NFL Free Agents 2012: Power Ranking Teams on the Strength of Their Moves
With the 2012 NFL free agency period still in full swing, there are plenty of teams who have improved their roster through free-agent signings. Other teams haven't been so lucky as they've seen their roster ravaged by teams signing away their former players.
Today we are going to power rank every team by the strength of their free agency moves. Just to be clear, we're only ranking these teams by the moves they've made through free agency, not by the overall talent on their teams.
So, please don't go shooting me when you see the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked really low on this list.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers
Best Signing or Re-Signing: NT Steve McLendon
Look, I told you that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to be low on this list. When McLendon is your best and only signing of free agency, you haven't been that strong.
While it isn't the Steelers method of operation to build through free agency, the fact that they have done absolutely nothing productive should be a little worrisome. Overall, this team is much better than they are ranked.
However, since we are only looking at the strength of their free-agent moves, they rank dead last as of right now.
31. Miami Dolphins
Best Signing or Re-Signing: NT Paul Soliai
To say that the Miami Dolphins have had a difficult time during free agency would be quite the understatement. First they missed on Peyton Manning. Then they missed on Matt Flynn.
Signing Soliai was what kept them out of the cellar in these rankings. However, bringing in David Garrard almost put them back in it.
This entire team looks like a mess right now.
30. Oakland Raiders
Best Signing or Re-Signing: DB Pat Lee
The Oakland Raiders are another team who has been rather quiet throughout free agency. While the only big-name player they've lost is Kamerion Wimbley, they haven't brought anyone in to strengthen their team.
That's evident by the fact that Lee, who had trouble getting on the field with the Green Bay Packers, is their best signing so far. With so few picks in the 2012 NFL draft, it is a little unsettling to see the lack of signings by the Raiders in free agency.
There are some nice pieces on this team, but every other team in the AFC West has gotten stronger while the Raiders have only gotten worse.
29. Houston Texans
Best Signing or Re-Signing: C Chris Myers
When you lose your arguably best player in free agency (Mario Williams), it's usually going to be hard to make that one up.
While bringing back Myers was absolutely necessary, that is the only key signing that the Houston Texans have made during free agency. They haven't addressed any of their other needs, and haven't added depth to hardly any positions.
The Texans are a team on the rise, and it would have been nice to see them truly strengthen their roster through free agency. I guess there is always next year.
28. Cleveland Browns
Best Signing or Re-Signing: DE Frostee Rucker
It's been a long time since the Cleveland Browns have had numerous productive signings in free agency, and that run will continue after another disappointing offseason.
While Rucker will help improve their defense, the offense was what needed to be addressed by the Browns. They missed on their chance to bring in a true franchise quarterback, couldn't sign a top receiver or improve their offensive line.
If the Browns have a poor draft, they will likely be one of the worst teams in the league this year.
27. Green Bay Packers
Best Signing or Re-Signing: C Jeff Saturday
Much like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Green Bay Packers don't generally attempt to build their team through free agency. Add to that the fact that they had the fewest free agents on their roster this year, and it isn't really surprising to see them this low in the rankings.
They lost Pro Bowl center Scott Wells, but they did a great job at bringing in an experienced player in Saturday. It would have been nice to see them attempt to address some deficiencies they have on their defense, but that simply isn't how GM Ted Thompson does things.
There is no doubt that the Packers will be one of the better teams in the league next year, regardless of the strength of their moves in free agency.
26. New York Giants
Best Signing or Re-Signing:: TE Martellus Bennett
As the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants didn't have many holes to fill on their roster. However, we're ranking based on the strength of their free agent signings, and Bennett is the only player of note they've managed to sign.
He'll fill in nicely for Travis Beckum and Jake Ballard while they are recovering from injuries suffered in the Super Bowl. Even without bringing in any big-name players, the Giants should be a threat to make another deep playoff run this season.
25. Minnesota Vikings
Best Signing or Re-Signing: OLB E.J. Henderson
The Minnesota Vikings finished the 2011 season as one of the worst overall teams, and they'll head into 2012 as one of the worst because of a poor showing in free agency.
They do deserve credit for bringing back Henderson, but their only other big move was signing tight end John Carlson. While he should help with the development of Christian Ponder, it is never a good sign when an above-average tight end is one of your best signings.
