Vikings sign LB Eric Kendricks (5 years, $50 million; $25 million guaranteed): B- Grade
This seems like a lot of money for Eric Kendricks. However, to determine if that's truly the case, let's look at some of the other linebacker signings this offseason so we can compare this contract:
Chiefs sign LB Anthony Hitchens (5 years, $45 million; $25 million guaranteed)
Eagles re-sign OLB Nigel Bradham (5 years, $40 million; $6 million guaranteed)
Saints sign ILB Demario Davis (3 years, $24 million; $16 million guaranteed)
Redskins re-sign LB Zach Brown (3 years, $24 million; $5.5 million guaranteed)
Jets sign ILB Avery Williamson (3 years, $22.5 million; $16 million guaranteed)
These were the highest-paid linebackers this offseason. A quick note: I can't believe Eagles general manager Howie Roseman got away with paying Nigel Bradham just $6 million guaranteed. The man is a wizard.
At any rate, Kendricks is a talented, three-down linebacker who plays well in coverage. He misses some tackles from time to time, but he's an important member of Minnesota's defense. I'd rate him slightly below Anthony Hitchens, and I gave that signing a "B," so I think a B- or a C+ makes sense. I think I'm more willing to lean toward the former, as it's become apparent that non-rushing linebackers who excel in coverage are more important than ever.
Seahawks sign TE Ed Dickson (3 years, $10.7 million; $3.6 million guaranteed): C- Grade
Ed Dickson is so pedestrian that I didn't even give him a write-up in my NFL Free Agent Tight End Rankings. The Seahawks, apparently, think more highly of him, as they gave the former Panther a 3-year, $14 million contract.
I personally believe that this is too much money for a blocking tight end. That's all Dickson is. He hasn't registered more than 30 receptions in a single season since 2011. He blocks well, but tight ends of his caliber can be found anywhere, including the final rounds of the NFL Draft. Moreover, Dickson turns 31 in July, so he could begin to regress soon. With all of these factors, I have to give the Seahawks a poor grade for this move.
Update: Reader Kyle D. informed me of the corrected details of Dickson's contracts. Rather than three years, $14 million, the value of this deal is $10.7 million, and only $3.6 million is guaranteed. I still think this is an overpay for a pedestrian player, but at least it's not as bad as I initially thought. I've moved the grade from a "D" to a C-. I don't understand why Dickson should be getting anything more than $2 million guaranteed when there are plenty of comparable players available who would take less money.
Browns re-sign WR Jarvis Landry (5 years, $75.5 million; $47 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
I'm a fan of Jarvis Landry, but this seems like way too much money at first glance. Let's compare this contract to those of other high-priced receivers signed recently to make sure:
Buccaneers re-sign WR Mike Evans (5 years, $82.5 million; $55 million guaranteed)
Texans re-sign WR DeAndre Hopkins (5 years, $81 million; $50 million guaranteed)
Steelers re-sign WR Antonio Brown (4 years, $68 million; $19 million guaranteed)
Packers re-sign WR Davante Adams (4 years, $58 million; $24 million guaranteed)
Chiefs sign WR Sammy Watkins (3 years, $48 million; $30 million guaranteed)
Bears sign WR Allen Robinson (3 years, $42 million; $25 million guaranteed)
Redskins sign WR Paul Richardson (5 years, $40 million; $12.5 million guaranteed)
It's safe to say that Landry is better than the bottom three players on this list (taking Watkins' injury history into account, and WTF is that Richardson contract!?), so he obviously deserves more money than them. Conversely, he's worse than Evans, Hopkins and Brown, and yet he'll be making something close to the former two. Brown's contract, meanwhile, continues to be bewildering. I normally don't give huge contracts A+ grades, but I did on that occasion because I couldn't believe Brown didn't earn more money.
At any rate, it seems like a mistake that Landry is making almost as much as Evans and Hopkins (especially the latter). Landry is probably closest to Adams on this list as far as overall talent is concerned - they're different players with varying skill sets, but if you were to compare how good they are as players, they're probably the most similar - and yet Landry received about double the amount of guaranteed money Adams did.
This signing can't be graded favorably. However, I don't think it's a bad move either. The Browns are the Browns, after all, and they have to overpay for talented players until they prove that they can win. Landry will be able to help them do that.
Eagles sign TE Richard Rodgers (1 year, $880,000; $245,000 guaranteed): B Grade
Special thanks to my friend Drew, a.k.a Jerk of the Week from Dec. 4, 2017, for alerting me that the details of this signing were finally available.
The Eagles lost two tight ends this offseason, cutting Brent Celek and watching Trey Burton sign a big contract with the Bears. Philadelphia still obviously has Zach Ertz, but needed a viable backup in the event of an injury. Richard Rodgers, pending the draft, will be the No. 2 tight end for less than a million dollars this year.
This signing is fine. It's not exciting or anything, as Rodgers isn't particularly good at much. However, his one positive trait is that he's decent at being an end-zone threat, as he came down with eight touchdowns in 2015. He also caught that famous Thursday night Hail Mary from Aaron Rodgers against Detroit. The Eagles could've done worse than Rodgers, and he makes sense at this salary.
Saints sign WR Cameron Meredith (2 years, $9.6 million; $5.4 million guaranteed): A- Grade
The Bears played games with their lowball tender offers all offseason, and they finally got burned. They've lost Cameron Meredith to the Saints despite having the ability to keep him with a better tender offer.
Meredith is a 25-year-old receiver with lots of talent. He caught 66 passes for 888 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. He appeared as though he was going to have an even better 2017 campaign, as he was enjoying a great training camp and preseason, but he tore his ACL and MCL in the third week of the exhibition. He missed all of last year as a result.
The Bears apparently didn't want to match this offer because they were concerned about Meredith's knee. There could be legitimate reason for those worries, but Meredith will be a full year removed from the injury by August. He's also not commanding an obscene amount of money, or anything, as $5.4 million guaranteed isn't nothing, but it won't hurt the Saints long term if this move doesn't pan out.
I love this signing. I'm not going with the full "A" because of the knee, but Meredith could have a big year as the team's No. 2 receiver if he's able to fully recover.
Cowboys sign DE Kony Ealy (1 year, $1.25 million; $200,000 guaranteed): A- Grade
The Patriots traded for Kony Ealy last offseason, only to cut him after he had a disappointing training camp and preseason. The Jets scooped him up and watched him put decent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Ealy recorded just one sack, but his play was much better than that stat indicates. Ealy wasn't great, or anything, but he was a quality edge rusher.
Ealy deserved a larger deal than this; not a big multi-year contract, or anything, but perhaps $3 million for 2018. I do think the 1-year "prove it" route is correct, however, as Ealy has been very inconsistent throughout his career thus far. Still, this is a very good price for him, so I have to grade this signing favorably for Dallas.
Steelers sign S Nat Berhe (1 year, $880,000): B Grade
I was requested to grade this signing, and e-mailer Will P. was kind enough to send me information on this contract, so thanks to him for the details of this move!
This seems like a decent signing. It's not a great acquisition by any means, but Berhe will be a solid role player for the Steelers in 2018. Berhe will be the third safety and a contributor on special teams, taking the place of Robert Golden, who signed with the Chiefs eight days ago. Berhe and Golden are about the same caliber of player, and they're just one year apart in age (Berhe is younger), so this signing makes sense.
Jets sign C Travis Swanson (1 year, $1.55 million; $350,000 guaranteed): A Grade
I'm loving all of these 1-year "prove it" deals. All of the grades posted today proves that it's foolish to splurge early in free agency. Look at some of the initial signings. The Dolphins paid Albert Wilson countless millions when they could've signed Jordan Matthews for a much better price. The same goes for the Jets and Spencer Long; New York spent $7 million per year on him, when Swanson offers infinite more value at this price.
Swanson is a talented center, but has a dubious injury history, which would explain the need for a 1-year "prove it" deal. Swanson has endured far too many concussions in his career, and the next one could be his last. Still, he's very much worth it for just $350,000 guaranteed, as he'll provide a big upgrade at center - coincidentally, over Long - if he can remain healthy.
Titans sign NT Bennie Logan (1 year, $4 million): A Grade
Bennie Logan signed a 1-year "prove it" deal with Kansas City last offseason. He played well early, but appeared to be worn down the stretch, as the Chiefs were getting gashed against the run each week.
It's unclear what happened to Logan, but he's talented and young enough (recently turned 28) to rebound. The Titans will be able to use Logan on early downs to help clamp against the rush, which will be important in the two meetings against Jacksonville.
I like this signing quite a bit. There's hardly any risk involved, and there's a chance Logan bounces back and performs like he did earlier in his career with the Eagles.
Patriots sign WR Jordan Matthews (1 year, $1 million; $170,000 guaranteed): A- Grade
This is not a lot of guaranteed money for a receiver who is a couple of years removed from an 85-catch, 997-yard campaign. Granted, those numbers were inflated, and Matthews had just 25 receptions in an injury-marred 2017 campaign, but this still seems like a pretty good deal.
I think this signing grade should be an A- or B+. There's a decent chance Matthews becomes a capable possession receiver for Tom Brady in the wake of the Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola departures. Matthews is still young - 26 in July - so it's very possible that he bounces back to a 2016 level in which he hauled in 73 balls for 804 yards.
Ravens sign QB Robert Griffin (1 year, $1 million): A Grade
Unlike the Geno Smith signing, this is an intriguing move. Robert Griffin, of course, was taken with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Griffin had an amazing rookie campaign, but has floundered since. Following his ACL tear, Griffin became less mobile, and his lack of interest in studying film hasn't allowed him to progress as a passer.
That said, Griffin has some amazing potential. His talent level is still high, and at 28, he has time to turn things around. He sat out all last year, so it's possible that the time off has given him a new-found appreciation and passion for football. If he puts more mental work into his game, he can still become a solid starter again in the NFL, so I like that the Ravens are taking a chance on him for just $1 million. Griffin could pan out, and if he's starting over a rapidly regressing Joe Flacco by November, no one should be surprised. Then again, no one should be shocked if Griffin continues to struggle, but for this small price, there's no risk and all reward.
Chargers sign QB Geno Smith (1 year, $1 million; $200,000 guaranteed): B Grade
I'm not giving a Geno Smith signing anything higher than a "B" grade, but I think this is a fine move, as the Chargers have upgraded their No. 2 quarterback situation.
Some may scoff at the Chargers acquiring Smith, given that he was a bust with the Jets, but he showed last year that he can be a functional backup in the NFL. Smith has been hurt by inaccuracy and an inability to grasp the mental part of the game, but he still has potential at just 27. It's more likely that he'll be a decent No. 2 signal-caller for the next 5-7 years, meaning the Chargers are getting him at a quality price because average backup quarterbacks command $4-5 million per year.
Cowboys sign OT Cameron Fleming (1 year, $2.5 million; $1 million guaranteed): A+ Grade
This is a terrific signing that no one is really talking about. Cameron Fleming did a good job as a replacement for an injured Marcus Cannon last year, as New England didn't skip a beat. Just 26 in September, Fleming should continue to improve his game, making this contract seem incredibly cheap.
Fleming fills two holes for the Cowboys. La'el Collins struggled at right tackle last year, and it was clear that he would be better off at guard. Fleming's presence will allow Collins to shift to left guard, the spot that current Bronco Ronald Leary used to occupy.
I think this deserves an A+. Fleming could be making much more than this, and signing him addressed two big needs for Dallas.
Broncos sign P Marquette King (3 years, $7 million): A Grade
It's puzzling why the Raiders cut Marquette King. It's certainly not a matter of talent; he ranked sixth in net average last year. He's also just 29. The problem, apparently, happened to be King's dancing performances after every solid punt. The routine might be tiresome, but it shouldn't have affected Oakland's decision to have King on the roster.
Oakland's loss is definitely Denver's gain. The Broncos needed a better punter than Riley Dixon, who was 22nd in net yardage in 2017. King is a big upgrade at a cheap price, and Denver is also poaching a talented player from a rival, which is a strategy I'm in favor of.
Texans sign QB Joe Webb (1 year, $1.015 million): B Grade
I just graded the Doug Martin signing, so it seems very odd that Joe Webb will be making more money than Martin will in 2018, but yet here we are.
Despite that absurdity, the Webb signing isn't a bad one, and I'm willing to grade it a "B." Webb is better than any quarterback the Texans have on their roster right now, save for Deshaun Watson, of course. His competition for the No. 2 role will be against Brandon Weeden and Taylor Heincke, and I'd rather have Webb because of his mobility. Plus, Webb can also double as a special-teamer as well, so that's some nice added value.
Raiders sign RB Doug Martin (1 year, $850,000): A Grade
It's kind of crazy that it has come to this. Doug Martin was once considered one of the better running backs in the NFL. He rushed for 1,402 yards in 2015 despite not eclipsing 300 carries, prompting the Buccaneers to sign him to a 5-year, $35 million contract. Now, Martin won't even be making $1 million in 2018!
Martin is the ideal candidate for a 1-year "prove it" deal. He has failed to average three yards per carry since 2015, thanks to both lethargy and injuries. Martin basically gave up after getting such a big contract, but he'll be desperate to get one last big pay day before he calls it a career. He'll be working very hard, and I could see him thriving with the Raiders this season. If Marshawn Lynch gets hurt early, Martin might reach 1,000 yards once again.
Also, Martin is just 29, so it's not like age is a concern right now. I love this signing, as the Raiders are getting big upside with no risk.
Chiefs sign NT Xavier Williams (2 years, $2.712 million; $705,000 guaranteed): A- Grade
Before I begin, thanks to reader Karl W. for sending links to details of the Xavier Williams and Doug Martin contracts!
The Chiefs needed a run-stuffing nose tackle after Bennie Logan struggled this past season, and they managed to steal Williams away from the Cardinals. Williams was just a restricted free agent, yet Kansas City was able to sign him.
Williams has developed into a stout run-plugger, and at just 26, he should continue to improve his game. He'll definitely help the Chiefs' woeful ground defense, and at less than $1.5 million per season, he seems like a great bargain.
Vikings sign WR Kendall Wright (1 year, $1 million; $400,000 guaranteed): A- Grade
Thanks again to Facebook friend Nathan T. for sending these contract details my way. Kendall Wright will be getting $400,000 in guarantees this year. Tennessee fans may think that's too much, given how much of a bust Wright has been. However, I don't think that's necessarily correct.
Wright had a monstrous second season in his career, catching 94 passes for 1,079 yards. Unfortunately, he hasn't done much since; he hasn't topped 614 receiving yards since 2014. Wright, however, hasn't played with great passing quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, Kirk Cousins, from just a passing perspective, will be the best signal-caller Wright has ever worked with. Also, Wright won't be asked to be a No. 1 or 2 receiver in Minnesota. He struggled in that role, but Wright makes much more sense as a tertiary option. In fact, I think Wright has the potential to be one of the better third receivers in the NFL, so this contract seems like a bargain.
Browns sign WR Jeff Janis (1 year, $1.15 million; $0 guaranteed): B Grade
Thanks to Facebook friend Nathan T. for sending me information about this contract. As it turns out, Jeff Janis' deal doesn't contain any guaranteed money, which is obviously ideal.
Janis really looked like he was going to develop into something when he racked up 145 yards and two touchdowns in a playoff game against the Cardinals a couple of years ago. However, he hasn't done much since. In fact, he has yet to eclipse 100 receiving yards in a single season!
That said, Janis still has upside. I think this move is fine, as the Browns aren't risking anything. Janis probably won't do anything outside of special teams, but there's always a chance he could be a late bloomer. Plus, general manager John Dorsey worked in Green Bay for almost 20 years, so he might have some intel on Janis.
Jets re-sign S Terrence Brooks (2 years, $4 million; $1 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
Terrence Brooks signed a deal with the Jets on March 14. I've been waiting all this time for contract details to be released so I could grade the move. The day has finally come.
I was surprised Brooks signed for so little. Brooks didn't play much in 2017 because he was stuck behind Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. However, he's a skilled safety who shined when he won AFC Defensive Player of the Week against the Dolphins in Week 3. I thought he should've gotten a shot at a starting gig in 2018, but he'll be back with the Jets to be a premium backup and a special-teams contrubitor. This is a solid deal for just $1 million guaranteed over the next two seasons.
By the way, I'm still waiting on contract details for the following players:
Dolphins sign WR Albert Wilson (3 years, $24 million; $14 million guaranteed): MILLEN KIELBASA FOOLS DAY Grade
Wow, this sure is a lot of money for a player who has never done anything. This was very close to earning a Millen grade, but there will be worse contracts signed this week, I promise you.
Albert Wilson has never topped more than 42 catches, 554 receiving yards or three touchdowns in a single season. Granted, he was paired with the limited Alex Smith, but we saw Tyreek Hill thrive with Smith. Wilson could never become a consistent threat in Kansas City, so it's unreasonable to expect him to do the same thing in Miami.
It's unclear what the Dolphins are doing. They dealt their best receiver, Jarvis Landry, for next to nothing, and they followed that up by signing a non-talent like Wilson to a deal worth $8 million per season. I don't understand what sort of strategy this is, but it can't possibly work.
