Jahri Evans (1 year, $2.25 million): A- Grade
My apologies for missing this signing. It occurred one day prior to the draft, so things were hectic. That's the excuse I'm going with, anyway.
I like this move by the Packers. They lost T.J. Lang this offseason, so there was a void at guard, as Don Barclay has failed when given the chance in the past. Jahri Evans is 34 (in August), so he's not the Pro Bowl talent he used to be, but he's still a decent blocker, particularly in pass protection. He's an adequate replacement for Lang until the Packers can find a long-term solution.
I'm giving this signing an A-. It's cheap, so there's no risk, and it's the best move the Packers could've made in a pinch to replace Lang. It's not an "A" because Evans could completely regress, but it's highly unlikely that Green Bay will regret signing him.
Eagles sign RB LeGarrette Blount (1 year): B+ Grade
My friend Drew, an Eagles fan who has been trying to get into Jerks of the Week for years, texted me Wednesday morning and said he loves this move and would give it a B+. I would actually agree with that exact grade.
Philadelphia's coaching staff didn't like Ryan Mathews very much, and Blount does some things better. Namely, he plows into the end zone from the 1-yard line very effectively, as he scored 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016. Granted, he did this with the Patriots, but the Eagles have a potent offense themselves, featuring an offensive line that is better than New England's. Mathews struggled to pick up short-yardage gains all year, and Blount will remedy that issue.
It's important to note that aside from his rookie campaign in Tampa Bay, Blount has never thrived anywhere outside of New England. However, Blount wasn't the starter in Pittsburgh, so that could explain his complacency there. Blount will have every opportunity to shoulder the first- and second-down workload with the Eagles, and he should do a decent job. If not, the Eagles aren't risking much with this signing, so it's a solid pick-up.
Browns sign CB Jason McCourty (2 years, $6M; $2M guaranteed): A- Grade
Jason McCourty was once an excellent cornerback for the Titans, but he struggled through a groin injury in 2015 and never fully recovered last season. He didn't perform poorly, but he wasn't back to pre-2015 form either. It's possible, however, that McCourty could rebound. He may have a couple of decent seasons remaining in the tank; he's 29 until the middle of August.
This is a nice signing for the Browns, who tried to address cornerback with their fourth-round pick, only to see Howard Wilson get knocked out for his entire rookie campaign. McCourty is good enough to challenge for playing time in his first year with the Browns, and considering that, the price is extremely reasonable. Getting a possible decent starting cornerback for just $1 million guaranteed per season is great value.
Chargers sign S Tre Boston (undisclosed): B+ Grade
It was surprising that the Panthers cut Tre Boston earlier this month. Boston is a decent, well-rounded safety with no weaknesses. He's only 25, and he wasn't being paid very much. Perhaps something occurred behind the scenes, but we can only speculate.
Assuming Boston isn't a truly horrible human being, I like this signing. The Chargers inexplicably passed on Malik Hooker to cure their safety woes, but perhaps Boston can help the situation by earning a starting job. Boston is young, so he has plenty of potential. Assuming the Chargers paid close to the minimum - contract details aren't available right now - they appear to have made a possible upgrade to their roster at a cheap price.
Cardinals sign QB Blaine Gabbert (1 year, $855K): D Grade
I was asked to grade Arizona's signing of Blaine Gabbert, so that's why I'm doing this. No, someone didn't break into my office and point a gun to my head, demanding analysis of this meaningless acquisition. Please don't call the police; it's completely unnecessary.
I can actually see why there's interest in this move, given that Gabbert was signed prior to Colin Kaepernick. I personally don't get the correlation here, as Kaepernick doesn't fit Bruce Arians' offense. I'm not sure Gabbert fits into any offense, but if he were to somehow evolve into the talented quarterback the Jaguars thought they were getting when they selected him one pick prior to J.J. Watt, he would make much more sense for Arians' scheme than Kaepernick. Plus, we don't know what Kaepernick's asking price is. I highly doubt he would have settled for the $855,000 Gabbert signed for, so why would Arizona pay more for a quarterback who doesn't fit its offense?
As for whether or not Kaepernick will eventually find a job, I think he will. Most teams don't want to deal with SJW distractions unless the talent is worth it, and Kaepernick has been awful ever since Jim Harbaugh departed. He doesn't put any effort into studying film and improving the mental aspect of his game. However, I think some team will give him a chance eventually, if only out of desperation. I think it's also worth noting that Kaepernick wasn't really been available prior to May 9; had a team signed Kaepernick prior to May 9, they would've had to surrender a compensatory pick. That was nullified following May 9, so Kaepernick's market is only developing.
Going back to Gabbert, this is not a good move because there were better options available, including:
Gabbert sucks and probably won't make the roster, rendering this move irrelevant.
Patriots re-sign C David Andrews (3 years, $9 million): B Grade
David Andrews was one of the weak points on New England's Super Bowl roster, so I thought there was a decent chance Bill Belichick would attempt to replace him this offseason. Instead, the opposite happened, as the Patriots gave Andrews a 3-year deal.
That said, I don't hate this move. The contract is for just $9 million, so New England isn't exactly breaking the bank to retain Andrews. The former 2015 undrafted free agent will be just 25 in July, so there's a chance he could develop into a capable center. If he does, a 3-year, $9 million contract will look like a great bargain in hindsight. If not, the Patriots can maintain the status quo for $3 million per season, which isn't horrible.
I'm giving this contract a "B." It might look like a slight overpay at first, but the Patriots believe in Andrews, and if they're right, they'll have gotten great value out of his deal.
Vikings sign WR Michael Floyd (1 year, $1.5 million): A- Grade
Once upon a time, the Vikings took a chance on a troubled, but talented receiver with substance-abuse issues. That man had an incredible career in Minnesota and was eventually inducted into the Hall of Fame. Minnesota is hoping that Michael Floyd follows Cris Carter's career path.
While it's unlikely that Floyd will have the same career trajectory as Carter, there's no denying his talent. He was a former first-round pick, and he caught 66 passes for 1,054 yards in his sophomore campaign. He has declined since 2013, as his effort has been lacking because of off-the-field distractions. However, he's still just 27, and there's a chance he can turn his career around.
I like this move, as there is little risk involved. If Floyd fails, then the Vikings will just eat the $1.5 million they could have spent next spring and move on. However, there is a chance they can get Floyd motivated again, and if so, he'll be a very productive receiver for them.
Redskins re-sign OT Morgan Moses (5 years, $40 million): B+ Grade
Morgan Moses was extended during draft weekend, so this slipped through the cracks. I'd like to thank Lawrence R. and Adam L. for reminding me to grade this signing.
Moses has progressed rapidly as a pro. He struggled during his rookie year, then was a lot better in 2015. Last season, Moses was one of the top right tackles in the NFL, and now he's being paid as such. Moses isn't very proven, but he has great blocking ability and happens to be just 26. He could get even better over the next couple of years. That would make this deal pretty reasonable, even if Moses is now the second-highest-paid right tackle in the NFL, only behind Lane Johnson.
Broncos sign RB Jamaal Charles (1 year, $3.75 million): A- Grade
Jamaal Charles was once one of the most explosive backs in the NFL, but has been limited to just eight games in the past two seasons because of multiple knee injuries. Charles wasn't effective at all last year in limited action, averaging 3.3 yards per carry.
However, I really like this move the Broncos have made. Charles won't ever be as great as he once was, but he could improve from 2016 now that he's had time to recover from his surgeries. He's an effective pass-catching threat out of the backfield, and if he can stay healthy, he could be a solid No. 2 option behind C.J. Anderson.
There's very little risk with this signing, so I like it a lot. There's definitely a chance it doesn't pan out, but the Broncos don't stand to lose much if Charles struggles.
Raiders acquire RB Marshawn Lynch, 2018 6th-rounder from Seahawks for 2018 5th-round pick
Beast Mode is headed for Oakland. The Raiders acquired Marshawn Lynch for a swap of third-day selections in 2018, effectively giving up almost nothing to acquire the former Seattle runner.
If you're surprised that the Seahawks are receiving so little for Lynch, don't be. They weren't expected to really obtain anything of substance, as this trade was just a formality. Lynch was still under contract with Seattle and wasn't going to play for them, so the Seahawks did well just to receive anything.
As for the Raiders, it's unknown what they're getting with Lynch. He sat out all of 2016 after struggling the year before, failing to even average four yards per carry. Lynch looked done and worn out. Perhaps his sabbatical will give him fresh legs, and the Raiders were apparently fine with his conditioning; otherwise, they wouldn't have signed him. Lynch could do well in Oakland, as the Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Then again, he turned 31 this week, so no one should be surprised if we don't see the Beast Mode of old in 2017.
Overall, I like this move for Oakland. The Raiders needed a running back, and they're at least taking a chance on someone who was one of the best players at his position a few years ago. If Lynch struggles, the Raiders haven't really lost anything, so this is all upside.
Update: Having seen Lynch's contract, I'm downgrading this deal from an A- to a "B." Lynch could work out very well for the Raiders, but paying him $4.5 million per season seems like a lot for a 31-year-old running back who missed all of 2016 and struggled mightily the season prior to that. The Raiders overpaid, but not egregiously, so I have to drop their grade.
Saints sign RB Adrian Peterson (2 years, $7 million): A- Grade
Adrian Peterson looked old and decrepit last year. Of course, that wasn't with much of a sample size. He played in two games, averaging 1.6 yards per carry in each, and then was sidelined until Week 15, when he gained just 22 yards on six attempts versus the Colts before being permanently lost for the season with a knee injury.
Peterson wasn't himself at all in 2016, but he dealt with a balky knee and a poor offensive line. Perhaps being released will serve as motivation, and we've seen what Peterson can do when he's properly motivated. Granted, he just turned 32, but Frank Gore just eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier at the age of 33. If he can do it, why can't Peterson behind a better offensive line that added Larry Warford this offseason?
I think the Saints made a good deal by signing Peterson. Their running back situation wasn't the best, as Mark Ingram was benched at one point last year in favor of Tim Hightower. If Peterson rebounds, he'll be better than Ingram, and he'll be on the roster at a cheap price. There's a chance Peterson will continue to struggle, but even if he does, it's not like the Saints are risking very much with this deal.
Patriots acquire RB Mike Gillislee from Bills for 5th-round pick
This isn't technically a trade, as the Patriots signed restricted free agent Mike Gillislee to a 2-year, $6.4 million offer sheet a week ago. The Bills had five days to match, but opted not to do so. Gillislee, as a result, is now a Patriot. New England, in turn, had to surrender a fifth-round pick to Buffalo.
I like this move for the Patriots. They wanted another running back despite signing Rex Burkhead, and Gillislee is likely better than anyone they could get in the fifth round. Gillislee is just 26, and he averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 101 attempts in 2016, scoring nine touchdowns in the process. Gillislee can take LeGarrette Blount's role, as Blount apparently was asking for more money than New England was willing to pay him. It shouldn't surprise anyone if Gillislee reaches the end zone 10-plus times in 2017.
As for the Bills, this all could've been avoided had they given Gillislee a second-round tender. Instead, they'll likely be punished for this move in their games versus New England. Sure, they're getting a fifth-rounder (No. 163 overall) back in return, but odds are that they won't be able to land a player who makes the roster with that selection.
Panthers re-sign DT Kawann Short (5 years, $80 million): B+ Grade
This is obviously a ton of money for a defensive tackle. In fact, Kawann Short is now the third-highest-paid 4-3 defensive tackle in the NFL behind Ndamukong Suh and Fletcher Cox. And that's definitely well deserved because he's a fantastic player.
Aside from Luke Kuechly, Short is the best player on Carolina's defense, so his presence obviously allows the Panthers to have one of the better stop units in the NFL. Short is great in all regards. He puts plenty of pressure on quarterbacks - 17 sacks the past two years - and is also excellent at handling the run. He also turned just 28 recently, so he'll be playing on a high level for all or most of this contract.
I reserve "A" grades for incredible deals. I wouldn't characterize this as such, as Short is being paid appropriately. With that in mind, I'm giving Carolina a B+, as keeping Short around is imperative.
Colts sign NT Johnathan Hankins (3 years, $30M; $14.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Indianapolis' previous regime was often guilty of overspending on overrated front-seven players. The Colts have once again thrown a chunk of change at a front-seven athlete, but this signing seems much better than the other ones.
Johnathan Hankins is coming off a down year, but that can be attributed to a torn pectoral that he was recovering from. In the past, Hankins had been a dominant defensive lineman, stuffing the run and placing a good amount of pressure on opposing passers. Hankins should be back to prior form in 2017, and he's only just 25 to boot, so he could even be better than he once was.
I'm giving this a B+. It could be possible that Hankins doesn't rebound, so I don't want to go crazy with this grade. However, it seems more than likely that he'll be a positive force for the Colts, filling a huge need for them on the defensive line.
Redskins sign LB Zach Brown (1 year, $2.3 million): A- Grade
Zach Brown struggled after being selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, but he became a late bloomer this past season. He played very well for the Bills, but there was enough skepticism from around the league that no team wanted to sign him to a long-term contract.
The Redskins made a very good move by swooping in and obtaining Brown. It's just a 1-year deal worth $2.3 million with a chance to make more in incentives, so the price is very reasonable. Washington had a big need at inside linebacker, and Brown might be able to fill it. It's also possible that Brown will regress back to 2012-15 form, but even if he does, the Redskins aren't risking much with this contract.
Bengals acquire DE Chris Smith from Jaguars for 2018 conditional pick
This trade is probably irrelevant, so I'm not even going to post a poll for it. I had some e-mailers asking for grades, so that's why there's a write-up for it.
Chris Smith was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He collected three sacks as a rookie, but has notched just 1.5 in the two seasons since. Jones has some good athleticism, but he's undersized at 6-foot-1. He's a tweener who never really caught on in the NFL.
The Bengals have acquired Smith for a conditional pick, which they will probably relinquish if Smith makes the roster. That may not happen if the Bengals are able to obtain one or more quality pass-rushers in the 2017 NFL Draft. It's likely that this trade was just for insurance purposes, just in case Cincinnati isn't in position to select the defensive ends it wants.
Falcons extend CB Desmond Trufant (5 years, $69M; $42M guaranteed): B- Grade
This is a pretty weird contract if you think about it. The Falcons lost Desmond Trufant to a torn pectoral in Week 9 last year. Instead of their defense regressing, it actually improved down the stretch, and Atlanta ended up reaching the Super Bowl. If the Falcons could come within a few running plays of claiming the Lombardi Trophy without Trufant, why would they pay him so much money?
Trufant is an excellent cornerback. He's also just 26, so he has a bright future ahead of him. He deserves to be paid as one of the top players at his position. It just seems strange that the Falcons would do it, given that they were successful without him.
I don't think this a bad move. I'm marking it down as a B-, which is not a poor grade. I just think this move is pretty odd.
Rams sign C John Sullivan (1 year, $999,999): A+ Grade
What, the Rams couldn't give John Sullivan that one extra dollar so that he could make a million in 2017? What cheapskates!
This is actually a great signing that has gone under the radar, and I'm willing to give it an A+. John Sullivan is a very skilled center who has plenty of years of great experience as a starter in Minnesota. He was a backup last year for some reason, but he's more than capable of being a solid starting center for the Rams in 2017.
Someone like Sullivan is exactly what the Rams need to see if Jared Goff can play well in the NFL. Goff was an abomination in 2016, but didn't have much of a chance behind an atrocious offensive line. The most important position up front is center - not left tackle - and so Sullivan's presence gives Goff a chance to prove that he's actually not terrible. Of course, Goff might be awful (seeing him at the Bootleg Sports Super Bowl party was not a good look), but at least the Rams will now know for sure.
49ers sign RB Tim Hightower (1 year, $1.1 million): B+ Grade
The 49ers had tons of needs entering the offseason. One minor need was a backup running back, as they didn't have much behind Carlos Hyde. Finding a capable No. 2 runner was imperative, as Hyde has yet to play all 16 games during a single NFL campaign.
Well, the 49ers definitely filled that void. Signing Tim Hightower to a very cheap 1-year deal worth $1.1 million is a solid move. Hightower ran well last year, gaining 4.1 yards per carry behind Mark Ingram. He also caught 22 passes. Hightower won't have the luxury of opposing defenses focusing on his quarterback in San Francisco - unless Kirk Cousins is acquired - but he's still a capable backup for Hyde, as he'll make some decent starts if needed.
Eagles acquire DT Timmy Jernigan, third-round pick (No. 99) from Ravens for third-round pick (No. 74)
Timmy Jernigan played extremely well as a second-round rookie in 2014. His play has regressed each year since, but wasn't a bad player by any means this past season. Jernigan notched five sacks and performed well when trying to stop the run. Still, the Ravens were frustrated by his declining performance, and Jernigan was upset about his reduced snaps, prompting this trade.
I love this move for the Eagles. They're moving down 25 spots in the third round, which isn't a huge deal considering that some of the players they're targeting in that particular round could be there at 99. Philadelphia needed defensive tackle help in the wake of Bennie Logan's departure, and Jernigan figures to fit in nicely. Jernigan is just 24, so he could turn things around and develop into a major asset for the Eagles.
The Ravens probably shouldn't have given up on Jernigan. He still has so much potential, so moving up 25 spots in the third round doesn't seem all that exciting. It's at least something though, so if Baltimore was considering cutting Jernigan, at least it got something for him.
Redskins sign WR Brian Quick (1 year, $855,000): B Grade
The Rams spent five years trying to get the No. 33 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to pan out. Yet, the best Brian Quick could do was rack up 41 catches in a season. It took the Rams half a decade, but they finally gave up on him.
Quick still has very good physical ability - he was compared to Vincent Jackson coming out of Appalachian State - and he's only 27, so perhaps he'll be a late-bloomer and actually turn into a useful NFL player. Taking a shot on him at $855,000 doesn't seem like a bad deal. Then again, Quick could continue to suck, rendering this a waste of time. It's not any sort of risk though, so I think a "B" makes sense as a grade.
Vikings sign QB Case Keenum (1 year, $2 million): B+ Grade
I've mentioned before that the normal salary for an average backup quarterback is in the $3-$4 million range. By that measure, Case Keenum is a solid bargain at $2 million for 2017. Still, I can't go above a B+ because, well, it's Case Keenum.
Keenum is definitely an average No. 2. He has played well at times; in a 16-game stint with the Rams, Keenum completed nearly 61 percent of his passes and threw for 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions - despite barely having any offensive play-makers at his disposal. The Vikings aren't overflowing with talent on offense either, but Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph are better than what the Rams possessed. Thus, if/when Sam Bradford goes down, Keenum can step in and won't be a substantial downgrade.
Cowboys re-sign TE Jason Witten (5 years, $29.6M; $0 guaranteed): A- Grade
Contracts like this aren't very common in the NFL. The one similar to this that comes to mind is the deal Darrelle Revis signed a few years ago. As with Revis' pact, Witten's contains absolutely no guaranteed money on a term worth nearly $6 million annually.
This is obviously great for the Cowboys, as they don't have to commit to Witten for more than one season at a time. So, if he completely declines, they can just cut ties with him. Witten can still play now even though his days of snatching 90-plus receptions are long gone. He's still a reliable receiver who blocks very well, so he's worth the salary. However, he turns 35 soon, so natural regression is coming. When it does, Dallas won't be hurt financially by it.
Eagles sign DE Chris Long (2 years, $2.4 million): B+ Grade
The Eagles made two solid signings today, as Chris Long and Patrick Robinson could both help the defense in 2017. Long, now 32, doesn't have the upside Robinson possesses - which is why this is a B+ instead of an A- - but he's still a decent addition.
Long collected four sacks as a part-time player for the Patriots last year. He should be able to produce a similar number as a rotational player in Philadelphia, all while providing great leadership in the locker room. The Eagles lost Connor Barwin this offseason, so someone like Long was needed to address depth. He shouldn't be a starter, however, which is why I have the Eagles taking a defensive end in today's 2017 NFL Mock Draft update.
The Eagles signed Long to a 2-year deal, but this is similar to the contract Long inked with the Patriots. Philadelphia can get out of this deal after one season, so it's definitely favorable for them.
Eagles sign CB Patrick Robinson (1 year, $1 million): A- Grade
This could either be a great signing or an irrelevant one. It all depends on which player the Eagles are getting with Patrick Robinson.
Robinson has endured a roller-coaster career thus far. After being a first-round pick in 2010 and performing well, he eventually struggled and was benched. Robinson then bounced back with San Diego in 2015, but bottomed out last season because of injuries. Robinson definitely has potential, and he's not yet 30, so he could bounce back and play well if he's healthy.
The Eagles aren't taking any sort of risk here, which is why I'm grading this signing favorably. Robinson could potentially be a decent No. 2 corner for the Eagles in 2017. He could also get torched on a weekly basis, but Philadelphia won't be penalized financially at all if that's the case.
Packers re-sign RB Christine Michael (1 year, $800K; $25K guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Packers lost Eddie Lacy to the Seahawks, so unless they spend an early-round selection on a running back, they'll be going with the duo of Christine Michael and Ty Montgomery at running back in 2017.
Given that Michael could see a lot of playing time, $800,000 for the season seems like a great bargain. Michael was once a second-round pick because of his great athletic ability and potential. He's only 26, so he could still reach his potential. There's definitely upside attached to this signing with absolutely no risk.
Michael has screwed up too many times for me to label this in the "A" range, but I think a B+ is appropriate. It wouldn't be the craziest thing in the world for Michael to develop into a solid starting running back, though he could just as easily be useless.
Colts sign CB Darius Butler (1 year, $3 million): A- Grade
Darius Butler was Indianapolis' top cornerback last year. That's not saying much when factoring in Vontae Davis' injuries, but Butler was quite good. He missed numerous tackles, but covered very well.
Butler, however, has been inconsistent throughout his career. He also just turned 31, so regression could come soon. That's why the Colts were right to give Butler a 1-year "prove it" deal. They're not risking anything, and they'll be hoping that they once again get solid play from him at a cheap price. I like this move enough to give Indianapolis an A-.
Colts sign WR Kamar Aiken (1 year, $2.6M; $1.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
I find it very odd that Kamar Aiken vanished last year. Aiken caught 75 passes for 944 yards and five touchdowns when a rash of injuries for the Ravens forced him into the lineup in 2015. He looked like he could be a solid No. 2 receiver going forward. Instead, Baltimore used the inefficient Mike Wallace and underwhelming Breshad Perriman over him for some reason. As a result, Aiken notched just 29 receptions in 2016.
Aiken has been promised that he'll be able to compete for the No. 3 receiving job in Indianapolis, and he'll likely win that over the disappointing Phillip Dorsett. With Dwayne Allen gone, Andrew Luck will have to count on his third wideout more, making this an important signing. It's also a cheap one, too. Giving $2.6 million to a player who will be utilized in an important role for a very possible playoff push seems like a very good bargain.
Bears sign QB Mark Sanchez (1 year, $2M; $1M guaranteed): MILLEN'S KILEBASA BUTT-FUMBLE SPECIALTY Grade
If I were running a team, and someone came to me and asked, "How much would you pay to have Mark Sanchez on your team?" I'd respond, "If you give me $50,000 in cash, I'd maybe consider it." With that in mind, the Bears are overpaying because they didn't receive any funds for bringing in Sanchez.
Look, I understand needing a veteran quarterback with Mike Glennon being unproven, but this is ridiculous. Sanchez is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, and he deserves absolutely no guaranteed money. Not even a single penny. A million dollars is way too much. Hell, one dollar is way too much!
I like to shy away from issuing Millen grades for minor signings like this, but this is Mark Sanchez we're talking about here. The man who butt fumbled. If this doesn't deserve a Millen, I don't know what does.
Packers sign DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois (1 year, $3 million): B Grade
The Packers don't sign many free agents, but they do dabble in the market from time to time. On this occasion, they're bringing in a 315-pound run-stuffer to help their defense.