The 2012 season could be another long one for Vikings' fans.
24. Arizona Cardinals
Best Signing or Re-Signing: CB William Gay
Two of the Arizona Cardinals' biggest needs were in their secondary and on the offensive line, so the fact that they addressed both those positions is a good sign.
Of course, it would have been nice to see those positions addressed with better players than Gay and offensive guard Adam Snyder, but at least they brought in some players with experience. Both Gay and Snyder should fight for starting positions instantly.
Arizona still has plenty of work to do to be competitive in the NFC West, but free agency at least has them moving in the right direction.
23. Philadelphia Eagles
Best Signing or Re-Signing: OG Evan Mathis
If we were including trades in these rankings, the Philadelphia Eagles would likely rank much higher on this list thanks to the trade that brought them middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
However, we're only looking at the signings of free agents, so the Eagles are stuck in the lower half of the league. While they've brought in some nice players to add depth, their only signing that will likely be a starter was Mathis.
After making a big splash last year in free agency, the Eagles have been wise to be much quieter this year.
22. Indianapolis Colts
Best Signing or Re-Signing: WR Reggie Wayne
Losing Peyton Manning was a big blow of course, but the Indianapolis Colts have actually done pretty well during free agency.
They've brought in players like defensive end Cory Redding, and center Samson Satele to replace Jeff Saturday. The best move they've made was to bring back Wayne, who should be a valuable player to the development to Andrew Luck.
While the Colts are still far off from truly competing, they are moving in the right direction.
21. Baltimore Ravens
Best Signing or Re-Signing: C Matt Birk
Few teams have been ravaged as much as the Baltimore Ravens have been during free agency, but they've also re-signed and brought in some key players.
The best move they've made is by bringing back Birk who is the leader of their offensive line. With so much of their offense being run through Ray Rice, losing Birk would have been a major hit.
With all the quality players that the Ravens have lost, they could have a struggling season in 2012.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
Best Signing or Re-Signing: DE Jeremy Mincey
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been surprisingly active throughout free agency, bringing in a few quality players to help improve their roster.
While signing Laurent Robinson might have garnered the most attention, re-signing Mincey was their best overall move. Mincey had a breakout season in 2011, and he would have been sorely missed had the Jaguars lost him.
Jacksonville still has numerous holes to fill throughout their roster, but the moves they've made during free agency have been some really quality moves.
19. Cincinnati Bengals
Best Signing or Re-Signing: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
As one of the better young teams in the entire NFL, had the Cincinnati Bengals made a bigger splash in free agency, they would likely be one of the top teams entering the 2012 season.
However, bringing in Green-Ellis was a great move to improve their offense. With Cedric Benson likely to not be back with the team in 2012, Green-Ellis will make for a nice replacement. They also re-signed Reggie Nelson, who would have been a huge loss for the Bengals' defense.
Look for Cincinnati to be a real threat to win the AFC North for the next few seasons.
18. Kansas City Chiefs
Best Signing or Re-Signing: OT Eric Winston
The Kansas City Chiefs have been rather active so far in free agency, both with losing players and bringing in players.
Guys like Brandon Carr and Kyle Orton will likely be missed in 2012. However, players such as Peyton Hillis, Kevin Boss and Winston should be instant contributors.
Speaking of Winston, this might be one of the most underrated signings so far this offseason. There aren't many right tackles as talented as Winston, and the Chiefs did a great job to bring him to Kansas City.
Look for the Chiefs to be a sleeper team in the AFC thanks to a solid showing in free agency.
17. Tennessee Titans
Best Signing or Re-Signing: OLB Kamerion Wimbley
While the Tennessee Titans did lose one of their best players in cornerback Cortland Finnegan, they also brought in players that will upgrade both sides of the ball.
Veteran guard Steve Hutchinson will improve their offensive line, while Wimbley will be able to help the defensive by playing a few different positions for the team. Both of these players are experienced and should improve the overall play of Tennessee right away.
With a strong draft, the Titans, thanks to a strong showing in free agency, could compete for the AFC South division title in 2012.