Update: I wrote earlier that I would re-grade this depending on what the guaranteed money was. I also said I regretted not giving this signing a Millen grade. When I wrote that, I assumed the guaranteed amount in this contract was something in the neighborhood of $8 million. As it turns out, this is far worse than I imagined.
I can't believe it. How can the Dolphins give Wilson $14 million guaranteed? Again, Wilson has never had more than 42 catches in his career, and while it's more important to project forward than look backward, there's no logical reason to expect Wilson's stats to explode. It's not like Wilson was an early draft pick who has yet to live up to his potential. He's a former undrafted free agent for a reason.
I just don't understand what Miami's thinking is. It parallels what the Ravens did with Ryan Grant - signing a pedestrian receiver out of desperation for way too much money - except the Dolphins didn't have the foresight to rule that their overpriced wideout failed to pass his physical due to a lack of talent. This signing must be re-graded as a Millen.
Vikings re-sign K Kai Forbath (1 year, $790,000): B+ Grade
I usually avoid giving a kicker signing anything higher than a B+ - unless we're talking about the best kicker in the league, or a future Hall of Famer - but this contract definitely deserves something close.
I'm all for teams paying kickers cheaply, and this signing certainly qualifies. It actually seems like Kai Forbath should be worth more than $790,000. Forbath has been solid for the Vikings over the past two seasons, hitting 47-of-53 attempts, including 7-of-10 from 50-plus. Both of these conversion rates are excellent, but it's worth noting that Forbath has missed eight extra points over the span. Still, I love the idea of Minnesota paying him less than $1 million, especially given how other teams tend to overpay for kickers.
Raiders sign CB Leon Hall (1 year, $1.005 million; $45,000 guaranteed): B+ Grade
Leon Hall used to be a very talented cornerback, but he will turn 34 at some point during the 2018 season. He's been a journeyman since 2015, bouncing from the Giants, to the 49ers, and now to the Raiders. However, I think this signing is a quality one that will pan out even if Hall doesn't make much of an impact on the field.
Hall knows Raiders' defensive coordinator Paul Guenther's system very well because he played for Guenther in Cincinnati. Hall can help develop young cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin so that they transition into Guenther's scheme quickly. Plus, I don't think it's unfathomable that Hall could contribute as a reserve, given that Jon Gruden has a history of reviving old players' careers. Hall could also miss the 53-man roster, but he'll still have an impact by helping the younger corners come along, so I'm going to grade this favorably.
Jets sign WR Terrelle Pryor (1 year, $4.5 million; $2 million guaranteed): A Grade
It seems like only yesterday when ESPN's Charles Woodson predicted that Terrelle Pryor would accumulate 1,800 receiving yards in a single season. Pryor did eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier in Cleveland in 2016, but fell flat on his face this past year. He barely did anything in Washington, catching just 20 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown in nine games.
I can't believe Pryor is so bad that he would regress that much in a single season. He and Kirk Cousins didn't click for some reason, so I think there's a good chance Pryor will bounce back with the Jets, especially if Josh McCown starts in favor of the rookie quarterback inevitably chosen third overall. McCown, of course, was one of Pryor's quarterbacks in Cleveland in his best season as a pro, so there's a good chance Pryor will come close to 1,000 receiving yards again.
Considering the Jets have a good shot at getting strong production out of Pryor, this contract seems like quite the bargain. Pryor is on a 1-year "prove it" deal, so he'll be working as hard as possible to earn a larger contract next spring.
Falcons re-sign K Matt Bryant (3 years, $10.1 million; $2 million guaranteed): A- Grade
It seemed odd at first that a 43-year-old kicker would receive a 3-year deal worth $10.1 million. I didn't understand it at all until I glanced at the guaranteed money, which was just $2 million. That's not even $750,000 per season on this contract, making it a quality deal for the Falcons.
Bryant has been one of the top kickers in the NFL for a very long time. He's been unbelievably clutch. Age is obviously a concern, which is why this isn't earning an "A" grade, but it looks like the Falcons have protected themselves from Bryant's potential regression, all while rewarding their long-time kicker if he continues to excel.
Dolphins sign QB Brock Osweiler (1 year, $880,000): C Grade
I could have gone lower with this grade, but the one positive caveat pertaining to this signing is that Brock Osweiler worked with Adam Gase in Denver, so there's familiarity with the offensive scheme. So, that's nice.
However, this didn't exactly work out very well with Jay Cutler last year. Osweiler may know Gase's playbook inside and out, but that doesn't change the fact that he sucks. There were several better quarterbacks to sign as backups, including Miami's No. 2 signal-caller from last year, Matt Moore.
I don't like this signing, but I won't go below a "C" because of the aforementioned knowledge Osweiler has with the system.
Redskins sign DE/OLB Pernell McPhee (1 year, $1.8 million; $350,000 guaranteed): A+ Grade
I absolutely love this signing. In fact, my eyeballs nearly popped out of my sockets when I saw the money on this deal.
Pernell McPhee is worth so much more than $350,000 guaranteed on a 1-year contract. He's a very talented edge rusher, but the problem is that he hasn't been able to stay healthy. He's missed 12 games in the past three seasons, and he was banged up in some of the contests he played. However, he'll be a very effective player for the Redskins if he can stay injury-free. That may seem like a big "if" right now, but with this money, Washington isn't risking anything. The Redskins will also be getting McPhee at his absolute best, as this "prove it" contract will have him highly motivated to land more money next spring.
This is definitely an A+. It's a high-upside, very low-risk signing that will almost certainly pan out.
Seahawks sign DT Shamar Stephen (1 year, $2.1 million; $1 million guaranteed): B Grade
The Seahawks lost Sheldon Richardson to the Vikings this offseason, so they're attempting to replace his production with two former Minnesota players, Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen. I gave the Johnson signing a B+, and I'm going to issue a similar grade for this move.
Stephen can't get to the quarterback at all - he has one career sack - but he's decent at stuffing the run. He'll be a capable rotational lineman for the Seahawks on early downs, and for just $1 million guaranteed in 2018, Stephen definitely seems worth it.
Saints sign TE Ben Watson (1 year): A- Grade
It's unclear how much Ben Watson signed for, but considering that he's 37, I doubt it's anything more than $2 or $2.5 million for one season. If so, this is definitely an A-/B+ signing.
Despite his advanced age, Watson is going to be an upgrade over the disappointing Coby Fleener, who is likely to be released. Watson was still productive last year (61 catches), and he has familiarity with the Saints' offense, having played in New Orleans between 2013 and 2015. He actually had the best season of his career in 2015, when he registered 74 receptions for 825 yards and six touchdowns. He won't match those figures again, but he'll be a solid, cheap presence on a team that missed out on signing Jimmy Graham.
49ers sign G Jonathan Cooper (1 year, $4.9 million; $4 million guaranteed): D Grade
This seems like a lot of money for Jonathan Cooper. I don't think this warrants a Millen grade, mainly because it's only for one year, but this is still an overpay.
Cooper has been a failure as a former top-10 pick. He started for the Cowboys last year, and he did a poor job replacing the Denver-bound Ronald Leary. The Cowboys gave Cooper a 1-year, $2 million contract with $500,000 guaranteed last spring, which seems like a much more reasonable rate for him. I have no idea why the 49ers are giving him EIGHT times the guaranteed amount!
Though this deal isn't getting a Millen, I'm giving the 49ers a "D" for it. John Lynch has done great work as San Francisco's general manager thus far, but this seems like a mistake on his part.
Browns sign QB Drew Stanton (2 years, $6.5 million): A- Grade
I hesitated to give a Drew Stanton signing an A-, but that's what I'm going with. Despite Stanton not being a very exciting player, I think this is a great move.
I've mentioned previously that the average going rate for average backup quarterbacks is $4-5 million. Stanton will be earning less than that despite being a decent reserve signal-caller. Also, Stanton has been around for a decade, so I like the fact that he'll be able to mentor either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. His presence could definitely help the development of either rookie.
Rams sign DT Ndamukong Suh (1 year, $14 million): A- Grade
I imagine everyone is going to consider this signing to be a great one, and I suppose I am grading it favorably with this A-. However, I'm not completely sold that this signing is going to be a 100-percent slam dunk.
Ndamukong Suh had problems in Miami. He played at a high level most of the time, but he did have bouts of lethargy occasionally. He also was a problem in the locker room, which is why the Dolphins were willing to get rid of him. Granted, their cap situation played a part in that decision, but if Suh were a better teammate, he would still probably be in Miami right now.
I worry if Suh will infect the Rams at all. I'm also curious of there will be any sort of decline, now that he's 31. However, the upside with this signing is so high that I want to give this an A- or a B+. Suh can be a dominant force with Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, and there aren't any long-term ramifications with this move, aside from not being able to roll over the $14 million for next year. It's possible that Suh's presence could put the Rams over the top in 2018.
Chiefs sign QB Chad Henne (2 years, $6.7 million): B Grade
There are several free-agent signings I haven't given grades to yet because the contracts haven't been revealed. Doug Martin is still one of them, and I'm wondering why the information is so slow on that score. The details of this contract were slow as well, but they were finally published.
Chad Henne will be making $3.35 million per year to be Kansas City's backup quarterback. If that sounds like a lot, consider that average reserve signal-callers make about $4-5 million per season. Henne is a slightly below-average No. 2 quarterback, so it would make sense that he's making a bit less than $4 million per season.
With that in mind, I'd say this is a very logical move, as the Chiefs needed a veteran quarterback to play behind and help mentor Patrick Mahomes.
Lions sign NT Sylvester Williams (1 year, $2.5 million): B Grade
Sylvester Williams is a bust as a former first-round pick of the infamously horrible 2013 NFL Draft, but that doesn't mean that he's a terrible player. Williams may not provide any pass-rushing ability - he has a grand total of one sack the past two seasons - but he stops the run fairly well, so he'll contribute that way in Detroit.
The Lions needed someone like Williams. Maybe they could've done better, but Williams will be a decent replacement for Haloti Ngata. At just one year for $2.5 million, this is a solid signing.
Browns sign CB E.J. Gaines (1 year, $4 million): A+ Grade
Cleveland's excellent offseason continues. The team had already added a couple of talented players to the secondary, but that apparently wasn't enough, as E.J. Gaines will join T.J. Carrie and Damarious Randall.
Gaines is a very talented cornerback, and in an ideal world, he would've signed a monstrous contract this offseason. However, he had to settle for a 1-year "prove it" deal because of his injury history. He has missed 26 games in the past three seasons, including five in each of the past two years.
Still, Gaines is very much worth this contract. It's an excellent bargain for the Browns, who will be getting a terrific talent at a cheap price and absolutely no risk. This is definitely an A+, and I actually raised Cleveland's NFL Free Agent Team Grade because of the signing.
Cowboys sign WR Allen Hurns (2 years, $12 million): C- Grade
This seems like a lot of money for a receiver who has put together one good statistical season in his career. And notice how I focused on the stats, and not the overall play from Allen Hurns that year.
Hurns caught 64 passes for 1,031 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015. Those numbers look great, but they were a byproduct of tons of garbage-time yardage from Blake Bortles. Bortles and Allen Robinson's stats were overly inflated from that season as well. Since then, Hurns has failed to eclipse 40 receptions in a single year. Hurns has dealt with some injuries, but his role had been diminished even prior to getting hurt, and it's not like Jacksonville has great receiving talent.
Hurns' ideal contract this offseason should've been one year, $2-$2.5 million, or so. Signing him to $6 million per season is a definite overpay.
Packers sign CB Tramon Williams (2 years, $10 million): B+ Grade
Tramon Williams played for the Packers from 2007 and 2014. He was on the Cleveland and Arizona rosters after that, but he has come back home for this 2-year, $10 million deal.
This seems like a very good signing by the Packers. Williams performed at a high level for the Cardinals this past season. The one danger is that he's certain to regress soon because of his age (35), so I wish the Packers signed him to a bit less, but Williams should be able to help an ailing secondary that missed out on Kyle Fuller this offseason.
Panthers sign CB Ross Cockrell (2 years, $6.8 million): A Grade
It doesn't seem like Ross Cockrell gets the appreciation he deserves. He played very well for the Steelers, yet they shipped him off to the Giants for a seventh-round pick after signing Joe Haden. Then, the Giants barely used Cockrell until they suffered multiple injuries, and Cockrell rewarded them with quality play.
Unlike the Steelers and Giants, I will appreciate Cockrell, as this signing is a great one. Carolina has major issues in its secondary, and Cockrell will definitely help matters. He was obtained for a very cheap price, so I'm giving this an "A" grade.
Seahawks sign DT Tom Johnson (1 year, $2.7 million): B+ Grade
The Seahawks lost key members of their defense this season, including two talented players on the front line, Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson. If the best they can do as a replacement is Tom Johnson, they'll be in trouble.
That said, Johnson isn't a bad addition. I like this signing, actually. Johnson is a solid rotational player who is decent versus the run and can apply some semblance of a pass rush. He could regress this season, given that he turns 34 in August, but he seems like a nice acquisition at just $2.7 million this year.
Eagles sign WR Mike Wallace (1 year, $2.5 million): A- Grade
The Eagles got rid of Torrey Smith, who counted for more than $4 million against the cap, and they replaced him with a better receiver who is going to be paid about half as much. Howie Roseman wins again.
Wallace has endured his ups and downs in his career. He was excellent for Pittsburgh, but then struggled with a lack of effort in Miami and Minnesota. He was better in Baltimore - he caught 72 passes for 1,017 yards in 2016 - but still dropped the ball more than his team would've liked. Still, Wallace is a dynamic downfield threat who will make some big plays for the Eagles.
There's some cause for concern for a decline - Wallace turns 32 in August - but this signing is all upside with no risk and is worth an A-.
Dolphins sign RB Frank Gore (1 year, $1.015 million): A- Grade
Frank Gore returns home. He played for the University of Miami, and now he'll be on the Dolphins' roster to serve as depth behind Kenyan Drake.
Gore will be playing for the veteran minimum, which seems right. He'll make $1.015 million, but will count just $630,000 against the cap. Gore rushed for 960 yards behind a poor offensive line last year in Indianapolis, so he can serve as a solid reserve.
This move makes sense. I'd like it more if the Dolphins were a playoff contender, as Gore's locker room leadership would be beneficial. That said, I like the idea of Gore mentoring Kenyan Drake, all while providing quality depth at a cheap rate.
Chiefs sign RB Damien Williams (1 year, $1.5 million): B Grade
The Chiefs already have Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West on their roster, so where does Damien Williams fit in? This seems like an insurance policy for Ware, who is coming off a brutal knee injury. He tore both his PCL and LCL, and even though it happened back in August, it's worse than the standard ACL and MCL tears. There's a chance Ware may not be ready for the season opener.
If Ware can't play, Williams should be fine backup behind Hunt as a bigger back who can also catch some passes out of the backfield. If, however, Ware is fine, Williams won't be needed, and he may not even make the final 53-man roster. It's hard to like this signing very much for that reason, but it does make sense to hedge against Ware's availability.
Cowboys sign WR Deonte Thompson (1 year, $2.5 million; $1 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
The Cowboys had a huge need at receiver entering the offseason, but they haven't been able to do anything about it because of their poor financial situation. Things are still dire for them at the position, even in the wake of the Deonte Thompson signing.
Thompson caught 38 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns last year with both the Bears and Bills. Chicago actually cut Thompson early in the season, and he went on to post some quality stat lines for Buffalo, including a 7-81-1 performance at the Jets in Week 9. However, most of that came in garbage time of a surprise blowout on Thursday night. After that game, Thompson caught either one or two passes in every game, save for two.
Thompson is a fine reserve receiver, but if the Cowboys are thinking about starting him across from Dez Bryant, they're going to be disappointed. Dallas is also overpaying Thompson a bit; he's not good enough to warrant any sort of guarantee, much less a $1 million signing bonus. Still, this move isn't horrible, as Thompson can at least provide decent depth.
Colts sign G Matt Slauson (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
I love the moves the Colts have made over the past 48 hours. They managed to retain talented guard Jack Mewhort at a very cheap rate. A bit before that, they signed former Charger Matt Slauson to a similar contract, giving him $3 million for 2018.
Slauson is coming off a down year because of torn biceps, but he's a very talented blocker who can play both guard and center. He's 32 now, but interior linemen can play well into their mid-30s, so I don't think Slauson will suffer any sort of major regression.
With that in mind, this seems like a great signing. If Ryan Kelly performs up to expectations, and Mewhort stays healthy, Indianapolis will have a very talented interior line. Slauson's presence will obviously help, and the fact that he didn't hurt the cap situation at all makes this an "A" grade move.
Lions sign TE Luke Willson (1 year, $2.5 million): B Grade
Luke Willson is an athletic tight end with potential, but he has never been able to translate that to the field. He has yet to catch more than 22 passes in a single season. Granted, he's been playing behind Jimmy Graham, but he had some opportunities when Graham was injured, yet was not able to take advantage of them.
Perhaps that'll change in Detroit. The last time the Lions signed an underachiever from the Seahawks, they obtained Golden Tate, and that acquisition worked out extremely well. Willson obviously won't be as potent in the offense, but he could be a solid addition. I'm not crazy about this move, but I think it deserves a solid "B" grade.