Ricky Jean-Francois offers nothing in the pass-rushing department - 3.5 sacks the past two years - but clamps down on the run pretty well. He's also very durable, having missed just six games over the past seven seasons. He hasn't been out of the lineup since 2013.
This is a solid move, and I imagine I'd like it more if it's eventually revealed that this contract is more favorable. We have nothing to go on for now besides the reported one year, $3 million, but that in itself is pretty reasonable for an impactful, two-down player.
Saints sign ILB Manti Te'o (2 years, $5M; $600K guaranteed): C Grade
Many were surprised when Heisman candidate Manti Te'o slipped to the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but the NFL front offices proved to be right for passing on him, as Te'o struggled mightily with the Chargers. He also has had trouble staying healthy; he played in just three contests last year because of a torn Achilles, and he has never been on the field for all 16 games throughout his young career.
With that in mind, it's fair to question the wisdom of the Saints for signing this predictable bust. Te'o is just 26, so he still has plenty of room for growth, but he has proven very little throughout his career thus far. Why the Saints are giving him any sort of guaranteed money, especially in the wake of his Achilles tear, is beyond me. Then again, New Orleans has a dubious history of acquiring horrible linebackers, so this shouldn't be a surprise.
I think a "C" grade is in order. Perhaps Te'o will recover from his torn Achilles and somehow live up to expectations, but I doubt it. Te'o, who won't enjoy the catfish very much in New Orleans, will likely disappoint his second team. However, $600,000 guaranteed won't exactly break the bank, so I won't go below a "C" grade.
Steelers sign CB Coty Sensabaugh (2 years, $2.6M; $425K guaranteed): C- Grade
The Rams signed Coty Sensabaugh to a 3-year, $19 million deal last spring. I gave that acquisition a "D," reasoning that it was way too much money for a terrible player. The Rams ended up cutting him after four games.
This is still too much money for Sensabaugh, though I can't give the signing a "D" because it's not three years, $19 million. Still, why are the Steelers giving any sort of guaranteed cash to a terrible cornerback? Sensabaugh is a practice squad-level player who won't be in the NFL much longer. Pittsburgh could've signed an equal - or even slightly better - player and not paid him any guaranteed money.
Bengals sign ILB Kevin Minter (1 year, $4.25 million): A Grade
Kevin Minter is very much like the recipient of my previous grade, Jelani Jenkins, but at the same time, the complete opposite. Like Jenkins, Minter is a linebacker from the 2013 NFL Draft who wasn't a bust. However, unlike Jenkins, Minter struggled throughout his career prior to 2016, when he performed well, especially in coverage.
As with Jenkins, a 1-year "prove it" deal seems right for Minter. The Bengals aren't obtaining Minter nearly as cheaply as the Raiders are getting Jenkins, but it's still a great deal if Minter can prove that 2016 wasn't a fluke. If that's the case, Minter will be a valuable member of Cincinnati's defense, as the team attempts to reach the playoffs once again.
I think this signing is definitely worth an "A" grade. It carries very little risk, and there's a ton of upside attached to the deal.
Raiders sign OLB Jelani Jenkins (1 year, $1 million): A+ Grade
Jelani Jenkins, also from the 2013 NFL Draft, has not been a bust. Chosen in the fourth round that year, Jenkins played well in large part for the Dolphins prior to this past season. He was atrocious in 2016, however.
Jenkins is the ideal candidate for a 1-year "prove it" contract. His 2016 struggles can be attributed to a knee injury he sustained in Week 1, prompting him to miss seven games. Jenkins had been out for just four contests prior to this past season, so odds are that he'll recover and remain healthy going forward. If so, he'll provide the Raiders with a much-needed boost in their poor linebacking corps.
This is the fifth A+ I've handed out this offseason, and it's well deserved. The Raiders made a great signing, as they're buying incredibly low on a solid player who figures to improve his upcoming year. Oakland is poised to make a run at Super Bowl LII, and Jenkins could end up being an important part of the team's defense during that push.
Giants sign QB Geno Smith (1 year, $1.2 million): A Grade
Three of the four signing grades I've done so far today have been busts from the 2013 NFL Draft. Geno Smith, once projected to be chosen No. 1 overall in that class, was horrific for the Jets, but remained in New York to play for the Giants.
I actually like this acquisition a lot, as it's all upside with no risk. Smith is still just 26, and he has good physical abilities, so perhaps the Giants can develop him into at least a capable backup. And speaking of reserve quarterbacks, the going rate for most No. 2 signal-callers is in the $3-$4 million range, so Smith was signed for way under that rate. Even if Smith doesn't develop and continues to be a substandard backup quarterback, $1.2 million is still a great bargain.
I'd like to note that I don't think Smith's signing will preclude the Giants from taking a quarterback at No. 23 overall. I recently had them selecting Deshaun Watson in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
Cardinals sign S Antoine Bethea (3 years, $12.75M; $4.25M guaranteed): C Grade
The Cardinals saw Tony Jefferson leave this offseason, which was a huge loss. They needed a replacement, but signing Antoine Bethea seems like a panic move, especially at this dollar amount.
Bethea used to be a very good player, but he's been in decline the past couple of seasons. The Cardinals will be very fortunate if Bethea, now 33, is just an average starter for them. He'll likely be a substandard safety instead, which is what he was for San Francisco the past two years.
I'm grading this as a "C," but I think I'm being generous. Bethea will provide veteran leadership, which is nice, but keep this in mind: The 49ers cut Bethea because he wasn't worth the $5.75 million cap hit. Now, the Cardinals are paying him more than $4 million annually? That doesn't make much sense to me.
Titans sign NT Sylvester Williams (3 years, $16.5M; $7.25M guaranteed): D Grade
I like what the Titans have done this offseason, but this signing makes very little sense to me. The money isn't big enough to warrant a Millen grade, but it's close.
Sylvester Williams is not a good football player. He's a nose tackle who sucks at stopping the run. That's pretty much all you need to know about him. He also has 5.5 career sacks, so he's not very good in the pass-rushing department either.
This signing gets an easy "D" grade. Williams isn't even young enough to be deemed a reclamation project, as he turns 29 in November. He should've been obtained for something closer to the veteran minimum. The Titans are overpaying for no reason.
Cardinals sign DE/OLB Jarvis Jones (1 year, $2.25 million): B+ Grade
Nearly every player selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft has busted, and that includes Jarvis Jones. Taken 17th overall, Jones has collected just six career sacks. He has never recorded more than two sacks in a single season, which is just pathetic.
Jones, however, isn't a complete lost cause. He stops the run well and isn't bad in coverage. He can contribute for the Cardinals, even if he doesn't improve. There is upside though, as Jones is just 27 and could turn out to be a late-bloomer.
I'm giving the Cardinals a B+. Jones, who was signed relatively cheapy, will have a role in their defense, and there's a chance - albeit a slim one - that he'll evolve into a capable pass-rusher.
Jaguars sign TE Mychal Rivera (2 years, $6.75 million): C+ Grade
It's unclear what the real terms of Mychal Rivera's contract are. It was reported as a 2-year deal worth $6.75 million, but the second year is a team option, so it's currently unknown how much Jacksonville will have to pay Rivera in 2017.
Assuming it's not more than $3 million, this deal is fine. Rivera didn't do much this past season, but he hauled in 58 passes for 534 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. Rivera doesn't offer much in terms of yards-after-catch ability, but he's just 26 and has the slightest bit of upside.
This contract is worth a B- or C+. It by no means will preclude the Jaguars from selecting a tight end early this April, which is what I have happening in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
Bengals sign OT Andre Smith (1 year, $3.25 million): C Grade
The saying is you can never go home again. But what if you suck everywhere else? Can you go home again then? I suppose we'll find out with Andre Smith, though it didn't exactly work out with Michael Johnson.
Smith played very well for the Bengals earlier in his career, but began regressing a few years ago. He bottomed out in 2016, as he was absolutely atrocious for the Vikings before tearing hs triceps in early October. Perhaps Smith will be able to rebound now that he's back in Cincinnati, but the odds are against it. Smith wasn't even good when he left, and now he's a 30-year-old recovering from a season-ending injury.
This signing doesn't seem like a good one to me. I could see a scenario in which it pans out, but the chances of that are pretty slim. The Bengals still sorely need tackle help, even after this signing, so I have to question the wisdom of giving someone like him $3.25 million to play in 2017, when the money could've been rolled over. I'm sure some Cincinnati fans will complain about this grade, but they should probably lay off the 'member berries because Smith just isn't good anymore.
Cowboys re-sign RB Darren McFadden (1 year, $980,000): B+ Grade
Like Tyson Alualu, Darren McFadden is a former top-10 pick who didn't pan out. His disappointing career had nothing to do with poor play, however, as injuries were the culprit in derailing his tenure in the NFL.
McFadden has proven that he's good when healthy, most recently averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 239 attempts (1,089 rushing yards) in 2015 despite being paired with terrible quarterbacks for most of the season. McFadden, however, played in just three contests last year because of an arm injury. It was just one of countless maladies he's sustained throughout his career, and it's a shame that things haven't worked out for him. A major problem was that his workout regimen was completely screwed up earlier in his career. McFadden has fixed that recently, but there has been just too much wear and tear on his body. There's still some time left - he turns 30 in August - but not very much.
That said, I like this signing. Giving McFadden less than $1 million to play in 2017 seems like a sweet deal. If he can remain healthy like he did in 2015, he'll be a very valuable piece of Dallas' offense, as he'll generate good production if Ezekiel Elliott gets hurt. If, however, McFadden is sidelined once again, the Cowboys don't really stand to lose anything because of the minimal investment.
Cowboys re-sign RB Darren McFadden (1 year, $980,000): B+ Grade
Like Tyson Alualu, Darren McFadden is a former top-10 pick who didn't pan out. His disappointing career had nothing to do with poor play, however, as injuries were the culprit in derailing his tenure in the NFL.
McFadden has proven that he's good when healthy, most recently averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 239 attempts (1,089 rushing yards) in 2015 despite being paired with terrible quarterbacks for most of the season. McFadden, however, played in just three contests last year because of an arm injury. It was just one of countless maladies he's sustained throughout his career, and it's a shame that things haven't worked out for him. A major problem was that his workout regimen was completely screwed up earlier in his career. McFadden has fixed that recently, but there has been just too much wear and tear on his body. There's still some time left - he turns 30 in August - but not very much.
That said, I like this signing. Giving McFadden less than $1 million to play in 2017 seems like a sweet deal. If he can remain healthy like he did in 2015, he'll be a very valuable piece of Dallas' offense, as he'll generate good production if Ezekiel Elliott gets hurt. If, however, McFadden is sidelined once again, the Cowboys don't really stand to lose anything because of the minimal investment.
Steelers sign DE/DT Tyson Alualu (2 years, $6 million): C- Grade
One of the strangest NFL Draft picks in recent years occurred in 2010 when then-Jaguars general manager Gene Smith, one of the most incompetent people to ever work in an NFL front office he took a punter in the third round), selected Tyson Alualu with the No. 10 overall pick. Alualu was widely considered a second-round prospect, yet Smith selected him over players everyone considered to be superior, including Earl Thomas, Jason Pierre-Paul, Brandon Graham and Dez Bryant. Alualu predictably busted.
With that in mind, I'm not sure why the Steelers believe Alualu is worth $3 million per year. It's not like he's some young reclamation project, as he turns 30 in May. Alualu does nothing for a team aside from providing some sub-par run defense. I suppose he's an OK reserve, but with that in mind, why is he not getting the veteran minimum?
Seahawks sign S Bradley McDougald (1 year, $2 million): A+ Grade
It was quite apparent that the Seahawks needed a third safety behind Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. The defense was much weaker when either was out of the lineup last year, so something had to be doe about it.
Bradley McDougald is a great solution for 2017. McDougald performed well for the Buccaneers this past season, earning a spot in the Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings at No. 66. McDougald isn't great by any means, but he's a solid player who won't be a liability if he starts.
I love this move. In fact, it's worth an A+. There's no risk involved, and $2 million seems like a hell of a bargain for a talented player.
Dolphins re-sign LB Kiko Alonso (4 years, $28.8M; $18.5M guaranteed): C Grade
Kiko Alonso is a very talented linebacker, and he's a great force when healthy. Unfortunately, the "when healthy" clause is why he's bounced around the NFL despite being in the league since 2013.
Alonso has always been banged up following his brilliant rookie campaign. He missed all of 2014, then was out for five games in 2015 while playing for the Eagles. Alonso managed to stay on the field for all but one contest this past season, but definitely wasn't 100 percent. He thrived in the early stages of the year, but some injuries slowed him down, and he didn't perform as well toward the end.
I don't like this contract very much. I could see a scenario in which it works out great for the Dolphins, but it probably won't. Nearly $20 million in guarantees is way too much for such an injury-prone player. It's a big risk that the Dolphins didn't need to take.
Jets sign QB Josh McCown (1 year, $6 million): D Grade
When some deals are announced, the full details of the contract aren't revealed. That isn't the case here. The Jets are fully guaranteeing Josh McCown's $6 million. Why? I have absolutely no idea.
This is a terrible contract. McCown was atrocious last season, recklessly firing countless interceptions when he was able to stay healthy enough to take the field. McCown almost certainly won't play all 16 games in 2016 because he's always banged up, and even if he does, he'll suck. He's 38 in July, and he was never very good to begin with. I wouldn't have guaranteed McCown six dollars at this stage of his career; let alone $6 million.
The Jets appear to be the worst team in the NFL in the wake of this move. McCown can't win games, and he won't have the talent around him. This, however, will be a blessing (not sure it's quite enough in disguise) because the Jets will be able to land Sam Darnold, who is No. 1 overall in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft. And that's the only reason this signing doesn't warrant a Millen grade.
Colts sign ILB Sean Spence (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
The Colts have a major need at inside linebacker. They tried to sign Kevin Minter, but weren't successful in those efforts. Minter signed with Cincinnati, so Indianapolis inked Sean Spence instead.
Spence is definitely not a bad consolation prize. In fact, I think he's a great signing at just one year, $3 million. Spence can be a very effective player in coverage when healthy, which is exactly what the Colts need because they weren't able to cover running backs or tight ends at all in 2016.
Health is a key issue for Spence, as he's endured an injury-ravaged career prior to 2016. He managed to remain on the field last year, but he still comes with risk. Fortunately for the Colts, that risk is mitigated by his short-term deal. That's why I'm giving them an "A" for this acquisition.
Bills sign WR Andre Holmes (3 years, $6.5 million): C- Grade
Andre Holmes showed some promise when he caught 47 passes for 693 yards and four touchdowns in his third season. Since then, he's done nothing. He has logged 14 catches in each of the past two years. Granted, he's been behind Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree on Oakland's depth chart, but the fact that he couldn't do much with Derek Carr is troubling.
Holmes will have more of an opportunity in Buffalo for now, but this is an overpay. Holmes is 29 in June, so it's not like he's some young, promising receiver. He's as pedestrian as it gets, so he doesn't deserve more than $2 million per year.
49ers sign OLB Dekoda Watson (3 years, $6 million): C- Grade
Dekoda Watson was rated as our 36th player in the NFL Free Agent Outside Linebacker Rankings, so it's safe to stay that I disagree with the amount of money he's getting on an unnecessary 3-year deal. Watson is a horrific linebacker who will ideally never see the field in San Francisco.
However, Watson will have a role. He'll play well on special teams. If the 49ers want to spend $2 million per year on such a player, I don't have a huge issue with it; hence why this signing didn't earn a "D" grade or worse. However, it's not a good deal either, as players like Watson are a dime a dozen, and overpaying them is never a good idea.
Seahawks re-sign CB Deshawn Shead (1 year, $1.5 million): A Grade
Deshawn Shead happened to be a restricted free agent this offseason, but the Seahawks opted not to tender him. He took one visit, but didn't draw any other interest. His only viable option was re-signing with Seattle for just $1.5 million for one year.
Shead played exceptionally well last year across from Richard Sherman, but the problem is that he tore his ACL in a playoff victory over Detroit. He probably won't be ready for Week 1, but there's a chance he could be available late in the year. Seattle could put him on the PUP list and activate him in November. Shead may not be 100 percent, but his return certainly would help.
This move deserves a great grade. There's absolutely no risk to it, and Shead provides nothing but upside during a potential Super Bowl run.
Seahawks re-sign TE Luke Willson (1 year, $3 million): B+ Grade
Considering the insane contracts free agent tight ends have gotten this offseason, Luke Willson getting one year, possibly $3 million seems like quite the bargain. This deal is actually worth up to $3 million, so it's likely that he'll earn less.
Willson hasn't topped 22 receptions in a single season, but he's been blocked by Jimmy Graham the past two years. He's athletic and has good upside, and if Graham gets hurt, Willson could be a viable starter. That's why I'm giving the Seahawks a B+ for this favorable deal.
Jets sign CB Morris Claiborne (1 year, $5 million): B Grade
Though Morris Claiborne had a great year in 2016 when healthy, it's not a surprise that it took him this long to sign just a 1-year "prove it" deal. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, Claiborne missed nine games last year because of a groin injury, which isn't the first time he's dealt with such a malady. Second, he was a big disappointment as a first-round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft prior to this past season. Claiborne finally played up to his billing, but it could've been seen as a coincidence that he was in his contract year. And third, the 2017 NFL Draft Cornerback Prospects in the upcoming class are very talented.
With all of those factors, it's no wonder why Claiborne had to be relegated to 1-year "prove it" status. Still, it's a great signing for the Jets from a personnel standpoint, as Claiborne wouldn't come with any long-term risk. He provides great upside because if he stays healthy and performs like he did in 2016, he could be a shutdown corner for the Jets.
I'd normally grade something like this as an "A" but the Jets have financial issues and could benefit from rolling this $5 million over to next year as they attempt to rebuild. Having a potential shutdown corner won't do anything for the Jets in 2017 because they have so many holes on their roster, so they would've been better served going all out next spring instead.
Vikings sign RB Latavius Murray (3 years, $15 million): B- Grade
There are a couple of misleading things here. First is this actual contract. Murray inked a 3-year deal worth $15 million, but the Vikings can void this contract after one season. It's effectively a 1-year, $8.5 million pact.
Second is Murray himself. Murray is a big name for a running back who isn't very good. He scored 12 touchdowns last year, but mustered only 4.0 yards per carry behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. His legs die on contact and can't break tackles well at all. Now, he'll have to run behind a front line that is far inferior to what he had in Oakland.
I don't like this contract very much, even though it's only for one season. Murray is overrated, and the Vikings could've spent their money better elsewhere. With a great group of 2017 NFL Draft Running Back Prospects available, Minnesota should've focused on obtaining one of them instead.
Update: It was initially reported that Murray would receive $8.5 million guaranteed, but ESPN's Ben Goessling has reported that only $3.4 million guaranteed is of the signing, while the other $5.15 million in guarantees would only be paid out if Murray is on the roster in 2018. That doesn't really make it guaranteed, does it?
I like this signing better now, as $3.4 million is a reasonable price for Murray, unlike the initially reported $8.5 million. This doesn't change my opinion on Murray as a player, as he is an overrated runner who can't break tackles. However, it's nice to have him in a rotation, and there's far less risk to have him at $3.4 million. I'm going to upgrade this from a "C" to a B-.
Giants re-sign DE Jason Pierre-Paul (4 years, $68M; $54M guaranteed): B+ Grade
When Jason Pierre-Paul suffered his infamous fireworks injury a couple of years ago, I doubt many imagined that he would earn a contract with this many digits. The Giants weren't afraid of handing him this sort of deal, however, as Pierre-Paul performed well in 2016. He tallied seven sacks in 12 games before missing the end of the season because of hernia surgery.
Pierre-Paul is at or close to 100 percent despite the incident, and it needs to be pointed out that he's just 28. Pierre-Paul should be able to perform on a high level throughout the duration of this contract, so I don't think the Giants are necessarily paying on past production.
This is a big-money deal that was nailed down for a crazy amount of guaranteed cash for a non-quarterback, so I can't put this in the "A" range. However, it's a nice move for the Giants to keep one of their defensive stars around for a while.
Rams sign DE/OLB Connor Barwin (1 year, $6.5 million): A- Grade
Connor Barwin struggled this past year, but is two seasons removed from collecting 14.5 sacks. Some might point to age (31 in November) for Barwin's decline, but it really was the fact that he was miscast as a 4-3 defensive end in 2016. Barwin has performed well in the 3-4 throughout his career, which is good news for his outlook going forward.
The Rams have been utilizing a 4-3 for a very long time, but that's changing. In the wake of the Wade Phillips hire, Los Angeles will move to a 3-4, so that's why the Barwin signing makes a lot of sense. He's the favorite to start across from Robert Quinn.
This is a very good move. Barwin is a high-effort player who provides experience and talent, and he should be a strong contributor for the Rams. He could begin to decline soon, but he should be fine for 2017, and it's not like the Rams are taking a risk anyway.
Raiders sign TE Jared Cook (2 years, $12.2 million): B+ Grade
Jared Cook has always had tantalizing talent, but has seldom lived up to his ability. He was a big-time bust for the Rams, but finally performed well while he was in Green Bay this past season. He wasn't consistent, but he put together some great games, finally validating those who have given him so many chances.
Perhaps 2016 wasn't a fluke. Cook finally got to work with an elite quarterback in Aaron Rodgers after being paired with so many pedestrian signal-callers. Derek Carr is also a Pro Bowl-level quarterback, so it's possible that Cook could continue to perform on a high level. The Raiders needed a tight end, and Cook certainly provides an upgrade, at least on paper.
I can't give this an "A" because Cook could revert into sloth mode and disappoint once again. However, this contract isn't for very much overall, so signing Cook doesn't pose a major risk. I think there's a better chance that this signing works out than it being a failure.
Bills re-sign C/G Ryan Groy (2 years, $5 million): A Grade
The Rams signed Ryan Groy to a 2-year, $5 million tender, so the Bills were forced to match if they wanted to keep him on the roster. I imagine that was a no-brainer.
Groy is a backup for the Bills, but the Rams wanted to make him their starting center. Given that Los Angeles envisioned Groy as a player in the opening lineup at a very important position, a 2-year, $5 million contract seems like a steal for the Bills. Granted, Groy won't be starting for Buffalo right away, but there's a chance Groy could start over 33-year-old Richie Incognito next season.
This is a great move by the Bills to keep Groy, and I'm willing to give them an "A" for it. Offensive line play is more important than ever now in the NFL because of a decreased amount of practices, so Groy is a valuable member of the team. He played well for an injured Eric Wood last year, and he can certainly do well as a starter in 2018, so the Bills are getting him back at a bargain price. In fact, Buffalo had to be laughing at the Rams for not nearly offering Groy enough money.
Ravens sign CB Brandon Carr (2 years, $12 million): C+ Grade
This signing was initially announced as a 4-year deal, but it's effectively just a 2-year contract with an option. That makes so much more sense than a pact for four seasons, given that Brandon Carr is 31.
Carr used to be a terrific cornerback, but has regressed in recent seasons. He was solid again in 2016, but it's fair to assume that he'll continue to decline going forward, given his age.
The Ravens needed a No. 2 cornerback to play across from Jimmy Smith prior to this signing, and they still need one. Carr isn't a bad option, but could prove to be a liability if his pre-2016 pla is any indication. The Ravens are giving him a bit too much money, considering all of the other great options out there.
Falcons sign NT Dontari Poe (1 year, $8 million): A Grade
Dontari Poe had visited the Dolphins, Colts, Jaguars and Raiders, but it seemed as though he was pricing himself out of those teams' ranges. There's no denying Poe's talent - he's 25th in the Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings - but there's some concern with his back. He struggled in 2016 because of his problematic back, and there are worries that this will continue to be a lingering issue.
With that in mind, any team would've been crazy to sign Poe for the long-term deal he was seeking. I imagine Poe finally realized that this was not a realistic scenario, so he "settled" on a 1-year "prove it" deal with the Falcons worth $8 million.