16. Atlanta Falcons
Best Signing or Re-Signing: DE John Abraham
People are really underestimating the type of impact that Abraham is able to make on opposing offenses. Just the fact that the Atlanta Falcons brought him back gives them one of the stronger showings in free agency.
Add to that their other re-signings such as wide receiver Harry Douglas and defensive tackle Vance Walker, and you have a solid few weeks in free agency. Yes, losing Curtis Lofton and Eric Weems will hurt, but the Falcons should still be one of the better teams in the NFC next season.
15. Detroit Lions
Best Signing or Re-Signing: MLB Stephen Tulloch
The Detroit Lions have signed a lot of players so far in free agency. Of course, the majority of those signings have simply been bringing back their own players, but sometimes those are the best moves.
Re-signing players like Tulloch, Jeff Backus and Kevin Smith will go a long way to ensure the Lions continue moving in the right direction with their franchise. They're all quality, starting-caliber players who make a huge impact for Detroit.
The Lions are no longer the laughing-stock of the league thanks to sound drafting and quality moves during free agency.
14. New York Jets
Best Signing or Re-Signing: S LaRon Landry
It's a shame that the New York Jets traded for Tim Tebow because the arrival of Tebow to New York has completely overshadowed some great moves in free agency for the Jets.
It all starts with the signing of Landry who, when healthy, is one of the best safeties in the league. He has the ability to make plays all over the field and will bring a new aspect to the Jets' secondary.
However, the signing that I really like for New York is that of wide receiver Chaz Schilens. Towards the end of the 2011 season, Schilens showed great potential to being an elite red zone threat, which is exactly what New York need.
While everyone may be talking about Tim Tebow right now, once the season starts the NFL will see just how good the Jets did in free agency.
13. Carolina Panthers
Best Signing or Re-Signing: RB Mike Tolbert
This was the only major signing by the Carolina Panthers, but it also happened to be one of the best moves so far in free agency.
Not only is Tolbert going to bring an entirely new element to the Panthers' offense, but it also opens up the possibility for the Panthers to pick up some extra draft picks if they decide to trade Jonathan Stewart. The thought of trying to stop Tolbert and Cam Newton at the goal line should be frightening to the rest of the NFL.
Carolina hasn't won the "quantity" award in free agency, but signing Tolbert was definitely a high "quality"signing.
12. St. Louis Rams
Best Signing or Re-Signing: CB Cortland Finnegan
Not only did the St. Louis Rams add Finnegan, but they also added Pro Bowl center Scott Wells and defensive end Kendall Langford.
The fact that these three big-name players wanted to go to St. Louis to play should show that this team is moving in the right direction. With new head coach Jeff Fisher and a young quarterback in Sam Bradford, the Rams could surprise some people in 2012.
11. Washington Redskins
Best Signing or Re-Signing: DE Adam Carriker
No team has made as much noise during the offseason than the Washington Redskins. From trading three years of first-round picks for the rights to Robert Griffin III to signing Pierre Garcon and Cedric Griffin, the Redskins have been very active so far in the offseason.
Of all these signings, the one I like the most is the re-signing of Carriker. He was an underrated player on the defense last year, and he is only now starting to truly hit his prime. He should make an even bigger impact in 2012.
You definitely can't fault the Redskins for going all out for 2012. Hopefully, all their moves pay off in the long run.
10. Chicago Bears
Best Signing or Re-Signing: RB Michael Bush
Once again, if we were including trades (i.e. Brandon Marshall), the Chicago Bears would rank much higher on this list. However, even without including Marshall, the Bears have had an extremely solid free agency.
The two best moves were bringing in former teammates Jason Campbell and Bush. Having Campbell as insurance for Jay Cutler was a fantastic move. The same goes for having Bush as insurance for Matt Forte. When Forte and Cutler got injured near the end of last year, this team went right down the drain.
The Bears once again look poised to take a run at the NFC North thanks to a strong showing in free agency.
9. Dallas Cowboys
Best Signing or Re-Signing: CB Brandon Carr
It wasn't a surprise to anyone that the Dallas Cowboys were going to go after a cornerback in free agency, but the fact that the landed one of the best is what makes this such a strong showing.