Colts re-sign G Jack Mewhort (1 year, $1.5 million): A+ Grade
Jack Mewhort is a very skilled blocker who would have received a huge contract this offseason had he been able to stay healthy. Unfortunately for Mewhort, that hasn't been the case. Mewhort has played in just one full season in his career thus far, and he has been on the field in only 15 games the past two years.
Mewhort has been completely unreliable, but there's always a chance that could change. Mewhort is only 27 (in August), so he has time to turn his career around. For just one year and $1.5 million, why not try him out once more? This is a great contract, worthy of an A+, because Indianapolis is potentially retaining a great piece of its offensive line with absolutely no downside.
Raiders sign S Marcus Gilchrist (1 year, $4 million): A- Grade
Marcus Gilchrist tore his patellar tendon in December 2016, and it seemed like his playing days could be finished. Instead, he had the best season of his career, somehow.
I was worried Gilchrist would get too large of a contract, as he carried risk. Players who tear their patellar tendons tend to regress if they have a successful season - see Jimmy Graham - and Gilchrist turns 30 in December. However, with this 1-year deal, the Raiders aren't really risking anything, and they're potentially getting a player who can perform on a high level for them next to Karl Joseph.
Steelers sign ILB Jon Bostic (2 years, $4 million): A- Grade
Prior to this past season, Jon Bostic was seen as a major bust. He struggled despite being a second-round pick from the infamously bad 2013 NFL Draft. He missed all of 2016 with a broken foot. The Colts took a chance on him for the 2017 campaign, and it worked out. Bostic didn't play well in coverage, but was forceful in run support.
The Steelers should be able to use Bostic as a two-down linebacker to help them stop the rush, which was a problem for them following Ryan Shazier's injury. A three-down linebacker is still Pittsburgh's biggest need, but Bostic should help. He provides some very good value at just two years for $4 million.
Texans sign G Zach Fulton (4 years, $28 million; $13 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
Zach Fulton has plenty of potential. A former sixth-round pick out of Tennessee, Fulton has done a good job of developing his game. He needs to improve his run-blocking ability, but he was solid in pass protection this past season. Just 26, Fulton should continue to improve.
This may seem like a lot of money for Fulton, and I thought it was as well at first glance. However, the Texans have to be in love with Fulton's potential, and I can see why. Plus, given how desperate they are for offensive line help, I don't blame them at all for making a move like this. Protecting Deshaun Watson is extremely imperative, and Houston has to do whatever it takes to keep its young quarterback healthy.
Steelers sign S Morgan Burnett (3 years, $14.5 million): A+ Grade
As is usually the case, one of the smarter teams in the NFL waited until the second week of free agency to acquire a talented player at a very cheap rate. The Steelers did this with Morgan Burnett in what was one of the best moves in the new league year thus far.
Safety was Pittsburgh's top need (excluding inside linebacker) heading into the offseason. That's no longer the case in the wake of the Burnett signing. Burnett, 29, was outstanding for the Packers for most of his career. He had a bit of a down season in 2017 because of injuries, but he's young enough to have a bounce-back campaign. Assuming this happens, Burnett will offer the Steelers a huge upgrade at safety at a big-time bargain price.
Colts sign WR Ryan Grant (1 year, $5 million): C+ Grade
Poor Ryan Grant. He signed a 4-year, $29 million contract with the Ravens, a deal that had to even surprise him. Perhaps Baltimore thought it was getting the running back Ryan Grant in his prime, as the team rescinded the offer after it determined that Grant failed a physical. I'm not sure how thorough this physical could have been, given that the Colts were able to pass him a few days later.
Despite the relative discount, I still think this is a high price for Grant. He was the 31st-rated player on my NFL Free Agent Wide Receiver Rankings page. The Colts could've signed many better receivers at potentially cheaper rates. I don't mind this deal, as Grant is a serviceable third or fourth receiver in the NFL, but I don't know why Indianapolis had to pay him $5 million.
Colts sign TE Eric Ebron (2 years, $15 million): C+ Grade
The Colts already possessed Jack Doyle, but new head coach Frank Reich wants to have two capable tight ends in his offense. Eric Ebron qualifies; the former No. 10 overall pick caught 61 passes for 711 yards back in 2016.
That said, this is a slight overpay for Ebron. The ex-Lion was released about a week ago, as Detroit didn't want to pay a tight end who drops so many passes. Ebron's hands are awful, and he'll undoubtedly frustrate Andrew Luck at times. Ebron will make some big plays as well, but the lack of consistency will drive Colts fans crazy, just as it did with Detroit supporters.
Chargers sign C Mike Pouncey (2 years, $15 million): B- Grade
The Chargers had terrible center play in 2017. It may have been the worst in the entire NFL. The Dolphins, however, weren't too far ahead of the Chargers, and Mike Pouncey was their center the entire year.
Pouncey is a tremendous blocker when healthy, but he hasn't been anywhere close to 100 percent for a long time. He actually needs a new hip, so I doubt he'll be healthy this upcoming season. Thus, the Chargers didn't really make too much of an upgrade.
That said, I don't hate this signing. There's a chance Pouncey's health improves, and that he plays better. I have serious doubts about this, but this contract isn't too brutal, so I don't mind the Chargers taking a shot.
Redskins sign CB Orlando Scandrick (2 years, $10 million): B+ Grade
Teams often make the mistake of overpaying early in free agency. The best strategy is to wait several days until quality bargains open up. This is definitely of them.
Orlando Scandrick was once known as one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, but injuries have derailed his career, and he's now 31. However, Scandrick can bounce back if he can manage to stay healthy. Barring more injuries, the ex-Dallas Cowboy will be better than he was in 2017, and he'll be motivated because he'll have the opportunity to go up against his former team twice.
At two years and $10 million, this is a strong value. Of course, Scandrick could continue to suffer injuries, but the Redskins aren't risking very much to find their replacement for Kendall Fuller.
Rams sign DT Dominique Easley (1 year, $1.85 million): A+ Grade
Saying that Dominique Easley hasn't been able to stay healthy is quite the understatement. He was out for all of 2017 with a torn ACL, and he has missed 26 games in total over the past four NFL seasons. This is a shame, as Easley is supremely talented. If injuries weren't an issue, he may have signed a huge contract this offseason.
Instead, Easley had to settle for a 1-year "prove it" deal worth less than $2 million. This is outstanding news for the Rams; if Easley can stay on the field, they'll have a terrific third interior pass-rusher, giving them a monstrous trio of Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Easley. For just $1.85 million, that's one hell of a bargain!
If, however, Easley is hurt again, the Rams won't be losing anything. This is cheaper than most 1-year "prove it" deals, so it's not even like Los Angeles will be concerned about not being able to roll over this $1.85 million. It's inconsequential, and Easley, if healthy, is the type of player who can put a team over the top in a crucial playoff game.
Patriots sign RB Jeremy Hill (1 year, $1.5 million): A Grade
So, let me get this straight: A decrepit Jonathan Stewart signed a contract where he received $3 million in guarantees for two years, yet Jeremy Hill is getting the same exact money per season despite the fact that he's younger and better? How in the world does that make sense?
And yes, Hill is better than Stewart. It's easy to forget, but Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns as a second-round rookie. He has struggled since, but Cincinnati's offensive line has been atrocious. He's averaged 3.8 and 3.1 yards per carry in the past two seasons, but Joe Mixon, widely considered to be a mega talent, averaged just 3.5 yards per carry this past season.
There are some lethargy concerns with Hill as well, as he hasn't taken his career completely seriously. However, Bill Belichick revived LeGarrette Blount's career twice, so I don't see why he couldn't do the same thing with Hill. I love this move, as the Patriots aren't risking anything, all while getting tremendous upside. This is an easy "A" grade, and I even considered an A+.
Bengals sign ILB Preston Brown (1 year, $4 million; $2 million guaranteed): A Grade
The Bengals had poor play out of Vincent Rey last season, so it would make sense that they would aim to upgrade inside linebacker. They certainly did so at a very cheap rate.
This is a great signing. Preston Brown isn't a dynamic player by any means, but he's a solid, jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none linebacker. He can play the run and cover somewhat well. He won't dominate, but he won't be a liability either. He did a fine job for the Bills in 2017, and he should continue to play at that level for Cincinnati, especially on this 1-year "prove it" deal. The contract - just $2 million guaranteed - seems like a terrific bargain, so I'm good with giving Cincinnati an "A" grade for this move.
Jets sign K Cairo Santos (1 year, $2 million): A- Grade
This is very similar to the Chargers' signing Caleb Sturgis. Like Sturgis, Cairo Santos lost his job to a better kicker getting an opportunity because of an injury. Santos was great for the Chiefs in 2016, hitting 31-of-35 tries, including both attempts from beyond 50. Santos was 3-of-3 in 2017 before hurting his groin. Harrison Butker took over, and that was the end for Santos in Kansas City.
Santos seems like a great signing for New York. The Jets lost Chandler Catanzaro to free agency, so they had a need for a kicker. Santos was a great option, and he comes at a discount because he barely played this past season.
Bengals sign QB Matt Barkley (2 years, $3.35 million): B+ Grade
I've mentioned earlier that $4-5 million is the average going rate for mediocre backup quarterbacks. Matt Barkley is a sub-par reserve signal-caller, so it makes sense that he's getting less than $2 million per year. The Bengals needed a No. 2 quarterback with A.J. McCarron gone, and it's nice that they were able to save money by signing Barkley, who provides more value than some of the other players at his position who were signed this spring (mostly Chase Daniel.)
That said, I highly doubt the Bengals go into 2018 with just Dalton and Barkley at quarterback. They have to find someone to push Dalton for the starting job, so they likely will select a quarterback in Rounds 2-4, which is what I have happening in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft.
Chargers sign K Caleb Sturgis (2 years, $4.45 million; $1 million guaranteed): A- Grade
Have the Chargers finally found their kicker? Perhaps. If so, this is big news for them, as they missed the playoffs last year because they lost a couple of games as a result of kicking woes.
Caleb Sturgis was a solid kicker for the Eagles, but lost the job through no fault of his own. He suffered a quad injury, and Josh Elliott just proved to be a better option. Sturgis was 35-of-41 in 2016, including 4-of-6 from beyond 50. He hit all three of his tries in 2017 before going down.
Sturgis should be back to complete health and will certainly give the Chargers a better chance of nailing field goals at the end of games. At this price, he's very much worth it.
Jets sign C Spencer Long (4 years, $28 million): D Grade
The Jets have been desperate for a center since losing Nick Mangold, but this is a crazy overpay. Spencer Long wasn't even rated high enough in my NFL Free Agent Center Rankings to get a write-up!
Long has been a pedestrian center his entire career. He's coming off his worst season in the NFL because of a knee injury, but should be able to bounce back to sub-mediocrity if he can remain healthy in 2018. He won't be worth as much as $7 million per season, but given the lack of options as far as free-agent centers were concerned, I don't think it's right to give the Jets a Millen for this ridiculous contract.
Jaguars sign TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2 years, $10 million): A- Grade
I find it odd that despite all of their cap space, the Jets couldn't find a way to keep Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who signed for just $10 million over two years. New York's loss is Jacksonville's gain, as Seferian-Jenkins was quite the bargain.
Seferian-Jenkins has a history of disappointing, as he struggled in Tampa as a former second-round pick, but he came alive with the Jets last year. He was New York's top offensive weapon outside of Robby Anderson. He should fill a huge need for the Jaguars as a pass-catching tight end, and he should remain motivated with such a small contract. I think this signing is worth either an A- or B+, and I'll be optimistic here, as Seferian-Jenkins appears to have overcome his past off-the-field problems.
Bears sign DE/OLB Aaron Lynch (1 year, $6 million): B+ Grade
Chicago's signing of Aaron Lynch makes a lot of sense. Lynch is a former fifth-round pick with tons of upside. However, he hasn't lived up to his potential because of apparent lethargy concerns. Lynch has frequently been out of shape throughout his career. In fact, he was 300 pounds - 30 over his normal playing weight - back in July!
However, Lynch could be motivated now. He'll be playing on a 1-year "prove it" deal that is worth up to $6 million with incentives. The Bears will be getting Lynch at his best as he attempts to showcase himself during next spring's free-agency period, and he'll fill a void vacated by the departed Pernell McPhee.
Because there's very little downside to this signing, I'm fine with giving the Bears a B+ for it.
Raiders sign LB Tahir Whitehead (3 years, $18 million): C+ Grade
The Raiders arguably had the worst linebacking corps in the NFL last year prior to acquiring NaVorro Bowman. The group was better after that trade, but still struggled as a whole. Oakland obtained another upgrade with former Lion Tahir Whitehead.
Whitehead was Detroit's best linebacker last year. That's not saying much, as the Lions' linebacking corps was pedestrian as well, but Whitehead was pretty solid in run support. He'll certainly help the Raiders' ground defense, though he won't be very good in coverage. Still, this is a steal, as Whitehead could have easily signed for more without any complaints.
Update: This contract is not for three years, $6 million; it's $6 million per year, so the overall value is $18 million. Obviously, it makes this less appealing. Whitehead at $6 million per season is too much, but not an egregious overpay.
Buccaneers sign DE Vinny Curry (3 years, $27 million): B Grade
This seems like a lot of money for a player who had just three sacks this past season, but Vinny Curry performed much better than that. The Eagles had a very deep defensive line, so they were able to rotate a bunch of players. Had Curry been a full-time defender, his sack total would've been better, and he would've continued to thrive in run support.
This is a solid signing for the Buccaneers, but I still think it's a slight overpay. The reason being is Curry's age; he turns 30 in June, so I wonder if the Buccaneers might be paying a bit on past production, which is always dangerous.
Still, Curry is an upgrade the Buccaneers' worst-ranked pass rush needed, and I don't believe this is an egregious overpay, or anything, so I think this signing deserves a "B" grade.
Lions sign RB LeGarrette Blount (1 year, $2 million): B+ Grade
LeGarrette Blount had a solid year for the Super Bowl champion Eagles, rushing for 766 yards on a 4.4 YPC average. He split touches with several running backs, but will be expected to have a larger role with Detroit.
The thing is, I don't know if Blount is suited for that. He'll turn 32 during the season, so there's bound to be some regression. Also, he'll be running behind a worse offensive line than he had in Philadelphia. The Lions have some talented blockers, but Philadelphia's line is better, so I'm not sure Blount will be able to match that 4.4 YPC figure, especially when considering his average was just 3.9 the year before with New England.
That said, this is a solid signing. Blount should provide a slight upgrade to the running back corps at a cheap price. It was reported that he would make $4.5 million, but this contract is worth just $2 million, with the other $2.5 million coming via incentives.
Vikings sign DT Sheldon Richardson (1 year, $8 million): A+ Grade
These recent signings are unbelievable. The Texans got the bargain of the entire free-agency period by signing Tyrann Mathieu to a 1-year, $7 million deal. This signing, however, isn't too far behind.
Sheldon Richardson is an extremely talented defensive lineman, playing very strongly in the pass rush and run defense. He's only 27, so he won't regress anytime soon. There's a chance he could have become lethargic with a big deal, but this 1-year "prove it" contract will keep him motivated.
I'm shocked that Richardson even had to sign a contract like this. I was sure he'd receive a big-money deal from some team desperate to sign him, but that wasn't the case. There were reports saying Richardson was seeking $15 million per season, so it's odd that the Vikings were able to obtain him for just $8 million (up to $11 million with incentives) for 2018. Minnesota won't be complaining, as it'll have one of the most dominant defensive lines with Richardson joining Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. This grade has to be an A+.
Texans sign S/CB Tyrann Mathieu (1 year, $7 million): A+ Grade
I am absolutely shocked right now. Stunned. And no, it has nothing to do with UMBC upsetting Virginia. I'm talking about this contract.
I don't understand how the Texans managed to steal Tyrann Mathieu for just one year and $7 million. He should have been offered multi-year contracts from various teams that included eight-figure annual salaries. Yet, Houston obtained him with just a 1-year "prove it" deal that is worth just as much as what the Jaguars are going to pay Donte Moncrief in 2018!
Mathieu is an extremely versatile, Pro Bowl-caliber defensive back. He can play anywhere in the secondary, and he's a turnover machine who will feast on defenses because of the great pressure that J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus will provide. Mathieu, as well as newly signed cornerback Aaron Colvin, will solidify Houston's defense, and with Deshaun Watson coming back with some experience, the Texans can be declared to be one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
This grade is a no-brainer A+, and if I had anything higher than an A+, I would give it that grade.
Cardinals sign G/OT Justin Pugh (5 years, $45 million): B+ Grade
The Cardinals plan to go with the fragile Sam Bradford and whichever quarterback they select in the first few rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft, so they needed to make sure they bolstered their atrocious offensive line. They still have some work to do, but signing Justin Pugh was a great start.
Pugh was one of the top offensive linemen available in free agency. He can play both guard and tackle, though he's much better at the former position. Given how much of an upgrade Pugh would provide, there was no realistic price that really could've been high enough for the Cardinals, considering their blocking woes.
This isn't a great bargain, so I'm not going to give this move anything in the "A" range, but I think it's definitely worth a solid B+.
Rams re-sign C John Sullivan (2 years, $10 million): A Grade
The Rams went from 4-12 to 11-5 for several reasons, one of which was their offensive line. The front office did a great job of retooling the front the previous offseason, and one of the moves it made was signing John Sullivan to a 1-year contract. There was some fear that Sullivan would leave this spring, but the Rams were able to retain him with a 2-year deal.