I love this signing. The Falcons are potentially getting a dominant presence in the interior of their defensive line. If Poe can't get healthy, then Atlanta isn't risking anything because it can just cut ties with him after this season. This is all reward with no risk.
Rams sign CB Kayvon Webster (2 years, $8 million): C- Grade
Kayvon Webster received a lot of attention this offseason for a cornerback who hasn't proven anything in the NFL. Webster was a third-round pick in the dreadful 2013 NFL Draft, but has played behind some stellar corners in Denver, so he's never been able to see that many snaps.
Webster, however, hasn't been good when he's been given the chance. Torched on a high percentage of his snaps, Webster didn't deserve anything close to $4 million per year. This is an overpay, though at two years, $8 million, it's not an egregious one.
Still, I have to grade the Rams negatively. With a great group of 2017 NFL Draft Cornerback Prospects coming in, there was no reason to dish out $4 million annually to someone as underwhelming as Webster. It's nice that Webster can play for Wade Phillips again, but that's not enough to save Los Angeles from a C-.
Raiders sign WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson (1 year, $5.25 million): B+ Grade
Cordarrelle Patterson has been a major bust as a receiver, though he's been able to stay relevant because of his excellent kick-returning ability. That alone makes him a decent signing, but Patterson does come with some upside.
Patterson was the 29th-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. His season-high reception total is 52, which he achieved last year. Patterson hasn't developed the mental part of his game, but perhaps he'll do that in Oakland with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback. Derek Carr is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, so perhaps he'll help Patterson be more productive. The Raiders need a potent third receiver, and Patterson has the natural ability to be better than Seth Roberts (though that's not saying much).
This is a solid acquisition, and I'm willing to give the Raiders a B+ for it. There's definitely upside with Patterson, though the price tag of $5 million guaranteed is a tad too much for my liking. Still, even if Patterson busts as a receiver, he'll contribute on special teams.
Vikings re-sign WR Adam Thielen (3 years, $17 million): B+ Grade
I don't think anyone would've imagined Adam Thielen receiving a $17 million contract prior to 2016. After all, he had caught 20 passes in his career heading into this past year. Thielen, however, exploded and became a big-impact player on the offense. He logged 69 receptions for 967 yards and five touchdowns.
Thielen is a nifty player who is very capable of being a No. 2 receiver in the NFL. He proved it last year, and I'm confident in believing that it wasn't a fluke. This contract is appropriate for Thielen if he can continue his level of play.
I've gone back and forth between a B+ and a "B" for this grade. I think I'll stick with a B+ because of how important Thielen has become for the Vikings, especially in the wake of Laquon Treadwell's struggles.
49ers acquire C Jeremy Zuttah, 6th-rounder from Ravens for 6th-round pick
It was initially reported that the Ravens were going to cut Jeremy Zuttah, but the 49ers called in right away and asked if they could trade for him. Something like this happened earlier in the offseason when the Jaguars and Dolphins orchestrated a trade involving Branden Albert, so this sort of action is definitely not unheard of.
I like this trade for both teams. The 49ers couldn't count on courting Zuttah, so they've opted to slide down 12 spots in the sixth round to make sure they can obtain the 31-year-old. Despite being in his 30s, Zuttah is still performing on a high level. Centers typically play well into their mid-30s, so the 49ers don't need to worry about any sort of regression. He'll be a big upgrade over Daniel Kilgore, providing a much-needed boost for San Francisco's poor offensive line. That all sounds great, especially considering the price tag. Twelve spots in the sixth round is irrelevant.
As for the Ravens, they were going to release Zuttah anyway, so why not obtain something for him? Even if that something is moving up 12 spots in the sixth frame, it's at least something.
Vikings re-sign CB Terence Newman (1 year, $3.25 million): B+ Grade
Does anyone else find this signing very unexpected? Terence Newman staged a mutiny against Mike Zimmer late in the year versus the Packers, changing the head coach's defensive game plan without informing him. It was assumed that Newman would head elsewhere, but it appears as though the two have kissed and made up.
Newman has seemingly been around forever, and yet he's still performing on a very high level. Taken fifth overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, Newman turns 39 in September, and yet he's still a talented cornerback. This can all change in an instant - another Viking, Brett Favre was incredible in 2009 and then fell apart in 2010 - but the Vikings aren't taking any sort of risk with this 1-year pact.
As long as everything is cool between Zimmer and Newman - I'll assume they are because the Vikings retained Newman - then this is a positive signing. Keeping Newman around for another year should help the Vikings' playoff chances, assuming he just doesn't fall off a cliff. And if he does, Minnesota won't really have lost anything.
Packers sign TE Lance Kendricks (2 years, $4 million): C+ Grade
The Packers typically don't like to make big splashes in free agency, but things were different this year when they signed Martellus Bennett. Green Bay wasn't done addressing the tight end position, however, immediately signing Lance Kendricks after acquiring Bennett.
The question I've gotten is how Kendicks fits in with Bennett. The latter is going to be a potent, intermediate receiving target for Aaron Rodgers. Kendricks, on the other hand, will serve as a capable blocker. He's a bit better in this regard than Richard Rodgers, so he'll be a potential upgrade. Kendricks will also be able to catch some passes. He logged 50 receptions in 2016, but a 25-245 line, which is what he posted in 2015, is a more reasonable expectation.
This signing is just OK. Kendricks is worth this price tag, but he is pretty similar to Rodgers, so if the Packers really wanted another tight end, I think they should have used a mid-round pick to target one of the many talented NFL Draft Tight End Prospects available in this class.
Panthers sign CB Captain Munnerlyn (4 years, $21 million): B- Grade
There's definitely plenty to like about this signing. Captain Munnerlyn potentially offers the Panthers a big upgrade at nickel. He used to play in Carolina, under this current regime, so there won't be any sort of a transition period. Also, the money, for someone of Munnerlyn's caliber, seems about right.
There are a couple of negatives, however. First, Munnerlyn didn't play very well last year. He was a great performer prior to 2016, but this past season saw him decline. Perhaps he'll bounce back, but there's also his age that has to be a slight worry. He turns 29 in April, so it could be possible that he won't be the same player during the back half of this contract.
With all that in mind, I think this is a positive signing overall. It's not a great one, but the Panthers should stand to benefit from having Munnerlyn on the roster again. With Munnerlyn and Adams now on the roster, Carolina's secondary will be so much better in 2017.
Patriots re-sign ILB Dont'a Hightower (4 years, $43.5M; $19M guaranteed): C+ Grade
The Jets were pushing hard to land Dont'a Hightower, reportedly offering him $12 million per season. It appeared as though they might be the favorites to land him, but as it turns out, Hightower was simply using them for leverage. The Patriots ponied up, giving Hightower just shy of $11 million annually. It's not as much as Hightower would've made in New York, but it'll be worth it because Hightower will be playing for a much better team.
Hightower got a good deal, but what about the Patriots? I'm not thrilled about this signing for them. It's nice that they get to keep Hightower, as he is a terrific talent. The problem, however, is that Hightower hasn't been able to stay healthy throughout his career. He has played 16 games just once. He has missed an average of 3.67 contests the past three years, and there's no indication that he'll suddenly become a more reliable player in the wake of this new deal.
I don't hate this move for the Patriots because they're retaining a great talent, preventing him from joining a divisional foe. However, it's awfully risky, so I can't go anything above a C+.
Panthers sign S Mike Adams (2 years, $4.2M; $1.15M guaranteed): A Grade
Mike Adams was a difficult player to place in my NFL Free Agent Safety Rankings. Adams had performed extremely well in recent years, including this past season. However, Adams, a two-time Pro Bowler, turns 36 at the end of this month. How much longer can he continue to play on a high level?
I settled on slotting Adams eighth as a three-star free agent. Players of that caliber deserve way more money than this, but the reduction in price is understandable, given his age. Still, Adams is quite a bargain. He has shown no signs of slowing down, so even if he's at 80 percent of what he was in 2016, it's still a major win for Carolina. The Panthers were desperate for defensive back help, and Adams will provide a big boost. Carolina is in a position to make a Super Bowl run this upcoming year, so the fact that Adams may not be in the league in two or three seasons shouldn't concern them.
I love this signing. The Panthers are getting a very good player at an insanely cheap price, all while filling a need and taking no risk. An "A" grade seems right.
Cardinals sign LB Karlos Dansby (1 year, $2 million): B Grade
Someone, at some point, said that you can never go home again. Karlos Dansby apparently doesn't believe in such nonsense because he has returned to Arizona for the third time in his career.
Dansby has always played his best in Arizona. Can he recapture his magic again after struggling in Cincinnati last year? Perhaps, but the odds are against him for sure. Dansby turns 36 in November and is no longer capable in coverage. He can stuff the run well, but he's no longer the three-down force he once was. I'm sure the Cardinals will realize this quickly and utilize Dansby appropriately.
This signing is fine. The Cardinals aren't paying him much at all and aren't taking any sort of risk. There's a possibility that Dansby will improve, though not much of one. Still, Dansby is at least familiar with the defensive scheme, so there won't be any sort of difficult transition period.
49ers sign K Robbie Gould (2 years, $4 million): A- Grade
It's nice to know that catching up on past 49er signings doesn't yield all bad results. San Francisco is still capable of making a quality acquisition, as it did here.
I find it crazy that the 49ers are paying Robbie Gould the same amount per year that the Rams are giving Greg Zuerlein, yet Gould is a much better kicker. Save for 2014, Gould has drilled at least 83.3 percent of his field goals every season since 2006. He did miss three extra points in 2016, but was errant on just one try the year before.
This definitely doesn't make up for the NEGATIVE INFINITY MILLEN KIELBASA MINUS grade I gave the 49ers for overpaying Malcolm Smith by about $25 million, but hey, at least San Francisco has a very good kicker. That's pretty cool.
Patriots sign RB Rex Burkhead (1 year, $3.5 million): A- Grade
Rex Burkhead has just 87 career carries, but he looked good this past season for the Bengals when Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard were both injured. Burkhead averaged 4.6 yards per carry, and he trampled the Ravens in the season finale, gaining 119 yards and two touchdowns on 27 attempts. He also caught two balls for 25 receiving yards.
Burkhead is a skilled runner who can catch passes effectively, and he's an important piece on special teams, so it's not a surprise that Bill Belichick picked up such a versatile player. Burkhead has the ability to be a starter, and he could take over as the top back, given Dion Lewis' extensive injury history.
I like this move. I'm giving the Patriots an A-. Burkhead isn't exactly a proven commodity, so he didn't deserve a long contract. This deal will allow Burkhead to showcase himself, all while preventing the Patriots from being in an unfavorable financial situation. If Burkhead doesn't pan out, then they didn't lose anything. If he plays well, New England will reap the benefits in 2017 and then possibly give him a pay raise next spring.
Packers sign CB Davon House (1 year, $3.5 million): B Grade
I mentioned this before, but I've gotten some hate from Jaguar fans regarding some of the grades I've given for their signings. They added good players, which is why I haven't handed them any Millen grades. However, they've overpaid, and based on history, the players they acquired don't even want to be there, as they've chosen money over their playing careers.
Davon House was one of those players. House performed somewhat well for the Packers, so he signed a 4-year, $24.5 million contract with Jacksonville in spring 2015. I gave the signing an "F" two years ago, and House predictably failed. Now, he's trying to rehab his career by signing a 1-year "prove it" deal with his original team.
This is a decent signing. I don't have high hopes for House because he has mentally checked out the past two seasons, but there's upside and very little risk attached to this acquisition. The Packers are desperate for cornerback help, and it can't hurt to add House to the roster.
49ers sign LB Malcolm Smith (5 years, $26.5M; $13M guaranteed): NEGATIVE INFINITY MILLEN KIELBASA MINUS Grade
I handed out 12 Millen grades this offseason prior to this signing. I somehow missed this one, prompting an e-mailer, David G., to send me the following message:
Since you've been busy handing out MILLEN grades the past few days, I thought I'd bring another possible MILLEN signing to your attention. Malcolm Smith signed with the 49ers for 5 years, and a total of $26.5 Million with $13 Million guaranteed. As a Raider fan, I can tell you that Smith is absolutely inept in coverage, and can be mediocre at best against the run. Superior linebackers like Gerald Hodges, Perry Riley, and Zach Brown still remain on the market, and they'll probably end up making less than Smith.
I couldn't believe what I was seeing. First of all, how could I miss a signing this bad? And second, why on Earth would any team give Malcolm Smith this much money?
This is the worst grade I've ever given. The other Millen signings were all awful, but at least there was a sliver of hope in them. Like, Robert Woods was paid way too much, but he's only 25 and could develop. Smith, on the other hand, is a known commodity. As David G. mentioned, Smith is horrible in coverage. He can't play all three downs, and yet the 49ers are paying him a lot of money. The Raiders gave Smith $7 million over two years on the previous contract, and even that was too much. He sucked, and yet the 49ers are paying him nearly four times as much for some unknown reason.
I don't know what's lower than Negative Infinity Millen Kielbasa Minus. I considered a Z- first, but that was too high. I ran out of letters in the alphabet, so I had to go to negative numbers, and when I ran out of those, I went to negative infinity, and I had to add a minus to make it right. And yet, that wasn't bad enough, so Millen Kielbasa had to be added.
The 49ers should be utterly embarrassed by this. They could have just signed the hot dog vendor to this sort of a contract, and it would've made just as much sense.
Chiefs sign NT Bennie Logan (1 year, $8 million): A Grade
I have to say that I'm a bit surprised by this contract. I didn't know Bennie Logan was under consideration for 1-year "prove it" deals. Sure, Logan was coming off a down season in 2016, thanks in part to a lingering groin problem (as well as a shaky transition into a 4-3), but it's not as if he had suffered some sort of catastrophic injury, or something.
Logan had been considered a very skilled 3-4 nose tackle prior to this past season. Logan is not a good pass-rusher, by any means (5.5 career sacks), but he's excellent at stuffing opposing ground attacks. He'll fit in perfectly with the Chiefs and their 3-4 scheme, offering an adequate replacement for Dontari Poe.
I love this move for Kansas City, and I'm giving it an "A." The team has find a proper substitute for Poe by buying low on a talented player. Plus, the Chiefs aren't committing to Logan for a long time, so if something goes awry, the front office won't be on the hook for anything.
Rams re-sign K Greg Zuerlein (3 years, $6.75 million): C+ Grade
Greg Zuerlein has been woefully inconsistent throughout his career. For instance, he was 26-of-28 in 2013, but regressed to going 20-of-30 two years ago. He bounced back a bit this past season, hitting 19-of-22 tries, and he has missed just three extra points throughout his NFL playing days.
Paying Zuerlein more than $2 million per season isn't an egregious amount, and there was only one available kicker rated better (Nick Folk) in our NFL Free Agent Rankings, so I won't grade the Rams poorly for this. Giving Zuerlein a 3-year contract, considering his inconsistency, is a bit odd, however.
Vikings sign DE Datone Jones (1 year, $3.75 million): A- Grade
The Packers have lost two players to 1-year "prove it" contracts today. Eddie Lacy went to go eat cheeseburgers in the Pacific Northwest, and now Datone Jones will be playing for rival Minnesota.
Jones had a rough start to his career despite being a first-round pick in the infamously horrific 2013 NFL Draft. However, he has improved a bit each year and finally developed into a capable player this past season. He wasn't great by any means, but was a jack of all trades; master of none.
The Vikings needed some defensive line depth, and Jones fits in well. I like this move, as Jones comes with no risk on this 1-year contract. Plus, the Vikings have poached from their arch rival, which is always a good move unless the player in question is overpaid. That's not the case here.
Seahawks sign RB Eddie Lacy (1 year, $5.5 million): B Grade
Eddie Lacy has been overweight the past two seasons, though he did average 5.1 yards per carry last year before going down with an injury. Still, Lacy promised to undergo a P90X training regimen this offseason, so perhaps that'll get him into shape. This 1-year "prove it" deal will certainly serve as a motivational tool.
This contract makes a lot of sense. In fact, I think it's perfect. The Seahawks are filling a need with a talented running back who will be extremely motivated. Lacy will be at his best in 2017. While he'll miss Green Bay's great offensive line, the Seahawks could make some blocking upgrades in the 2017 NFL Draft.
I'm grading this as an "A." I love logical "prove it" contracts like this.
Update: Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has reported that Lacy weighed in at 267 pounds at one of his free agent visits. That's about 30 pounds above his playing weight. So much for that P90X regimen. I'm dropping this to a "B." I still like the move because of the upside and zero risk, but this signing no longer seems like a slam dunk.
Panthers sign DE Julius Peppers (1 year, $3.5 million): A- Grade
I generally like 1-year "prove it" deals, but they aren't always perfect. Sometimes, a player signed doesn't stand a chance of proving anything. On other occasions, the money would be better spent being rolled over to the following year. This acquisition, however, doesn't fall under either category.
I like this move quite a bit. The Panthers had to obtain a defensive end, as they were planning on trading Kony Ealy. Julius Peppers should serve as a quality temporary solution across from Charles Johnson. Peppers is 37, but he performed well last year, racking up 7.5 sacks. Even if he regresses a bit more, he'll still be a positive contributor for Carolina.
Peppers is a nice addition for a Panther squad looking to bounce back and win now. He won't have an adjustment period moving back to Carolina either. I'm giving this an A-, and it's not an "A" only because Peppers could decline rapidly at his age. Still though, there's no risk, so the Panthers deserve a great grade.
Colts re-sign RB Robert Turbin (2 years, $4.1 million): C Grade
As far as backup running backs go, Robert Turbin is definitely not one of the better ones. He caught 26 passes last year, and he stole seven touchdowns from Frank Gore, but he was inefficient with his touches. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per reception.
It's a bit disappointing that the Colts currently seem like they're going with Turbin as their No. 2 running back again in 2017. They could always select someone in the draft - the 2017 NFL Draft Running Back Prospects look great - but if they don't, Turbin once again will be an underwhelming No. 2, which is troubling because Gore is now 34.
Giants re-sign G John Jerry (3 years, $10M; $4.25M guaranteed): B Grade
So much for D.J. Fluker taking John Jerry's job. The Giants re-signed Jerry, so the two will compete for one of the guard spots, with Jerry likely opening up as the favorite.
Jerry was considered a poor backup-caliber player prior to 2016, but he inexplicably improved and happened to be a pretty capable starter last year. I was concerned that a team would overpay him and get a lemon in return; Jerry, 31 in June, just happened to improve while he was in his contract year, so if he signed a sizable contract, he could've regressed upon being paid. This deal, however, may ensure that he'll continue to work hard.
I'm fine with this contract, and I think it's worth a "B." Continuity is important on the offensive line, and the Giants are getting a fair price for Jerry's services.
Giants sign G/OT D.J. Fluker (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
Given what offensive linemen have been going for this offseason, I thought it was possible that some team was going to overspend on D.J. Fluker. That didn't turn out to be the case, as the Giants obtained him on a 1-year "prove it" deal.
Fluker, a former first-round pick, played well to start his career, but has struggled recently because of injuries. Though he missed just four games in the past two seasons, Fluker has constantly been banged up, seldom playing at 100 percent. If Fluker can stay healthy, however, he can provide the Giants with a solid starting guard, replacing John Jerry.
I like this move. There's definitely a possibility that Fluker regains 2013-14 form. If not, the Giants don't stand to lose anything.
Lions sign ILB Paul Worrilow (1 year, $3 million): B Grade
When the Lions signed Paul Worrilow, I was afraid that they'd pay him a contract much greater than what he's worth. They had just lost DeAndre Levy, and Worrilow was a 3-year starter for the Falcons before finally serving as a backup last season.
As it turns out, that wasn't the case. The Lions obtained Worrilow for a 1-year, $3 million deal. Detroit still needs starting linebacker, but it had to find depth as well because that was a huge issue in 2016. Worrilow has plenty of experience and won't embarrass himself if he needs to take the field and start some games, so this is a solid signing by Detroit.
Lions sign G T.J. Lang (3 years, $28.5M; $19M guaranteed): B Grade
When T.J. Lang sustained an injury that had him carted off in the playoffs, I'm betting he never would've imagined he'd receive a contract like this. Lang only underwent minor scope procedures, however, so the Lions apparently are confident enough that he'll be 100 percent for 2017.
If Lang is healthy, this is a very good signing. Having offensive line talent is more important than ever in the post-CBA NFL because teams don't practice nearly as often, so that prevents offensive linemen from gelling together. With Lang joining Taylor Decker, Travis Swanson and Ricky Wagner, the Lions have what easily appears to be a top-10 offensive line. If Laken Tomlinson can finally play up to his first-round billing, Detroit could have the best blocking unit in the NFL.
If Lang had no injury issues, I'd grade this as a B+ or an A-. However, I'm deducting the Lions a bit because of the potential hip issues. It sounds like Lang will be fine, but that's not a guarantee, so this contract comes with a decent amount of risk.
Eagles sign QB Nick Foles (2 years, $11 million): B- Grade
The usual going rate for an average backup quarterback has been $3-$4 million per year, though that might be higher now because the cap has increased. Foles is certainly an average No. 2 signal-caller, though the slight overpay is offset by the fact that he knows Doug Pederson's offense very well. Plus, he's quite familiar with the city of Philadelphia, so there won't be any sort of adjustment period for him.
It's not a surprise the Eagles signed Foles. The scuttlebutt has been that they've been wanting to trade Chase Daniel, whom they will soon release because no one is stupid enough to deal for him (not even the Browns). Daniel was not a viable No. 2 quarterback, so Foles offers a big upgrade in that regard.
Ravens sign RB Danny Woodhead (3 years, $8.8 million): B Grade
It's quite the bearish market for running backs. The top four unrestricted free agents at the position - Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Latavius Murray, Jamaal Charles - haven't been touched. The fifth-best unrestricted running back was Danny Woodhead, who signed a contract worth less than $3 million per year with the Ravens.
It's understandable why no one wants to spend on running backs. The position was already oversatured, and now a great group of 2017 NFL Draft Running Back Prospects is coming into the league. The other top free agent runners will have to sign deals similar to Woodhead's.
The Woodhead contract is fine. The Ravens are getting a 32-year-old coming off a torn ACL, so there's some risk, but not very much at his current price. Woodhead will be the third-down back for the entire season, but will see more work in the first four weeks of the year when Kenneth Dixon is serving his PED suspension.
Raiders sign OT Marshall Newhouse (2 years, $3.5 million): B- Grade
Marshall Newhouse is best used as a backup tackle, as he's capable in that role. He actually had to start for the Giants last year, which details how bad their offensive line situation was in 2016. Newhouse struggled, but wasn't horrible. Now, he'll provide insurance for Austin Howard in Oakland.
Considering Newhouse is a functional reserve tackle, the Raiders are paying the appropriate amount of money for him. It sounds as though Newhouse may even have to play because Howard is coming off shoulder surgery. With Menelik Watson gone, it's nice that Oakland will have a reserve with experience.
Saints sign WR Ted Ginn (3 years, $11 million): C Grade
I'm shocked Ted Ginn left Carolina. It's well known that Ginn has barely accomplished anything in the NFL when he's not been on the Panthers. For whatever reason, he just has great chemistry with Cam Newton. He has failed in Miami, San Francisco and Arizona, and now he'll have to avoid struggling in New Orleans.
The one piece of good news is that Ginn will be working with Drew Brees, and opponents won't be able to pay much attention to him. Ginn will take the Brandin Cooks role, and while he will be a downgrade, he should at least be functional in New Orleans' offense. The downside, however, is that Ginn is now 32, and his best days are behind him. Plus, it's far from a guarantee that he'll be productive outside of Carolina.
I think the Saints are overpaying a bit on past (or, Carolina) production, at least on offense. Brees could elevate Ginn's play, but we could pretty much say that about any receiver. I'm giving this signing a "C," as both the Saints and Ginn could've done better than this.
Bears sign CB Marcus Cooper (3 years, $16M; $8M guaranteed): MILLEN BACKSIDE BUSTER Grade
When I listed the players the Bears overpaid in the Markus Wheaton signing grade, I completely missed the Marcus Cooper move. An e-mailer suggested that I look at that contract, and I have to say that I'm appalled.