Carr is the best cornerback that the Cowboys have had in years, and his play will be an instant upgrade over any other cornerback on the Cowboys' roster. They also brought in middle linebacker Dan Connor from the Carolina Panthers to improve their defense even more.
As is usual for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, they've done a great job at filling needs through free agency this offseason.
8. San Diego Chargers
Best Signing or Re-Signing: WR Robert Meachem
The San Diego Chargers may have lost Mike Tolbert and Vincent Jackson, but they gained much, much more so far in free agency.
New players like Meachem, Jarret Johnson, Eddie Royal and Le'Ron McClain will all make instant impacts. The Chargers also re-signed offensive tackle Jared Gaither, which is a fantastic move to keep their offensive line strong.
As long as San Diego can avoid their usual mid-season slump, they should have a great chance to get back to the playoffs in 2012.
7. Seattle Seahawks
Best Signing or Re-Signing: QB Matt Flynn
What is there to say really about what the Seattle Seahawks have done in free agency?
They brought in a franchise quarterback in Flynn, an elite pass rusher in Jason Jones and re-signed Red Bryant. Seattle has greatly improved both sides of the football through free agency, and this team is ready to compete for a playoff spot in 2012.
As long as Seattle can build upon the way they finished the 2011 season, they should be a difficult team to beat.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best Signing or Re-Signing: WR Vincent Jackson
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made two huge signings right at the start of free agency.
They first started with Jackson, who will give quarterback Josh Freeman an elite receiver to throw to. After that, Tampa Bay signed Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks. Just his presence on the offensive line will make the entire offense better.
Both Nicks and Jackson were two of the best free agents available, and Tampa Bay did a great job at bringing them in.
5. San Francisco 49ers
Best Signing or Re-Signing: CB Carlos Rogers
While the San Francisco 49ers improved their offense greatly with the signings of Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, those weren't even their best moves in free agency.
That award goes to the re-signing of Rogers. Over the course of the 2011 season, Rogers became one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league. His play was so crucial to the overall success of the 49ers' incredible defense.
The 49ers have greatly improved their team through free agency, which should scare the rest of the NFL.
4. New Orleans Saints
Best Signing or Re-Signing: OG Ben Grubbs
When the New Orleans Saints lost offensive guard Carl Nicks, it appeared as if their free agency was going to be awful.
However, the Saints came back and found his replacement in Grubbs. They also added middle linebacker Curtis Lofton and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. All three of these players will have quite the impact for New Orleans.
Even with everything terrible that has gone on in the offseason with New Orleans, the Saints have done a great job at bringing in talent through free agency.
3. Buffalo Bills
Best Signing or Re-Signing: DE Mario Williams
When the Buffalo Bills signed Williams, it was literally the biggest news for the franchise in years. In fact, can anyone remember the last time such a high-profile free agent wanted to go to Buffalo to play football?
The Bills also added defensive end Mark Anderson, which makes their defensive line one of the best in the game. While the Bills may have overpaid for both Williams and Anderson, the amount of production they'll get from these two could be astronomical.
With their free agency, the Bills showed everyone that they are here to compete.
2. Denver Broncos
Best Signing or Re-Signing: QB Peyton Manning
There really isn't much to explain about the Denver Broncos and why their free agency was so strong. I mean, all they did was sign a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Manning. That signing alone makes the Broncos huge winners in free agency.
However, on top of that, the Broncos also added cornerback Tracy Porter and tight end Jacob Tamme, who Peyton is rather familiar with. These two players are upgrades on Denver's roster, and give them an even stronger overall team.
Thanks to free agency, the Broncos have become the team to beat in the AFC West. Heck, they might be the team to beat in the entire AFC.
1. New England Patriots
Best Signing or Re-Signing: WR Brandon Lloyd
What can you even say about the New England Patriots and free agency anymore? Watching this team work free agency would be like watching Van Gogh make his way through a painting. It's a thing of absolute beauty.
It's not so much that the Patriots bring in the best talent, it's the fact that they bring in a ridiculous amount of talent that will all make an impact. From Lloyd to Robert Gallery to Jonathan Fanene to Trevor Scott, all of these players will produce in 2012. Plus, the Patriots always re-sign the players they need without ever overpaying.
New England went into free agency with a game plan, and they executed that game plan to perfection to come away as having the strongest free agency.
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