There's almost nothing not to like about this signing. Sullivan played well last year, and there's a good chance that will continue to happen. The only downside is Sullivan's age. He turns 33 in August, so he could decline soon, but he should be able to play well throughout the duration of this contract.
Patriots sign DE Adrian Clayborn (2 years, $12 million): A- Grade
Bill Belichick typically waits a few days to do anything in free agency, as he's able to get good value once the first wave of signings is over. That's certainly the case here, as the Patriots have received a terrific bargain with Adrian Clayborn.
Though six of Clayborn's 9.5 sacks came in one game versus Dallas' incompetent coaching staff, he still had a great year for the Falcons. He's a solid, all-around defensive end who will provide a much-needed boost to New England's pedestrian defensive line.
Clayborn should've gotten more money than this, yet settled for $12 million for two years. I definitely like this move for the Patriots, and it needs to be an A- at the very least.
Buccaneers sign C Ryan Jensen (4 years, $42 million): C- Grade
In my NFL Free Agent Rankings, I wrote that while Ryan Jensen did an OK job last year, the Ravens needed to upgrade him. The Buccaneers apparently disagreed, signing Jensen to a 4-year, $42 million contract.
This is a colossal overpay. Jensen is just a mediocre blocker who didn't deserve more than $4 million per season. He also doesn't fill a direct need, as the Buccaneers already had Ali Marpet to play center. Marpet, presumably, will shift over to guard in the wake of this signing.
Offensive line play is important, and Jensen isn't a bad blocker, so I'm not going to give the Buccaneers a Millen grade. However, they gave Jensen too big of a contract, and the grade needs to reflect that.
Bears re-sign CB Kyle Fuller (4 years, $56 million; $18 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Bears were heavily criticized for transition tagging Kyle Fuller. They could've franchised him, but went the cheaper route, allowing teams to offer him a contract. The Packers did this, and had they installed a poison pill in the deal, Chicago would've lost Fuller for no compensation. That didn't happen, so Fuller will be back with the Bears.
That's the good news. The bad news is that a $56 million contract seems like a lot for a player whose fifth-year option was declined last offseason. Fuller struggled earlier in his career, and he missed all of 2016 with a knee injury. However, he improved greatly this past season and finally lived up to his first-round billing.
Despite the $56 million overall in this deal, the Bears will only have to pay Fuller $18 million in guarantees, so this contract isn't as bad as the overall number makes it look. In summary, it's a good thing the Bears are keeping Fuller at a non-outrageous price, so I think this grade should be a "B."
49ers sign DE/OLB Jeremiah Attaochu (1 year, $3 million): B+ Grade
Jeremiah Attaochu, a second-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, looked like he was off to a good start in his career when he logged six sacks in his second season. However, he hasn't been able to do much since because of numerous injuries. He's played just 12 games in the past two years, recording a total of two sacks in the process, so he needs to prove that he can stay healthy.
Fortunately, 1-year "prove it" deals exist for that reason. Attaochu can show that he can remain healthy and be productive, and it's not costing the 49ers much. They're getting a high-upside player with almost no risk, so I'm giving this a B+.
Ravens sign WR Michael Crabtree (3 years, $21 million): A Grade
This is unbelievable. The Ravens made the worst signing of the offseason a few days ago, inking Ryan Grant to a 4-year, $29 million deal. The acquisition was so absurd that I gave it a Millen and then theorized on the podcast that Ozzie Newsome was intentionally sabotaging the Ravens because he wouldn't be back as general manager next year.
Fortunately for Baltimore, the Grant signing was nullified. He failed a physical, coincidentally right when the Raiders cut Michael Crabtree. Baltimore wasted no time contacting Crabtree and soon signed him to a contract worth less than the one they gave Grant - even though Crabtree is a much better player!
I have to give this signing an "A." Crabtree will be a big end-zone presence for Joe Flacco, and unlike Grant, he'll give the Ravens the wide receiver upgrade they've desperately needed for years.
Raiders sign CB Rashaan Melvin (1 year, $6 million): A+ Grade
Wow, I did not think that Rashaan Melvin would be a player signing a 1-year "prove it" deal this offseason, yet here we are. The Raiders brought in the talented corner with a ridiculously cheap contract, earning themselves an easy A+.
I don't understand why no team offered Melvin more money. Sure, he doesn't have an extensive history of being productive, but he was excellent for the Colts last year. He was their best cornerback by far, and when he missed time at the end of the year with an injury, Indianapolis' secondary regressed by a wide margin.
Melvin fills a huge need for the Raiders, as they needed help at corner in the wake of losing T.J. Carrie, David Amerson and Sean Smith this offseason. Melvin, assuming he doesn't decline, will form a nice tandem with Gareon Conely, as Oakland improves its secondary with a cheap deal.
Jets sign ILB Avery Williamson (3 years, $22.5 million; $16 million guaranteed): B Grade
Avery Williamson, a fifth-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, has done a good job of improving his game each year. He has turned into a very capable linebacker, and thus was rewarded with a 3-year, $22.5 million contract with $16 million guaranteed.
This is a solid signing for the Jets. They had a big need at inside linebacker, and they filled it with Williamson. He's terrific in run support, but can stand to get better in coverage. He's only 26, so that can still happen.
The money seems just about right for Williamson. If anything, the guarantee is slightly high, but I still think this contract is worth a "B" grade.
Bills sign DT Star Lotulelei (5 years, $50 million; $18.5 million guaranteed): MILLEN SHE KNEW ABOUT STORMY KIELBASA Grade
There's a long history of big defensive linemen struggling to live up to big contracts like this. You'd think that teams would have learned from the Ndamukong Suh and Albert Haynesworth disasters by now, but apparently not.
The thing is, Suh and Haynesworth were infinitely superior to Lotulelei. Both players, at the time they signed their deals, were seen as stellar defensive tackles who could both stuff the run and generate heavy interior heat on quarterbacks. Lotulelei, conversely, is just a one-dimensional defensive tackle. He's strong against the run, but doesn't produce much of a pass rush.
I don't understand the money in this deal. Heading into free agency, I thought Lotulelei would get something like a 3-year deal worth $10 million. There's no way he's even worth half the sum Buffalo gave him. It's nice that he played under Sean McDermott in Carolina, but that's not enough to save the Bills from a Millen for this abomination of a contract.
Texans sign S/CB Johnson Bademosi (2 years, $6.25 million): B+ Grade
Johnson Bademosi is a solid guy to have on a 53-man roster. He's a fine backup who can play multiple positions in the secondary. He's also a special-teams ace. He has just become the highest-paid special-teamer in the NFL, but he's definitely worth it.
Saints re-sign DE Alex Okafor (2 years, $10 million): B+ Grade
Alex Okafor, a fourth-round pick from the infamously horrible 2013 NFL Draft, had done a good job of improving each season, so it's a shame that he tore his Achilles in November. Okafor was having a solid year, and New Orleans missed him down the stretch.
It's unlikely that Okafor will be 100 percent to start the season, so that's why the Saints were able to sign him to such a discount. Had Okafor remained healthy, he would've received a much better deal, so I like this move from a value perspective, even if the Saints have to wait until 2019 to have Okafor at full strength.
Eagles sign NT Haloti Ngata (1 year, $3 million): A+ Grade
Howie Roseman strikes again! Arguably now the best general manager in the NFL, Roseman was able to replace the departed Beau Allen with former Lion Haloti Ngata. While Allen signed a 3-year deal for $15 million with the Buccaneers, Roseman brought in Ngata for far less even though Ngata is a better player than Allen!
The important caveat is that Ngata is eight years older than Allen, so I'm not criticizing Tampa's front office in this instance. I gave that signing a B-, so I was fine with it. But this move is on another level. Ngata is 34 now, but his age is mitigated by the brevity of this deal.
Ngata may not be the pass-rusher he once was, but he's still dominant against the run. When he tore his biceps last year, Detroit's ground defense fell off a cliff. Ngata won't be as important to the Eagles because of their amazing depth, but he'll be a great contributor on first and second downs as a run-stuffer, all while providing some great locker room leadership. For just $3 million, Ngata is an absolute steal with no downside.
Jets re-sign CB Morris Claiborne (1 year, $7 million): A Grade
Morris Claiborne was forced into signing a 1-year "prove it" deal last spring because he had an extensive injury history. That history only grew, as Claiborne suffered a foot injury at the end of this past season. Thus, he had to sign another 1-year deal in order to show teams that he can remain healthy.
Claiborne's loss is the Jets' gain. They'll be able to retain him for one more year at a big discount, which will help the secondary until he gets hurt. This is what happened last season; Claiborne performed at a high level until he suffered that aforementioned foot problem, and then he struggled when he tried to play on it. The Jets will be hoping Claiborne doesn't suffer the same fate, but even if he does, they're not taking any sort of risk.
Jaguars sign S Cody Davis (2 years, $5 million; $2.5 million guaranteed): A Grade
When I heard the Jaguars signed Cody Davis, I was surprised. They already had Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church at safety, so there wasn't a logical spot for Davis to play. Then, I saw the numbers on this deal and was even more shocked.
Davis started some games for the Rams last year and performed pretty well. He was otherwise a standout on special teams, but I thought he'd get a chance to be a starting safety this offseason. Apparently not. Instead, the Jaguars obtained a premium backup and core special-teamer at a very cheap price. This is a great move, worthy of an "A" grade.
Chargers sign TE Virgil Green (3 years, $8.6 million; $5.9 million guaranteed): B- Grade
This is a bit more guaranteed money that I would've liked to have seen for Virgil Green, but this seems like a decent signing. Green is a pure blocking tight end, and he figures to pair well with Hunter Henry, who will continue to handle the receiving role at the position. If Antonio Gates doesn't return next season - he's currently a free agent - Green will be a solid No. 2 tight end.
Green should have been given slightly less guaranteed money, but I'm OK with this move. Given the Chargers' offensive line issues, bringing in a player with quality blocking skills is a smart decision.
Patriots re-sign RB Rex Burkhead (3 years, $9.75 million; $5.5 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
Rex Burkhead isn't great at any one thing, but he can do a little bit of everything, including catching passes (30 receptions in 2017). Burkhead missed six games this past season with various injuries, so the Patriots will be hoping that he can have a healthier 2018 campaign after re-signing him to a 3-year deal.
This signing seems like a decent bargain. Burkhead will have a major role next season with Dion Lewis gone - unless he gets exiled for an untimely fumble - and paying a running back with that much responsibility less than $2 million guaranteed per season seems like a solid deal.
Texans re-sign CB Johnathan Joseph (2 years, $10 million; $3.9 million guaranteed): A- Grade
There was a risk to re-signing Johnathan Joseph, and that was his inevitable regression. Joseph turns 34 in April, so it's possible that he will see a major decline in production soon. He's already a bit worse than the dominant cornerback he used to be, but there's plenty of room for decay as he enters his mid-30s.
Given this contract, however, there's not much risk. Joseph is getting just $3.9 million guaranteed, which seems like a very good bargain. The Texans should get at least one more season of decent-level play from Joseph, and they will have that at a very cheap rate. There's a chance Joseph could completely drop off, but this signing is still worth an A- grade.
Bengals re-sign P Kevin Huber (3 years, $7.95 million; $1.55 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
There's definitely nothing wrong with this signing. Kevin Huber has been in the top 15 of net punting in two of the past three years, and Cincinnati retaining him for barely any guaranteed money seems like a very good decision. I don't want to grade non-elite punter signings in the "A" range, but a B+ seems like a logical grade.
Packers sign DE/DT Muhammad Wilkerson (1 year, $5 million): A+ Grade
I didn't like the Jimmy Graham signing very much, as the Packers definitely overpaid for a declining player. I feel quite differently about this signing, as Green Bay obtained an absolute steal with Muhammad Wilkerson.
Wilkerson was once known as one of the top 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL. That changed after he signed a huge contract with the Jets. He has slacked off since, and as a result, he was forced into signing this 1-year "prove it" contract.
With this deal, Wilkerson will be forced to try hard so he can have the opportunity to steal lots of money from another NFL franchise. The Packers will likely get him at his best, and he could be a dominant force in the trenches for them.
Redskins re-sign LB Zach Brown (3 years, $24 million; $5.5 million guaranteed): A- Grade
Zach Brown has bounced around the past three years, going from Buffalo to Tennessee to Washington. He'll finally stay put for once, as he signed a multi-year contract with the Redskins.
Washington made a very good move by retaining Brown. The 28-year-old linebacker was instrumental for the Redskins' defense last year as a three-down defender who played well in both run support and pass coverage. This contract is definitely right for Brown, and I would even argue that this is a slight bargain for how important he happens to be for the Redskin stop unit.
Raiders sign WR Jordy Nelson (2 years, $15 million): C+ Grade
It's difficult to understand what the Raiders are doing. My best guess is that because Jon Gruden hasn't coached in years, he wants to surround himself with players who haven't played well in years. That's all I've got.
I'd have no issue signing Jordy Nelson if it didn't come at the expense of Michael Crabtree. At the current moment, Crabtree is both better and younger than Nelson, and yet the Raiders really aren't making big adjustments to their financial situation by bringing in Nelson and cutting Crabtree. It's a clear downgrade, so this just seems illogical.
There's a chance Nelson has a bit of a bounce-back 2018 campaign, but the player we saw last year could barely move and had no ability to create separation. He was just OK when Aaron Rodgers was on the field - no 100-yard performances - and he wasn't any sort of factor when Brett Hundley took over. I can't give this any sort of positive grade, but I do want to acknowledge that Nelson might rebound.
Panthers sign NT Dontari Poe (3 years, $27 million): B Grade
There was concern last offseason about Dontari Poe being motivated upon signing a potential big contract. The Falcons wisely brought him in for a 1-year "prove it" deal, and it panned out. Poe played well as both a run-stuffer and pass-rusher, earning this contract.
I'm less bullish on Poe now. I don't think this is a bad signing, or anything, but there's definitely more risk. Poe is set to get $9 million per season, which seems like a lot for a player who has been guilty of lethargy in his career. However, in a strong locker room, I think there's less of a chance that Poe will disappoint as opposed to a scenario in which he signed with a bad team. If I'm right, Poe will be an important member of a defense that seemingly found an upgrade over the departed Star Lotulelei.
Bengals re-sign TE Tyler Eifert (1 year, $8 million): A Grade
Just to be clear, the $8 million is the maximum value of this 1-year pact. It's unclear what the base value is at the moment, but I have to imagine that it's about 50-75 percent of the overall value. Either way, I'm giving the Bengals an "A" for re-signing Eifert.
Eifert is a big-time talent, but hasn't been able to stay healthy. That's actually a huge understatement, as Eifert has missed a whopping 40 games in the past four seasons, which is insane. There's no guarantee Eifert will even be available for half the contests in 2018, but there is some cause for optimism. There have been reports recently that Eifert is back to "full health." Now, that could just be from Eifert or his agent, but the Bengals are confident enough to give him this contract, so there has to be some truth to it.
Regardless, this is a good move because the Bengals are getting a high-upside talent with little risk.
Dolphins sign G Josh Sitton (2 years, $18 million; $8 million guaranteed): A Grade
The Dolphins cut one interior offensive lineman today - go here to see which teams could sign Mike Pouncey - but they made sure their front line didn't completely regress, signing former Bear guard Josh Sitton.
I'm still confused as to why Chicago cut Sitton a few weeks ago. Sitton is coming off a great year. Sure, he's 32 now, so he could regress a bit, but there's no reason to think he would've completely fallen off. Sitton had an $8 million option, but he probably would've been worth it.
Sitton ended up getting his $8 million in the form of a guarantee from the Dolphins. The move was well worth it, as Sitton will provide an enormous upgrade for what was set to be one of the weakest offensive lines in the NFL.
Jets sign QB Teddy Bridgewater (1 year, $5 million): A+ Grade
It was initially announced that Teddy Bridgewater could earn up to $15 million on his contract with the Jets, but there was no word on how much guaranteed money he'd receive. That information has just come out, and Bridgewater's base salary is just $5 million, meaning the other $10 million all happen to be tied up in incentives.
With that in mind, I'm willing to give this signing an A+. I love this move. Everyone is focused on the Jets spending the sixth-overall selection on a quarterback, and they still could, but I personally would just go with Josh McCown and Bridgewater for 2018. The latter was once a very promising quarterback for the Vikings before his devastating injury a couple of years ago. There's a decent chance Bridgewater is 100 percent right now, or close to it, and if so, he could still emerge as a potential franchise signal-caller. With this quarterback class being a bit lackluster, Bridgewater might actually be the best option for the Jets as far as young players at the position are concerned.
Chiefs re-sign P Dustin Colquitt (3 years, $7.5 million): B Grade
I've seen far worse contracts for punters. This one seems just about right. Dustin Colquitt has been ranked between eighth and 15th in net punting average in the past three years, so the money seems appropriate for him. This deal is nothing to get excited about, but it's a solid one, so it's worth a "B" grade.
Packers sign TE Jimmy Graham (3 years, $30 million): C+ Grade
I feel like I'm in the minority here, but I'm not a fan of the Jimmy Graham signing. I don't hate it, but I think like the Martellus Bennett addition last offseason, it's going to disappoint.