Why the hell is Marcus Cooper getting more than $5 million annually and $8 million guaranteed? Cooper was one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL last year, and he has struggled for most of his career. He was so awful for the Cardinals that they were more than happy to see him depart. If I knew Cooper had inked a 3-year deal, I would've assumed it was for like $5 million overall (not per year) with about $1 million guaranteed. I actually think that would've been an overpay, but it wouldn't have been as egregious.
This is the 12th Millen of the offseason. It's an easy Millen, and in favor of the NCAA Tournament brackets being released today, it's a backside buster.
Bears sign WR Markus Wheaton (1 year, $6 million): C- Grade
The Bears have had a very mixed offseason. They've made some terrific value signings in Prince Amukamara and Kendall Wright, but they've also overpaid for pedestrian players like Mike Glennon and Dion Sims. This acquisition falls under the latter category.
Markus Wheaton sucks. He was a third-round pick in the horrific 2013 NFL Draft and has disappointed throughout his career. His best season saw him catch 44 balls for 749 yards and five touchdowns, but he was far from an efficient receiver. The fact that he couldn't excel with Ben Roethlisberger speaks volumes, so I have to wonder how he'll produce with the far-inferior Glennon.
I can't grade this poorly because it's a 1-year "prove it" deal that carries no risk, but Wheaton sucks and shouldn't be earning anything close to $6 million. Also, I have to wonder if the Bears would have been better served rolling this $6 million over to next spring.
Jets sign OT Kelvin Beachum (3 years, $24 million): B Grade
I'm a bit disappointed that some team couldn't land Kelvin Beachum on a great value contract. Beachum was awful in 2016, but was coming off an injury, which would explain why he was so ineffective. He was much better for the Steelers beforehand, so he could rebound going forward. I thought this would make him available cheaply, but teams are desperate for tackle help in a poor market.
Beachum, if completely healthy for the first time since 2014, will provide some much-needed help at left tackle. This has been a problem area since D'Brickashaw Ferguson regressed, so Beachum is potentially a quality solution.
I went back and forth between a "B" and a B-. I settled on the "B" because it's not the Jets' fault the market is how it is. They didn't really have an alternative, and they might be getting a very good player.
Ravens sign S Tony Jefferson (4 years, $34M; $19M guaranteed): A- Grade
I didn't consider safety to be a need for the Ravens entering the offseason, given that they had Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb on the roster. However, there's no doubt that Tony Jefferson is a massive upgrade over the latter, so his signing made Webb expendable. As a comparison, Jefferson is third, while Webb is 15th in the NFL Free Agent Safety Rankings.
Is the upgrade worth the price? I think so. Jefferson is a Pro Bowl-level safety, perhaps a tier below someone like Eric Berry. Kansas City's All-Pro safety received $13 million per year this offseason, so we can compare that to Jefferson's contract, which will earn him $8.5 million per season. The disparity between the two players might come close to matching the difference of the salaries, and because I gave Kansas City a B+ for Berry, it makes sense that Baltimore would earn a B+ for Jefferson.
The important thing is that Jefferson makes Baltimore's defense better. The Ravens are now extremely stout on the back end, and Jefferson, who just turned only 25, will be a mainstay on the roster for a very long time.
Lions sign OT Ricky Wagner (5 years, $47.5 million): A- Grade
T.J. Lang just signed with the Lions, so while we wait for the financial details of that contract, let's grade the Ricky Wagner acquisition.
I find it so bizarre that Wagner is set to make less money than Riley Reiff. Whereas Reiff received $11.75 million per year from Minnesota, Wagner is getting $9.5 million per season. That's strange because Wagner is definitely the better player. Granted, Reiff is being asked to play left tackle, but he has failed there before. Wagner, meanwhile, will serve as an upgrade over Reiff, and based on what Reiff is receiving, this is for a very reasonable price.
I like this move a lot, and I'm giving the Lions an A- for it. Offensive line play is more important than ever now in the post-CBA NFL, and Detroit is looking like it'll have one of the best blocking units in the NFL, with Wagner and Lang joining Taylor Decker and Travis Swanson.
Vikings sign OT Riley Reiff (5 years, $58.75 million): C Grade
This contract seems outrageous, but it's the perfect storm of the Vikings being absolutely desperate for offensive line help, and the tackle crop in free agency and the draft being extremely underwhelming.
I can understand why the Vikings are overpaying Riley Reiff, as they can't possibly go through what they did last year again in 2017. That doesn't make it a good signing, however. Reiff is an underwhelming left tackle, yet he'll be asked to man the blind-side position for his new team. This probably won't work out very well, though if the Vikings eventually find an appropriate left tackle and move Reiff to the right side, their offensive line situation will be much better.
I'm not going to punish the Vikings too much because their options are so limited. A "C" seems right to me.
Bears sign CB Prince Amukamara (1 year, $7 million): A Grade
I've gotten a ton of requests for the Prince Amukamara signing grade. Amukamara's financial details weren't available when he signed, so that's why there was no write-up. I have a long list of players I missed, so I'll get to them once I see what their contracts look like.
When the Bears signed Amukamara, I expected I'd grade it in the "B" to C+ range. Amukamara is a very talented player, but has an extensive injury history. He can't be trusted on a long-term deal, and that's what I thought this would be. However, Amukamara signed his second-consecutive 1-year "prove it" deal, which is what he should be on. With this contract, the Bears are taking no risks, and all they're getting is upside. And with Amukamara, there's definitely great upside because of his talent level.
I'm giving the Bears an "A" for this signing. Amukamara, if healthy, will provide a huge, much-needed boost for the secondary. And if he gets hurt again, Chicago doesn't stand to lose anything anyway.
Buccaneers sign S J.J. Wilcox (2 years, $8.5 million): A- Grade
The Buccaneers made one of the top moves of the offseason recently by signing Chris Baker away from Washington. They've managed to follow that up with another solid acquisition, snatching J.J. Wilcox away from the Cowboys to potentially fill a big need in the back end of their defense.
I was worried some team was going to overpay Wilcox this offseason. He had a strong 2016 campaign, but was a bit of a 1-year wonder because he struggled in prior seasons. He's only 26 and has potential, so I thought it was a possibility that a team was going to throw a lot of money his way. The Buccaneers didn't do that, acquiring Wilcox at a cheap price. Perhaps Wilcox will regress, but even if he does, Tampa Bay isn't taking much of a risk. This signing is all upside, so I like it a lot.
Jaguars sign G/OT Earl Watford (2 years, $6 million): D Grade
The five Jacksonville fans in existence have been accusing me of being a "Jaguar hater," whatever that means. Just because I criticize an incompetent franchise for doing stupid things and making mistakes other organizations have been guilty of in the past doesn't mean that I hate them. It just means that I think they're dumb.
This is another example of a dumb signing. Earl Watford was one of the worst offensive linemen in the NFL last year. He was only in the lineup for the Cardinals because of injuries to other players, and he was absolutely atrocious. There's no way in hell he deserves $3 million per year, or even 10 percent of that. Watford is a practice squad-level player who shouldn't have been paid anything more than the minimum, and I have to imagine that Arizona's front office is having a good laugh upon seeing the details of this contract.
Bears sign WR Kendall Wright (1 year, $4 million): B Grade
The Bears lost Alshon Jeffery this offseason, so it's not a surprise that they targeted the receiver position in free agency. Kendall Wright won't exactly replace Jeffery adequately, in all likelihood, but there is upside with this signing.
Wright was once considered a potent receiver. He caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards in 2013, and he's a former first-round pick. Wright, however, is a knucklehead who hasn't been taking his career seriously. Perhaps he'll mature at 27 and contribute for the Bears, but probably not. Still, there's no risk here, so I like Chicago taking a shot on Wright to see if he can become a productive wideout again, so I'm giving the Bears a "B" for this signing.
Texans re-sign TE Ryan Griffin (3 years, $9 million): D Grade
This signing fits with the theme of the offseason thus far: Bad tight ends are making lots of money despite a great group of rookie tight ends being available in the 2017 NFL Draft. There were way worse contracts than this one, but Griffin is still being overpaid.
Griffin drew very little interest on the open market, so why are the Texans paying him $3 million per year? Griffin is a decent blocker, but is a very inefficient receiver, despite his 50 catches in 2016. He should've gotten something close to the veteran minimum.
Bills re-sign DE/OLB Lorenzo Alexander (2 years, $9 million): B+ Grade
Lorenzo Alexander had always been a journeyman linebacker/special-teamer, but he broke out and recorded 12.5 sacks this past season. That said, it's pretty disappointing that Lorenzo Alexander re-signed with the Bills for this contract. First, it's a shame that he couldn't get anything greater than a $9 million contract after dominating in 2016. And second, Buffalo's new coaching staff will be utilizing a defense less suited to Alexander's strengths, meaning he could regress back into posting average production. It would've been nice to have seen Alexander sign elsewhere for a larger deal. Alas, that is not the case.
I'm in favor of the Bills bringing Alexander back, so I'll give them a good grade. However, I just wish Alexander would be given more money and a better opportunity to produce in 2017. It doesn't look like he'll have much of a chance to do that in Buffalo.
Broncos sign DT Domata Peko (2 years, $7.5 million): D Grade
Any team that believes Domata Peko is worth anything more than the veteran minimum hasn't watched him play football over the past few seasons. Peko used to be a solid defender, but he has regressed into a practice squad-caliber player now that he's well into his 30s.
It'll be shocking if Peko even has one good game for the Broncos. That's how bad he's been for Cincinnati. Peko does nothing well anymore, so giving him more than $3 million per season seems utterly ridiculous. I don't think I'd even give him $3 per game.
Patriots sign DE/DT Lawrence Guy (4 years, $20 million): C Grade
For the second day in a row, my apologies for the late grades. I had a wedding rehearsal dinner last night, and I just came back from my fiancee's sister's wedding, which was quite fun. Well, it's time for some more fun now with these free agency grades!
Let's start with the most recent one and work our way back. Guy is a solid, two-down run defender who is versatile enough to fit in any scheme, which Bill Belichick usually likes out of his draft prospects and open-market signings. However, Guy can only stop the run, as he offers very little as a pass-rusher (6.5 career sacks).
I guess it could be argued that Guy has potential. He's only 27 in March, so he could continue to improve. But paying $5 million per year to just a run-defense specialist doesn't seem all that great, but not necessarily horrible.
Chiefs re-sign S Daniel Sorensen (4 years, $16 million): C Grade
Daniel Sorensen has gotten a pretty decent contract for a third safety and skilled special-teamer. He has covered well, but struggled to tackle. Still, he's 27 and has shown some potential.
This seems like a slight overpay, as half of this contract is guaranteed. I don't blame the Chiefs for keeping Sorensen around, but he was a restricted free agent this offseason, and Kansas City didn't really need to re-sign Sorensen just yet. They could've waited and perhaps gotten a better deal had Sorensen been injured in 2017. That's why I'm giving the Chiefs a "C" (plus, it's a slight overpay); not because it's an indictment on Sorensen's ability.
Vikings sign OT Mike Remmers (5 years, $30 million): D Grade
I thought of making this a 12th Millen grade of the offseason, but a few reasons why it's not: First, Remmers has plenty of starting experience and sometimes doesn't embarrass himself. Second, while $30 million overall sounds like a lot, $6 million per year isn't a franchise-crusher. And third, I can't think of a new creative Millen grade. Actually, it's pretty much No. 3.
Remmers is a nice backup swing tackle, but he can't be a starter. He's just not good enough. He's not absolutely horrible, but he's definitely a liability. The Panthers learned this very quickly, and the Vikings will soon discover this awful truth.
I get that the Vikings are desperate for tackle help, and there aren't many options this offseason. But overpaying bad players simply isn't a good idea.
Dolphins sign S Nate Allen (1 year, $3.4 million): B- Grade
Nate Allen played well for the Eagles in his final seasons in Philadelphia, and he cashed in with a $23 million contract with the Raiders. As it turns out, he was merely retiring to California. He struggled mightily and was cut last spring. The Raiders brought him back as a reserve, and he was just below average whenever he saw action in 2016.
The Dolphins need a safety in the wake of losing Isa Abdul-Quddus, but Allen is likely not the answer. That said, he's worth taking a shot on with a 1-year "prove it" deal. I don't have much confidence that he'll revert back to 2014 form, but crazier reclamation projects have worked. There's no risk here, so I think a B- is warranted.
Packers sign TE Martellus Bennett (3 years, $21 million): A Grade
The narrative among the media (i.e. former players) is that the Packers don't spend in free agency. They're often frustrated about this because it means less money is going around for their friends. However, this narrative is simply untrue. The Packers certainly don't splurge in free agency by overpaying for worthless bums, but they do make a smart signing from time to time. Julius Peppers is an example, and now we can add Martellus Bennett to that list.
Let's have the numbers reveal why this is a terrific acquisition. Take a look at what some of the other tight ends have signed for:
Cardinals re-sign TE Jermaine Gresham (4 years, $28 million)
Bears sign TE Dion Sims (3 years, $18M; $10M)
Colts re-sign TE Jack Doyle (3 years, $19 million)
Redskins re-sign TE Vernon Davis (3 years, $15 million)
In what world is Bennett worth as much as Gresham; $1 million per year less than Dion Sims and Jack Doyle; and $2 million less than the decrepit Vernon Davis? Bennett is better than all of these players, and it's not close.
This is a great signing, so I'm giving the Packers an "A." Bennett is going to be a better, more-reliable intermediate target for Aaron Rodgers than Jared Cook was, and he'll help the Packers' offense keep functioning at a high level.
Cowboys re-sign WR Terrance Williams (4 years, $17M; $9.5M guaranteed): D Grade
Ugh. Terrance Williams is like that annoying itch on your back that you can't quite reach. Like the itch, Williams has lingered way longer than he should have, and he just won't go away.
The thing is, you don't give an annoying back itch $17 million over four years. I don't know what the Cowboys are thinking. Williams is a chronic underachiever who caught 44 passes for just 594 yards and four touchdown last year. He's not a viable No. 2 receiver, yet Dallas is paying him like one.
This signing isn't big enough to warrant a 12th Millen, but it's close. This is a severe overpay and very much worth this "D" grade.
Cowboys sign CB Nolan Carroll (3 years, $10 million): B Grade
The Cowboys entered this offseason with the goal of upgrading their pass rush and secondary. Nolan Carroll isn't the answer for the latter area, but he's at least a decent start.
Carroll was Philadelphia's best cornerback in 2015, but regressed greatly last year. I could see him playing somewhat well again, and he could potentially be a solid third corner. That's perfectly fine for what the Cowboys are paying him. This contract is pretty reasonable, provided Carroll doesn't remain awful. I think this signing deserves a "B" grade.
Colts sign DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard (3 years, $25.5M; $12.75M guaranteed): C- Grade
I was wrong. I wrote this earlier in the day: "This new [Colts] regime isn't recklessly splurging on big-name players the first day of free agency." So, it turns out that I was just off by a day because Indianapolis has given Jabaal Sheard $25.5 million over three years for some unknown reason.
It's difficult to understand this contract. It's not the worst we've seen over the past 72 hours, for sure, but it's unclear what the Colts are thinking exactly. Sheard is a decent edge rusher, but recorded only five sacks last year. He also happened to be benched in the process. It was a down year for Sheard, as he notched a career-high eight sacks the season before.
The optimal way to use Sheard is as a rotational, pass-rushing specialist. Bringing him in for starter's money - about $8 million per year would indicate that - seems like a mistake, and I'm going to grade this accordingly.
Panthers sign WR Charles Johnson (1 year, $2.2 million): B Grade
The Panthers have had quite the busy day. They lost Kony Ealy, Mike Remmers, A.J. Klein and a third-round pick. They then poached two players away from the Vikings: Captain Munnerlyn and Charles Johnson. Munnerlyn is the big name, but there are no financial details available yet. Fortunately, we know how much Johnson was going to make.
Much was expected from Johnson when he caught 31 passes for 475 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie in 2014, but he has collected 29 total receptions in the two years since. It's unclear why he has failed to progress, but perhaps being in a new home will help. Johnson has potential, as evidenced by his rookie campaign, so I like the receiver-hungry Panthers taking a shot on him. If he fails, it's no big deal because there's no risk with a 1-year, $2.2 million contract.
Patriots acquire WR Brandin Cooks, 4th-rounder from Saints for 1st- and 3rd-round picks
My apologies for being slow with these grades Friday evening. I just got home from a wedding rehearsal dinner (my fiancee's sister is getting married tomorrow), and I'll get to all of the grades shortly.
I have to say that despite it being speculated for days now, I'm still shocked that this deal went through. It's kind of crazy that the Patriots will have Brandin Cooks in their offense. I didn't even think they'd be in the market for a receiver because they had Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and maybe Michael Floyd on the roster (plus Rob Gronkowski), but Bill Belichick apparently thought differently.
It's going to be fun to watch Tom Brady have a new weapon like Cooks. He hasn't had a dynamic, downfield threat like Cooks since Randy Moss. It might be instinctive to point out that Cooks could decline because he won't be playing with Drew Brees anymore, until you remember that he'll now be paired with Brady, and there theoretically shouldn't be a drop-off. The price is a bit steep for my blood, but at least New England didn't have to surrender Malcolm Butler.
I like the move for the Patriots, but I think the Saints are the winners of this deal. Cooks made it known that he didn't want to be on the roster anymore, and the Saints have two strong receivers without him in Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. New Orleans now has two first-round selections in a very deep draft, so they can use those picks to improve their woeful defense.
Broncos sign OT Menelik Watson (3 years, $18.3 million): MILLEN STRANGER KIELBASAS Grade
This is our 11th Millen grade of the offseason thus far, and in honor of the number 11, I've decided to name this particular Millen grade "Stranger Kielbasas." Stranger kielbasas are much scarier than the Demogorgon, that's for sure!
I find it funny that the Broncos, for about 15 years, were able to laugh at the Raiders and all of their blunders. Oakland was an incompetent organization and couldn't do anything right. Now, it's the Raiders' turn. Not that the Broncos are incompetent, or anything close to that, but Denver signing one of the worst players on Oakland's roster for big money is a complete role reversal, and I imagine that the Raiders are laughing at Denver right now.
And yes, Menelik Watson was that horrible. Watson has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, and he's been terrible while on the field. He's a liability in both pass protection and run blocking, and he won't improve Denver's horrible offensive line in the slightest.
Dolphins sign ILB Lawrence Timmons (2 years, $12M; $11M guaranteed): C- Grade
Lawrence Timmons was once one of the most underrated players in the NFL. I used to scream every summer when he wasn't included in the NFL's Top 100 Players list. Steeler fans certainly appreciated him, as I had gotten complaints from them when I've noted recently that Timmons has regressed. Timmons, now 31 (in May), is unfortunately a shell of his former self, and there's a reason why the Steelers didn't make much of an effort to retain him.
I guess the Dolphins weren't paying attention to how Timmons has performed lately; otherwise, they wouldn't have given him $11 million guaranteed. This would've been a steal two or three years ago, but Timmons has looked done lately. He's been a major liability the past couple of seasons.
Perhaps Timmons will bounce back in a new home, or maybe there was some undisclosed injury that slowed hm down, so I won't give the Dolphins a horrible grade. I doubt he'll rebound, however, as he's been atrocious since 2015. I don't see this working out very well.
Patriots acquire DE Kony Ealy, 3rd-rounder from Panthers for 2nd-round pick
The Patriots are involved in their second blockbuster trade of the offseason. They acquired Dwayne Allen from the Colts a few days ago, and now they've obtained a promising player on the other side of the ball.
Kony Ealy had a tremendous performance in the Super Bowl loss against the Broncos, and he was expected to have a huge 2016 campaign. That didn't happen, however. He recorded five sacks and happened to be a liability in run support. The Panthers were apparently so disappointed with him that they were willing to deal him to New England for a swap of second-day selections.
That said, there's definitely upside for the Patriots. Ealy was a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and he won't turn 26 until December. We've seen him play lights out on the biggest stage in football, so he's definitely capable of thriving in the NFL. Perhaps he'll do that under Bill Belichick's excellent tutelage. If so, Ealy would fill a huge need at defensive end, replacing Chris Long. If not, then New England sacrificed only eight draft spots, which is probably meaningless.
For the Panthers, it's a bit odd that they're giving up on Ealy so quickly. They're moving up from the beginning of the third round to the bottom of the second frame, which just doesn't seem worth it. Why not give Ealy another shot?
Redskins sign WR Terrelle Pryor (1 year, $8 million): A+ Grade
The Redskins really needed this. With all of the drama circulating around Scot McCloughan, Bruce Allen and Kirk Cousins, the Redskins seemed like they were on the verge of collapse. This signing will at least help calm everyone in Washington down, at least temporarily.
This is one of the best signings of free agency thus far. Pryor was terrific last year despite playing with awful quarterbacks, and he was 20th in the Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings page. He should've gotten a big contract, so I don't know why he's settling for a 1-year "prove it" deal for $8 million. Considering that receivers who are far worse - Robert Woods, Kenny Britt, Kenny Stills, to name a few - all received deals much greater than this, the Redskins are getting an incredible value.
Lions sign CB D.J. Hayden (1 year, $5.25 million): B Grade
D.J. Hayden's 1-year contract with Detroit says it's worth $5.25 million, but that's the maximum value of it, as Hayden will need to hit incentives to reach that total. The base salary is currently unknown, but I can't imagine it being very much above the veteran minimum.
Assuming that's the case, I don't see a problem with signing Hayden. He was the No. 12 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, so he definitely has potential despite playing horrifically throughout his career. Of course, it could be argued that Hayden shouldn't have even been selected in the first round - he was considered a major reach at the time - but the fact remains that he at least has some upside.
Hayden is just 27 (in June), so perhaps the Lions will be able to mold him into at least a capable reserve. On a low-risk deal, why not take a chance on him? I'm giving Detroit a "B" for this, as there isn't any sort of downside.
Titans sign S John Cyprien (4 years, $25 million): A Grade
Don't look now, but the Titans are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They already had a capable quarterback, strong running game, great offensive line, and dangerous pass rush last year, but they were sorely lacking in the secondary. That is no longer the case in the wake of the John Cyprien and Logan Ryan acquisitions.
I wrote about Ryan below. I gave that a "B." I like this signing a lot more. Cyprien was 14th in my Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings page. He was one of the top safeties in the NFL last year, and he's only 27 (in July), so getting him for about $6 million per year seems like an incredible bargain, especially considering all of the bad contracts that have been issued this offseason.
I think this signing deserves an "A" for sure. I wouldn't have batted an eye had Cyprien obtained about $40 million over four seasons from the Titans, so $25 million over the same span is a great deal. There's no doubt that he improves Tennessee's secondary big time.
49ers sign WR Pierre Garcon (5 years, $47.5M; $17M guaranteed): B+ Grade
I normally wouldn't advise signing 31-year-old receivers to big contracts like this, but I think Pierre Garcon is a special case. Garcon is one of the elite route-runners in the NFL, and players like that tend to perform well into their 30s.
The other factor is that Garcon has played for Kyle Shanahan before, so there won't be any sort of transition into a new system. Garcon currently doesn't have a quality quarterback to catch passes from, but it's sounding more and more like the 49ers will acquire Kirk Cousins either this offseason or next. You can read all about that in the NFL Rumor Mill.
I'll give the Redskins a B+ for this signing. They were devoid of offensive weapons, and Garcon certainly changes that. He's being signed to a fair contract, and he should continue to play well for most of the deal, especially considering his comfort level with Shanahan.
Saints sign ILB A.J. Klein (3 years, $15M; $9.4M guaranteed): D Grade
Man, the Saints really need to get this linebacker thing under control. They have a history of signing pedestrian players at the position for too much money. They obtained James Laurinaitis last offseason for $8.25 million contract over three years, which was a colossal mistake - I gave them a "D" for it last spring - and now they're making the same error with A.J. Klein.
