NFL Free Agency Grades: Defending Chumps
Is it just me, or does it seem like NFL teams can just end contracts whenever they want? I almost titled this article “restructure or you’re cut” due to all these players getting blown off by teams they’ve played years for. Something about these contracts doesn’t seem right, if my boss came up to me and said “take a pay cut or you’re fired”, I’d probably be irate too. But that’s why guaranteed money in contracts is so big. Putting my amateur agent analysis aside, this has been one of the more active off seasons for big-time players signing extensions, moving teams, or getting cut. Some teams came up winners, and some weren’t so lucky. Let’s hand out some grades.
New York Giants: B-*
This Giants grade comes with a “potentially caught for cheating” asterisk, because they will go from a B- to an F if they don’t lock up Victor Cruz. That’s how much he means to their free agency. What’s holding up the deal? The Giants have offered him $7 million a year, for an unknown amount of years. Apparently, either the number of years isn’t enough or the dollar figures too low, because he remains unsigned. The Giants know they need him this season, and he has a great relationship with Eli. It seems like this it’s only a matter of time, because no other team has offered Cruz a contract.
On other fronts, the Giants let Osi Umenyiora, Will Beatty, Kenny Phillips, Martellus Bennett, and Chase Blackburn walk away unrestricted free agents.
Of this crew, they’ll miss Umenyiora the most. Without Umenyiora, they’ll still have Tuck and Pierre-Paul on the edges, but they won’t be able to rotate in (losing rest time), or rush all three (on long third downs).
Cutting Ahmad Bradshaw puts the onus on David Wilson to be the guy for Big Blue. He’s had fumble problems, but if he can secure those, should be up to the challenge.
New England Patriots: B-
Bringing back Kyle Arrington and Aqib Talib were huge for this team. They have struggled in pass defense for years now, and realize this is a place that they couldn’t let the talent walk. They let safety Patrick Chung go but they upgraded the position by bringing in Adrian Wilson, who will shine in New England.
Another upgrade was at the back-up running back position. Stevan Ridley will be the starter next year, and deserves it. But they’ve always used multiple backs, and Leon Washington is an upgrade from Danny Woodhead. He has great hands for the pass game, and blazing speed.
The interesting situation in New England is at wide receiver. The Pats let Welker bolt to Denver, cut Brandon Lloyd, and (currently) have let Donte’ Stallworth, Julian Edelman, and Deion Branch walk away free agents. This leaves Kamar Aiken as Brady’s ranking veteran receiver… seriously. Danny Amendola will come in and be a solid replacement for Welker (if he can stay healthy), but that’s years and years of chemistry out the window. At least they have Gronk and Hernandez; otherwise the Pats would get a C.
Baltimore Ravens: D-
Ozzie Newsome has probably shed more tears in joy and pain these last few months than Lindsey Lohan. The Super Bowl win was total elation, followed by the moment when he sat down at his desk and realized what he was about to lose. After not figuring out a long-term deal with Joe Flacco last offseason, they had to erase their cap space for a monster $20.1 million a year deal because of the way he played. This handcuffed the Ravens, who had to let a laundry list of people go. I haven’t seen a team unload people like this since the Florida Marlins “Fire Sale” in 1997.
Losses include: Ray Lewis (retirement), Anquan Boldin (traded for a 6th rounder…really?), Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Dannelle Ellerbe, Bryant McKinnie, Paul Kruger, and Cary Williams.
Note that six of these key losses are on defense. Chris Canty and Michael Huff won’t plug that hole. Unless Flacco plays like Aaron Rodgers, I expect this team to miss the playoffs this year.
Denver Broncos: B+
The Broncos came in and snatched Welker when it seemed like he would be a Pat for life. A monster free agent snag. They franchised Ryan Clady, who has been an absolute rock at offensive tackle. They’ve also brought on Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Terrance Knighton to sure up their defense. This team was one bad play away from the AFC Championship. They’re amazingly solid, and this offseason just made them a big more so. The only reason they’re not at an A+ is because of the Elvis Dumervil debacle.
New York Jets: Can I even grade this?
I cannot for the life of me figure out what this team is doing, other than just pretending they’re an expansion team, selling house, and starting over.
They’ve downgraded at guard by losing Brandon Moore and picking up Willie Colon. Their other losses include: Bart Scott, LaRon Landry, Dustin Keller, Yeremiah Bell, Calvin Pace, Sione Pouha, Aaron Maybin, and Matt Slauson.
Oh, and for some reason they’re still holding on to Tim Tebow. If anyone knows what’s going on here, please enlighten me.