Graham was a non-factor in 2017. Sure, he scored 10 touchdowns, but he was invisible in many games, and he averaged just 9.1 yards per reception. It looked like he couldn't move that well, as he was perhaps still suffering lingering effects from his torn patellar tendon, which is a devastating injury.
The Bears signed Trey Burton to a 4-year, $32 million contract, which is definitely better than three years and $30 for Graham. Burton, right now, is both younger and better than the 31-year-old Graham, and it seems like Green Bay is making the mistake of paying on past production.
Bears sign K Cody Parkey (4 years, $15 million; $9 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
I don't think the Bears know what they're doing regarding their kicking game. They let go of one of their best kickers ever, Robbie Gould, because they didn't want to pay him a lot of money. Yet, they just signed a worse kicker, Cody Parkey, to a $15 million deal.
Parkey isn't bad, but he's no Gould. He hit 21-of-23 field goals in 2017, but only two attempts (1-of-2) were beyond 50. He also missed three extra points. Parkey was a mediocre 20-of-25 the year before.
This is probably worth a C+ grade. The Bears have made various mistakes with their kickers over the past several years, but it could be possible that Parkey is the solution they've been looking for, despite the overpay.
Saints sign QB Tom Savage (1 year, $1.5 million): B Grade
That's it? Well, OK then. I can't remember the last time I've seen a quarterback with experience make this little, yet here we are.
Tom Savage sucked last year. He was utterly awful in relief of Deshaun Watson. However, he does have some potential - he's a former fourth-round pick - and there's a very, very slight chance that Sean Payton will be able to develop him. At $1.5 million, why not take a chance, all while getting a backup quarterback at a very cheap price?
Buccaneers sign DT Beau Allen (3 years, $15 million): B- Grade
The Buccaneers thought they filled a huge hole next to Gerald McCoy last offseason with former Redskin Chris Baker. As it turned out, Baker was an absolute failure because he slacked off. The Buccaneers are going back to the NFC East well one more time, signing Beau Allen to be their new nose tackle.
Allen has far less potential than Baker, but his floor is higher as well. He's a hard-working player who happens to be much younger than Baker, as he won't turn 27 until right before Thanksgiving. This seems like a slight overpay, but I think it's a fine move and should improve the defense's ability to stop the rush.
Panthers re-sign DE Julius Peppers (1 year, $5 million): A Grade
Any Carolina fan should be all for any reasonable contract that keeps Julius Peppers around. And this is certainly better than just a reasonable contract.
Peppers, for one season, is worth so much more than $5 million. Despite being 37 last year, Peppers registered 11 sacks despite playing about half the snaps. It's hard to imagine Peppers getting to that total as a 38-year-old, but he should still have a significant impact. Even if he gets five or six sacks, bringing him back for just $5 million will be well worth it, as he'll continue to be one of the leaders on the team.
Bills sign QB A.J. McCarron (2 years, $10 million): A+ Grade
How did this happen? In an offseason in which Sam Bradford got $20 million for a year, Josh McCown received $10 million for a season, and Case Keenum obtained $18 million per year, A.J. McCarron somehow was stuck with far less money than all three.
McCarron, with this deal, is set to earn as much as Chase Daniel, which is unbelievable. In the Daniel write-up, I wrote that average backup quarterbacks should earn $4-5 million. McCarron is certainly not a typical No. 2 signal-caller. He's a premium reserve quarterback; if not a below-average starter.
I still expect the Bills to select a quarterback in the opening round, as I detailed a potential NFL Draft trade with the Giants that could occur. McCarron would provide insurance just in case Buffalo couldn't make the move. He would also be able to start while the rookie signal-caller is being developed. This is an outstanding signing that is worthy of an A+ grade.
49ers sign C/G Weston Richburg (5 years, $47.5 million; $16.5 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
Wow, this is a lot of money for Weston Richburg. It's definitely an overpay, and it has nothing to do with his talent. When healthy, Richburg is a very capable center, and in theory, he would provide San Francisco with a big upgrade.
However, Richburg's health is a major concern. He missed the final 12 games of the 2017 season with a concussion. He had a very difficult time getting medically cleared, but finally was able to at the end of the year. That has to bode poorly for his long-term outlook. If Richburg suffers another concussion, he could be lost for even longer.
This is a tough grade. If Richburg didn't have any concerns, I'd give this a B+ or A-. A full letter grade has to be deducted at the very least.
Giants sign DE Kareem Martin (3 years, $21 million; $7.5 million guaranteed): B- Grade
Kareem Martin was seen as a prospect with lots of upside when the Cardinals spent a third-round pick on him in the 2014 NFL Draft. Martin, however, has 4.5 career sacks. He's done better in run support, but he has struggled to be a consistent player throughout his career.
The Giants are buying on Martin's potential once again, as this sort of money doesn't translate into what Martin has done in his career thus far. Martin could live up to it, and I don't hate signing, but they can't be rewarded with a good grade.
Jets sign RB Isaiah Crowell (3 years, $12 million; $6 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
Any non-crazy contract for a running back with talent has to be considered a win after what the 49ers nonsensically gave Jerick McKinnon this morning. I was wondering if the Jets would also overpay for a position that grows on trees, and to their credit, they did not.
Crowell is getting $12 million overall and $6 million guaranteed for this 3-year pact. That's not great, but it's not a bad move either. Crowell was a huge disappointment this past season, struggling in most games despite running behind a solid offensive line (when Joe Thomas was healthy.) However, Crowell is worth a shot, as he has good talent and upside. It might be possible that Crowell can finally live up to his natural skill set in a new home, so I'm fine with this being a B+. This signing could fail, but the Jets aren't risking much with this deal.
Buccaneers sign K Chandler Catanzaro (3 years, $9.75 million): B Grade
The Buccaneers have endured kicking issues for years now. Perhaps it's the curse of Matt Bryant, as he's been great ever since he left Tampa, while the Buccaneers have whiffed on important field goals since.
Perhaps Chandler Catanzaro is finally the answer Tampa has been looking for. Catanzaro has drilled at least 83.3 percent of his field goals in three of his four seasons. He was 25-of-30 in 2017, hitting both of his attempts from beyond 50. The price for Catanzaro seems fair, so I like this move for the Buccaneers.
Seahawks sign OLB Barkevious Mingo (2 years, $6.8 million): A- Grade
The Seahawks have been enduring a rough offseason, but this, at least, is a quality move. Perhaps this will give the fans the slightest sliver of optimism.
Barkevious Mingo might be considered to be a bust as a former top-10 pick, and in one way, he is. He never developed into a potent edge rusher. However, Mingo is solid in both run support and pass coverage, so he'll be a valuable member of a Seattle defense attempting to rebuild.
This seems like a great move. Mingo is much better than this 2-year, $6.8 million contract indicates, so I'm comfortable giving the Seahawks an A-.
Lions sign CB Deshawn Shead (1 year, $3.5 million): B Grade
The Lions missed out on Malcolm Butler, so they had to settle for re-signing Nevin Lawson and also adding Deshawn Shead, who last played for the Seahawks in 2016.
Shead missed all of 2017 with a torn ACL, so it makes sense that he would sign a 1-year "prove it" deal. The money seems about right at $3.5 million, so I think Detroit should get a "B" for this signing.
Buccaneers sign DE/DT Mitch Unrein (3 years, $10.5 million; $4 million guaranteed): B Grade
The Buccaneers spent multiple resources today on shoring up their run defense. They signed Beau Allen in the morning, and they followed that up by bringing in former Bear Mitch Unrein.
Unrein has never generated more than 1.5 sacks in a single season, but that's OK because his specialty is defending the run. He's a solid player, and this contract seems very reasonable for his skill level.
49ers re-sign LB Brock Coyle (3 years, $11.5 million; $4.1 million guaranteed): D Grade
I'm not sure about giving a pedestrian player coming off major shoulder surgery $4.1 million guaranteed. The 49ers, apparently, disagree, as that is what they're doing in this contract with Brock Coyle.
Coyle struggled in all regards this past season, which has been a trend for him throughout his career. He underwent shoulder surgery for a torn labrum in January, yet the 49ers apparently didn't care when they gave him this contract. They could've waited on Coyle, or signed a comparable player to a lesser deal, so this seems like a mistake.
Titans re-sign DT Da'Quan Jones (3 years, $21 million; $14 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
Da'Quan Jones can get to the quarterback on occasion - 3.5 sacks in 2017, which is a solid amount for a 322-pound lineman - but his forte is stuffing the run. He has been a valuable member of Tennessee's defensive line, so it was a good move to re-sign him to a reasonable deal.
This is about what Jones should make - maybe even a bit less - so this move needs to be graded well. Jones, just 26, has plenty of room for growth, so Tennessee fans should be happy that he'll be returning next year.
Texans sign G Senio Kelemete (3 years, $12 million; $5.5 million guaranteed): D Grade
We have two back-to-back crappy guard signings, so I could grade these similarly. However, I think the Falcons made a better move with Brandon Fusco than the Texans did with Senio Kelemete.
Fusco hasn't been terrible sometimes, which we can't really say for Kelemete. The former Saint has struggled throughout his entire career, so I'm curious as to why he's getting any sort of guaranteed money. Players of Kelemete's caliber can be found on the street, so there's no reason to pay him anywhere close to $5.5 million in guarantees.
Falcons sign G Brandon Fusco (3 years, $12.75 million): C- Grade
The Falcons had a big need at right guard entering free agency, and they still have a big need at right guard even in the wake of signing Brandon Fusco.
Fusco has been a pedestrian blocker throughout his career. He wasn't horrible this past season, but his mediocre 2017 campaign was actually his best recently. There's no reason to think Fusco will suddenly improve in Atlanta, especially given that he turns 30 in July. He's set to make too much money based on his play the past few years.
Cardinals sign OT Andre Smith (2 years, $8 million): C- Grade
Thus far this offseason, the Cardinals have signed Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon and Andre Smith, and they've let go of Tyrann Mathieu. Somehow, this doesn't seem like a winning formula.
Smith is not going to pan out in Arizona. He's too fat and lethargic. He struggled mightily last year, and the Bengals, who desperately needed tackle help, were willing to let him go. That should tell you how bad Smith is. Unfortunately, no one told the Cardinals, who overpaid for Smith, even at two years for $8 million.
Colts sign DE Denico Autry (3 years, $17.8 million): C+ Grade
Denico Autry is a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none defensive lineman. He can play on the edge on early downs and in the interior on third downs. He'll provide the Colts with some needed depth up front.
It seems as though Autry is going to be making a bit more money than he should, but I think this signing is OK. It's an overpay, but definitely not an egregious one.
Broncos re-sign LB Todd Davis (3 years, $15 million; $6 million guaranteed): B- Grade
The Broncos have a great defense, but they've struggled mightily over the past two years to defend pass-catching running backs and tight ends. Todd Davis has been part of that problem, but re-signing him was the smart thing to do.
Davis does one thing very well, and that's act as a run-stuffing linebacker on first and second downs. He gets torched in coverage, but he's a key piece of Denver's rush defense. It seems like $6 million guaranteed on a 3-year deal is a fair price - maybe a very slight overpay - so I'm fine with giving this a B- grade.
Browns sign CB T.J. Carrie (4 years, $31 million; $10 million guaranteed): A Grade
The Browns have certainly attacked the secondary this offseason, as T.J. Carrie is the third defensive back they've acquired thus far, joining Damarious Randall and Terrance Mitchell. Of the three, Carrie could end up being the best.
Carrie was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but has improved every year since. He was Oakland's best cornerback in 2017, so he should make for a great starter across from Jason McCourty.
The 4-year, $31 million portion of this deal doesn't make it seem like a great bargain, but Carrie is set to make just $10 million in guarantees. I love the value the Browns are getting, so this earns them another positive grade in this impressive offseason.
Saints sign ILB Demario Davis (3 years, $24 million; $16 million guaranteed): B- Grade
I couldn't believe it when the Jets planned to start Demario Davis last year, as Davis had been terrible throughout his career. However, like Josh McCown and Robby Anderson, Davis proved to be a tremendous surprise, elevating his play tremendously. He was great for the Jets, and now he's being rewarded with this nice contract.
If I had more faith in Davis, I'd like this deal more. However, I just remember him playing poorly for far too long, so I would've liked to have seen him get a 1-year "prove it" contract of some sort. Instead, the Saints are set to pay him $8 million per year.
I don't hate this move, as it could pay off for New Orleans. The team had big-time needs at linebacker, and Davis could quell those issues. I'm just worried that he'll take a big step backward.
Saints sign CB Patrick Robinson (4 years, $20 million; $10 million guaranteed): A- Grade
The Saints spent the 32nd-overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft on Patrick Robinson. The Florida State product lasted five seasons with New Orleans, struggling there before moving on to a variety of teams. Robinson played well for the Chargers in 2015, struggled with injuries the following year in Indianapolis, and then dominated in Philadelphia during the Eagles' Super Bowl run, shutting down opposing teams' slot receivers.
Robinson has certainly gotten better since he left the Big Easy, but it's fair to wonder if he's bound to regress. Robinson had such a great year that it's going to be difficult for him to repeat it, especially now that he's entering his 30s (31 in September).
That said, I like this signing. Giving Robinson $10 million guaranteed on a 4-year deal seems like decent value, and Robinson at 80 percent compared to 2017 would still be a nice boost for a New Orleans secondary that needed a nickel corner.
Bears sign WR Taylor Gabriel (4 years, $26 million; $14 million guaranteed): D Grade
My first inclination when I saw this contract was to begin thinking of what Millen grade I was going to give Chicago for signing Taylor Gabriel. Giving Gabriel a contract worth $26 million with $14 million guaranteed over four years seems pretty crazy.
I then remembered, however, that far worse receivers signed for just as much - if not more - so this can't earn a Millen grade. It's a massive overpay, but the Ryan Grant contract was far worse.
Gabriel at least has potential. He made some big plays in 2016, scoring six times. He regressed this past season because Atlanta's new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was too incompetent to come up with ways to take advantage of Gabriel's talents. I have more faith in Matt Nagy's ability to do so. I just wish the Bears would've signed Gabriel for a more reasonable price (something like three years, $10 million.)
Bills sign DE/OLB Trent Murphy (3 years, $21 million): C+ Grade
I'm sure this contract will look much better once the guaranteed money is announced - and I'll re-grade it if there's a dramatic change - but $7 million per season seems like a lot for Trent Murphy.
Murphy missed all of 2017 because he tore his ACL and MCL. He also was slapped with a four-game suspension for PEDs. Murphy is a solid player when healthy and not suspended, as he racked up eight sacks in 2016, but he may not be 100 percent this upcoming season, making this signing pretty questionable.
I'm also a bit puzzled as to why the Bills pursued someone at Murphy's position so heavily. It seems as though Buffalo has three solid edge rushers, so a fourth wasn't really needed. Of course, a team can never have too many pass-rushers, but when it's not a need, why pay $7 million per season for an injured player?
Jets sign CB Trumaine Johnson (5 years, $72.5 million; $34 million guaranteed): B Grade
See, this is exactly why I gave the Malcolm Butler signing an "A" grade. Despite being rated higher than Trumaine Johnson in my 2018 NFL Free Agent Cornerback Rankings, Butler received $4 million less guaranteed and $11.5 million less overall than Johnson did from the Jets.
That said, I don't hate this signing. On the contrary, I like it enough to give it a "B" grade. Johnson is a very talented cornerback, though he's coming off a down year because of a leg injury. Still, $34 million guaranteed is very reasonable for someone who could be considered a second-tier corner. The Jets desperately needed an upgrade at the position, and Johnson will certainly provide that. I should also note that Johnson will have a smooth transition because his former position coach, Dennard Wilson, is coaching for New York right now.
Broncos sign CB Tramaine Brock (1 year, $4 million): A- Grade
The 49ers cut Tramaine Brock after the 2016 season because of domestic violence charges. He was cleared of those, but didn't play very much this past season in Minnesota. I have to believe that the NFC Championship would've been a closer contest had Brock been on the field because he's a skilled corner. The Broncos should take advantage of his talents, as they need a replacement for Aqib Talib.
I like this contract quite a bit. There's no risk involved, and it's all upside, as Brock will play hard for a new deal next offseason.
Texans sign CB Aaron Colvin (4 years, $34 million; $14 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
Aaron Colvin was a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, falling in the 2014 NFL Draft because of an injury. Colvin began his career slowly, but has improved each season. He evolved into a very capable slot corner last year. No one talked about him because of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, but Colvin was an important member of Jacksonville's secondary.
Colvin should definitely help the Texans. They had major issues stopping the pass in 2017, and Colvin appears to be a key upgrade. Giving him $8.5 million per year may seem like a lot, but I think $14 million in guarantees is more than reasonable, so I think the Texans deserve a B+ for making this move.
Chiefs sign LB Anthony Hitchens (5 years, $45 million; $25 million guaranteed): B Grade
At first, this seemed like way too much money for Anthony Hitchens. Giving him $9 million per season and $25 million guaranteed is a lot, but I think he has the potential to live up to this deal.