Klein making $5 million per year with $9.4 million guaranteed makes absolutely no sense. I had him as the 22nd player in the NFL Free Agent Inside Linebacker Rankings. He's capable in run support, but completely lost in coverage. Someone of his caliber should've taken a $5 million deal over two seasons. Something like that. But this is a major overpay.
This contract isn't large enough to warrant the 11th Millen of the offseason, but as with the Laurinaitis signing, I'm giving this a "D."
Saints sign G Larry Warford (4 years, $34M; $17M guaranteed): A- Grade
We were once told that the Saints value interior blocking over exterior protection because Drew Brees hates getting pressured up the middle more than anything else. As a result, it's understandable why New Orleans is paying big bucks to Larry Warford.
There are other reasons why this signing makes so much sense. Warford fills a huge need, and he happened to be the third-best unrestricted player in the NFL Free Agent Guard Rankings. He's an excellent blocker and will surely improve New Orleans' offense. Also, the 2017 NFL Draft class is weak on the offensive line, so it would make sense that someone like Warford would get paid close to $9 million per season.
Because offensive line play is more important than ever in the post-CBA NFL, I'm going to give the Saints an A- for this signing. They've added a very talented player who will provide a big boost, all at a reasonable price.
Packers re-sign DE/OLB Nick Perry (5 years, $60 million): C Grade
If someone told me a year ago that Nick Perry would be signing a $60 million contract in March 2017, I would've laughed in their face and then called the local insane asylum to have them committed. Yet, here we are, as Perry will now be earning $12 million per year.
Perry notched 11 sacks in 2016, serving as the Packers' top pass-rusher as the result of Clay Matthews laboring through an injury. Based on that production alone, this contract is very warranted. However, the fact that Perry is a one-hit wonder can't be ignored. Perry had done absolutely nothing prior to 2016, as his season-best sack total was just four. He was considered a colossal bust as a first-round pick in 2012, and he was under a 1-year "prove it" contract throughout this past season. I find it awfully suspicious that Perry hadn't been productive until there was a big pay day on the line.
I'm giving the Packers a "C." This isn't an awful signing because it'll work out well if Perry continues to perform on a high level. However, there's definitely a decent chance that he'll regress, and so I wouldn't have risked it, especially with the 2017 NFL Draft Defensive End Prospects being so talented.
Eagles re-sign C Stefen Wisniewski (3 years, $9 million): A- Grade
Stefen Wisniewski is one of the more underrated players in the NFL. He can start at all three interior offensive line positions, and he has performed well for most of his career. He did well as a reserve last year, but now it's being speculated that this contract might mean that Philadelphia could part ways with Jason Kelce. It's been clear that the Eagles have been displeased with Kelce, who was awful in 2016. Wisniewski could shift to center and serve as an upgrade.
I like this move, and I'm giving the Eagles an A- for it. Giving Wisniewski $3 million per year would seem reasonable in most markets, but this is a bad one for offensive linemen. Talented blockers are scarce, so the Eagles are doing well to lock up one of the few who happens to be available.
Colts sign DE/OLB John Simon (3 years, $13.5 million): A- Grade
This is a nice little signing for the Colts, who have major pass-rushing issues. Simon won't come close to solving all of those problems on his own, but he'll certainly help the team generate more heat on opposing passers.
Simon was a nice third edge rusher for the Texans last year, as he's generated 8.5 sacks in the past two seasons despite missing five games in 2016 with a chest injury. He'll have a greater role in Indianapolis because he won't be playing behind Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus, and I expect his production to rise accordingly.
I'm giving the Colts an A- for this. It's a very reasonable deal for a solid player, and Indianapolis is stealing a resource from its arch rival. More importantly, this signals that unlike Ryan Grigson, this new regime isn't recklessly splurging on big-name players the first day of free agency, a strategy that seldom pays off (take note, Jaguars).
Dolphins acquire DE William Hayes, 7th-rounder from Rams for 6th-round pick
I don't understand what the Rams are doing. They spent countless millions on Robert Woods on Thursday, and then they sent William Hayes packing to Miami for almost nothing Friday morning. The Rams were apparently going to cut Hayes, so they at least got something for him. That part is at least logical. What doesn't make sense is why they'd want to release Hayes in the first place.
Hayes is a solid rotational defensive end. He can play about half the snaps and do everything pretty decently. He has recorded 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons and hasn't been a liability in run support. He's a nice player to have on the defensive line, so I don't understand why the Rams were so desperate to get rid of him.
I'm sure the Dolphins don't get it either, since, you know, they traded for him. As mentioned, the Dolphins are giving up almost nothing. They're moving down from the sixth to the seventh round, which is almost meaningless. They seem like the clear-cut winners of this trade.
Titans sign CB Logan Ryan (3 years, $30 million): B Grade
The Titans have a lot going for them, but entering this offseason, they had a huge weakness: their secondary. They recognized that and put a great amount of effort into fixing that problem. They signed safety John Cyprien earlier, and now they've added Logan Ryan, the No. 4 player in the 2017 NFL Free Agent Cornerback Rankings.
Ryan has been a terrific player for the Patriots, as he's performed on a high level the past two seasons. He projects to be much better than what the Titans had at the position last year. Tennessee was torched mercilessly versus strong aerial attacks all year. That probably will not happen in 2017.
I like this move, but the one concern I have is how Ryan will function now that he won't have Bill Belichick's tutelage. Belichick was fine with Ryan leaving the team, so perhaps this is an indicator that I should be more pessimistic about this signing. Still, there's a good chance that it pans out, so I'll give Tennesse a solid "B."
Dolphins extend S Reshad Jones (5 years, $60M; $35M guaranteed): B+ Grade
You don't know what you got till it's gone. The Dolphins felt that way about Reshad Jones after losing him to a season-ending shoulder injury in 2016. Miami's secondary was far worse without him in the final 10 games of the year, plus the playoff defeat at Pittsburgh.
Jones is a terrific safety. He's one of the top players at his position in the NFL, and now he'll be paid like it. It's great of the Dolphins to lock him up, even if it has cost them $35 million in guarantees.
I like this move for Miami, but there's one concern. Jones just turned 29, so he could begin to slow down by the end of this contract. However, that's only a very minor worry because safeties have shown that they can perform well into their mid-30s.
Falcons sign DE Jack Crawford (3 years, $10.3 million): D Grade
...And we're back to terrible contracts. Like some of the other ones I posted Thursday evening, this deal is bad enough to be a Millen, except it's not for enough money to make a big impact on the franchise once it inevitably fails.
I don't understand why the Falcons think Jack Crawford is worth about $3.5 million per season. He's 34th in our 2017 NFL Free Agent Defensive End Rankings. And never mind all of the talented edge rushers in the 2017 NFL Draft. Crawford is a situational edge rusher who doesn't put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He was a non-factor for Dallas, and I have difficulty imagining him doing anything substantial for the Falcons.
Buccaneers sign DT Chris Baker (3 years, $15.75M; $9M guaranteed): A+ Grade
On a day comprised of so many horrific signings, it's refreshing to see such a great acquisition. The Buccaneers get an A+ for signing Chris Baker.
It's almost absurd how great this contract is compared to many of the other signings. Baker, a terrific defensive tackle who clamps down on the run and puts adequate pressure on opposing passers, is set to earn a bit less than $6 million per season. As a comparison, two pedestrian tight ends, Dion Sims and Jermaine Gresham, will be earning more. Seriously, what planet is this?
Baker is a great fit for the Buccaneers. They've been searching for the perfect complement for Gerald McCoy since, well, McCoy was drafted, and they finally have one. Congrats, Bucs.
Giants sign TE Rhett Ellison (4 years, $18M; $8M guaranteed): C- Grade
OK, what's the big idea here? Did all of the NFL teams meet secretly and say, "OK let's sign crappy tight ends for big money to troll Walter Football's Site lulz?" I don't understand. Rhett Ellison is a fine blocker, but giving him $8 million is absurd in such a favorable market for tight ends.
This grade is a C- because it's not nearly as bad as the other tight end signings. Sure, Ellison the 13th-ranked player in the NFL Free Agent Tight End Rankings, but a $4.5 million annual salary is better than the $6 million-plus atrocities we've seen.
Patriots re-sign S Duron Harmon (4 years, $17M; $6.5M guaranteed): B Grade
Duron Harmon isn't a great player by any means, and I'm not even sure how effective he'd be on a lot of other teams. However, he's a valuable matchup chess piece for Bill Belichick. New England is the best team in the NFL at adjusting its game plan to what the opposition is doing, and Harmon is a big part of that from a personnel standpoint.
I think the Patriots probably could've retained Harmon a bit cheaper, hence the "B" grade, but I guess they just wanted to make sure he didn't go anywhere. I'm fine with this contract for that reason.
Eagles sign G Chance Warmack (1 years, $1.51 million): B+ Grade
Chance Warmack was awful as a member of the Titans. He struggled in every regard for three years and then missed all but two games last season with a hand injury. Based on the way he has played, he has no business being in the NFL.
So, why the B+? Well, Warmack was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. That was the worst draft class of all time, sure, but Warmack still has potential and talent. He's also still just 25. It's possible that the Eagles could mold him into a capable starter, or maybe a reliable backup. I'm sure Titan fans think that's far-fetched, but crazier things have happened. Besides, even if the Eagles fail and get nothing out of Warmack, they won't have risked anything on this 1-year, $1.51 million contract. It's all upside.
Bengals re-sign CB Dre Kirkpatrick (5 years, $52 million): B- Grade
The Bengals lost Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth to free agency today. Fortunately, they were at least able to retain Dre Kirkpatrick, their No. 3 free agent behind the two talented blockers.
This feels like an overpay, especially with all of the talented 2017 NFL Draft Cornerback Prospects available this April. Kirkpatrick is a very skilled player who performed on a high level in 2016, but had disappointed before that. Kirkpatrick conveniently had his best season during his contract year, so that would make me concerned if I were paying him big bucks like this.
That said, I'm still giving the Bengals a B-. After losing their top two free agents, they couldn't allow Kirkpatrick to get away, so I understand why they overpaid. Plus, there's definitely a chance that Kirkpatrick will continue to play extremely well.
Bills sign S/KR Micah Hyde (5 years, $30M; $14M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Bills lost Aaron Williams to a possible career-ending injury. They were looking to find a viable replacement, and they may have done so in former Packer Micah Hyde.
Hyde can do plenty of things. He can play nickel and safety, and he can return punts very effectively. Hyde can also simply match up against opposing tight end threats and cover them well.
I like this signing. I had Hyde listed as a three-star free agent in my 2017 NFL Free Agent Safety Rankings. He'll prove to be a valuable member of Buffalo's defense and special teams going forward, so I'll give Buffalo a B+ for signing him.
Lions sign DT Akeem Spence (3 years, $10.5 million): D Grade
I don't know what's happening with these contracts. I know the cap has risen, but there's no reason that bad players should be getting lots of money. Paying the hot dog vendors a few extra bucks seems like a better use of funds.
Akeem Spence was our 45th-ranked player in the NFL Free Agent Defensive Tackle Rankings. Yes, 45th. If you don't know anything about Spence, he's a defensive tackle who isn't good at anything, including staying healthy. He's dealt with back and ankle injuries in the past. Oh, and he was arrested three years ago. Other than that, he's a great player!
I'm tempted to make this the 11th Millen in 36 hours, but this contract isn't big enough to justify that. I'll have to settle with a "D."
Falcons re-sign TE Levine Toilolo (3 years, $12 million): D Grade
I must sound like a broken record, but I don't understand why these tight ends are getting so much money. It seems so stupid. Thr incoming class of tight ends in the 2017 NFL Draft is one of the best we've ever seen, so no team should be shelling out so much money to pedestrian free agents like Levine Toilolo.
Fortunately for the Falcons, they escape a dreaded Millen grade because this contract isn't as egregious as the other ones. Whereas other sub-par tight ends are earning $6 million per year for some unknown reason, Toilolo's salary will be $4 million per season.
Still, this is an overpay. Toilolo is a solid blocker, but doesn't do anything in the passing game. There's no reason he should've been given this sort of contract.
Bears sign TE Dion Sims (3 years, $18M; $10M): MILLEN GAME OF KIELBASAS COMING IN JULY Grade
We've done it. Ten Millen grades in 36 hours. Truly an amazing feat. This just might be the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) free agency ever!
Am I missing something here? Why is Dion Sims getting $6 million per year and $10 million guaranteed? Sims is a decent blocking tight end who offers very little in the passing game. Blocking tight ends grow on trees, and tight ends in particular are plentiful this offseason. I've said this repeatedly, but the 2017 NFL Draft Tight End Prospects in this class are truly out of this world.
This seems like an easy "F" (Millen) grade to me. With a great crop of tight ends in the 2017 NFL Draft, why any team would spend $6 million per year on a pedestrian player at the position seems completely asinine.
Ravens re-sign NT Brandon Williams (5 years, $54M; $27.5M): B+ Grade
Since I'm doing these grades back to back, I have to marvel at how similar the contracts are for Brandon Williams and Matt Kalil. One happens to be a Pro Bowl nose tackle, while the other is a lineman who hasn't played well in three years. And yet, they're just $1.5 million apart somehow!
Williams has become the highest-paid nose tackle in the NFL. It could be argued that he's the best 3-4 nose tackle in the NFL, now that Snacks Harrison is in New York's 4-3. Still though, this seems like a lot of money for a player who's on the field for about 60 percent of the defensive snaps each week.
That said, I'm giving the Ravens a B+. I won't go lower than that because they're retaining one of their top players, and allowing him to walk would've severely weakened the defense. This may be a lot of money, but with the increased cap, these sorts of deals should be expected.
Panthers sign OT Matt Kalil (5 years, $55M; $25M guaranteed): MILLEN: THE BACK SIDE Grade
The Panthers had the Blind Side in Michael Oher, and now they have the Back Side, a grade for this utterly awful signing.
Details weren't available when this acquisition was first announced, so my brain nearly exploded when Landon E. sent me an e-mail, notifying me of the financial implications. I can't believe Matt Kalil is set to earn $55 million over five years. It's absolutely mind-boggling. Kalil hasn't been healthy in years, and he hasn't put together a quality season since 2013. He was atrocious in two games this past year before getting knocked out for the final 14 contests. This wasn't a surprise, given that he's incapable of staying healthy.
If Kalil hasn't played well in three years, why is he getting this massive contract? It makes no sense. Kalil should've gotten something like $9 million over three seasons. Handing him $11 million per year and $25 million in guarantees is asinine, and I have no choice but to deliver my ninth Millen in the past 30 or so hours.
Patriots sign CB Stephon Gilmore (5 years, $65M; $40M guaranteed): B- Grade
Stephon Gilmore had been a dominant cornerback entering 2016, but he struggled last season. He was so bad that the Bills decided that they didn't want to back, eschewing the chance to franchise him. As a result, he hit the open market and signed with arch-rival New England. I imagine this is something Buffalo will regret going forward.
I'm shocked by the value of this deal. Considering Gilmore's 2016 struggles, $40 million guaranteed is a massive amount. I thought one team was going to be able to buy low on him, but apparently not.
Once I saw the financial details of this contract for the first time, I immediately thought I'd give New England something in the "C" range. However, I thought about it, and if Gilmore performs like he did in 2015 and beforehand, they'll have one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL at their disposal. And if they don't trade Malcolm Butler, they'll be almost impossible to throw against.
As a result, I'm bumping this grade up to a B-. This signing is still an overpay considering 2016 performance, but it has a ton of upside.
Buccaneers sign WR DeSean Jackson (3 years, $35M; $20M guaranteed): C Grade
If you've been reading this Web site for a while, you're well aware that I'm not a big fan of DeSean Jackson. He's made my top-10 overrated player list on numerous occasions, as he's a one-trick pony who tends to get banged up too often. Granted, he does that one trick very well, but now that he's 30, that may not last very long.
Jackson, while healthy, will provide Jameis Winston with a potent deep threat, but he'll prove to be an inconsistent producer and an unreliable teammate. Jackson's entire game is based on his blazing speed, but that'll evaporate in the near future. Once that's gone, he won't be any sort of threat, and that may occur sooner than later.
I've made it sound that I absolutely hate this signing, but I don't. It's just not a very good one, and I think it's worth a "C." I think Jackson will help the Buccaneers at times, but he's earning way too much money on this contract.
Steelers re-sign QB Landry Jones (2 years): F Grade
I haven't found any financial details on this contract yet, but I don't care. This deal could be for two years, three cents, and it wouldn't change anything. It's awful, and it fully deserves to be graded poorly.
I don't understand why the Steelers continue to insist that Landry Jones is a viable No. 2 quarterback. He's one of the worst backups in the NFL. He was 25th in my 2017 NFL Free Agent Quarterbacks, listed below Vince Young and Josh Freeman, both of whom are out of the league. Jones is so bad that the Steelers have become an automatic fade in the preseason; they're 3-14 in their past four Augusts!
This is an "F." I'm not even willing to figure out a Millen grade for this. It's just bad and embarrassing that Jones continues to be named a No. 2 quarterback, and the Steelers should be ashamed of themselves.
Browns sign C J.C. Tretter (3 years, $16.5 million): A Grade
This signing occurred Thursday morning, but it snuck by me, which is why I hadn't posted a grade for it until now. I wish I didn't have Cleveland fans wait so long because it's a great move.
The Browns, despite losing, were competitive early in 2016. They took the Dolphins to overtime; were up 20-2 versus Baltimore; and had a lead on the Redskins in the fourth quarter. Things changed in the second half of the season, however, once they sustained so many injuries to their offensive line. Now with Kevin Zeitler and J.C. Tretter in the lineup, the Browns will have one of the top offensive fronts in the NFL if they can find a capable right tackle.
Good offensive line play is more important than ever in the post-CBA NFL, and that's one of the reasons I'm giving the Browns an "A" for this signing. Another reason is because Tretter is so cheap. Aside from Nick Mangold, he was the best center available, and while I don't expect him to play as well outside of Green Bay's system, I still expect him to be a massive upgrade over the anemic Cameron Erving.
Colts sign DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo (1 year, $2.5 million): B Grade
Barkevious Mingo was one of countless busts from the 2013 NFL Draft. He was taken sixth overall, but has collected just seven career sacks. That said, he hasn't been an awful player. He stops the run well and can be valuable on special teams, so he'll be able to contribute in a positive fashion.
If Colt fans are expecting Mingo to help their pass rush, they'll be disappointed. However, Mingo is still just 26, so it's possible that he could improve his game. With that in mind, I like this signing, as it provides all upside with no risk.
Chargers sign OT Russell Okung (4 years, $53M; $25M guaranteed): C+ Grade
The Chargers know a thing or two about injury-prone offensive linemen, given how many injuries they've had to their blockers over the years. With that in mind, I'm shocked they're paying Russell Okung so much money.
Okung is very talented, but has had trouble staying on the field. He did play all 16 games in 2016, but he can't be counted on to remain healthy this upcoming season. Okung had missed 13 games in the three seasons prior to last year.
Having said that, I understand where the Chargers are coming from. They're desperate to protect Philip Rivers, and the offensive line market is very weak, so it's not like they had many options. Plus, Okung provides so much upside. I just wish the Chargers weren't spending so much to get him.
Redskins sign S D.J. Swearinger (3 years, $13.5 million): B+ Grade
The Redskins have gotten three Millen grades in a span of 24 hours, thanks to their general manager being absent, so it's odd to see them make a quality signing.
This is actually a pretty good move. D.J. Swearinger played well for the Cardinals last year, especially in coverage. He's just 26 years old, so there's no reason to think he'll suddenly regress. He also fills a big need for the Redskins, who had issues at safety.
I'm grading this as a B+. I don't know why the Redskins' other signings were like this, but perhaps this is a positive omen that Washington will be able to turn things around.
Saints re-sign DT Nick Fairley (4 years, $30 million): C- Grade
Nick Fairley was made to play on 1-year "prove it" deals. In fact, I think his parents almost named him One-Year Prove It Fairley. That, of course, is because Fairley is too lethargic to be counted on while playing on a long-term contract.
That's what makes this contract so mind-boggling. It's so well known that Fairley tends to be lazy that he had to stay on 1-year "prove it" deals for consecutive seasons. That's not the case anymore in the wake of this contract. Fairley is set to earn $30 million over four years, which is just asking for trouble.
I have no choice but to grade this poorly. The Saints themselves gave Fairley a 1-year "prove it" deal last spring, so they have to be at least somewhat aware of what they're getting themselves into. It won't be pretty when Fairley shows up to training camp at 340 pounds, but it's going to happen at some point.
Seahawks sign G/OT Luke Joeckel (1 year, $8 million): C+ Grade
Luke Joeckel was the second-overall pick four years ago, but now he's close to being out of the league. The Seahawks are giving him one more chance on a 1-year "prove it" contract, which I typically like.
Despite this being a "prove it" deal, I can't give the Seahawks better than a C+ for this. It's not like Joeckel used to be good, but got bogged down by injuries. He has never played well, so I'm wondering why he has to make $8 million in 2017. Had this been for $3-$4 million, it would've made a lot more sense.
Joeckel has potential, at least, and believe it or not, but he could be an upgrade over what the Seahawks had at tackle last year. That's how bad their situation was. Thus, I think this grade should be a C+ despite the high price.
Redskins sign DE/DT Stacy McGee (5 years, $25 million): MILLEN TRADES STINKY KIELBASAS FOR CAP RELIEF Grade
When Daniel Snyder took over the Redskins, he spent all of his energy signing has-beens to big contracts in free agency. Now, the Redskins have moved on to signing never-have-beens to big contracts in free agency. It's nice to see them evolve!
The Redskins entered free agency needing two defensive ends. They signed Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, and they still need two defensive ends. McGee played well at times last year, but was seldom on the field because of injuries. McGee was just a rotational player for the Raiders, but now he'll be asked to start.
I thought about giving the Redskins an unprecedented third Millen grade in 48 hours, but I think I'll be nice and mark this down as a "D." It's a SEVERE overpay - yes, caps were needed - but McGee at least has potential, I guess. Eh. Wait, you know what? This is a Millen. No one in their right mind was going to give McGee anything close.
Jaguars sign CB A.J. Bouye (5 years, $67.5 million): C+ Grade
A.J. Bouye had played the Jaguars twice per year with the Texans. He saw first hand how bad they are. He knows what he's getting into, so he doesn't care about winning. He's chasing money and going to a horrible franchise, and moves like that seldom work.
Bouye played extremely well for the Texans last season, but he's a 1-year wonder. I thought it'd be risky to give Bouye such a big contract, but the Jaguars apparently don't care, as they're once again spending money with reckless abandon.
As with the Calais Campbell grade, I'm not going to give the Jaguars a horrible mark because of the potential. But I think a C+ is warranted. They're risking that A) Bouye won't regress from his one great year, and B) Bouye will remain motivated. As we saw last year, it's difficult for a team to try hard for all 16 games when Blake Bortles is the quarterback.
Eagles sign WR Alshon Jeffery (1 year, $14 million): A Grade
I was wondering what sort of contract Alshon Jeffery would receive, considering that he's had trouble staying on the field. Whether it's been injuries or PED-related suspensions, Jeffery hasn't been very reliable recently, missing 11 games the past two seasons, which is a shame considering his high talent level.
What the Eagles did seems perfect. I love 1-year "prove it" contracts, and Jeffery is the ideal candidate for one. Jeffery, if he remains on the field, will be very productive for the Eagles, and Carson Wentz will love throwing to him. If not, then the Eagles don't stand to lose anything, given that Jeffery will just be a free agent again next spring.
I'm giving the Eagles an "A." They've potentially improved their team with a talented player, and they're not taking any sort of risk by doing so. Great job.
Browns acquire QB Brock Osweiler, 2018 2nd-round pick, 2017 6th-round pick for 2017 4th-round pick
Wow, I don't ever recall seeing anything like this in the NFL. It happens all the time in the NBA, where one team sends a highly paid player and a draft pick to another franchise for cap relief, but this doesn't happen in football. It's prevalent in basketball because of guaranteed contracts, but the Texans effectively had to pay $16 million to Osweiler no matter what. Well, not anymore. They're completely off the hook.