Hitchens has done a great job of improving his game throughout his career. He's coming off his best season yet, playing at a high level for Dallas. Hitchens still has plenty of room for growth - he turns 26 in June - so he could be even better for Kansas City. Hitchens will also fill a big need, starting in a spot vacated by Derrick Johnson's release.
I envisioned Hitchens getting less money than this, so I'm reluctant to go over a "B," but if someone wanted to grade this as a B+, I could understand it.
Browns sign CB Terrance Mitchell (3 years, $12 million): B Grade
Terrance Mitchell has been an inconsistent player throughout his career. He really shined for the Chiefs down the stretch of the 2016 campaign, but struggled at times last year. Mitchell shouldn't have been one of the starters in hindsight, but he should make for a solid backup, and that's the exact role he'll serve in Cleveland.
This is a fine signing, and I'm willing to give the Browns a "B" for it. Mitchell is definitely an upgrade over the depth the Browns had at corner, and the price is definitely fair for him. He's also just 26 (in July), so he should be able to improve his game.
Titans re-sign G Josh Kline (4 years, $26 million): B Grade
Both of Tennessee's starting guards were impending free agents, so the team had to bring back at least one of them. Of the two, Josh Kline was the right choice, as he happened to be the best guard on the roster last year.
Kline isn't great, or anything, but he's a solid starter. He pass protects well, but doesn't have enough power to be a huge difference-maker in the ground game. Still, it's nice to keep him around, as he can help protect Marcus Mariota. I think $26 million over four seasons is a bit too much for him, but I'm a fan of continuity on the offensive line, so that helps offset the slight overpay.
Giants sign OT Nate Solder (4 years, $62 million; $35 million guaranteed): B Grade
Giant fans were undoubtedly stressing out yesterday. They were promised Andrew Norwell, as it was a "done deal" that he would sign with New York. However, he spurned them at the last second to go with Jacksonville. In the end, all the Giants came away with was Jonathan Stewart, whom Kenny and I argued at length about in our latest podcast episode, which should be posted soon.
Perhaps New York supporters can feel better now, as the team finally upgraded the offensive line, signing Nate Solder to a $62 million contract. That's a ton of money for Solder, a 30-year-old with an extensive, recent injury history. Solder seemingly hasn't been fully healthy for a couple of years now, and he certainly carries a high amount of risk, especially with this contract. Under normal circumstances, $35 million in guarantees would be way too much for someone like Solder.
However, these aren't normal circumstances. Both the free-agent market and the 2018 NFL Draft class are missing tackle talent, so a premium price had to be paid to acquire players like Solder. Thus, I don't mind the Giants spending this much to guarantee themselves an upgrade on the blind side. I think a "B" grade is fair for that reason.
Eagles re-sign OLB Nigel Bradham (5 years, $40 million; $6 million guaranteed): A Grade
Clearly, the brain cell disease that is spreading among NFL general managers Wednesday morning has not affected Howie Roseman. At least not yet, anyway.
How does Roseman keep doing this? With the Eagles in an unfavorable cap situation, it was all but guaranteed that they'd lose Nigel Bradham, a very talented, three-down linebacker who excels in coverage. Instead, Philadelphia found a way to keep Bradham, giving a contract he deserves. By retaining Bradham, the Eagles have all but guaranteed that their defense will be just as good as it was in 2017; if not better in the wake of the Michael Bennett trade.
This is not a great bargain signing, so it won't grade in the "A" range, but it's a quality move that deserves a B+.
Update: Scratch that. This is definitely a bargain. I can't believe Bradham is getting just $6 million guaranteed!
Jaguars sign CB D.J. Hayden (3 years, $19 million): MILLEN KIELBASA IN THE PI DAY Grade
What's with all of these terrible contracts this morning? It's like the NFL general managers used up all of their brain cells yesterday and are now spending absolutely carelessly.
The Jaguars needed a third cornerback in the wake of Aaron Colvin's defection to Houston, but they certainly did not need D.J. Hayden. The former Raider and Lion has been an atrocious player for most of his career. He was awful last year, so I slotted him 47th in my NFL Free Agent Cornerback Rankings page. For three years, Hayden should be receiving no more than $6 million; not $19 million!
There's no defense for this type of signing. None. I hate to use two Millen grades so soon within each other, but this has to be a Millen - no doubt about it.
Browns sign TE Darren Fells (3 years, $12 million): D Grade
I hate to be so negative in the morning - actually, I kind of like it - but this is another poor grade. I won't dwell on this for too long, but this is way too much money for a 32-year-old blocking tight end who contributes almost nothing as a receiver.
Fells was 22nd in my NFL Free Agent Tight End Rankings, and many of the better players are still available. There was no reason to sign him to this sort of contract. If running backs grow on trees, blocking tight ends can easil be scooped up in soil. Fells should've gotten the veteran minimum.
Bears sign QB Chase Daniel (2 years, $10 million): D Grade
The average going rate for backup quarterbacks used to be in the $3-4 million range, but it has probably moved up to $4-5 million with the increase in cap space. Thus, the Bears are paying Daniel like an average quarterback.
The thing is, Daniel is not an average player at his position. He sucks. In fact, I had just one player rated worse than him in my 2018 NFL Free Agent Quarterback Rankings, and that was Brandon Weeden. Yes, there was only one worse option for Chicago!
This won't get a Millen because the money isn't great enough, plus Daniel has familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense, having played for Nagy in Kansas City. However, you don't ask a girl to prom just because you live on the same street as her. I don't think bringing in Daniel makes much sense, considering that he's a very poor quarterback.
49ers sign RB Jerick McKinnon (4 years, $30 million): MILLEN KIELBASA-FORCE Grade
We had to wait until 9 p.m. for our first Millen grade yesterday. This one will be given to a signing made at 9 a.m.
Look, I like Jerick McKinnon. He's a nice, pass-catching running back. He caught 51 balls in 2017 and 43 the year before. However, that's all he is. He's not much of a runner, as he's averaged 3.8 and 3.4 yards per carry in the past two seasons. McKinnon is a fine backup and a decent third-down guy to have in the backfield, so he doesn't warrant anything close to this contract.
Plus, giving a player at McKinnon's position this much money in free agency is crazy unless the guy happens to be supremely talented. McKinnon is not. Running backs grow on trees, and this draft class is packed with talented players at the position. Thus, it's nonsensical to give McKinnon this sort of cash when someone better could be acquired in the second round.
All of this is why the 49ers are getting a Millen for signing McKinnon.
Browns sign RB Carlos Hyde (3 years, $15 million): B+ Grade
John Dorsey strikes again! This is another solid move by the new general manager, as the Browns are getting a player who can potentially start for them for just $5 million per season.
Hyde was a disappointment in San Francisco, but only because of injury. He was solid when healthy, averaging better than four yards per carry despite usually running behind a pedestrian offensive line and getting no help from his quarterbacks until the very end. Hyde is still just 27, so he can be effective for several more years.
This signing won't preclude the Browns from taking Saquon Barkley first overall - as seen here in my 2018 NFL Mock Draft - but if they want to go in a different direction, they'll have a viable starting running back, as Hyde was the best-available player at his position entering the day.
Giants sign RB Jonathan Stewart (2 years, $6.9 million; $2.95 million guaranteed): D+ Grade
Jonathan Stewart was signed to so little - less than $1.5 million guaranteed per season - that this acquisition almost doesn't matter. In fact, I think there's a good chance that Stewart won't make the Giants' final 53-man roster, so I obviously have to give this a poor grade.
Stewart is done. He has been for the past two seasons, as he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 2017, wasting opportunities that could've gone to Christian McCaffrey. Stewart looks like he's in a good position on the Giants' roster right now, but that won't be the case once New York spends an early draft selection on an upgrade.
Titans sign RB Dion Lewis (4 years, $20 million): B- Grade
I'm not crazy about giving running back free agents big contracts. The 2018 NFL Draft class is loaded with talent - check out the 2018 NFL Draft Running Back Prospect Rankings - so there's plenty of opportunity to obtain one in the second day of the draft. So, why spend big money on a runner prior to the last weekend of April?
I like Lewis, so this grade should tell you what I think about this strategy. Lewis is a dynamic threat as a receiver out of the backfield, and he's also a very underrated runner. He could end up being Tennessee's lead back, though I expect him and Derrick Henry to split touches almost evenly. Lewis will be an important member of Tennessee's offense when healthy, but that's the key. Lewis has had issues remaining injury-free throughout his career, so this contract carries substantial risk.
Bears re-sign CB Prince Amukamara (3 years, $27 million): B Grade
Prince Amukamara signed a 1-year "prove it" deal worth $7 million last offseason - the same amount of money Donte Moncrief was added for this spring, SMH - and it paid off. Amukamara performed well, as expected. More importantly, he missed only two games. That's a win for the Bears, as the injury-prone Amukamara has played just one full season in his seven years in the NFL.
Amukamara was able to parlay his solid 2017 campaign into a 3-year, $27 million deal, which is reasonable. If Amukamara remains healthy, the Bears will get good production out of him. However, there's also a good chance he'll suffer more injuries, making this contract riskier. I'm not crazy about it, but I don't hate this signing either. I'd say a "B" or a B- make the most sense.
Ravens sign WR Ryan Grant (4 years, $29 million; $14.5 million guaranteed): MILLEN FIRES SECRETARY OF KIELBASA Grade
I told you guys. I told you it was coming. We were bound to have a Millen grade today. It took until 9 p.m. Eastern, but it finally happened.
I don't understand what the hell this contract is about. It would actually make more sense if the Ravens gave Ryan Grant a 4-year deal worth $2.9 million rather than $29 million. Out of four seasons, Grant failed to reach double-digit receptions in two of them. His best year, 2017, saw him log 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns. And it's not like he's played with a terrible quarterback, or anything. Grant had opportunities to catch passes from Kirk Cousins, who is better than Joe Flacco at the moment.
This has to be a Millen grade. I can't fathom an argument otherwise. Grant, in all seriousness, probably should've been given a 2-year deal worth about $5 million or so. He's 28th in my 2018 NFL Free Agent Wide Receiver Rankings, so Ozzie Newsome could've signed numerous other receivers to less money, and it would've made much more sense.
Jaguars sign WR Donte Moncrief (1 year, $7 million): C Grade
I like 1-year "prove it" contracts as a general rule. There's barely any risk involved for long-term cap effects, and the short term of the deal means the player will be highly motivated for the next contract. However, not all 1-year "prove it" deals are very good, and this is an example.
Sometimes, it doesn't make sense to give someone a chance to prove something. Think about giving your dog a chance to prove it can be your gardener. It's just nonsensical, and so is signing Donte Moncrief to a contract worth $7 million.
Moncrief has only performed well with Andrew Luck. He really struggled last year, so I don't have much confidence in his ability to play up to a high ability in Jacksonville. He has failed to eclipse 450 receiving yards in three of his four NFL seasons. There's not much risk involved here, so I'm not going to give the Jaguars anything worse than a "C," but the $7 million figure here is just puzzling when someone like John Brown received about 28 percent less ($5 million).
Ravens sign WR John Brown (1 year, $5 million): A Grade
When I read the report saying that the Ravens were in deep contract discussions with John Brown, I wondered how much of a risk Baltimore would take. Brown is a talented receiver when healthy, but possesses tons of medical problems. His long-term health is a major concern, and it wouldn't be a surprise if it forced him into retirement in the near future.
The Ravens, however, mitigated the risk with this contract. All it is happens to be a 1-year, $5 million deal. If Brown continues to deal with injuries, the Ravens can just move on from him next spring without any worry. Thus, signing Brown is all upside, as he could be a potent weapon for Joe Flacco if he remains healthy.
Panthers sign CB Bashaud Breeland (3 years, $24 million; $11 million guaranteed): B Grade
This is similar to the Nevin Lawson contract, only it's for more, and Bashaud Breeland has a higher ceiling. Breeland, like Lawson, has been incredibly inconsistent throughout his career. He struggled as a rookie, improved in 2015, bombed in 2016, and then played better this past season. Thus, answering if Breeland is worth this sort of money depends on which Breeland we see in 2018.
I don't think this contract can be criticized too much. The Panthers were in desperate need of a cornerback, and getting Breeland for $11 million guaranteed doesn't seem like a big overpay. It might if he duplicates his 2016 output, but if we see the same Breeland as this past season, this contract will look like a bargain.
I'm giving this a "B" grade. I like that the Panthers are taking a shot with Breeland, and I don't think they'll be penalized too much if they whiff on him.
Browns sign OT Chris Hubbard (5 years, $37.5 million; $18 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
The Browns entered the offseason with a strong offensive line with one definite hole, which was at right tackle. That's no longer a problem in the wake of the Chris Hubbard signing. If Hubbard lives up to this money, and Joe Thomas doesn't retire, Cleveland will have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL next year.
As for Hubbard, this is a ton of money for a player who wasn't a regular starter last year. Hubbard filled in at right tackle whenever Marcus Gilbert was out of the lineup, and he did a very solid job. Hubbard is also just 26, so he has good potential to improve his game even more.
Something else that needs to be considered is the lack of talent available at tackle this offseason. Excluding Hubbard, Nate Solder and Mike McGlinchey (via the draft), there are no sure things. I guess you can say Hubbard isn't a sure thing either, but he's the closest thing to one besides Solder and maybe McGlinchey. The scarcity of tackles drove up the price, so I definitely understand the Browns giving Hubbard this kind of cash. Thus, I'm willing to award them with a B+.
Lions re-sign CB Nevin Lawson (2 years, $10.3 million): C+ Grade
Is Nevin Lawson worth $10.3 million over two seasons? It depends which Lawson you're talking about. The Lawson from 2016 certainly was, as he played at a decent level. The Lawson from 2017, however, doesn't deserve this money at all. The 2017 Lawson was atrocious, so I can understand Detroit fans being frustrated with this contract.
I personally don't think it's a terrible move. It's a short-term deal, and besides, there's always a chance that Lawson bounces back to 2016 form. It's not certain this is going to happen, but it could, and if it does, this deal will seem like a bargain. Still, Detroit should've been able to retain Lawson at a cheaper rate when considering how bad he was in 2017.
Titans sign CB Malcolm Butler (5 years, $61 million; $30 million guaranteed): A Grade
Wow. Malcolm Butler is heading to the Titans. The hero of Super Bowl XLIX was inexplicably benched against the Eagles in the most recent Super Bowl, so it was assumed that he wouldn't be back with the team. There was no news of him signing with Tennessee, but that's exactly where he's going.
The Titans apparently want to challenge the Rams for the best cornerback corps in the NFL. The Rams still win, but Tennessee's trio of Butler, Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson is very impressive. Having Butler will certainly help matters against Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, which has to be the primary reason for Tennessee's pursuit of the talented corner.
As for this contract, I actually think it's a great one. It's $10 million less in guarantees than Stephon Gilmore and Xavier Rhodes received on identical terms, and it's right on par with Casey Hayward's 3-year pact with $20 million guaranteed. Thus, I'm not afraid to give this signing an "A," which is what I awarded the Chargers for retaining Hayward.
Rams re-sign CB Nickell Robey-Coleman (3 years, $15.75 million; $8 million guaranteed): A- Grade
Wow, how many talented cornerbacks do the Rams need? They traded for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to join Kayvon Webster, and now Nickell Robey-Coleman has been retained. The Rams are in a position where they can suffer two long-term injuries to their cornerback group and still field potent players at the position.
Robey-Coleman has been inconsistent throughout his career, but he's coming off a great year in which he thrived for the Rams in the slot. Robey-Coleman excelled in Wade Phillips' system, so it would've been a mistake on his part to leave Los Angeles. The Rams, meanwhile, were able to retain Robey-Coleman rather cheaply, as $8 million guaranteed for a 3-year deal isn't very much.
Jets re-sign QB Josh McCown (1 year, $10 million): B+ Grade
The Jets flirted with Kirk Cousins and Teddy Bridgewater, but they've decided to bring back Josh McCown for one more year. McCown will get $10 million for the trouble, which seems like a sweet deal for him.
I like this for the Jets as well. McCown did a solid job as New York's starter last year. Despite a poor supporting cast, McCown had the Jets be competitive in almost every game. He could regress this season - he turns 39 in July - but McCown has inexplicably gotten better with age in a Benjamin Button sort of fashion. Even if McCown declines, having him around to tutor a rookie quarterback seems like an ideal situation.
Browns sign OT Donald Stephenson (1 year, $2.5 million): D Grade
I don't understand why the Browns wanted to bother. I know they want depth at tackle in case Joe Thomas retires, but horrible depth is just as bad as no depth.
Donald Stephenson is certainly horrible depth. He can't block anyone. The Browns would seriously be better off having a turnstile on the field than Stephenson, as turnstiles, to my knowledge, don't cost $2.5 million.
Bills sign S Rafael Bush (2 years, $4.5 million): B- Grade
This isn't an exciting signing, nor is it a very good one, but it's fine. Rafael Bush has been a decent backup safety in the past, and he'll have the same role in Buffalo. This would be a "B," but age is beginning to be a concern with Bush, who turns 31 in May, so he could regress this year or next.
Browns sign DE Chris Smith (3 years, $14 million): B Grade
The Browns added yet another new player to their roster, this time doing so via free agency. They poached Chris Smith from the rival Bengals, giving him a 3-year deal.
Smith is a solid rotational edge rusher. He recorded three sacks in 2017 on 401 snaps. Just 26 years old, Smith has some major upside, given that he tested very well at the combine. There might be untapped potential with Smith, so I like this move.
I think this signing is worth a "B." It might seem like a slight overpay at first glance, but Smith could be very productive for Cleveland.
Dolphins sign WR Danny Amendola (2 years, $12 million; $8.25 million guaranteed): B- Grade
Danny Amendola came up big for the Patriots in the playoffs, but the Dolphins will need for him to play well prior to January because it's very unlikely that they'll come anywhere close to the postseason in 2018.
This is much better than the Albert Wilson deal, which I'm regretting not giving a Millen to (I may change that based on the guaranteed money). Amendola is a decent slot receiver, but the problem is his durability. He's had trouble staying healthy over the years - he has played a full season just once since 2010 - and there's no reason to think that'll change, especially given his age; Amendola will turn 33 in the middle of this upcoming season.
This signing is worth a B-. It makes sense, as Amendola can take Jarvis Landry's place in the slot. However, I'm wondering why the Dolphins didn't just make a greater effort to retain Landry.
Lions sign LB Christian Jones (2 years, $7.75 million): D- Grade
I'm under the impression that the Lions didn't watch a second of Christian Jones' tape from 2016 or 2017 ... even though they played against him twice both years. Still, that's the only explanation I have for this contract.
Jones is terrible. He doesn't deserve anything more than the veteran minimum, yet Detroit has opted to give him close to $4 million per season. Why? What does he have on general manager Bob Quinn? I don't understand this decision.
This is as close to a Millen grade as you can get. This contract isn't worth enough to be a Millen, unfortunately, but it's still an atrocious move that needs to be criticized.
Jaguars re-sign WR Marqise Lee (4 years, $38 million; $18 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
Marqise Lee has never topped 900 receiving yards in his career, making this sort of contract a bit questionable. It needs to be pointed out, however, that Lee has played in a conservative offense. He thrived toward the end of the 2017 campaign, but did so against some poor secondaries.
I think this contract is just OK. It seems like an overpay, but it's not a bad move by any means. Lee is an important member of the offense, so it's a good thing that he was retained, especially in the wake of Allen Robinson's departure to Chicago. Still, the Jaguars need to find a No. 1 receiver, as Lee should not be forced into that distinction, especially given his track record of hamstring injuries; Lee has played just one full season thus far.
Eagles sign LB Corey Nelson (1 year, $2.25 million): B+ Grade
Corey Nelson barely played this past season because of a biceps injury that limited him to five games. Prior to that, Nelson was a solid reserve and core special-teamer for the Broncos, and he'll handle those same duties in Philadelphia.
This isn't an exciting signing for the Eagles, but it's a solid one. Nelson will have a role on the team next year, and bringing him in at a very cheap rate is definitely worth it.
Cardinals sign QB Sam Bradford (1 year, $20 million; $15 million guaranteed): B Grade
This is the type of contract Sam Bradford should have signed, and quite frankly, it's the sort of deal he should be getting throughout the rest of his career, given how unreliable he is.
I still don't know what happened to Bradford last year. He had an amazing opening-week performance against a Saint defense that was much better than anyone anticipated. Then, he was limited in practice the following week and missed a game against Pittsburgh. He was also out the following week, and the game after that. He returned to the field a few weeks later, lasted only one half because he could barely move, and then was out the rest of the season.
Bradford is made of glass. It's a shame that he's never been able to live up to his billing as a No. 1 overall pick, but he has shown that he can be effective if healthy. By giving him just a 1-year deal, the Cardinals aren't taking much of a risk, so I think this a solid move. It'll allow Arizona to be competitive, and Bradford will be a bridge for whomever the Cardinals select in the first two rounds next month. I have them taking Mason Rudolph in the second round of my updated 2018 NFL Mock Draft.
Redskins sign WR Paul Richardson (5 years, $40 million): C- Grade
I don't like this signing. It just seems like a poor fit. The best I can explain it is having a Sega Saturn and then buying an HDMI cable for it even though there's no HDMI attachment for it.
Alex Smith, in this metaphor, is the Sega Saturn. He has some novelty, but he's not particularly good. He's an average quarterback who doesn't look to attack defenses deep on most occasions. Richardson, meanwhile, is this new technology that doesn't do much unless he's paired with something great, and even then, he can just be replaced with another HDMI cable.
I don't think Smith will be able to take advantage of Richardson's big-play ability very often, and there's no guarantee that Richardson will even flash his talents frequently in Washington, as he was very inconsistent in Seattle. Prior to 2017, he had never eclipsed 300 receiving yards in a season. He caught 44 balls for 703 yards and six touchdowns this past season, but that was with Russell Wilson, who happens to be a much better quarterback than Smith.
I don't want to say that this signing will definitely fail, but I'm not very optimistic. This appears to be another Terrelle Pryor-type move where the Redskins signed a receiver with just one year of positive output. The only difference is that Pryor was given just a 1-year deal with little risk. This is a long-term contract with plenty of downside!
Bills re-sign DT Kyle Williams (1 year, $6 million): A+ Grade
Buffalo fans should be thrilled to have Kyle Williams back as long as it's not for an egregious amount. A 1-year deal worth $6 million is not egregious at all. In fact, it's a hell of a bargain.
Williams is no longer the dominant force he once was in his prime, but he's still a terrific run defender who can occasionally apply some pressure on the quarterback. He's also a key leader of the Bills' locker room. Losing him would have hurt both the defense and team morale, so it's great that Buffalo was able to retain him with a no-risk contract. There's no reason this shouldn't be an A+ signing.
Vikings sign QB Kirk Cousins (3 years, $86 million; $86 million guaranteed): C Grade
I never thought I'd write a number as high as $86 million for the sum total of a deal and then type the same exact number for the guaranteed money next to it, yet here we are. Cousins got his wish, earning as much cash as possible, all while signing with a team that is capable of winning right away.
I'm not crazy about this deal. I think giving a player all the guaranteed money in his contract sets a bad precedent. We've seen these sort of contracts destroy the NBA and MLB, and I don't want the same thing to happen in the NFL. I'm not saying Cousins will be guilty of this, but players who get fully guaranteed contract will have no incentive to perform up to expectations, and most of them will get fat and lethargic. Then, we'll experience the sort of trades we see in the NBA where teams just dump guys for salary-cap relief. It's going to be a nightmare if it happens.
As for Cousins himself, I don't understand why the Vikings are giving him much more money than Case Keenum commanded from Denver. Cousins is only marginally better than Keenum, and I have to wonder if this sort of change will disrupt the team's chemistry. For me, it really reminds me of the 2001 Ravens. Baltimore had just won the Super Bowl with a game-manager in Trent Dilfer, and yet it opted to get rid of Dilfer in favor of the slightly superior Elvis Grbac. Things did not pan out for the Ravens, as they struggled with Grbac because they devoted too many resources to him and couldn't retain some key contributors. Baltimore struggled to main success for several seasons after that.
I'm not saying the same thing will happen in Minnesota, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Vikings followed a similar trajectory. I personally would've re-signed Keenum, spent an early pick on a quarterback and continued to add great talent to the roster. Keenum wasn't the problem last year; Minnesota's secondary was the issue in the NFC Championship. Having Cousins instead of Keenum wouldn't have made any sort of difference in that blowout.
I'm giving this a "C" grade. I was tempted to go with a C-, but I think a "C" is fine. This move could work out, and Cousins might just lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl. However, I think a Ravens-type regression is the more likely scenario.
Lions sign OLB Devon Kennard (3 years, $18.75 million): D Grade
I liked Detroit's other move today - re-signing Tavon Wilson - a lot more. Wilson, in fact, is a much better player than Kennard, yet he's set to make much less in 2018. Go figure.
Here's how you know that this is a bad signing: The Giants were desperate at linebacker even with Kennard on their roster, and they were more than happy to let him walk. Kennard was not an effective player with the Giants, so giving him more than $2 million per season seems absolutely absurd. For three years, Kennard should've received $6 million in total.
This was close to a Millen grade, but there will be other opportunities. In fact, I'm very curious to see what the Bills gave Star Lotulelei for his 5-year deal because it seems like there's definitely potential for some kielbasa with that signing.
Bears sign TE Trey Burton (4 years, $32 million): B Grade
Didn't the Bears just use a second-round pick on Adam Shaheen? I didn't think they would be in the tight end market, but they apparently plan to use both Shaheen and Trey Burton at the same time, which definitely makes sense.
The Burton signing is a fine one. Burton is a very athletic mismatch tight end with tremendous upside. He dominated this past season when Zach Ertz was out of the lineup. Now, he'll be the primary receiving tight end in Chicago, and he should be a nice weapon for Mitchell Trubisky, provided that he doesn't catch the lethargy bug from Allen Robinson in the wake of signing this big-money contract.
This signing is worth a solid "B" grade. It should make the Bears better, and the money is about right for Burton. This move carries some risk, but not a whole lot.
Lions re-sign S Tavon Wilson (2 years, $7 million): A+ Grade
Tavon Wilson is coming off the worst season of his career, so it might seem strange to give this contract an A+. However, there's a reason Wilson struggled, and that happened to be a horrible shoulder injury that affected his performance. Wilson battled through it, to his credit, but probably should've sat out to let it heal.
Wilson is a very talented safety, so I love that the Lions are able to buy low on him. He's worth much more than $7 million over two years, but Detroit was able to retain him at a cheap rate because of injury history.
Jaguars sign G Andrew Norwell (5 years, $66.5 million): A- Grade
This certainly is a big surprise. Andrew Norwell going to the Giants was considered a "done deal," and there were also talks of Norwell perhaps signing to the 49ers. Instead, he inked a 5-year deal with Jacksonville.
The Jaguars made a great move in acquiring Norwell. The former Panther guard is one of the top players at his position in the entire league, and he's still very young; he won't turn 27 until October. Norwell will provide the Jaguars with a massive upgrade in the interior of the offensive line, protecting Blake Bortles and opening up huge holes for Leonard Fournette.
Jacksonville made Norwell the highest-paid guard in the NFL, but that still won't keep me from giving the Jaguars an A- grade. This is an excellent transaction that will help keep them from suffering natural regression in 2018.
Saints re-sign QB Drew Brees (2 years, $50 million; $27 million guaranteed): A Grade
Drew Brees and the Saints nearly gave the city of New Orleans a collective heart attack when it was reported that the Vikings reached out to Brees' agent. Whether this was just a ploy by Brees' camp remains to be seen, but it's irrelevant right now because New Orleans is keeping its future Hall of Fame quarterback.
This is an easy "A" if I've ever seen it. The Saints are retaining the best quarterback currently available on the market at a very reasonable price. Consider that Case Keenum is set to make just $14 million less overall in the same span, or that Kirk Cousins is bound to sign for a larger contract than this. For all the talk of where Cousins and Keenum would be going, the Saints (as well as the 49ers) were the real winners of the quarterback derby.
Chiefs sign WR Sammy Watkins (3 years, $48 million; $30 million guaranteed): C Grade
It shouldn't be a surprise that the Chiefs signed Sammy Watkins. They wanted to take a different approach to their offense now that they have a new quarterback. Unlike Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes has a rocket arm and can consistently make downfield throws. Thus, Kansas City desired to add a receiver or two with lethal deep speed for its young quarterback.
Mission accomplished ... maybe. Sammy Watkins certainly was one of the top wideouts on the market, but I can't say I'm a huge fan of this contract. Giving Watkins $30 million feels awfully risky, given his horrible injury history. Watkins has missed 12 games in the past three seasons, and he played in many other games despite not being 100 percent. Plus, there's a huge mystery as to what occurred in 2017. Watkins didn't battle an injury for once, yet was very ineffective, logging just 39 catches for 593 yards. He caught eight touchdowns, but both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp out-produced him for some reason.
Maybe this was just Watkins not having a good rapport with Jared Goff, but if that's the case, who's to say that the same thing won't transpire with Mahomes? Plus, given that Watkins was coming off such a down year, teams should've been able to buy low on him. This is certainly not buying low, as Watkins is set to earn more money than Allen Robinson is from Chicago.
Despite all of this, Watkins could definitely pan out for the Chiefs. He may finally live up to expectations and become a dynamic threat for Mahomes. However, I think there's a greater chance he'll disappoint, hence the "C" grade.
Bears sign WR Allen Robinson (3 years, $42 million; $25 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
There's no doubting Allen Robinson's talent, so that's not what I'm questioning with this C+ grade. Allen Robinson had a terrific 2015 campaign, catching 80 balls for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns despite being paired with the anemic Blake Bortles. That in itself is worth $15 million in guarantees.
However, a chunk of those numbers were bogus. Bortles compiled most of his positive stats in garbage time that year, and Robinson was the primary recipient. Since then, Robinson hasn't done much. He hauled in 73 receptions for 883 yards and six scores in 2016, running half-hearted routes the entire time. Then, he missed all but one game in 2017 because of a torn ACL. Robinson should be 100 percent by training camp because the injury occurred last September, but I'm more concerned about his effort level. Will he give 100 percent to the Bears? I'd be more optimistic about this had he joined a strong locker room with a veteran quarterback, but Mitchell Trubisky has yet to do anything to command respect. If Robinson slacks off, especially with this new $25 million guaranteed, how will that impact Trubisky's development?
I'm not a big fan of this signing, but I don't hate it either, hence the C+. I understand why the Bears signed Robinson, as they needed to find play-making talent around Trubisky, but this move could definitely backfire.
Broncos sign QB Case Keenum (2 years, $36 million): B+ Grade
Kirk Cousins has been linked to the Vikings and Jets, and even the Cardinals lately, but not the Broncos for a while. Denver, apparently, didn't want to pay nearly as much for a quarterback, opting to go with the cheaper Case Keenum for two years and $36 million.
This is a solid move. There isn't that much of a difference between Cousins and Keenum, so why pay Cousins an absurd amount of money when Keenum can be signed at a cheaper rate over fewer years? Keenum caught lightning in a bottle last year and took the Vikings to an NFC Championship appearance, where he didn't embarrass himself. Keenum has proven that he can get his team to a conference title game as long as he's surrounded by a great defense, and that's exactly what he'll have in Denver.
I like this move enough to give it a B+. Denver will be much more competitive with Keenum next year. This signing also gives the Broncos flexibility. They can still take a quarterback fifth overall, should they want to repeat what the Bears did last year after adding Mike Glennon. Or, they could opt for what I have them doing in today's 2018 NFL Mock Draft update, selecting Quenton Nelson to make sure Keenum is well protected.
Buccaneers re-sign CB Brent Grimes (1 year, $10 million): B- Grade
At least we know Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht isn't drunk today. Had he given Brent Grimes as absurd a deal as he did to Cameron Brate, I'd be confident that he would be hearing about Licht getting his stomach pumped at a local hospital.
While this deal carries significantly less risk than the Brate deal, it still doesn't seem like a great one. The Buccaneers won't be able to roll over this $10 million next offseason, so it does have some repercussions beyond this year, so Grimes better play up to this money and help get the Buccaneers into the playoffs for the first time in the Jameis Winston era.
Will Grimes be worth it? Maybe, but I'm not very optimistic. Grimes turns 35 this summer and took a slight step backward in 2017. He still played well overall, but there's a good chance Grimes continues to regress. That said, I don't mind this deal, as the Buccaneers' secondary would suffer a decline without Grimes.
Buccaneers re-sign TE Cameron Brate (6 years, $41 million; $18 million guaranteed): MARCH MILLEN MADNESS Grade
When I passed on giving the Ravens a Millen grade for re-signing James Hurst and reasoned that there would be worse contracts this week, I assumed those would come on Wednesday, or possibly Thursday. I didn't anticipate it happening just a couple of hours later!
What in hell are the Buccaneers thinking? I actually had to rub my eyes to make sure I was seeing the numbers correctly and not missing any sort of decimal points. I can't believe the Buccaneers are giving Cameron Brate $41 million over six years with $18 million guaranteed.
Brate is a fine player, but $41 million!? Why!? Brate's a good blocker, and he's a nice target in the end zone, but he's not a great talent. He caught 48 passes for 591 yards and six touchdowns in 2017. By the end of the year, it was clear that he was taking a back seat to O.J. Howard. Brate caught multiple passes in just four of his final nine games this past season. Yes, he caught one or fewer passes in most of the games in the second half of the year!
It'd be one thing if the Buccaneers spent their 2017 first-round pick on someone other than Howard. This would still be an overpay, but it would be more logical. But with Howard on the roster, there's no reason to give Brate this sort of money. Hell, I wouldn't have considered it a good move if they sliced this contract in half! This is an awful signing, and it's fully deserving of a Millen.
Seahawks re-sign S Bradley McDougald (3 years, $13.95 million): B Grade
Unlike the massive overpay at the same time today, this contract is far more reasonable. Contrary to James Hurst, Bradley McDougald is a competent player who figures to be a positive contributor in 2018.
Re-signing McDougald was important for the Seahawks. Given that Kam Chancellor will miss time with an injury, and Earl Thomas is talking about getting traded, McDougald will start numerous games next year. He's not a great player by any means, but he's a decent starter who plays well in coverage. His tackling needs to improve, but he certainly won't embarrass himself.