I actually think this is a fantastic trade for both teams. For the Texans, they now have the cap space to either sign or trade for Tony Romo. Osweiler was a complete failure, and they already admitted that they made a mistake by benching him in favor of Tom Savage. I like that they're getting rid of him and just admitting that he's a sunk cost. That's the smart thing to do rather than to stubbornly keep him around. Sure, it has cost them a second-round pick in 2018, but if that means getting Romo and competing for the Super Bowl this year, then it's worth it.
As for the Browns, they had the most cap space in the NFL entering free agency, so they can afford to have Osweiler hang out for a year for $16 million. And for a second-round pick in a loaded 2018 draft class? Why not? On top of that, perhaps the Browns will be able to develop Osweiler. He was once considered a promising quarterback, and he's only 26. Perhaps he'll amount to something. And if not, well, the Browns can just cut him next spring and not worry about it.
Browns sign G Kevin Zeitler (5 years, $60M; $31.5M guaranteed): B Grade
The Browns screwed up royally earlier in the day when they overpaid for Kenny Britt. It's nice to see them make amends with this signing.
Kevin Zeitler is now the highest-paid guard in the NFL. It's well deserved, as he was a five-star player listed in the Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings. Zeitler is terrific in every blocking aspect, and he's only 27. He'll theoretically been playing on an extremely high level throughout the duration of this contract.
My one concern with this signing is that Zeitler is going from a perennial playoff contender to a horrible organization, so money is his primary motivation. However, there are some counter points. The first one is his age; unlike Calais Campbell (see below), Zeitler is in his prime and will continue to be so for the next four or five years. Second, the offensive line market is a very weak one, so teams will have to overpay. Offensive line play is more important than ever in the post-CBA NFL, and Cleveland has added a tremendous blocker. And third, the Browns are stealing a very valuable member from a divisional rival. That has to count for something.
I can't give an "A" to a big-money contract like this, but I think the Browns deserve a "B." They had the most cap space in the league, and unlike the Britt signing, they're spending their money wisely in this situation.
Jets re-sign G Ben Ijalana (2 years, $11 million): D Grade
I don't know who Ben Ijalana slept with to earn $11 million over two years from the Jets, but apparently it paid off. Quite literally.
Ijalana is not a good offensive lineman. In fact, he should consider it a compliment to be considered "sub par." Ijalana can't pass protect or run block effectively, and he has never played well in his entire NFL career. It would actually make more sense for him to be earning $1.1 million over two years, and I'm not even joking about that.
The Jets should consider themselves fortunate not to be slapped with a Millen grade for this, but the one thing saving them is that they're desperate for linemen in a very weak market. That, and I've run out of Millen grade ideas.
Jaguars sign DE/DT Calais Campbell (4 years, $60M; $30M guaranteed): C Grade
Calais Campbell has been a great player. There's no doubt about that. He's been tremendous in all facets of the game, clamping down on the run and generating great pressure on the quarterback. Excluding J.J. Watt, it could be argued that Campbell has been the best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL over the years.
You may have noticed that I'm not talking in present tense, and there's a reason for that. Campbell turns 31 in September, so the Jaguars are paying on past production. Campbell should still be a great player for them, at least on paper, but he won't be as dominant as he was in the past.
The other caveat is that this is yet another high-profile player the Jaguars are signing from a perennial playoff contender. This has failed in almost every instance for Jacksonville. Campbell clearly doesn't care very much about his career; otherwise, he would stay in Arizona or take less money to play for a Super Bowl contender. He's cashing out and effectively retiring to Florida. I can't exactly blame him. After all, if the Jaguars are willing to give him tons of money, why wouldn't he take it?
This doesn't deserve a Millen, or anything, but I don't like this signing for Jacksonville. Even though Campbell fills a big need, this just doesn't seem like a great fit. I imagine Jacksonville will be disappointed by this signing.
Cardinals re-sign DE Chandler Jones (5 years, $83M; $53M guaranteed): B+ Grade
This is a ton of money, but Chandler Jones is one of the top edge rushers in the NFL, so it's warranted. Of course, in big contracts like this, it has to be considered whether the team is paying on past production and should expect to see a similar (or better) level of play going forward. In this case, I think the Cardinals should feel optimistic.
Jones has recorded double-digit sacks in three of the past four seasons, and he's only 27. Thus, he'll likely still be at the top of his game toward the end of this contract. Given the massive amount of money he's receiving, that's absolutely imperative.
I'm going to grade this as a B+, but it could be an A-. Given that the Cardinals dealt a second-round pick for Jones, it was imperative that they lock him up. Mission accomplished.
Patriots re-sign DT Alan Branch (2 years, $12 million): B+ Grade
Alan Branch is a terrific run-stuffing defensive tackle who was instrumental in New England's Super Bowl run. It was reported that Branch would be suspended late in the year, which would've been very detrimental to the Patriots' chances, but he won an appeal and the rest was history.
Bringing Branch back is a very good move, especially at a reasonable price like this. The one concern is Branch's age - he recently turned 32 - but he should be able to play well for at least the following year.
Browns extend G Joel Bitonio (5 years, $51M; $23M guaranteed): A Grade
We just had another guard signing, so let's put the two contracts side by side:
Joel Bitonio: 5 years, $51M; $23M guaranteed
Ronald Leary: 4 years, $35M; $20M guaranteed
Bitonio is making slightly more per year at $10.2 million compared to Leary's $8.8 million. The guaranteed money is nearly the same as well. With that in mind, the Browns have to be heavily praised for this contract. Bitonio is one of the top guards in the NFL. He's only 25, and he's been a force for them thus far when healthy. The Browns have lost so many talented players in recent years, so watching Bitonio depart would've been crushing.
This may seem like a lot of money for a guard who has gotten hurt often the past two years, and in a vacuum, I have to believe it is. However, the Browns have more cap space than any team in the NFL, and they need to make sure that they keep their few remaining talented players. Also, the 2017 NFL Draft is weak on the offensive line, so it's not like Cleveland could acquire anyone to replace Bitonio. As a result of this, I'm giving the Browns a rare "A" grade.
Broncos sign G Ronald Leary (4 years, $35M; $20M guaranteed): B- Grade
The Broncos have made Ronald Leary the fourth-highest-paid guard in the NFL, which doesn't seem right. Leary is a good blocker for sure, but he's certainly not in the top 10 of guards in the league. He might be in the 11-20 range, and even that is debatable.
That said, I'm not going to grade Denver poorly. Unlike some of the bums who signed big contracts today - Kenny Britt, Robert Woods, Terrible McClain, to name a few - Leary is actually a good player, and he'll improve Denver's offensive line. That's definitely needed, as the Broncos endured some horrific blocking last year. Everyone in the media focused on quarterbacking being Denver's biggest problem, but that simply wasn't true. The woes on the offensive line were far more dire, and signing Leary is a big step in fixing those issues.
I think a B- makes sense, and I think you could make the case for this being a solid "B." It's an overpay, but considering that the 2017 NFL Draft class is weak on the offensive line, the Broncos may have correctly felt that they didn't have many alternatives.
Bears sign S Quintin Demps (3 years, $13.5 million): B+ Grade
This is the contract Mike Glennon should've received. Instead, it's going to Quintin Demps, who had been a journeyman special-teamer throughout his career until recently. Demps had improved his game enough to become a capable starter.
Demps will provide the Bears with some much-needed veteran stability in the secondary, so I like this move. The one concern is that Demps turns 32 in June, but we've seen safeties play well into their mid-30s if properly motivated. Considering Demps' work ethic, I have to believe that he'll be able to perform on a somewhat high level for at least a couple of more seasons. As a result, I like this signing and think it's worth a B+.
Redskins sign DT Terrell McClain (4 years, $21 million): WALT IS RUNNING OUT OF MILLEN KIELBASA JOKES Grade
I don't know anymore. I think we've had the worst group of free agent signings ever over the past 24 hours, and I can only come up with so many Millen kielbasa jokes. I never imagined I would need seven Millen grades in a 24-hour cycle. I'm only human!
This is the sort of signing made by a team that, well, is in complete disarray. Terrell McClain has never played well in his career. He's a mediocre run-stuffer and a non-factor as a pass-rusher (4.5 career sacks). He's also a poor fit for Washington's 3-4 defense. McClain is a 4-3 one-technique, so I don't know how the Redskins plan on using him. Considering the state of their front office, I even doubt they know. In fact, this may have just been a move to distract everyone from the Kirk Cousins and Scot McCloughan dramas.
This is an easy Millen grade. I had McClain 20th in my 2017 NFL Free Agent Defensive Tackle Rankings, right beneath some guy named Denico Autry, who was tendered by the Raiders. And yet the Redskins paid McClain more than $5 million per year. What the hell are they doing?
Bears sign QB Mike Glennon (3 years, $45 million): D Grade
As I mentioned in the NFL Free Agency Rumors page, the Bears were the only NFL team willing to give Mike Glennon more than $10 million per year. The Jets and Bills were offering Glennon something in the $8-$10 million range, but dropped out of the running once they learned how much Chicago was willing to give Glennon. Well done, Jets and Bills.
The thing is, $8-$10 million per year would still be too much for Glennon! Brian Hoyer has obtained $6 million per year from San Francisco, and Hoyer happens to be better than Glennon. The former Buccaneer quarterback is 5-13 as a starter with a career completion percentage of 59.4. It's being argued that Glennon will be paid less than all of the other starting quarterbacks, but there's a reason for that. It's that Glennon is not a starting-caliber quarterback! He's a solid backup, but that's it.
The Bears have not improved whatsoever by signing Glennon; they would've been better off keeping Hoyer and spending an early draft pick on a signal-caller. Instead, they've wasted money on an underwhelming commodity. I won't give them a Millen because they were desperate for a quarterback, but a "D" is appropriate.
Rams sign WR Robert Woods (5 years, $39 million): MILLEN A YEAR WITHOUT KIELBASA Grade
I'll admit when I'm wrong. I was wrong today. I said the Browns signing Kenny Britt would be the worst signing of the offseason. That was an incorrect statement, and I'm ashamed of myself for not thinking that another incompetent franchise could one-up the Browns, but yet, here we are.
I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't in some sort of horrible nightmare when I saw the financial terms of this contract. The Rams should be utterly embarrassed that they offered this sort of money to Robert Woods. On my Facebook wall, I compared the Browns signing Britt to a millionaire spending thousands on stale bread. Well, this is like a millionaire spending thousands on moldy bread with rat feces on it. That's how bad Woods is.
Woods, quite frankly, sucks at football. He has never eclipsed 700 receiving yards in a season. He had one touchdown last year. One! He hasn't averaged more than 11.7 yards per reception in three years. He has played all 16 games just once in his 4-year career. He's just ... bad.
The Rams are getting the worst Millen ("F") grade thus far. If Millen thought that the Britt contract was worth giving up kielbasas for a day, this one will keep him kielbasa-free for a year.
Eagles sign WR Torrey Smith (3 years, $15 million): B+ Grade
Torrey Smith won a Super Bowl with the Ravens and then cashed out, taking tons of money to join a franchise in utter disarray. This predictably didn't work out for him, as Smith caught 53 passes for 930 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons. Part of that was awful quarterbacking, but Smith also checked out mentally. The 49ers promptly cut him.
Smith appears to have learned his lesson, as he has taken less money this time, signing with a potential Super Bowl contender - I have the Eagles seventh in my NFL Power Rankings - so perhaps this will pay off. And Smith is definitely taking less money. In a market in which Kenny Britt (4 years, $32.5 million), Kenny Stills (4 years, $32 million) and Robert Woods (5 years, $39 million) are receiving absurd contracts, Smith at three years, $15 million seems like a great bargain.
Considering the awful contracts to receivers, I like this move. The Eagles are buying low, which is always recommended, and Smith will be eager to turn his career around. If so, Carson Wentz will have a legitimate downfield threat for the first time in his career. I'm giving the Eagles a B+, and I considered even bumping this to an A-.
Rams sign OT Andrew Whitworth (3 years, $36M; $15M guaranteed): C Grade
It seems as though the Rams have made a huge mistake by trading the farm for Jared Goff. However, they won't know for sure until they make sure his protection is adequate. Signing Andrew Whitworth will help in that regard, at least in theory.
I think the Rams should get an "A" for effort here. They're trying, and unlike the Browns' strategy of "hurrr durrr let's give lots of money to someone who has tried hard once in his career," Los Angeles has signed a player with a lengthy track record of performing on a high level. Whitworth has been one of the better left tackles in the NFL for a very long time.
However, I can't give the Rams an "A" overall. This signing seems suspicious to me, almost as if Whitworth has gone to Los Angeles to retire. Why would he leave a perennial playoff contender to join one of the worst franchises in the NFL? I think Whitworth knows he doesn't have much time left, so he took the most money to effectively cash out, all while living in nice weather. That's what I would do if I were a worn-out 35-year-old NFL player. Instead, I'm a worn-out 35-year-old fat football writer.
An "A" for effort and an "F" for execution averages to a "C," which sounds about right. The Rams are paying on past production, which seldom works in any regard.
Browns sign WR Kenny Britt (4 years, $32.5 million): MILLEN A DAY WITHOUT KIELBASA Grade
When I saw the details of this contract, I imagined Matt Millen resting in a seedy massage parlor somewhere. As he prepared to have a young, 100-percent USDA Man penetrate his backside with a kielbasa, another individual walked into the room and informed him that the Browns have paid $32.5 million to Kenny Britt. Millen then got up and told the young, 100-percent USDA Man to go away. There will be no kielbasas today, as issuing this sort of contract is something Millen has always dreamt of.
This might just be the worst signing of the offseason. I'm not exaggerating; it's that bad. Britt has an extensive history of being injured, slacking off and dropping passes. He finally got his act together last season, but as it so happened, it was his contract year. Britt will now be fat and happy again, and it'll be absolutely shocking if he puts forth anything close to 100 percent into his game.
It's quite obvious that Britt is set to mail it in. He signed with the Browns, a team with no hope and no quarterback. NFL players go to Cleveland to die, and Britt's career will be the latest casualty. If Britt cared about being a good football player, he would've signed with a team that had a quarterback. Instead, he's chasing money. This really echoes the 49ers' signing of Torrey Smith a couple of years ago, except Smith hadn't shown a tendency to slack off prior to joining San Francisco.
This is the easiest grade I've ever given. There are no ands, ifs or buts. This is an "F" (Millen) grade, and there's no disputing it.
Bills sign K Steven Hauschka (4 years, $12.4 million): D Grade
I love how the Bills were willing to spend tons of money on a kicker - Steven Hauschka is now a top-10 earner at his position - when they were reluctant to retain Stephon Gilmore, who is now on the Patriots. Only Buffalo.
Hauschka is a fine kicker. I gave him three stars in the NFL Free Agent Kicker Rankings. However, he's not a top-10 kicker, as he missed six of his 35 extra-point attempts in 2016. The Seahawks were fine with letting him walk, so I don't know why the Bills were willing to give him so much money.
Bengals re-sign WR Brandon LaFell (2 years, $10 million): C- Grade
This is as lackluster as it gets without it being absolutely horrible. Brandon LaFell getting $5 million per year is like buying a McDonald's hamburger for $20. It's an unnecessary overpay for a mediocre product that is good once in a while, but is generally far worse than all other options.
LaFell is a sub-par wideout who struggles to separate from NFL cornerbacks. Had he received $2-$3 million per season, it would've made sense, as LaFell is a veteran with experience in the offense. On the other hand, $5 million is way too much. I'm giving the Bengals a deserved C- for this.
49ers sign WR Marquise Goodwin (2 years, $8 million): D Grade
When I placed Marquise Goodwin 26th in my NFL Free Agent Wide Receiver Rankings, I never thought he'd get a contract for $4 million per year. Yet, here we are. On a day of four Millens, this happens.
Goodwin is a speed receiver who can't do anything besides run very fast. Some are comparing Goodwin to Taylor Gabriel, but Gabriel is way more talented. Goodwin, on the other hand, isn't much of a football player. He'll catch a deep pass from time to time, but that's about it. That's hardly worth $4 million per year.
This is not going to be Millen No. 5. This contract isn't for enough money to justify it. However, I think a "D" is definitely warranted, as it's a bad move that won't set the franchise back at all.
49ers sign QB Brian Hoyer (2 years, $12 million): B Grade
I mentioned earlier that average backup quarterbacks earn about $3-$4 million per year. Hoyer is one of the top reserve signal-callers in the NFL, and he could start for the 49ers in 2017, so he deserves to get paid more than $3-$4 million.
Hoyer was the best quarterback available the 49ers could've signed, and that includes Mike Glennon. They'll still go after Kirk Cousins, but may not be able to obtain him until next spring, so Hoyer would serve as a capable stopgap. On top of that, Hoyer has experience playing for Kyle Shanahan, posting a 7-4 record a few years ago with the Browns.
I like this move, and I think the 49ers deserve a "B" grade for it. Hoyer, at the very least, provides the 49ers with a quarterback who won't embarrass himself on a weekly basis.
Dolphins re-sign WR Kenny Stills (4 years, $32M; $20M guaranteed): MILLEN KIELBASACARE ACT Grade
Free agency hasn't even officially started yet, and we've had four Millen grades already. I don't know what the record is, but I'm certain we're on pace to break it!
Vernon Davis, Andre Branch, Jermaine Gresham, and now Kenny Stills. All have been grossly overpaid. Stills, especially, as he's getting $20 million guaranteed for some reason. Stills, in two years with the Dolphins, has caught 69 passes for 1,126 yards. He did record nine touchdowns in 2016, but scored just thrice the year before, as end-zone receptions tend to fluctuate a lot. I wouldn't count on Stills getting more than a half-dozen scores in 2017.
Stills is a No. 3 wideout. He's a situational deep threat who drops a lot of passes. He's 12th in our 2017 NFL Free Agent Wide Receiver Rankings as a two-star player and should've gotten about $5 million guaranteed, at most, on a 4-year deal.
Bills sign FB Mike Tolbert (1 year, $1 million): B Grade
There's been a lot of confusion regarding this particular signing. The Bills inked Patrick DiMarco, then announced that they obtained Mike Tolbert as well an hour later. What do they need two fullbacks for?
Well, two things. First, Tolbert will compete at tailback as the third player behind LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee, and he'll play fullback if DiMarco gets hurt. Second, they're paying Tolbert just $1 million on a 1-year deal. That's the veteran minimum.
This contract makes sense after that clarification, so I'm willing to give the Bills a solid "B" for signing Tolbert.
49ers sign FB Kyle Juszczyk (4 years, $21 million): B+ Grade
Lead blockers seem like they should be paid less than $5 million per year, but Kyle Juszczyk does more than that. Not only is he a fantastic blocker, but he also happens to be a reliable receiver out of the backfield; he has logged 78 receptions in the past two seasons.
Juszczyk is going to be a valuable member of San Francisco's offense, and not just because the 49ers are devoid of talent. He seems like a great fit in Kyle Shanahan's system, so I like this move. It's not a great value signing, but I think this contract is worth a B+.
Patriots acquire TE Dwayne Allen, 6th-round pick from Colts for 4th-round pick
I have no idea what's going on with the free-agency tight end market. It makes absolutely no sense. The Redskins are giving Vernon Davis $5 million per year. The Colts have paid Jack Doyle more than $6 million per year. And the Cardinals handed the pedestrian Jermaine Gresham $7 million per year. These contracts would be awful in a vacuum, and that's not even taking into account the incredible 2017 NFL Draft Tight End Prospects in this class. With so many great tight ends available, there's absolutely no reason for any team to overpay for sub-par talents like Gresham, Doyle and Davis.
While smart teams that need a tight end will draft one, the Patriots did something equally intelligent. They sent what's reported to be a late-round pick to the Colts for Dwayne Allen. Indianapolis signed Allen to a $29.4 million contract a year ago, but New England will only be on the hook for $2.5 million in 2017 and $4.5 million in 2018. Yes, Allen will be earning less than the three aforementioned tight ends, and it could be argued that he's better than all of them!
The one concern with Allen is that he's injury-prone. That'll keep New England from earning an "A" grade, but I still think they won this trade if all they're giving up is a late-round selection. They needed a replacement for Martellus Bennett, who will be set to earn a ton of money based on the other tight end contracts. The Colts, meanwhile, can't be graded harshly for getting a selection for Allen, given that they just overpaid for Doyle. It makes sense for them to get rid of Allen because of that contract, but this could've been avoided had they not overpaid Doyle.
Update: The compensation is Allen and a sixth for a fourth-round pick. That's not bad at all for the Patriots, as they obviously have a late selection in the fourth frame, so moving down a round-and-a-half for a decent tight end is pretty solid. The Colts, meanwhile, will save $3 million in cap space, but that's not important because they were in the top 10 in cap space entering this week.
Cardinals re-sign TE Jermaine Gresham (4 years, $28 million): MILLEN KIELBASA HACKING Grade
Let's get to some bad contracts that I missed yesterday. The details of this deal weren't released until now, and I was utterly shocked by them because the Cardinals' front office often makes great decisions. Not this time, however.
I don't understand how Gresham is worth $7 million per year, especially in this market. First of all, have you seen the unbelievable 2017 NFL Draft Tight End Prospects in this draft class? They're unreal, so why overpay for a pedestrian tight end? And second, Gresham just isn't a very talented player. He's not really good at anything. He has 55 catches in two years with Arizona, and he's not a very good blocker either.
I'm shocked I'm giving Arizona an "F" (Millen) grade, but it has to be done. I just hate this signing, as it makes absolutely no sense to me because cheaper and better alternatives happen to be available.
Falcons re-sign QB Matt Schaub (2 years, $9 million): C Grade
The average salary for average backup quarterbacks in the NFL is about in the $3-$4 million range. Schaub has long been criticized for his habit of throwing pick-sixes, but he's not a bad backup signal-caller. He's average, so logical would dictate that he should be paid about $3.5 million per year; not $4.5 million.
I don't know why the Falcons are paying a premium for Schaub. Granted, it's a slight premium, but I have to wonder why Atlanta isn't attempting to acquire a better backup for Matt Ryan if the team is willing to spend more.
Dolphins re-sign DE Andre Branch (3 years, $27 million): MILLEN ILLEGAL KIELBASA-TAPPING Grade
In the immortal words of Sheila Broflovski, "What, what, WHAT!?" Those three words popped into my head when I saw the details of this contract. How in hell is Andre Branch worth $9 million per year? Did the Dolphins forget a decimal point? Because three years, $2.7 million actually makes more sense.
Andre Branch is not a good football player. Never has. Never will be. He's a mediocre pass-rusher who struggles mightily in run support. Here are his sack totals the past three years: 3.0, 4.0 and 5.5. In what world is that worth $9 million per year?
This is an easy "F" (Millen) grade. I'd strongly advise the Dolphins to contact their lawyers because they clearly forgot the all-important decimal point in Branch's contract.
Bills sign FB Patrick DiMarco (4 years, $8.5 million): B+ Grade
The Bills were pursuing Kyle Juszczyk, but apparently decided he was too expensive. The next-best option was Patrick DiMarco, who appears to be a very good signing for Buffalo.
DiMarco doesn't do much besides block, but he's very good at that aspect. DiMarco blasted open huge running lanes for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and he'll do the same for LeSean McCoy.
I like this move, and I'll give the Bills a B+ for it. It's not a blockbuster signing that provides great value - keeping this out of the "A" range - but it's a solid move. If the Bills wanted to spend about $2 million per year to improve their ground attack with a fullback, I'm all for it.
Bills retain QB Tyrod Taylor (restructured contract): B+ Grade
The Bills sat Tyrod Taylor in Week 17 this past season to avoid being on the hook for him in the event of an injury. It appeared as though the relationship was so splintered as a result that Taylor would leave the team for sure this spring. That, apparently, is not the case, as the two sides have kissed and made up. Taylor will return for 2017 on a restructured contract.
It's not clear what the financial details are, but I like this move regardless. Taylor is a solid quarterback, as he's scored 47 touchdowns and thrown just 12 interceptions in two seasons with the Bills. He's far from the problem in Buffalo, so the team wanting to part ways with him never made any sense to me. The Bills will be competitive as long as Taylor is healthy, and Taylor is certainly capable of leading the team into the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.
The one thing I want to note that worsens this grade is that by keeping Taylor, the Bills won't intentionally tank, as was previously reported. The 2018 class is stacked at quarterback - check out my 2018 NFL Mock Draft - so Buffalo will now miss out on Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen.
Giants sign WR Brandon Marshall (2 years, $12 million): B- Grade
The Giants cut a declining receiver and replaced him with a declining receiver. However, unlike Victor Cruz, Brandon Marshall can still play well. Maybe.
Marshall had posted 1,000 or more yards in eight of nine seasons prior to last year, but his production fell off a cliff in 2016. Part of that was because of horrible quarterbacking. Numerous injuries could be blamed as well, and it's likely that Marshall will be much healthier in 2017. Then again, he turns 33 at the end of the month, so it's possible that his regression could be permanent.
That said, I like this signing, and I'm willing to give it an A-. Marshall could be done, and this acquisition might be worthless as a result, but even if it is, the Giants aren't taking much of a chance with this 2-year, $12 million contract. This deal seems like it has nothing but upside, as Marshall, a possession receiver, theoretically should be able to play well into his 30s, much like Anquan Boldin. He'll be paired with a better quarterback - albeit a declining one - and he's still a big name, so he should be able to take attention away from Odell Beckham Jr.
Update: I've been doing some thinking about this grade, and I was helped by some comments made by Nathan T. and Will L. on my Facebook wall. Something I missed in my write-up was any negative locker room ramifications Marshall could come with. Marshall, who has a lengthy history of causing problems, may not mesh well with Odell Beckham Jr. Both are drama queens, so this could cause issues for the Giants in 2017. Furthermore, this is a high-profile signing, and as a result, people are losing their minds and placing high expectations on the Giants. Jerry Rice, for example, tweeted "what a combo" about Marshall joining Beckham. Why is it a crazy combo? Marshall is not the same player he once was. He could still be good, but he's 33, and he struggled last year. Everyone expecting the Giants to have one of the best receiving duos in the NFL is not projecting for the future. It's more likely that Marshall creates problems, as there's a reason he's never been on a playoff team.
This signing could still work out, but I don't nearly like it as much as I did initially. I'm dropping this a full grade. I hate the high expectations the Giants suddenly have, as teams with no history of success having high expectations often disappoint because of insane amounts of pressure.
Texans re-sign K Nick Novak (1 year, $1.15 million): B Grade
Nick Novak made the second-most field goals in the NFL last year, hitting 35 of his 41 attempts. Novak was 3-of-6 from 50-plus.
Novak was so productive because the Texans were so atrocious offensively in the red zone. He's hit at least 84.6 percent of his field goals every season since 2012, so it's nice that Houston was able to retain him. Novak, however, missed three extra points last year, so he has to clean that up.
Chargers re-sign S Jahleel Addae (4 years, $22M; $8M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Chargers lost Eric Weddle last offseason, so seeing another talented safety depart would've hurt. Fortunately for them, they were able to retain Jahleel Addae on a solid deal.
Addae had often been penalized prior to 2016, but he cleaned up his act this past season. Of course, he missed half the year with a broken collarbone, but he played on a very high level upon his return. Just 27, Addae has a bright future ahead of him. He's not extremely talented, but he's a solid player, and he was 58th in our Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings.
I think this signing is worth a B+. Addae doesn't have an extensive history of performing on a high level, but he has the ability to do so. This contract is giving him just $8 million guaranteed, so it's not like the Chargers are breaking the bank to retain him.
Redskins re-sign TE Vernon Davis (3 years, $15 million): MILLEN SHOULD HAVE BEEN SENT HOME Grade
What the hell are the Redskins doing? They apparently sent general manager Scot McCloughan home, and ever since doing so, they have seemingly fallen apart. They keep screwing up the Kirk Cousins situation and now appear set on trading him to the 49ers, and now they're giving a bum $5 million per year. Perhaps the mid-aughts Lions should've employed the same strategy and sent Matt Millen home, where I'm sure he would've pleasured himself with some kielbasas.
This is an awful signing. There's no other way of saying it. Davis is a lethargic player with an extensive history of quitting on his teams. He did this on multiple occasions in San Francisco, ultimately getting cut. The Broncos picked him up, but he didn't even see the field during the team's Super Bowl run because of countless dropped passes. It seemed like he was given one final chance in Washington, where he signed a 1-year "prove it" deal.
Davis actually had a strong 2016 campaign - 44 catches, 583 yards - but he did so only because he was nearly out of the league. Now that he's gotten a nice pay day, he'll go back to slacking off. And even if he does try, he's now 33 and currently in decline.
This contract is absolutely horrible and deserves an "F" (Millen) grade. The Redskins are capsizing.
Jaguars re-sign G Patrick Omameh (1 year, $775,000): A Grade
The Jaguars don't usually make great decisions when it comes to free agents, but this is a rare occasion in which they made a great move.
Patrick Omameh is far from a household name, but he played well last year in the wake of Luke Joeckel's injury. Omameh took over when Joeckel went down, and he was better than the second-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. It's unclear if he can be a long-term starter, but Omameh can be used in the opening lineup in a pinch. At the very least, he's a great backup.
I think this is worth an easy "A." It's pretty rare that a team can obtain a capable starter and/or a great backup for less than $1 million. That's the case here, so the Jaguars should be praised for this transaction.
Colts re-sign TE Jack Doyle (3 years, $19 million): C Grade
The NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported that Jack Doyle would earn about $6 million per year, and he was right on the money. I thought it was crazy, but the Colts do, apparently, believe that Jack Doyle rules.
I'm still going to disagree with it though. Doyle is not worth this type of money; not with the sort of talented tight ends in the 2017 NFL Draft class (check out our 2017 NFL Draft Tight End Prospect Rankings.) Doyle posted 59 catches, 584 yards and five touchdowns, but Andrew Luck repeatedly fed him with targets. Doyle isn't a great athlete by any means, so it's doubtful that he could've maintained that same production on another team.
There are two things saving this from a poor grade. The first is that Doyle is a solid blocker. The second is that taking away a favorite target from a quarterback doesn't seem like a smart move, so I can see why the Colts re-signed Doyle. The fact remains, however, that they overpaid, so I'm giving them a "C" as a result.
Panthers re-sign DE Charles Johnson (2 years, $9.5 million): A- Grade
Charles Johnson signed a 1-year "prove it" deal last offseason, and he didn't exactly show that he was back to form. Johnson played very well versus the run, but was missing a bit of explosion, recording only four sacks. Johnson, 31 in July, may never be the same player he once was.
That said, I like this move. Johnson, coming in at No. 47 in our Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings list, still could rebound and play well for a couple more seasons if he can remain healthy. The Panthers aren't taking much of a chance with this deal, as it's essentially a 2-year "prove it" contract.
I think this grade should be in the A- to B+ range. I initially had a B+ listed, but I remembered how many bad contracts we're going to see in the coming weeks, and this will seem like a terrific signing by comparison.
Buccaneers re-sign DE William Gholston (5 years, 27.5M; $13.5M guaranteed): C- Grade
This is a lot of money for a defensive end who can't rush the quarterback. I actually considered grading this as a Millen, but Gholston does one thing extremely well, so re-signing him does come with a perk.
Gholston's top attribute is his ability to stuff the run. He's excellent at it, and Tampa's rush defense fell apart when he was out of the lineup late in the year with various injuries. Gholston, however, has played all 16 games just once in his career thus far, so it's not like the Buccaneers can count on him remaining on the field the entire season.
I think a C- is appropriate. Gholston has never registered more than 3.5 sacks in a single season, and is definitely being overpaid. That said, he makes an impact in another regard, so Tampa won't regret keeping him around.
49ers re-sign WR Jeremy Kerley (3 years, $10.5 million): D Grade
Jeremy Kerley posted 56 catches and 827 yards in 2012, but hadn't done much after that. At least not prior to 2016. After the Jets and Lions got rid of Kerley, the 49ers acquired him, and he tallied functional stat totals last year, snatching 64 balls for 667 yards and three touchdowns.
Despite this, however, Kerley is not a good player. He's right above being a replacement-level athlete, and his numbers were accumulated because A) the 49ers had no other receiving talent, and B) Kerley was able to accumulate garbage yardage in blowout losses. Plus, Kerley was a decent fit in Chip Kelly's offense.
The problem now is that Kerley isn't a good match in Kyle Shanahan's system, so his numbers will see a decline. San Francisco is overpaying for bogus production as well, when it could've signed a comparable player for much less, making this yet another dubious move by John Lynch.
Titans re-sign QB Matt Cassel (2 years, $5.25 million): F Grade
If this contract seems like a lot for Matt Cassel, well, it is. Average backup quarterbacks tend to earn between $2 and $4 million per season, so Cassel is right in that range with his new contract.
Except, Cassel is not an average backup. In fact, he's terrible. He played horribly for the Cowboys in 2015 despite having terrific blocking. At 35 (in May), Cassel wouldn't make most NFL rosters as a No. 2 signal-caller at this stage of his career, so I'm puzzled as to why the Titans thought it was a good idea to pay him so much money.
This is an easy "F." I'm not going to cheapen a Millen grade with this signing because it's so minor, but it's still a horrible move nonetheless.
Steelers DE/OLB James Harrison (2 years, $3.5 million): A+ Grade
It's amazing that James Harrison has been so productive recently. He turns 39 in May, yet he generates lots of pressure on the opposing quarterback. He has collected 10 total sacks over the past couple of years, which is misleading because the Steelers limit his snaps to keep him fresh.
Because Harrison is still so productive and a great team leader, it was imperative that the Steelers re-sign him, especially considering their lacking pass-rushing options outside of Harrison and Bud Dupree. This contract will keep Harrison around for another year or two, giving Pittsburgh a chance to find a suitable successor.
I'm giving this an easy A+. Harrison is still a very valuable member for the Steelers, so bringing him back for a deal worth less than $2 million per year is an incredible bargain. There's definitely a chance Harrison could regress, but even if he does, it's not like Pittsburgh is taking any sort of risk.
Chiefs re-sign S Eric Berry (6 years, $78M; $40M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Eric Berry was fighting for his life following a cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago. Now, in an incredible turn of events, he's the recipient of a $78 million contract with $40 million guaranteed.
Berry is one of the top safeties in the NFL, and he deserves to be paid in this sort of manner. However, the Chiefs aren't in a great financial spot, so I can't give this an "A." They had only about $6 million in cap space entering free agency, and while the release of Jamaal Charles helped, they're still in a tight spot.
That said, what were the Chiefs going to do? Allow the heart and soul of their defense to leave? They didn't really have much of a choice, so I'm still going to grade this favorably.
Steelers re-sign WR Antonio Brown (4 years, $68 million): A Grade
Antonio Brown has become the highest-paid receiver in the NFL. He'll earn $17 million annually, beating out A.J. Green and his $15 million figure. Brown is arguably the top receiver in the league - Julio Jones would probably be the winner in a poll, but Brown would likely be second - so he's deserving of a great distinction, unlike the other player who signed a big contract today.
I seldom grade big contracts extremely favorably, as I like to save my "A" marks for outstanding value signings. However, this deal actually seems like a good bargain when compared to other contracts that are about to be signed. The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero reported that Kenny Stills will earn $12 million per year, and Brown is light years better than Stills. Comcast Sportsnet has reported that DeSean Jackson is expected to make more than $10 million per season, and he's a declining, injury-prone, one-trick pony.
Brown, meanwhile, is still young (29 in July), and he's going to play at a high level throughout this contract because of his amazing route-running ability. Brown is extremely important to Pittsburgh's ability to compete for a Super Bowl, so re-signing him for this sort of deal is definitely worthy of an "A" grade.
Chiefs re-sign G Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (5 years, $41.25 million): C+ Grade
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was a little-known sixth-round pick out of McGill College three years ago. Now, he's the fourth-highest-paid guard in the NFL behind Kelechi Osemele, David DeCastro and Kyle Long. Not bad for a late-round prospect out of Canada!
While Duvernay-Tardif should be thrilled about this contract, Kansas City fans shouldn't be as excited. This is an overpay, plain and simple. It's not nearly as egregious as last year's absurd Eric Fisher contract, but this still seems kind of crazy. Duvernay-Tardif is a solid guard, but he's not a Pro Bowl-type player. He's just a steady starter who has provided stability to Kansas City's front. If he had gotten half of this amount - or maybe a bit more - I would've been perfectly fine with that. But there's no way he's the fourth-best guard in the NFL. Not even close.
I'm not going to grade this harshly because unlike Fisher, Duvernay-Tardif is not a bad blocker. It's also important to keep a group of offensive linemen together. Thus, I think a C+ is appropriate.
Panthers re-sign DE Mario Addison (3 years, $22.5 million): B Grade
Mario Addison had always been a decent rotational player, but he became a late bloomer in 2016, notching 9.5 sacks. I had him listed as 57th in the Top 100 NFL Free Agent Rankings.
This is a solid contract, but not a great one. Addison has enjoyed just one strong season, so what if he can't reproduce what he accomplished in 2016? Also, he turns 30 in September, so he could decline soon. That said, the Panthers needed to keep him around, so they did a good job retaining him.
49ers sign DT Earl Mitchell (4 years, $16 million): VERY FAKE KIELBASA MILLEN Grade
John Lynch is the latest TV analyst to become a general manager. The previous one, of course, was Matt Millen, who ruined Detroit's franchise. If this signing is any indication, the 49ers have as much hope as the Millen-led Lions did.
I can't get over how bad this contract is. Mitchell, 30 in September, hasn't played well in a couple of years. In fact, he was a huge liability for the Dolphins. His effort level dropped since signing a big deal with Miami after leaving a better team (Texans). This is almost never a recipe for success, and Mitchell, as a result, struggled to stay healthy.
The Dolphins eagerly cut Mitchell this offseason because they didn't want to pay him $4 million, yet the 49ers are willing to give him $5.5 million in 2017. Why? It makes absolutely no sense. Mitchell should've signed a 1-year "prove it" deal, but it seems like San Francisco was duped into overpaying him.
49ers sign CB K'Waun Williams (1 year): B+ Grade
This is John Lynch's first move as the general manager of the 49ers, and it's a decent one. San Francisco fans will continue to hope that he doesn't spend countless resources on terrible receivers like the previous TV analyst who became a kielbasa-loving front-office executive.
Williams played well for the Browns in 2014 and 2015 as a nickel. He missed all of 2016 with an ankle injury, but he's healthy now. He can provide the 49ers with some much-needed depth at cornerback. It's unclear how much Williams will be earning, but it'll likely be for something close to the minimum. Thus, I'm willing to give the 49ers a solid B+ grade.
Dolphins acquire TE Julius Thomas from Jaguars for 2017 late-round pick
So, why couldn't the Dolphins and Jaguars just make one trade that involved sending Julius Thomas in exchange for Branden Albert? Why construct two separate deals? Do they love paperwork, or something?
This trade is pretty much like the other swap, as one team is acquiring an overpaid underachiever for almost no compensation. The only difference in this situation is that Julius Thomas is still young - he's 28, while Albert is 32 - so he has a better chance of panning out in his new home.
That said, it'll take some work. Thomas has good talent, but he's never been productive without Peyton Manning. He's also very injury-prone. He's never played a full season, missing seven of 32 possible games as a Jaguar. He potentially fills a big need for the Dolphins, but he could very easily flop.
I'm willing to grade the Dolphins slightly better than I did the Jaguars, as Thomas has more potential. Plus, Miami didn't surrender much and had $42.4 million in cap space to pay Thomas, so I won't be giving its front office a bad grade for this trade.
Jaguars acquire OT Branden Albert from Dolphins for conditional 2018 late-round pick
It was reported last week that the Dolphins were going to cut Branden Albert. They then rescinded that transaction once they learned that a team was interested in trading for him. Of course, that was the Jaguars, who were rumored to be willing to deal Julius Thomas for him. Thomas wasn't involved in this transaction, however, as Jacksonville surrendered a conditional late-round pick in 2018 for Albert.
The Dolphins have to be considered the winners of this trade at the moment. They were going to release Albert for nothing, yet the Jaguars were willing to give them compensation for him. A 2018 late-rounder isn't much, but at least it's something.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, is getting a left tackle, which it sorely needs. The team just cut Kelvin Beachum, who was damaged goods. The problem is that Albert is damaged goods as well. Albert hasn't played a full season since 2011, missing 13 games in the past three years. Albert struggled mightily in 2016, as he was never healthy. He could rebound next season, but he's now 32 and may never be the same as he once was.
The Jaguars now have to pay Albert's contract, as he counts $7.2 million against the cap. Jacksonville had more than $67.2 million in cap space, so that's not an issue. My problem is the Jaguars not really changing anything. They couldn't count on Beachum, and they now are in the same exact situation with Albert. The only thing that's different is that they possibly don't have a late-round pick in 2018. That's not the worst thing to surrender, and I'm not going to grade the Jaguars too harshly, but it's difficult to understand the thought process, given that the Dolphins were so willing to cut ties with the player Jacksonville just acquired.
Dolphins re-sign DE Cameron Wake (2 years, $19 million): B+ Grade
It seems like all the Dolphins have done the past two offseasons is give old defensive ends lots of money. Signing Mario Williams last spring was absolutely ridiculous, and the Dolphins have responded by handing Cameron Wake a 2-year deal worth $19 million. This move, however, unlike the Williams acquisition, actually seems like a very good decision.
Wake had an incredible 2016 campaign. He racked up 11.5 sacks, which may not sound like a crazy amount until you factor in that he was a shell of his usual self in the first month of the season because of an Achilles injury. He was great to close out the year, which bodes well for 2017. The one drawback is his age - Wake turned 35 in January - but he hasn't shown any signs of regression, and while $9.5 million per season sounds like a lot for a 35-year-old, this is a short-term contract, so Wake won't hurt Miami financially very much if he regresses.
With that in mind, I'm fine with giving this a B+ grade. It's not an amazing deal, and it could fail because of Wake's age, but it has a strong chance of panning out; Wake seems like he has one or two more strong seasons left in the tank.
Jaguars re-sign NT Abry Jones (4 years, $16 million): C Grade
If Jaguars general manager David Caldwell has proven anything, it's that he doesn't know how to assign appropriate financial value to players. This was quite apparent when he paid Chris Ivory an absurd $32 million over five years when Ivory had been benched at the end of the previous season. This is yet another financial error, though not nearly as egregious.
Abry Jones was a solid rotational player last year, playing half (or slightly less than half) of the snaps in most games. He performed well overall, but wasn't great in any regard. He was just a decent player to have on the field half the time. Furthermore, Jones has no history of producing prior to 2016, so giving him $4 million per year doesn't seem like the smartest decision.
Then again, this signing shouldn't be graded too harshly. It won't set the Jaguars back, and Jones turns just 26 in September, so he could continue to improve. I think this re-signing is worth a "C."
Seahawks sign K Blair Walsh: B Grade
No financial terms are available for this signing, but I doubt it's much, or if anything, above the league minimum. Blair Walsh was released by the Vikings last season and spent the final two months of the year on the open market. Walsh missed four extra points in nine games, so Minnesota opted to go with someone more reliable.
The Seahawks needed a kicker, as Steven Hauschka is a free agent. Walsh could prove to be a strong replacement if he mentally recovers from his playoff whiff against these very Seahawks. Walsh was once a terrific kicker; he was 35-of-38 in 2012, including 10-of-10 from 50-plus. Walsh was also excellent in 2015 before the postseason blunder; he went 34-of-39, including 6-of-8 from beyond 50. However, the missed chip-shot that would've given Minnesota the win over Seattle apparently ruined him.
There's always a chance Walsh could just be done mentally, so the Seahawks should acquire another kicker (seventh-rounder or UDFA) to have as competition. However, the upside is there for Walsh to potentially make a recovery and become one of the league's top kickers again. I think this is worth a "B" grade for that reason.
Browns re-sign LB Jamie Collins (4 years, $50M; $26M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Browns traded for Jamie Collins in the middle of the season, so they would've looked pretty foolish - more so than usual - had they let him go. Re-signing him was a priority, and they managed to get the job done a month and a half prior to free agency.
Collins is a mega talent at linebacker, but the Patriots reportedly wanted to unload him because he caused problems in the locker room. Collins didn't fare as well in Cleveland, however, because he didn't know the coverages, and because of the insane practice policies of the CBA, Collins could never get quite on track. That won't be the case in 2017, as Collins will have all offseason to familiarize himself with the Browns' schemes.
This contract is fair. If anything, it's a slight overpay, as Collins is now the fourth highest-paid linebacker in the NFL behind Von Miller, Justin Houston and Clay Matthews, but the Browns had more than $110 million in cap space to spend, so they needed to shoot higher to make sure Collins stayed.
Jets re-sign G Brian Winters (4 years, $29M; $15M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Jets had an abysmal offensive line this past season, thanks in part to Nick Mangold seldom being healthy. One of the two bright spots up front happened to be guard Brian Winters, sixth in our NFL Free Agent Guard Rankings, so it's not a surprise that New York is rewarding him with a substantial contract that includes $15 million guaranteed.
This seems like a bit too much for Winters, as he didn't play on a Pro Bowl level, or anything. However, he has great upside; he's only 26 (in July) and should continue to improve, so it could turn out that the Jets might have even underpaid him. Thus, I think this grade probably deserves a solid "B."
Update: I've heard from a reliable source that the guaranteed money on this deal is a bit less than what was originally reported. I also did some thinking about this, and given how important offensive lines are in the post-CBA NFL, re-signing Winters was almost imperative. I'll increase this to a B+ for the time being.
Seahawks re-sign DE Michael Bennett (4 years, $39M; $17.5M guaranteed): A- Grade
This seems like a win-win for both Michael Bennett and the Seahawks. Bennett will be getting a nice contract with $17.5 million guaranteed. Seattle, meanwhile, gets to lower Bennett's cap number. It'll be able to keep Bennett, who is one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. Bennett has enjoyed a terrific 2016 campaign when he's been healthy, and I can't remember the last time Bennett had a down year.
I'd probably give this grade an "A" if it weren't for Bennett's age. Bennett will turn 32 in the middle of the 2017 season, so he's likely to decline in the near future. However, that may not happen until 2018 or 2019, and it's not like the $17.5 million guaranteed over four years will serve as a big albatross on Seattle's payroll. I think an A- seems about right.
Patriots claim WR Michael Floyd: A Grade
The Cardinals waived Michael Floyd on Wednesday, so any team had a chance to put in a claim for the talented receiver. The Patriots obtained him, and they happen to be near the bottom of the waiver order, which means that no other team put in a bid for Floyd.
In a way, it almost makes sense that the Patriots obtained Floyd. They've rehabilitated troubled players before. In fact, one is on the roster right now, and he's highly productive. If you recall, LeGarrette Blount was cut by the Steelers after getting into trouble off the field. New England scooped him up, and now he's a 1,000-yard rusher for them.
It remains to be seen if the Patriots will have the same success with Floyd, but the potential is there. Floyd, a first-round pick from the 2012 NFL Draft, has major upside, but has never lived up to it. He accumulated more than 1,000 yards in 2013, but just hasn't appeared to be trying very hard for the Cardinals this year. A DUI was the final straw, prompting Arizona to waive him. However, Floyd could really work out in New England; remember, Blount was also accused for dogging it in Pittsburgh.
There's no risk involved here, and the Patriots have a proven track record of getting the most out of troubled players, so I'm giving this an "A" grade.