The money seems right for McDougald, so I'm going to award Seattle a solid "B" grade for this move.
Ravens re-sign OT/G James Hurst (4 years, $17.5 million; $8 million guaranteed): D Grade
James Hurst received a $17.5 million contract with $8 million guaranteed Monday. This means he's being overpaid by $17.5 million overall and $8 million guaranteed.
I don't understand this signing. I guess it means the Ravens put a lot of stock into offensive linemen who can't block. I don't know; that's the best I can explain it. Hurst was 14th in my 2018 NFL Free Agent Rankings as a 1.5-star player, meaning he's just a mediocre backup. This sort of cash indicates that Baltimore envisions him as a starter in 2018, which is definitely bad news for Joe Flacco and whomever the starting running back is.
I'm not giving this a Millen grade because there will be worse contracts this week, but this deal is still extremely bad.
49ers sign CB Richard Sherman (3 years, $39.15 million; $3 million guaranteed): A+ Grade
That was quick. Richard Sherman was cut Friday afternoon, and he signed with the rival 49ers about 24 hours later.
Given that the 49ers were eager to sign Sherman, it's reasonable to think that they are happy with his progress. However, the fact remains that Sherman is still just four months removed from a torn Achilles. That's a difficult injury to come back from without a full year of recovery. He didn't play as well as usual last season because he was hampered with the balky Achilles, and I fear that because he's potentially coming back prematurely, 2018 could be a repeat of 2017. There's a good chance he re-injures himself if he pushes himself too much.
Despite this, the signing is a solid one. The 49ers had $70 million to spend, and they're potentially getting a big upgrade at a huge position of need. Plus, they're taking a player from their biggest rival, which I'm always a big fan of. I was debating between a "B" and a B-, but I think the upside is enough that I'm willing to give the 49ers the former grade.
Update: I'm moving this up from a "B" to an A+. Why? Sherman's contract contains just $3 million guaranteed. When he was signed, it was reported that he received a $3 million bonus, but no other details were known. Now, we know that this is his only guaranteed money, which seems insane. I can't believe that he signed for no guaranteed money beyond that, but that's exactly what happened. This transaction seems so much better now, as the 49ers are taking absolutely no risk.
Chargers re-sign CB Casey Hayward (3 years, $36 million; $20 million guaranteed): A Grade
I usually don't give "A" grades to big contracts, reserving that sort of mark for great bargain deals. However, despite the $20 million in guarantees that Casey Hayward is set to receive, I think this signing deserves an "A" because Hayward seems underpaid.
Hayward is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. He's still just 28, so he should be able to perform on a very high level throughout the duration of this deal. If you look at other comparable corners, Xavier Rhodes was given $41 million guaranteed, while Stephon Gilmore received $40 million guaranteed. Both amounts were over five years, and Hayward provides less risk because he was signed to a shorter term. It's a smart move by general manager Tom Telesco.
Buccaneers re-sign WR Mike Evans (5 years, $82.5 million; $55 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
Mike Evans has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first four seasons. He's obviously a great talent. Despite this, however, I'm not a huge fan of this contract.
Evans is coming off a down year, recording 71 receptions for a career-low 1,001 yards and five touchdowns. The criticism of Evans was that he wasn't giving 100-percent effort in practice, and it showed during live game action, as it seemed like he and Jameis Winston weren't on the same page as often as they should've been. With that in mind, that's not someone I'd like to give a massive amount of guaranteed money to.
I'm giving the Buccaneers a C+. I don't like this move very much, but I can understand it. Unfortunately for Tampa, it has a good chance of backfiring.
Raiders re-sign NT Justin Ellis (3 years, $15 million; $6 million guaranteed): A Grade
Jon Gruden is off to a good start in Oakland. The first move the team has made with him as the head coach is definitely a great one, as Oakland re-signed its nose tackle to a 3-year deal featuring $6 million guaranteed.
This seems like a great bargain for Ellis. He provides nothing as a pass-rusher he has yet to register a full sack in his career - but he's a tremendous run-stuffer. He's also just 27, so he should continue to play at a high level. It seems like Ellis should have received more money than this, so I'm giving the Raiders an "A" for this.
Sam Shields has played just one game in the past two years. He has dealt with horrible concussion issues that have kept him on the field, but he's been cleared to return. Shields is 30, so he should be able to play on a high level for another year or two, though that's not a guarantee because he hasn't been on the field for a while.
I'm tentatively giving this an "A" grade. We don't know what the exact contract is, but it's highly unlikely that it's for too much money. If so, this is all upside with very little downside. Shields, along with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, should help give the Rams the best secondary in the NFL. Of course, he could get knocked out for a long time with another concussion, which would be a shame, but the Rams should benefit from his great play in the meantime.
49ers re-sign WR Marquise Goodwin (3 years, $20.3 million; $10M guaranteed): A- Grade
Marquise Goodwin had never eclipsed 500 receiving yards in a single season prior to 2017, yet he's getting a new contract with $10 million in guarantees. And yet, it's definitely a smart move by the 49ers.
Jimmy Garoppolo and Goodwin showed great chemistry together. In the five games in which Garoppolo started, Goodwin caught 29 passes for 384 yards and a touchdown. If you extrapolate that over a full 16-game slate, you get 92 receptions, 1,228 yards and three touchdowns. Pretty, pretty good.
Given those projected numbers, this seems like a great bargain. If Goodwin has a 2018 campaign where he gets close to those figures, he would've commanded way more money, so retaining him at a relatively cheap rate beforehand is smart. The one concern is that Goodwin doesn't have a large sample size of great success, but the upside with this deal is too high for me to give this anything lower than an A-.
Bengals sign DT Chris Baker (1 year, $3 million): A Grade
If you ask the Redskin fan base about Chris Baker, they'll tell you that he's a tremendous, disruptive defensive lineman. However, if you ask the Buccaneer supporters about Baker, they'll tell you he's a lethargic bum who shouldn't be in the NFL. And they'd both be right. Baker was terrific for the Redskins in 2016, then signed a 3-year, $16 million contract with Tampa last spring. The Buccaneers cut him after one season because he was lazy and unmotivated.
I like Cincinnati's decision to buy low on Baker. The 320-pound defensive tackle is a big-time talent, but needs to be motivated. I think this 1-year "prove it" deal will do so. Baker will try hard to get another substantial contract, and Marvin Lewis has enjoyed success getting the most out of these sort of players. I think he'll do so with Baker. And if not, this isn't costing Cincinnati much, so there's no risk involved.
Panthers re-sign K Graham Gano (4 years, $17 million; $9 million guaranteed): D- Grade
When the Panthers made the utterly stupid decision to keep Marty Hurney as their full-time general manager, their fans had to know many bad contracts would be on the horizon. This is the first of many.
Graham Gano was a near-perfect 29-of-30 in 2017, though that's a bit misleading. He didn't make a single 50-yarder (until the playoffs), and he whiffed on three extra points. Prior to 2017, he had failed to drill better than 83.3 percent of his kicks in all but one year (2013). Gano has missed three extra points in each of the past three seasons. He's not a bad kicker, but he's not very good either.
With that in mind, what the hell are the Panthers doing by giving him $9 million in guarantees? This is just stupid, and I may have to begin referring to awful contracts as Hurneys going forward.
Bills sign RB Chris Ivory (2 years, $5.5 million; $3.25 million guaranteed): D Grade
The Bills sure love their old, slow, plodding running backs. They kept Mike Tolbert over Jonathan Williams last year, and now they're making a very slight upgrade over Tolbert with Ivory.
Ivory is a sub-par backup, and I don't like that he's getting this much guaranteed money. He's not a good player, failing to average four yards per carry in the past two seasons. His YPC was just 3.4 in 2017, and he's turning 30 in a couple of weeks. There were much better options out there this offseason.
Saints sign S Kurt Coleman (3 years, $18 million): C Grade
The Saints are losing Kenny Vaccaro to free agency this offseason, so they had to properly replace him. They signed Kurt Coleman, and yet they still need to properly replace Vaccaro.
Coleman played at a high level during Carolina's Super Bowl run in 2015, but has struggled since. I actually listed safety as a big need for the Panthers before they cut Coleman, so this doesn't seem like a promising signing for New Orleans. Given that the Saints are overpaying Coleman - he probably should've gotten half as much - this grade can't be a good one.
That said, I don't hate this signing. Coleman is 30 (as of April 1), so he has time to bounce back. He also has knowledge of the Panthers, so perhaps that will help when the two teams meet in 2018.
Bills sign CB Vontae Davis (1 year, $5 million; $3.5 million guaranteed): A Grade
It's unclear at the moment how much Vontae Davis' 1-year deal with the Bills is worth, but it's unlikely to be more than a few million. If so, this is an outstanding acquisition.
Davis is a talented cornerback who once played at a very high level, but has struggled lately. The reason has been his health. He was on the field for just five games in 2017, and hasn't been 100 percent for a while. However, he could bounce back after a lengthy absence, and at 30, he might play well for another year or two.
I'm giving this an "A" grade. As long as Davis remains healthy, he'll be a solid No. 2 cornerback across from Tre'Davious White, assuming E.J. Gaines leaves via free agency. If not, the Bills aren't really risking anything because this is just a 1-year contract.
Update: Davis has gotten $3.5 million guaranteed on this deal, which is $500,000 more than I thought he'd get, so my grade will stand as an "A."
Jaguars re-sign QB Blake Bortles (3 years, $54 million; $26.5 million guaranteed): MILLEN KIELBASA SURPRISE IN THE POOL Grade
You know a team made a huge mistake when rival fans are thrilled about a move it made...
This is an extremely stupid contract that makes absolutely zero sense. Blake Bortles is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. He has physical talent, but has never lived up to it. He doesn't care about his career, opting to party all the time rather than study film and work on his craft. He's had some nice statistical performances, but only when playing in garbage time or going up against some of the worst defenses in the NFL. For example, he was praised heavily during a three-game home stand in December, but he beat up on the Colts and Texans, two of the worst defenses in the league, and the Seahawks, who were missing four of their five best players in the back seven. Bortles was exposed in road games prior to and after this home stand, struggling at Cleveland, Arizona, San Francisco and Tennessee.
I can't believe Bortles is getting this sort of money. The Jaguars would be better off cutting him, though doing so would've been tricky because Bortles would've made sure he couldn't pass his physical. Yet, Jacksonville has given $26.5 million in guarantees to a guy who couldn't complete routine passes against the Bills in the playoffs. Had Tyrod Taylor not gotten hurt, Jacksonville may have lost in the opening round of the postseason, preventing them from catching a sleepy Steeler team off-guard the following weekend.
The Jaguars are going to regress in a huge way next year. Bortles, likely happy with this new contract, will put even less effort into football. This will capsize the Jaguars, which is a shame because they have a great roster and would be able to compete for a Super Bowl with a better signal-caller and some upgrades on the offensive line. Instead, they get an easy "F" for this atrocious contract.
Colts re-sign K Adam Vinatieri (1 year, $3.6 million): A Grade
Scientists need to study Adam Vinatieri because what he's doing is amazing. Despite the fact that he turns 46 right after Christmas this year, he's still one of the top kickers in the NFL. The last time he failed to drill at least 85 percent of his kicks was 2012. What's even more remarkable is that Vinatieri has been so successful on long-distance field goals. On attempts from at least 50, he was 5-of-6 in 2017, and 19-of-23 in the past four seasons.
This is an obvious "A" grade. While the Titans are giving Ryan Succop $20 million, the Colts are bringing back a better kicker at a cheaper rate. This move was a no-brainer.
Titans sign K Ryan Succop (5 years, $20 million; $7.5 million guaranteed): D Grade
This is a lot of money for a kicker, especially one who isn't very great. Ryan Succop is a pretty average kicker, as a matter of fact; he was 35-of-42 in 2017 after going 22-of-24 the year before, though that second number is slightly misleading. He's missed two extra points in each of the past three seasons, and as far as 50-yard kicks are concerned, he's just 6-of-13 since 2015.
Tennessee overpaid for Succop. That is certain. I don't think this contract warrants a Millen grade, but it's either a C- or a "D." I started with the former, but settled for the latter because I just can't believe the Titans would pay an ordinary kicker so much money. There was just no reason to do this, as the Titans were pretty much just bidding against themselves.
Chiefs sign CB David Amerson (1 year, $2.25 million): A Grade
David Amerson was terrific for the Raiders in 2015, earning a 5-year, $34 million contract. He struggled after that, however, and the Raiders cut him two years later. Now, he has to rebuild his stock with a 1-year "prove it" deal.
I really like this move, as it's all upside with no risk. If Amerson doesn't pan out, Kansas City won't lose anything. There's a better chance he'll return to 2015 form, or something close to it. If so, he'll provide a much-needed boost for the secondary, which already got help with the Kendall Fuller trade. The Chiefs' secondary was atrocious in 2017, but it should be much better with Fuller and Amerson on the roster, and also Eric Berry returning from injury. I think this signing deserves an easy "A."
49ers re-sign C Daniel Kilgore (3 years, $12 million; $7 million guaranteed): C+ Grade
I have to say that I'm a bit surprised that the 49ers were so eager to re-sign Daniel Kilgore. The 30-year-old has been one of the worst starting centers in the NFL over the past couple of seasons. Yet, San Francisco just inked him to a deal that will keep him around for three more years.
That said, I don't think this is a bad move. I don't love it, but the 49ers apparently liked how Kilgore and Jimmy Garoppolo worked together at the end of the year. Kilgore was better when Garoppolo became the starter, so this could've been Garoppolo requesting for Kilgore to be retained. Because of that, I can't really go below a C+, but I can't grade it better either.
49ers re-sign QB Jimmy Garoppolo (5 years, $137.5 million): B+ Grade
There's no word yet on the amount of guaranteed money Jimmy Garoppolo will receive, but this contract has made Jimmy Garoppolo the highest-paid player in NFL history at $27.5 million annually.
This may seem like a ton for a player who has made just seven career starts, but I'm confident Garoppolo will end up being worth it. Garoppolo is 7-0 in those starts, achieving five victories with the 49ers. In those games, Garoppolo completed 67.4 percent of his passes on a sterling 8.8 YPA, despite Marquise Goodwin being his top target. Garoppolo, 26, has a very bright future ahead of him. He has already won over the locker room, and he'll be even better in 2018 with new receivers to throw to, including Pierre Garcon, who will be returning from injury.
I'm not going to grade this in the "A" range because those sort of marks are reserved for tremendous value deals. This is not a value contract, but it's a necessary and justifiable one, as Garoppolo is the franchise quarterback the 49ers have been searching for since Steve Young's retirement.
Redskins re-sign QB Alex Smith (4 years, $94 million; $71 million guaranteed): C- Grade
The Redskins just obtained Alex Smith - check out my NFL Trade Grades here - and they immediately gave him a 4-year contract. All of the details of this contract aren't available yet, but Chris Mortensen just tweeted out that Smith will average $23.5 million per year, and he'll receive $71 million in guarantees.
Yes. You read that correctly. Seventy-one million in guarantees. Wow.
Smith is a good quarterback who had a great statistical year, throwing for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 2017. He also rushed for 355 yards. However, Smith is limited and has a long history of failing in the playoffs. Plus, he turns 34 in May, so he'll be declining soon.
This contract isn't a Millen, or anything, but it's pretty bad. I have no idea why the Redskins are willing to give Smith this sort of money, yet were unwilling to pay Kirk Cousins, who is both younger and better than Smith. I have to give this a C-, and that may even be too high.
Redskins re-sign ILB Mason Foster (2 years, $7 million): A Grade
This is an outstanding deal. Mason Foster is a key player of Washington's defense as an every-down inside linebacker, so he needed to be retained. The Redskins have done so with a very cheap deal.
Foster didn't play his best football in 2017, so perhaps that's how they were able to strike such a team-friendly contract with him. However, Foster played through a labrum injury, which would explain why he wasn't effective. He was much better the year before, so the Redskins should expect a nice, bounce-back campaign from him in 2018.
Packers re-sign C Corey Linsley (3 years, $25.5 million): C+ Grade
I have to say that I'm a bit surprised to see a contract this large for Corey Linsley. It's not that Linsley is a bad player, or anything, but he happens to be coming off his worst season. Linsley struggled all year, probably because of ankle surgery he underwent the previous offseason. I expect him to rebound in 2018, but I thought the Packers would be able to buy low on him. That's not what happened here.
Still, I'm not going to give Green Bay a poor grade for this. Re-signing Linsley was important, as he's one of the five men who will be charged with making sure that Aaron Rodgers doesn't suffer another injury next year.
Packers re-sign WR Davante Adams (4 years, $58 million; $24 million guaranteed): B+ Grade
This would have been a ton of money for Davante Adams a year ago. I would've criticized this signing greatly, as it could've been argued that Adams was purely a byproduct of Aaron Rodgers.
However, Adams took a huge step forward in his development this year. While Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb struggled when Rodgers was out with an injury, Adams thrived. He caught at least five passes in all but two of Brett Hundley's starts, becoming Green Bay's No. 1 receiver. Adams is just 25, so he has a very bright future ahead of him.
I like this move a lot, and receivers of Adams' caliber have gotten more recently. The one concern I have is Adams' concussion history; he missed several games this year with head injuries.