Browns re-sign CB Jamar Taylor (3 years, $15 million): C+ Grade
Jamar Taylor was dreadful in Miami, where he was chosen as a second-round pick, but improved his game in Cleveland. He actually has served as the Browns' best cornerback in 2016, as Joe Haden has been hampered by a lingering injury.
Is this season a fluke? It's certainly possible. Taylor could easily regress back to how poorly he played in Miami, or he could continue being solid. He's a big question mark, so I think this 3-year, $15 million contract is an overpay, but definitely not an egregious one.
49ers sign TE Vance McDonald (5 years, $35M; $16M guaranteed): KNEEL TO PROTEST LACK OF KIELBASA MILLEN Grade
Holy hell, what in the world are the 49ers doing? It seems like they get dumber each year. Their mistakes used to be limited to replacing top-five NFL coaches with men who have absolutely no idea what they're doing, but now they're overpaying average players at an unbelievable rate.
I don't get this signing at all. Have I slipped into a coma and awakened to miss Vance McDonald tearing up the league? McDonald is an OK player, but that's just it. He's logged 24 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns, which isn't horrible considering that the 49ers have some of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL on their roster. I'm fine with the 49ers re-signing McDonald, despite his issues with drops, but at this sort of deal? This report almost seems fake or just wrong, like San Francisco forgot a decimal point, or something.
The 49ers should've been able to retain McDonald at a 3-year, $9 million pact. That's very appropriate for a player of his caliber. Instead, the 49ers overpaid, as they continue to ensure that they remain the laughing stock of the NFL for a very long time.
Falcons re-sign CB Robert Alford (4 years, $38M; $21M guaranteed): D Grade
Atlanta signing Mohamed Sanu to a 5-year, $32.5 million contract this offseason was one of the worst transactions in free agency. It was by far the worst thing the Falcons had done in the spring, but this deal almost rivals that. It's not bad enough to warrant a Millen grade, but it's close.
A horrible thing teams can do is misevaluate their own talent. That's what the Falcons are doing here. Robert Alford isn't worth anything close to $38 million over four years. I'm not sure he's even worth half of that. Alford has struggled this season and was only above average the year before. There was no reason to give him this sort of contract. If the Falcons couldn't retain Aford at $20 million over four years, which might even be too much, they should've let him walk.
Patriots re-sign OT Marcus Cannon (5 years, $32.5M; $14.5M guaranteed): C Grade
Wow, this is a lot of money for Marcus Cannon. I know he has played well this year, but he resembled a human turnstile in 2015. In fact, there was talk that he would be a cap casualty this past offseason. It's amazing how much can change in less than a year.
I think the Patriots are making the classic mistake of buying high. Cannon, based on his 2015 performance, isn't worth a tenth of this amount. I don't necessarily think he'll regress back to 2015 form, but he easily could. And if he does, the Patriots will have an albatross of a contract on the books that they'll have to deal with.
I don't think this is a horrible signing, and a "C" isn't a horrible grade. This move could certainly work out if Cannon continues to play well, but I would need more than a 10-game sample size to give Cannon this much money.
Broncos re-sign S Darian Stewart (4 years, $28M; $17.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Broncos lost a couple of key members of their defense this past offseason, so it's nice that they're able to re-sign one of their remaining key players. Retaining Darian Stewart was a key move in preserving the defense's dominance.
Stewart has made some tremendous strides after being an undrafted free agent following the 2010 NFL Draft. He has improved each year and has been exceptional in 2016. Given how well he's played, it could be argued that Stewart is a bargain at just $17.5 million guaranteed for this 4-year deal. This isn't a steal, or anything, but it's a very good move that is definitely worthy of a B+ grade.
Falcons re-sign OT Ryan Schraeder (5 years, $32M; $12.5M guaranteed): B+ Grade
Ryan Schraeder ended up doing pretty well for himself after being an undrafted free agent following the horrendous 2013 NFL Draft. The Falcons had a big hole at right tackle prior to plugging Schraeder into that spot last year. Schraeder thrived, but was set to hit free agency after the 2016 campaign. That's no longer the case in the wake of this 5-year extension.
Schraeder is a very talented blocker, and keeping him around will ensure that Matt Ryan will continue to have solid pass protection. The overall price of this contract seems about right, and the guaranteed money ($12.5 million) could've been a bit higher without any complaints. Schraeder is just 28, so he should continue to play on a high level throughout the duration of this contract. Thus, I think this signing deserves a grade of a B+ or perhaps even an A-.
Lions acquire CB Johnthan Banks from Buccaneers for 2018 7th-round pick
It was reported that the Buccaneers had waived Johnthan Banks, but apparently the Lions called Tampa right away and requested Banks so it wouldn't have to count on him getting to them through waivers. The cost of this was a 2018 seventh-round pick.
Banks is a talented corner, as he was chosen in the second round of the horrible 2013 NFL Draft. However, he hasn't lived up to expectations whatsoever, prompting the Buccaneers to give up on him. Banks still has some potential though, and he did perform well at Mississippi State across from Darius Slay. Perhaps Slay will be able to help Banks reach his potential. If not, the Lions didn't really give up anything.
As for the Buccaneers, obtaining a 2018 seventh-round choice is whatever, but they at least got something for a player they were more than willing to cut, so that's a solid move.
Bills sign WR Percy Harvin (1 year, $1.5 million): D Grade
I did not expect Percy Harvin to sign with anyone again. After all, the Collard Kector announced his retirement just six months ago. Now, he's back, and people in Buffalo couldn't be more excited.
And by excited, I mean depressed. I don't understand this signing unless it's to troll the Seahawks, whom Buffalo will battle this week. Injuries have derailed Harvin's career, so it's unlikely that he'll be able to contribute much. Plus, he's not a good guy to have in the locker room. I know the Bills are hurting for play-makers, but this seems like a desperate, unnecessary move that could do more harm than good.
Browns acquire LB Jamie Collins from Patriots for compensatory 3rd-round pick
I ... don't ... understand ... what's ... going ... on ... here ...? When I fist saw this trade announced, I thought I was still asleep. I slapped myself in the face to wake myself up, but this turned out to be real life. Then, my mind raced. What could Jamie Collins have done that's not being reported? Did he tell people that Bill Belichick's hoodies smell? Did he make fun of Tom Brady's ridiculous haircuts? Did he delete e-mails and then lie about it? Something must be terribly wrong about Collins, right?
Then, I thought about it, and the Patriots have been on the end of sketchy trades before. Take the Logan Mankins deal, for example. New England screwed itself out of a Super Bowl last year because it dealt Mankins earlier for a terrible tight end. The Chandler Jones swap doesn't seem to be going so well either. I get that this could have contractual ramifications, but if Collins were to leave at the end of the season, the Patriots were going to receive a compensatory third-round pick anyway. Why not keep Collins when the end result is the same?
The Patriots get an easy Millen grade for now. That'll change if Collins' e-mails are leaked, or whatnot, but New England trading its best defensive player just seems like a horrible mistake. The Browns, meanwhile, get an actual NFL player, which they were in desperate need of. It's an easy A+, as they now have a pair of stud inside linebackers in Collins and Christian Kirksey. It's at least a start!
Broncos acquire TE A.J. Derby from Patriots for 5th-round pick
This is a surprising trade. A.J. Derby hasn't caught a single pass in the regular season, yet the Broncos are giving up fifth-round pick for him? What gives?
Granted, Derby missed all of 2015 with an injury and hasn't been able to pass Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on the depth chart, so there's a reason why he hasn't done anything. However, my issue with this trade is that the Patriots were so willing to give up Derby to one of their greatest rivals. Bill Belichick clearly doesn't believe that Derby is going to hurt his team in a potential playoff matchup.
I feel like the Broncos should've been able to acquire Derby with a sixth- or seventh-round pick. Derby was chosen in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, so why is he suddenly worth more despite doing nothing as a pro?
Patriots acquire LB Kyle Van Noy, 7th-round pick from Lions for 6th-round pick
This is the first trade of the day, and it isn't a very exciting one. It does have some potential for the Patriots, however.
Kyle Van Noy has not played well thus far in his 3-year career. He's been a limited player for the Lions this season, struggling in every regard. However, there are two things to consider. First, Bill Belichick frequently does well in these mid-season deals to acquire depth, so perhaps this trade will work out as well. Second, Van Noy was a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, so he definitely has potential. Perhaps Belichick will be able to get the most out of him.
Even better for the Patriots, they're not really giving anything up. They're just moving back from the sixth to the seventh round, which isn't any sort of issue. The Patriots are the clear winners of this trade because of potential, though I won't give the Lions a bad grade either because they at least got something for a player who wasn't performing well for them.
Packers acquire RB Knile Davis from Chiefs for conditional late-round pick
Knile Davis was once considered to have good potential when he was selected in the third round out of Arkansas back in the dreadful 2013 NFL Draft. He flashed a bit, but quickly found his way into Andy Reid's dog house. He eventually dropped to fourth on the depth chart.
That said, I don't mind this acquisition for the Packers, who are desperate; Eddie Lacy is out for Thursday's game, while James Starks will be sidelined for about a month. Perhaps Davis will finally be able to live up to his potential, especially considering how solid Green Bay's offensive line is, though I definitely have my doubts.
I think both teams make out well in this trade. The Packers could get a productive player, but even if they don't, they're not giving up anything. The Chiefs, meanwhile, did well to obtain something for a player they weren't even using.
Vikings sign OT Jake Long: A- Grade
I initially dismissed the Jake Long signing when it happened, but Facebook friend Nathan T. talked me into writing about it. After reading up on it, I definitely made the right call to listen to Nathan.
It's unclear how much the Vikings signed Long for, but it can't have been for much; they had around just $44,000 in cap space in the morning, and Rick Spielman said he needed a magic wand to bring in Long. The Ravens actually tried to sign Long over the summer, but he failed their physical. He passed Minnesota's, and Long told the media that he feels better than he has in the past couple of years.
The Vikings practiced Long at left tackle, which is a problem area in the wake of Matt Kalil's injury. It sounds like the Vikings could be preparing Long to start there sometime in the near future - they're on bye this week - as replacement T.J. Clemmings has been ineffective. Long has immense talent, so the upside is there. The question is: Will he stay healthy? Based on his history, probably not, but you never know, and this move could end up really panning out for Minnesota if Long can manage to stay on the field, given his immense talent.
Lions sign RB Justin Forsett: B Grade
It's been a while since I've updated this page, but the time seems right in the wake of the Justin Forsett signing. The Ravens cut Forsett exactly a week ago for the second time in less than two months. This time, Forsett has moved on, and he'll be joining the Lions.
This move isn't exciting, as Forsett is no longer the same player - he averaged 3.2 yards per carry on 31 attempts with Baltimore - but the signing makes sense. The Lions needed another pass-catching running back with Ameer Abdullah out for so long. Abdullah brings experience and receiving ability to the table, so he should be a capable backup behind Theo Riddick for the time being.
Rams re-sign DT Michael Brockers (3 years, $33M; $16M guaranteed): B+ Grade
I have a subconscious urge to grade the Rams poorly for anything they do right now, based on how horrible they were on Monday night. I feel like they could save some orphans from a building fire, and I'd mark that down as a D- before changing it.
After thinking about it, I've realized that this is a very good signing. Michael Brockers is one of the better young defensive tackles in the NFL. He's terrific in run support and is pretty decent as a pass-rusher.
In terms of the value of this deal, it's very good. Malik Jackson, another interior defensive lineman, received $90 million over six years with $42 million guaranteed. Brockers is a pretty comparable player, so I'm willing to give the Rams a B+.
Packers re-sign OT David Bakhtiari (4 years, $51.67M; $17M guaranteed): A- Grade
We now see why the Packers jettisoned Josh Sitton, as it has allowed them to pay their young left tackle handsomely. I still don't get why Green Bay didn't wait until the end of the season, as that would've allowed them to keep Sitton for one more year and then receive a compensatory pick for him, but I've already discussed that.
As for this contract, it's definitely a logical one. Bakhtiari is one of the better young left tackles in the NFL. He's just 25, so keeping him around for four years is important, as shielding Aaron Rodgers' blind side is obviously very crucial. The overall value of this deal may seem high, but Bakhtiari is receiving just $17 million in guarantees, which is about half as much as Cordy Glenn and Terron Armstead obtained from the Bills and Saints, respectively, earlier this offseason.
I gave the Glenn and Armstead signings grades in the B/B+ range, so this definitely should be higher. I think an A- makes the most sense.
Lions re-sign RB Theo Riddick (3 years, $12.75 million): C+ Grade
I flipped back between a B- and a C+ for this signing, and I think I'm going to settle on the latter. This decision-making may not seem significant to you, but I've seriously deleted and changed B- to C+ and back to B- like 20 times.
Here's the dilemma: Theo Riddick is an important piece of Detroit's offense. He caught 80 passes last year, after all. Keeping him around will undoubtedly make Matthew Stafford happy. On the flip side, however, Riddick isn't very talented. He's a middling player who just happens to be in a great opportunity. His reception total figures to drop as well, as a healthy Ameer Abdullah is now in his second year.
So, in summary, I think this is an overpay, but I do understand why the Lions would want to make sure Riddick sticks around. I think a C+ makes sense No, wait, B-. Argh, C+ it is.
Lions re-sign P Sam Martin (4 years, $13.6 million): C Grade
Despite Andy Lee's performance in the NFL opener, I still believe that punters shouldn't be worth that much money. They definitely grow on trees, as competent punters can be picked up off the street. Thus, there's no way I could grade this signing highly, as I don't think any punter is worth about $3.5 million per year.
However, I don't think this is an egregious amount either, and Sam Martin is one of the better punters in the league. He has finished fourth and ninth in net punting the past two years, so I'm willing to give this a "C."
Broncos re-sign WR Emmanuel Sanders (3 years, $33M; $27M guaranteed): B Grade
This is a lot of guaranteed money for a 2-year deal given to a wide receiver, but I don't think it's a bad contract, or anything. Emmanuel Sanders has been a highly productive player for the Broncos, helping them win the Super Bowl with six catches for 83 yards while Demaryius Thomas was swallowed up by Josh Norman.
Sanders will now be around until he's 32, so that's a great frame to roster him. It was important for Denver to retain Sanders, as he and Thomas will both be instrumental in the development of Paxton Lynch.
As I said with the Drew Brees contract right below, I can't give this an "A" or anything because Denver's not getting a great deal, and it first glance, this seems like a ton of money. I think it's a decent contract though, so a "B" seems right.
Saints extend QB Drew Brees (2 years, $44.25 million): B Grade
The Saints have been talking about giving Drew Brees a 4- or 5-year extension, which always seemed foolish to me, given that Brees will turn 38 in January. They managed to extend Brees to a contract with $44.25 million, all of which is guaranteed, but the deal will void following the 2017 campaign.
This makes a lot more sense. Brees has about one or two very good years remaining, so it's logical to keep him around until he's about to drastically decline. It's also a nice lifetime achievement gift from the Saints, as Brees was instrumental in both reviving the franchise and rebuilding the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This didn't stop fascist, racist bigots for criticizing him recently because he stated his opinion, but Brees' new deal is well deserved.
I can't give this anything in the "A" range because the Saints aren't getting a great bargain. Some may argue a B+, but I'm actually wondering if the Saints would be better off beginning anew. Their roster is in shambles, and even if Brees has the best season of his career, it's difficult to imagine New Orleans qualifying for the playoffs. With DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson eligible to declare for the draft - Kizer is now No. 1 in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft - perhaps it would best for New Orleans to hit the reset button. That would be difficult to do, however, given all Brees has done for the team and city.
Patriots acquire CB Eric Rowe from Eagles for conditional 4th-round pick
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was not a fan of what Chip Kelly did last year, apparently. He has released or traded almost every major piece Kelly acquired, and now he has parted ways with Eric Rowe, Philadelphia's 2015 second-round selection.
Roseman has made some great deals this offseason, but I wouldn't characterize this as one of them. Rowe is a young player with nice size and loads of potential. He didn't perform well as a rookie, but the upside was definitely there. Besides, if I'm the Eagles, I'm terrified that Bill Belichick will turn yet another one of my former defensive backs into a stud. It worked with Patrick Chung, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if Rowe turns into a star.
I like this move for the Patriots, as they're getting a player with upside in exchange for a reserve lineman. Josh Kline was solid in some starts last season, but struggled in training camp, losing out to rookies Joe Thuney and Ted Karras. Still, I don't think this is a horrible trade for Philadelphia, as Kline will provide some needed help up front, while the conditional fourth-round selection could come in handy for a team low on draft resources.
Update: Josh Kline is reportedly not involved in this trade, making it difficult to grade because it's unclear what the deals are, exactly. I definitely like this less for the Eagles if they can't get Kline, but perhaps they obtained something/someone else.
Bears sign G Josh Sitton (3 years, $21.75M; $10M guaranteed): A Grade
I still can't get over the Packers cutting Josh Sitton because of a simple contract dispute. He was arguably Green Bay's best lineman, and now because of a truly horrible decision, he'll be playing for one of Green Bay's rivals.
This is a fantastic signing for the Bears, who are not nearly as bad as everyone thinks they are. They were highly competitive last season despite their 6-10 record, but one of their weaknesses entering 2016 was their offensive line. That group is so much better now, as Sitton upgrades the interior, which only had one weak link.
Sitton is only 30, and because interior linemen can play well into their mid-30s, he should be able to perform on a high level throughout the duration of this contract. I think this is a fantastic signing - worse linemen have been signed for more this offseason - making this an easy "A" grade.
Ravens sign KR Devin Hester: C+ Grade
If this were Devin Hester of five years ago, this would get an obvious A+, assuming the price tag wasn't too high. Hester, of course, is the greatest return specialist of all time in terms of touchdowns scored (21).
Unfortunately, this is now 2016, and Hester is a shell of his former self. He's 33, and he's scored just two return touchdowns since 2012. I suppose it can't hurt to bring him in. Perhaps some punters and special-teams coordinators who are stuck in the past will have boot the ball out of bounds to keep it away from Hester, but I can't see him doing much once everyone figures out that he's done.
Vikings acquire QB Sam Bradford from Eagles for 2017 first-rounder, 2018 conditional pick
I had a fantasy football draft last night, and then I had some people over for cards. I ended up going to bed at 6 a.m. It's noon now, and I woke up 20 minutes ago. I looked at my phone, which was on silent, and I had texts from eight people telling me to wake the hell up and grade this trade. My apologies for being so late, but I didn't anticipate a blockbuster deal like this on a Saturday morning!
This is shocking to say the least, but it obviously makes sense. The Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season to a gruesome knee injury, and their Super Bowl hopes were dashed as a result. They have one of the top defenses in the NFL, a strong running game and some solid play-makers, but Shaun Hill wasn't going to make a deep run into the postseason.
By making this deal, the Vikings are basically saying, "We can win the Super Bowl with Bradford." And in theory, they can! Peyton Manning took a similar team to the Super Bowl last year, and statistically, Bradford was way better than Manning in 2015, and it wasn't even close. Manning was an interception machine who couldn't connect on any passes downfield. Bradford is an accurate quarterback who can play the role of game-manager quite well. He's also a nice fit for the offense, as he's worked with Pat Shurmur in both St. Louis and Philadelphia.
With Bradford on the roster, Minnesota's Super Bowl chances have increased. There's no doubt about that. In fact, for a second, I thought that this was a good trade for the Vikings. And then I remembered something...
Bradford will get injured at some point!
There's no way Bradford lasts 16 games for the Vikings. I don't care if they run the ball every down. He's going to get hurt somehow, and once that happens, the Vikings will be back where they started, only to be missing their first-round pick. I understand why the Vikings made this trade, but this deal was made out of panic, and that's never a good thing. Also, this compensation seems ridiculous. Giving up a first-rounder for Bradford alone seems like too much. They're also throwing in a 2018 choice that could be as high as a second-rounder! That's absolutely ridiculous.
I'm not going to give the Vikings a poor grade because they don't really have many options, but this can't be higher than a "C." I feel like fair compensation for Bradford would've just been a 2017 second-round selection. Had that trade been made, Minnesota would've been awarded a B+, or even an A-. But this trade is just way too lopsided.
As for the Eagles, well, how do you not grade this as an A+? This may go down as one of the greatest trades in the NFL this decade. Getting a first for Bradford is a gift itself, and Philadelphia could have an extra second-day choice in 2018 on top of that.
The Eagles, by making this trade, have announced that they are effectively punting this season, but this was seen as a transitional year anyway. They didn't have much of a chance of winning more than six or seven games, so why not continue to build for the future? The pedestrian Chase Daniel will start until Carson Wentz is healthy and ready, and the Eagles can insert Wentz into the lineup without having to worry about Bradford pouting again.
Update: I was reminded by Facebook friend Anthony A. that the Browns deserve a grade for this trade as well. Why? Because they own Philadelphia's first-round pick. The Eagles are obviously worse without Bradford in the immediate future, so Cleveland will be drafting earlier as a result. In fact, it's not out of the question that the Browns will own the top two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. You can check out my 2017 NFL Mock Draft here. Let's give the Browns an A+ as well.
Grade for Vikings - C
Grade for Eagles - A+
Grade for Browns - A+
Cowboys sign QB Mark Sanchez: D Grade
The Broncos released Mark Sanchez in the wake of Trevor Siemian winning the starting job. The Cowboys, in dire need of a veteran backup behind Dak Prescott, signed him almost instantly.
This signing is pretty irrelevant. Having a veteran like Sanchez on the roster as insurance for Prescott may sound like a nice idea, but the Cowboys won't be able to win any games if Sanchez starts. It'll be exactly like it was last year with Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden. Sanchez is just as bad as them, if not worse.
With that in mind, I'm giving the Cowboys a "D." I'd rather see them go after a young quarterback with some sort of upside. I also thought Tarvaris Jackson was a better option if Dallas wanted to go to the veteran route. There's really no point in having Sanchez on the team, and it's kind of sad that Dallas had to resort to signing him.
Bears re-sign G Kyle Long (4 years, $40M; $30M guaranteed): B Grade
This may seem like a lot of money for Kyle Long, especially after a 2015 season in which he didn't play all that well. Long, however, was miscast as a tackle. He's been much better in the interior, however, and I can't exactly blame the Bears for giving him a long-term extension.
I'm not going to give the Bears an "A" or something else in that range, as they're not getting a great deal or anything. But this extension makes a lot of sense, as the Bears will have the cornerstone of their offensive line around until the end of the decade. I'm willing to give Chicago a solid "B" grade as a result, as this contract is what it should be.
Steelers acquire CB Justin Gilbert from Browns for 2018 6th-round pick
Based on the Browns' luck alone, would it surprise anyone if Justin Gilbert bounced back from his horrific stint in Cleveland to become a Pro Bowl-caliber player for Pittsburgh? This almost has to happen, right?
Gilbert has been an enormous bust, but he has tons of raw talent. I think it's definitely worth the risk to surrender a sixth-round pick for a player like that. Perhaps Gilbert, who has been a knucklehead, will see this as a wake-up call. Maybe he'll get his head on straight in a stronger locker room. Gilbert, in all seriousness, is likely to stay a bust, but there's a high level of upside with this trade.
As for the Browns, I'm not going to give them a bad grade for this deal, but I'd prefer for them not to trade within the division. If Gilbert finally lives up to his potential, Cleveland will look even more stupid than it would under normal circumstances.
Seahawks acquire S Dewey McDonald from Raiders for conditional pick
Every time I begin thinking about what to write about the Dewey McDonald trade, I can't help but remember that annoying kid brother on Malcolm in the Middle. I always thought the writers should've treated him like Judy from Family Matters and just wrote him off the show. Malcolm wouldn't quite be in the middle then, but whatever. The world would've been a better place.
As for this Dewey, McDonald is a reserve safety and special-teamer. It seems nonsensical to trade any sort of pick, even if it's a conditional seventh-rounder, for someone like that when Seattle could've obtained him or someone comparable off waivers.
The Raiders are the clear winners here, as they're fortunate to get anything for a replacement-level player who probably wouldn't have made the final 53.